May 25, 2013

Playlist Week of 2013-05-25

Dried Flowers 2013-05-23

* Venice Baroque Orchestra (Marcon/Carmignola): Concerto Italiano (Archiv Prod. CD)
* Reich: Music For 18 Musicians (ECM LP)
* Reich: Octet, Music For Large Ensemble, etc. (ECM LP)
* Sun Ra: Interstellar Low-Ways (Saturn LP)
* Sun Ra: Cosmic Tones For Mental Therapy (Saturn LP)
* Sun Ra: Continuation (Saturn/Corbett vs. Dempsey 2CD)
* Jimmy Giuffre 3: Emphasis & Flight 1961 (HatOLOGY 2CD)
* Anthony Braxton Echo Echo Mirror House: Septet (Victoriaville) 2011 (Victo CD)
* Sol 6 (Luc Ex, Veyron Weston, Ingrid Laubrock, et al.): Sol 6 (Red Note CD)
* Kris Davis: Capricorn Climber (Clean Feed CD)
* David Torn: Cloud About Mercury (ECM CD)
* David Torn: Prezens (ECM CD)
* P.M. Dawn: The Blisss Album...? (Gee Street/Island CD)
* Cypress Hill: Black Sunday (Columbia/Legacy 2LP)
* D’Angelo: Voodoo (Virgin CD)
* Frank Ocean: Channel Orange (Island/Def Jam CD)
* Miguel: Kaleidoscope Dream (RCA CD)
* Praxis: Profanation: Preparation For A Coming Darkness (M.O.D. Technologies CD)
* Grateful Dead: The Lyceum, London, England 5/24/72 (selections) (GDP/Rhino 3HDCD)
* Grateful Dead: Dick’s Picks Vol.15: Englishtown, NJ 9/3/77 (selections) (GDP 3HDCD)
* Grateful Dead: World Music Theatre, Tinley Park, IL 7/21/90 (selections) (SBD 3CDR)
* Grateful Dead: World Music Theatre, Tinley Park, IL 7/22/90 (d.1 selections) (SBD 3CDR)
* Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Psychedelic Pill (Reprise BD)
* Blue Cheer: Vincebus Eruptum (mono) (Philips/Sundazed LP)
* Deep Purple: Machine Head (Warner Bros./Rhino LP)
* Soft Machine: Live At The Proms (1970) (Reckless LP)
* Yes: Close To The Edge (Atlantic/Audio Fidelity SACD)
* Yes: Tales From Topographic Oceans (selections) (Atlantic/Rhino 2CD)
* Yes: Relayer (selections) (Atlantic/Rhino CD)
* Dust: Dust/Hard Attack (Kama Sutra/RCA/Legacy 2LP)
* Metallica: Master Of Puppets (Elektra LP)
* Circus Devils: Ataxia (Happy Jack Rock Records LP)
* Circus Devils: Gringo (Happy Jack Rock Records LP)
* Circus Devils: Mother Skinny (Happy Jack Rock Records LP)
* Wilco: Wilco (The Album) (Nonesuch LP)
* Opeth: Orchid (Candlelight CD)
* Opeth: Morningrise (Candlelight CD)
* Opeth: My Arms, Your Hearse (Candlelight CD)
* Opeth: Still Life (Peaceville CD/DVD)
* Opeth: Blackwater Park (Music For Nations/Sony CD/DVD)
* OM: Advaitic Dubplate: “Gethsemane” (Thrill Jockey 12”)
* Hands Off Cuba: From Arrival To Survival (Sebastian Speaks LP)
* Hands Off Cuba: Volumes Of Sobering Liquids (Sebastian Speaks EP)



The photo will be the cover of my forthcoming black metal album, The Flowers of Evil

Ha ha.  Just kidding.

Actually, I was just playing around with Hipstamatic on my iPhone. And while I find this all great fun, two slightly disturbing thoughts come to mind: 

Firstly, it is fascinating to see that in our digitized and increasingly ephemeral world, people are using their smart phones to mimic the most crude analog cameras. Is this just free-floating nostalgia or something deeper? Now that the best DSLRs out-resolve the finest film stocks, Hipstamatic allows radical transformations that would require hours of Photoshopping to achieve. To be sure the  results can be visually stunning but it's a little bit like overdubbing the crackle of an LP onto a pristine digital sound recording.

