Interview by Mia Lopez -
X7 band members, Geoff Bliss on drums, Hans Hetz on bass, and Michael Kraus on guitar and vocals gathered for the first time around the turn of the 21st century. Michael had a number of songs written with the intention of recording and releasing an album. He started off by holding auditions for drummers and continued with this for some time. Long story short, Geoff was made aware of the rehearsals through a mutual friend and gave it a run. Michael comments, "Geoff has a great sense of rhythm, a powerful sound, and a great attention to detail. Geoff and I hit it off immediately and agreed to proceed with intentions of recording a series of songs that had been selected. I was made aware of Hans' availability by a fellow musician and friend. Hans and I had been friends since childhood but had never played together. Needless to say, upon Hans' audition, there was instant chemistry and the three of us had similar opinions with respect to the idea of what the band should be. Hans was in and the band was formed. Hans has all of the great qualities that a real bass player should have. He has the ability to bridge the gap between a drummer and guitar player and grabs a bit from both of us and then creates on his own. Not to mention, he is a natural at picking up songs, sounds and rhythms after listening only once."
Michael closes with a smile. "Their combined talents are far greater than the sum of their parts which was obvious when we first played the song Eve together. We mutually agreed that we had something unique and original and I am still blown away by Hans and Geoff every time we play." In the rehearsal studio Michael guided the band through the songs he had written. It was there that Hans and Geoff added their unique sound to the songs. Once the songs were roughed out in the rehearsal room, they hit the recording studio where Michael produced and engineered 11 final tracks. X7 released their debut cd on December 11, 2006. A music video for Eve was released on July 7, 2007. The band is currently rehearsing for purposes of performing live on a theater tour, working on tracks for their next release (due out in 2010), and working on their next music video for “She Believes” (due out in 2010). X7 is also in discussions with record execs in LA regarding the release of their next cd as well as releasing their music for movie film projects and TV broadcast.
Michael explains, "Shortly after our debut cd was released rehearsal began for upcoming live dates and we realized that the keybord parts I added in the studio were a must for our live sound. We have used several other keyboard players in the past for live applications. In 2009 we added Kevin Pentycofe as our keyboard player." Kevin is a childhood friend of Michael's and Hans'.
Michael had fallen in love with music at the early age of seven years old after hearing songs by Elvis and The Beatles. "My first record was The Beatles Greatest Hits 1967-1970. I also had older brothers that exposed me to bands like Led Zeppelin, U2, The Cult, Van Halen, and many more.
I picked up guitar as a teenager after watching a fellow guitarist and friend, Dal, that was also playing in a band with Hans. Dal, Hans, and I were friends since first grade." Michael continues, "I did not get into my first real band until college. I played my first show at a college bar filled with muscle head guys and tons of pretty girls. The room was so packed that the crowd ended up on the stage. They were tripping over my foot pedals and running in to me. Frustration and stage fright led to laughter while pushing the crowd back. After a few more shows at that small club I became somewhat of a local guitar hero and vocalist. That part of it was fun at first, but lost its initial charm very quickly. The artistic side of it is what really appealed to me, not the attention from people. It was a great artistic experience, a means of expression, and creative outlet all rolled into one. I found it to be very therapeutic and would compare it to painting a canvas with sound in front of a live audience. I knew from that point my true love was and always will be the music, and not the shallow things that sometimes surround it. This is not about some self serving popularity contest or some notoriety ego trip. I am not looking for a pat on the back. I want to challenge myself and experience growth as an artist."
Michael went on to perform with various bands for years. He always pushed himself to write more of his own songs and maintain focus with respect to a creative vision. "I am really serious about creating a body of work and I am happy to be doing it with two great individuals like Hans and Geoff. They have really allowed me to expand my horizons creatively on a whole new level. We have forged a lasting friendship that is truly one in a million. I must say the future looks very promising."
Hans stumbled upon his parent’s hi-fi stereo at about the age of 4. “Before I knew it, I had spent an entire year listening to all types of musical variety, everything from the The Byrds Greatest Hits to the Easy Rider soundtrack and Frank Zappa. My favorites were C.S.N & Y’s déjà vu, The Beach Boys’ Endless Summer, and who else but The Beatle’s Magical Mystery Tour.
By the time a close friend, Dal and I were teenagers, we started messing around with his father’s guitar. Dal was a natural on it, but I had trouble with playing chords. I was however, a natural at picking out the low notes that went along with the chords and that is how my journey with the bass guitar began.
In high school I finally started a band that was good enough to play a set at our high school dance. We began to gather a following playing various venues. In college I was playing the local watering holes to throngs of wild college students.” After college Hans returned to his hometown and played in a band that included vocalist Pat Monahan currently fronting Train.
Hans continues, “After a short break from music, Michael contacted me to try out for his band. He told me he was working with a drummer by the name of Geoff Bliss, whom I had heard of and decided to see what Michael had up his sleeve. When Michael, Geoff, and I got together the first time, there was an immediate chemistry. Michael showed us some of his original ideas, which were very interesting and unusual. At his home studio he laid out his long term vision and the fact that he wasn’t doing this to increase his partying or pick up chicks, but to make something that we could all be proud of, and I was sold. I realized that I was now a member of a 3 piece power trio in the likes of Jimi Hendrix and my favorite band King’s X. With the X7 debut release under our belt, I am excited about our upcoming live performances and new recordings.”
Drumming started for Geoff at a young age, as Geoff explains with a grin, “I was in second grade when my parents got me my first drum set, a Muppet drum set to be exact. Looking back I now realize how appropriate that was, Animal was my first true influence! Immediately I took an interest in the drums and have been playing ever since. I started drum lessons in third grade and continued with them throughout High School. I spent many days and countless hours after school practicing, while driving my parents mad at the same time. My first band was formed in high school. Jamming with a close friend Tim, we played a variety of songs from our favorite bands on a daily basis. My first experience playing out was not until after High School at local bars. Other than a combination of nerves and fear of forgetting my parts I had a blast. It was from that point on that I realized drumming was something I was good at and something I wanted to continue doing the rest of my life.”
Geoff continued playing in several local bands. After having some time off he realized he wanted to get back in to a band, that’s when he was introduced to Michael and Hans. “Upon our initial meeting and playing together, I knew immediately these guys were excellent musicians and definitely a group I wanted to be a part of. We were a great fit for one another based on a similar set of influences, our mindset, and our dedication to pushing ourselves to be better players. The fact that we have an open environment for creativity and communicate well with one another allows us to come up with our best work. Here’s to you, our fans! I hope you enjoy our labor of love.”