EVOL interview with Jeff Hanichen
1. Thank you very much for taking your time to talk about EVOL. I would like to ask you first about your childhood and teen years. Where did you grow up and what are some of the main influences on you in that period of time?
I was born and raised in Ironton, Ohio, the southern-most city in the state. Growing up in the 1950’s my big music influences were Elvis, Buddy Holly, and Rick Nelson. I taught myself to play guitar at age twelve. I’m left-handed, so I just turned it upside-down, and started making my own chords.
2. Were you in any bands before EVOL? Any recordings perhaps from then?
I had my own little band in high school, called the Kings. It consisted of a sax player, drums, and my guitar. We played at a lot of parties and dances. After high school, I enlisted in the U.S. Marines, serving until 1966.
When I returned home from the Marines in ’66, I became involved with a group called the Fugitives. I didn’t play with the band, I was their song writer. However, the group’s guitarist and I were really good buddies, and he and another guy and I formed sort of a studio band, along with a young left-handed bass player. Nothing ever came of this, except that during those two years, I wrote probably 100 songs.
3. How was the scene in your town back then?
Ironton was an industrial town of about 20,000 back then, so it was very much a working-class community. Besides the Beatles, the Young Rascals were pretty popular, and the Fugitives seemed to be stuck on their music. In spite of what I wrote for them, they were obsessed with playing cover music. They were the regularly featured band at a club called the Jolly Roger, which was the most popular club in Ironton.
4. Why the name EVOL and what can you tell me about you guys getting together?
As I explained on the album jacket, EVOL was born in 1968 at the Seabreeze Lounge, in Huntington, West Virginia. EVOL is, of course, love spelled backwards, but Randall Hackney, our lead guitarist, who named the group, actually wanted it to stand for the evolution of the band into what it had become. However, love spelled backwards is easy, and caught on quickly. The original band consisted of Randall Hackney, lead guitar, Mike Blair, bass, Roger Dillon, keyboards, and Roger Caines, drums. During this early period, I sat in with them on a regular basis, and became known as the unspoken fifth member of the band. By 1970, the Seabreeze had become far too small to hold EVOL’s following, and “Papa” Ross Scarvelli moved his operations to a much larger building a few blocks over, which he named the Club Romair.
5. Do you remember some of the early sessions you had together?
For the first two years of their existence, EVOL played at the two aforementioned clubs, but in late 1970, that would change. I officially joined the band as guitarist and song writer in the Fall of that year. Soon afterward we signed a contract with a music company in Nashville, Tennessee. The contract called for us to record an album sometime in the near future, and so begin a series of long sessions, where the band learned a dozen of my songs.
6. There is really little known about your band. Did you release any single 45?
We never released a single, in fact we didn’t know the master tape was ever mixed until Roger Maglio called me a couple of months ago and told me he had purchased a vinyl album on eBay.
7. I heard you were playing live for 2 years before you went to the studio and started recording your LP. Only acetate exists…why was it not released in it’s time and what label should release it, or should it be a private release? Where did you record it?
The album was recorded at Nugget Studios, in Goodletsville, Tennessee, just outside of Nashville, in February/March, 1971. Why it was never released remains a mystery to all of us. Roger is going to release a cd and an lp sometime in January, 2012, and although this is a limited market, it still brings some satisfaction to the band to finally have it released.
8. What are some of the strongest memories from producing and recording your LP?
My memories are of the twelve hour days we put in, but in spite of the stress and lack of rest, none of us ever had a cross word the whole time. We were more than just a band, we were a band of brothers.
What gear did you guys use?
We used some pretty expensive equipment. Randall played a reverse cut Gibson Firebird, through a set of Marshall amps, Mike played a McCartney-style bass through Custom amps, Roger Dillon played a Hammond B-3 organ with self contained amplification. It weighed nearly a thousand pounds, and was a real bear to move around, but man, what a sound! I played a Wilson twelve string acoustic guitar by Gibson. I cannot remember what make of drums Roger Caines played, but I know they were top-of-the-line.
What can you tell me about the cover artwork?
The album cover was actually shot after the recording session. When we finished recording the other four guys went back to Huntington, to prepare for the road. Roger Caines promptly quit the band, and Dave Tatum joined. He was barely 20, but already had a reputation as a slick drummer, with a great voice. I was writing for a couple of other groups in Nashville, and stayed there for a few extra weeks. Consequently, I am not on the album cover.
9. I would love if you could comment each song from your LP!
The first song on the album was written by Randall, but I wrote and arranged the other eleven. Ten of them were written in 1966 or 67; Unluckey Guy I wrote in 1955, at the age of 12. There has never really been any system to my writing, I usually start with some kind of chord progression and/or melody, then add lyrics, but not always. So there isn’t really much to comment about on any of these songs, except they represent a collection of ideas I had at one time or another.
10. Did you play any live shows/festivals?
When we went on tour, we played a number of clubs, but I left the band in late 1971, so I missed the bulk of the touring the band did until about 1977.
11. Please share with us some interesting stories that happened to you in the band…
I suppose you could file this one under interesting stories; it almost slipped my mind. We were privileged to play Nashville’s famous “Printer’s Alley,” which back then was considered quite an accomplishment. We played at the Embers Complex, which was two clubs. The other four guys (the main body of the band) played the “Pink Poodle,” and I took my acoustic twelve-string and played the Embers night club, next door. One particular evening, there was this one jerk, er, gentleman who had a few too many to say the least. He was sitting with two women, and doing his best to show them I didn’t belong on stage. After about 30 minutes of constant heckling, I finally said, “You know, two thousand years ago, it was a miracle to get a jackass to talk, now I can’t get one to shut up.” The guy apparently lost his sense of humor, and stomped out of the club, followed by the bouncer; he had neglected to pay his tab.
Thanks a lot, Klemen, for giving me the opportunity to talk with you. It is really quite an honor.
Gear Fab will be releasing unreleased acetate from 1970 on January 1, 2012. More can be found at: Gear Fab site
Interview made by Klemen Breznikar / 2011
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