Interviews HungryMonks3

Published on July 29th, 2013 | by Ballard Lesemann


The Punch List with John and Hazel of the Hungry Monks

Metronome Charleston‘s weekly Punch List puts local musicians on the spot with a questionnaire that touches on music, venues, gear, records, vices, and more. This week, the husband-and-wife duo of John Holenko and Hazel Ketchum of versatile local string band the Hungry Monks takes a turn.

1. What is your favorite local hang and why? 

John Holenko: “The Pour House. Good music. Really good food these days. Musicians always treated well — read ‘free admission.’ Most importantly, crawling distance from home.”

Hazel Ketchum: “The Pour House. They have a great mix of local and out of town acts. It’s the kind of place I just go to see who is playing, and even if I’ve never heard of them or their music, it’s worth just checking it out and having fun. I have heard some great, fun, unusual, classic music there.”

2. You know you’ve played an excellent show when…

John Holenko: “The band and the audience are all smiles, and you feel like you could go on for another hour.”

Hazel Ketchum: “People start dancing. I’ve played for people dancing since I was 14 years old, and that is always a sign that you’ve got a great groove. Lately, when we play Dead Night at the Pour House, I know I’ve done a good job when people touch my hair and stroke my hands lovingly when we get off stage. There is something about my gray hair.”


John Holenko and Hazel Ketchum (provided)

3. What was the last show you attended that really got you fired up in a good or bad way?

John Holenko: “Just recently in Boston I saw violinist Darol Angor and cellist Nathaniel Smith play a duo concert at the Mark O’Connor Fiddle Camp in Boston at Berklee. Fiddle tunes, Brazilian, jazz, classical, improvisation, all wrapped up into one beautiful presentation. Undefinable genre of acoustic music.”

Hazel Ketchum: “I would have to agree with John about Angor and Nat Smith. It was so fun that we could hardly sit through it without needing to play ourselves. We went back to the dorms and played together improvising on old tunes for two hours right after.”

4. Define your musical style in exactly 10 words.

John Holenko: “Acoustic, genre-spanning, classical, celtic, world music, new folk music.”

Hazel Ketchum: “Classical, medieval, Renaissance, Irish, old-time, swing, blues, original, folk, bluegrass music.”

5. What’s your theme song? And why?

John Holenko: “These days it’s been ‘Any Road’ by George Harrison. I really love the punch line, ‘If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.'”

Hazel Ketchum: “‘Hazel’ by Bob Dylan from Planet Waves. It’s doesn’t really describe me in any way, but it is Bob singing my name. I’ll take it.”

6. Gear-wise, what’s is your irreplaceable baby?

John Holenko: “My 1985 Robert Ruck classical guitar. Brazilian rosewood. Legal when I bought it, illegal today.”

Hazel Ketchum: “My 10-course lute by Satoh is truly irreplaceable. I am also very attached to my Martin D28. It was an anniversary present, and it’s a great guitar and only getting better!”

7. What’s the most overplayed album in your collection? And why?

John Holenko: “Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited. What he does with words and his reinvention of American rock ‘n’ roll never fails to amaze me.”

Hazel Ketchum: “Tom Waits’ Bone Machine. Why? I wish I was that drummer.”

8. When was the last time you were genuinely star-struck? How so?

John Holenko: “When I was a kid, my town’s Little League Baseball did a door-to-door fundraiser. In my little town of Denville, N.J., lived a very tall man named Bill Bradley [the ex-Knicks player former New Jersey senator], and I was with the group that went up to his door. We rang the bell. Bill Bradley answered, and all dozen of us stood there with our mouths hanging open. I’m pretty sure we all got autographs and I’m pretty sure we all forgot to ask him for money.”

Hazel Ketchum: “When I went to see Julian Bream the famous English guitarist in L.A. in the late 1980s I bought a new dress for the occasion just to meet him and shake his hand after the concert. His love of early music and contemporary music really formed my two loves as a music student and throughout my early years giving lute concerts and concerts with the Medieval band Sonus. Then again… when I met Doc Watson just back stage at Merle Fest. Just a quick ‘Hello,’ but what can you even say to those two great guitarists? Thank you I guess would be all.”

9. What’s your poison?

John Holenko: “Not much of a drinker. A nice fat joint. Can I say that?”

Hazel Ketchum: “Staying up really, really late and playing old-time fiddle tunes! It is my superpower.”

10. In 10 years, I will be… 

John Holenko: “Really old.”

Hazel Ketchum: “Doing exactly what I do now.”

Charleston’s Hungry Monks have been picking, strumming, and singing all sorts of jazzy folk, blues, Celtic, country, and Medieval styles for years. They teach music, too. John Holenko usually handles the guitar and mandolin while Hazel Ketchum switches between guitar, banjo, and various percussion. Their latest studio album, 2010’s Superior Crust, demonstrates their musical flexibility and harmonic skills.

The Hungry Monks will perform early in the evening on the Pour House deck stage (5-9 p.m.) during the “Jerry Garcia Birthday Celebration” on Sat. Aug. 3. Athens, Georgia’s Cosmic Charlie will headline the main stage that night. Holenko and Ketchum will welcome various guests to the deck stage on Wed. Aug. 7 and Wed. Aug. 14 as well.

Visit and for more.


Hazel Ketchum and John Holenko (provided)



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About the Author

Ballard Lesemann

is a musician and writer. Born and raised in Charleston, S.C., he spent years playing in bands and working for Flagpole Magazine in the bustling music town of Athens, Ga. He returned to his hometown and served more than seven years as the Charleston City Paper's music editor. He's better at drumming than he is at playing guitar.

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