TRANSCENDENCE was recently interviewed for an article in New Times. Click here to read the article. Or scroll down read the entire interview transcript. This is one of the best interviews the band has ever given. Good questions and answers, it catches the guys in great spirits and is much more in depth than the final article.
Complete New Times Interview from the article Transcendence — Brighten the Corners. Originally appeared November 4th, 2004
October 19th, 2004
Lee Zimmerman, Staff Writer, New Times Miami
Lee Zimmerman: First some biographical stuff – how did you guys get together – can you give me a time line?
Ed Hale: Our original drummer Ricky and I first started jamming together in â€˜99. He had just moved from DC and was used to playing for huge stadium sized audiences in his homeland of Bolivia . He was used to jazz and Latin and funk styles mixed with a little bit of rock. I was just out of the Miami band Broken Spectacles which was a rock band. I was obsessed with world music styles at the time because they were all so new to me and he was really excited about the possibility of playing rock, so we decided to try to merge the two. We found other guys from Miami who were into the idea of this strange mix and the RISE AND SHINE album is what came out of that eventually.
Fernando joined the group because I got a call from Rich Ulua in Miami who is a local manager and record company owner who just flat out said â€œEd I found your guitar player last night; he is amazing and you should call him like right now. You guys could really make magic together.â€ I did call him and we realized that we had the exact same influences in music and in what we were trying to do as artists ourselves. I am very honored to play with him. He is a genius.
Fernando Perdomo: I was fully aware of the quality of Ed’s songs and was becoming a fan when right around the time Transcendence’s previous guitarist left the band my father tragically passed away…this was April 2002… Less than 24 hours after his passing I showed up to play a set with another singer at a club to get away from the ugly scene at home…Word had already spread of his passing …. I walked in the club and transcendence was on playing a song called Keep Moving On… [from the Sleep with you CD] When Ed saw me he said “This song is dedicated to Fernando. Keep Moving On Fernando… Keep Moving on…’ I burst into tears and used those words as a mantra to better myself as a musician and a human being… I asked Ed if I could join and have been in the band ever since…
Ed Hale: Roger came on board because Fernando told me he knew this kid just out of high school who was a total misfit because he only listened to music from the sixties and early seventies and that he would fit in with us perfectly. He wasn’t even twenty at the time. I asked him who he dug and he mentioned T. Rex, who is one of my biggest influences and I couldn’t believe that I was standing there talking to someone else who liked T. Rex in Miami . It was an epiphany. I asked him what he was looking for in a band and he just quietly shrugged as he is prone to do and said, â€œjust something that people like.â€ I told him â€˜well I can’t promise you that, but I can bet we are going to make some really awesome music together.’
Roger Houdaille: Fernando and I have been friends and musical collaborators since high school and when Transcendence found themselves in need of a bass player, I was quickly asked to audition. Soon, I was introduced to Ed and he was in shock that I was a fellow Marc Bolan/T. Rex fan. I passed the audition on June 28, 2002 to be exact, the day John Entwistle died. Bringing Fernando and I into the group definitely inspired musical change, bringing a more indie and classic rock vibe into Transcendence, leading up to our latest release Nothing Is Cohesive.
Ed Hale: Our current keyboard player Allan Gabay had just relocated from New York and recently had graduated from the Manhattan school of music with a degree in music and classical piano. He is brilliant at piano and again just had all the same influences. He was coming from the same place. I asked him who he was listening to at the time and he said Stravinsky. Because I was at the time in a pretty heavy Shostakovich phase I was so happy to know someone who not only had all the same tastes in rock and pop musics but also could bring that whole classical vibe into the group it was a natural fit. And he’s totally crazy like the rest of us so that really helps.
Bill Sommer: I don’t know about any of that. But I met Ed in March of 2003 when they were looking for a fill in drummer. My old band the Blinking Underdogs had gone belly up and a mutual friend who worked at the studio where Transcendence was recording Sleep with you put us in touch.
Lee Zimmerman: Where did the name come from?
Fernando Perdomo: I’m not aware of the origin of the name but I think it fits the band perfectly … before Transcendence I was enrolled in a high school rock program [Miami beach Rock ensemble] that got me started by learning and performing Beatles albums in their entirety… Then I became a major freelance guitarist in Miami and award winning composer… I have major label touring and recording experience but I prefer the creative freedom Transcendence gives me… It’s my dream band.
Ed Hale: Dude, you’re so cool to say that. I’m going to make love with you right now.
