now playing: aunt pat, “satellite”
a lot of the groundwork for the new blake allen site has been done…stop by when you can.
i was looking it over last night, and i thought about chuck treece – the drummer who blake brought in to play on the record, and i decided that i was gonna try to hunt him down today to tell him what a great job he did on the record.
in my travels, i came across this article, written by margit detweiler in the philadelphia city paper:
In his small South Philly apartment, musician Chuck Treece spoons baby food to his 17-month-old son Isaac while he fields phone calls. Treece is waiting to hear about a possible drumming gig on a song with Jon Bon Jovi.
“They’ve already tried out Kenny Aronoff and Andy Kravitz,” says Treece. “They’re trying to get the best possible sound.”
Aronoff (most famous for playing with John Mellencamp) and Kravitz (who has played with The Goats, Cypress Hill and Urge Overkill) are some of the best session drummers around, and Treece is right up there with them.
You haven’t heard him?
Sure you have.
Philadelphia’s Chuck Treece is everything from the bassline in Billy Joel’s “River of Dreams,” the drums on the theme song for the TV show Clueless and the backing vocals on Bad Brains’ album, Quickness. He’s toured with Urge Overkill playing bass, G. Love and The Goats playing drums and played guitar on the road with the Disposable Heroes of Hiphopracy.
He put out a solo album in 1990, Dreamin’, on Caroline Records and has founded several bands over the years: the ’80s skatecore band McRad, the ’90s melodically groovy Black Beans, and the recent hardcore hip-hop trio Supergrub. His current side projects include playing live with classic rockers Aunt Pat and singer-songwriter Nancy Falkow. He’s gigged with many other Philly bands too numerous to mention.
He was also a professional skateboarder at one time.
Does that cover it?
“Just about,” says Treece. Like many talented session musicians, the number of acts he’s played with is mind-boggling. He can barely remember himself.
Among several posters of his main inspiration, Jimi Hendrix, Treece’s pad is plastered with memorabilia reflecting his work: posters from tours he’s played on and a multi-platinum plaque for his work on “River of Dreams.” Some of his equipment is in a storage space because he never knows what his next project will be or where it will take him.
“It might seem like I’m whoring myself,” laughs the 32-year-old Treece, bright-eyed in wire glasses with one tiny dread hanging in his face. “But I bring my skills to the table every time… If I play for someone they’re getting something that I’d give myself.”
Stylistically, too, Treece is all over the map. He pulls out a fan-club-only Pearl Jam 7-inch. He plays drums on the song “Swallow My Pride,” – he got that gig through his friend Stone Gossard. He can do metal, rock, reggae, hip-hop – you name it.
He points out that more Philly musicians should be well-rounded – perhaps that’s one of the main problems with the Philadelphia music scene.
“In Seattle, musicians can play just about anything from jazz to rock to country. Here rock musicians can only play rock music. People in Philly are more mainstream in their approach.”
Treece is part of a community of dozens of session musicians in Philly who make their living supporting other bands. It’s Treece’s level of professionalism and versatility that keeps artists, bands and producers calling.
“He’s a first-rate, first-level musician,” says Miguel Gonzalez, who played percussion with Treece in the reggae-influenced Timi and the Dub Warriors, among other projects. “He’s fabulous as a drummer, he can play the sort of Billy Cobham fuselage of notes or he can lay back and play the tightest groove possible.”
“Chuck is one of the most talented musicians I’ve ever met,” adds Andy Kravitz, who, along with being a session drummer in his own right, runs The Amazing Barn recording studio. “If I’m producing a project and it needs a bass player, I’ll generally call Chuck.”
Treece grew up in Newark, Delaware, but he’d come up and hang out in West Philly where his mom lived. He moved to Philly in 1982 because, he says, “I was sick of high-school and I knew I wasn’t going to college. I knew I wanted to do music and skate.” It was through skating that he met Zeke Zagar, with whom he started the skate punk band McRad (named by Husker Du’s bass player Greg Norton) in 1982. At the end of 1984, Treece moved out to San Francisco. Since then he has bounced back and forth between Philly and the West Coast and in and out of various bands.
His 1990 punk-pop-styled solo album on Caroline records, though well-received, didn’t sell as well as expected. It made him realize he should beef up his chops and work as a session player.
“I thought, if I can’t get my own gig together,” says Treece, “it’s better for me to learn the trade.”
Getting session work can be tough at times; Treece has also had to do construction work to pay the bills.
Even when you do get session work, Treece adds, you’re not always sure the album, band or tour will be worth the effort.
“Basically it’s like being in a desert waiting to come across water,” says Treece. “But when you come across water, you don’t always know how safe it is.”
Around 1990, Treece met Jay Davidson, a sax player who hooked him up with the Butcher Brothers, Joe and Phil Nicolo, at Studio 4 (Ruffhouse Records’ recording studio). Through Ruffhouse he’s worked on remixes of work by everyone from Amy Grant to Sting to Ben Arnold to The Goats.
He also became part of the “A Team” – Andy Kravitz’s crew of session players which includes Treece, sax player Davidson, Phil Nolan, Mike Tyler, Randy Cannor and Ian Cross.
“Chuck has gone through the whole procedure,” says Gonzalez. “He’s been in the band that got a contract and lost it; he’s gone solo; he’s become a session musician. The difference between him and people like Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman of the Hooters is that Chuck did all that before he hit his late 20s.”
In 1993 Treece toured with Urge Overkill and Bad Brains back to back. Switching gears for the different styles of these two alternative acts wasn’t easy.
“With Urge there was a lot of hype – the band was hot, already in the buzz bin… People from labels were there, everyone shaking your hand. At that point they were trying to break out of the alternative mold. We were touring around the one song, ‘Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon,’ that wasn’t even their song – it was a cover. We never even played that live… That was the end of their beginning in my opinion – their better songs were on older albums.
“Playing with Urge wasn’t the stressed-out, hard, fast music of Bad Brains – and their message was different. [Urge] wasn’t the peace and love of Bad Brains. And Bad Brains never centered around a single at all. With Urge it was more of a rock thing, you could relax more and work your position on the stage. With Bad Brains you took your position and held it. You can’t say, oh I used to play in Urge Overkill – all of that went out the door. You had to prove yourself again. But if you can’t pull it of, you can’t pull it off.”
Treece’s latest projects include playing bass and drums on the new Dahveed record: a self-driven project which he calls, “poppy-seeded hardcore;” producing work for artists Nisa and Q and a collection he calls “Kitchen Instrumentals” – which includes music he’s recorded from ’96-’97 on his four-track recorder in his kitchen.
But what about skateboarding?
“I still session with friends but don’t compete,” he says. “The kids are pretty sick today, I don’t wanna be Evil Knievel. I need to have all my body parts working.”
chuck also played bass on brand new distance on our mutual angels.