Interview with The Bad Hands, one of the best new band of New Jersey pushing the limits of the Blues

"It isn’t heard as much as popular music and it comes from the soul. And if you don’t like the blues you have a hole in your soul."

The Bad Hands: New Roots Blues Band

The Bad Hands is a group of top shelf musicians known for their incredible live performances. Mike Gallemore formed the band and coach young blues musicians. The Bad Hands is a band that have 2 young talented musicians age 22 year on bass and on slide guitar and they just came off very busy summer tour playing at many festivals here in the USA with acts like Johnny Winter, Serotheft, Moonhooch, Sophistophunk., and Samantha FishThe band was formed at the Stanhope House's weekly "All-star blues jam" which is run by NJ blues hall of famer Johnny Charles.

Guitarist Mike Gallemore and harp player Mike Foli have been in bands together in the past and team up again to form one of the most high-energy blues groups in the state. Jim Benedetti on drums had jammed with the two high-caliber musicians at the All-Star blues jams, which is where the thoughts of forming a group began to brew. Jim introduced his son, slide guitarist Joe Benedetti, to the Stanhope house jam which is where he too met both Gallemore and Foli. And last but not least, with a bass player being the last piece of the puzzle Joe brought in his hometown buddy, bassist Steve Mahady, into the group. The Bad Hands are one of the best blues rock lineups out of New Jersey and deliver a dynamic, high energy show. These players pride themselves in their dedication to the music. They pledge to honor their blues roots while blending soul, funk, fusion and jam band influences to create a sound all their own. They're fueled up and bringing their intense live jams to the hottest venues throughout the northeast. The Bad Hands are pushing the limits of the Blues and are quickly making a name for themselves on the East Coast music scene with their brand of Funk/Rock/Blues and released their first  EP.     Photo by Monique Grimme

Interview by Michael Limnios

When was your first desire to become involved in the blues?

Mike F.: When I was young my dad bought me a harmonica at the aged of 12. And I was able to hear some blues; someone was playing outside on a record player.  I was able to play the melody right away by ear and from there I had to learn to bend the notes.

Steve: The moment I learned the blues feel and scales on the guitar, I realized I was gonna love this music forever.

Jim: Sometime around 1973 I heard the song MIDNIGHT RIDER by Gregg Allman. It was the first time I can remember hearing a song that just stopped me in my tracks. That song really laid me out!

Joe: My desire to play the blues came from my father. I have been listening to the Allman Brothers since I was 5 years old; they really are my main influence in my music. I actually have a portrait of Duane Allman tattooed on my forearm, if it was not for him I wouldn’t have got into slide. I also grew up listening to other bands such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Ray Vaughan and many others that my father and our drummer Jim Benedetti would listen to.

"I love a Blues crowd you look and see every age, race, it’s a beautiful thing and you can dance to it! The people smiling and having a good time!"

What characterize the philosophy of Bad Hands?

Mike F.: Mike Gallemore came up with that. It could be many of things like how we play our instruments in the band

Steve: Our philosophy is simply to enjoy life and whatever it throws at you, and it threw us music.

Jim: TAKE NO PRISONERS!!!

Joe: I believe the philosophy of this band is that we are in it for the sound and the sound only. It’s not just about one member, we have multiple high caliber players in the band that we can let loose and blow people’s minds.

Mike G.: The Bad Hands sound is very Funky and guitar and harmonica driven. It’s designed to get you into the groove and party, to celebrate life and have a good time! The philosophy has always been to encourage the other members of the band to create and write. A band is a band when all the members have input. We all take credit as co-writers for every song because we figured out, that is why bands split up, over song credits. This way it solidifies us as a group and adds some cohesiveness to the unit. It’s an honest environment and breeds good relationships within. Since we have two twenty-two year olds we insist that they be part of the creative process. But these guys are not just average musician’s they are way beyond their years in ability. Confidence and discipline is what we concentrate on.

Do you remember anything funny from recording and show time with The Bad Hands?

Mike F.: Recording the song “Shake Me Down” at the end of the song, they told me to talk. So whatever I thought came out of my mouth and it was all truth.

Steve: The funniest moments for me on stage have to be when one of the Mike's throw me a solo out of nowhere, and I get caught off guard.

Jim: The blend of Old School and New School has made for a ton of laughs...We have loads of fun together. Mike Foli provides us with the biggest laughs...but nothing I could ever share publically!!!

Joe: I think the age difference is funny and it catches people’s eye. I remember a lot of funny things that have happened with this group, but would rather not speak about it in public. We love to party and have fun together.

