Hazmat Modine is a band in perpetual motion.To them, timelessness, innovation and inclusiveness trump the trendy and the ephemeral. The very definition of honest-to-goodness American roots music – but also considerably more global and exotic – Hazmat Modine is visually and aurally captivating, continually exploratory, and thoroughly engaging.
Formed in 1998 by Wade Schuman, who writes and sings nearly all of the band’s material and forges their creative direction, Hazmat Modine seamlessly integrates primal, guttural blues, funky, unadulterated old school R&B and myriad sounds from other cultures, absorbed during their constant touring in more than 20 different countries across the world. Schuman says: “Hazmat Modine tries to get to the core of what makes American music work, and American music is informed by the immigrant experience. There’s an organic evolution that takes place. American music is world music in essence since it is a product of the all diasporas that have come here.”
HAZMAT is an American English word for Hazardous Materials. AKA dangerous materials, you see it on the sides of trucks or special trashcans. MODINE is the brand name for an industrial forced air heater unit, the kind that hangs down in garages and artists lofts… the company is in Muncie Indiana… they are both American words, but the sound of them together is rather exotic. People often think HAZMAT is Turkish.
Hazmat Modine’s Style
Hazmat Modine draws from the rich soil of American music of the 20′s and 30′s through to the 50′s and early 60′s, blending elements of early Blues, Hokum Jug band, Swing, New Orleans R&B, and Jamaican Rocksteady. A pointer to Hazmat’s methodology can be found in the band’s configuration. Schuman’s guitar, diatonic harmonica and intensely earthy vocals set the tone. A solid battery of sounds – tuba, accordion, trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone, tenor and baritone saxes, piccolo and duduk, banjo, mandocello and steel guitar – explores the textural and melodic outer limits of Hazmat’s meticulously woven compositions, while guitars and drums lock down a groove and provide sonic spicing.
Hazmat Modine’s Performances
Since their debut album – Bahamut (2007), Hazmat Modine performed about two hundredfifty concerts in 20 European countries, playing well-known festivals like Jazzfest Vienna, Copenhagen Jazzfestival, Berlin Jazzfest, Stockholm Jazz Festival and many others. Via multi-hour club and concert sets and countless festival appearances, the band has absorbed and processed all that they’ve encountered, emerging at a destination far from their embarkation point.
“Hazmat Modine: …this wild group led by the singer and harmonica player Wade Schuman. They play Blues originals, mostly, that are the product of Schuman’s limitless imagination. His voice, for that matter, appears to be bottomless.” – The New Yorker
“A truly mysterious band about which the only sure thing to say is this: It is extremely New York. Only in that huge metropolis can collectives like this blossom and grow and could invent such an amazing combination of music based out of so many genres…” –TimeOut Moscow (Russia)
“Seems like ages since harmonicas have sounded as hep as Wade Schuman’s and Randy Weinstein’s do in this hand-painted confab of rusty blues, piquant rumbas, sawdust-floor reggae, Hawaiian guitar, and—sure, why not?—Tuvan throat singing. Welcome to the old weird globalism.” The Village Voice
“The singer and harmonica player Wade Schuman’s musical vision sounds like something out of Dr. Suess. His group augments Mr. Schumans own avant-blues stylings with a contra-bass, a banjitar, tuba, flugel, trumpet, sheng and, most important, Tuvan throat singing. “ The New York Times
“One of New York’s most original bands…With their sly musical wit, expert musicianship and completely unique sound, Hazmat Modine has built a wide and devoted following, drawing crowds to shows at venues as diverse as the Knitting Factory, Terra Blues, the Fez, Satalla, Joe’s Pub, Barbes and Galapagos Art Space.“ Trifecta
