to questions about side projects
Wasabi was a mostly improvisational band in the jazzy realm. The band existed from around 1992 to 1994 with several performances in the NYC area, especially at the Wetlands. The band members have changed, often with every show, but it always included John Popper of Blues Traveler on harmonica and lead vocals (and sometimes 12-string guitar), Mark White on bass, Aaron Comess on drums, someone else on guitar and Arnie Lawrence on saxophone. After the first few performances the band settled on Eric Schenkman as the guitar player and added Eric Lawrence on saxophone. Some incarnations included Rene Lopez of the Authority on percussion, and/or Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers on guitar in addition to Eric, and sometimes Chan Kinchla of Blues Traveler on guitar with Eric. See the Other People/Bands FAQ for information on some of these people. Popper wrote much of the music for the band, although most of it was made by the group and many times it was completely improvised. One of Popper’s Wasabi songs, ‘Battle of Someone’ appears on the 1997 Blues Traveler album “Straight On Till Morning.”
Circus Whistle was a punk-rock side project of the Anthony-era spins. The band consisted of band friend McGurk (vocals), Anthony Krizan (drums), Aaron Comess (guitar), Chris Barron (bass). The songs were mostly written by Aaron and McGurk. The band, which played in 1995, was mostly meant as a joke. An example of this being the set when Chris’s bass was unplugged the entire time and he played on as if it weren’t. The band recorded a demo in 1995 with McGurk singing and Aaron playing all other instruments.
D-Bop was comprised of (variably) Aaron Comess (drums), Todd Horton (trumpet), Erik Lawrence (sax), sometimes Arnie Lawrence (sax), and others. The band, which played from 1996 through 1998, gigged around New York City playing jazz. The D-Bop horns also joined the Doctors for a number of shows in 1996 and 1997.
Chris’s solo acoustic shows started back in the late 1980’s when Chris would play songs in between Blues Traveler sets at the Nightingale Bar . He would play covers and songs that would later become Spin Doctors standards. In 1995 Chris did some more acoustic sets opening up for his own band, Spin Doctors. These sets featured the same type of thing: covers and the versions of the Spin Doctors songs he played six or seven years back; the proto-song. Many of these sets were done acoustic with a partner, Ben Lewis [see PEOPLE FAQ] with the name The Fun Bunnies. This duo started playing and writing (Mary Jane, Pandora’s Box) together in high school.
In 1997 Chris started up with his solo acoustic set at the Nightingale Bar again and he played several shows, again doing covers, old Spin Doctors tunes, and some proto-spin doctors songs. A typical Chris Barron solo shows includes his versions of Cop That The Robber, and How Could You Want Him, including a slew of originals. A few solo shows are him on vocals and acoustic guitar, and a friend of his on keyboards. This solo acoustic act has continued semi-regularly through today, and Chris even documented it with an album, Shag.
Chris also formed The Chris Barron Band (Give Daddy 5) around 2000, with a guitar player, upright bass, Aaron Comess on drums, keyboards, and Chris on rhythm guitar. This band was in the midst of recording an album when Spin Doctors got back together in fall of 2001. This band also recorded a single to benefit the September 11th Fund, called “We’re All New Yorkers Now.” This single can still be purchased from chrisbarron.com. Visit this website to purchase the single or Shag.
In addition to Wasabi, Mark was in Co-Elation with him on bass, Aaron Comess on drums, Arnie Lawrence on saxophone, and a cast of others including and eighteen year old piano player and a few guitarists. Co-Elation was around for most of 1998. The band focused on improvisational music (sometimes entirely improvised) and was in a jazzy/funky realm. Other similar bands including Mark have gone around the New York bar scene, one including Aaron, Mark, Erik Lawrence and guitarist Teddy Kumpel. Most of these bands are loose conglomerations meant for a few gigs and started up in 1997 when Spin Doctors started having fewer shows. Mark also made a solo album that featured him on all instruments.
After leaving the Spins in 1994, Eric formed Eric’s Kitchen, playing a mix of new originals and Spin Doctors songs. Then, he formed The Chrysalids, playing mostly new originals, with a handful of Spin Doctors songs thrown in. The Chrysalids, under the name Eric Schenkman and The Chrysalids made an album called Make A Sound. This album is released through Slick Music. Also available from both of these sites is a jazzier Eric solo effort called Don’t Go To War. Eric also played for a while with a NY-area zydeco band called Loup Garou.
