Local Limelight: Getting to Know Wagner’s Agenda

Keyboard player, Gino Cappuccetti.

It is nearly impossible to talk about the music community in Watertown, NY without discussing the fun-loving guys of Wagner’s Agenda. The band started in 2010 and has struggled with various line ups over the years. In 2014, playing more than 160 shows a year, Andrew Willis, Mark Getman Jr, Gino Cappuccetti, and Bobby Perkins, have formed the perfect combination of talent. This foursome is not only incredibly talented but has proved to be a great asset to the community. From performing several benefits every year, including the annual Keith Brabant Music Scholarship Festival, to sparking a change in the music scene by hosting local jam nights and sharing the stage at their own gigs; Wagner’s Agenda are the kind of guys’ fans love to root for. While performing in a wide range of genres the band shows the versatility in their talent. It truly seems there is nothing these guys can not do. They have won the hearts of followers with their talent and showmanship. One is almost guaranteed a good time with Wagner’s Agenda. In the words of keyboard player Gino Cappuccetti, “Having fun is the name of the music game.” As I sat down to talk with them, I learned the fun doesn’t stop on stage.

Katrina Johnson: How did you guys get started?

Guitarist, Bobby Perkins.

Gino Cappuccetti: We started after we lost a buddy, Keith Barabant. I had been playing in a cover band with him. When we lost him my son was almost a year old, we were doing things that didn’t make us money, still playing a lot but it was like we need this cover band. Bobby and I were playing Queen August at the time with two other gentlemen and we decided none of us can sing, so we hired Ian Wagner. After he left I called Mark and Anthony Ubriaco and I said any interest? That was in 2011 and that lineup stayed for a while. So about a year ago when Anthony left we hired Andrew

Mark Getman:  But that’s it,this is final.

KJ: So you guys have found the right line up?

Gino Cappuccetti: Bands are a funny thing. Before I always felt like if I did something wrong I’m going to lose this. I never felt like anything was solidified, with these guys I do. We are all friends, there is communication. I can’t find this anywhere else in Northern NY. I have played with a lot of people and this just feels right. It’s not even about the playing, I can sit and talk to them, but when we play its extra special.

BobbyPerkins: We are at that point now where we can listen to any song, any style and say I think we can do that somehow. We are just that band that goes for what other bands think is impossible

Gino Cappuccetti: At this point it isn’t just about the music. We are a live band going out, we have to entertain our age group as well as older generations. The talking, the jokes, the antics, that’s a huge draw for us. You work  all week, you want to get away from it, you come see us. We bring that element.

KJ: Were you guys friends before or did you meet through the music community?

Andrew Willis: Gino and Mark knew each other growing up. They jammed together. Gino and I jammed once when we were kids. Like 15 or 16. We didn’t really hit it off. We weren’t necessarily the best of friends.

Gino Cappuccetti: He was talented; it had nothing to do with that. I was just young.

Andrew Willis: I met Mark through my fiance. She knew they had this band so I went to see them. It was just this energy that I wasn’t finding in any other band. A year later with some pushing and nudging I was in the band.

Gino Cappuccetti: Bobby and Mark really made the best move. I was apprehensive at first. He was busy. I was like how is this guy going to join the busiest band up here. But it has worked. Bobby started Wagner’s with me with the lineup from Queen August.

BobbyPerkins: We actually met at a music store. My brother and I were talking about music theory and Gino chimes in, talking our ears off. So he invites us out to see him play, it was the first time I had ever seen him play keyboard, and I thought he was really good. I moved away to Florida and when I came back 2 years later I ran into him. He had me come out and jam again. We started talking and he told me about Queen August.

KJ: I have noticed you guys play in a lot of different genres. Do you have a favorite?

Gino Cappuccetti: I don’t think we all agree on one. I like progressive and rock and fusion. But that’s my roots. Bobby’s is metal. I like everything.

Mark Getman: I appreciate progressive stuff,I’m not as crazy about that. I’m just hard rock. Rock and roll.

