By: Dennis M. Kelly
DK: Now, according to your biography, each of you pretty much started out very early in music, except Christian, when did Christian start playing drums?
Christian: I began playing the piano at age five, absolutely loved music and sports while growing up… I was always involved. I started playing the drums when I was ten years old and never looked back!
DK: How did you manage music vs. school with your parents?
Christian: Since music was in my blood, it was never that big of an issue for me. I went to school, did my studies, then I came home and practiced music and sports all through my childhood.
John: For me, it was a huge issue that resulted in a tremendous amount of strain on all parties involved. It was tough because I’ve known what I wanted to be since I was 10, and have basically made a direct path to creating my dreams. I was told that it was a pipe dream, unobtainable, waste of time, not a real job, blah blah blah, for so long I kind of became bitter towards everyone who was putting me down (which was basically about everyone, parents, teachers, counselors, probation officers, judges, police, even sometimes friends). It was always a major fight to continue my quest. I always felt like I was trudging across the tundra, on an impossible journey like an explorer. But after I finished high school, and completed my 5 year run with the legal system, things slowly got a lot better.
DK: Were you all good students?
Christian: I usually got good grades. In college, I exceeded with honors. I felt more compelled to do the work and I also enjoyed studying music.
John: I never went to college, and I just barely passed high school. I took summer school every year, including my graduating year. But I always still felt like I was a really bright kid in the wrong situation. When I was paired with a good teacher and a subject I enjoyed, I excelled.
DK: Christian, how important do you feel having taken the time to get the degree in music was to your playing style?
Christian: Getting my degree in music helped me flourish as a musician. My principle instrument was hand percussion with an emphasis on Afro-Cuban and Southern Indian styles (among others). After studying in Cuba, I knew that finding an excellent school was imperative. I found that in Berklee College of Music. Many great professors, instructors and courses would pull me in. Learning the traditional foundations for certain percussion such as bata, congas, timbale, and frame drum was amazing. A true interlocking of rhythm. I bring that knowledge to my drum set playing everyday.
DK: Do you feel everyone should at least have had some lessons in music before going out into a band? And why?
Christian: I believe everyone is different and has different learning styles. If you can play the instrument with professional lessons, that’s great. If you can play the instrument without lessons and are self taught, that’s also great! It’s important to know your instrument. Such as the tones, technique, the dedication you need to succeed and how to play with other musicians before getting serious. Hopefully the right teacher can help you along the way.
John: I definitely agree with Christian. It’s important to realize that music, just like anything else in life, is made of a yin and yang. Two counter balancing weights that even each other out. Heart is key, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, then you can’t fully express what your heart is trying to say. The technicalities are also very important to know, but if you don’t tap into your heart, then it doesn’t become personal. It’s just math being executed through an instrument.
DK: How big are your families and is anyone else in your family involved in music also?
Christian: I have two older brothers. One of them plays. My mother was a great pianist back in the day and my brother Jordan is an amazing rock/blues guitarist.
John: I have big families on all sides. My mother and father both came from homes with 6 siblings. I have 2 siblings and my sister is a mother to 2 beautiful baby twin girls as well. My dad’s brothers were musicians back in the day, and my dad has always had a good natural singing voice, so it’s definitely in my blood.
DK: Who were some of your childhood influences?
Christian: Definitely the Beatles (huge fan)! I also listened to a lot of Pink Floyd, Mozart, and Michael Jackson.. My parents and oldest brother listened to good music, therefore I did.
John: The first music that made me stop and realize something amazing was happening was Mozart. I was also a big fan of Michael Jackson too. Nirvana was the first heavier music that I fell in love with.
DK: When and how did Fluid Minds come to form?
John: Frank and I played in a band called Cosmic Haze. We had gone through about 7 different drummers over an 8 year period. Things began to look pretty hopeless for us finding someone who was a solid musician and dedicated to the cause. Then on Dec 30th 2004, we played Penny Road Pub. Our drummer at the time called us a day before and said he wasn’t going to show up. We enlisted the help of a friend who was enthusiastic about drums but had only been playing for a month or so. His skill level wasn’t up to par, but he did manage to pull it off because he knew the songs and all the stops. That’s when I noticed this big ol’ dude in the crowd dancing around and acting goofy. I realized later that he was the drummer of the band ‘The Benedicts’ going on right after us. I sat and watched the set, and I was blown away. He had the qualities we were looking for in a drummer. I ran up to him after he got off stage, we began to talk, took a smoke session in the van, and decided to get together and jam when he got back from college. 6 months roll by.. Frank and I drive to Boston to pick him up from school. We got back, started rehearsing, went on a small east coast tour and realized that we had something that could be really good. We changed the name of the band to Fluid Minds, created a fresh start and began writing and rehearsing songs that would be become the Love in Analog EP. Funny side note: The song ‘Come Back Ditka’ was originally a name I had thought to use when we were brain storming new band names. We decided it wasn’t the right one, so we made a punk song out of it instead.
DK: What were some of the other bands/projects that each of you were involved with?
Christian: Besides playing with steel band orchestras, big band jazz bands, jazz combo groups, and local symphonies.
