Marcus Rezak has made a name for himself as a chameleon of sound for his ability to sit in with world-renowned musicians, catering to their brand while offering his own flavor. Rezak — a recording artist, composer, guitarist and teacher — has shared the stage and studio with members of huge acts like Umphrey’s McGee, Disco Biscuits, SunSquabi and Frank Zappa.
Rezak has recently decided to make Denver his home base, and all of Denver’s music fans can rejoice at the thought of hosting a talent of his caliber. We caught up with Rezak about his career as a solo artist, his new single on Color Red, “Neutron Orbiter” with Josh Fairman of SunSquabi, Joel Cummins of Umphrey’s McGee and Allen Aucoin of The Disco Biscuits and his many projects — including Digital Tape Machine, Katharsis, and Shred is Dead. Intrigued? Read more below and don’t miss his upcoming show on Saturday as Shred is Dead along with all-stars Jay Lane (Bob Weir/Ratdog), Todd Stoops (RAQ/Electric Beethoven) and Chuck Jones (Dopapod).
303 Magazine: You’ve been all over and now you’re here. What made you decide to call Colorado home base?
Marcus Rezak: I have been coming out to Colorado for about 20 years. I have always felt a connection to the music scene in Denver, there is something about it that is really freeing and supportive and energizing. I have been playing with Dave Watts from the Motet in a group called Katharsis, and coming out for shows with my group Shred is Dead over the years when I was living out in L.A. I just felt like it was time to put myself where I was traveling the most and that was Denver.
303: You have quite a long list of collaborators. How do you connect with so many acts?
MR: I have been playing with a lot of different musicians from a young age. I have had a lot of really cool experiences along the way and I have nurtured those experiences and the relationships with those people. I have wanted to keep collaborating and making new experiences. It started with Digital Tape Machine with Joel [Cummins] and Kris [Myers] from Umphrey’s, leading into Stratosphere All-Stars, which was a group that was originally started by Live for Live Music. It was with me and the bassist of STS9, the drummer from Lotus, the keyboard player from Phil Lesh’s band. That was really the beginning of me collaborating with people from the jam scene again. One thing leads to another and the groups kept forming and kept putting me in positions to keep collaborating. It just keeps evolving and I just keep myself in the mix a bit and stay out and about.
303: How did Digital Tape Machine begin with the Umphrey’s guys?
MR: I met them in 2005. I was performing at the Heartland Cafe in Chicago one summer when I was off from Berklee. My band our played our set — we were called The Hue — we were a progressive instrumental rock group. Right after our set, there was another band that played, and the drummer from that band was really into my playing. I would jam with them after that and they eventually asked me to be in their band. Turns out, that was the original drummer for Umphrey’s, Mike Mirro. He left the band in 2004 to pursue his medical studies but kept playing. We recorded an album that had Joel Cummins also guest in on the record, so that is when I first met Joel. I started hanging out with them a lot more, going to New Year’s shows, doing my project The HUE and doing their after shows and they would sit in with us several times at our shows. All of a sudden, Digital Tape Machine started, and they have become family to me. They are super supportive, kind and positive of what I am doing. The record I just put out has Kris on the entire record. We are doing a lot of after shows with them this year, with Kris playing with me and Joel. It has grown over the last 15 years quite a bit.
303: You have sat in with members of Umphrey’s many times, among other high profile musicians. How have you mastered this art of sitting in with bands, honing in on their energy while still performing as yourself?
MR: I feel like a chameleon a lot of the time. I sort of get a feel for the bands, I listen to their songs and read about them a bit to get a feel. I apply my sound to whatever the situation is to enhance what is going on at that moment. I treat it like a recording session. I play to the song, the environment, the music. I do my thing. Really, I just try to vibe out and treat it like a recording session.
Sitting in is special because you want to make a big impact. I try to come out with 100% energy the entire time I’m playing.
303: Let’s discuss your debut album Gateway to the Galaxy. What caused you to branch out as a solo artist?
MR: I had not made an original record since Digital Tape Machine’s Be Here Now, which was something that I composed. Since then I have been doing a lot of different projects. My project Shred is Dead is a progressive rock, kind of shredding take on The [Grateful] Dead. I do a Frank Zappa project because I am very good friends with Arthur Barrow.
I really wanted to do another original album because it is more expressive and more artistic. That inspiration to go on tour and play shows and sing songs from my heart and not someone else’s is really the motivating factor.
303: What are your ultimate goals as a solo artist?
MR: Longterm goals. I am always thinking ahead and I always want to be performing on stage, that is where I am in my zone. That is where I feel the best, it is pure wonderfulness.
This album is the first one and I am going to start another in January. It is going to be the sequel to the first album, with the same goals in mind — more shows, more festivals, reaching more people, collaborating with more people.