Interview by Scott Preston
Some of you may know who Phil Risko is and some of you may not. But starting soon a lot more people will be seeing a lot more of Phil. Starting in February Phil will be taking over the bass guitar duties for ekoostik hookah. Phil has most recently played bass for The Recipe and for Greenleif, a band he co-founded in 2003. Departing longtime ekoostik hookah bass player, Cliff Starbuck also introduced Phil to the crowd at the band’s NYE show at The Newport Music Hall, where Phil jammed with Cliff and the band during Sister Sugar (video clip below) and Ballad of Sam McCully.
Cincy Groove: When did you first start playing bass? Was there a reason you chose bass over other instruments?
Phil Risko: I got my first bass when I was 15. I picked it up just by listening to the radio and figuring out songs by playing along so I’ve had no lessons. I started playing out in the music scene when I was 18 with my first band which gave me exposure to the whole festival scene which was great. I chose bass because I knew that a good bass player is hard to find and both of my brothers already played the guitar and drums so I figured why not the bass as well. Along with the bass I can play the guitar and drums.
Cincy Groove: What other bands do you or have you played in?
Phil Risko: My first band Greenleif was a funk blues rock type started by me and my good friend Ryan Beke. That’s the band that I’ve been playing with for the past 7 years. I recently at the beginning of the summer joined The Recipe and played with them up until now.
Cincy Groove: How do you feel about joining a band that has been established for such a long time?
Phil Risko: Playing with Hookah who’s been around for a while is something that I’ve always wanted to do in my music career, play with an established band, and now that it’s happening it’s time to do nothing but work on all the material. It’s a great achievement for me and an honor.
Cincy Groove: How has rehearsal been going for you?
Phil Risko: Rehearsal has been going good so far. I’ve met a couple of times with the guys but it’s really going to kick in in February when we rehearse in Columbus.
Cincy Groove: How was your experience playing with ekoostik hookah this past NYE at The Newport Music Hall?
Phil Risko: I thought that it was a great way to introduce me to the fans on the last show, and the battle the me and Cliff had was a lot of fun. It meant a lot to me that Cliff was the one who introduced me to the fans, it seemed like he was showing the fans his approval of the bands’ decision on the new bassist.
Cincy Groove: Did Cliff have any words of wisdom for you?
Phil Risko: I haven’t talked to Cliff too much about what’s going on due to the fact that he has a lot going on in his own life but he said if I needed anything that he’s a phone call away and to have fun.
Cincy Groove: When was your first ekoostik hookah show?
Phil Risko: My first hookah show was when we played with them at the ledges in 2003. Ever since then I’ve seen them countless times and now I’ll be with them on stage instead of watching which is amazing.
Cincy Groove: Who are some of your musical influences?
Phil Risko: Some of my musical influences of bass players is Larry Graham from the Graham Central Station, Les Claypool, Bootsy Collins, Flea, Mike Gordon and Phil Lesh. I like the way they play and I’ve adapted some of what they have to offer into my own style.
Cincy Groove: What has been the most interesting or disturbing thing you have seen while on the road?
Phil Risko: Being on the road, the most disturbing thing I’ve seen would be some guy throwing up all over himself on the street and then laying down in it because it was warm.
Cincy Groove: What have been some highlights for you over the past year?
Phil Risko: Over the past year the highlight would be the NYE show and what’s to come in 2010 with ekoostik hookah.
ekoostik hookah tour dates
2/18/2010 Clazel Theater Bowling Green, OH
2/20/2010 The Blue Building Sidney, OH
2/26/2010 Park Theater Holland, MI
2/27/2010 Crump Theater Columbus, IN
3/12/2010 Newport Music Hall Columbus, OH
3/13/2010 Rex Theater Pittsburgh, PA
3/19/2010 The Kent Stage Kent, OH
3/20/2010 Headliners Toledo, OH
3/25/2010 Southgate House Newport, KY
3/26/2010 Lafayette Brewing Company Lafayette, IN
4/3/2010 Spring Hookah in the Hills Dream Show Guysville (Athens) OH
4/9/2010 Reggie’s Rock House Chicago, IL
4/10/2010 Small Planet East Lansing, MI
4/19/2010 The Beach Negril, Jamaica
4/20/2010 The Beach Negril, Jamaica
4/23/2010 The Cliffs Negril, Jamaica