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Focused, Formidable and Ready to Rock!

Palm Beach County, Florida, about an hour's drive North of Miami and about 2 hours South of Orlando, is known for the affluent, Mar-a- Lago (Trump's constant hideaway) and large, expansive homes.  That is about to change.  Just as Tampa is known for the birth of the band, The Absence and Bush Gardens theme park, Palm Beach County is about to undergo a renaissance, thanks to three guys who share a common bond and goal; to help others in need and to bring loud, heart pounding, hard rock, back to the mainstream.  Their new CD entitled "All or Nothing"  is straight ahead, in your face, rock and roll.  Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you, The Wilkof Project.

FM:  Tell me a bit about the Wilkof Project.  Who are you guys?

WP: Matt Wilkof is our lead vocalist/guitarist, Adam Kaye is our bassist, TJ Bumgardner is our drummer.  Together we compose and play aggressive and passionate hard rock with purpose. 


FM:  What is that "purpose?"

WP:  First and foremost, to BRING BACK ROCK! Part of that process means delivering the story of our lives to as many people as possible through our music. Resembling a roller coaster like maze, our story reveals an encouraging message of hope in the face of despair. For anyone going through hard times, we are living proof that it is possible to get through various obstacles and come out on the other side with confidence and strength. We celebrate this awakening and encourage others to join us in passionately memorializing this renaissance of rock. 

FM:  Now that's a great purpose!  Good job.  Growing up, were your parent’s musicians? 

Matt: No, they were not.

TJ: Yes, my father sings and my mother played the piano, both were dancers in New York at one point.

FM:  Did you ever see them perform on the stage?

TJ:  In a few VHS tapes, yes.  I have been fortunate enough to see my father perform my entire childhood and still do.


FM:  Who guided you toward music? 

Matt: I used to listen to my older sister’s album collection of Led Zeppelin, Beatles, Kiss...etc. I always felt there was something alluring about rock music and what it stands for.


TJ: Mostly my father as a form a worship, my mother taught me some basics on the piano, and I grew up around live performances every week. 


FM:  At what age were you first introduced to your instrument?

Matt: 13


TJ: I was first introduced to the drums at 8 years old and I loved it.

FM:  What did you love about the drums?

TJ:  The way they sing with power and resemble an equation. I love solutions and the drums are a tool for me to find rhythms that fit inside of, and around, what is being played on the strings. No drums equals no power.  When searching for a word to describe this power, thunder is the word that comes to mind.  When lightning strikes and you hear its thunder, you can't help but to be shook to the core of your being.

FM:  Was that your first choice or did you want to play a different instrument?

Matt: My parents forced me to play piano and violin when I was about 7 but I did not think it was cool so I switched to guitar when I was 13.  It was my first choice but eventually I ended up playing the guitar around 17 which lead to singing shortly after.

FM:  Were your parents upset that you didn't want to go the classical route with piano and violin?

Matt: Matt:  I dont think they really minded. They just wanted me to play an instrument. However, when I started to grow my hair out and listen to metal..they werent too happy. lol 

FM:  How long have the three of you been together now?

WP:  I think about a year in a half..or is it two????

FM:  Well, for being together for a short time, you guys are moving forward quickly.  As a trio, who are some of your musical influences? 

Matt: All kinds of stuff...Soundgarden, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Metallica, Rage Against The Machine, Dio, Iron Maiden..


TJ: All the same as above plus - Tool, Chevell, System of a Down, Sether, Skindred, Alice in Chains, Deftones, Rob Zombie, the list goes on.


FM:  Those are all some pretty solid influences.  I can definitely hear some of them in your music.  Before coming together as a band, had you all known each other or did you come together as strangers with mutual musical interests?

Matt: Adam and I have known each other for about 6 years, and we met TJ about 2 years ago.

FM:  I know a lot of bands who met each other at various gigs.  Is that how all of you met?


WP:  WP:  Adam and I (Matt) met at rehab...HAHAHA...I met TJ when he filled in at a recovery meeting...we didn't hook up though until a year or so later when we solidified this lineup.

FM:  Before forming the Wilkof Project, did you play in different bands?


Matt: I have been playing in bands since I was 15 years old.  The band I was in prior to this one, Another Black Day, was signed by Bieler Bros records.

FM:  Another Black Day?  It sounds like there's a bit of darkness in the name?  We'll get to more of this in a while but did that name have anything to do with your struggles with addiction?

WP:  Yes..the entire album is about my addiction to heroin, spiritual depravity and relationship issues. It was a very dark time in my life.


TJ: Prior to this band, I have been in the same band for the past 22 Years and still am. I go back and forth from Drums/lead Vocal to Guitar/Lead Vocal. This is what you would call a worship band.

FM:  Worship band?  Is that Christian rock like Stryper?


