Q&A with L.A. band of Jack Mack (Mark Campbell, Bill Bergman & Andrew Kastner) - sweet and funky soul music

"Music is language ... therefore, music is a form of communication."

Jack Mack: Back To Sweet & Soul Music

LA's Jack Mack and the Heart Attack Horns have just celebrated their 36th Anniversary of bringing the best in high-energy Classic American R&B and Soul music to fans worldwide. Jack Mack’s sweet and funky soul music has earned a critically acclaimed legacy of success in the music business. Back to the Shack (2016) is the latest album by LA's hometown favorites Jack Mack & The Heart Attack Horns. It features 10 bluesy and soulful tunes, nine co-written by the band, and performed with a fresh and contemporary approach to the band's signature soulful sound loved the world over. Features vocalist extraordinaire and co-writer Mark Campbell, sax man Bill Bergman (producer, co-writer and horn arranger) and Andrew Kastner (co-producer, co-writer and guitarist) and many of LA's finest studio and touring professionals including keys genius Mike Finnigan, veteran drummers Tony Braunagel and Les Falconer, trumpet mavens Les Lovitt and Lee Thornburg, keys master Carlos Murguia and more! Additionally, the band members have performed, recorded or written for: Rod Stewart, Greg Allman, No Doubt, Stevie Wonder, The Eagles, Robert Cray, Keb Mo, Natalie Cole, Bobby Womak, James Brown and others. Back to the Shack mixed by Grammy winning producer, Howard Benson.

Jack Mack has been described as “the real deal, authentic, "extraordinary musicians and dynamic performers.” This 8 piece Rockin' Soul band has a history of more then three decades as one of America's most dynamic and authentic soul bands. They've circled the globe performing concerts, clubs, festivals and some of the world's most outrageous private affairs. Their individual style of smokin’ R&B /Soul music, is inspired by the legendary artists that made up the sounds of Memphis Stax Volt, Muscle Shoals, Motown, Philly and James Brown. They have garnered an ever expanding and loyal following cementing their legendary reputation. You can find their infamous horn section, “The Heart Attack Horns” included on countless collections and numerous award winning recording artists albums worldwide. But what the band is most known for is their solid, energetic and stellar live performances. The Jack Mack entertainment brand has oozed into every facet of show biz, from their incredible live performances, studio recordings, film and TV music placements and the ever-constant shoulder rubbing with celebrities.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues n’ Soul music culture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Mark Campbell: I was born in Oak Ridge, Tennessee in the South in the early fifties. My mother pretty much introduced me to Soul, R&B and pop on the car radio. I would stand (yes, stand) next to her when she drove us on short trips across East Tennessee, and we'd sing along to songs by Ray Charles, Brook Benton, and Dinah Washington, Roy Orbison. In those days most soul and R&B music was called "race" records... I loved it! By the time we moved to New Orleans, I was hooked and that experience was immediately a game changer...The City had a huge impact on me... still does... musically, culturally... you name it ... my whole attitude and philosophy about everything today, was formed in those first 10 or 12 years growing up in New Orleans. I'm sure it's the same for many people from there.

Bill Bergman: I’ve been playing music since I was 7 years old. Started my first band when I was 12. Being a woodwind player, I was focused on all the types of music featuring horns. Jazz, Soul, Blues records were all in my record collection: James Brown, Otis Redding, Stanley Turrentine, et al. I’m of the age of men, who when we were 18-25, were affected by the Viet Nam war. Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On?” spoke to me very deeply as it related to the culture of it’s day. Blues and Soul music has always reflected lyrically the zeitgeist of popular culture and everyday life. I’m the son of a performer who always drilled in me the power of a song. Music can affect all of us in different ways. My journey has been to immerse myself in my craft for 5 decades and study all of the greats who’ve come before me and take a sprinkle of each in order to best create a voice of my own.

