Sunday, February 19, 2012

The FIGHT! Against Cancer

It's not everyday in the music industry that you get to speak with such an inspirational and united group of artists. Da Rezarekt is a one of kind band with a killer sound, and an intense, high energy live performance. Self defined in the genre of "FunkRokHop", this description says it all. Recently, one of their four members, Guitar Grrrl Marisa, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Below is an emotional, honest portrayal of the groups current battle against the disease.

How did your FunkRokHop sound begin?

Supreem: For me, it really began with P-Funk, James Brown, Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Roots. Being a Hip Hop fanatic, I just put my love for rhyming and Hip Hop with the Funk/Rock that the rest of the band brought to the table. And as we evolved the sound evolved and gelled.

Puffy: I have always felt a deeper connection with skate punk type stuff, especially considering my entire teenage years were spent on a board. When I first heard Ice T’s “Freedom of Speech, Just Watch What You Say” album, it was ON. I have been somewhat of a b-boy from then on. But one (fateful?) night I went out to a show at the then Chestnut Room (now The Blockley) on the advice of my good friend Jim Thorpe (Thorpe Productions), to see this band called “Simple & Supreem”. They were a fantastic eye opener and sounded just like the Chill Peppers with Busta Rhymes as the front man. I knew immediately where my vision was leading and at that moment I thought, “If I can work with that frontman (Supreem), the energy will be perfect, and we can achieve a melding of everything I love in music”. Two months from that night the opportunity arose, and from then until now it has been an ever evolving process.

Marisa: When I joined the band, I dug the FunkRokHop sound. It was full of personality. Puffy, Preem and our then drummer Tina’s personalities came out loud and clear. Puff was the funk, Preem was the hop and Tina was the rok. So, it was a big melting pot of different influences. Music should be like that; a conglomeration of personalities, a joining of forces for one common bond.

Talk about the new single, “Fight”. Why did you record it? What was the recording process like?

Marisa: The single to me is a battle cry. It’s a war against cancer, debilitating diseases, or any battle in life that has to be reckoned with. We all go to battle each and every day and stand united against anything that is supposed to make us fall. On an eerie foretelling note, 2 years ago I wanted the front cover of our album to have a boxing ring telling of a battle. Never knew it would be my battle.

Puffy: It was originally a song we just loved to jam around on. Dar had a drum beat, Preem had some lyrics and Marisa and I would just jam along. It was kind of a get warmed up at practice type of thing. One night after Marisa got sick it just seemed to take on a new meaning to all of us, and she felt we just had to record it before she went in for an operation. She wanted (needed?) to have the song with her to help her mindset throughout treatment, and was afraid she wouldn’t get the chance again.

As far as the process, a friend of the band, Ron DiSilvestro, heard about this and wanted to offer his help. Ronnie has been working at Forge Recording the last few years, and offered to donate his time in the studio to make this work for Da Rez and Marisa. With his expertise we were able to go in and complete the entire recording process in one night. It was like it all just “clicked”, ya know?

Have you received a lot of positive feedback from the new release and the new FIGHT t-shirts?

Supreem: Seems like everyone loves the song as much as we do. Plus everyone loves Marisa so they are really in her corner and behind the meaning and purpose of this song. People are really donating as much as they can and buying the t-shirts and hoodies.

Puffy: Yeah, there has been an amazing response, although it still may not have been enough to help her all the way through the treatment. Currently all of the donations go directly to Marisa for support, but the long term goal is to donate the balance of any proceeds to a great charity like the Music Cares foundation. I feel I need to mention that Music Cares has been absolutely amazing and jumped in immediately to assist Marisa with her medical expenses. A great charity that definitely deserves more credit and attention than they do.

Marisa: The fans and musicians in the community and all over the country are amazing. I can’t thank them enough. The proceeds go towards my survival and for others in the same boat. On a different note, our fans were asking how come this wasn’t on the recent album; “Bang Da Bricks”….The cancer diagnosis was well after the makings of that album.

Tell me Marisa’s story.

