Erica Stoltz has been a fixture of the New York City music scene since approximately forever. The only time when this wasn’t true was when she was a fixture of the San Francisco music scene, with her old band Lost Goat, and several other bands too numerous to mention, to which she lent her bass abilities and golden vocal cords.
Back in New York City, she played with Dirty Excuse and currently fronts the heavy metal power trio Sanhedrin. She’s a self-taught musician, but she has preternatural musical abilities and intuition that even the most accomplished Julliard graduate would kill to have.
In addition to her activities as a musician, she’s also a professional sound engineer and educator, who initiated the Project Sound System a free workshop that teaches kids how to set up and run a DJ rig and sound system.
Somehow, with all that shit going on, she still took the time to answer The Z Review’s five questions, an act whose karma we will seek to return to the universe at some point.
TZR: What initially got you interested in music, and what artists are your earliest major influences?
ES: TV variety shows like “Solid Gold,” “Saturday Night Live,” “Donny and Marie,” “Captain and Tenille.” KISS and Debbie Harry and Blondie on “Solid Gold” was a life changer. After seeing KISS I asked for a black and orange tutu and didn’t take it off for, like, a year. The Specials gave me a funny feeling when they performed “Gangsters” on SNL that I liked.
Then came Junior High. At IS 88 in Brooklyn, Mr. Axler was the chorus teacher and he was a mess. He used the slam the hood of the piano down to get our attention. One day there was a soloist at the piano and he lopped her finger off. It was traumatic, he was never seen again and I realized how dangerous music could be, and I liked it. There was a teacher that did a talent show at IS 88 as well. I wish I remembered his name because I think he pushed me and my friend Corey to perform “Day By Day” from “Godspell” and that felt really good. I was hooked.
TZR: In any major urban center with a large music scene, bassists are always in high demand. Why do you think so few people choose to play it initially, when bassists pretty much have their pick of any band they want to be in?
ES: You know, I chose it because there were two less strings to deal with. I had been a singer and I never knew what to do during musical interludes and solos onstage, so I put a piece of wood between myself and the audience. I thought drummers were in high demand and bassists were a dime a dozen?
TZR: Do you prefer live performance to working in the studio, or the other way around? Why?
ES: I will answer this one from my professional identity, Erica Stoltz, sound engineer, prefers mixing live sound for several reasons. One, I don’t have the attention span for eight hours of finding drum sounds and guitar tones, etc. Two, I believe performance can be ritual magic and I relish any opportunity to facilitate ritual magic. Three, live sound is immediate and fluid at the same time. It requires a different ability. As Bruce Lee put it, you have to be like water.
Studio is different pressure. It’s forever. My old band, Lost Goat, recorded a single for Alternative Tentacles at a fancy studio in San Francisco. Billy Anderson was at the console and we were aided by studio interns. We tracked two songs and mixed one in hour nine of our 12-hour guerilla mission to record this 7-inch. It was mixed to DAT in those days. The intern mistakenly reformatted the DAT we had just mixed on, erasing the mixed version. We had transferred it to tape to listen to in our van, the preferred reference speakers of Lost Goat. We mastered that song from cassette because the digital version was gone forever, due to the intern’s mistake. The choices and mistakes are forever in the studio, they are passing in time in live sound.
TZR: What are you working on right now?
ES: Sanhedrin is a band I formed in 2015 with two fine young men, Nate Honor and Jeremy Sosville. Nate and I had worked together as audio crew at Brooklyn Academy of Music. I met him when he was 18. We started playing music after eight years of doing sound checks, Nate on drums, me on vocals on the opera house stage. We recognized our mutual abilities that way. He and Jeremy had a band together years ago and they wanted to start another project, so they brought me in. I had to practice bass in a whole new way as a self-taught musician. Luckily, my fellow metal head and jazz guitar prodigy cousin Elliott gave me a practice regimen that whipped me into shape, to keep up with Nate and Jeremy’s jock-ular technical abilities. The result can be heard here.
TZR: Is there any current popular music that people might be surprised to know you like?
ES: Probably not.