"Great Fans Make Great Bands"
Interview: MAX CREEK
By: Mark Burnell
MAX CREEK are a Northeast phenomenon that deserve to
be heard by a much larger audience. This year they
celebrate their 35th anniversary, an impressive feat
unmatched in Jamband circles. And even more amazingly,
their music is as vital and explorative as it has ever been.
Whenever the subject of great guitarists are discussed, Creek’s Scott Murawski fully deserves
to be mentioned in the same breath as Herring and Haynes. Scott took time out from
preparing this years celebrations to talk to us about Creek , past present and future.
Jammed Online: For those who don’t know the Max Creek story, could you start out by giving
us a brief history of the Creek ?
Scott: After 35 years, is there such a thing? In 1971, the band started without me by John
Rider, Bob Gosselin on drums, and Dave Reed on acoustic guitar. It was a country rock band.
Dave was my trumpet teacher actually, and got me into the band as a part time lead player. I
got thrown out after a bit because I got banned from their regular Saturday night gig for drinking,
but got asked back a short time later. During my break, Mark joined. Not long after that, Dave
left, so it was just a four piece. We were getting more and more electric at the time, and Dave
was very much an acoustic player, so when he left, we got VERY electric. This was around
1974. In 1976, Amy Fazzano joined the band, and in 1979, Rob Fried joined the band on
percussion/drums. Of course, throughout all of this, John Archer was our soundman.
In 1983, Amy left the band, and in 1985, Bob left. We replaced Bob with Greg DeGuglielmo. I
think in 1991, Greg left, and Greg Vasso took his place. (I currently play in Depth Quartet with
In 1996, Vasso left and Scott Allshouse replaced him, although Vasso still plays with us quite a
bit when Scott can’t make shows, and so does Greg Degugs.
In December of 2004, Rob Fried left the band.
Musically speaking, the band started as a country rock band, and through the 70’s got more
and more electric and “jammy”. We were doing quite a bit of Grateful Dead, even though we
didn’t sound like them at all, but had a fair share of originals intermixed in the sets.
Near the end of the 70’s and into the early 80’s, clone bands became all the rage. There were
bands like The Blushing Brides, doing a Stones show, and Physical Graffiti doing a Led
Zeppelin show, and we got lumped in with that. It was a very hard mold to break out of.
Through the mid 80s we kept adding original material, and eventually got to the point where we
were refusing to play Dead covers because of the stigma. Some people who were expecting to
come and hear the Dead got angry, but most were behind what we were doing, and behind the
Um… did you say brief?
Through the 80s, we toured the East extensively. We were playing five nights a week, and we
were never taking breaks. I guess that’s what led me to want to settle down somewhat, so in
1989, my daughter, Asia was born. Shortly thereafter, my twin sons Ian and Jordan were born,
and I realized that I was raising kids with no health insurance, no retirement, etc, so I got a job
programming medical software, and announced my resignation from the band. Eventually the
decision was made to keep playing, but only part time, and without the extensive road trips.
At the time, it was a breath of fresh air, although, I’m not sure my bandmates feel that way
about it. For me, the touring had become the grind, and I felt that I was sleepwalking through a
lot of the shows. I was sick of playing, sick of music, sick of touring. And I hated the fact that I
felt that way! So, when we went part time, the scene became my escape again.
So that’s kind of where we are today. We play quite a bit, but we all have children now, and the
band has come to be our escape together.
Jammed Online: Its Creek’s 35 year anniversary in 2006 - that’s some milestone for any
You started out as a Grateful Dead inspired band – how does it feel to have ‘outlasted’ the
band that inspired you ?
Scott: Actually, we started out as a country rock band. It wasn’t until a few years later that we
started becoming more electric. When we stumbled upon the Dead, we realized that we were
doing a lot of the same covers, e.g. Going Down the Road Feeling Bad, Not Fade Away, Me and
My Uncle, etc. We heard their versions, and were blown away by all the improvisation that was
going on. We started incorporating more Dead tunes into the repertoire, but we did them our
own way, and we were writing like crazy at the same time.
But, I learned so much from the Dead about music. Really, they were the vehicle for me to
understand what jazz was. Before that, I was clueless.
I have so much respect for them and what they did. They put it out there, straight from the heart,
for all to see, seemingly without regard for success or popularity. It was honest music, brutally
honest at times, expressive, sometimes dissonant, sometimes heavenly. They were truly
opening doors, and opening their minds, and bringing everybody with them. They awoke
something in me that would have remained dormant without them.
I would say that I miss them terribly, but truly I hold what they gave me in my heart forever.