Andrew Kastner: I was introduced to Blues and Soul Music at a very early age in Boston where I grew up. Boston was a great music town. Everyone played there. I saw BB King when I was 18 and even though at the time I thought he was an old guy I figured out that he was only 38 years old at the time. In fact the song, “Standin’ Before The King” is about that experience and it kinda says it all. The 3rd verse says, “ I heard he was playin’ at the Delta Lounge, so I hitched a ride to the bad side of town, “where ya headin’ son”, the man said to me. “On my way to meet my destiny”.   Going out and hearing cats like BB. Freddy, Albert, Buddy Guy, Muddy and Howlin’ Wolf changed my life forever. They inspired me and made me want to play like them. Soul music did the same thing. I was really into Booker T and The MG’s and Steve Cropper was a huge influence on me. We got to work with him on a project and that was a dream come true. To this day if music doesn’t give me chills or make me feel emotion then I don’t gravitate towards it. I started a blues band in 1970 and a soul band in 1971. Natalie Cole was the singer in that band. She was a student at U of Mass at the time and we played college parties and clubs. I feel lucky that I grew up when I did. I saw everyone play, the Beatles the Rolling Stones in 1965, Aretha and James Brown, like Paul Butterfield, Bobby Blue Bland, Little Richard and 100’s of others. Jazz greats too guitarists like Hubert Sumlin, Elvin Bishop, Jeff Beck, Peter Green, Eric Clapton, Mike Bloomfield, Albert, BB and Freddy. I sat in with Freddy King once. That’s a funny story I’ll have to save for another time. After seeing LIL Richard in a 300-seat club, I had a revelation. I walked away from that concert thinking, “Now I get it, now I know what Rock and Roll is really all about”. In 1969 I was still in high school and there was a new club opening up in Kenmore Square in Boston called the Psychedelic Supermarket. It was built in a converted underground parking garage. There were no seats and held about 300 people.  I would jump on a trolley car and go there every day after school to help build it. When opening day came the club owner asked me to go outside and meet the band that was going to be playing opening night and bring them to the dressing room. I didn’t know who they were or what to expect when two taxis pulled up and out came Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker in full 60’s fringe and moccasin regalia. It was like meeting aliens. They played two shows a night, 7 days in a row and I was on stage and/or back stage with them the entire time. I remember Eric showed me how to play Sunshine of Your Love on his Gibson SG. That was an amazing experience.  I became friends with Peter Green from Fleetwood Mac who, to me, was the purest of the English blues guitarists. When he quit Fleetwood Mac he came to Boston and lived with me and played with my band for a while. The thing I miss the most is now that I can’t go out and see these kinds of artists anymore. Soul and Blues music is the biggest inspiration and influence in my life. It made me want to be a professional musician and gave me my direction, my destiny.

How do you describe Jack Mack & The Heart Attack Horns sound and songbook?

Mark Campbell: The first 25 years of the band I'm pretty sure we had one thought ... Party! … Come out blazing!! ... Get people UP!! ... dancing... singing and just having a blast ... that was our intention. ... Now we are older and more aware of our world around us and want to share our feelings about important issues that affect us all...it's kind of our duty… one would hope... right?

To answer part 2 of your Question: You might want to ask Bill and Andrew’s version of this because they are Charter members of the original line up and they know this story first hand... I loved Claude Pepper/Jack Mack like a brother.... Great drummer and a greater man... I think about him all the time... we all miss him.

Bill Bergman: Our 36 year career has mostly stayed true to the Old School Soul, R n B, Sax Volt/Blues sound. Real players playing real authentic music live. Drawing from the Classic Soul/Blues artists of our youth, we have always tried to write/record/perform music that contain real emotion created by compelling lyrics and highly seasoned performers and musicians. We know who we are and what we do, and we try and do it the best we can. Big ballads, smokin’ uptempo R n B, funky good time grooves with a brassy edge, are all the styles we concentrate on.

Andrew Kastner: When we first put the band together we didn’t want to be a bunch of club musicians knocking off some Soul covers that everyone else played, like Midnight Hour and Knock On Wood etc. We also wanted to get the feel exactly like the records, so we rehearsed for 2-3 month before we ever played a gig. We were doing very obscure soul tunes, Like “Open The Door To Your Heart” by Darrell Banks and “I Just Can’t Stop Dancin’ by Archie Bell and The Drells. We gravitated more towards Muscle Shoals and Stax Volt. James Brown was a big influence. So I guess to me our sound is more southern soul then urban soul. Our lead singer is from New Orleans so there is that too.

"Blues started it all. Rock, Jazz and Pop all came from the blues. The human condition has always been expressed in song. Reflecting the lives of those around them, songwriters have always tried to tell stories in a musical fashion."

Why did you think that Stax, Muscle Shoals, and Motown music continues to generate such a devoted following?

Mark Campbell: I could answer that question with ... "Are you kidding?... Because they are Stax, Muscle Shoals and Motown!!!"... LOL!! ... but I hear you... All of these legendary places are known for finding the right music for the right artists and then sitting back and let the magic happen!... Incredibly talented people all respecting each other and working together on creating something that makes you feel good... one song at a time... Singers, musicians, producers, engineers, label, A&R, distribution... firing on all cylinders like a well-oiled Bugatti!... That's how they did it in the day.

