Tanaka Takes the Stage with A Cool Hand: Exclusive Interview

A Cool Hand

It’s Summer And There’s Nothing To Do

First of all, if you think there’s nothing to do then you are completely wrong and have no idea what you’re talking about. There are concerts, festivals, carnivals, 5Ks (not for me), and tons of free stuff to go to. But, it is totally summer and what do you like to do during the summer? Well I like to sit outside and sip out of a glass that has an umbrella. What I like doing even more is listening to music and tapping my toes. I had the opportunity to interview the lead singer of A Cool Hand, local Chicagoland band, and get the sitch (can’t believe I just wrote that) on what we can expect from them.

Who Is A Cool Hand

Justin Tanaka – Lead vocals, rhythm guitar, hails from Bloomington, IL
Mike Altergott – Multi-instrumentalist, hails from Elmhurst, IL
Charlie McCarthy – Drummer, hails from Arlington Heights, IL
Jack Keating – Lead guitar, hails from Chicago, IL
Adam Howarter – Bass guitar, well-traveled and from all over but most recently Naperville, IL

The Interview

Young: How did you meet up and decide to start a band?
Tanaka: It was in shifts. Mike and I started jamming together with two other friends. My intent was to start a band while the other two members were in it more to jam, so Mike brought in his friend Charlie, whom he met in the dorms, to sit in on drums. We did a brief stint as a trio before adding in Jack on lead guitar, and finally the cherry on top was Adam Howarter on bass. Through all of this Mike played every instrument in the band besides drums to fill the sound while we built a line-up and now we have a great multi-instrumentalist (Mike) to really open up the boundaries of what we can do.
Young: How did you come up with the band name: A Cool Hand?
Tanaka: It’s pretty simple; I really like the movie Cool Hand Luke. In one scene Paul Newman (of Newman’s own dressing) bluffs his ass off in a poker game and Dragline says, “Sometimes nothing is a cool hand.” I love that line. That’s some existential shit.
Young: Who are your influences?
Tanaka: One great thing about our band is that our musical tastes are about as diverse as it gets, so we’re influenced all over the place. Our best covers are of Radiohead, The Arctic Monkeys, The White Stripes, The Strokes, and The Black Keys, but everyone’s influenced by the Beatles so it might just be easier to say that.
Young: Who or what inspires you?
Tanaka: Tough question. I feel like my inspiration to make music comes from my need to have an artistic outlet, so it’s very self-motivated and selfish even. Inspiration for writing music comes from everywhere. People I know, talking a walk, I try to take mental notes of as much of my life as possible knowing that I may write about it. Jack White wrote a very true lyric that really stuck with me, “If you think holding hands is all in the fingers grab hold of the soul where the memory lingers, but make sure to never do it with a singer ‘cause he’ll tell everyone in the world.” Basically, don’t date me.
Young: What are your “jobs” outside of the band?
Tanaka: Mike is a full-time working stiff for an engineering firm here in town while Charlie and Jack are finishing up grad school in engineering and biology respectively. Adam and I are undergrads in International business and engineering, also respectively. Adam also works digging up bones for anthropology studies and I make my side cash as a sushi chef.
Young: What’s your favorite part of being a band thus far and why?
Tanaka: I think I could honestly speak for the whole band and say house parties are the absolute favorite. You just don’t get to connect with the audience in a better way. People let loose a lot more, engage us after us, and sing their drunken little hearts out. Nothing beats it.
Young: Talk about the process of getting ready for a gig.
Tanaka: We almost always try to change the set list up, and since I have capos to mess with and insufferable open tunings, the first chunk of time is spent figuring out an order that minimizes dead air. If we’re lucky, we can run through the whole set and we’ve gotten tear down, loading, and unloading down to a science. We’re scientists after all.
Young: Who takes the longest to get ready?
Tanaka: Me or Mike. It’s probably me though, because I am the most vain.
Young: You’ve played in various venues – what would you say to a musician still in the garage phase?
Tanaka: Don’t be afraid to ask a venue to give you a shot (in person is best), and if that’s not working make friends with other bands. Go out into the scene and talk to the bands afterwards. I think all of us have gotten a leg up from another band at one point in our careers and I would definitely say there is a pay it forward mentality about this. Right now I’m working on setting up a friend’s band’s first show, and I met him at an open mic.
Young: How can fans support you?
Tanaka: Like our Facebook page! Keep checking our Bandcamp as well because we’re about to post our debut album for a free download. Other than that, keep coming to the shows. We have been very lucky to have devoted friends and fans come out in droves and would like that to continue or course.
Young: How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard you before?
Tanaka: I know this question is important, but I never really like it. Usually I describe our most common covers, Radiohead, The Black Keys, The Strokes, etc… but then I mention they can always check us out for themselves!
Young: If you could jam with any band or person, who would it be and why?
Tanaka: Since this is hypothetical I’ll go with Freddy Mercury. Personally, Queen was my biggest musical influence growing up. I would absorb everything. I would be intimidated. I would kiss that beautiful man on the lips.
Young: What’s next for A Cool Hand?
Tanaka: We are finishing up recording our first album this weekend. [This interview was done June 7th, so a little delayed.] After that, it needs to be mastered and we’ll have our first release show and we could not be more excited! Next year everyone is still in town so we hope to write one or two more albums in that time.

Now What

You heard the man. Go like their Facebook page (hint: you can click here)! Bring on summer with new music and what better way than to support up-and-coming local bands. I’ll tell you right now, there’s not a whole lot better than that. They have a show coming up July 5th. Like them on Facebook and get an invite! A big thanks to Tanaka for answering my questions.


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