Masters of the Big House

The Masters of the Big House are a fairly new band, made up of Joe Karmazyn on guitar, Marcus Clonts on drums and Brett Bullock on bass.

The Masters of the Big House are a fairly new band currently on the Boone scene. Made up of Joe Karmazyn on guitar, Marcus Clonts on drums and Brett Bullock on bass, the group has its origins in Fayetteville. Yet, as with many bands that appear and disappear at times here in the High Country, a combination of the beautiful and cool mountains and Appalachian State University are what bring the new group to town.

The Masters of the Big House band is a throwback to the power trio rock-and-roll era of the 1960s and 1970s, even though everyone in the group is just 23 years of age. On Saturday, July 6, the trio will be performing a show at Ransom in Boone to highlight the release of the band’s new album, “Danger, Do Not Enter.”

More information on the concert can be found on our Nightlife Listings, page 11.

“Brett and I were playing at an open mic night in Fayetteville at a place now called the White Rabbit back when it was called Big Harry’s Tavern,” said Joe Karmazyn. “There was a poster on the wall in the barroom that night that said ‘Master of the Bighouse’ and it had a picture of Don Knotts on it as his character Barney Fife from the Andy Griffith Show. Brett saw that and said, ‘We have to write some name down on the open mic list, so let’s just use Masters of the Big House.’ We just thought it was a cool name so we kept it.”

Even in the digital age, when young musicians get hip to the classic rock of 40 and 50 years ago, it is usually due to the influence of a parent, an aunt or uncle or an older sibling.

“We love classic rock groups like the Allman Brothers Band as they have been a big influence on us,” said Karmazyn. “When I was growing up, my dad turned me on to various bands from that era. I basically grew up listening to the music of the same time period that a lot of people did that are parents nowadays. I listened to Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones. As far as us being a power trio, some of our biggest influences are older power trios like Rush, Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. It is a style of music that I have always been drawn to, as the music just jams. When it is just three people, you really have to rely on your instincts to feel the music. Arranging and writing for a three-piece band can be pretty challenging.”

Karmazyn is more than just a rock-and-roll guitarist, however, as he followed his bandmate to Appalachian State University and decided to enroll into the music program here in Boone.

“Brett graduated high school the same year I did, in 2014, and he decided to go to ASU and he would tell me how much he liked it here in the High Country,” said Karmazyn. “He switched majors from architecture to park management, and I always wanted to study music. So, I came here and joined the Recording and Production program in the Music Industry Studies department. It is really fun as I really love writing and recording my own music.”

Andy Page is considered one of the best musicians in the High Country. A guitarist of great talent, depth and diversity, he will perform often in the Boone area playing everything from Gypsy jazz to jazz fusion to rock and more. Many, however, may not realize that Page also teaches and lectures in the music department of ASU, helping the younger generation to flourish at their musical craft.

“Andy Page is my guitar teacher,” said Karmazyn. “I can’t believe some of the things he does on the guitar. I try to emulate what he does and make it my own, but the level of his playing is ridiculous. His level of playing is what I strive for. Mr. Page is a full-out jazz guitar instructor, so he will give me new music to sight read and practice, mostly chord changes and soloing. He really focuses on reading music as that is a weakness of a lot of guitarists. At first, I was self-taught, but I eventually learned how to read music. That is challenging when you have been playing music by ear for years. It’s like learning a different language. He encouraged me to get into the jazz classes at App State. Now, I am a part of the Jazz Ensemble 1 and Jazz Ensemble 2 bands, and I play with jazz combos and take Jazz Theory classes as well. Mr. Page is definitely one of the best guitar teachers that I have ever had going forward.”

The new album “Danger, Do Not Enter” by the Masters of the Big House is a group effort based on the large amount of time this trio has collaborated with each other.

“I have begun to incorporate crazy chromatic melodies and other stuff I have learned at ASU into my rock music and I’m able to control the music a lot better now,” said Karmazyn. “Our new EP features five original songs written by us. We all try to put an equal contribution into the songs. I have introduced several ideas to the band and they have molded it and made it their own and that is how we write the songs collectively.”

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