Interview with John Mullins from ekoostik hookah

john mullins, ekoostik hookah
John Mullins from ekoostik hookah

Interview by Scott Preston

Photos by

One of the most original and energetic acts around today, ekoostik hookah is the nucleus of a family drawn to its lucid, improvisational treatment of psychedelic rock ’n’ roll, blues, funk, jazz and bluegrass layered with rich harmonies. Born early in 1991 in a smoky basement bar, the band has been continually evolving, cultivating a sound that has perked the ears of contemporaries and attracted fans who travel miles to hear them play. (from

ekoostik hookah’s next show is next weekend at Hookahville 29 at Legend Valley in Thornville, OH. They will be playing on Saturday and Sunday night. The lineup for this springs hookahville is one of the strongest in recent memory – Sam Bush, Railroad Earth, Outformation, Lotus, The Ragbirds, Greensky Bluegrass, Papadosio, Emmitt Nershi Band, Fat City Reprise, Boogie Matrix Mechanism, Macpodz, The Werks, 56 Hope Road, Woodbox Gang, Seven.

Cincy Groove: So does ekoostik hookah have any new projects in the works?

John Mullins: Not at the moment, just getting ready for hookahville. We always rehearse a bunch before hookahville. We probably rehearse more right before hookahville than any other time of the year. We are trying to figure out what we want to do for encores and things like that. There’s definitely some songs that I haven’t brought in yet or maybe have done once that I want to go over. But hell Dave has put out 3 or 4 really good songs in the last few months. I have to start keeping up the pace.

Cincy Groove: How do you feel about this upcoming hookahville being the 29th one? Thats pretty impressive.

John Mullins: Hookahville 29 is my favorite lineup since I have been back in the band. I was the one that propositioned to get Sam Holt and Outformation at hookahville. It turned out they had sent in a promo pack the year before. So they were already interested. I’m really excited to see Outformation. Hopefully Sam will come out and sit in with us on a few songs. Sam Bush was a very nice addition. I’m just really excited to see all the bands this time around. Not that I’m not usually excited, but this lineup is really good.

Cincy Groove: Do you remember the first time you and Dave played together at the South Heidelberg there in Columbus?

John Mullins: I was doing this Wed night gig at the South Heidelberg as a songwriters co-op. The only rule was that anybody could come down and play but they had to be original songs. Dave was playing Local Color at the time. He started coming down on Wed, at the time he was also playing every Monday night at the Heidelberg. Dave and I would end up doing our originals together. The week he called me telling me he was leaving Local Color , I said to him lets change it up and have just you and me on Wed nights. The first night we did our duo gig Steve Frye (ekoostik hookah’s original drummer) was in attendance. He asked us if he could bring down his congos for the next gig. We were struggling with the band name over the next week because we didn’t want to call it Mullins and Katz for forever. The first time we played with Steve Frye the next week was the first show we called ourselves ekoostik hookah. Actually the week after that was the first time Steve Sweney and Cliff Starbuck played with us. Then Harlen came into the picture, the guy who funded our first album. Then everything just started rolling after that.

Cincy Groove: Whose idea was it to re-record your first record Under Full Sail?

John Mullins: It was actually Cary Romanoff’s idea, he used to be our manager years ago. He funded the project and really kept everything moving forward. We wanted to do some more things on the record, but time only allowed us to do so much. There was a little resistance at first, even from me. But when we considered the equipment we were going to use compared to the first time we did the album, which was 1/4 inch eight track going into an analog board. On a side note, I think Steve Frye still has a copy of Under Full Sail on cassette tape still wrapped in plastic.

Cincy Groove: I know this question has been asked before but how would you describe ekoostik hookah’s sound?

John Mullins: Let me see if I can remember what I used to call it, Psyfolkadelic rock rhythm & blues funk on a good day wishy washy jazz on a bad day (laughing).

ekoostik hookah:
John Mullins – vocals, guitar
Dave Katz – vocals, guitar, keyboards
Cliff Starbuck – vocals, bass
Steve Sweney – vocals, lead guitar
Eric Lanese – vocals, percussion


Upcoming ekoostik hookah tour dates:
for complete show details visit –
5/24/2008 Spring Hookahville Thornville, OH
5/25/2008 Spring Hookahville Thornville, OH
6/9/2008 Ohio Bike Week Sandusky, OH
6/13/2008 The Vogue Indianapolis, IN
6/14/2008 Rock the Plaza Fort Wayne, IN
6/20/2008 Hookah in the Hills at Kaeppners Woods Logan (Hocking Hills), OH
6/21/2008 Hookah in the Hills at Kaeppners Woods Logan (Hocking Hills), OH
6/22/2008 Hookah in the Hills at Kaeppners Woods Logan (Hocking Hills), OH
6/29/2008 Lazy River Music and Arts Festival South Elgin (Chicago), IL
7/11/2008 Schwagstock at Camp Zoe Salem, MO
7/12/2008 Schwagstock at Camp Zoe Salem, MO
7/18/2008 Chaffee Gathering Girard, PA
7/19/2008 Centennial Terrace Sylvania, OH
7/25/2008 Nelson Ledges Quarry Park Garrettsville, OH
7/26/2008 Nelson Ledges Quarry Park Garrettsville, OH
7/27/2008 Forecastle Festival Louisville, KY