Better dread than alive: Pat Hickey pursues reggae dream
Ketchum musician hooks up with Nigerian band
By JODY ZARKOS
Express Staff Writer
Pat Hickey playing his custom Klein guitar at a recent gig at Whiskey
Jacques (Photo courtesy Pat Hickey)
Pat Hickey is seeking fluency in the universal language of music.
The 30-year old Ketchum musician is about to embrace his dream of
playing music professionally. His vision includes supporting himself without pounding
nails at the same time.
But in his wildest visions he never saw himself as the lead guitarist
for a reggae band.
The Nigerian act Victor Essiet and the Mandators was appearing at
Whiskey Jacques in November. Hickey checked them out because he had seen them in July and
enjoyed their lilting music, reminiscent of Bob Marleys joyful tunes.
"I saw that they had a different keyboardist from July and no
guitar player," Hickey recounted. "I was kind of kidding around and said I would
come sit in with them. Victor was joking too. He said to bring my guitar, but if they
liked me I might have to join the band."
The following night, Hickey sat in on the last three songs, and was
impressive enough to elicit a bona fide invitation to join the group.
"I took a few solos, and not to sound like I have a big head, but
they did turn their heads a little bit. Thats what the guys in the crowd were
saying," Hickey said. "Victor told me not to go anywhere and then he asked me to
Essiet currently lives in Los Angeles, Calif. where he is auditioning
band members for his new group, a world-type band in the mold of Carlos Santana,
consisting of musicians of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
"He wants to unite the world through music. He thinks differences,
political and otherwise can be overcome through music. Music is unity, I believe that,
too" Hickey said. "Hes very spiritual, yet he put himself where he
Essiet and The Mandators currently have a disc out titled
"Crucial" on the Mystic Records label.
While reggae from different parts of the world may sound similar to the
layman, Hickey says African differs from the more familiar Jamaican.
"The normal reggae beat lands on one and three. African reggae can
land on the one and three or two and four, but its a delay. How you accent the beat
is different," he explained. "I am really anxious to learn about their culture
and their approach to music and African rhythms."
A Wonder Bread world away in suburban Connecticut, Hickey, at age 13,
traded his trumpet in for a guitar.
"I wanted to be a rock star and my friend, Jon Zarkos, got his
first guitar," Hockey said.
"I took some lessons and then started studying music in high
school and college."
Hickey studied engineering at the University of Vermont .
"I was thinking dollar signs. I didnt want to be a starving
musician living at moms house," he explained.
In 1989, he came out West to visit his sister Brigid, who lived in
Ketchum. As with many in the area, the lure of the Valley lassoed him and he took up
In the fine ski bum tradition, Hickey worked for paint and construction
companies and as a waiter, all the while noodling around on his guitar.
Two years later he returned to school at the University Of Utah. Still
trying to come up with an alternative to the starving musician scenario, he studied
He also hooked up with some other university students and formed
"It was my first decent break," Hickey said.
Grapefruit Bread played at Creekside in April of 1993. There,
celebrating her 23rd birthday was Ketchum native Sara Hjort. It was love at
first sight, faster than Hickey could unplug his amp.
The pair married in 1995 and took off for Los Angeles to pursue her aim
to be an actress and his of being a full-time musician.
It didnt pan out for Hickey, who moved back to Salt Lake to form
the band Girth. The band released an eponymous CD and experienced a lot of local success,
but could not take the next big step to further their careers.
"We didnt have enough money in our pockets to move and I
didnt want to live in Salt Lake anymore," Hickey said.
Sara and Pat returned to Ketchum and their familiar lifestyles in 1998.
Hickey works in the construction trade and as a ski tuner at The
Waxroom, but his stock as a talented local musician has grown. He currently plays with two
local bands, The Bobos and Off The Cuff. His have guitar will travel attitude has also
made for some memorable nights sitting in with visiting bands.
Sara is employed at Michels Christiania and manages The Ore
Life as the young couple knows it will change radically next month when
they pack up to move back to L.A.
"Im a little nervous about moving back to L.A. and going on
the road with people I dont know. But its my first professional offer and I
have to hop on the opportunity. Its pretty cool they decided to pick the little guy
from Sun Valley, Idaho," he said.
Essiet and the Mandators will hit the road for three months beginning
in March, touring the United States and Canada. Hickey said the band will consist of five
to 12 people, depending on the size of the venue.
"Well add horns and background singers for bigger
festivals," he said. "Normally, the band will consist of Victor, me, a bass,
keyboards and drums."
At some of the bigger reggae festivals, Hickey said the band will play
on the same bill as Burning Spear, Third World and the Melody Makers.
"I never thought Id be playing in a reggae band, but I like
the idea of world music," Hickey said. "Its going to be a major learning
After a break in May, the band returns to the road in June. Pat and
Sara have talked about the possible strain of their marriage, but have come to the
conclusion they both need to pursue their passions.
"Sara is the love of my life. Music is a strong second. But I
think it will be good for both of us," Hickey said. "We both push one another to
achieve our goals."
With all his time on the road, Hickey hopes to write some songs with
his new bandmate Essiet.
"Hopefully, well collaborate a little," Hickey said.
"But hes the Man. Im just a Mandator."