Q&A with Jamison Passuite of Handsome Jack - powerful and emotional fusion of boogie soul rock 'n' roll

"Music has been a powerful unifying force since the dawn of man. The fact that a newborn baby knows to dance to music unprompted proves it’s something that’s ingrained deep in our brains and that we’re all the same and have the same needs regardless of whether that music has a political message or not."

Handsome Jack:

Everything's Gonna Be Alright

HANDSOME JACK'S new studio album "Everything's Gonna Be Alright" out October 19th via Alive Naturalsound records. Hailing from Lockport NY, Handsome Jack plays a powerful and emotional fusion of boogie soul rock 'n' roll that has earned the admiration of fellow rock travelers such as Chris Robinson (CRB, Black Crowes), Zachary Gabbard (Buffalo Killers) and Ben McLeod of All Them Witches, who produced their new record. On “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” (2018)  the trio digs deeper into its soulful influences, brilliantly bringing back to life the classic sounds of Chicago, Memphis and Muscle Shoals, all rolled into one timeless record of American rock music for a new generation. Handsome Jack is Jamison Passuite (guitar/vocals), Joey Verdonselli (bass/vocals) and Bennie Hayes (drums/vocals).

Some people call it a vibe and some people call it a groove. We call it boogie soul. It’s the sound of HANDSOME JACK on their previous album “Do What Comes Naturally” (2014). Produced by Zachary Gabbard of the BUFFALO KILLERS and featuring Bob Nave (of the legendary Lemon Pipers) on hammond organ, among others, the music of this album seamlessly flows through deep dark mid-tempo boogies, smoky upbeat burners, and soulful feel-good rockers all with a natural ease. HANDSOME JACK began as a blues garage rock band. After high school they moved out of the garage and developed their sound into a natural soulful boogie that remains rooted in raw blues. They’ve shared the stage with The Sheepdogs, Blue Cheer, Gov’t Mule, J. Geils, The Hold Steady, and Robert Randolph to name a few. Jamison Passuite talks about the band, Rock n' Roll culture, Cream, and Boogie!

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues n' Rock counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I’d say it’s less the counterculture and more the deep love of music that’s had a strong effect on my journey and world view. In a lot of ways life is about searching for a connection with other people and somehow music can do that subconsciously on so many different levels. The great part is that it’s also deeply personal and open to interpretation. So I think the best music can reach out and connect people while also revealing something about you to yourself if you let it. I feel lucky to be able to have this passion and mode of expression and hope that our songs can speak to other folks the way the music I love speaks to me. It’s affected the journeys I’ve taken in the sense that with any labor of love there are tough choices and sacrifices you have to make. But at the end of the day getting to write, record, and play to a live audience makes it worth it.

How do you describe Handsome Jack's songbook and sound? Where does band's creative drive come from?

Our songbook and sound is always changing. We started off in high school in garages and basements all having just picked up our instruments for the first time. Our taste has evolved and we’ve gone through a few personnel changes. But all the while we’ve been learning and improving and I really think each record we’ve done is better than the last. That really helps with the creative drive. When you feel like you’re getting better, you’re trying something new and you’re on to the next level there’s an excitement and a creative energy.

"Our songbook and sound is always changing. We started off in high school in garages and basements all having just picked up our instruments for the first time. Our taste has evolved and we’ve gone through a few personnel changes. But all the while we’ve been learning and improving and I really think each record we’ve done is better than the last."

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Not too long ago Chris Robinson (Black Crowes, Chris Robinson Brotherhood) reached out to us saying he really dug the band and invited us all to a Brotherhood gig at a nearby casino. We got to meet him and the band before the show and hung out after for drinks and what not. Later we wandered around the casino just stoked such a major dude liked our tunes. Oh yeah, and Joe won $100. Pretty solid night!

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

There are bands out there today making music that is just as great if not better than bands from the past, but you usually have to dig a little bit to find them. That’s the great thing about the internet, if you know what you’re looking for you can find it. The downside is that we are inundated with a lot of bad music too. 

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

Getting rid of auto-tuned vocals or dissecting and “perfecting” tracks digitally on a grid.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your paths in music circuits?

It’s easy to tell when a band or singer is putting on an act and not really putting themselves in their music. It needs to come from the heart for it to resonate with people.

"There are bands out there today making music that is just as great if not better than bands from the past, but you usually have to dig a little bit to find them.  That’s the great thing about the internet, if you know what you’re looking for you can find it. The downside is that we are inundated with a lot of bad music too."

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

The two acquaintances that have lead to the most important experiences for our band has been the Buffalo Killers from Cincinnati and All Them Witches from Nashville. We met the Buffalo Killers early on through gigs and played a lot of shows together. Zach Gabbard (bassist/vocalist) was responsible for producing our last record and turning Alive Naturalsound records onto us which opened us up to a much larger audience. We knew All Them Witches because our drummer filled in for them on a tour years ago, as well as the extensive touring they had done with some Rochester friends of ours. They invited us on a tour with them last summer which produced the best response we’d ever gotten on the road and led to Ben McLeod (guitarist) producing our new record. We’re super excited to play in a lot of cities we’ve never been to before on our upcoming tour with them in November. Some good advice is be yourself and do what you love.

What is the impact of Rock n' Roll music and culture to the racial, political, and socio-cultural implications? 

Music has been a powerful unifying force since the dawn of man. The fact that a newborn baby knows to dance to music unprompted proves it’s something that’s ingrained deep in our brains and that we’re all the same and have the same needs regardless of whether that music has a political message or not.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Maybe San Diego October 20th, 1968. I recently discovered these live Cream recordings on YouTube and they absolutely shredded that night.

Do you consider the Boogie Rock a specific genre and or do you think it’s a state of mind?

Genres and labels are limiting. Everything’s just a state of mind, man.

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