Bill Bergman: My take is this-the writers, performers, singers, engineers, producers of that era in music were incredibly talented and were the highest talent of their time. They had to go out and “tell millions to sell millions” each and every day. The best singers and musicians were required to make that style of music. They weren’t 3-chord rock bands-or in today’s world, someone with a laptop. The quality of those people making those records was the top talent of their field. Also-the equipment of that era is ancient, yet we love the sound of those records because 5-30 people were in a room recording those songs. I’ve always said: you can record the world’s best singer on an old tape machine and he/she will still sound amazing, or you can record a terrible singer on a new state-of-the-art machine and still sound terrible. We love those old records because simply-they’re great.

Andrew Kastner: Probably for the same reason we all loved that music back in the 60’s when we first heard it. Those songs are simple and speak to the heart. When music comes from someone’s soul it directly links to your soul too. Kind of a soul to soul connection. Truth and honesty in music cannot be denied. The musicians always seemed to play the least amount of notes possible and still get the point across. Al Jackson was the simplest drummer on the planet. They have a name for it. It’s called meat and potatoes. Just the essence of what is needed to make it work. And of course the songwriting was amazing and the singers were the real deal. How can you not love that?

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

Mark Campbell: I've been blessed to live long enough to have met many wonderful people... in the business and out... as far as influences on me musically/vocally... and these are people I didn't know... I always start with Sam Cooke.... The Man! ... Then, Jackie Wilson, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Eddie LaVert from the O’Jays and Donnie Hathaway... In New Orleans I lived and hung out with some of the greatest singers and musicians of that era... The Neville Bros, Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, Luther Kent, G.G. Shinn, Jerry LaCroix, Johnny and Edgar Winter... and of course Muddy Waters, Bobby Bland, John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker... and The Allman Brothers. And then later, with the incredible talent of my bandmates in Jack Mack… with the added highlight of singing shoulder to shoulder for over a year with Ollie Allie Woodson in the late ‘90s (Temptations, Aretha) and a shorter time working with singers like Bobby Womack... Each one’s its own story, its own book, a singer’s paradise... I am blessed. As far as advice? … (Besides when my sisters told me about two years ago, “Marry that girl before she gets away” which is another story)... Jimmy Johnson at Muscle Shoals was like a professor! ... I was like a sponge. ... I just followed him around taking mental notes all the time... he was like the Moses of the recording industry... He advised me on everything from singing ... (“Keep it wet and keep it rested!”) ... to when you mess up in life ... be willing to get taken to the river! ... Anybody from the Shoals will know what that is... It was a real place down on the Tennessee River that had a huge rock ... and you had to sit there and listen to all your bandmates, friends… whoever had a right to be there... and they would ball you out... and you just had to sit there and take it. I never had to go through that ... although I deserved it a few times... Muscle Shoals is a special place. I'm very fortunate to have experienced it, and I hope to return one day. I still have good friends down that way!

Bill Bergman: I heard Leonard Bernstein at age 4 at Lincoln Center, NYC...played for Aaron Copeland at age 18....Grover Washington Jr. became my mentor at age 25....and Glenn Frey at age 28-all of whom affected my life greatly. Grover taught me about developing my sound and the workings of the record business. Glenn Frey signed and produced our band, and also put me on a #1 worldwide hit record: “You Belong to the City.” Having recorded on over 500 records, I would say I learned a bit from all of them. Stevie Wonder is a genius; No Doubt was the epitome of success and cool. Perhaps the best piece of advice I’ve ever received came from Glenn Frey who told me: “Billy-whoever writes the song....wins.”

Andrew Kastner: I would say Peter Green was a huge influence and a friend. I got to play with him for about a month after he left Fleetwood Mac. Leslie West from the band Mountain once sat me down when I was 18 and showed me how to control my vibrato. Not many people talk about vibrato but for me vibrato is a key factor in determining how good a player is.  Barry White gave me my first big break, hiring me in 1975 to play in his Love Unlimited Orchestra. Barry once told me that when writing lyrics to always find the strongest words. So today when I write I go through every word and often replace a weak word with one that has the most impact. Natalie Cole gave me a big break by hiring me for her world tour, which lasted two years from 1976-78. Natalie’s show was very gospel and I learned a lot about show and song dynamics from those tours with her. I find that a lot of musicians don’t have a great sense of dynamics and to me it makes the difference between good and great. BB King was all about dynamics. Chaka Kahn recorded three of my songs in 1978 and 79. They were on her first solo record. That was a huge break for me. Glenn Frey from the Eagles discovered Jack Mack and produced our first record. He was a mentor to us. One thing that stands out about Glenn is when he told us that when writing a song always try to make the main character in the song the hero. I feel blessed to have learned so much from so many amazing people along the way.