TJ:   Stryper is great band, I believe they just released a new single. You might find this strange but I loathe the majority of “Christians” and despise religion. I consider myself to be a soldier in an eternal battle and see my instrument as a weapon.  Just like for centuries, soldiers were lead into battle by musicians. We lead our people into spiritual war. 


FM:  How would you categorize your style?  Alt rock?  Metal?  Hard Rock?  Or some type of hybrid?


WP: Hard Rock


FM:  Taking you guys off stage and putting you in the crowd, who are you there to see?


Matt: Ugh nobody...not a fan of concerts. But probably...Foo Fighters right now.


Tj: I would love to see Tool live and from the looks of it I might get that chance very soon.


FM:  Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll.  That’s an old, outdated phrase.  We all know that the rock and roll lifestyle, for a long time, carried that reputation.  These days, however, you find a lot of the young guys coming up are into health and fitness.  Matt, you are open about your past addictions.  Tell me a bit about that. 


Matt: I struggled with opiate addiction for years and that lifestyle became too much to handle. It caused a lot of self-inflicted pain and I realized that I was only hiding from myself when I used.


FM:  TJ, how about you?  You run a substance abuse center in Boca?


TJ:  Yes, I do. My struggle started around 16 and by 17 I knew I was out of control and needed help. For 7 years I struggled going back and forth, wrestling with my consciousness and then finally one day made a decision to change.


FM:  That takes a lot of strength and courage, to realize there is a problem and to make the conscious decision to do something about it.  Congratulations to both of you.  Let me ask this; what was your “aha” moment when you realized you must make a lifestyle change? 


Matt: I just finally had enough. I was totally alone....and at that moment I realized that I didnt want to use anymore.

FM:  Do you feel it was affecting your personal relationships and friendships?

Matt:  Absolutley..I was horrible to be around. I was selfish and dishonest


​FM:  How about you TJ?

TJ:  I came to a place where all I had was me and I couldn't stand being alone with myself.  I hated what I had become and everything that I stood for.  Realizing that I wasn't alive to be alone and miserable, I searched for a way to become free and profitable to others, 1000%.  Everything I did was for selfish gain and my expectations of others were greater than that which I expected of myself.  I was a hypocrite, a liar, and a thief.  No one trusted me and I trusted no one.


FM: How many years sober are you guys now?  Is it still a struggle every day?


Matt: 7 years. It's not a struggle at all. I am so much happier now and enjoy being free from that crap.


TJ: This year I will have 5 years. The struggle isn’t so much with using as it is with personal defects of character. Using was never the issue, it was just a symptom. Today I am fulfilled and content with what I have and do not have.


FM:  Tell me about Simple Path Recovery.  When did you get involved with this program?


Matt: At this time, I prefer not to comment on this subject.


FM:  TJ, how about the program you help run?


TJ: I help run a medical detoxification for those wanting to get off of various pharmaceuticals and chemicals they have become physically dependent on. 

FM:  That must be rewarding for you.

TJ:  TJ:   Unspeakably.  Its not easy but it does have great purpose and challenges me every day.  I love a good challenge.


FM:  Does your songwriting reflect your past addictions or your sobriety, or maybe both?


Matt: All of my lyrics tell a story about my past from the struggles to the victories.


FM:  As a band, what is the creative process to your writing?  Does someone start with a riff or melody?


Matt: Usually I start with a riff...but it doesn’t always work that way.  Sometimes it’s totally organic and the three of us start jamming and just start creating together.  Sometimes I will come up with almost an entire song...and then Adam and TJ will help me finish it when I’m stuck.  It really just depends.  Sometimes I will write an entire song as far as the guitar and vocals go. Then present it to Adam and TJ and then they will write their parts.  Each member brings their own style to the table if something I wrote is not working we will tweak it a bit to make it fit.


FM:  Matt, your song, “Mountain”, which I think is great, I hear some influence by KISS, especially from their album “Monster.”  I also hear some Paul Stanley influence, in your singing.  Would you agree?





Matt: LOL...I guess. I’ve been told that before.


FM:  If you had to give up on music, what would you do to retain that creative side?

Matt: I would love to have a recording studio...and help bands produce their music.


TJ: Pretty much the same as Matt. I also have a few side projects I am still working on in my down time and am eager to start the recording process.


FM:  The Wilkof Project….still a project?


WP: Nope it’s a real band.

FM:  I agree.  You guys have a great sound and I see a bright future.  Where do you guys see yourselves, individually and as a band a year from now?  5 years from now?


WP: Hopefully not dead. LOL!!!!!


TJ: Owning a studio of my own having released a full length album two years ago by The Wilkof Project, and having just released my top secret side project.

FM:  All of it sounds good and I'm looking forward to hearing that top secret project.  Thanks guys.  This has been a lot of fun. 


WP:  Thanks Fretboard Magazine!


Craig Marks, Publisher

Fretboard Magazine

March, 2018 

To find out what the Wilkof Project is up to next, please visit:

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