Chicago Tribune Interview
Graham Czach's debut album, 'Lucid,' a personal statement
By Andy Downing, special to the Tribune
Link to Chicago Tribune article
Even at just 31, Graham Czach is already a music lifer. Born and raised in suburban Palatine, Czach started playing stand-up and electric bass at the tender age of 7, forming his first rock group, the Skalawags, when he was just a freshman at Fremd High School. "We almost got a record deal but were sort of all over the place at the time," says Czach, who started the group with current Umphrey's McGee drummer Kris Myers. "If we had actually made that deal ... I would probably already be dead. I was way too young."
Going on to describe himself as "extreme" and "a bit of a wild man," a wizened Czach adds: "I learned the hard way with a lot of stuff, man. I've got a lot of gray hair already."
Listening to Czach's solo debut, "Lucid," which he'll celebrate with a record release show at Martyrs' this weekend, it's hard to doubt the multi-instrumentalist's words. The album swings between polar extremes, morphing from guitar-heavy, prog-rock jams like "Hurry Up and Wait" into more tender fare like "True Love," a Paul McCartney-esque ballad bathed in lush strings.
It's also a very personal album; Czach estimates that 75 percent of the lyrics are based on his own experiences, while the remainder come from witnessing the struggles of close friends and family. "Lost in Life," for one, grew from his dealings with an ex-girlfriend who was still coping with losing her mother at an early age. "I was so connected to her that I felt her pain," says Czach. "It made me think back to my own experiences, losing my grandfather when I was young. He was the inspiration for picking up the upright bass. It was his favorite instrument." The musical coda closing the song still stands as Czach's favorite moment on the record, guitars and strings combining in a trancelike clamor that echoes the pain and inner turmoil he felt at the time.
Czach makes no apologies for the heavier issues that surface. Other songs tackle a woman's right to choose ("Choice"), the horrors of addiction ("Nightmare") and environmental issues ("Gather Round," with Czach sounding like Captain Planet-via-John Lennon). "A lot of the music nowadays is really materialistic and about sex and money and things — which is great, whatever, that's cool — but I just wanted to address more important issues," he says. "Music is a great platform, and a lot of these songs were about bringing back substance and a universal message."