Mike G: Our Harmonica player Mike Foli has a tremendous personality, when we first started he would forget his parts and everyone would look at me! I’d be like “what do you want me to do about it”? When we were recording the EP he would go out into the streets and bring strangers in to listen! He keeps us entertained just by being himself! Very likeable guy! I should add he’s an awesome Percussion player as well and a tremendous writer and singer we are blessed to have Mike in the band! Except he steals all the women! So I’ve learned to use him as a gauge, if they get past him then they must be more my type. It’s hell being single in The Bad Hands!

"Our philosophy is simply to enjoy life and whatever it throws at you, and it threw us music." (Photo: Samantha Fish and The Bad Hands Backstage)

What are some of the most memorable gigs and jams you've had? Which memory makes you smile?

Mike F.: Otis Mountain was a week getaway for me which gave me the opportunity to play for a huge crowd out there, which I enjoyed a lot.

The first time I got together with Joe Bee and his Dad, Jim. I got the see the blues talent coming from a young musician and how he plays the slide.

Steve: The most memorable moments were when we played in the Blues Bash in Hackettstown New Jersey in March of this year. I played on the same stage as Johnny Winter! Also, the show at Otis Mountain. That was my first festival and hopefully not my last. The Otis Mountain festival always makes me smile when I think about it. I had way too much fun, now that’s the only type of venue I really want to play.

Jim: Our first real gig, when the band was just a few months old was THE BLUES BASH at Centenary College. Promoters Peter "UNCLE PETE" Hoff and Dan Hirshberg pushed us to combine forces as weekly participants of the Stanhope House Blues Jam and open for Samanth Fish and Johnny Winter...How is that for a first gig!!! We worked hard and learned a lot about one another...and by all accounts we represented the Blues very well. I know we really raised the bar for the show and set the stage for Sam and Johnny. Johnny is a legend and it was an honor to be in the same house, but when he called up our Harp player Mike Foli on Blackjack we knew we had something! For those of you who haven't heard Sam Fish...MAKE TRACKS, BEAT FEET and Look this child up...she is the Blues!

Recently we played the OTIS MOUNTAIN GET DOWN in the New York north country between Lake Placid NY and Burlington Vermont. I'm an old school late 60's early seventies dude and these kids flashed me back! The crowd was educated, appreciative and the promoters (Joe Fortugno and others) were young (22) and inspired. They created a sacred, safe place for music and energy to flow through artists from above. I haven't experienced that in a long time. It was inspiring to know the music scene is coming back! Joe Fortugno is a musician first and foremost (Drummer) and I'm convinced he is a rising star as a promoter and stage manager.

Finally, there is our home base, THE STANHOPE HOUSE in New Jersey. The venue is historic and John Kline knows when they call on THE BAD HANDS we leave it all on the stage...

Which memory makes me smile? There are so many...but I distinctly remember the first time Joe Bee really hit the zone...I looked up at Mike Gallemore and he gave me a nod of approval followed by a huge smile....MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!!...New Blue Blood! I knew it was a special moment and when I got home I discovered that my wife Carina had caught it on film!

Joe: My most memorable gig yet was when we opened up for blues legend Johnny Winter in front of a sold out theatre. What a pleasure. Not many 22 year olds get that opportunity and I’m very thankful for being able to play that show. He was the first show I ever went to The most I played in front of before that was maybe 70 people, so to go from that, to playing in front of 600+ people was wild. One thing I will never forget is getting a standing ovation from the orchestra crowd after one of my slide solos. That feeling was something else; I have no words for it. Just pure happiness.

I can’t say I have just one memory of smiling with this band, my band mates are funny characters and I love them. Their my brothers that we can joke with and have a good time, I’m very fortunate to be part of something like this with such good people. Between Mike Foli strutting on stage, ripping' his harp and Mike Gallemore's epic solos, it’s always a blast. I also have the pleasure of being in a band with my father, and who can’t smile when your tearing it up on stage with your pops?!

"I think the best way to describe the local scene is that we are average middle class people just tryin to get by and have a good time as best we can. There are many musicians in the area and a lot of music floating around waiting to be heard." 

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

Mike F.: The way you know, I guess, the way the blues clubs were packed with people. Living next door to The Stanhope House which is known for its Blues is what I miss the most nowadays.

My hopes are that the blues becomes popular again. There are no fears for the blues as they will always be there. 

Steve: I guess I wish I could have been a part of the blues movement when it was most popular. It's still alive but not as strong. I believe the blues are coming back strong but a large portion of the world's youth is not attracted to it because it doesn't exactly fit in with today's pop culture.

Jim: DUANE (Allman)...

I hope people can abandon their devices for the time it takes to allow music to reopen their hearts.