And that leads to another thought: Photo apps like this instantaneously transform the humblest image into something "arty" -- not necessarily "Art," but "arty." While I quite like the image above, I know that much of what I like about it was purely result of software, operating in mysterious ways and with very little opportunities for me to control it. As a result, I am suspicious of its ultimate worth as a "work of art," despite my fondness for the picture. Where was the "work?"

Then again, these things are just tools. Artists have adapted to changing technologies since the beginning of civilization (and, to be sure, I do not pretend to be fine artist). Great photographers make great images with whatever they have at hand and the iPhone is no different. But the ease with which anyone can make something "arty" seems to demean actual "Art." 

Or does it?

What do you think? 



I actually do have a CD out, Rodger Coleman & Sam Byrd: Indeterminate (Improvisations for Piano and Drums). While not metal, it kicks serious ass. You can stream it at or get the deluxe CD by clicking below. It’s also available for download at  iTunes and everywhere else if that’s your thing. Thank you for your interest and support!

Rodger Coleman: Indeterminate (Improvisations for Piano and Drums)

May 19, 2013

Sun Ra Sunday

Sun Ra: Continuation (Saturn LP/Corbett vs. Dempsey 2CD)

Announced way back in 2009, the two-CD reissue of Continuation (containing previously unissued material) is now finally available—but not from Atavistic, who have apparently shuttered the “Unheard Music Series.” Instead, the set has been lovingly packaged in a deluxe, triple-gatefold carboard sleeve and released in a limited edition by Corbett vs. Dempsey, John Corbett and Jim Dempsey’s Chicago art gallery. It’s been well worth the wait.

Continuation has always been one of the rarest and most discographically obscure items in the El Saturn catalog—and that’s saying something!  Released in a single, miniscule edition in 1970, the recording dates have always been assumed to be 1968 or ’69 (with side two taken from a live performance)—although Prof. Campbell expresses some doubts, suggesting that “”on stylistics grounds an earlier date is possible” (Campbell & Trent p.148).  It doesn’t help matters that the original album jacket contains boatloads of inaccuracies and outright misinformation: neither Wayne Harris nor Akh Tal Ebah are playing trumpet; it is, instead, Walter Miller on trumpet and Ali Hasan on trombone. Moreover, Robert Barry does not play drums (“lightning" or otherwise) and you will not hear Danny Thompson on “Neptunian libflecto.” To make matters even more confusing, the jacket places the recording place as “EL SATURN STUDIOS : Minneapolis, Minn.” but I don’t think anyone ever took that too seriously. In my own review, I wrote: “The presence of Tommy Hunter and his echo-echo-echo machine on ‘Earth Primitive Earth’ and ‘New Planet’ makes me think these tracks were recorded prior to 1968. In fact, the overall ambiance (and massively increased hiss) sounds like some of the Choreographer’s Workshop recordings (but this might just be wishful thinking).”

As it turns out, that is exactly where these recordings were made, during a single session on March 10, 1963 which (according to Corbett’s liner notes) produced parts of the classic albums, Other Planes of There (“Sound Spectra/Spec Sket”), When Sun Comes Out (“Calling Planet Earth”) and When Angels Speak of Love (“Ecstasy of Being” and “The Next Stop Mars”). Amazing! As long-time readers know, the Choreographer’s Workshop recordings hold a particular fascination for me and were the original impetus for my starting Sun Ra Sunday in the first place: I wanted to try and unlock their mysteries, particularly as they were presented un-chronologically on the Evidence CDs of the 1990s. To have another piece of the puzzle firmly in place is reason enough for celebration—but to have an additional 40 minutes of previously unreleased material from this period is truly miraculous!

The album itself is a classic (and now that we know its provenance, we know why) and side two can now be properly understood as another in a series of  innovative, long-form conducted improvisations in the same vein as “Other Planes of There” and “The Magic City.” The spontaneous appearance of “The Second Stop Is Jupiter” amidst all the strangeness most likely prompted discographers to assume this was recorded in concert circa.1968 but all the tracks are clearly from the same Choreographer’s Workshop session. In retrospect, it’s hard to believe that the mellifluous Walter Miller could have ever been confused with the rough-edged Ebah—but now it all comes together and makes sense. Not ’68, ’63!

