Slipping the constraints of categorization while hammering you knee-deep into the ground, Ketman’s music is as hard as it is hard to describe. Fresh off their 2008 release El Toro, which featured the best local song of the year “Hideout From the Sun”, Ketman are set to embark on a tour of Brazil in March. Their driving sound, cultivated by Joe Marrit on bass/vox, Eric Penna on guitar/vox, and Mora Precocious on drums, brings to mind the passion and poignancy of The Minutemen while never forming patterns recognizable enough to allow for pigeon-holing. This is band that, thankfully, is dead-set on sounding like itself.
Ketman will be sharing the stage on monday night with local faves Viva Viva as well as Rooftop Vigilantes from Kansas. Viva Viva, led by lead singer Dave Vicini, always put on an excellent live show with their barroom swagger and rock revival stomp. Two of the best rock bands in the city plus a exciting out of own act make this show one to see.
Q&A w/ Eric Penna guitarist/vocals in Ketman
Q: In April Ketman is traveling to Brazil for a 13-show tour. Is this the first time you three have played outside the country? and how do you anticipate Brazilians will react to the sound of, “chemists fighting in a bulldozer factory”?
A: Our Booking agent in brazil has told us that touring out there will be like going back in time here in the states and touring in the 80’s. The concept of the independent touring band in a van just doesn’t ex ist. People don’t do it. By that same token, people never see it. It’s fresh there. We’re excited at the prospect of leaving a real impression on people there. I’m hoping for really high energy shows. People here in the states have so much access to music and bands that it all loses its value. I’m thrilled to get out of here for a while and put things back into perspective.
Q: The name of your band, Ketman, comes from the title chapter in Czeslow Milosz’s book The Captive Mind. The Captive Mind has been described as one of the finest studies of the behavior of intellectuals
under a repressive regime. Being that you formed in 2003 can we deduce then that some form of political dissent towards the Bush Regime catalyzed at the very least the naming of the band, if not the music as well?
A: I had searched for a good band name for a while before coming across Ketman. I had wanted a short name not immediately associated with anything in particular. I studied eastern European history in school and had been compiling lists of possible words from all sorts of largely unknown texts when I read the Captive Mind. This was before the band existed beyond my own head and thinking back on it now the political climate was very bleak. There was a sense we were held at bay by these harbingers of ill will. Angels of death like John Ashcroft were dictating our country’s actions as if our country had been car jacked by two-bit crooks.
With all this said, Ketman, which is a word for someone who rises to power in a system they ultimately oppose (like destroying the system from within), was a refreshing concept at the time both politically and musically. Music in the corporate world becomes easily sterile. I think I hoped some Ketman would come along and shake up both the political and music spheres of the time. I was much more politically motivated in the beginning. Not really in a preachy way but the songs painted these sort of vignettes of past political righteousness I hoped people would begin to follow again.
Q: What is the most flattering/sickening musician/band comparisons you have r eceived from fans, friends, family, press etc…?
A: One time in California my friend Vinnie Vegas said we sounded like the Cramps and that always stuck with me as a huge compliment. Bands like the Cramps have always seemed sacred in the way their influence is so ubiquitous while their names can be relatively unknown to people on the whole. People latch on a lot to moments of Mission of Burma or maybe Shellac which are both very flattering but I suppose I like it most when people can’t categorize it at all. I feel we’ve played our best when people just don’t know what they saw or heard. I can promise our next record won’t sound anything like El Toro , the current record we’re promoting. I’d be happy to hear a whole lot of new comparisons when that comes out.
Q: The Boston Herald’s Barry Thompson wrote last month is his column that Ketman’s El Toro was the eighth best national album of the year saying,” Local faves Ketman’s long awaited album is perfect driving music, perhaps because the band is always headed somewhere more interesting than where you’re going most days.” That begs the question, what are Ketman’s mainstay albums to listen to when driving from show to show?
A: I feel fortunate to be in a band with people that have the widest musical palates I’ve ever known. On our most recent tour of the West Coast I discovered Jazz Trumpeter Clifford Brown thanks to Brian Rutledge (who along with Kevin Corzett added horns to make us a five piece for the tour). We played 5 different RPM record compilations of unknown or shelved British R&B singles from the 60’s, a three CD compilation of Polish funk music from the 70’s, a Peruvian Psychedelic music compilation called Roots of Chicha, a Joe Meek Box Set, The Beatles, Sex Mob, Insects vs. Robots (with whom we played in Huntington Beach fyi- these guys are AWESOME) and loads more. I guess the answer is that we have no mainstay albums. I always love hearing music I’m not already familiar with and that’s unlike Ketman. I’m looking to venture into the furthest reaches of inspiration.
Q: If you could play a show in Boston with 3 other local bands who would they be and at what Boston venue would you play?
A: I’ve always wante d to play with Mission of Burma, Neptune and Ho-Ag at The Paradise. That would be a dream show.
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