Some of my highlighted groups were Spork (heavy metal), Potluck (jam band rock), District 300 Allstars (rock, covers), Spiral Dig (bar rock, covers), Baywa (R&B/Latin rock), The Benedicts (punk), and now a couple of hand percussion groups.
John: I joined a heavy metal band called Falt Line when I was in 6th grade. We we’re playing bar gigs a year later, recording demos at a nice studio and eventually got to the point of having our manager secure financial investments to put us into the studio to record a professional full length cd and put us on tour. But I was only about 16 and I knew that I wasn’t ready for the whole dance of the industry and I was also losing my passion for metal. I quit the band and started my own group called Cosmic Haze. We played for over 8 years, recorded 6 albums and played a bunch of gigs including two national tours. Frank joined Haze around 3 years after its conception and I’ve been jamming with him ever since.
DK: How do you feel each of your past experiences helped prepare you for where you are today?
Christian: Growing up with music in my life has helped me make the decision of turning it into a career a lot easier. I’ve always known that music would be my center of inner harmony and my means of making money (eventually).
John: Everything that has happened in my life has led me to this exact point. The good, the bad, and sometimes extremely ugly. I’ve done a lot of stumbling in my journey, so I always try and learn from each bad experience. Even though there is so much left to learn, I think Fluid Minds have had some success because I’ve made so many mistakes with my other bands. I sat for a long time and reflected on everything that was poisonous to my missions in the past. I wanted to avoid every mistake I’ve already made, to make sure that Fluid Minds’ path ran as smooth as possible.
DK: With each of your diverse backgrounds in music and your instrumentation, how do you all manage to find a middle ground with the Fluid Minds “sound”?
John: That’s a very good question!! I find myself asking it all the time and that’s what we are constantly trying to figure out. I guess we have a very broad middle ground. It’s definitely one of the things that makes us unique and will probably be the factor in making us stand out from the crowd. Our job is to manage it in a cohesive way that makes it palatable to a mass audience that suffers from ADD.
DK: Do you foresee the band ever evolving your sound beyond Rock and Alternative to include even more of your vast influences?
John: Yes. We are creators, inventors, visionaries. We find it extremely difficult to stick to one thing without wanting to explore new territories. Even on the Love in Analog cd and the adult swim album, every song has its own personality. The styles in the songs are not just carbon copies of the previous one. If we have the chance to really let our career blossom, I could see us doing something like the Beatles, where we do a lot of experimentation with styles and sounds.
DK: You’ve been featured on “Adult Swim”, Q101 and even in Spin Magazine so far, are things moving faster than you might have expected for you? Right on track or slower than you’d expected?
John: Haha. Well, we always hope it could just fast forward to the night when we have our first sold out crowd, chanting our name before we hit the stage, but for the most part, I feel we are right on track. After being involved in this business for 12 years, I’m anxious for something to happen soon, because if nothing does, then it kind of spells the end of our dream. Moving forward at a good pace makes us happy because it’s a little sign to let us know that the goal line is getting closer. But don’t get us wrong, we’re still ready to be as patient as we need to be. Greatness never comes in an instant. All good things take time.
DK: How many live shows have Fluid Minds played so far?
John: I don’t know that exact number but it’s approximately 40.
DK: How has your live show developed when compared to your first shows together as a band?
John: We’ve gotten a lot tighter as a band since we first started playing shows. It’s taken a while to really dig into our sound, and create a unity in our minds and spirits. I’ve been pretty demanding when it comes to making sure we are always getting closer to playing up to the level that I imagine we can reach. I respect Frank and Christian a great deal because it takes a special kind of person to join a group and take on such a task. They understand that it’s going to take massive amounts of hard work to get to a place where we can sound like every note, every measure, every song is golden. That’s where I want to be and I won’t stop until we make it, because I know we can do it. And every live show, I think we get a small step closer to getting there.
DK: What do you have planned for 2007 in the way of concerts?
John: We plan to completely re-format our live show. We were thinking, how we could put on a show that is so enthralling that when people got home, they had to tell someone. And still make it practical. We wanted to be able to perform our adult swim material live. So, we are going to be syncing up to a computer and playing along with electronic beats. We’ll also be running the vocal mic into the computer to get all the FX on the voice. Then sync video to the music and project it on a screen behind us. It’s going to be pretty cool for a local band status. I don’t see many bands doing anything but getting on stage with a couple of dudes and playing some tunes. We want to bring the experience of a big show to the small intimate settings we play. We are also going to step up our touring and start spreading out our regional radar a bit. Hopefully tap into the college scenes.
DK: Are there plans for a full length album in 2007 as well? If so, do you have a name for it yet?
John: Well, we’ll be releasing our adult swim album somewhere around 4.20.07 if all goes as planned. The next cd won’t be completed until 2008 probably, but we’ve already started writing and recording demos. Our plan is to take a good amount of time to craft each song to its very best, and practice it so much that when we hit the studio, we’ve got massive songs that we know by the back of our hand. To go in with confidence and throw down the takes like we really mean it. It’ll take some time to put that together. We are all really excited about the material. It’s gonna be our best album by leaps and bounds over the others!!
