Spotlight on the Beth Hart Band
The Beth Hart Band is making a real name for themselves as a diligent touring band. Having just finished performing on the Second Stage of Lollapalooza '96, the Beth Hart Band is preparing for their first European tour providing support for The Scorpions.
When Beth Hart sings it is the
Call Of The Wild
Sit down with Jimmy and Beth of the Beth Hart Band
Call Of The Wild
Guitarist Jimmy Khoury refers to it as the call of the wild. It's the moment when Beth Hart first opens her mouth on stage and starts to sing. Whether people are up front or talking with friends at the bar, everyone turns to find out where the heck that voice is coming from.
Fronted by young singer/songwriter/pianist Beth Hart, the Beth Hart Band summons a high-flying passion in the creation of a pure, organic rock sound. Hart's voice brings together with a striking depth of emotion, conviction, and her built-in loudness button. "Beth's definitely got that knack for reckless abandon," says Jimmy.
On their 143/Lava/Atlantic Records debut, "IMMORTAL," the quartet weaves from a graceful acoustic rustle to a full-on electric roar, making equal room for songcraft and free-ranging improvisation. Recording sessions brought the band together with three of the most respected producers in the field: 143 Records CEO/Atlantic Vice President/12-time Grammy Award winner David Foster, Hugh Padgham (Genesis, Phil Collins, Melissa Etheridge, XTC, Police), and Mike Clink (Guns N' Roses).
For Beth Hart, the band represents the culmination of a musical life that began at age four, when she took up the piano. "My first love affairs with music were Beethoven and Bach, but it wasn't long before I was turning on to Led Zeppelin and Rush," says Beth. "I even got into Ozzy for a while...which I still can't believe! But by the time I was 18, it was all Aretha, James Brown, and Donny Hathaway."
She entered L.A.'s High School for the Performing Arts in 10th grade as a vocal and cello major. At the prompting of a classmate, she began singing during open mic nights in the Belly Room of the Comedy Store - a discovery that before long had her on club stages five nights a week. Staying out to all hours on school nights eventually marred her attendance record to the point where she was asked to leave. After a brief and fruitless flirtation with real estate school, she waved off academics to focus entirely on music. "My mom always told me, 'You've gotta do music,'" says Beth. "She always knew what was in my heart. She wanted me to be happy and to be my own person."
While still in her teens, Beth began entering talent contests as a solo act at a number of clubs in the South Central area, often eliciting enough applause to take home the $100 grand prize. She loved being on stage and drawing reactions from an audience. By the summer of '93, Beth had enlisted a loose-knit band and expanded her territory to include clubs in the greater L.A. area - the Roxy and the Troubadour. That's when she met Tal.
"One night this guy came up to me and said, 'I am the greatest bass player you will ever meet in your life,'" remembers Beth with a laugh. "I said, 'Okay mister, you've got some confidence.' It turned out he was right."
Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, Tal Herzberg began a life-long love of music at age six, when he started playing classical guitar. During his mandatory service in the Israeli army, Tal - who had by then picked up the bass - was assigned to the 17-piece Air Force Orchestra. "There are so few of those jobs in the armed forces," says Tal. "I was really lucky to get in." The orchestra played receptions for arriving dignataries, but also did a lot of studio work. It was just the beginning: within two years of finishing in the military, Tal had become the most recorded bassist in the country, contributing to over 60 albums. He brought that success to the United States when he enrolled in L.A.'s Grove Center of Music and picked up the session gauntlet. Back in the studio, he recorded with top names in the industry.
Shortly after joining with Beth, Tal recruited his friend Jimmy to come aboard as the band's new guitarist. Beth hadn't even met him until they walked on stage together. "It was July 14th, 1993 at Club Lingerie on a Monday night at about 11 PM, " says Jimmy with total recall. "Five seconds into the first song, I looked at Beth and she looked at me. I knew right then that we would be together for a long time. I'm definitely meant to be here."