The nine “bonus” tracks offer further revelations into the obscure history of the Choreographer’s Workshop period. Several tracks (“Meteor Shower,” “Conversation of the Universe,” and “The Beginning Of”) sound like experimental soundchecks, testing Hunter’s echo/reverb device with various instruments. The vibe is typically spooky and spacey but the music never really develops into anything cohesive. Elsewhere, otherwise unknown compositions make their first (and perhaps only) appearances: “Blue York” (a pun on their newly adopted hometown) is a wistful blues featuring a breathy, romantic lead from John Gilmore on tenor sax while “Ihnfinity” is a beautiful ballad form for piano and Miller’s warm-toned trumpet. At less than three minutes each, these lovely pieces are far too short—they’re over before you know it! “Endlessness” is more involved, pitting angular, uptempo swing against a twisty, complicated head arrangement. Although the mix is woefully off-balance and Gilmore sounds unusually short-breathed and squeaky, it’s obviously an ambitious composition. Similarly, “Red Planet Mars” evokes the splintered, frenetic pace of “The Shadow World,” complete with full-bore saxophone battles and high-energy group improvisation—yet the band sounds somewhat tentative, as if this were just a one-off run-through. Was either of the compositions ever played again? Who knows? The disc ends with “Cosmic Rays,” a vaguely familiar sounding construction of dissonant block-chords which gives way to more “New Thing”-styled free jazz. Gilmore sounds possessed, but leaves plenty of space for Miller and Hasan—and we even get some tasty bass clarinet from Robert Cummings. But an overlong drum solo and a pointless coda of uninspired group improv after "The Next Stop Mars" breaks the spell. As nice as it is have additional Choreographer’s Workshop material available, these “bonus” tracks reveal Sonny’s astute editing skills more than anything else (especially during this period): he used only the best stuff for the albums.

That said, the CD mastering is superb and Sun Ra fans will definitely need to have this long-overdue reissue in their collections—but don’t hesitate! While there is nothing expressly indicating a limited edition, this article in The Chicago Reader states that “most” Corbett vs. Dempsey CDs are “strictly limited to 1000 copies—once they’re gone, they’re gone.” Vinylphiles should also note that an LP reissue (minus the bonus tracks and complete with erroneous information on the jacket) is also available on El Saturn Research (now a part of Universal Music Group). Interestingly, this one is not pressed on 180-gram vinyl—and perhaps that’s a good thing since several of the heavyweight Saturn reissues I bought suffered from severe warping and non-fill problems. My copy of Continuation, however, looks and plays fine. In either format, this one is essential!


Corbett vs. Dempsey has also just released a slender monograph, Sun Ra + AyĆ© Aton: Space, Interiors and Exteriors, 1972, a collection of color photographs of Ra taken on the set of the Space Is The Place movie along with Poloroids of Aton’s futuristic house murals painted under the influence and direction of Sun Ra during the late-‘60s and early-‘70s. Unfortunately, brief essays by Glenn Ligon and John Corbett are marred by poor copy-editing, with the latter’s essay riddled with blank spaces where additional information was clearly meant to be inserted. Oh well. Even so, the photos are nicely reproduced and Corbett should be applauded for continuing to make available such printed materials and other ephemera from the Saturn Research archives. Certainly, Space, Interiors and Exteriors 1972 should elevate Aton's position in the pantheon of radical African-American visual artists.