Andrew Willis: Maybe it’s just because I’m a bass player,but I like songs that I have to be present for, I have to pay attention for them. The thing I really like is the nights when we are firing on all cylinders. Even if it’s cheesy music, when we are on one of those streaks where man we just can’t go wrong.

Gino Cappuccetti: As long as we are getting that energy back from them, it really doesn’t matter what we are doing. You can bring an old song,do it a little differently and people are like aha! Mark Getman: Not much is off limits for us

KJ: Do you guys want to take this further or are you happy with where you are now?

Mark Getman: We do. We are trying to figure out what that is and how it is going to work. For me personally, I’m really curious. I want to get out there and test the waters and see how we stack up to all the other bands in the scene.

Gino Cappuccetti: We can do this anywhere. It’s not just us going ‘oh yea good job Bobby’. People tell us, you guys have it. I don’t think we are going to Hollywood but I know we can take this farther. This is the pivotal point because I can book everything for next year in the next month.

Bobby Perkins: Otherwise you get too used to what you are doing.

Andrew Willis: Even for the sake of keeping things fresh. Playing in a band that played the same set list in the same order night after night that started to get crappy. We had the songs down but we basically turned into a jukebox. So even if we aren’t growing we are always going to be changing and adding things.

Gino Cappuccetti: Next year we are definitely going to take steps to branching out. There is talent everywhere. I just think it’s this combination. There are better bass players, singers, keyboard players, hell they are up here. But you can get four of the best together and they can’t work together. We have something unique. But those are the risks you take in the music business, all that talent, it’s still a lottery ticket. You have to make sacrifices.

Bass player, Andrew Willis, on drums.

KJ: One of my favorite things about you guys is almost every show I have been to Mark and Andrew switch places at some point. Was that always the plan?

Drummer, Mark Getman.

Mark Getman: That started when Anthony and Josh were in the band. I like to doodle on the bass. I’m just a frustrated musician, can’t really focus on one thing. I just thought it would be an interesting gimmick.

Andrew Willis: It makes sense with us at least because we are both rhythm section.

Mark Getman: There are just some songs the rhythm section is just so simple. It gives me something to look forward to in the night. It gives me a chance to get up interact with the crowd. Its more of a challenge because it’s not my primary instrument. I think people like that novelty

KJ: Where did you each learn to play?

Bobby Perkins: A lot of us started in middle school. I picked up the trombone, and then the guitar about 3 years later, so music has always been part of my education.

Gino Cappuccetti: Mark and I had a really great band teacher in school. She encouraged me to play keyboard. She allowed us to stay after school with no supervision at 16, locked us in the band room and let us practice until 8 or 9 at night. Dawn Burnette was integral in our lives.

Andrew Willis: My uncle was a bass player, he taught me a couple of things. I was in 6th grade, I saw a kid playing bass in the jazz band and I told my mom I’m going to be in that band. So in 7th grade I joined. It got me in contact with a couple other guitar players. They wanted me to join their cover band. I thought it was cool because they were in high school and I was 11. I told my mom and she was like no. Eventually it worked out, she would come to all the bars so I could play, she had to I was 11. That was almost 20 years ago. When we were kids my mom had this learn piano Suzuki where you would listen to tapes, you have the music in front of you but you don’t know what you are looking at you just know how it sounds, I think that helped with being able to pick things up. We can all do that, I think that’s part of the magic. If someone comes up and pitches a song, ‘hey play this Dave song’, and we are like’ sure we’ve heard it once or twice’. It may not be perfect but it will be close.People who have gone to school and been trained properly I’m sure just look at us like a band of hooligans. But it’s the intangible things. Even if you have a problem with our technique, we can still put on a show and entertain you.

KJ: Who are your idols?

Bobby Perkins: As far as guitar is concerned, my Uncle Don. He heard I had an interest in the guitar and had me come down to the studio when he was playing. I just absolutely loved it. So I got a guitar, started learning the basics from him. I have too many influences to name, the list is so long.. Mark is into Rush so he exposed me to more of that kind of music and I started to gravitate towards that. Gino has opened a million doors for me coming from his background.

