Detroit’s Guitar Hero – Kyle Mikolajczyk Reigns as Musical Mastermind Behind Motor City Rock Bands

Kyle Mikolajczyk, left, performs with Michael Kalb of Swizzille Trip.

For Kyle Mikolajczyk, “Psychedelic Friday” will serve as the ultimate end-of-summer sonic head trip.

The Detroit bassist and vocalist will share that groovy musical ride tonight at The Blind Pig with his Swizzille Trip bandmates as well as Detroit Trouble, The Kenny Hill Group, Frame 42 and XLR8.

“When I was first offered the opportunity to be in Swizzille Trip, I thought, ‘Psych rock and jam rock, that must be like rock and roll, right?’ The deeper I dig into it I realize the structure, philosophy and approach are totally different,” said Mikolajczyk, who also plays guitar and bass for several Detroit bands.

“Right now, I’m still studying it very deeply and getting into The Grateful Dead, Phish and Dead & Company. It’s very much a learning process I’m going through with Swizzille Trip. The entire project is very open-minded. We just let it flow, and it’s natural.”

Mikolajczyk recently added psychedelic rock to his extensive repertoire when he joined Swizzille Trip last year. He teamed up with Michael Kalb (guitar, vocals) and Preston Preiss (drums, vocals) after they performed at a release party for Detroit alt rock band Black Feather (another Mikolajczyk project).

“They were in search of a new bassist, and I’m always open-minded to new endeavors,” he said. “I very much see eye-to-eye with Michael Kalb.”

That strong musical partnership has manifested into a series of far-out singles from Swizzille Trip’s latest album, “Interstellar Wonderlove,” which carries themes of peace and unity. The band’s latest single, “Water,” serves as a heartfelt acoustic rock anthem while “Sand” provides an intergalactic, bass-fueled cover of the 2000 Phish classic.

Swizzille Trip will continue to record and release tracks from “Interstellar Wonderlove” in the coming months. In September, they’ll return to Tempermill Studio in Ferndale to hammer out additional songs, including the holiday-tinged “Zombie Snowman” for a November release.

The Many Projects of Kyle Mikolaczyk

Kyle Mikolajczyk performs with a dozen Detroit bands across a multitude of genres.

Outside of Swizzille Trip, Mikolajczyk, 24, performs with several Motor City hard, alt, punk, metal, pop and blues rock projects, including HazardHead, Black Feather, Sever It All, Seven Story Fall and The Johnny Fangers Band.

He also plays with several tribute bands – Whiskey A Go Go (‘80s tribute), Bloodstone (Judas Priest tribute), Little Liars (Joan Jett tribute) and Pretty Tied Up (Guns N’ Roses tribute) – and heads up a new blues rock project called the Kyle Mikolajczyk Blues Review.

With roughly a dozen different projects across several genres, how does Mikolajczyk balance it all?

“It’s a day-to-day process, and a lot of it is scheduling. This is all I do, love to do and ever want to do with my life. That makes it a little bit easier to have complete passion and devotion to the thing I love,” he said.

“Luckily, I’ve met people who share a lot of the same interests and value the type of mentality I have and bring to the table. I just want to play as often as possible, and if I get to play with a hundred different acts to make that stuff happen, then I will play with a hundred different acts.”

Mikolajczyk developed his immense passion for music while growing up in Canton and watching his dad play drums. By age 12, he picked up his first axe, a Guitar Hero game controller, and played Van Halen’s “You Really Got Me” cover of the 1964 Kinks classic. Mikolajczyk also learned guitar with his best friend and discovered some guitar tab websites.

Kro-Magnon and HazardHead

Three years later, Mikolajczyk and his best friend sold merch and volunteered as roadies for Kro-Magnon, a Detroit metal band akin to Iron Maiden. He quickly found himself playing bass for the band once a previous member departed.

“After I got my place in the band and realized what was going on, I started learning more about the booking aspect, and that’s when I took over the business completely,” said Mikolajczyk, who credits GNR as a main creative inspiration. “That’s when we got booked three to five nights a week, and things became even more fruitful than they were before.”

Mikolajczyk quickly discovered his growing passion and commitment to music didn’t align with the other members. By 2011, he formed HazardHead, a Detroit rock band influenced by GNR and late ‘80s rock.

“I came up with a HAZMAT theme of orange and black for the band, and I wanted it to be old school rock instead of Iron Maiden metal,” he said. “I did the lyric writing, guitars, back-up vocals and coordination for the band.”

While HazardHead has gone through several lineup changes over the past eight years, Mikolajczyk is bringing a new, unannounced bass player into the fold and wants to add a new frontman. He also hopes to release the band’s first album, which has been put on hold.

MetalAfro Management & Promotions

Kyle Mikolajczyk books, manages and promotes local and national acts through MetalAfro Management & Promotions.

Mikolajczyk spends time behind the scenes booking, managing and promoting local and national rock, pop and blues acts through MetalAfro Management & Promotions, which he launched in 2014. These days, he books a lot of acts and shows for Diesel Concert Lounge in New Baltimore.

“It’s about seeing something coming together, and at first, it’s just an idea, but by the end of it, there’s a packed show, and everyone is smiling ear to ear,” he said. “At the end of the night, all the players walk away with enough money to make them happy. I love just seeing a plan come together.”

Mikolajczyk also sees music as a way to give back to local communities. He’s organized shows with HazardHead and other projects with proceeds going to the local residents fighting illnesses as well as the Detroit Fire Department, Toys for Tots and other nonprofits.

For one of his latest community-oriented music projects, he’s hosting an ‘80s Tribute Fest Oct. 11 at the Diesel Concert Lounge to raise money for Feeding Detroit & Downriver, which provides hot meals to the homeless in metro Detroit.

“Detroit will always be the most important area to give back to,” Mikolajczyk said. “I think it’s more important that we worry about our backyards and our neighbors than if we start worrying about the rest of the world.”

Next Up

Despite having several projects in the mix, Mikolajczyk is building his latest project, the Kyle Mikolajczyk Blues Review, who will perform Nov. 8 with Anthony Gomes, a Canadian blues rock guitarist and vocalist, at The Token Lounge in Westland.

During the show, Mikolajczyk will use a Fender Telecaster-inspired guitar made from reclaimed wood from Detroit homes called The Telegraph. It’s the very first guitar (serial number 001) that was ever produced by Detroit’s Woodward Guitar Co. They also will be building Mikolajczyk several custom guitars.

As for the Blues Review, Mikolajczyk plans to release a new single and video before year’s end. He’ll also record a solo single and video called “Echoes In Eternity” with a full orchestra.

“If I see a group of quality musicians who are lacking a member, and I think that I could go in there and fulfill what they’re looking for, then there’s no reason that I shouldn’t,” he said. “The more acts I do, the more I learn, and the more genres I do, the more diverse of a writer I become.”

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