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Interview with Wallace Mullinax of Dead 27s

Photo: Nikki Stone

After Dead on the Deck one night I caught up with Wallace Mullinax from Dead 27s and arranged to ask him a few questions. The local musician plays lead guitar for Dead 27s as well as Grateful Dead tribute band The Reckoning. Recently, he was invited to play for three straight nights with Matt Butler’s Everyone Orchestra in Asheville and Charleston. We talked about the Charleston music scene, its growth, his time with Everyone Orchestra, and the love for the music he explores. Read the full interview below.

What are your thoughts on the current state of the Charleston music scene?

It’s so exciting to be a musician in Charleston at this moment. We have a true community of players, and genuine appreciation from listeners. Having so many great musicians overlapped into various projects is unique for a music scene. There isn’t any of the unnecessary jealousy drawn on boundary lines between bands.

What do you think is the next step to further the growth of music in Charleston?

Well, our city’s growth is audience-driven. Bands from other regions keep coming back, despite likely routing, because they see the interest and support here. A lot of great players are moving here because&nbsp it’s so beautiful, and you can actually make a living playing music. If we could have a couple more bands pop into that next level of success our scene would receive a ton of attention.

What was your favorite thing about about playing and hanging out with the people involved in Everyone Orchestra at The Pour House a few weeks back?

The buzz around the whole event was pretty special. Matt Butler does an incredible job of keeping everyone comfortable and steering the chaos. That gig is so different than what I usually do, and I’m sure the other players would join in that feeling. It’s refreshing to focus on some of the fundamentals of playing music and communicating, instead of stressing the execution of parts and form.

Do you have any stories from the weekend that you can share with us?

I saw Oteil working on a Dead tune for Saturday that I knew we likely wouldn’t play. I told him not to worry about it, but he said “I want to know it in case the guys ever pull it out.” I’m a huge Dead fan, so I couldn’t help but get a little giddy, knowing who those “guys” are.

It’s been about six months since the release of Dead 27s sophomore album, ‘Ghosts Are Calling Out’. What did you learn from making the album, and subsequently playing it, that you plan to take with you into future releases?

We really wanted to experiment broadly with production and tones for “Ghost.” I think we achieved that aim, and we will likely have a different mindset for the next album. If “Ghost” was an attempt at expanding what we could be, I think the next effort will target the roots of what we are after that process.

We’re excited about Dead 27s tour with Dangermuffin. How did that come about?

Our band has always loved Dangermuffin. Between the two groups, we’ve done a lot of side projects together, so everybody gets along and plays well. We just saw those guys at Salt Life Festival and we’re getting really pumped about ideas for this run.

In addition to your own band, you also play with several other groups in Charleston, including The Reckoning, which plays Grateful Dead covers at The Pour House every Wednesday night. What do you love about the Grateful Dead?

It took me a while to appreciate the delicacy of playing Grateful Dead. I’d come from a Hendrix/Clapton background, which is a very knife-to-the-throat, driven approach to solos. The Dead is a lesson in restraint as much as it is excessive or indulgent. You’ve got to learn how to create space and let the music breathe to play that stuff properly.

How does the knowledge you’ve acquired from playing Grateful Dead riffs and progressions bleed into your performances with Dead 27s?

Jerry had some really cool ideas for slurs and legato that are naturally part of my vocabulary now. I also love some of those half-time feels and shuffles from the Dead. You can hear groups like Chris Robinson Brotherhood alluding to that material, and we show that influence as well.

Wallace’s answers are a great sign for things to come for both Charleston music and his endeavors. Dead 27s and Dangermuffin are on tour now promoting their new albums. Dead 27s will tour throughout the summer across the southeast. Check out their tour info here and snag tickets when they come to your city. Stream Dead 27s 2016 album Ghosts Are Calling Out below.