Charlie Hitchcock: Ex-Particle Guitarist Speaks Out On His Departure


After five years and seven hundred shows across the world, Particle is ready for their first extended break heading into the winter holidays. The next phase will be a time of change for the band as we part ways with our longtime friend and guitarist, Charlie Hitchcock. We’re very thankful for the tremendous spirit and talent that Charlie has brought to the Particle world. Our musical journey together has been amazing, and we will all look back on the experiences we’ve shared as some of the best of our lives. Simply put, we found ourselves moving in different directions musically and we felt it was necessary for everyone involved to make this change.

Charlie Hitchcock Leaving Particle.” That was the news headline we recently posted reporting on the above statement issued from the popular Los Angeles band, Particle. There was no quote from Charlie himself, and there was a great deal of ambiguity in the rather passively scripted note, so as unexpected as it was to read, it just seemed like they had merely parted ways, succumbing to the same old story almost every band inevitably falls prey to – someone decides that maybe the real world is an easier place to make a living. They gave it a good run, they were in a touring band for five years, but you can’t do this forever – so one guy figures it’s off to work in a cube with the 401K and casual Fridays.

Apparently that wasn’t exactly how it went down. No, it seems it was actually closer to a band meeting, a sit down and unanimous firing on the spot…or, at least that was the buzz going around. So we waited for the smoke to clear, and with still no definitive explanation, we asked Charlie to give us “his side of the story.”

Can you walk us through the day of the last meeting, from initial phone call, right through the meeting?

Although my, “I just got screwed” side would love to tell you every detail to the last drop, my, “take the high road” side says I’m best to just pass on answering minute details and saying things to make people look like jerks. All the details aren’t that important in the big picture. They just make for good soap opera details in the short run, but don’t really matter in the long run. It was only one “meeting” though, for the record, and no phone conversations about anything…just them telling me to show up when I think we’re going to talk about plans for the future. We talked for 20-30 minutes and then I took off. By the time I got home the announcement was already on our website. Ouch. I wasn’t even given a chance to participate in the announcement that ended five years of hard work and personal relationships. That hurt. I didn’t feel like I was given a clear reason why I was kicked out, or an honest answer. The only thing that was clear was that I was being kicked out and that they didn’t want to talk about it, or give me the opportunity to fix whatever problems they were having that they considered unacceptable. I asked them how long they had planned this “charlie-be-gone” meeting and they couldn’t answer me.

What’s the past year or so been like? You’ve done Hydra with Mickey Hart, released the album, played with Buckethead, played CMJ, played with Trey Anastasio…you were even featured in Guitar Player. Maybe the inner circles new things weren’t perfect, but that’s a year any five year old band would strive for. Had things been slowly deteriorating behind the scenes?

The past year has been awesome!!! Even our last month or so of shows have been our best (ironically). The Hydra tour was a great experience and I really had a lot of fun that tour. I’m not sure what will happen to that band. No one has kicked me out of it yet or mentioned it to me. But I’m guessing I got kicked out of two bands by default. I’d still play if they wanted me to though, but the vibe might be kind of odd for the first few shows though. ha!!! Anyway, I can’t really see them finding a replacement to do what I did in that band; what I did was really unique and added a lot in my opinion – more so than Particle even. I have a hard time replicating some of the stuff I did in Hydra!!

Back to Particle, even though I was kicked out and feel partially that I’ve wasted five years on a “baby” that blew up in my face, and I sacrificed having a family, house, money, etc… just like everyone else to keep it alive…I do have to look back and say it was a blessing, and I’m very fortunate to have all the success we did in such a short amount of time. I’ve been in a TON of bands before Particle, so when I got in the band, I was always blown away by how fast things moved and how much success we got in so little time. It still baffles me to this day and I never really felt like “the band” deserved everything it got. Since this was basically the other three guys’ first real band, I think they might not have appreciated it as much as me, since they may have thought “this is how it always is,” if you’re in a band out there playing original music.

You weren’t the initial guitarist of the band. Granted that was in the very early stages of Particle, but did that play a part in band dynamics? Was that ever something hanging over your head or perhaps an unspoken issue?

