Jeff Kollman is undoubtedly one of the finest—and most versatile—guitarists ever to call Toledo home. Named one of the 50 Greatest Guitarists of All Time by Young Guitar magazine (Japan) and Guitar on the Edge (United Kingdom), Kollman started playing music at age 12 and honed his chops with The Stain, a punk rock band whose music was featured on MTV, FOX Sports, and Disney videos, among other global outlets. Jon Stainbrook, the Toledo politician and founder of The Stain, said Kollman is an “unbelievable” guitarist. “He can play anything from rock and roll tricks like Eddie Van Halen and Yngwie Malsteen to the best jazz virtuosos, all done effortlessly and flawlessly. Jeff Kollman is someone you’ve just got to see live to believe…. And he’s straight out of Toledo, unleashed on the world!”
Kollman built a following in Toledo in the 1990s with his hard-rock band Edwin Dare before moving to Los Angeles in 1997, where he has become a much-sought-after touring and studio musician. He has played guitar with such notables as Lyle Lovett, Wayman Tisdale, Michael Schenker and UFO, jazz artist Lao Tizer, and Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (with whom he plays in a side band, the Bombastic Meatbats).
Kollman will perform with his new band in Toledo on Friday (Aug. 8) at 10 pm at the Main Street Bar, 141 Main St.; admission is $10. He recently released a new solo album, “Hills of Granada” (available at jeffkollman.com). The Toledo City Paper spoke with Kollman this week about his new disc, his career and the upcoming Toledo concert.
What was the inspiration/strategy behind your new CD, “Hills of Granada”?
This CD is primarily solo acoustic, which I've never done. I didn't set out to make a record. It was good therapy to sit in a room with an acoustic guitar and reflect about loved ones that had passed. It started with the song 'Brother To Brother'.
My brother Tommy is my only sibling and musical soulmate for 30 or so years. He passed in December of 2012. Therefore the whole 2013 year was sort of a blur. That particular song came to me one morning. I could hear it and had to retune my guitar in a way that I've never done to find and physically play what I heard. I was so excited and nervous when I had it under my fingers. I rushed to a friend’s studio to get it on tape. Over the next year there was many inspiring moments like this.
The opening track, “Eve Of Reflection.” was written and recorded on Christmas Eve, 2013. Again, I found myself in a room with a guitar and thinking holidays spent with family members who have passed on. It's a bittersweet feeling. I have this wonderful new family with my wife and 2 daughters.
So, once I was five songs in, I realized that I was making a record and I didn't even know it. It's very honest in that respect.
What was the recording process like for the CD? How long did it take to record?
The songs were recorded starting in May of 2013, therefore it took about a year or so. The recording process was really about miking up the acoustic and listening in headphones with a lush reverb and getting inspired by the sound and the space. I would then just play until I developed an idea and build it until there was a song. Solo acoustic guitar is so much more challenging for me than playing rock guitar with a band. Any little mistake is so obvious. There's also dealing with a much needed silent, airtight room with no air conditioning noise, keep the blood sugar levels up, and of course there's the distractions from domestic life. (Enter the missus. The studio door opens.) Honey did you feed the dog this morning? Suddenly the take is gone. These are the challenges with recording a solo acoustic record in your home studio. Overall in society, It's harder than ever to get IN THE ZONE with technology and distractions from the computer, cell phone, and social media.
You’ve played with a diverse list of national artists ranging from the hard rock of UFO to smooth jazz with Lao Tizer. Do you have a favorite genre? How do you achieve such versatility?
My favorite genre to play? I like to rock! I love power and dynamics. But I want it to have some depth of harmonic character. As much I would enjoy being say Malcolm Young from AC/DC, I need more harmony and melody in my music. I don't really have a favorite genre for listening. I’m always inspired when a band fuses a few different styles to create a new one.
I listen to a ton of classical orchestral music at home, mostly on vinyl. I try to expose my young ones to all the great music than I know of. It could be Pink Floyd or Rachmaninoff.
To achieve versatility, one must listen to the many great styles of music out there. And it helps to then dive in and study those artists and the rhythmic and harmonic content. You start to absorb the intangible thing that made them great. It could be the pocket (groove) of say “Miss You” by the Stones. Why does it feel so good?
The band I'm playing with in Toledo this weekend is so diverse. The drummer is from Cuba and the bassist is from Senegal. They are so deep into the rhythms of their cultures. It's so different than Western music. I feel like a mere infant rhythmically speaking next to these two guys. To grow, you have to dive in with both feet.
You have a number of bands and projects going. How do you balance it all?
It's tricky. The toughest is keeping my calendar straight and what gear goes to what gig. I can usually remember the music once it's in the old melon. This year thus far was, Cosmosquad, Bombastic Meatbats, Lao Tizer, Erik Norlander (progressive-rock keyboards), Mark Mikel music, John Payne acoustic stuff from the band Asia, and a tour with C.T.A (drummer Danny Seraphine who formed Chicago). Those old Chicago tunes are harmonically challenging. Today I'm working on tunes for a gig with Damian Erskine and Mitch Foreman coming up. I feel like my head is gonna explode. These are not easy tunes. It's like joining Chick Corea’s Elektric Band. Christ, I grew up on Kiss. In a few weeks, I start learning a show for a very famous Japanese singer. It's a two-month tour in Japan, including five nights at Budokon. Should be fun. I love Japan, the food and the culture.
Do you have any particular musical (or non-musical) memory of Toledo that stands out?
I remember walking to band practice with my guitar at age 13 and this car pulls up and the driver says, ‘Hey kid, ya wanna ride?’ (Insert caption over my head: Don't take rides from strangers.) It was Chuck Stohl whom I had only heard of at that time. He's the guitarist for Damien. Meeting him at such a young age and hearing that level of playing changed my life forever.