Fernando Perdomo: You are so gay! But in a good way.
Bill Sommer: Ed is very gay.
Ed Hale: No seriously. I’m not really gay. But seriously. The story is that because I had just gotten out of a very close knit organic rock band with four guys, the idea at the time for this new group was to have this really big groovy group of many players, almost more like a scene or a happening, playing all these different styles of music all combined into one based around my songs. Sort of like Zappa’s mother of invention or something. The original name for the group believe it or not was Ed Hale and the Troubadours of Transcendence.
Roger Houdaille: I have the original CD demo of that group actually.
Ed Hale: The idea being that we would travel around and put on these shows that transcended the norm of bands just playing one style of music. Well obviously that name didn’t last too long because most people either said â€œwhat?!â€ when they heard it or just started laughing. We soon became Ed Hale & the Transcendence, but then once Fernando and Roger joined the group we started to realize that the band wasn’t really just about me and my songs anymore. It had quickly turned into a real group effort where each member’s participation was just as necessary as the next guys so we just shortened the name down to Transcendence to reflect that.
Lee Zimmerman: What bands were you in prior to this?
Ed Hale: I was primarily just in broken spectacles. Fernando was in sixo, trophy wife, Fulano and other local notable bands like DC3. Roger was coming out of a lot of experimental groups like the BJ experience, and father Bloopy. Ricky was in a bunch of pretty popular Latin rock bands in South America . Allan had played in hundreds of bands over the years up in New York . And our new second drummer Mr. Bill Sommer had been in the blinking underdogs.
Lee Zimmerman: Please give an idea of your influences – who’d ya listen to growing up – who are you listening to these days?
Fernando Perdomo: Beatles, Blood sweat and tears, Todd Rundgren, King Crimson, Genesis, Yes, Kate Bush…
Ed Hale: You just said Bush. I thought this wasn’t going to be political?
Fernando Perdomo: Shut up. I’m also really into Jellyfish, Jason Faulkner . Now, I listen to a lot of Gentle giant, Phantom Planet, Keane, John Cale, Brand New Immortals, David Ryan Harris,
Ed Hale: We are all pretty obsessed with all music. We all buy hundreds of cds of all different styles and share them with each other. For me I started with bands like the Beatles and the stones and zeppelin and Bowie and T. Rex and Donovan and Lou Reed of course. And that made me a total outcast in high school because no one liked the old stuff. As a group I can safely say that we are all pretty obsessed with McCartney’s second solo album Ram. We can literally sit in the tour van on the way to a gig and sing the entire album together from beginning to end and not miss a note or a lyric. That one may be our touchstone if there is such a thing. Caetano Veloso from Brasil is now my favorite singer songwriter in the world; on our new album there is a song I wrote for him called Caetano. Lately I have been really obsessed with Metallica and Rufus Wainright if that makes any sense. I would like to find a way to fuse those two sounds together if it is possible.
Bill Sommer: Growing up, I was really into the grunge thing, plus the Black Crows and Led Zeppelin. Then I got heavy into the jazz thing in college, especially Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, and Joe Lovano. Now it’s pretty much all indie rock. I’m loving the Strokes, the Mars Volta, Hot Hot Heat, and Radiohead are still my musical gods.
Lee Zimmerman: So how does a band from Miami get all this national press and so much airplay – I realize you must have hired an indie promoter – I know McGathy is a big shot but promoters and publicists cost money – how do you swing something like that?
Fernando Perdomo: Don’t know how to answer this one. Ed did it.
Ed Hale: We decided to start our own label and stop trying to depend on getting a record deal from a major label since we didn’t know if that was ever going to really happen. We knew we had fans because we were selling good quantities of our CDs so we just took it from a very business approach. Basically we just run our day affairs very business and we run our night affairs very much like a rock and roll band. We have indie radio promoters around the country who picked us up after the sleep with you album charted to #23 on the national specialty show charts. They just started calling us. Same thing with publicists. They would call up and say hey what’s up with this band and then I would pretend to be some record company guy on the other end of the phone and cut deals with them on the band’s behalf. They never knew they were speaking to a member of the group. It’s quite insane and hilarious actually.
Bill Sommer: The answer for the last two questions is the same. Ed is a smart guy. He treats the business side of the band AS A BUSINESS!!! Which most bands fail to do. Unfortunately, it’s absolutely necessary to do just that. Ed is on the phone all the time, making contacts, and putting our music into the hands of people that need to hear it. Sometimes, those people end up helping you out.
