As 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of Deep Banana Blackout’s debut album, Live in the Thousand Islands, the eight-piece funk outfit will commemorate the occasion with an appearance at the Capitol Theatre on March 31. Recently, guitarist and co-founding member James “Fuzz” Sangiovanni took time to reflect on two decades with the ensemble, as well as its place in the jamband community, love of New Orleans music, and reveal some details of the special show at the Cap.
Did you take the preparation for this show as a chance to look back on the band’s past?
Yes. It’s like every other thing that happens with time. It’s kind of a bittersweet thing. You don’t want to say, after being at something for so long, what am I doing with my life? (Laughs) I do think of these things as achievements. It’s been about 22 years of doing Deep Banana Blackout. We have not being doing a ton over the last 15 years; we decided to stop being a heavy touring band. This winter I’ve been revisiting Deep Banana Blackout again. As I activate my memory, I realize just how much we’ve done over the years; the places we’ve played, the people we’ve met; being onstage with the Allman Brothers Band and John Scofield to DJ Logic, the Phish guys, the moe. guys. It was a pretty fun, interesting, and successful ride. We still may have another 20 years ahead of us.
Twenty years since that first record is a nice peg to hang your hat. Most bands don’t last half as long.
I thought this would be a good angle to attach to the show, but it is also important for us to recognize what we’ve accomplished. That album- that time period, 1997- was pretty significant for us. We emerged out of being a cover band in bars to being an original act that went on the road. This record marked the beginning of this becoming a serious project. We took hold of what we were doing, and there was a lot of creative energy at that time.
Especially post-Katrina, there has been renewed interest in a lot of the music and culture of New Orleans. That’s something you had from the start. Did you feel ahead of the curve?
For a band coming out of the Northeast, we were probably a bit ahead of the curve when it came to New Orleans, and funk, in general. There were other bands doing it while we were, and some before us. Galactic has been doing it as long or longer than Deep Banana Blackout. I remember hearing about them early on. We were interested in The Meters, and the brass bands; and Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, Professor Longhair. The Meters and James Brown were the first two funk artists I ever got into. The groove got me right away. In Deep Banana Blackout, we all shared that love for different reasons. We all were discovering it at about the same time, and had a high regard for it. It was kind of a shrine.
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