“[…] But the most striking was the third part of this “New York Night”, dedicated to Hazmat Modine led by a supreme harmonica virtuoso, singer, Wade Schuman…the main thing about this band was: genuine joy of every musician. Schuman himself…literally screamed from delight listening to other people’s solos. The band, supposed to play forty minutes or so, gave to a grateful audience a encore gift of an extra hour of its time, note that they came on stage at one in the morning!” Gazeta, Russia
“Hazmat Modine: …this wild group led by the singer and harmonica player Wade Schuman. They play blues originals, mostly, that are the product of Schuman’s limitless imagination. His voice, for that matter, appears to be bottomless [...] The singer and harmonica player Wade Schuman’s musical vision sounds like something out of Dr. Suess. His group augments Mr. Schumans own avant-blues styling with a contra-bass, a banjitar, tuba, flugel, trumpet, sheng and, most important, Tuvan throat singing. ” The New Yorker
“They’re a calypso/alt-country/blues/gypsy band…. which is obviously what the world needs most […]” Times of London
“A truly mysterious band about which the only sure thing to say is this: It is extremely New York. Only in that huge metropolis can collectives like this blossom and grow and could invent such an amazing combination of music based out of so many genres […]” TimeOut Moscow
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Wade Schuman– diatonic harmonica, guitar, banjitar, lead vocals
Wade Schuman’s first career has nothing to do with music. He was awarded major scholarships and prizes incl. the Mary Post Prize for Painting. Playing the harmonica since the age of ten, Wade is an accomplished master in the early Blues and musical styles of the 1920′s and 30′s. He grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan which has long had a vital and interesting musical scene, and currently resides and works in New York City. He draws musical inspiration from among others: Desmond Dekker, Jaybird Coleman, Sidney Bechet, Taraf De Haidouks and Slim Gaillard. Recording credits include Joan Osborn’s “Relish” which was nominated for four Grammies. To get a full picture of Wade’s artistic endeavor, please visit: www.forumgallery.com/artist/wade-schuman
Mazz Swift – Lead- and Backvocals, Violin
Violin/Vox/Freestyle Composition artist Mazz Swift is critically acclaimed as one of America’s most talented and versatile performers today andengages audiences worldwide with her signature weaving of composition and improvisation called “MazzMuse”. Aside from her work as a performing artist, Ms. Swift is a teaching artist with Carnegie Hall’s Musical connections program, conducts workshops on free improvisation in the States and abroad, and has traveled various countries. Her band’s debut CD “MazzMuse: The Band” will has been released in December ’14.
Joseph Daley– tuba
Joseph is a native of New York and perhaps this country’s most consistent and creative”Lower Brass Specialist”. Among others he has played with Sam Rivers, Carla Bley, Taj Mahal, Charlie Haden, Gil Evans, Lionel Hampton, Howard Johnson, Dave Douglas, and Muhal Richard Abrams. He appears on well over a dozen recordings.In 2011, he could finally fulfill one of his deepest wishes. He composed for a large Big-Band-album, which was recorded with 25 musicians – most of them wind-players with some very extraordinary low instruments. It’s called „The Seven Deadly Sins“, inspired by paintings of bandleader Wade Schuman. It’s a kind of Jazz-Orchestra-suite in seven parts added by a piece for his brother „Ballade of the Fallen African Warrior“. It was released by JARO Medien(4292-2) and highly recommended by the critics. For more information, please visit: www.jodamusic.com.
Erik Della Penna – vocals, Banjo, guitar
Erik is a songwriter and guitar player living in New York City. When needed, he plays banjo and lap steel as well. He has written, recorded and toured extensively with artists such as Joan Baez, Natalie Merchant, Joan Osborne and David Yazbek. Erik has written music for A&E television, The New York Historical Society, as well as music & lyrics for two stage productions produced by Walden Media. His guitar and drum duo, Kill Henry Sugar, is currently in the process of recording their seventh collection of original songs. In addition, Erik is working on two musicals now in development, one in Chicago and one in New York City.
