Parliament-Funkadelic ‘key’ member brings home the Funk
By Nick Tsui
Danny Bedrosian is a hometown hero. Born in Lawrence, his parents were skilled pianists who attended UMass Lowell. Classically trained by the best, Bedrosian was 5 when he played his first recital and found his calling at age 9, when he heard the funky sounds of James Brown tearing it up on a Lowell stage.
With his ecclectic taste and style, it’s no surprise that one of the original and most influential funk bands, Parliament-Funkadelic, moved him more than any other. Bedrosian was still in college when he landed his dream gig — a week’s worth of session work for George Clinton & P-Funk.
After graduating in 2003, he was hired as a tech for George Clinton’s keyboardists. His skills and talent naturally brought him into the fold as a full-fledged band member within a matter of months and he’s been in their ranks ever since, traveling the world and playing sold out shows. Also a solo artist and a member of several other bands, Bedrosian does everything from engineering to performing.
Despite his nonstop schedule — you can catch him during two live shows at Spotlight Tavern in Beverly on Fri. Feb. 7 and at Bull McCabe’s Pub in Somerville Feb. 8 —Bedrosian found some time to hook up with Howl and chat about growing up in the area, P-Funk and the scoop on his new works.
Q: What do you remember most about the Merrimack Valley music scene and what were some of your favorite venues?
The Merrimack Valley music scene, when I was growing up, was very modern rock and hip-hop oriented. I started out classically trained with jazz training later, and had a gospel choir upbringing. I was thrust into the area’s two main genres, playing mostly in metal and rap groups. I did sort of thrash stuff on the keyboard in the hardcore groups, and in the rap groups it would be skies the limit —keyboards, beats, raps, singing choruses, all kinds of stuff. I played in dozens of bands in my time, but the most popular was my 18-piece funk band, Sweet Motha’ Child, that existed in the region as a force to be reckoned with from 98-03 with six albums and a few Northeastern tours. Although admittedly, the band didn’t reach breakout success until moving out of the Merrimack Valley and into the Great Bay Region around UNH/Portsmouth/Dover/
Q: How did you start out as a musician?
I started out as a musician mandatorily, like my two older sisters. Our parents are concert-level classical musicians who were among the top of their class from the UMass Lowell music program. From there, they ran a piano school which they still run to this day. My sisters and I had to start piano lessons around the age of three or four and had to practice a lot every day, as well as play in music competitions and recitals many times yearly. I was classically trained and studied all the masters, notably J.S. Bach, Aram Katchaturian, Bela Bartok, and I also loved Diabelli, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Lizst, Chopin, Haydn, Mozart, Handel, and all the rest. I also had to sing in the choir at church as my father was choir director and soloist, and my mother was accompanist on piano/organ. My father and mother introduced me to not just classical music, but quite a bit of hip modern music as well. My first concert was James Brown in Lowell and my father took me, I think I was nine. He also hipped me first to Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, Art Tatum, and other piano greats. My mother likewise influenced me, introducing me to various pop forms from the Beatles to Bob Marley to Aaron Neville and others.
Q: How did George Clinton end up choosing you for his band?
I was a fan of P-Funk and George Clinton since I was about 10 or 11. Influenced and intrigued through the sampling of my generation, I got into P-Funk and it became quite quickly my favorite band of all time from age 11 on. I went to every George Clinton show I could and dropped off my music literally to whoever I could, and by the time I was 17, I met George and most of the band and from there it was a long standing relationship that lasts through to this day. Now I am a part of the P-funk family.
Q: Who would you say are some of your greatest influences?
My biggest influence is defintiely P-Funk and it was only fitting that I end up on keyboards in the group. The original keyboardist (Rock and Roll Hall of Famer with Parliament-Funkadelic) Bernie Worrell was one my mentors, and I studied under him as well as the whole band in P-Funk. Keyboardist Jerome Rodgers took me under his wing and I also worked heavily with bassist Lige Curry, lead guitarist Michael Hampton, Dewayne “Blackbyrd” McKnight, Garry “Starchild” Shider, Michael “Clip” Payne, and on and on. The list of important P-funk people is far too vast to write down everyone. I was also really influenced by everyone from Katchaturian to Chick Corea to System of a Down to Deep Forest to Daft Punk to Bud Powell, and on and on.
