An Interview with Kevin Higuchi of the Bruce Lee Band

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Having already interviewed both Mike Park and Jeff Rosenstock, I jumped at the chance to speak with Kevin Higuchi, the drummer for both Jeff Rosenstock and the Bruce Lee Band, which features Mike, Jeff, Kevin, and Dan Potthast.

For those that don’t know, the Bruce Lee Band is a side project of Mike Park, Jeff Rosenstock, Kevin Higuchi, and Dan Potthast, which allows them to stretch out and flex their Ska muscle a bit. With socially aware lyrical themes, energetic Punk/Ska stylings, and an old-school, DIY approach, there is a whole love to love about the Bruce Lee Band and their upcoming new EP, Division in the Heartland. If you’re interested, you can head over to Mike Park’s Asian Man Records to learn more and snag your copy.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve got Kevin Higuchi with us for a chat today. We touch on his early love for the drums, how he became involved with the Bruce Lee Band, his ongoing love for Ska, and his double life as a Jazz drummer. Enjoy this one. Cheers.

Andrew:
Kevin, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. It’s been a weird year. What have you been doing to pass the time?

Kevin:
Thank you for having me.  It has been a very weird year! Luckily, I have been staying busy. I’ve stayed active with a lot of time on my bicycle, hiking, camping and as much time at the beach as the weather has allowed. 🙂 Musically, I’ve gotten back into home recording, so I’ve been pretty busy with remote session work, recording drums for a lot of people’s projects. I’ve also been exploring the world of synthesizers. I picked up a Teenage Engineering OP-1 and have been trying to practice on keys more, as well as teaching myself to edit video with Final Cut from YouTube tutorials. 🙂  

Andrew:
Tell us about backstory. How did you get into music? What was the gateway so to speak? Tell us where the drums came into play for you.

Kevin:
My parents have said I’ve always been pretty obsessed with drums since I was super young. I always loved watching the drummers at theme parks instead of riding the rides. I was obsessed with watching this drummer at the Circus Circus Hotel in Reno when we’d go for vacations growing up. The gateway was my Jr. High band director, Mr. Tyler, who really got me interested in Jazz by making me mix-tapes. He was always trying to keep my inspiration and interest in music high. Joining a Jazz band was kind of a fluke as I just joined because all my friends were in it. Still, as we traveled to band competitions and started being exposed to really good musicians, my interest in music becoming my career started to germinate.  

Andrew:
As an artist, who were some of your earliest and more important influences?

Kevin:
My earliest influences were coming directly from all the Jazz my Jr. High band director exposed me to. Thinking back, I was really into Chick Corea and 90’s Jazz/Fusion. Drummers like Dave Weckl and Vinnie Colaiuta were my heroes. Once I got to high school I started getting into more traditional artists like Miles Davis (the quintet with 17-year-old Tony Williams), John Coltrane, and Wayne Shorter. At this point, my musical taste was really being pushed in other directions by my friends as well. I got into Primus and all that 90’s Grunge, which then led me to Fishbone, which then started my huge love for Ska around my freshman/sophomore year. My favorite bands to go see were definitely Let’s Go Bowling, Skankin’ Pickle, and Mephiskapheles. 

  

Andrew:
Let’s talk about the Bruce Lee Band. Tell us the story. How did things start? How did you become involved?

Kevin:
I was born and raised in San Jose, California, and like I mentioned before, I was a huge Skankin’ Pickle fan. I always knew about Mike Park and Asian Man Records, and one day I met him at a birthday party. I was playing the party with a Ska band I had with my buddies called the Whiskey Avengers, and Mike approached me and asked if I would be down to play drums for The Chinkees. After that, I started playing some shows with them, and eventually, Mike hit me up to come into the studio to record with the Bruce Lee Band when he was working with Mike Hugenor and Jeff Rosenstock. I think I went in and learned and recorded all of Everything Will Be Alright, My Friend that day.  

Andrew:
The band has some new music out, with Division in the Heartland set to drop in late May. Tell us more about it.

