Marcel Hamel came of age on the Portland, Maine DIY (”Do-It-Yourself”) music scene. Inspired at a young age by his father’s guitar playing and his parent’s record collection, Marcel finally picked up the bass guitar at age thirteen. “My friends said they wanted a bass player for their punk band and I thought that was the perfect opportunity to finally learn to play,” Marcel says, “I only owned one CD until I was about fifteen years old and it was Hendrix’s Greatest Hits album. I wanted to sound just like him. Since I didn’t know anything about music, however, I didn’t realize that bass and electric guitar were two completely different things until my parents brought home a Fender jazz bass one day. Needless to say, I was a little confused. It was the best mistake I’ve ever made.”
Marcel started private instruction at this time and quickly started to grab at every playing opportunity he could, performing in his school’s concert and big bands, picking up whatever instruments were around, and finding most of his chances to get onstage in the southern Maine DIY (”Do-It-Yourself”) punk and hardcore scene. “If you weren’t playing jazz or classical and you weren’t old enough to drink, there really weren’t a lot of playing opportunities outside of these tiny rock shows in church basements and vet halls. While a lot of the music was never quite for me, in retrospect it was a great way to learn to play because you were able to do literally whatever the hell you wanted whenever you wanted and no one really cared. That was when I really figured out how to play with a drummer and how to listen to other players.”
As soon as he graduated from high school, Marcel began to broaden his musical horizons playing in bars and clubs around Portland with the cover band Retrospecticus covering everything from Elvis and Beatles tunes to Stevie Wonder and Motown to 80’s pop music and the occasional jazz standard. After studying at the University of Southern Maine for a year and a half, he transferred to the Berklee College of Music in Boston where he studied performance with Bruce Gertz, Matthew Garrison and Anthony Vitti. He kept traveling back to Maine to play during this time as well as gigging steadily around Boston, taking plenty of rock and cover gigs and working in pit orchestras in the summer for local theatres where he would double on upright bass, guitar and occasionally banjo.
In the fall of 2006 during his second semester at Berklee, Marcel developed severe chronic tinnitus and stopped playing for several months. “It was horrifying, I didn’t sleep for nearly two weeks and spent a week in the hospital. When I got out I was too sedated to function and too terrified to touch an instrument again. Unfortunately I still had school which cost a lot of money and a lot of gigs booked, but I had no real job so I was forced to keep playing. I’d go to class and gigs and struggle through and then go back to my dorm and sit there with the television on because the ringing from that was the only thing that would drown out the ringing in my ears.” This proved to be a turning point for Marcel.
Encouraged by friends and family to take time off, and realizing that if he left school he was likely not to return, Marcel elected to continue his studies. “Music stopped being something that I liked to do and had sort of fallen into professionally and suddenly came into focus as what I was meant to do. As I recovered over the course of the next year everything began to sound better and mean something it never quite did before. Everything sounded more immediate. It stopped being a numbers game or a job and just became that sound that I had to make, or a feeling I had to elicit. It ended up being one of the greatest things to ever happen to me.”
Since then Marcel has graduated from Berklee with honors, appeared on numerous recordings and jingles, made multiple live radio appearances, and played hundreds of shows across the United States while touring as a guitarist with productions of the Broadway shows Bye, Bye Birdie and Cabaret. Marcel now resides in Brooklyn, where he freelances as a bassist and guitarist and maintains a teaching studio at Guitar New York in the Columbus Circle area of Manhattan.