DK: How do you all go about your songwriting?
Christian: I usually will sit down on the keys, close my eyes and begin to play and sing. From there I find what works and what doesn’t.
John: For me, it all starts with a little melody that pops into my head, or a poetry line. Some little spark of inspiration that creates a flare that becomes a song.
DK: Is there a chief songwriter or do you all contribute lyrics and music?
John: For the most part, I write all of the lyrics and vocal melodies, but for the music, were all contributing ideas. It’s a very flowing, creative environment. In my opinion, Frank and Christian have been the creators of some of Fluid Minds’ most shining moments as songwriters.
DK: When looking at song structure, do you tend to write more by lyrics first and then music or vise versa?
John: There is never really a pattern. It’s all about the spark. However it’s created doesn’t matter to us. We just roll with it.
DK: What have been the most powerful influences in your lives so far?
Christian: My Mother is a huge influence in my life! Listening and playing many styles of music. Being able to study in Cuba was a major influence to my being and playing. Having the strength to graduate college with honors, and forming this group of extremely talented musicians (Fluid Minds).
DK: Is there anything personal each of you would like to share?
Christian: I hope fans of music grasp onto our evolving sound and enjoy listening to it as much as we enjoy making it!
John: I love cartoons. Inuyasha is my all time favorite right now. Futurama is another. Right now I’m working as a freelance engineer and producer out of my home studio. Which reminds me; if anyone needs any help taking their recordings to the next level, get a hold of me. email@example.com.
DK: Lastly, any final thoughts you’d like to leave our readers with?
Christian: Join our email list… just kidding, but not really.
John: He’s not. The email list is huge in helping us get in contact with people who are interested in knowing about us and what we are up to. There is an email list sign up form on our myspace site and on our website. To hear music, read bios, see pictures and connect with us personally visit
www.fluidmindsmusic.com or www.myspace.com/fluidminds
DK: Thank you so much for taking the time to read about us. We hope you enjoy!! Take care
John Gray: Vocals, Guitar, Piano & Cello
Frank Clayton: Bass, Rhodes, Sax, Flute & Clarinet
Christian Rogala: Drums, Percussion, Organ & Vocals
Fluid Minds’ music has been featured on Cartoon Networks’ [adult swim], Chicago’s major alternative station Q101, ‘Adrenalina’ on Fox Sports Espanol, the prime time show ‘Roadtrip Nation’ on PBS.
Life is funny sometimes. When you have a problem, you would swear you are the only person in the world going through it or has ever dealt with it. Especially when other people don’t seem to care. Even when they offer a suggestion of what to do, it just doesn’t sound or feel right.
Fluid Minds is an exceptional group of artists that know exactly what you are going through. In their new CD entitled, Love In Analog, they focus on the reality of what life is really about and how we all deal with the same issues. For example in the featured song, Johnny B. Bad, they let us know that we have all made some bad decisions when we were younger. From hanging around bad people to burning the bridges with our friends and family to even our battles with drugs and alcohol, we have all gone through it and wish we could go back and make different decisions. But life doesn’t work that way as we learn in the song, Complicated. You are going to have unresolved issues in your life. You can try to figure them out the best you can but sometimes no matter how desperately you want a certain outcome, it just isn’t going to happen. However life isn’t just one big series of problems, even though we may see it that way. In the song, Hear It, good things happen to us when we learn to be patient. Through the darkness and uncertainty of life, there still is a light guiding us, even if it may be hard to see sometimes.
Fluid Minds is an interesting and insightful group of artists primarily because they are not preaching to you about what you should do with your life. They are helping you understand that we are all dealing with the same problems and issues. Your job is to figure out what is best for you.
John Gray – Vocals, Guitar, Piano & Cello He formed a band and began playing bars when he was in 7th grade. This caused his parents, teachers and counselors to hit the roof. Of course, all the kids thought he was cool, playing where drinking and smoking were going on. He simply refused to consider that creativity was wrong at an early age and has continued working hard towards a career in the music business ever since. He was in the producers chair for Love In Analog, and the mastermind behind the producing, engineering and loop editing of the [adult swim] material in their home studio.
Frank Clayton – Bass, Sax, Flute, Clarinet & Rhodes He is a multi-instrumentalist who grew up listening to Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and other jazz greats. His strong grasp of music theory and his natural abilities to hear music and improvise are the foundation of the sound that Fluid Minds create. He has played with local rock groups since age 13, as well as big band jazz groups and symphonies. He also spent a few years , right after high school, playing saxophone for the prestigious Air Force jazz band before getting kicked out for smoking pot.
Christian Rogala – Drums, Organ, Percussion & Vocals He studied hand percussion in Cuba and got his Bachelors degree with honors at Berklee College of Music in Boston. As a teen he not only played sports from soccer to baseball but he also played with symphonies, big band jazz groups, local punk groups, and blues bar bands, as well as doing session work for all types of instruments and situations. He caught the music bug as a child after watching his mom perform in a piano recital. He has also acted in plays and currently resides in Bucktown.