Over the past few months one of the most common inquiries we’ve received at the site concerns the future of the Ominous Seapods. Last fall, as fans began to learn that Max Verna was departing from the band, some individuals expressed concern about the future of the group. Soon afterwards the word came down that the Pods would remain a vital outfit, with new member Todd Pasternak joining on guitar and vocals. Pasternak, a founding member and lead guitarist of the Mr. Ferguson Band had long sat in with the Seapods. In fact he continued this practice during a series of shows culminating with this past New Years Eve gig in which he symbolically, officially joined the group.
The early reviews are quite positive as the Seapods have just departed on yet another cross-country road adventure/floor show.
D- When was the first time you sent out and saw the Seapods?
T- It must have been right when I moved to Albany in 94. I had started school there, and I had my own band, the Mr. Ferguson Band, and we just wanted to check out and see what the scene was about. So we went out to Bogey’s, saw the Seapods and it was like “hello, here’s a pretty slamming band!” That was pretty much the first time I saw them.
D- How long had the Mr. Ferguson band been together?
T- We started in high school. Then the drummer had moved to Albany go to school so we all decided to go to Albany and keep playing.
D- What are you most proud of in term of that band?
T- I guess sticking around as long as we did. We went through five drummers and four bass players and two keyboard players. We pretty much would have kept going if it hadn’t been for the proposition to join the Seapods.
D- Which lead to the question that I’m sure many people are wondering. How exactly did that come about? When did your association with the Seapods begin?
T- The Seapods used to come check Ferguson out when they were off tour. Over time, I just became friends with them personally. I’d hangout with Ted or Max. Then a year and a half ago we played the same festival together, down at Woodstock. They had given me a copy of Jet Smooth Ride and I loved the tune “Josephine’s Grand Motion,” so I asked them if I could come up and jam off this tune. They let me and that started a bit of a closer relationship, in that anytime they were in town and we were in town I’d come up and sit in for a tune or two. Then over this past year I’ve become more friendly with them. Last January Ted, Tom, and myself put together a side project called Shark Sandwich and we did a one-night stand at Bogey’s. We played a bunch of covers, a few songs we wrote together as Shark Sandwich, a Seapods tune, a Ferguson tune…
So in terms of my joining the band, eventually I guess I got a call from Ted. He called me up and I knew something was up and I asked him if he wanted to meet and talk. So we did and he told me what was happening with Max. Then he said that the four of them wanted to keep going and that the first guy they thought of was me. I was totally blown away. So after joking around for a bit he said “So do you want to be a Seapod?” And I said “yeah, definitely. I love the group. I love everyone in the band, and I love where the band is going.” I had also had my share of so many musicians coming and going in the Mr. Ferguson Band, and I knew that within the next couple of months our drummer would be leaving, so it just worked out.
The next day I sat with the guys and talked it over. Then we had one rehearsal together and we were like “oh my god, this could work.” We were really pumped up at the sound we were already creating together.
D- How are you going to approach Max’s parts in the older songs?
T- There are some tunes where I just love the parts that Max did so I’ll really try to keep them. Many of his parts are just great and I’ll stick to those parts and that will be that. Then there are other tunes where I may hear something different and the I’ll go for that.
D- How did the decision come about for the slow transition at the end of the year where you both shared the stage for a number of shows?
T- I think because I had sat in with the Seapods so many times we felt that this was the best way to do it. To have me go up there for a few tunes a night and then have Max leave for a couple tunes and then us finishing out the set together would make the most sense to the fans. At the same time it let the fans see what it was going to be like without jumping right into it. There was still a kind of comfort having Max on stage for the beginning of the second set and then I’d come up and we’d jam into a transition and Max would leave and we’d do maybe three or four tunes together without him. It just seemed to make the most sense to us to do it that way.
D- And then the official passing of the torch took place on New Years’ Eve?
T- During the tune “Abraham Unleavened.” Max is Abraham, and Dana is this cop and I came in as Uncle Manieshevitz, Abraham’s uncle. This time Abraham finally gets busted and has to go to jail and he calls me up from jail and he’s like “Can you fill in for me, I finally got busted.” I said “Sure.” And there you have it. We decided to make it real fun and part of the music and keep it pretty ridiculous within that Seapods transition.
D- The Seapods certainly have a particular reputation for embracing the absurd. How do you think that you will fit in?
T- In terms of the theatrics, definitely, I love that. For New Years I was in a diaper for the entire show, and I had no qualms about it at all. I love it actually.
D- You may love it a little too much.
T- I’m hoping we institute that as a regular feature.
D- Somewhat along scatological lines, Jon Zazula has told me that when you take a solo, it looks like you are taking a beautiful crap on the stage.
T- I guess it’s true. When I’m playing I am so unconscious of any bodily contortions that I make. When I play, I just dig in. So I guess it looks like I’m taking a big shit. I really couldn’t tell you what I look like.
D- Fair enough. Let’s move on to your songs. I know you wrote quite a bit with the Mr., Ferguson band. Will you be performing any of these with the Seapods?
T- We’ve discussed this and we’d like to try to write new songs together and we have at least nine. We’re starting to put them into the rotation. Eventually down the road once everything’s settled there are a few of my older songs that I would like to play because I think that the Ominous Seapods would completely rock them. But we have these new songs that we’re just so psyched on. It was a collaborative experience. Everyone was involved and every way of putting a song together was tried until we felt it was right.
D- In the realm of collaboration, can you share your perceptions of your new bandmates?
TP- Right off the bat Ted and Tom are an explosive rhythm section. They really push me in a good way, for groove. They are the groove machine and they never tire of original ideas. I’m just astounded by them. Brian has these great fluid lines on his Rhodes playing and can play this explosive organ as well. He has great chops and ideas to match. Then you have Dana. I’m just psyched to be working with him as a songwriting team. This is also the first time I’ve ever worked with a guitar player, which has been really special, working with someone I respect as a guitar player.
D- What are some of the challenges you’ve faced working with another guitarist for the first time?
TP- It’s blending, not stepping on each other’s toes. If there’s a part where Brian’s taking a solo and Dana’s playing rhythm behind it then I have to come up with something else that’s not jumping on top of Dana, that’s not a lead, that’s not necessarily the same rhythm that Dana might be playing and something that is not getting in the way of Brian’s solo. It’s finding our place among the five. It’s all about blending.
Then when its time to step up and take a solo I know there are four other people there who say “Just go, wherever you go, we’ll come along with you.” It’s a great feeling to know that there are four really talented people who are not only going to follow you but give you some musical ideas along the way. Then you can follow them and everyone is on that bandwagon for a while. That is what the whole jamming idea should be about, at least in our opinion.
D- One final point. Seapods fans have a reputation for being a particularly obsessed and mutated lot. How has you relationship with them been working out?
TP- I’ll put it to you this way, when this whole thing went down I got on Pod-net and gave a brief introduction about myself and the whole deal. I got a couple of joking threats. So I was like “Oh God.” But then I actually got to meet some of these people at the shows. And when the shows were over and they actually got to see me play and get completely whacked out with everyone else on stage, they were very receptive. They were like “sorry, we didn’t meant to say we were going to kill you.”