May 18, 2013

Playlist Week of 2013-05-18

Meds 2013-05-18

* Miles Davis: Pangaea (d.2) (CBS/Sony 2CD)
* Miles Davis/Bill Laswell: Panthalassa: The Music Of Miles Davis 1969-1974 (Columbia CD)
* Miles Davis/Bill Laswell/King Britt, et al.: Panthalassa: The Remixes (Columbia CD)
* Sun Ra: Night Of The Purple Moon (Saturn LP)
* Sun Ra: Continuation (Saturn LP/Corbett & Dempsey 2CD)
* Jimmy Giuffre 3: 1961 (Verve/ECM 2CD)
* Matthew Shipp: Piano Vortex (Thirsty Ear CD)
* Matthew Shipp Trio: Harmonic Disorder (Thirsty Ear CD)
* Matthew Shipp: 4D (Thirsty Ear CD)
* Mat Maneri Quartet: Blue Deco (Thirsty Ear CD)
* Myra Melford Be Bread: The Image Of Your Body (CryptoGramophone CD)
* Slobber Pup: Black Aces (Rare Noise 24/96 FLAC)
* V/A: I Never Meta Guitar (Clean Feed CD)
* Stephan Crump with Rosetta Trio: Reclamation (Sunnyside CD)
* The Jack Silverman Ordeal: The Jack Silverman Ordeal (JSO CD)
* D’Angelo: Brown Sugar (EMI CD)
* Lucinda Williams: Little Honey (Lost Highway CD)
* Lucinda Williams: Blessed (d.1) (Lost Highway 2CD)
* Grateful Dead: To Terrapin: Hartford ’77 (selections) (GDP/Rhino 3HDCD)
* Nick Drake: Nick Drake (Island LP)
* Elvis Costello: My Aim Is True (Columbia/Mobile Fidelity LP)
* Guided By Voices: English Little League (GBV, Inc. CD)
* Rachel’s: The Sea And The Bells (Quarterstick 2LP)
* Radiohead: In Rainbows (TBD CD)
* Lambchop/Hands Off Cuba: CoLAB (Merge CDEP)
* Hands Off Cuba: Hands Off Cuba (HOC CDEP)
* Hands Off Cuba: Volumes Of Sobering Liquids (Sebastian Speaks 12”EP)
* High On Fire: Blessed Black Wings (Relapse CD/DVD)
* Earth: Hibernaculum (Southern Lord LP)
* Anathema: Falling Deeper (KScope CD)
* Baroness: First & Second (Relapse LP)
* Baroness: Red Album (Relapse 2-45RPM LP)
* Baroness: Blue Record (Relapse 2-45RPM LP)
* Baroness: Yellow & Green (Relapse 2LP)
* White Hills: Abstractions & Mutations (Immune LP)
* White Hills: Heads On Fire (Thrill Jockey LP)
* White Hills: White Hills (Thrill Jockey CD/LP)
* White Hills: H-p1 (Thrill Jockey 2LP)
* White Hills: Live At Roadburn 2011 (Roadburn LP)
* White Hills: Frying On This Rock (Thrill Jockey LP)
* The Sword: Aprocyphon (Razor & Tie LP)
* Akron/Family: S/T II: The Cosmic Birth And Journey Of Shinju TNT (Dead Oceans 2LP)
* Akron/Family: Sub Verses (Dead Oceans 2-45RPM LP)
* Wild Nothing: Nocturne (Captured Tracks CD)
* Wild Nothing: Empty Estate EP (Captured Tracks CDEP)



As expected, all the activity and excitement of last week resulted in my getting sick this week, complete with fever, cold-sweats, coughing, sneezing, aches, pains and—well, the less said about that the better. While I can usually shake these sorts of things in a couple days, this time the misery has lingered on and on. It is a reminder that I am no longer young—and that my usual sedentary lifestyle is not a healthy one. If I want to rock and roll, I need to get in shape!

However, I did discover that White Hills is the perfect music to accompany my semi-lucid fever dreams. This Brooklyn-based band has been around a while, aggressively fusing raunchy, teeth-grinding psychdelia with motoric, trance-inducing Krautrock grooves and the punky, proto-metallic spaciness of Hawkwind to form a uniquely American brand of face-melt. All of their records are terrifically twisted and great fun to listen to but the sprawling H-p1 is their masterpiece, a 72-minute voyage into the center of your mind, transcending whatever physical weaknesses found in the host body. Perfect for when you are flat on your back, unable to move except to turn the record over.

Now, I’m going back to bed.

May 12, 2013

Sun Ra Sunday

Even though we were both totally beat, Liz and I ventured out last night to hear Lambchop and the Matthew Shipp Trio—it was just too special an event to miss. Accurately described as “Nashville’s most fucked up country band,” Lambchop is way more popular in Europe than in the states and only plays their hometown once a year or so. And, of course, Matthew Shipp (and MaryHalvorson and all the other interesting jazz players) rarely play in the U.S.A. outside of New York – much less someplace like Nashville. Fortunately, there is a small but vibrant community trying to force “Music City” to live up to its name. But the sad truth is: an opportunity to hear either of these groups will not be happening again anytime soon so we had to seize the opportunity despite our exhaustion.