Lee Zimmerman: How do you get the bookings – isn’t it tough to get gigs when you’re not particularly well known in that given market?
Roger Houdaille: It is tough and this is where the band is the most weakest at the moment. Getting on the road.
Ed Hale: Hey we haven’t figured that one out yet. Rise and shine went to #1 in a bunch of markets like Portland , Maine and we had never even played there and still find it hard to get gigs in general. This is the biggest challenge of being an indie band, hands down.
Lee Zimmerman: It’s interesting that you’ve taken a reverse route – you have gained a national profile first before working on your local base – what was your strategy behind that? You made mention of the difficulty of a local band breaking in Miami – care to elaborate?
Ed Hale: Well we didn’t exactly break nationally overnight. We built a good local following, as big as you can I guess in Miami as a rock band. Our CD release party for the rise and shine album had over 400 people there, which was huge for a Miami band playing rock music. But in general Miami just isn’t a good place for rock bands at this time due to the demographics of the city now. Miami has an amazing group of world class rock talent. Artists like Matthew Sabatella or Jim Camacho or Alex Diaz are fucking legends in their own rights. Bands like Humbert or DC3 have reaffirmed my belief in rock and roll a hundred times over after seeing them perform on many a drunken night at Churchill’s or Tobacco Road. Zach Zischin is another one who is just fucking unbelievable at what he does. But unless a band gets the hell out of there and plays for audiences in the rest of the country it just isn’t going to happen. This was one of the first things the major labels started telling us when they would meet with us. they would tell us that number one we weren’t going to find a big enough audience in Miami making the kind of music we were wanting to make, and two that Miami is too far South to be a good touring base. That we needed to get our music out nationally. So we did.
Roger Houdaille: The fact that Transcendence is more popular in places like Gainesville and Long Island than their hometown Miami is personally not too surprising. With South Florida’s radio not interested in spinning our single “Superhero Girl” and a local music scene which has yet to find audiences, I think the smartest way to go about things is what we are doing … focusing on the rest of the world! Miami can be an amazing place, but very frustrating for any serious artist or band of non-Latin music.
Bill Sommer: Miami is just a hole when it comes to live music. Look at the scene. There’s no place for cool up and coming bands to play, except maybe I/O. You go straight from Tobacco Road to the Miami arena. My favorite bands rarely come to Miami , though they do hit other places in the States. I think that says something about the state of the scene. It’s a shame, because there’s tons of talent in Miami .
Lee Zimmerman: Tovar is pitching you to labels but you mentioned you have management elsewhere – so what’s the difference in the two functions?
Bill Sommer: Allow Ed to answer.
Ed Hale: John Tovar is a music man. He is a visionary of mammoth proportions. He has some of the best ears in the business and just really loves music. He’s first and foremost a music lover. He has been a big supporter of ours since day one but day to day management isn’t necessarily his thing as much as just trying to help bands get to the next level in their careers. Tovar is more like Babe Ruth rather than Tommy Lasorta. He knows how to hit the ball over the fence.
Lee Zimmerman: Can you give me an idea how you’ve spent the last week in New York and what the reception has been at the labels?
Fernando Perdomo: I saw 2 of the greatest performances I have ever witnessed. John Cale at the Avalon, and David Ryan Harris at Irving Plaza . The past and the future of rock and roll. Fell in love with a hofner les paul copy… enjoyed the company of 4 of my closest friends… my bandmates.
Roger Houdaille: New York was a pleasure to perform at, especially being part of the CMJ music fest. I was thrilled to hear John Cale was a part of the festival too, and managed to catch his intense performance at the Avalon, standing right next to Beck. I thought it was very fitting as I was intensely inspired by John Cale’s body of work while working on “Nothing Is Cohesive”. In fact, one may hear the influence on the very first note I play on “Nothing Is Cohesive”: The E flat bass over the E chord.
Ed Hale: That’s what you’re doing there? Dude that’s fucking cool.
Bill Sommer: That is fucking cool. But in answer to your question, New York was cool. The labels dig us. New York was all about preparing to put on a great show and hopefully more.