Kevin:
Yeah! We recorded this batch of songs while I was back in San Jose, visiting my family for Thanksgiving. I was stoked we were able to knock them out. I think Mike tries to take advantage of when I’m in the bay area seeing my family. This time was tricky because it was hard to figure out a time to get together and record yet still be safe and with COVID and social distancing protocols. I also had to be very careful too that I didn’t put my parents at risk as they are older, and it was scary that they were so at the risk of the virus and fatal outcomes.  

Andrew:
You worked with Jeff Rosenstock and Mike Park on this record along with Dan Potthast. What a great group of contributors. What’s the process like working with those guys? They’ve all accomplished so much on their own; how do things meld together for the Bruce Lee Band?

Kevin:
The Bruce Lee Band is literally a band all of us do for fun because we love Ska music and we love working together. I play in Jeff’s band too so I work with him on a lot of music, but Bruce Lee Band is very different in that there is no pressure and the goal is first and foremost to have fun! They generally will send me demos beforehand, and then we’ll get together at District Studios (our home spot for recording in San Jose) jam them out to refine them, and then lay them down. It’s super simple, quick, and really fun! 

Andrew:
We live in some extremely polarizing times, and those times are really reflected within the lyrics of Division in the Heartland. Tell us more about the “guts” of these tracks. What the underlying message?

Kevin:
Well, I asked Mike about the lyrics because he wrote them and he said they address the fact that we are being divided and almost pit against each other like a sporting event. It does seem like everything has become very black and white and it’s always in your face.  

Andrew:
Aside from music, what else are you most passionate about and why? How do your other passions inform and inspire your music?

Kevin:
I’m very passionate about my family and friends. They keep me happy, sane, humble, and incredibly grateful. Being surrounded by my wonderful family and friends really keeps me content with my life, which keeps me always feeling fresh and happy, especially with music. I also feel like I live two lives musically too. I have one side, which is touring and recording with bands such as The Bruce Lee Band and Jeff Rosenstock; and the other which my life as a Jazz musician. They both demand of me in completely different ways, and yet they keep me excited and inspired for each other. I hope that makes sense. 

Andrew:
Are you into vinyl? Tapes? CDs? Or are you all digital now? Where do you like to shop for music? What are a few albums that mean the most to you and why?

Kevin:
Unfortunately, when I moved from the Bay to San Diego, I let go of a lot of my stuff, including my vinyl and CDs.  I’m pretty much all digital now.  The vinyl I hang on to has sentimental value to me in that they are my friend’s bands, I played on them, or I just love the record because I grew up with it.  

I enjoy getting music from shows when I’m able to see the bands I like.

Albums that mean the most to me is a very hard question! Miles Davis- Four and More, Chick Corea- Four Quartets because these records really taught me lessons in my formidable years. Fishbone- Give a Monkey a Brain and He’ll Swear He’s the Center of the Universe was huge for me too because I’d never heard a band play Metal, Funk, and Ska so legitimately on one record before! I’ll constantly be into stuff that’s coming out or that someone will hip me to that will change my life and the way I approach things! 

Andrew:
All of the members of the Bruce Lee Band have embraced the DIY approach to music. Why is that something that remains important for yourself and your bandmates?

Kevin:
Creating and working on music is an extremely personal and intimate experience. I think it’s important to see it through. Something this special can’t just be left to someone or something else. It’s important to me that it stays in the hands of those creating it until it hits the ears that want to hear it. The DIY approach keeps the honesty and sincerity true to the artist and the music.  

Andrew:
Tell us where and when we can get the new EP. What formats will be on? I assume its through Mike’s label, Asian Man Records, right?

Kevin:
The new EP is out on streaming platforms on May 28th through Asian Man Records. We’ll have more info on vinyl soon.

Andrew:
Last question. With things possibly beginning to open up soon, what are your thoughts on the scene, industry, and world we live in going forward? Should we be scare? Hopeful?

Kevin:
Definitely! Let’s stay positive and hopeful. Let’s not take for granted how important music is for all of us and how important the experience of creating and sharing is. I also feel that as we move forward we still remember safety and care for one another. We’re all in this together. Spread love and peace.

Interested in learning more about the work of the Bruce Lee Band? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island and works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night.
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