The good thing was that the venue was on our side of town, meaning an easy drive there and back. Plus, it was to be a low-key, sit-down affair. But the VFW Post 1970 is a funky place for sure and, in true southern rebel fashion, allows smoking inside. Now, I must sadly admit to being a smoker myself but the atmosphere permeated with the smell of stale tobacco and cheap beer was more than a little nauseating—especially since I was already feeling under the weather. Nevertheless, it was a sublime evening of music. Lambchop (who, much to my embarrassment, I have only recently discovered) was absolutely riveting, exhibiting extraordinary restraint and subtle dynamics to deliver their powerfully emotional songs. And the Matt Shipp Trio cooked from the get-go, climaxing with a gut-wrenching deconstruction of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” in honor of the veterans, whose post we had invaded for the evening. While much of the crowd had come to hear Lambchop, a goodly number stayed for the out-jazz part of the program, which was nice to see.

I got a chance to speak with Matt and Whit Dickey, both of whom I briefly knew at The New England Conservatory, and it was great to see them both after many years. I gave them a copy of my CD and told Matt that his music had long been an inspiration to me—even after I had given up on performing myself. He was friendly and quite funny, just as I remember him. In all, it was another fabulous night in a long week of fabulous nights.

Now, I need some rest.


What does any of this have to do with Sun Ra? Well, nothing except the connection to the jazz tradition (and the fact that Matt introduced his players as being “from outer space”). But, as you might have noticed, I have been ridiculously busy and have simply not had the time write. Moreover, the next several records in the chronology are particularly challenging, both musically and discographically, and it’s going to take some time to sort it all out. I know: excuses, excuses! Please do stay tuned.

However, I'm overjoyed to see that the long-delayed 2-disc reissue of Continuation is now available from Corbett vs. Dempsey. Not sure if this is a limited edition or not, but I'd jump on it sooner rather than later. I'll let you know my thoughts after it arrives.



Would you like your own copy of Rodger Coleman & Sam Byrd: Indeterminate (Improvisations for Piano and Drums)? Just click on the link below. You can also stream the entire album at our website, NuVoid Jazz Records, if you just want to check it out. Thank you for your interest and support!

Rodger Coleman: Indeterminate (Improvisations for Piano and Drums)

May 11, 2013

Playlist Week of 2013-05-11

Secret Keeper iPhone 2013-05-10a

* Thelonious Monk: Complete Columbia Solo Studio Recordings 1962-68 (d.1) (Columbia/Legacy 2CD)
* David S. Ware String Ensemble: Threads (Thirsty Ear CD)
* Matthew Shipp: Equilibrium (Thirsty Ear CD)†/‡
* Matthew Shipp: The Art Of The Improviser (d.1) (Thirsty Ear 2CD)
* Matthew Shipp Trio: Elastic Aspects (Thirsty Ear CD)
* Mary Halvorson Quintet: Bending Bridges (Firehouse 12 2LP)
* Mary Halvorson & Jessica Pavone: On And Off (Skirl CD)
* Mary Halvorson & Jessica Pavone: Departure Of Reason (Thirsty Ear CD)
* Ches Smith & These Arches: Hammered (Clean Feed CD)
* Secret Keeper (Stephan Crump & Mary Halvorson): Super Eight (Intakt CD)
* Stephan Crump: Rosetta (Papillon Sounds CD)
* Tom Rainey Trio: Pool School (Clean Feed CD)
* Tom Rainey Trio: El Camino Real (Intakt CD)
* Ingrid Laubrock Anti-House: Strong Place (Intakt CD)
* Van Dyke Parks: Song Cycle (mono) (Warner Bros./Rhino LP)
* Grateful Dead: Dave’s Picks Vol.6: San Francisco 12/20/69 + St. Louis 2/2/70 (+)  (GDP/Rhino 3+1HDCD)
* Grateful Dead: The Palladium, New York, NY 1977-05-04 (set 2) (SBD CDR)†/‡
* Love: Black Beauty (High Moon LP)
* Pink Floyd: Animals (Pinkfloyd/EMI CD)
* Deep Purple: Made In Japan (Warner Bros. 2LP)
* Yes: Close To The Edge (Atlantic/Audio Fidelity SACD)
* U2: The Unforgettable Fire (Deluxe Edition) (Island/Universal 2CD)†/‡
* Steven Wilson: The Raven That Refused To Sing (KScope CD/DVD)†/‡
* Opeth: The Roundhouse Tapes (Peaceville 2CD)†/‡
* Opeth: Heritage (Roadrunner 2LP)
* Katatonia: The Great Cold Distance (Peacevill CD)†/‡
* Anathema: Weather Systems (KScope CD/DVD)
* Baroness: Yellow & Green (Relapse 2CD)†/‡
* Pelican: What We All Come To Need (Southern Lord 2LP)
* Pelican: The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon The Thaw (Hydra Head CD)
* Pelican: City Of Echoes (Hydra Head CD)
* Akron/Family: Love Is Easy (Young God 2LP)
* Akron/Family: (Dead Oceans 2LP)
* Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop CD)†/‡



