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Free-for-All

"We've had a really high turnover rate," Cooper admits. "A lot of the people on the album weren't just guest musicians we called into the studio to do something; they were people who actually joined the band for a month or two and then just stopped playing."

It's worth noting that ex-Sprawl members Dave Dove and Matt Kelly (who plays Hammond organ) also show up in several instances on The Rising Tide Sinks All. Fact is, even after Sprawl's breakup four years ago, Cooper's ties to his former band mates remain solid, if less intensive. And his recollection of Sprawl's heady heyday is still as misty-eyed as ever.

"We just kept playing, man; we toured the country seven, eight times; we never had any record deal; we never had any booking agent," Cooper remembers. "But we just kept doing it, and the high school kids really got into it."

But Cooper is also aware that Sprawl's remarkable eight-year run (which included six releases and numerous sold-out shows at Fitzgerald's and the now-defunct Axiom) will always be something out of the ordinary -- even freakish. And besides, Cooper has no interest in recycling old formulas.

"Sprawl was a band that played funk, ska and rock, and Free Radicals is a band that plays funk, ska and jazz," Cooper says. "[Necessary Tension] introduced me to a lot of jazz players and to the idea of doing instrumentals in a full-time kind of way. The free jams are really crucial [to Free Radicals]. We also have the freestyle rap, and we try to play as many free shows as we can. So we got this little free theme going on.

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