Joe: I think what I miss most about the blues of the past is how raw it was. It wasn't over-produced and it was pure love. The reason I don’t used peddles and tweak my sound is because I want the pure sound of my guitar that I’m pouring my heart into. I don’t have hopes or fear for the blues; I know it will live on forever. It will never be as big as it used to, which is a shame but there will always be people out there who want to hear it. The blues created everything...punk, rock and roll, funk... all their roots go back to the blues. I feel like this is my job in life is to keep the blues alive and try to make people in my generation listen to it.

Mike G.: Most of all I miss the masters of the Blues that have passed. Muddy Waters, Albert King, Albert Collins, Freddie King, Bobby Bland, Johnnie Taylor, Little Milton, Tyrone Davis, John Lee Hooker, Junior Wells, Stevie Ray Vaughan etc.. The Chicago guy’s that have passed, Big Daddy Kinsey, Phil Guy, Chico Banks, Valerie Wellington, Pinetop Perkins, etc... The list goes on.. The blues of the past is always missed; musicians all look to the music of the past to influence their own. If there is one thing I miss in general it’s the down homeness that the masters use to capture. The world was simple then. A phone call cost a dime and there were phone booths! How many songs have heard about that! My hopes are that the genre continues to grow and that people will support it. I don’t have much fear even when the current masters pass the Blues still appears to be rolling steady!

"People who listen to the blues are loyal to it. They understand that it is some of the most moving, emotional music out there and for some, it has changed their life." Photo by Monique Grimme

Why did you think that the Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following?

Mike F.: It isn’t heard as much as popular music and it comes from the soul. And if you don’t like the blues you have a hole in your soul.

Steve: For a lot of people the blues is a part of their lives, their upbringings, and their souls. It will never die off completely and as more of the younger generations show interest in this new blues movement, I know it will thrive once again.

Jim: It comes from the deepest reaches of the soul and reminds us we are all related.

Joe: People who listen to the blues are loyal to it. They understand that it is some of the most moving, emotional music out there and for some, it has changed their life.

Mike G.: It brings people together; I believe that people want that. There something within the music that heals the soul. Something telling you to look at yourself, we can do this, we can make it right. I love a Blues crowd you look and see every age, race, it’s a beautiful thing and you can dance to it! The people smiling and having a good time!

Do you know why the sound of harmonica is connected to the blues? What are the secrets of?

Mike F.: Down south in the delta of the United States the harmonica was store bought cheap instrument and the African American blues musicians added the Harmonica to their bands.

"I think what I miss most about the blues of the past is how raw it was. It wasn't over-produced and it was pure love." (Photo by Stephen Flood, Jammin with Mike Foli and Johnny Winter)

Do you know why the sound of slide guitar is connected to the blues? What are the secrets of?

Joe: Playing slide guitar has been around for a long time and it’s an amazing thing. You can use it to mimic vocals and harmonies. If you use enough vibratos on the slide you can even make it sound like an organ or horn. There are no limits to it and you can hit higher notes that you can’t do without a slide. I think the only secret I have is that I play with a custom tuning I made up and I play with my fingers, not a pick. I’m a huge Derek Trucks and Duane Allman fan and have learned a lot from listening to their slide playing.

Make an account for current realities of the case of the blues in New Jersey. How do you describe the local scene?

Steve: I think the best way to describe the local scene is that we are average middle class people just tryin to get by and have a good time as best we can. There are many musicians in the area and a lot of music floating around waiting to be heard. Not enough in my opinion but it has become more out in the open in the past few years. I'm excited to be a part of the New Blues Movement.

Jim: We have a strong contingent of Tri-state players performing in the Garden State... Any given night in New Jersey offers BARGAIN BLUES...The sad state of the blues in New Jersey is that musicians of this calibar can find it hard to earn a living pouring out their souls...Yea...I said it...But that's what the blues is about...layin' it down real. The bright side is the New Blue Blood coming up! A group of kids with respect for their elders like our boys Joe Bee and Steve Mahady. Again there are many that deserve praise for carrying the torch.

Monique Grimme has proven to us to be the hardest working woman in the business and a Blues Lover!!!

Last but not least... Mike Gallemore of the Bad Hands...Gallemore has done it all, Chicago, Florida...and now he's taking the Blues for a ride to unexplored territory with his Harpman and his two young guns...we have no premeditated plan...we just open up and whatever comes out is meant to be...Gallemore is a true song crafter....I'm pround to be a part of it!!!

I really appreciate this chance to reach out to blues fans and I hope to see you in front of us soon!!!...

Joe: I believe the blues scene is growing. I have met a lot of real good players just in the past year since I have been in The Bad hands.

The Bad Hand - official website

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