Caught a sweet surprise, spotting an announcement that Casual Confusion were playing the Nomad World Pub on Minneapolis’s West Bank. It looked to be a two-fer experience. I’d wondered for years what became of that band, and hadn’t had an excuse to go back to that club in ages, not since catching Dessa there before she blew up. Casual Confusion, though, cancelled. So, it’ll be another wait to make it to the Nomad. Rooted around, though, in my CD library and dug out my autographed copy of Casual Confusion. It came out in 2007 and still rocks like Gibraltar.
Comparison to the Jimi Hendrix Experience is unavoidable, as well as mentioning legendary 60s rocker Arthur Lee of Love. Frontman guitarist-vocalist-songwriter Colin Hodges burns on his axe like a five-alarm fire, copping an authentic Hendrix aesthetic without copying. He sings smooth enough to bring Lee to mind again without copying. The songs, masterfully crafted, give Casual Confusion a solid, undeniably distinct, signature sound.
Hodges might very well be the best damned rock guitarist in either city, easily is among the most gifted vocalists and consistently writes hellified songs. More than merely influenced by Jimi Hendrix, he legitimately inherits a mantle, drawing from the root, taking things from there to create his own sound and sensibility. His only rival in this region for successor to the throne is Mato Nanji. The supporting line-up now is Zach Dennison still killing on drums with bassist Kenneth Garnier replacing Mike Hayostek. They made their debut June 22 at Club Underground in Northeast Minneapolis.
Hodges, chaperoned by PR rep Laura Holt, paused from engineering Casual Confusion’s return to active gigging for an off-the-cuff conversation as we listened to a demo disc of new, very tight music over whiskey rocks with a bit of digressing as he and I caught her up on old doings from when I used to cover the band. We also treated her to our impromptu collaboration on the Temps jam “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg.” Suffice to say, a fun interview.
Okay, let’s get this out of the way. It’s got to be a mixed blessing being compared to Jimi. On the one hand, it’s a compliment. On the other, it can bring your originality into question.
Yeah, exactly. That’s something I’ve struggled with my whole career. Trying to express myself. It’s very clear as day when people see us play that I’m influenced by Jimi Hendrix. You can hear in the guitar playing but when you see me play live…I used to buy Jimi Hendrix VHS tapes and watch them over and over. That [showmanship] has leaked into my style. But, at the end of the day, I’m only being me to the fullest. I just try to do my best and express myself.
I’ll say this, as someone who came up digging Jimi. Like he used to, you go through all that flamboyant melodrama that makes for an amazing show. Without sacrificing artistry in the least. That’s no [easy] trick.
Okay. Other influences?
A lot of people don’t know, but I look to John Coltrane’s saxophone for guitar inspiration.
That’s interesting, ’cause Stevie Wonder said he played his harmonica like he was playing a sax. What’s been happening since the last time we talked?
A lot has been happening. Our bass player decided one day to up and join the Army. That was, what, six years ago? He’s been in the military ever since. Me and Zach still played and we did a Black Keys thing, guitar and drum. There was the passing of my father in late ’07, which spiraled me out of [personal] control dealing with that. For a while, I hung the music up. Then, slapped myself in face and said, “What else you gon’ do, brother?” This is what makes me feel whole. That I have a purpose. To get out and perform.
I got together with some old friends of mine who do hip-hop. They were doing a project and asked me to [join them] for a few songs. That evolved into a record. Spent time in a cover band doing Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, the Time.
You also got this solo demo. Zach Dennison and some others. Rodderick Black on bass, Wade Donze on keys.
And Jared Courtney playing rhythm guitar.
It’s an interesting disc. The songwriting is different, but the same. It’s grounded in the basic feel of Casual Confusion. Evolved, though.
Your vocals have always been right there but at first, I wasn’t sure I recognized your voice. Not until some of those inflections kicked in. Point is, you’ve always sung good, but, man, not this good. It kind of reminds of Arthur Lee with some Greg Rolie thrown in.
I wanted to focus more on singing. I didn’t know who that was until I read what you wrote. Arthur Lee and Love, right? Then, I was, like, “That’s right on.” And you said Robin Trower who I’d never heard.” I was, like, “Alright, alright!” I saw Trower last year.
How was it?
You sing behind yourself on the demo. Rich harmonies.
I wanted to incorporate my major influence in music so far as I came up with my father’s teaching. He was into Motown. That’s how I learned how to sing.
The next step. A new recording is possible. Right now, this is about the return of Casual Confusion.
Also read A damned shame: Great bands gone away (Dwight Hobbes, 2008)