"I mostly miss going out on any given night of the week and being able to see Muddy or Wolf or Buddy Guy, Freddy, or BB. It was that easy back in the day. Those guys were closer to the source. It seems that when musicians re-hash someone else’s licks they lose something inn the translation."

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

Mark Campbell: Again, we've been blessed to have played some of the world’s most beautiful venues for concerts to Celebrity weddings and "Outrageous Parties" ~~Frey, Henley, Walsh. .. I know what you want me to say ... LOL!!... But I'm saving that for my book!!... No, really... I'll give you some of my personal highlights... We followed Little Feat at the Rothskilde Festival in Denmark in 1989 ... and I was out in front of the band about 25 feet on a walkway with about 50,000 screaming people and one guy had a Danish flag on a long pole and I wrapped myself up in it and yelled ..."YEAH! ...THIS COUNTRY"S GOT SOUL!!!"... and the place went even more crazy.  We lifted that off the board and dropped in on the Jack It Up CD right before "Livin' It Up" and it's on there... I remember the ride to Germany after that show as the sun was coming up. ... I was thinking ..."God, ... you can take me now... cause that was about as good as it gets..."

Bill Bergman: Top of my list is recording with Stevie Wonder and jamming with Herbie Hancock. The level of musical genius I witnessed from Stevie is indescribable. Playing live with Herbie reminds me of an expression: the better the players you play with, the better you play. I don’t think I’ve ever played better than the times I’ve jammed with Herbie. I also learned so much about song writing and producing records from Glenn Frey. Lyrics, stories, arrangements and recording techniques shared by Glenn are a tool kit for how to make great records.

Andrew Kastner: There are a thousand memories. So I will have to pick a few. In 1996 we were playing a 10-night gig in Centennial Park at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta Georgia. On our 5th night at about 1:00 am a bomb went off while we were on stage. It was about 150 feet from us. Many people were injured and one or two people died. It was a very scary experience. On a more positive note. We used to play a club in Hollywood on Monday nights called The China club. All kinds of people would come sit in. On any given night people like Billy Preston, Herbie Hancock, Rick James, and so many others would drop in. In 1988 we were the house band for the Fox TV Late show in and we backed up so many great artists. Bobby Womack, Joel Walsh, The Young Rascals come to mind. Probably the greatest moment in our musical lives came in 1984 when we were playing a debutante ball in a Fort Worth Texas country club for some oil millionaire.  We shared the bill with the Fabulous Thunderbirds and James Brown. Fortunately for us we played in a different room and at a different time then James, so when he played we got to go see him. He played in a tiny little room that probably held 100 people and he was amazing. After his show we walked back to the kitchen and found him. He told us that he loved us and that he thought we played his songs more like his records then her did. I couldn’t believe James Brown was telling me this. He invited us to come sit in with him the next night at a club in Dallas. The next night all 10 of us went to the club and sat in the audience. It was probably a thousand-seat theater. We really didn’t believe he would ask us on stage but about ¾ of the way through his show, sure enough, he got on the mic and asked us to come to the stage. I think he was playing Cold Sweat. Because he had two drummers and two guitarists we integrated into his show without him having to stop. Before you know it there we were along with his band on stage playing with James Brown. I think we played two songs. In the last song, James put his cape on our lead singer. That was a night we will never forget. I have a lasting vision of James backstage in hair curlers and a pink bathrobe. Too funny.

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

Mark Campbell: I like to think of my past with fond memories ... not spend time on regrets... as far as other people’s music, any music any genre' .. as long as it's GOOD... I'm down with it! ... I fear nothing about the future... God is always on the Throne ... and the musicians today blow my mind with their creativity and talent... We can't force feed them... Let them explore... if your music is inviting to them ... then they will join in and it will leave its mark... I hope that we have been good shepherds... and ambassadors of soul, blues, R&B and even blue-eyed soul. (That label has always bugged me for some reason… soul is soul!) ...The art form is just too cool and hip to die out... something this beautiful, heartbreaking, funky, nasty, and spiritual all at the same time?... That gets into them, becomes a part of their soul. ...They'll crawl on their hands and knees just to hear you play it one more time!... over the phone!!

Bill Bergman: I miss the fact that there are really no business models today that would support record companies in a similar fashion to the heyday of the past. It’s sad that music is now basically free. It’s the music that dictated my life’s work, not T-shirts and selling merchandise. It is my great hope that in an internet age, models are conceived that would reward music creators the ability to make a living doing their craft. Unfortunately, like in many industries, machines are taking over and the toothpaste is not going back in the tube. I guess it’s all about performing live...