Eric also is part of the band Cork that released two albums so far: “Speed Of Thought” (1999) which includes an early version of the song “Genuine” that later made it to the Spin Doctors’ fifth studio album, and “Out There” (2003).
Here’s some more about Cork from a semi-official Cork website: “Drummer Corky Laing (ex-Mountain) was introduced to singer-guitarist Eric Schenkman (ex-Spin Doctors) by former Jimi Hendrix Experience bassist Noel Redding in 1996. The trio spent time on the road at the tail-end of 1997 thrilling audiences with classic rock tunes from their respective bands, but it was in the spring of 1998 that Laing and Schenkman decided to make a record and began writing songs. Schenkman is no stranger to penning hit tunes – as the founding member of the Spin Doctors, he was responsible for writing some of the band’s biggest tunes, including Two Princes, Jimmy Olsen’s Blues , and Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong – and Laing is also a prolific songwriter, having been responsible for Mountain’s biggest hit, Mississippi Queen. The resulting collaboration produced SPEED OF THOUGHT released by Lightyear Records.
They named the group Cork. Corky Laing recalls the experience: “We started playing together and writing songs up at our friend’s in Westport (Conn.). We went on the road – Eric, myself and Noel – in New York and Connecticut around Christmas of ’97, played in Toronto and Montreal and Woodstock. People showed up out of curiosity. I mean, think about the repertoire between the three of us. Eric was just dying to play all those songs with us and he could handle it. It’s one thing to say you want to do it, but can you pull it off? He did, and he put his own little taste on top. I had tremendous confidence in him from a player point of view.” “It was a marriage made in rock heaven. Then the clubs started asking us back in the spring of ’98,” he said. “During that run, we played a blues club in New York. This guy, Arnie Hall from Lightyear, was there. He comes up and says, ‘Hey, I love what I heard. You wanna make a record?’ We shook hands and I called Eric, who was moving to San Francisco at the time, and he said, ‘Sure, I’ll come down for a couple of weeks.’ It was that simple. “When we recorded the album, it was very focused. We didn’t play fast, we played immediate, so we agreed whatever we got, we better grab it. We had these tape machines going, we kept on referring and going back and forth. As a result, we built on the ideas we loved to play. We played pieces and riffs we both loved and we rode on it.”
Jono Manson was there in the early days of the Nightingale Bar, where Spin Doctors got their start. He was really the guru for the bands there and taught them what it meant to be a band and to be a rocker. One of his sometimes bands is High Plains Drifter, featuring several members of Blues Traveler, Eric Schenkman, and some other Nightingale bar regulars.
(answer provided by Daniel Heinze)
Aaron is the Spin Doctor with the largest solo release catalogue. He’s also busy with a lot of different projects – most of them are NYC-based jam projects. You might have already read what he did in the Nineties (see above, “D-Bop”, “Wasabi”, “Give Daddy Five”, just to mention a few).
But until today, he’s busy with a lot of projects. He founded the Air Conditioned Hippies who played some shows in the late 90s and in 2005/2006. Aaron played drums for NYC’s upcoming songstress Swati (unfortunately, he’s not playing with her anymore, but he recorded a killer demo with Swati) and for Rachel Yamagati, too. Another noteworthy collaboration is Aaron playing drums for the Bacon Brothers (2005/2006). He performed with trumpet hero Todd Horton and with Gene Everett, too. Most recently, he`s involved in the following projects:
– New York Electric Piano (they recorded 4 albums so far and play in NYC every now and then)
– Adam Matta / Aaron Comess Duo (Matta is a impressive beat boxer, they perform together at NYC’s Nightingale Bar pretty often)
– Aaron Comess Jazz Group (in Aaron’s own words: “jazz standards played our own way”)
– Kumpel, Comess And Katz (in Aaron’s own words: “we do improv and
crazy interpretations of tunes from the beatles, zep nirvana etc.”)
To keep up-to-date with Aaron’s solo projects, check out the gig calendar on his website.