Jammed Online: Creek released several albums from the late 70s thru the 80s, almost all
original tunes. All bar one remain out of print – any chance any of those will be reissued ? the
originals go for big bucks on Ebay……..
Scott: We’ve talked about re-mastering and re-releasing most of our albums on CD. The
only issues are time and money. We don’t want to release them in their current state, and time
seems to be something of a commodity for each of us, and that is what it will take to make that
Jammed Online: Will there ever be another Creek studio album ?
Scott: It is being discussed currently. I would say, probably, yes.
Jammed Online: During the late 70s and 80s, quite a few band members came and went,
though the core of you, Mark and John was always a constant. Then along came Greg and Rob
and it seemed like Creek finally had a “permanent” lineup……..
Scott: It was actually a pretty stable core of John, Mark, Bob and myself from ’72 up until Bob
Gosselin left in ’85. Since then, we’ve changed drummers a few times, with each bringing their
own flavor into the band.
I think it’s hard for someone to come into this band in the middle of it all. We’ve got years and
years of conditioning built in to what we’re doing, and I think players are looking to join a band
where they can shape the foundation of what exists, and our foundation is already pretty solid. I
think that it can be frustrating to a young musician.
Jammed Online: And around that time, there seems to be a definite ‘shift’ in the setlists,
where the original tunes finally outnumbered the covers…..was that a deliberate move ?
Scott: As mentioned before, we were trying to dispel the notion that we were a cover band.
We’ve always had original material, and even when we stopped playing the Dead tunes
altogether, we still had a reputation as a cover band. So, I would say, yes, it was intentional.
Jammed Online: How has the inspiration for your songwriting changed over the years ?
Does the process change as you get older and your personal circumstances change ? Do you
write for yourself or the band (or both) ?
Scott: I would say that I write for myself. Writing is therapy for me, and I have little control over
what comes out. But it seems that the less control there is, the better the result. There is
nothing like angst to spark creativity!
I used to say that songs are home movies for the heart. I record when I write, and going back
and listening to those original recordings immediately conjures the feelings of that time.
But, I’ve changed as a person; grown, hopefully. So when I sing some of the older tunes, my
perspective is different. Words that meant one thing then mean something totally different to
I’m reluctant to tell people what my songs are about for that reason. I believe that songs are
out there, and I’m just a conduit, and as such, the meaning you get from the song is just as
valid as the meaning I get from it.
Jammed Online: Take a song like “The Same Things” (a chilling tour de force of rejection ) -
where does something that twisted come from ?
Scott: Twisted? Is it? The song is actually about an old school chum of mine, and how we
went our separate ways. We are actually still really good friends, and even have migrated into
the same town, somewhat accidentally. But there you go. Different meanings for the same
Jammed Online: A lot of people rate you as one of the great “unsung” guitar players – I’ve
heard the phrase “the guitar player’s guitar player” used to describe you, and I think that’s a
good description. What’s your onstage setup ?
Scott: I use an Ibanez Musician guitar that I bought new in 1982. It’s all original hardware, but
I rewired the switches and tone controls to have more control over which coils were sounding.
That goes into a Line 6 Pod. The Pod is great because it gets some pretty organic sounds (for
not having tubes), and is totally editable. I plug it into my laptop and get into the deep
programming of it, and that allows me to really change my sound from time to time. Keeps me
from being bored, and from spending huge money on different amps to get different sounds.
The Pod plugs into a Yorkville powered 12 cabinet. It’s 250 watts, and is a full range PA
cabinet, so it reproduces exactly what the Pod creates.
Jammed Online: Creek can pull a decent crowd almost anywhere in New England, and can
attract 5,000 people to the annual Camp Creek festival , but has almost zero profile outside
the Northeast. Why do you think Creek never “broke out” nationally ? Its certainly not for a lack of
Scott: We actually do pretty well in Colorado, and in California. The first time we played in
San Francisco, we played to a packed Great American Music Hall. It was so amazing to have
drawn so many there, having never been there before, and playing in that room with its history
was a moment I’ll never forget.
We did a lot more traveling in the 80’s, and started to build a following in the south as well as
the west, but in 1991, we stopped the extensive touring. I think that that has hurt our popularity
Jammed Online: This is old news to Creek fans, but for the uninitiated, where does the Creek
– Phish connection come from?
Scott: I met Mike Gordon back in the 80s. He used to come see the band when we’d play in
Burlington. My earliest memory of him is when he approached me at a show, and handed me
a transcription of one of my solos, and a tape of the same solo. I was blown away that
someone would take the time to do that!
He’s been good friends with all of us ever since, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have been
involved in many musical collaborations with him, and still am.