Andrew Kastner: I mentioned this earlier. I mostly miss going out on any given night of the week and being able to see Muddy or Wolf or Buddy Guy, Freddy, or BB. It was that easy back in the day. Those guys were closer to the source. It seems that when musicians re-hash someone else’s licks they lose something inn the translation. A few guys can do it. Stevie Ray nailed Albert, Peter Green had BB down. But still there’s no one like Howlin Wolf or Muddy or Lightin' or Otis or Marvin anymore. We recorded a song I wrote on our last album called Soul Man. It started out as a dedication to a good friend of ours Ali Ollie Woodsen who passed away. He was the real deal. He sang in the Temptations in the 80’s. Aretha called him her favorite male singer of all time. When we wrote the song it turned into a dedication to all the soul singers that touched us and are gone. I hope that players and singers come up with their own thing that is as good as those from the past. Every once in awhile I will hear someone on YouTube that blows my mind. I just discovered a young artist named Justin Johnson the other day. He plays cigar box guitars. He is inspiring.

LA's hometown band of Jack Mack & The Heart Attack Horns. Features Mark Campbell, Bill Bergman, Andrew Kastner and many of LA's finest professionals genius: Mike Finnigan, Tony Braunagel, Les Falconer, Les Lovitt, Lee Thornburg, Carlos Murguia and others.

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

Mark Campbell: Music is language ... therefore, music is a form of communication. ... A songwriter once said "a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down"... might not be a blues classic... LOL!… But it's true... We put our feelings in or music...good, bad, angry, rebellious, silly, painful...people can relate...and they will respond...that's a powerful medium.

Bill Bergman: Blues started it all. Rock, Jazz and Pop all came from the blues. The human condition has always been expressed in song. Reflecting the lives of those around them, songwriters have always tried to tell stories in a musical fashion. There’s so many styles of Blues: Gospel, Country, Southern, Northern etc. all describe a story, a love found or lost, a condition of everyday life. The best songwriters write what they know. When you add the entertainment factor of performing these songs, you get an art form all it’s own. I suppose on a strictly socio/economic level, Black Music in general has been the mirror to their culture. Gospel Blues in 1840 to Inner City Rap in 2017, artists usually describe their life in song. For decades, white pop artists have always grabbed black music and rebranded it as their own, Pat Boone in 1956 to the present.

Andrew Kastner: I believe it was in 1968 when Martin Luther King was assassinated and James Brown doing a show in Boston. The mayor wanted the show canceled but James insisted on playing and was responsible for keeping people from burning down the entire city. Marvin Gaye’s What’s Goin' On and Curtis Mayfield’s Freddies Dead had a political influence on their culture but I am sorry to say those kinds of artists are not taking that kind of stand much anymore. Rap is probably closer to that then anything else. We wrote a song on our record called Somethin’ In The Water that makes a political statement. It is basically saying that things just ain’t what they seem and don’t believe what your fed from the media.

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

Mark Campbell: This is an interesting question. ... A time machine huh? ... I'm torn between three periods... The New Orleans boy in me would love to go back to the days of Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong... down in the Vieux Carre' ... in the Storyville section... around 1900-1915... just spend a day soaking all of that up!... Another cool trip would be to return to 1963 ... just as the British invasion and Motown, Stax, Muscle Shoals, Philly, The Atlantic days ... were starting all to collide ... but relive it this time as a man... not a boy... Now THAT... would be cool... And finally … early 1930’s ... sundown, any cross roads near Clarksdale, Mississippi... just grab a bourbon... kick back... listen. ...

Bill Bergman: One choice that comes to mind would be Paris in the late 1920’s. Art is king and talent is worshipped. To spend a day in that environment, I would think, would be delightful.

Andrew Kastner: Actually I would like to go back to where Mark and Bill just mentioned. LOL. But those are their experiences, so as far as mine go, I would like to go back to the day we sat in with James Brown or when had breakfast with Albert King or was jamming with Peter Green in a country house in the middle of the woods in Maine. Or maybe it would be that day in 1968 when I went down to the Boston T Party club on Berkley Street in Boston and was standing at the feet of the king. I was 18 years old and literally standing at the stage 3 feet from BB King and the Sonny Freeman orchestra.  I had never heard or seen anything like him before. Heart wrenching blues coming from that man’s soul. He could make his guitar cry and with so much taste and control. That was the defining moment for me.

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