It’s hard to believe, but it’s been over 15 years since guitarist and front man Jeremy Hilliard moved in next door to guitarist and harmonica ace Ryan Rightmire at their respective Gramercy Park apartments. Shortly thereafter, they became fast friends; spawned Turbine and have been at it ever since. Initially, the band was formed as a simple folk duo with a penchant for Bob Dylan type acoustic/harmonica duo arrangements, but my have things changed in those few short years.
Today, Ryan Rightmire continues to push himself and currently sports a pedalboard that can make Kevin Shields’ (My Bloody Valentine) appear tame by comparison. Meanwhile, Jeremy Hilliard has become a commanding singer/songwriter with jazz level lead guitar chops. After a series of lineup changes, they have rounded out the full band once again, and the Turbine of today is a first class upbeat, psychedelic jam act.
Most recently, Turbine released their fourth official studio album Shakin’ Off the Shock with a welcome return to the Bunker Studio and stalwart producer John Davis. Davis worked with Turbine on Blue Light City – arguably their best recorded music to date until now – so the familiarity and comfort shines through easily as the album finds the band at its best in the recorded format: right at home in their tightly propulsive grooves that seep easily into both one’s background subconscious or front and center at the dancehall.
In describing the new album, you guys mention the band moving in a different direction? What is it about the new recording feels like its trailblazing new ground for Turbine?
Ryan Rightmire: With this album, we really wanted to focus on the groove and keep it up tempo. In the past, typically our favorite songs made it on the records, which could be any style or tempo.
This time, we wrote and selected them with that game plan in mind. The album is unrelenting just like we wanted, but it also has a strong lyrical focus. We kept to our tradition of trying to write a few last minute songs to see if we could top what we already had, and believe it or not those ended up being the first two songs on the album!
I noticed some very cool effects on the album, as well as Ryan’s pedal board getting exponentially larger. What are some of the new technological elements that are coming through in the music this year?
RR: [laughs] That’s like asking Santa Claus what his favorite day of the year is. Or maybe Christmas is his least favorite day, because it’s a 24 hour work day?
That’s how I feel about my gear. It’s fun but it’s a struggle. I’m constantly adding new toys and it keeps evolving. Adding more foot pedals seems ridiculous at this point, so I’ve been trying to think bigger. I added a LED touch screen that links directly to my harp. So, I can control the pitch by tapping on it like a digitized Eddie Van Halen, all while playing the harp with my lips.
It takes me about a year usually to really turn the corner on something new, and I’ve just hit that point now. It’s so much fun. You can hear this featured on the album in the outro to “Stereo (Advance the Dance).”
The other invention is the 3D printed harmonica microphone. It took about 10 years to get to this point, and now I couldn’t be more excited. The sound gets harnessed by this plastic mic that I printed that goes around my neck and sends it to my effects, leaving my hands free to play the guitar. Now I have a digital model I can print in other materials like stainless steel or gold. I want to be like Iron Man and have my various models hanging up on the wall.