[It] was never talked about, but I think it definitely did. They thought it was “their” band, and I was more of a hired gun in their minds, or at least that was how I was treated even though the original guitarist (Dave Simmons who was an amazing player) only did the first six shows. Even though being a hired gun was not a position I wanted to hold, I figured I could work like that for the most part and focused on improving myself and practicing. This is another one of the reasons I think its bizarre they kicked me out: they’ve got a guy who’s good, and will do things their way.

To be fair though, I have to admit that I wasn’t a “perfect” hired gun. Sometimes I would protest things in some way, but only when things just got so ridiculous and insane in my opinion. And the band DID argue, but doesn’t every band? You argue, then you move on. And it definitely wasn’t just me vs. someone else all the time, but sometimes it was. I wanted everyone to just shut up and play and check their egos at the door. I think it was just a power struggle and I did my best to stay out of it. But where I put my foot down was not playing…that was where I drew the line. I’m not going to “not play” just to make someone in the band happy. And if someone else didn’t feel like they had enough room, I’d give them all day on stage to say what they had to say. That was never what it was about though. No one in the band could say I EVER got in the way of anything they wanted to do…my reality was very different

Was the recent Calilicous tour a breaking point for the band? There appeared to be a number of shows that were rather poorly attended (Burlington, 9/15 for example)- was this tour a make it or break it outing? Were there additional pressures or did it feel natural?

Uhhh, no I don’t really think so. The attendance wasn’t that bad, but it definitely wasn’t growing like it used to. I was very frustrated personally on that tour, but it was just behind the scenes. The rest of the band wanted to debut a new song every night, which was cool and I was with them, but I just didn’t want to throw bad music, or music that wasn’t ready to be played, out there just to say “We did it!” I’m more of the mindset to go out there and play the best show you can and have fun. Very few of the fans are keeping score of everything. And if they are that nerdy about it, F’em. Sorry!

So a lot of times we were playing songs I didn’t think we were ready to play, or a song that’s so 101 you don’t have to put any effort into it to get it out there. So that was frustrating for me. I said to myself, “I’ll do my best to go out there and kick ass and make people inspired, even though what I consider my fair share of the vision does not get to be realized.” So I guess that’s as close as I can think of as a “breaking point.” Ironically, I think I should have been the one to “break,” because the rest of the band got what they wanted and I went along with it for the good of the band. They wanted that power and control and I’d rather just play the crap rather than sitting around arguing about it all night. If it were up to me we wouldn’t have wasted all that time learning useless covers, instead we would have been writing new material.

This anouncement basically came on the heels of Xingolati – where reports of apparent issues were rampant. Was it over before that? What happened on the cruise?

No no no…Xingolati was great…there weren’t any bad vibes or anything out of the normal. Fan perceptions can be wrong sometimes. It was a loose vibe and I walked off stage once or twice to talk to someone and dance. Ironically, the last of our shows were some of the best we’ve ever played in my opinion. The “Charlie’s out” thing wasn’t something that happened recently – it was more planned for a while and the trigger was waiting to be pulled on me once we got through our tours and gigs and such and had our first large chunk of time off in a while.

The official announcement on the Particle website states: “Simply put, we found ourselves moving in different directions musically and we felt it was necessary for everyone involved to make this change.” What are the different directions? Are we talking musical? Professional? Personal?

I’m sorry, but I honestly feel its more of a question for a psychologist to answer…I bet they could have a field day on this one…ha ha ha. If I were to try and answer it, I’d say I wasn’t trying to force them into anything as far as musical directions. My job in the band was to go with the flow or else start a war, even though I didn’t want to go with the flow, I realized early on if I didn’t the band would go nowhere and we’d just be in eternal war. A band of four Steves, or whoever, would not of lasted a month. Even though I wanted some control, I realized I had to give it up for the greater good of the success of the band. That’s why I think its ironic I was kicked out. You can’t really take anything seriously from that press release…its all a bunch of BS…I’m sorry, but that’s the truth.. isn’t it obvious though?

Assuming you were leaning away from the live electronic/funk/instrumental music thing…did you feel it was time for a change? Had that sound run its course? Or were you resisting a change they were pushing for?