Ed Hale: New York was amazing for us. we spent most of our time rehearsing at a studio for the CMJ show. We rehearsed five hours a day for two days straight to get really tight and confident. We played the show and had a bunch of labels there and we spent another day doing photo shoots and having meetings. The thing about the major labels right now is that they are all consolidating more and more and hundreds of people are losing their jobs and hundreds of artists are losing their record contracts. So most of the label execs are scared shitless that they are going to be fired so they are very very careful who they sign and choose to work with. We are now at the point where we get calls from major labels every few weeks who are very passionate about our music or others who are just very passionate about our CD sales or radio airplay or national press, but again, they’re having a tough time selling their old established bands to the consumer at this point, let alone new bands…. it’s a crazy time in the biz. So our focus is just to keep on recording our albums and touring and making music that we love. When the time is right for us to hook up with a major that will happen. carry the water, plough the field. Wait for the signs.
Lee Zimmerman: All your albums have had a different sound – isn’t that a handicap for a new band such as yours? Don’t labels, the press etc. find it confusing? Nowadays, the industry likes to hang a tag on a band but in your case that’s gotta be tough – was this deliberate on your part – and doesn’t that make it tougher to connect?
Fernando Perdomo: o.k. listen… take Elton john- you’ve got Open Sky- Elton the poppy psych flower child. Elton John- Elton The mellow songwriter. And Tumbleweed Connection- Elton does Americana . Great album…
Roger Houdaille: As a real artist, one just has to work the magic and hope the audience can keep up and stay interested in what you do. Ed moves very fast, and so does Transcendence. Right now, I’m trying to convince the band to lose the electric guitars, fancy keyboards and full drum set and do an English language Bachata record. Then we will break in Miami for sure!! Please stay tuned for our future releases! The industry is no friend to a band, unless the band wants to be pigeon holed and die fast and be uninspiring.
Fernando Perdomo: o.k. seriously, I have it. Radiohead. Pablo Honey- Grungy Sloppy Radiohead. O.k. Computer- Genius, trippy Radiohead. Kid A- Radio head does ecstasy.
Bill Sommer: O.k. we get the point. Seriously, I think, marketing wise, it may be a disadvantage. But the fact is, once we sign, the label will have found a group that has taken the time to find its sound, and not been afraid to try different things. In the long term, that’s going to lead to better music being made for us and for our fans.
Ed Hale: Honestly I think they do find it confusing. But we do what we do because that’s what we do. I don’t think it makes it tougher to connect to our audience. But yes maybe for the labels at this time it is a little daunting because they can’t nail us down as far as how to market us. But artists are always changing it up and creating new art if they are real artists. That’s the nature of the art of being an artist so to speak. That’s what makes artists like the Beatles or Madonna great artists. In Transcendence you got a band of five very hyperactive, entirely obsessive, relatively insane guys with a severe case of ADD and an extreme passion for music all running around trying to make sense of everything they are listening to and wanting to create as their own personal artistic statements. And so the chances of that translating into any two albums sounding remotely similar is going to be pretty slim.
Fernando Perdomo: David Bowie- Hunky Dory- Bowie the Softie. Space oddity- Bowie the Freak. Ziggy- Bowie the alien. Low- Bowie the euro freak. And then Pinups, Bowie the cover band guy.
Ed Hale: As an example, roger is currently in a deep infatuation with traditional Mexican Bachata music. Fernando is obsessed with early eighties Gino Vanelli, for some weird reason. And obviously overly long analogies… and I am having a deep and meaningful love affair with the entire Metallica catalogue, while Bill is digging into all the current college and indie bands that are big right now. So our new album, not the one coming out this month, but the one we just started to record for release next year is bound to sound a bit different than Nothing is cohesive to say the least. That was the point of us calling the new CD Nothing is cohesive . It was our answer to all these calls for us to sound the same all the time. It just isn’t going to happen. They’re going to have to fuck off if they keep asking us to fit into some particular style.
Fernando Perdomo: O.K. One more… Britney Spears. Baby One More time – Poppy princess Britney. Oops I did it again – Poppy princess Britney. Britney Spears next album – Poppy princess Britney. Who would you rather us be like?! Nuff Said!!!
Lee Zimmerman: What’s the strategy from here on guys?
Roger Houdaille: Focus on touring the States and move on to Europe successfully.
Ed Hale: Carry the water and plough the fields man. I love these guys like brothers and I miss them when we aren’t together for even a day. So the strategy is just to try to stay together for as long as it feels good and to keep on trucking. Making our little artistic statements together and performing live for people as often as we can. And hopefully we will find a way to get a good meal in our bellies now and then.
Bill Sommer: Not to be as philosophical as Ed, but we need to stay on the road, bring the music to the people, and have them love it. Then they run to their local cd store to buy a handful of transcendence CD’s.
Fernando Perdomo: Look good and sound great!