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Paracosmic Interview Part 1: Jamming Towards Another Dimension

Finding a communal, cosmic groove around L.A.

Dominique Dungo

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A psychedelic, funk-infused, improv/flow jam band that incorporates rock and blues is definitely an ear-catching formula. Especially if they only play instrumentals.

Paracosmic was formed by guitarist Ashton Slater, bassist Leo “Toad” Meginley, guitarist/bassist Travis Soto, and drummer/percussionist Brandon “Funknasty” Cooke in early 2015. The musicians hail from different parts of the U.S., mainly California.

I had the chance to interview the band earlier this year and below is the first part of that conversation.

Paracosmic is:

Ashton Slater – Guitar
Leo “Toad” Meginley – Bass
Travis Soto – Bass/Guitar
Brandon “Funknasty” Cooke – Drums
Evan Hatfield – Sax/Sitar/Keys
Adrian Johnson – Harmonica/Flute

Image: Paracosmic Facebook page.

CMN: When did Paracosmic officially form as a group?

Toad: Early on in 2015 we started piecing this space ship together
Ashton: I think our official formation was our first jam together as a four-piece in Burbank. I had just met Brandon for the first time. Trav had recently met him at Lucidity and invited him to come jam.

We (Ashton, Toad, Travis and Brandon) started playing and didn’t stop for around 30 minutes. Once the energy had built to an epic moment, we cooled off, and by the end I remember all of us looking at each other with an expression of “what just happened!?” Then we changed keys and did it all again! It was a moment that I will never forget.

CMN: What are the key points you guys have learned about yourselves during your time with music?

Brandon: The biggest key points in being in a musical project like this for me is to always follow exactly what my intuition is leading me, both musically and life. I find it brings the most joy, and greatest performances. When I can truly turn the mind of and just play from the soul.. That’s where the magic at shows happens.

Toad: For me the key point I’ve learned personally and musically really is that alone I can get some pretty great things accomplished jumping around in different projects an or just by myself playing and writing riffs or little jams on different instruments. But when I play with Paracosmic it’s a whole different world of creativity, with my playing in how I play or where I take my self in the music so basically i’ve learned that when we’re all 6 together playing music and writing together in one room its magic on a level that can’t be reproduced anywhere else quite like this so its something special I’m really trying to cherish and not take for granted.

Ashton: First and foremost, TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAMWORK! Stay open to everyone’s ideas! There will always be something to cry about, so do it with your instrument!

Image: Paracosmic Facebook page.

CMN: Who are some of your musical inspirations? Do you have favorite CDs/old records?

Ashton: Growing up I was surrounded by many genres of music through my parents, which lead me to classics like Pink Floyd (The Wall/ Dark Side of the Moon), Bob Dylan (Freewheelin’) Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, Parliament Funkadelic and Led Zeppelin, to name a few.

One album that always brings me back to childhood is Steely Dan’s Aja. After years I learned about punk music and found a whole new outlet for all this extra energy I had, and a little later, to learn how to play. My favorite punk bands growing up were Black Flag, Beastie Boys, Bad Brains, and Minutemen, mostly 80’s hardcore.

Once I got older I began to understand music in a different way. Since then I have had way too many influences to name them all. From the last 10 years I’ve heavily listened to Jerry Garcia and the Dead, Dr. John and all New Orleans music, John Scofield, Derek Trucks, Eric Kranso, the list will never end! I’ve recently started studying Indian/Raga music, which has been a huge mind bender.

Toad: Well, Jimi Hendrix is my biggest all around musical influence but I mean there’s just too many artists/bands that have really affected my whole life, not just my music, really early on in life for me. Bob Marley and Led Zeppelin are most likely the other two most influential on my life when I was a young kid — and still today which is pretty rad.

My top three most influential albums are: Jimi Hendrix – Electric Ladyland, 2) Led Zeppelin – The Song Remains The Same and Bob Marley – Babylon by Bus

Brandon: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Parliament/Funkadelic, Tool, Dave Brubeck, Led Zeppelin, The Meters, John Coltrane… the list goes on and on and on… anything with passion and a groove.

Evan: Classical Indian Music and Radiohead.

CMN: What led you guys to forming this group in the first place?

Toad: Well, for me what led to forming this group was the need to Funk out man! Haha. I just really wanted to start a band with some real friends that had a common love of music first, and also of the super funky psychedelic lifestyle. So, knowing Travis and the fact he could kill it on the bass and a bunch of other instruments, and was a far out dude with the funk just pouring out of his eyes, ears, nose, and mouth hahaha, and we were like, “Dude let’s start a band with two bass players and really get trippy with it!”

And we knew Ashton was in the same boat and was a hard working super trippy inspiring musician from our group of friends, so once us three got together, we jammed once with Brandon and just knew we were on to some super dope stuff and it all just really blossomed very beautifully from there.

Ashton: I think our love of music led to our paths aligning, somehow through necessity. We all were looking for the same things at the same time.

CMN: What was the first venue/festival Paracosmic performed at?

