We caught up with multi instrumentalist Danny Rectenwald of the Bastard Bearded Irishmen, who will be hosting our “Best of 2015,” concert and awards show this Saturday. A few days later Rectenwald and the crew will be sailing across the sun on a cruise ship to Jamaica with the band Train. BBI took our top spot for album of the year in 2014 with “Rise of the Bastard” and their looks to be a follow up soon! Rectenwald is know for his over the top stage presence. He is an all around great guy and top local talent, so asking him was an easy choice to have host this event. Enjoy the interview below and be sure catch Danny at the Sound Scene Express Best of 2015 Rock Awards, Saturday, February 6 at James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy, in the ballroom. Doors for this all ages show will be at 8PM with Chase The Monkey kicking things off at 9pm followed by Balloon Ride Fantasy, The Commonheart and Nevada Color.
Sound Scene Express: How long have you been performing music and what instruments do you play?
Danny Rectenwald: I started learning Classical Guitar at age 12 and my first “real” performance was at a friend’s Church around age 14. I remember being so scared and playing so quietly that some of the audience didn’t know that the piece had ended since there was an awkward pause before an awkward applause when I finished.
Around that time I was messing around on electric guitar, bass, and drums as well as studying Classical Guitar. In college, I fiddled around on my friend’s mandolin at a party but it wasn’t until BBI formed that I really started “playing” the instrument seriously.
I would say that in a band setting I could effectively play guitar, mandolin, bass, and piano, but mainly fretted instruments.
SSE: How did BBI Form?
DR: Most of the members of BBI have known each other since high school or earlier. We all played in other bands during and after high school that it wasn’t until a memorial show for a friend who passed (George Evans) that we formed. One of George’s favorite styles of music was Irish Punk and what we thought would be a one time thing, we decided to form a band to cover Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphy’s and various Irish traditional songs in our own style. We thought it would be funny to have a silly name like “Bastard Bearded Irishmen” since it was a sort of supergroup performing only one show. Then the feedback from our friends was really positive that we decided to keep it going. Plus we had a great time working together.
SSE: What is your favorite part about performing with BBI?
DR: That’s a toughy, Randy…
I think my favorite part is the energy and response we get from our audience in our live shows. It’s more than the attention or the party atmosphere. It’s the hours of rehearsing, tweaking song structures, working out arrangements, finding the proper covers, balancing setlists, making sure everything is ready so we can confidently pull off an enjoyable show that sounds good musically and that leaves people with a smile on their face. Also, all the funny pants I get to wear.
SSE: What is your favorite BBI memory of all time?
DR: My favorite would have to be how I felt when I heard we were banned from Station Square. They had us play outside of The Hard Rock for a summer concert series and during a guitar dual between Jim and I, he climbed to the top of the Station Square sign (that you can see on the river) while I was barefoot in jorts in the fountain. The crowd went nuts when each of us were soloing, partially because they couldn’t believe what they were seeing. That moment felt very punk rock and it was validated when they said we weren’t welcome back. The booker probably didn’t expect something like that to happen, and to be clear, I don’t think there was anything in a contract that said not to do those things.
SSE: What are your rehearsals generally like? Do you have a set time each week in which you practice or are rehearsals more spontaneous?
DR: We’re actually pretty organized about rehearsal. For the most part We rehearse every Wednesday and, if we don’t have a show, one weekend night. We’ve gotten into a balanced groove of polishing and hashing out new songs and then working the rust off old familiars. We leave time to compose, learn, and run through sets if needed.
SSE: Are there any big BBI plans for 2016?
DR: We’re really excited about our Sixthman cruise to Jamaica that we’re playing in February. We were voted a performance slot on the ship and it could provide us some good connections or at least a paid vacation. Then we’ve got a couple tricks up our sleeve for Saint Paddy’s day in March. We’re also in the pre-production phase of recording. We have a whole lot of new material that we want to release but we’re still in talks about titles, content and how we’ll release it. We may want to do a single, EP, full album, or all three!
SSE: Do you plan on releasing any solo material?
DR: I do actually! I have a bunch of sort of folk/folk rock songs that I wrote that I’m currently tweaking and getting ready to try with a band. Most of them are silly love songs that I wrote and some of them are deeper and more self-reflective. I’m also working on arranging various songs for a solo guitar album, including jazz tunes, American folk songs, and my own compositions. You can get a taste of both on soundcloud:
SSE: You are known for your long curly locks, but recently trimmed down. Is this the permanent new look?
DR: I think I may never grow back the long curly hair. I was always so self conscious about my hairline and was concerned I was at risk of having a skullet. Plus, I shut my hair in far too many car doors so I felt it was time. It’s way more manageable and I love wearing hats so, I like it at this length for now.
SSE: You filled in/sat in with a bunch of bands in 2015, is their a favorite band you like to play with?
DR: I feel very fortunate to call some of my favorite musicians and songwriters in the city friends. I don’t think I could pick a favorite especially since they’re all very different stylistically. Some of my favorite times have been playing with many different Pittsburgh musicians simultaneously at the Thunderbird Rambles with Randy Baumann. It’s kind of like a Pittsburgh music family reunion, dedicated to playing great music that inspires all of us.
SSE: What do you think of the Pittsburgh Music Scene?
DR: The music scene in Pittsburgh right now is really exceptional. Granted there will always be bands that feel like they don’t get the recognition they deserve, but there is something special here that I think a lot of cities don’t have. From a musician’s standpoint, I see countless bands at every level supporting each other. Whether it be on social media, collaborating musically, or physically as audience members at each other’s shows. I think the quality of the music coming from around here is as good as anywhere in the country. It’s also tremendous to have local media supporting and reporting on what’s happening, including radio, papers, magazines, and superb bloggers like yourself.
SSE: Who is your favorite Pittsburgh band/musician?
DR: It’s too difficult for me to choose one person or band. It’s like ice cream (or beer?). I like all the flavors and however I’m feeling at any given moment may be my favorite. Some nights I may want to get weird and see a punk rock show and others I’d prefer to listen to someone with an acoustic guitar sing songs about heartache. What’s important to me is raw human emotion and I think a lot of songwriters across all genres express that in this city.
SSE: BBI won the Sail Across the Sun contest, what is the itinerary for that?
DR: WE’RE CRUISIN’ TO JAMAICA!! So we leave from Miami and sail a few days to and from Jamaica. Train is the headlining band for the ship and there are other bands and comedians playing including Shaggy (“It Wasn’t Me”) and Nick Swardson (the creepy stalker guy from the movie “Blades of Glory”). We play a set a day and get to host a game called Boozical Chairs for the passengers on the ship (Yes, it’s what it sounds like: Musical Chairs with Booze involved). We’re really excited to see what it will be like since this will be the first time we’ve done something like this. Plus we can say we’re international now!
SSE: Is there anything else you would like to add?
DR: I just want to thank you for what you’re doing for music in Pittsburgh. The support from media outlets like yourself really validates what makes Pittsburgh a great place for live music. I’m really looking forward to Saturday the 6th and am planning out which pants I’ll wear, if I decide to wear pants.