Supreem: Well the band was in need of a good guitar player and a great one came in to audition. Da Rez had been operating about a year before she came but everyone said we need two guitarists, one for rhythm and one for lead. Marisa came and did the job of both. We haven't skipped a beat in that department since she came and five years later, it feels like she been with us from the beginning.

Marisa: I’ve been playing the guitar since I was 5 years old. I played in a cover band throughout high school to make money and ventured to the Philly area to pursue my dreams. In the 90’s I played with a metal act, Fake ID, which became Wicked Stepmother.. I went back to school in 1995 to get my college degree and didn’t come back to the music scene til 2005. During that time I joined Shiragirl (all girl electro pop punk) and traveled all over the country in a pink RV in the Warped Tour. I joined the Kaitlin Sweeny band, then Leiana and then Da Rezarekt in 2007. At that time I had two other auditions, but jamming with those guys was like being re-acquainted with an old friend. Everything fit. The chemistry was right and it was a lot of fun. Afterwards, my friend Leslie told me, “You better join that band, I’ve never heard anything like them”. I totally agreed with her & history was made, haha.

Describe the emotions you all experienced when you first heard the news of Marisa’s cancer.

Marisa: Well I felt like I knew I had cancer before the diagnosis. I had been losing weight, and I was severely anemic to the point of landing in the emergency room for a blood transfusion. I had been falling asleep at work, behind the wheel, or even sitting down. My body was worn out, I felt like I was dying. So when I received the diagnosis, it was devastating. I didn’t know if I had any time left, how bad it was etc…I didn’t know how to tell the band. I felt like everything went on a downward spiral. I was very scared and angry everything had to be put on hold.

Puffy: For me it was a tough combination… she had been feeling non-descriptively “sick” for some time building up to her diagnosis. We had all been very concerned, but did not know how to help since we didn’t know what was actually going on. The news of the diagnosis was the worst but most necessary piece of information required to begin the treatment and start the path to healing. It was very much like taking a spoonful of the foulest tasting medicine knowing that it’s required to help you heal.

Supreem: I was devastated and sad. I felt like with the release of the new album and a possible deal on the table, that this was a very cruel joke and a vicious slap to a band that works so hard and fights for every victory, big and small. I also felt sad for her because she’s a great person and guitar player and she was rolling in a band that she loved. I just knew this would take some of that wind out of her sail. Frustrated!

How has it individually (personally) impacted your lives? How has it impacted the band?

Puffy: Individually, it obviously has made things very difficult. I am currently also helping my father with his battle with carcinoma (lung cancer). He was diagnosed just a few weeks before Marisa and at times they have their chemo treatments on the same days. Days like next Friday I will be going to an appointment with Marisa in the morning, and then taking my father to his chemo in the afternoon. It is very emotionally, physically, and financially taxing on all of us.

As far as the impact on the band, it has entirely delayed and/or stalled everything we had been building up to at this point. We had just released an album at almost the exact same time Marisa got really sick. We are not able to tour to support the album, and can only occasionally do what we love most and that is playing a live show. However, we’re working when we can in between treatments to develop some of the new material that we have wanted to do but didn’t have the time.

Supreem: It’s put a lot of free time on my hands. So instead of going totally crazy like most of us do when the band stalls, I decided to put out a totally funked out EP with David Ivory and Chuck Treece, do some shows with my DJ and best friend DJ Xzotic D, and explore a sound that's been in my head for a minute but wasn't something that would fit Da Rezarekt's vibe. As far as the band, it has put the brakes on a band that loves to keep moving and stay super busy.

Marisa: Personally, cancer brings out all kinds of emotions in me; fear, angst, anxiety, sadness. But there is a fire and anger to continue and to plow ahead. Because if I let everything get to me; if I don’t FIGHT!—cancer wins. It has changed my life completely. I’ll never be the same. I take absolutely nothing for granted.

I can’t speak for everyone’s emotions, but from what I feel, the band and our manager, Jim Thorpe, have been very supportive in showing their love for me. They are my brothers, my extended family. I love them. They told me to fix myself—get everything right. Get better before anything else.