A guitarist since age seven, Fall River, Massachusetts native Jimmy Khoury had already logged extensive tour miles across the Northeast rock circuit, frequenting such Boston institutions as The Rat and Paradise Rock Club. Playing with his older brother in a number of top-drawing regional bands, Jimmy was paying the bills with his gig earnings by the time he was 20. "If you had asked me ten years ago to map out the steps that would lead to my ideal band, I would have arrived exactly at this spot," says the transplanted Angeleno.
Drummer Sergio Gonzalez steppped in on the recommendation of a friend when the band was suddenly booked in early 1994 to play a special benefit concert. A percussion prodigy at ten, the Texas native got his first real gig while still a teenager, working as the house drummer at Disney World in Orlando. "I played with all the big names there," he laughs. "Mickey, Goofy, you name it. That was a surreal time, but I was doing what I loved most." Since coming to Los Angeles over ten years ago, he's become one of the city's most-sought-after players.
With a revitalized cast of creatively charged musicians, the band began writing songs - individually and together - in earnest. Some are sketched over time, while others are conceived in instantaneous flashes. "The musical communication between the four of us has really developed," says Tal, "and at the same time we've become the greatest of friends. We do everything together."
In the summer of 1994, the group was determined to end the cycle of pay-to-play and the burden of distraction that accompanied life on the L.A. club scene. Six nights a week, they'd defiantly and joyously roll out a carpet on Santa Monica's carnival-like Third Street Promenade, light some candles...and just play. "Some of our fondest memories come from playing on the promenade", says Jimmy. "There wasn't any pressure; no guest list, no soundcheck, and no club owners. It was just atmosphere and a crowd of people. All we had to do was show up and turn them on." "We'd start every night at seven like little workers, and play straight on until 11," says Beth. "Then on a whim, we'd set up at some out-of-the-way coffeeshop or cozy bar and play free-form right into the early morning hours."
Work on "IMMORTAL" began last spring in Los Angeles with Hugh Padgham, who would later join the band for additional sessions in New York City and London. Padgham focused on documenting the band's fresh energy by recording virtually live off the studio floor. "Hugh really captured that side of us, "says Jimmy. "Basically, if we played it on stage, it went on tape." In late '95, David Foster and Mike Clink followed the group into a Los Angeles studio for what would be their first-ever production work together. "With David and Mike, the big work was texture," says Jimmy. "We worked on getting the right takes and the right sound to bring a certain feeling out of each song. Together with the tracks Hugh produced, we created the ultimate album portrait of what this band is all about. It all just flows."
As the album came together, themes of spirituality and divinity made their way into a number of songs, among them "Run" and "God Bless You." "I didn't even realize to what extent spirituality was part of my lyrics until the record label people asked me to write the words down for the CD booklet," says Beth, who also plays the piano and bass on the album. "It came as quite a surprise. It's the same way when you listen to the record. You won't put it on and suddenly think, 'Hey, they're preaching the gospel.' But I feel like I'm putting mine in for God, and that makes me feel good."
Beth's extraordinary energy is fueled by an overriding passion to make to most of every moment. "I don't like to write about love between a boy and a girl as much as I like to write about love as far as life goes," says Beth. "Sure there's a lot of pain, but there's also a lot of beauty in the world and a lot of beauty in people. That's what inspires me to make music."
Back to the Top
Sit Down With Jimmy and Beth of the Beth Hart Band
WILMA: How did the Beth Hart Band get together?
Jimmy Koury: I met Tal (Herzberg) November 1st of 1992 in my opinion that's when a lot of great things happened to me in the world of rock and roll.
Beth Hart: Well, I needed a bass player and a guitarist, I met Tal outside club Fais Do Do. He said, "hello, I am the greatest bass player in the world and you should work with me." He brought Jimmy in... I didn't meet Jimmy until we hit the stage.
WILMA: Tell me about Sergio Gonzalez your drummer?
Jimmy: Serge is the catcher he calls the pitches.
WILMA: Do you have a favorite venue?
Jimmy: There was this club in Chicago called Schubas Tavern good sound system and over all sound in the room. If you can dig into the smaller clubs and understand what they are all about, what has come through there, so many great bands have played there in the past, it's all about plugging into that... you don't ever know if you are going to be through there again.