Ashton: October 2015 at The King King in Hollywood, though our first live show was at a good friend’s birthday party June 2015 at a warehouse. Our first Festival was Serenity Gathering March 2016.

CMN: Where do you guys see yourself and/or Paracosmic in 5 years?

Toad: I really see us moving forward in a lot of ways in the next five years. I think if we keep working harder and harder at this we have some great opportunities that will arise. I see us playing bigger and better shows with some other really great bands, and I see us really taking this thing out on the road in the next five years, all across the western U.S. Hopefully even make our way east by then as well also!

Brandon: I think to try to project or assume where we will be in five years is dangerous. I just know and hope we will be exactly where we need to be if we follow our intuition and musical truth, along with working our asses off!

Ashton: Tunneling through the space-time, on our way to new dimensions and worlds we’ve only yet imagined. Accelerating at an exponential rate. Avalanching!

CMN: What type of recording processes does the band use?

Brandon: A very long one… haha. We record everything live in a room together so we can feed off of each other’s energy while we are tracking. I personally think it’s kind of pointless to try to record this type of music to a click track or in sections or layering.

Once all of the main fundamental tracks are done being tracked (This time it was at Ultimate Studios Inc. with Charlie Waymire), we go into my studio, Ironwood Recorders in Pasadena, to work on overdubs and interludes before I start mixing.

CMN: Who planned on starting ‘Paracosmic’?

Toad: I had been plotting out the idea of starting a band in LA for years and really I was just taking it slow trying to form the right group of friends that I thought could really make a difference. Once I met Travis things really started to take flight and along with Ashton and Brandon really formed Paracosmic into what it is now.

CMN: What is some advice you can give to aspiring musicians and groups?

Ashton: If you love playing music, don’t let irrelevant issues ruin that. And always be respectful of what your band mates bring to the table.

Evan: Just play, find other musicians you really connect with, and make music your main priority in life.

Brandon: Throw away your ego. Making good music isn’t about you showing off, It’s about creating something great as a collective whole. Completely destroy your ego, it won’t serve you in this field.

Also only play and follow what your soul is telling you to play and express. Don’t chase music that you’re not passionate about.

Toad: Just keep on truckin’ man~ if you have something together that you love doing, don’t stop. If you’re really digging it, other people will dig it also. Just give it time, you will only get better at what you do.

Image: Paracosmic Facebook page.

CMN: Who thought of the band name and what’s the story behind it?

Toad: Jade Alexis, a great old friend of ours had been on the phone trying to come up with names with me one day, and she has great concepts and ideas being the outrageously awesome and incredibly far out artist that she is. She came up with this whole painters of sound concept that was real trippy and made sense because we don’t have singing going in our music but it still can really take you on a beautiful journey.

So everyone had been throwing around name ideas for a few weeks and on the phone one day she said “How about Paracosm?” it means a detailed imaginary world, and we were all like “Perfect!” Then we realized there was a ‘lil band on the east coast with that name already, so we just called it Paracosmic. It’s pretty great I think. Thanks Jade!

Ashton: The word paracosm is defined as a detailed imaginary world. Right off the bat I loved the name and just went with it.

CMN: Any fun facts you guys would like to share about the band?

Toad: Dang, well since this is question number 11 I could tell you that since day one of this band and before and still today we use the number 11 a lot in a bunch of ways and it really has been an incredible force in and around the band. From our studio #11B to our email address and like 100 other really cool coincidences with that number are just really cool and trippy. 1111, that’s our lucky number!

Ashton: In numerology the number 11 has great importance. Without going into too much detail, it has a lot to do with our psychic connection. Also, Evan’s third eye has a nipple attached to it. Adrian is actually an intergalactic traveling elf. Brandon was a Shamanic Viking in a past life.

CMN: How did you guys meet?

Toad: I guess you could say basically we all met through just hanging around the same group of music and art inspired friends here in LA around Venice Beach. Birds of a feather flock together ya know?

Evan: I’d actually met most of the guys individually at various festivals between 2014-2016. I remember being pretty stoned at Serenity Gathering in 2015, playing sitar when a guy with a didgeridoo came up to me and asked what key my sitar was in. I said it was in “D” and then he was like “No way! My Didj is in D!”

We proceeded to jam for a while and then he invited me back to his camp. Turns out it was Adrian and one of the guys he was camped with was Travis. Brandon was at the same festival that year too, but we didn’t really connect until we met in a music class at Glendale Community College. He invited me to jam with “a band he was playing with” which turned out to be Paracosmic. It’s crazy to think we had all been in the same place at the same time countless times.

Ashton: I met both Travis and Toad separately, at a community house in Westchester called the Villanova. Travis met Brandon at Lucidity in 2014. Even stranger, we had all been going to pretty much the same festivals for a couple years before we all got together, trippy!

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Dominique is a Photo and Music Journalism student in SoCal. She has a radio show on her college campus focusing on talented and upcoming musicians from Los Angeles and is working to finish her degree. In her free time, Dominique is a fire performer and loves traveling, Jazz, Drum & Bass, and making music as a vocalist.

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