Jammed Online: Will your role as guitarist in Mike Gordon’s touring band be reprised?
Scott: Only time will tell. I will tell you that we are working on a project currently that is not the
Mike band from 2003, but will be doing at least one live show.
Jammed Online: And how about the Creek – Jeff Pevar connection?
Scott: We’ve known Jeff since the mid to late 70s when we were playing a lot of the same
clubs and hanging in the same circles.
I used to have a great fear of sitting in with people, and I used to go see Jeff play in Hartford
with this band, Street Temperature, and he would ask me to sit in EVERY time! And every time,
I would refuse.
Of course, now we play together every chance we get. He, as well as Mike Gordon, both played
at my CD release party show when I released ‘Stormfield’. That was a treat!!
Jeff and I play these shows together we call “Guitarness” with Dave Livolsi on bass, and
usually John Peckman on drums, and they are just so much fun! Lots of improve. Jeff and I
have also talked about recording together at some point. I think that would be outrageously fun!
Jammed Online: You certainly have some well known “friends of Creek…..”
Scott: It is truly an honor to know such fine musicians, and such great people!
Jammed Online: Any plans to follow up 2000’s solo album “Stormfield” ?
Scott: I have no concept of doing that at this time. I’m still learning about music, and learning
about who I am. Still absorbing. When I figure it out, I may do something like that again.
Jammed Online: What makes Depth Quartet (Scott and Mark’s side project) so different from
Creek? Any plans to take that project into the studio ?
Scott: Actually, Mark left Depth Quartet about two years ago. It was great to have him there,
but it was tough on him because we rehearse near Boston, and we rehearse a lot!
So, now Depth Quartet is myself, Greg Vasso, Julee Avallone (from Dr. Juice), and Justin
It is hard to put the differences between the two bands into words. I know that I play differently
with each band, and it took a long while to settle into being able to do that. The bands have two
very distinct sounds, very different from each other, and they allow me to have two different
At Camp Creek last year, DQ did a set, and then Creek came up and played, and I could feel
the shift in my psyche when the transition occurred.
DQ takes it out, way out. We include the listeners a lot in the show. They suggest themes for
us to jam on. We try to include an experiment in each set.
I guess, DQ is constantly searching for uncharted waters, while Creek surfs on the energy of it
I love both SO much, and depend on each for their aspect of my expression.
And yes, Depth Quartet is mixing our first CD currently. It should be out near springtime!
Jammed Online: Whatever happened with Rob Fried? His exit from the band still remains
shrouded in mystery almost a year later with no public comments from either side…
Scott: A band is made up of people. It is a collection of relationships, and relationships
change. I love and care about Rob and always will, but these are deeply personal ties that we
all have between us, and I don’t wish to cheapen that by discussing publicly what should stay
Jammed Online: So with the 35th Anniversary looming, any big plans to commemorate
the milestone ?
Scott: Oh yes. We will be celebrating HEARTILY at Eastover Resort in Lennox, MA. This is
one of the best places to hang for a weekend of music, EVER! I am looking forward to it!
Jammed Online: And this years Camp Creek – the longest running music fest in the country,
if I’m not mistaken - will have plenty of reasons to be celebratory……..
Scott: Camp Creek is like no other festival. It’s roomy and nice, and the vibe is like family.
The bands have time on stage to stretch out, and there is a lot of jamming, on and off the
stage. Camp Creek is a celebration of life itself.
Jammed Online: Do you ever see a time when Creek will call it a day ?
Scott: Richard Bach said, “Rarely do members of the same family grow up under the same
roof.” I am fortunate to have Max Creek as my family, and as such, we will always be together
in one form or another. And with all the different people I’ve played with, there is NOTHING like
playing with Creek. So, I firmly believe we will continue to play until it is no longer possible.
Jammed Online: If ever Creek did hang it up, could you see Camp Creek continuing ? In an
ever changing festival scene, its seems to be the only reliable festival in the NorthEast…..
Scott: As long as there is Max Creek, there will be Camp Creek. I don’t know if it works the
other way around.
Jammed Online: Thank you so much for your time.
Scott: You’re welcome.
Back to Main
Max Creek continue to play regularly in the Northeast. Their 35th anniversary shows are
scheduled for Eastover, Mass, April 21st and 22nd. Camp Creek will happen July 28th thru
July 30th. To find out more, visit www.maxcreek.com .
There are many fine Creek shows available for free download on the LMA here : http://www.
archive.org/audio/etreelistingbrowse.php?collection=etree&cat=Max%20Creek . Depth
Quartet shows can be found here : http://www.archive.org/audio/etreelisting-browse.php?