In my mind, the band just needed to grow as individuals, and to listen to each other better and try and play outside their comfort zone. But it was apparent that we had grown into following patterns and a lot of what we did was just auto pilot. I’d try and play different every night, but when the band was playing the same thing and not following me, it just sounded the same no matter what I did. So that was another point of frustration for me, but one I kept to myself most of the time. Certainly not something I would kick any one out of for. I feel by listening carefully and following, we could grow and change naturally. They were more of the mindset that we could only grow by TELLING the other person what to do…this is where we differed. I’m of the mindset that there is a certain magic in things that happen naturally for the first time. It’s akin to the many, many people who have recorded demos, and then tried to re-record them only to find that the magic was gone. Why is that?? I don’t know, but its certainly true. This is why I feel we can’t tell each other what to do, and try and MAKE something happen. It has to happen naturally on its own with ourselves staying out of the way.

The magic we created in the past as Particle was just four dudes getting in a room and just playing, but when the stakes got higher, and the popularity grew, all these weird power struggles started popping up and everyone started fighting for control. Me being the “new” guitarist (played all but the first 6 shows) it seemed like my “piece of the pie” was always shut down. I guess the only red flag I can think of was when we had a meeting a few months back and they said they wanted to phase out my guitar solos…I thought that was crazy. A lot of people DO come to the shows to see me play. And people don’t pay $20 bucks or whatever to just see me stand there and drool on my guitar while Steve does his stage presence thing. I always joked in my own head that I’d bring a roll away bed on stage and just take a nap during the show.. that would have been awesome!!! I guess I’ll have to save that one for my solo project!

If this truly is the end – do you hope to continue as a guitarist/artist, and form another band like Dave Mustaine from Metallica to Megadeth?

We’ll, unfortunately…there isn’t anything else I feel like I can do but play guitar. Maybe when I’m old and tattered I’ll focus more on guitar building and amp building, but for now if I can’t play I might was well be dead – so I’ll keep at it. As far as Dave Mustaine…after watching Metallica’s video Some Kind of Monster, and seeing how bummed Dave was, I don’t want to follow that path. But that was a much different circumstance…he was kicked out because he had a substance abuse problem, and Metallica was the #1 metal band in the world (Particle isn’t). If “post-Charlie” Particle rose to be the number one band in the world I’m sure I would be bummed, but I just don’t see how that could be possible. They had a really good guitar player in their band. And I feel I can say that only because I put in the time and worked really hard at it. I used to practice ten or more hours a day in college and still practice to this day. And for whatever reason, they decided to let other issues get in the way of the music and the band as an entity. I wish them luck but in my heart, I feel they made a wrong decision for themselves and the future of Particle.

To the longtime Particle fans, what do you want them to know?

That I really appreciate all the love and support they have given me now, and over the years, and I’m really sorry if their favorite band was destroyed. But I asked the guys if there was anything I could do to remedy whatever problems they found unacceptable… they responded that it wasn’t a conversation and I wasn’t listening to them. I was out of the band. So it was totally out of my control and there wasn’t anything I could say or do to keep the band alive and together. So I’m sorry to our fans.

On the bright side, this may end up being a good thing and maybe I’ll meet up with some other musicians who want me to shine and do what I can do, instead of constantly trying to put me down, and put me out. Something that never made sense to me and always baffled me over the five years we were a band – I always wanted everyone to be able to do their “thing” and gave them as much space as they needed. I always received the opposite in return from the other three members, which was odd since any success we got was shared. Another one for the psychologists I guess… where are you guys??? ha ha ha. If I sit here and think about it, I can’t think of a way to be any more of a “catering” guitar player to the rest of the band’s needs. They didn’t want to learn new songs I wrote and didn’t want to play old songs I wrote that we had played in the past. I just went with it since going to battle about it didn’t do anyone any good. Philosophically, I have to believe that in the long term this will be a good thing. But in the short term, I’m very disappointed for myself, for our fans, and for the other band members that they felt it was impossible to get past whatever personal issues there were. In my mind the issues are mostly within themselves.


We want to thank Charlie for taking the time to share his thoughts during this difficult period and wish him all the best.


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