No one should have been surprised when Jamie Holka was asked to join cult legend prog-rock outfit Captain Beyond earlier this year. The Niagara Falls native has long been dazzling area audiences, whether in full-band fusion shred-mode or on one-man-band gigs, where he'd take intricate jazz-based chord voicings to town on multilayered original tunes and cover interpretations. Captain Beyond is firing on extra cylinders by all available accounts since Holka came on board. Here, he recalls how it all came together.
Question: How did you hook up with Captain Beyond?
Answer: Through my friend Butch Kalson, a local bass player/recording engineer. He's friends with a guy who handled social media for Captain Beyond. It came up in conversation that (founding member/drummer) Bobby Caldwell was looking for a guitar player. Butch knew of my love of C.B.'s music. He sent some video of me to Bobby, through a friend. All of this happened without me knowing. Bobby and I began speaking regularly by phone, and in time, he asked me to join.
Q: I had the first Captain Beyond album as a kid, and I loved "Raging River of Fear" the most. I always wondered why they weren't huge. Were you a fan before hooking up with the band?
A: I was a huge fan. My Buffalo band Spinning Room used to play four songs off of the first Captain Beyond album back in the '90s, when grunge was the current rage. I was actually able to send Bobby video of me with Spinning Room, playing C.B. tunes almost 25 years ago, to prove my allegiance! And yes, Jeff – "Raging River of Fear" was one of them.
Q: These are pretty involved, complex tunes. What are the particular challenges of playing this music?
A: Yeah, this music does have a lot of time signature changes and tricky passages, but I had listened to the music so much that it never seemed daunting. It was tattooed on my brain, and luckily, I was able to play most of the material pretty naturally. Being very familiar with the material made transitioning into the band much easier.
Q: You spent many years developing a really impressive, virtuosic, one-man-band approach to playing guitar and performing. Was it a shock to find yourself in a big, loud ensemble again?
A: Yes, quite a shock. The solo guitar approach I've been working on for so long had little to do with playing C.B. music. I got this gig at a time where I was convinced that my hard rockin' days would be limited to the handful of gigs I do with my classic rock band, Powertrain. Bobby asked me if I I could play this music aggressively and said a Fender Stratocaster/Marshall amplifier combo was required, which was what I based my life on for a couple decades prior. So I've had to tap into my 25-year-old self again, get some cool stage clothes and try to maintain a 32-inch waistline. So far, so good.
Q: How have audiences responded to this new Captain Beyond so far?
A: The response has been great. Everywhere we've played so far, guys come up and say they drove three and four hours to see the band. They say things like, "We never thought Captain Beyond would ever play again." The crazy thing is that the audience ranges in age from 21 to 70. It's amazing. The reviews have been great and we're hoping to make a new record down the road.
7 p.m. Nov. 1 at the Sportsmen's Tavern (326 Amherst St.) Tickets are $30 (Showclix).