What a week! For a couple of hermits, Lizzy and I have been all over the place:

Friday, May 3: Drive to Chattanooga.

Saturday, May 4: Drive to Athens, Georgia to see Opeth (see this post for more on that).

Sunday, May 5: Drive back to Nashville.

Monday – Tuesday, May 6-7: Work extra-long days because...

Wednesday, May 8: Drive to Lexington, Kentucky to see Opeth again. Thankfully, it was a somewhat mellower scene than Saturday night in Athens. As usual, though, Opeth ruled.

Thursday, May 9: Drive back to Nashville and make final preparations for…

Friday, May 10: Host Mary Halvorson and Stephan Crump at “Indeterminacies” at the newly relocated Zeitgeist Gallery. It was an amazing event: the duo (called Secret Keeper) played an hour-long set followed by a nearly-hour-long discussion led by the extraordinary curator and writer Veronica Kavass. We had a standing-room-only turnout, thanks no doubt to Jack Silverman’s nice write-up in The Scene. The music was sublime; the sound was warm, detailed and crystal clear (engineered by my nephew, Brian Totoro); and Veronica was perfect as a moderator, bringing a deep and wide-ranging perspective on music, art, literature, film, creativity and reception which invited an enthusiastic response from the audience. Zeitgeist’s new space is drop-dead gorgeous and featured beautiful sculptures and prints by artist Greg Pond—the perfect setting for the event. In all, I can’t imagine how it could have possibly been better.

Saturday, May 11: But it’s not over yet! In a perversely tantalizing double-bill, Matthew Shipp will be performing with his trio of Michael Bisio on bass and Whit Dickey on drums along with “Nashville’s most fucked-up country band,” Lambchop. Even though I am completely exhausted, I’m really going to try to go. After all, I (briefly) went to school with Matt and Whitt and it would be great to see them. Their music has been a source of continual inspiration to me ever since.

May 9, 2013

Mary Halvorson Interview 2012-12-01 (Part Three)

Mary Halvorson Quintet 2012-12-01

Secret Keeper, the new duo of Mary Halvorson and Stephen Crump will be playing "Indeterminacies" at Zeitgeist Gallery here in Nashville on Friday, May 10. The event starts at 7:00pm and is FREE and open to the public. In honor of their Nashville debut, here is the full transcript of my interview with Ms. Halvorson which took place on December 1, 2012 at the Blackwell Inn in Columbus, Ohio prior to her quartet gig at the University of Ohio. A drastically edited and rearranged version appeared on Spectrum Culture in January (Part One and Part Two). I am no journalist so I apologize for the rambling (if not totally incoherent) questions. She was actually quite gracious and generous with her time and it was pleasure to talk with her. The full transcript has been posted here over the next few days. Herewith is the Third and final part. Enjoy!


RC: You’ve mentioned that you like Deerhoof.

MH: I love Deerhoof, yeah.

RC: That’s really interesting, um, because a friend of mine is way into them, he’s into their drummer and you’ve mentioned their guitarist and I was listening to them this week and I was going, you know, I can sort hear it, particularly like during the more rock-oriented stuff, the sort of jagged rhythms—

MH: Uh-hmm and they have two guitarists now which I also really like because they blend in a really interesting way, I mean, interesting orchestration of the guitars.