Michaela Gomez– guitar, steel guitar, banjitar
Originally from Northern California, Michaela Gomez is been living in New York City. Apart from Hazmat Modine, she is currently playing with Greta Gertler & The Extroverts, her own band Wormwood and in a side-project with members of Ween. A highly sought-after and versatile guitarist, she has shared the stages of Joe’s Pub, CBGB’s, Barbes, The Living Room, Tonic, The Knitting Factory and many other venues, with amongst others: The Moonlighters, members of the Mink Lungs, The Bootleg Remedy, Slavic Soul Party!, and Jack Grace. She is a long-time student and disciple of Mike Longo, Dizzy Gillespie’s pianist/arranger. Michaela’s fluid technique encompasses a remarkable range of styles and musical vocabulary, from Delta blues to Gypsy swing to Sun Ra. Her subtle and unique approach to tone and rhythm, plus the breadth of his influences, make her a key, anchoring component of Hazmat Modine. For more information, please visit the artist’s myspace page: https://www.facebook.com/michael.gomez.140?fref=ts
Tim Keiper – drums & percusion
Tim Keiper moved to New York City in 1999 to play music. Since then, he has focused on touring, recording, and building musical instruments. He has worked with various outstanding musicians.. Since 2007, Keiper has worked extensively with Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Toure including performances at the Festival in the Desert in Timbuktu and recording on Ali Farka Toure’s last album, Ali and Toumani. Keiper leads his own group, Eclipticalia, influenced by sounds from Timbuktu to outer space.
Pam Fleming– trumpet, flugelhorn
NYC trumpet player and composer Pam Fleming is the leader of original world jazz group Fearless Dreamer. This group has released 2 CD’s, “Fearless Dreamer” and “Climb”. A unique recording of Pam’s original Halloween music, “Rise and Dance” will be released in 2014.
In addition to many years touring and recording with Hazmat Modine, Pam is also known for her work with jam band Gov’t Mule, Lilith Fair artists Natalie Merchant, Sarah McLachlan, Indigo Girls; Reggae stars Burning Spear, Dennis Brown and Maxi Priest; Klezmer groups Metropolitan Klezmer and Isle of Klezbos; Frank London’s Shekhina Big Band, and Bill Lee’s Natural Spiritual Orchestra.
Pam can be heard on the recordings of many Indie Artists in the Jazz, Rock, Pop and Reggae genres. http://fearlessdreamer.com
Steve Elson– baritone saxophone, tenor saxophone, clarinet, duduk, flute
As a teenager, saxophonist Steve Elson toured with the legendary Johnny Otis Rhythm and Blues Revue, featuring Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Shuggie Otis and the Three Tons of Joy.He has gone on to play in a wide variety of settings including world tours with David Bowie, film soundtracks for Philip Glass, cooperation with the Slickaphonics and several hundred pop, jazz, klezmer, R&B and new music recordings. Elson has been a recipient of numerous compostion grants and fellowships from the NEA, NYFA and Mary Cary Flagler among others. He leads his group Steve Elson’s Lips and Fingers Ensemble. For more information, please visit: www.steveelson.com.
No shows booked at the moment.
Hazmat Modine & Gangbé Brass Band
In 2011, Hazmat Modine gigged with the West Africa’s Gangbé Brass Band on their German tour leg. The result was a spectacle of a dazzling, funky eight-piece West African brass band sharing the stage with a versatile, virtuosic American octet that seamlessly integrates early blues and jazz, several Latin and Caribbean genres, numerous indigenous European styles, and sundry other international influences. The Hazmat Modine-Gangbé collaboration represented a one-of-a-kind celebration of unprecedented musical possibilities – a truly danceable and cross-cultural feast.
On this matter, the front-man of Hazmat Modine, Wade Schuman, has shared his feelings with us: “It exceeded my expectations. There was this incredible synergy and sense of ideas going back and forth.” When referring to Gangbé band Wade said: “They’ve digested American music, and American music came out of African music. So it’s this beautiful ping-pong ball bouncing back and forth. The idiomatic language of Gangbé is pretty Western: They’ve totally swallowed the whole Latin American tradition and made it their own. You can hear it in their playing. At the same time you hear a lot of Fela, who was listening to James Brown and artists like that.”
In essence, the meet-up of the two entities, all in all 16 extremely talented musicians, takes the African music full circle. The amalgamation of Gangbé’s percussion, saxophones, trumpets, trombone and tuba with Hazmat’s array of guitars, brass and woodwinds, percussion, harmonica and other instruments– as well as the engaging, impassioned vocals of both outfits– serves to accentuate the strengths of both bands, rather than draw attention to their different backgrounds as Americans and Africans.
Below are some videos from Hazmat Modine & Gangbé Brass Band: