Meet the Band - Portrait

TalentPlus is excited to announce our partnership with PORTRAIT—The Music of Kansas. 

Eight of St. Louis’ leading musical icons joined forces to pay homage to the eight-time gold, three-time multi-platinum album producing, rock legends: KANSAS.  PORTRAIT is a creative collaboration of: power vocalist Anthony Ingracia, guitar aficionados James Comparato and Mike Baue, bass guitar wonder Mike Gregory, percussionist extraordinaire Dave Batchelor, keys masters Harold Draper and Damon Atkinson and classical violinist Mark Hochberg. 

We had the opportunity to get behind the scenes with these gents and here’s what we found out….

How did you all come together to form Portrait?

James Comparato: I was looking for something challenging and rewarding to base a project around, and having grown up with KANSAS always at the top of my band influences - and knowing some musicians that could pull it off - Portrait was born.
Mike Baue: James and I were talking for a couple years about putting together a project. He called with the idea and we started putting together the band that day.

How would you describe your sound and take on the Kansas classics?

James Comparato: We learn it correctly - we keep the crucial pieces where they need to be. We improvise where it’s appropriate. People love this music - we want to deliver it with the grace and energy Kansas did/does - and still be able to add a little personality of our own where it fits.
Mike Baue: We want to honor the legacy in not only the notes, but also the tone and dynamic. We have a group of musicians that keeps each other honest.

Why do you play music? 

James Comparato: Why would anyone do anything else? Lol. Because we HAVE to. It’s in our DNA.
Mike Baue: It’s one of the most beautiful things. It’s honest and so much fun!
Harold Draper: Because I love to.
Damon Atkinson: Why not?
Dave Batchelor: It is the universal language that can bring people together like nothing else.
Anthony Ingracia : It makes me feel good
Mark Hochberg: I was born to.
Mike Gregory: The Chicks

When did you start playing music professionally?

James Comparato: Immediately after high school. (And somewhat before). So the late 80’s.
Mike Baue: About age 13.
Harold Draper: 10
Damon Atkinson: Mid 80’s
Dave Batchelor: Had my first regular paying gig at 12 years old.
Anthony Ingracia: 16, I was is in a country group called Montana
Mark Hochberg: 10
Mike Gregory: When me and JC (that’s James Comparato, not Jesus Christ) started playing for the big bucks in kids basements, and the occasional bar with 3 or 4 people in it, and maybe a couple more teeth than 3 or 4.

What influences your music the most?

James Comparato: Life, family, beauty, pain - etc.
Mike Baue: Faith, Hope, and Love.
Harold Draper: Love and loss
Damon Atkinson: Fingering
Dave Batchelor: Emotion of all kinds
Anthony Ingracia: The way people respond to it
Mark Hochberg: The trials of life.
Mike Gregory: Challenges, hearing something you dig and learning it... oh, and the chicks

What drew you to the music of Kansas?

James Comparato: EVERYTHING. The beauty of their lyrics, the complexities of their arrangements, their ability to write simple anthemic pieces as well as orchestral wonders…
Mike Baue: It started with the “sound”; brilliant and beautiful.
Harold Draper: The mix of rock, fusion and orchestration.
Damon Atkinson: The songwriting, the orchestration, the drama in the deep cuts, Steve Walsh’s voice.
Dave Batchelor: The odd time signatures, excellent musicianship and meaningful lyrics.
Anthony Ingracia: Walsh’s voice and keyboards
Mark Hochberg: It was one of the first rock bands to include violin.
Mike Gregory: I can remember driving around with JC (not Jesus) in the high school years, listening to Kansas, playing some of their tunes as well. Steve Walsh was the Biptoshiznitobam.

Do you have any words to live by or life motto for the band?

James Comparato: Pay attention to the ‘little’ notes. In music and in life. Don’t miss the subtleties.
Mike Baue: Do all things for the Glory of God. Bring Joy to others. Music does that.
Harold Draper: Compassion and humility.
Damon Atkinson: Practice makes permanent.
Dave Batchelor: Be in the moment and give it all you’ve got.
Anthony Ingracia: Get it right
Mark Hochberg: Work hard regardless of who recognizes your efforts.
Mike Gregory: How much more could we rock? None more!

If you could play on any stage, where would it be?

James Comparato: I’ve been lucky enough to play a few great ones - but in general - anywhere that would have us and has rabid or casual Portrait/Kansas fans awaiting.
Mike Baue: The one I’m on.
Harold Draper: What Mike said.
Damon Atkinson: Anyplace warm
Dave Batchelor: Carnegie Hall
Anthony Ingracia: The Pageant STL.
Mark Hochberg: Whatever stage I'm on.
Mike Gregory: I hear The Diamond Cabaret is quite nice.

If you had to describe the band in one word it would be….

James Comparato: Wow.
Mike Baue: Driven
Harold Draper: Dynamic
Damon Atkinson: Intense.
Dave Batchelor: Together
Anthony Ingracia.: Damn!
Mark Hochberg: Power
Mike Gregory: Doozy

When you’re not playing music you...

James Comparato: Think about playing music.
Mike Baue: Change guitar strings.
Harold Draper: Restore antique musical machines.
Damon Atkinson: Watch a movie.
Dave Batchelor: Ride my Harley
Anthony Ingracia: Love my family
Mark Hochberg: Paint
Mike Gregory: Adventure

Does anyone in the band have an unusual talent?

James Comparato: Yes. No more details should be shared. Lol!
Mike Baue: Ask Harold
Harold Draper: Maybe?
Damon Atkinson: I don’t know.
Dave Batchelor: I play radio very well
Anthony Ingracia: I can ride a unicycle.
Mark Hochberg: Ha!
Mike Gregory: Yes

What is the first record you bought? Where did you listen to it

James Comparato: Ozzy Osbourne - Blizzard of Ozz. At a friends house. But my ma ‘n pa bought or lent me a bunch of good stuff prior to me spending my own dough ;)
Mike Baue: Supertramp - Breakfast in America. My back porch.
Harold Draper: Have Organ, WIll Travel - George Wright. Basement.
Damon Atkinson: Not sure, probably something by Tommy James or the Ohio Express in the living room. I’m thinking Crystal Blue Persuasion.
Dave Batchelor: The Beatles-Hey Jude, on my sister’s record player.
Anthony Ingracia: Bachman Turner overdrive back porch
Mark Hochberg: Men At Work. Cargo.
Mike Gregory: Rush 2112, on the record player in the living room, immediately before being accused of worshiping the devil by my mother. Good times.

What is your favorite moment of performing for a live audience with Portrait?

James Comparato: It’s hard to pick. But watching Tony work a crowd while delivering these vocal melodies is a highlight for sure.
Mike Baue: So hard to pick a moment, but when Harold nails the B3 parts, that makes me happy!
Harold Draper: It’s all a favorite moment for me!
Damon Atkinson: When the audience cheers at an unexpected song choice.
Dave Batchelor: When people sing the lyrics to Dust in the Wind
Anthony Ingracia: That moment I know I won the audience over.
Mark Hochberg: Solos
Mike Gregory: When I don’t flub that really, really difficult bass line. You know the one.

Was there anyone that you are especially proud to say that you’ve shared the stage with? (As a group or individually)

James Comparato: Just one? Ha. A bunch: Danny Liston, Pat Liston, REO Speedwagon, Night Ranger, The Guess Who, on and on… I’m also particularly proud to share the stage with the gents in Portrait
Mike Baue: I love making music with my Portrait brothers. I passed a guitar back and forth with Zakk Wylde. Big fun.
Harold Draper: I’m proud of anyone I share the stage with.
Damon Atkinson: Just Harold.
Dave Batchelor: Rod Morgenstein, drummer for Winger and the Dixie Dregs.
Anthony Ingracia: Like Harold, everyone!
Mark Hochberg: Anyone I'm working with
Mike Gregory: Digglers Lounge -The worlds only pornographic band, The Guess Who was pretty cool, oh, and Fishbone, they most definitely got da groove.

Have you received any kind of honors? (As a group or individually)

James Comparato: Rooms full. We are WORLD FAMOUS! (well...)
Mike Baue: James gave me a thumbs up once. Good times, LOL!
Harold Draper: A discharge - that was honorable.
Damon Atkinson:  I got one of those too, Air Force.  Some talent shows in grade school.
Anthony Ingracia: People show up that's an honor.
Mark Hochberg: yes!
Mike Gregory: Most ridiculous Bass player.

Do you have a favorite performance that you’ve done in the past or have been a part of? (As a group or individually)

James Comparato: Sharing the bill with REO Speedwagon at a sold-out Peabody in St. Louis. That was a treat.
Mike Baue: No favorites for me. I absolutely love playing music wherever and whenever I’m able.
Harold Draper: Playing the Wurlitzer at the Fox Theater with Stan Kann.
Damon Atkinson: No, I just like playing.
Dave Batchelor: Performing at the White House for President Reagan.
Anthony Ingracia: To a packed house at the Family Arena…..!
Mark Hochberg: Solo recital at The Sheldon
Mike Gregory: I have to agree with Mark, The Sheldon is very nice to play.

Each one of you plays in multiple groups among the St. Louis area, how would you say that impacts you as a group? Do you think that it makes you stronger as a band?

James Comparato: Much stronger. We all know how to interact with other musicians, how to lead and step back when/where appropriate. And it keeps our skills and ears sharp!
Mike Baue: One of the greatest benefits of this, and how it manifests in this band, is that we all know how to play and listen. Being present in the band is so much more than playing your instrument. These guys listen and let the music breathe.
Harold Draper: A group is many working as one, and we’ve all been doing it long enough to know how to listen.
Damon Atkinson: It certainly keeps our fingers busy, that must be helpful.
Dave Batchelor: Yes. Everyone brings experience and influences from other projects which blend together to make us better.
Anthony Ingracia: Yes it brings a bigger audience.
Mark Hochberg: Multiple influences.
Mike Gregory: The more time you put in, the more you get out. So play play play every day.

You are all seasoned musicians with impressive resumes in each of your instruments of choice, any advice to musicians just starting out?

James Comparato: Do it for NO OTHER REASON than you LOVE IT. The rest of the ‘success’ - whatever that means to you - will follow.
Mike Baue: What James said. You have to love playing for the sake of the song; the music.
Harold Draper: Do it for the love of doing it - nothing else.
Damon Atkinson: Practice.
Dave Batchelor: Don’t gloss over the fundamentals like scales or rudiments.
Anthony Ingracia: What Dave and Damon said…
Mark Hochberg: work through the pain.
Mike Gregory: Don’t give up, it all starts to sound good after a little time in the practice room.

Anything else we should know about the band? Or fun facts?

James Comparato: We all love sushi and balloons.
Mike Baue: Dave wears sunglasses inside… At night.
Damon Atkinson:  I’m abnormally fond of bacon.
Dave Batchelor: Mike Gregory and Jim have known each other since high school and have played in multiple bands together over the years.
Anthony Ingracia: These guys are all top-notch musicians or we wouldn't be able to do it.
Mark Hochberg: A powerhouse of personnel.
Mike Gregory: Great art is about conflict and pain and guilt and longing and love disguised as sex, and sex disguised as love...

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