Quick & Dirty with Will Hummel of The Ernies

His music explores various genres including ska and alternative, it has been featured in the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and various professional wrestling events, he is the frontman for a nifty and unique band, The Ernies, here is my interview with Will Hummel!

What are your earliest memories of listening to music?

I can remember hearing that a show about The Beatles was coming on TV when I was probably 4 years old. I was thinking “beetles” (of course) and was pretty surprised to find out the show was about a band (and being interested in all things science maybe just a little disappointed). We would listen to The Beatles or Motown Greatest Hits on vinyl all the time around the house when I was a kid!

What was the inspiration behind the band being called The Ernies?

The answer to this question is highly classified, top secret “Code-E” info! There were several rumors circulating about this, so the best I can give you is a multiple choice, “choose your own ending” answer. We are named after either…

1. A southern slang term for that bending, pentatonic riff in EVERY blues song (think about bending the 4th up to the 5th over, and over… “er-nie, er-nie, er-nie…!)

2. Our own inside code word for a joint (“Do we have time for an ernie?”)

3. “Coach” Ernie Pantusso from Cheers, played by Nicholas Colasanto.

Musically, what were the influences for the song, Here And Now?

Musically what I’ve always liked about the tune is the combination of that ska/reggae vocal with a kind of mid ‘90’s electronica guitar and bass vibe (think “Block Rockin’ Beats by The Chemical Brothers). Earlier in our career we were much more influenced by 3rd wave ska and Jamaican music in general. As members changed and as we began touring live more frequently we were introduced to bands like Shootyz Groove, 311, The Urge; groups that were mashing up styles in a way that we could relate to. Our album Meson Ray (and “Here & Now” particularly) was definitely the culmination of that vision.

Where did you get the inspiration for the band’s various song titles?

Whereas musically Meson Ray was a hybrid of geeky electronica influenced rock and third wave ska, LYRICALLY the record was a mash-up of pop-science and western influenced Buddhism (I spent hours on the road either reading Carl Sagan or Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh). “Here & Now” and “Winter Stars” are just straight ahead love songs in my mind, despite the innumerable references to particle physics or astronomy. “Organism” was just the best way I could identify with myself as a living, breathing THING. “You Are Everwhere” is a statement of the interdependence of life; even while quoting Sagan (“you were born 15 billion years ago”) in my eyes I was trying to preach “anatta,” or non-self! Of course there were a few tunes in there for comic relief. “The Hitman Tommy Stearns” is really about the poet T.S. Eliot coming to me in a dream as a gangster and wrecking the place (while teaching me a lesson in how I SHOULD be writing)! The album’s closer “Mr. Benson and the Meson Ray” is based on a comic book story found in DJ Chris Bondi’s vinyl collection! In the end, we were just on a mission to share with whomever was listening our personal experience with life, however nerdy or “out there” it was!

How was the band approached to have Here And Now featured on the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and what does it mean to you regarding the legacy that the series’s soundtrack has?

We spent a fair amount of our time touring in front of the surf/skate/snowboard “extreme” sports crowd throughout the ‘90’s. Part of our agreement with Mojo/Universal records included a publishing contract, and perhaps not very glamorously a deal was brought to the table by the record label to be a part of the game. This was by far the highest exposure opportunity we had, even compared to our appearance on the soundtrack to the film “BASEketball”. I mean, when you can virtually skate up to a screen in the game and see us rocking out at the X-Games… well I think I speak for all of us when I say that it’s an honor to have been forever digitized in 32 bit glory!

Tell me about the show you had this past January.

Well, for the record that was supposed to be a show by a band called “Meson Ray, an Ernies Tribute Band”, but I don’t think the club was too into the idea! Matt Goves, Mike Hughes and I wanted to test the waters as a rock power trio by playing the album Meson Ray front to back. I still have a few tunes that we were working on back when we stopped touring and a few I’ve written since that I think would be perfect for that format so we got together to see what would happen. It was decidedly NOT The Ernies, despite the fact that we only played The Ernies material.

What are you and the other members of the band up to these days?

There are so many people that made up The Ernies through the years that I wouldn’t know where to begin. Of the guys who played on Meson Ray, I can say that ALL of them are continuing to rock the world with their musical talents! As for me, I spend my professional time traveling and coaching mindful leadership as Lead Training Manager for GbyGUESS. More importantly, I’m loving my life in The Sunshine State with my beautiful wife Heather and my amazing son Joshua and I’m so thankful to share this moment in time with them.

Lyrically, which Ernies song has the most significance to your life?

Winter Stars (You & I). This one’s the most straight-forward love song in The Ernies catalog. Listening to this tune always takes me back to being on the lawn of the Science Museum of Virginia, peering through borrowed telescopes and checking out the planets, the moon, and the stars the night that I proposed to Heather. Even in 2010 when I threw together an EP of tunes in a ‘60’s Jamaican style (can we call it “geek rocksteady”?) I HAD to cover that tune (check it out on iTunes or at WillHummel.com if you’re interested).

What was it like having Organism and Here And Now be the soundtrack for Wrestling Society X and WWE Survivor Series 2003, respectively, as well as having Polarized be the official theme for WWE vs. ECW: Head To Head?

Honestly it’s pretty ironic considering the lyrical themes of each of those songs. If only the audience knew their favorite wrestlers were rocking out to the nerdy sounds of Buddhist metal!

FILL IN THE BLANKS:

Your favorite guitar riff is… the intro to Limelight by Rush!

The first song that you learned on guitar was…Wipeout by The Surfaris

The first concert that you saw was… The Beach Boys (w/John Stamos playing percussion…WHAT?? – or wait, was it Huey Lewis & the News, hmm…)

The coolest musician of all time is… that first human who sang out, or sounded a flute carved out of bone, or struck that first skin stretched across a make-shift drum; not to signal to her peers, or sound an alarm, but because she was so moved by her life and the world she saw around her that she HAD to…

The best music t-shirt you own is… the first The Ernies tee; a plain white 100% cotton tee in one color black screen print, complete with a totally ripped off image of “Rudi” from The Specials. A CLASSIC! $5 every Wednesday at The Flood Zone in downtown RVA! March 5th…CRAZY CHARLIE’S!

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