Gino Cappuccetti: I always liked music, I played video games as a kid, I always like the tunes in them. Id record them on a cassette tape so I could listen to that. I knew songs on the radio but it didn’t touch me. When you are a kid that’s what gets you. After that it was the band Genesis. I didn’t know a keyboard could make all these other sounds. I thought every weird sound on there was an instrument, it’s the keyboard. So I told my mom, I want a keyboard. From there it took off. Rick Wade and Keith Emerson are keyboard guys that influenced me. Steve Vibe was huge in my life, he was a guitar player. When I saw him, I was like I want to be able to command an audience like that. He’s just got something, that gimmick, that show, that presence, you need that. I don’t care if you are playing classical, if that’s the way you get rid of that energy there’s no rules.

Mark Getman: My mother always had rock music on so I grew up singing along to anything that would be considered classic rock now. The thing that made me want to play drums was Nirvana. They left their mark. The thing that I was drawn to was watching the “Smells like Teen Spirit’ video, there is a bunch of slow motion shots of Dave Grohl playing the drums, symbols going everywhere, hair is flying, and I was like man I want to play the drums. As I got older I moved on from Nirvana, and then I followed Dave Grohl into Foo Fighters, where he became front man. Dave Grohl is definitely a part of how I approach performing in front of people. He just gives his all, gets people pumped up, whether he’s playing on the drums or being front man. Once I got into college I got into this Rush obsession. I discovered a DVD of theirs and I was just blown away by their musicianship. They are awesome rock musicians. Geddy Lee is a big influence on how I like to sing, I have a higher voice I kind of emulate that in a lot of ways. I’m influenced by a lot of people. I like to think most anybody has something to offer.

Andrew Willis: My mom and dad played together. My dad wanted to be Jon Lennon, he had the white suit. My mom was awesome on the piano. So the only thing left in the house to form a trio was this bass. So I’m sitting their playing notes that don’t make ne sense, and my mom tells my dad just show him something. So he did. He started getting me into Jethro Tull and Frank Zappa. Tull in some of their early recordings the bass line pushed a lot of those songs. That’s where I started digging into bands that had bass players. Thin Lizzy, Red hot Chili peppers;Flea is a nutcase, if I could just tap into half of his energy. I started idolizing Jaco Pastrius for a while, a lot of these jazz greats who aren’t necessarily playing bass as much as they are playing another lead instrument. I cant play bass like a guitar.

Gino Cappuccetti: You could, I’ve seen you do solos. Most of the bass players up here are scared of him but he won’t tell u that, he doesn’t even think that. He is very accomplished. The guy is singing and playing like it’s no big deal, its hard to do.

Andrew Willis: I’ve never been comfortable playing in front of people. I feel like I’m doing something very personal.  Its kind of selfish thing, I’m playing for me all the time, I’m like oh I like what I just did.

Mark Getman: I think Andrew being the way he is a nice counterpart to Gino and I.

Gino Cappuccetti: Andrew and I are probably the most different. Mark and I are alike when it comes to the business aspect. But when it comes to being an authoritarian, its Andrew.

KJ: So he is kind of like the dad of the group?

Gino Cappuccetti: More like the grandpa. We can get a little crazy, sometimes Andrew is like…a little too much. And he keeps things organized; he likes things to be in place. Mark doesn’t care. Bobby is right in the middle of it all. There are different personalities but the sense of humor is universal. We make each other laugh. But when Andrew first came along he didn’t assert himself. And it upset me. He kept saying it’s your band. It’s not. I just talk more than everybody else and make more phone calls. I can’t do this by myself.

Mark Getman: Andrew is such a kind, giving soul, so when he came in he was worried about stepping on peoples toes. But I’d like to think of us as a team. Everyone has their rolls, some more than others.

KJ: What do you want people to know about Wagner’s Agenda?

Gino Cappuccetti: One thing that has been said about us is that we have more guests than anybody in this area. Every night we have at least 5 people come in from other bands playing with us. We are very good at sharing the stage. We like to give back. We try to help our community because they pay our bills. We are very much into our music scene, it’s not like a competition.

Andrew Willis: We are trying to build things up instead of tearing them down.

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