What are the plans for the band in 2012?

Puffy: GET MARISA HEALTHY! Beyond that if all goes well we hope to be able to hit the road and get the “Bang Da Bricks” album out to the people. There is a good chance we will be working on a new EP for 2013 as well, but this band is driven off of the live show and the adventure of the road.

In the meantime, I have built a home studio and have been working with a few great producers and engineers at other studios to hone my skills behind the boards. I am also doing some gigging and writing with friends, and Marisa and I have been working on some song ideas. Dar has been working diligently rehabbing a house to live in.

Supreem: Right now we are doing whatever shows Marisa is up to doing and we are playing the Wimbash at the Blockley April 21. We’re re-releasing “Bang Da Bricks” and pushing the Fight song to promote the re-release. We just want to get back on track and pray this experience makes us stronger, healthier and wiser.

Marisa: That’s a tough one to predict. I don’t know the length of my healing time. After chemo comes another surgery, and then radiation. While I can still play I hope to continue writing & recording more songs. Our video of the FIGHT! song is currently in the works by our good friend Anthony Caroto. It will be released soon.

Talk about Thorpe Productions and what you’ve been able to accomplish through the partnership with them.

Supreem: Well Jim always gave us good plans to follow to achieve different goals and once we follow that map we usually have good success.

Puffy: He’s the best game planner/coordinator in the biz. He keeps the train on the tracks, and provides direction and motivation when it lacks within the band itself. Jim has also been instrumental in getting us in the door at conferences like Dewey Beach and SXSW.

Marisa: They’ve guided us in our career for the past few years. Jim is good people and has helped us keep the ball rollin’.

What’s your favorite aspect of performing in front of a crowd?

Marisa: Plain and simple, I feed off the audience. Watching them get in to it & make a connection is like a high within itself.

Puffy: For me it’s all about the interaction. You can really feed off the energy in the room and at times that can transport you to a different place.

Supreem: The love and the energy from the band to the crowd and vise versa. Plus performing the songs that we worked so hard on and getting received so well from our fans and friends is the BOMB!

Where do you get the energy for your live show?

Puffy: In Da Rez we all play exactly the music we’d want to be listening to and that makes it real easy for us to get into. I believe that honestly can and does translate to an audience. When you add the band feeling what they’re doing, to a crowd feeling what you’re doing, then the crowd giving that energy back, there is just no way I can describe that intensity in words. Almost all of Da Rezarekt’s live shows have had that magic since Marisa and Dar have been in the band.

Supreem: For me, God, because this is what I was created to do. But on stage, the band energizes me to come out and wreck, and the crowd makes me wanna keep going harder.

Marisa: From the audience and from the love of just playing.

What other challenges do you face as a band?

Puffy: Ha ha ha, the same most other bands go through. How do you support yourself and your group in this ever changing and down-trending business? How can you keep multiple, entirely different personalities working harmoniously at all times?

Marisa: And the challenge of getting back to schedule is huge in itself. It’s going to take a lot of hard work.

Supreem: Being diplomatic and making four different people operate like one well oiled machine. And of course the game of the music business and all the turns that it makes. It's tough sometimes trying to keep up with the new trends and keep up with the Jonses and still stay true to ourselves and our music. Also,dealing with bad business people, getting overlooked for things we deserved and earned, and bouncing back from broken promises.

Where do you see yourselves heading in the next few years?

Supreem: Hopefully touring and making a new album. Telling people our incredible testimony of how we survived cancer and came back badder than before.

Marisa: Making music for a living, traveling the country & living the dream….

Puffy: Great question, and as long as we can get Marisa back healthy enough, the shows going to hit the road. HARD.

Check out these links to make a positive impact on Marisa's battle, and others struggling with the disease around the world.

Download the "FIGHT!" song
Official Website

Learn about the MusiCares Foundation

Buy tickets for Wimbash at the Blockley (April 21- $20 in advance, $25 at the door) here.

Alexis Canary

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