WILMA: What music are you listening to these days?
Beth: Tool their new record which just came out, I love it. The new Soundgarden record I think it's awesome, Stone Temple Pilots... old stuff... Aretha Franklin, Etta James. Last night I listened to some old James Taylor. One of my favorite bands that are not getting a lot of exposure, is out of Seattle they are called Satchel, they used to be called Brad.
Jimmy: I love the new Soundgarden album first 7 or 8 tracks are heaven. Smashing Pumpkins new album not the whole album it's 24 tracks but a lot of it. The Beatles Anthology 2 serious stuff, Tom Petty, movie soundtrack to "She's The One."
WILMA: Do you have a favorite city?
Beth: Birmingham, the people and their southern hospitality, the clear air, the beautiful enormous amount of woods and trees, the blues are just saturating there it's awesome, I love that area. I enjoy New York too it rocks, CBGB's, Brownies, Mercury Lounge.
Jimmy: New York City - it's unbelievable its like baseball all the players want to experience New York they might not last, New York's been awesome, the energy is always there, if you go over and it's real you can feel it.
WILMA: Do you have any advice for a band that wants to take to the road?
Jimmy: "I find that a personal listing device is essential, and they should also know to cut through you got to fight.
WILMA: During the days before you hit the stage what do you like to do?
Beth: I drink a lot of coffee and smoke cigarettes, I can't smoke in van, get a bite to eat, run the stairs, Yoga, do a little writing.
WILMA: Do you have any future goals?
Beth: I'd like to record the next album live. I hope to make at least 10 records with these guys. I'd also like us to get a little harder, a little darker, a little funkier as well.
WILMA: How do you feel right before you go on stage?
Beth: I used to definitely get really nervous, but it was a good kind of nervousness because it gave me a lot of energy. Now I don't get nervous at all.
Jimmy: It's always a rush, the best part of touring is playing, it's game time... it's like an engine that needs to run.
WILMA: Which do you prefer the live shows or studio?
Beth: I much prefer live, I am proud of this record it's our first real record, I am proud of the material. It was great to work with the producers we worked with. But, what we are is a much rawer thing, playing live is where it's at, you never know what's gonna happen, the real emotions are there.
Jimmy: Touring brings out things in human beings and musicians, that make you more intense. We weren't Phish who has 5 albums at this point. We were a young band we made a young album, but we did our best.
WILMA: Tell me about some of the other bands you all have had the opportunity to play with.
Beth: Psychotica a New York band really great people. We hung out with them a lot, really cool guys. Ruby and I were the only females at Lola - down to earth no Rock Star trips. That's probably why they are so good and so true. They don't get wrapped up in that hype crap.
Jimmy: Soundgarden, Metallica first and foremost from Lollapalooza. The thing is I didn't expect to get hit by Metallica as hard as I did, Soundgarden a different story I love 'em. They brought something to the stage that was great. Metallica has a professionalism night after night, hittin'' it hard, Ruby was pretty cool. Chune from Indy stage, Artie the drummer and I hit it off and we hung out in the tents.
WILMA: I hear that the Beth Hart Band had the opportunity to meet Carlos Santana.
Beth: Yah, we opened for Carlos Santana, Sergio came and told me that Santana wanted to talk to me, he was so warm and down to earth, he was so cool, and very complimentary. I remember one thing he said in reference to our music, "This is your church take care of your church."
WILMA: You guys are about to take off for Germany and South Africa what do you hope to gain from this experience?
Jimmy: I wanna grow as a person and parlay it into my music.
WILMA: Thank you for taking some time out of your busy schedules.
Jimmy: "WILMA rocks"
September 15, 1996
Special thanks to Robert Tanimoto and 143 Records .
From: Wilma's Internet Guide to Live Music
www.wilma.com - Sorry but this website no longer exists!
Back to the Top
Back to Interviews
Hart appears on 143/Lava/Atlantic Records
Records, Lava Records, and Atlantic Records
Beth Hart photos used on this site are
web site was created by Lisa Deuschle.
Revised: February 28, 2001