New York cultural mash-up experiment TriBeCaStan is part of a growing number of local groups like Nation Beat who dive so deep into the melting pot that borders become burned away—even the name “TriBeCaStan” is meant to evoke an imaginary republic defined by New York cool, explorer energy and outer space vibes. Archduke of the Forward Guard John Kruth describes their upcoming album, New Deli (due January 31 via EverGreene) as a “mosh of influences,” and unlike, say, global groovesters Gogol Bordello, it’s hard to even find where one begins and another ends: African folk, Ethiojazz, zydeco, gypsy-rock, Indian scales, Japanese flutes, Carnival rhythms and good old-fashioned free-jazz freakouts. “In TriBeCaStan we like to shift gears a bit,” says John Kruth about “Bed Bugs,” which is not the first song in this column to pay tribute to our itchy friends. “So the song starts off with this very tribal, otherworldly African sound and then leaps across the ocean to the Carribean. We are truly universal. Or, as Sun Ra would say, ‘Uni-verse? Why just one? Omniversal is more like it!'”
What is “Bed Bugs” about?
I went to Chennai in December 2006 and January 2007 for the Carnatic music festival to play with “The Sultan of Strings,” U. Rajesh, the younger brother of U. Srinivas, the electric mandolin wizard who plays in Remember Shakti with John McLaughlin… I was staying in this horrible, literal “fleabag” of a hotel and found myself being eaten alive every night when I went to bed. Never having had bed bugs before, I didn’t know where all the bites were coming from. Within a day or two I was covered in bites. I didn’t know if it was a rash or what was happening. The mosquitoes were also incredible. I also wrote another song on the album, which features the incredible U. Rajesh on electric mandolin, called “Dive Bomber” in their, uh “honor,” I guess.
Have you ever had any experiences with bedbugs in NYC?
No, and may I add many thanks and praises to the insect gods.
What inspired the song musically?
That cool bit in the beginning came from a Moroccan rebab that Jeff Greene has in his incredible instrument collection… And dig that baritone sax solo by the Queen of TriBeCaStan, Claire Daly!
How did you construct the beat?
In typical TriBeCaStani fashion, I wrote a song with a West Indie/island feel while in India. This happens a lot. There’s another song on the album “One Day His Axe Fell Into Honey” which is essentially an African folk song that I wrote on a banjo on the Isle of Brac, off the coast of Croatia. “Bed Bugs” has something a carnival groove with a strong syncopated beat—whether its origin lies in the Caribbean or Africa or New York I can’t say. Our drummer Todd Isler has such a great feel and picks up on anything you throw at him. Also our percussionist, Boris Kinberg has a beautiful heartbeat. You can hear it in his congas, such depth. And the man, as our bass player Dave Dreiwitz said, is “the Issac Stern of the cowbell.”
What’s your favorite place to eat in New York?
So many of our favorite places have disappeared over the last few years, we tend to eat at home a lot these days.
TriBeCaStan plays the New Deli release party at Joe’s Pub on Friday, January 27.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 2, 2011