8 Ball Junkies
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8 Ball Junkies

Band Jazz Jam


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The best kept secret in music


" ...The long-awaited release of the 8 Ball Junkies’ new album finally culminated in a CD release party at Square Bubbles in Beechmont.

It was only 8:30. But, as it turns out, they were only doing a jam session sound check. And that’s the best way to describe the 8 Ball Junkies’ music. They are a jam band plain and simple.

I had to confess that I hadn’t heard them play in a couple of years. It was tough to admit that I just haven’t gotten out that much. “The band took a couple of years off,” it was explained. I nodded along as if my confession had really been meant as an observation.

Good. Now shots with various people. This was the part of the assignment I was worried about. This was an aspect of being an embedded journalist that was dangerous anywhere in the world. After two shots of Yeager, a shot of rum, three drink-special beers and many offers of tequila, the music began to flow in organic waves.

It wasn’t my hearing that was going sideways. This band practices psychedelic jazz in a hypnotic trance. The best example of this is their song “The Score” on the new CD. It’s the last tune, and it fades in and out. The song feeds imagination.

The guys lent me a few moments of a smoke break to ask them about their music.

“Laid back, space-age porno funk,” Jared describes it. As one of the creative leaders of the band, he doesn’t mince words.

And that would probably be the most colorful way of labeling the sound. It’s weird. Creativity has never been one of my problems. Normally I have a grand supply. But the problem is that this music is ultra-trippy. To compete with it by trying to match my writing with it would be a failure.

Cuts of this and then power groove. Then hard rock.

“We touch on something for everyone,” says Shawn.

Their sound has jazz, hard rock, everything. There’s scratching, Primus-style bass-thumping, and keyboard tempo shifts.

“Everyone’s well-trained. Everyone’s well respected in their fields,” Jared says in deep ponderance. “If people come out to see a good sax player, they’re gonna say ‘That’s a bad man.’”

Everyone comes from somewhere in this band. There are former members of the Zionites and 4 Track Allstars, and then there’s the three degrees of separation from Bootsy Collins. Ry Stephenson plays with Freakbass, which is a Bootsy connection.

Of that connection, Jared says, “This band is a network. Ry brings funk relations with Freakbass.”

Their influences made me nod my head in saying, “Aww, yeah. I can hear that.” Their music was inspired by the works of Victor Wooten, Stanley Jordan, and Bootsy Collins. Music is in their language. 8 Ball is a meeting ground for various members of the music community.

Reggae somber. Jazz loose. The scratching turntable slides across beats effortlessly. They don’t rely on gadgets to make music. But they use every sound in their arsenal to complement each other’s talents.

“We’re very loose about things. First set, let’s pick a key. And then if you want your solo, step up and play. That’s how we run things.”

The thing about this album that I like is that it’s an experience every time you listen to it. If you experience this album while jamming out in your car, you’re going to hear something different than if you have it on as ambiance music at a party.

I had to leave in the middle of their third set. More punks were trying to offer me tequila, and my attempt to match my friend up with that blond chick was off and rolling. I figured this was a safe point to slide out..."

D. S. Meyers
Queen City Forum Magazine staff
- Queen City Forum


Alhambra Palace is an LP of all original material.
Tracks from it are available on some radio playlists including http://www.live365.com/stations/themusicarchivist


Feeling a bit camera shy


8 Ball Junkies began in 2001 as a purely instrumental vehicle for a loose knit group of studio musicians from Cincinnati Ohio. Ry Stephenson (drums) Jared Manker (bass) and Justin Toddhunter (guitar) were gigging under the name, and pulled in Producer/DJ Shawn Shiveley (professionally known as Nappyhead) and Percussionist Alonzo Leggette to add to their fiery chemistry. The group began a weekly residency at a local club that honed their improvisational skills, and expanded their repertoire. You were likely to hear Phish segue into Medeski, Martin, and Wood or the Meters followed by Napphead spinning Eminem A Capella's while the band held the beat. 8 Ball Junkies would tackle almost any material from Allman Brothers to Zappa. In 2002, Justin left to pursue his education and introduced the band to Joseph Burkens who took over the guitar duties. With this line-up the Junkies drew on other influences as varied as Bluegrass and Hip-Hop which meshed perfectly with their improvisational attitude. The groups following quickly grew. Many other local musicians on set breaks from their gigs across the street or around the corner would stop in and were always welcomed to sit in. In late 2003, Joseph relocated to Colorado. Nick Tuttle joined the band and brought a Latin flavor and traditional Jazz to the Junkies sound. Louis Banfa, Wes Montgomery and Santana would pop into set lists. At the end of 2004, the band decided to utilize many of the relationships they'd built with very talented musicians in a studio setting. The sessions began with Jared Manker and Nappyhead laying the foundations and the grooves of Alhambra Palace in Naps home studio. Ry Stephenson handled the drum chores, and contributed to the writing process as well. There were many discussions on what makes great instrumental music, and then listening to lots of instrumental music. A lot of effort was placed in writing good catchy melodies that you could sing. Nick Tuttle and John Gentry Jr (Rays Music Exchange, DaLemmings) were brought in next to layer the guitars. Saxophone, flute, melodica and other accents were added by J (4-Track All Stars). Michael "Maddog" Mavridoglou (Jazz Mandolin Project) played some of the blazingest trumpet allowed by law. And Bootsy Collins' protege FreekBass was called upon for the funk-ladden Mu-tron Bass he is so well known for.