Q: What would you like to see any of your bands achieve within the next five years or so?
In the next five years or so I want to see my main band, Secret Army, go on tour in Armenia as I am Armenian after all, and the group melds many influences from ancient and modern Armenian music. I want to see the group tour Europe, Japan, South America, the Middle East, and maybe Southeast Asia as well. I want to see all the artists I am currently representing with my label and publishing company, BOZFONK MOOSICK, and my promotion and marketing company, WEFUNK SOUTH — such as folk/pop singer Teresa Jimenez, Florida based swamp funk band The Soular System, Americana/Rock band Me and the Devil, Country laced funk artist Chris Cornwell, my own sister, who goes by the moniker Moonchild, and of course, my main unit Secret Army — to reach new heights with further tours, albums, and promotional campaigns. As of now, Secret Army, The Soular System, and Me and the Devil have all had tours booked by myself on behalf of my companies, and I want to see further tours, every time getting bigger and bigger. I know it will continue to happen.
Q: What is some of your favorite touring equipment?
My rig is a Nord Electro II 61 key model, a Nord Lead 2, a Yamaha MM8, a MiniMoog Voyager, and sometimes a Korg MS2000B, but I always favor pianos first and foremost. Sometimes, but very rarely, if there is a piano in a big hall that we may be playing, George will let me have the house guys pull it out for a performance. On those nights, (although they are, as I mentioned, one in a thousand) I love the piano over everything else, as I am a pianist first and foremost. For this tour with George, I am currently using a Yamaha MM8 Keyboard, Nord Electro 61 II Keyboard, Yamaha Cs2X Synthesizer, and a Korg M50 Synthesizer.
Q: What is it like going on tour?
Explaining what its like to live on the road is like explaining in one sentence what the effects of religion are on world society for instance. It’s a super loaded question but to sum it up, it’s a living. You live as a family on the road, even with the large organization we have with P-funk, or the small unit like with Secret Army, it is a family. Love keeps it going of course, as well as the obvious financial obligations. But the touring can be hard; physically and psychologically rigorous, and sometimes can be downright hard to take. It’s not for everybody and that includes musicians. Most musicians I grew up with realized it was not the life for them. I was one of a very small group that realized it was for me. I have been on the road for the past 7 years pretty much straight. We do 200+ days a year with George and that’s just one of the bands I am in, so you see the amount of busy touring that is involved. Overall I love it but can only speak for myself. The touring soul is definitely a rare, rough breed though.
Q: You’re in a few other bands and you’ve got some new music coming out or have just been released. Can you tell us more about that?
Lost Froth, is Secret Army’s new album. Not only does this really showcase the Bedrosian-Curry-Lewis configuration, both in the studio, live and in rare candid rehearsals, but it absolutely captures all the best essences of Secret Army live and in the studio. The new studio cuts are fresh, tight, virtuous, sophisticated and emotional. The live cuts are as funky as possible, and all of it is incredible. Do not miss the newest 6th gem from the Secret Army camp, featuring myself, Rico Lewis, Lige Curry, Mike Maloney, Elise Bedrosian, Marc Munoz, Kendra Foster, Jon Picken and more! My new solo album, Songs For A Better Tomorrow, is a collection of songs that are all me, I play all the instruments, sing all the vocals, wrote all the songs. So don’t miss out on one of my proudest, if not my proudest achievement to date in the studio. I’ve also got a new Secret Army album coming out soon called Endangered, so stay tuned!
Be sure to catch Danny Bedrosian and Secret Army also featuring P-Funk members Lige Curry on Bass and Benjamin “Benzel” Cowan on the drums, special guests, and more at the Spotlight Tavern in Beverly on Fri., Feb. 7th and Sat., Feb. 8th at Bull McCabe’s Pub in Somerville. Both shows start at 10 p.m.