RC: Yeah, and the whole rhythm of it is very different from most rock music today. What other sorts of music do you like to listen to that people might be surprised by.

MH: Might be surprised…hmmm…[pause]. I listen to all sorts of things. Um. I mean I love a lot of old soul stuff. Um. I listen to a lot of old music [laughs].

RC: Me too!

MH: A lot of old jazz. Um. You know, I’ll check out anything. I mean I also like to try to keep up with what’s happening now, especially in the jazz scene but also you know bands like Deerhoof. Um. I just got the new Frank Ocean CD, which I found really interesting.

RC: Hmmm.

MH: It’s a little bit of a different thing. But, I don’t know. I love Sam Cooke. Um…Yeah, a lot of jazz. I don’t know, it really depends. I don’t have like a regular routine of listening or anything.

RC: Do you collect records?

MH: Some. I don’t have a huge record collection but I, it is my preferred form for listening.

RC: So, vinyl? I was going to ask you about that because the second MAP record is vinyl-only.

MH: Yeah.

RC: And it’s gorgeous!

MH: Yeah, that label is really cool, vinyl label.

RC: I’m kind of surprised to see that is still available, I would think that would be snapped up, you know, right away, but um…

MH: Yeah, I have so many copies of it at home [laughs]. Because, I don’t want to bring it on tour because it’s heavy. You know, so that’s the thing, that’s the problem with vinyl is you don’t want to be carrying it around. So, I rarely sell it so I have all these—I mean, I bring copies to Downtown Music Gallery sometimes because I never sell it.

RC: So, you prefer vinyl to CD?

MH: I love listening to vinyl.

RC: What is it about it you like?

MH: Just the sound, I mean the—it just creates a different feeling, you know, just the sound of the record. The MP3s especially, it’s so, you really lose something.

RC: Yeah, sure.

MH: So I love listening and I inherited my dad’s record player, because he wasn’t listening to it, so he just gave it to me. And he bought it in like 1967, and it still has the original speakers, so there’s something really timeless about that, you know? Technology is changing like every day but you have this record player that still works, sounds great, with the same speakers from that year.

RC: Right, it’s just a needle being dragged through a piece of plastic…

MH: Yeah. Do you listen to it? Do you have a lot of vinyl?

RC: Oh yeah, thousands of records.

MH: Oh wow. I bet. I bet you have a crazy record collection!

RC: [Laughs] Well, I like CDs, too. You know, the thing about CDs that I like is that, you know, pitch is not an issue, it’s always on pitch, and, you know, speed variations don’t make it warble. I love vinyl, but it’s kind of a pain.

MH: It is. But I kind of like those weird quirks sometimes.

RC: Uh-hum.

MH: But it’s nice to have both. I think it’s nice to have both as an option.

RC: Do you find that when you go into the studio and you’ve made your record and when you finally get it in your hand, you’re like it doesn’t quite sound like what we were doing or is it pretty close, or…

MH: Usually it’s pretty close because you’ve monitored at every stage along the way, you know, you’ve been there for the mixing and the mastering and coming up with the order. I feel like if you’re involved with the process, hopefully you’ve gotten it to a point where you’re happy with it. The thing that happens is the process takes so long, you feel like it’s an old record by the time it comes out. That’s the thing about it that I don’t like.

RC: It seems like some things, they get recorded and then it’s years before they ever come out.

MH: Sometimes. I mean, the People record is going to be like that.

RC: I hear there is a new Anti-House record in the can.

MH: Uh-huh.

RC: Will that be on Intakt again? They’re generally pretty timely, it seems.

MH: Yeah, Intakt is a great label.

RC: Yeah.

MH: I have another record coming out on Intakt actually which is a duo with Stephan Crump.

RC: Right – Secret Keeper?

MH: Yeah, that will be out in March or something. But they’ve been great, great people to work with.

RC: Yeah, that Anti-House record is one of my favorite records of all time.

MH: Oh, that’s so cool.

RC: It’s just again that’s one of those bands where it’s like anything could happen, you know?

MH: Um-hm.

RC: And within a very short period of time, anything could happen. It’s interesting to compare that to like the Tom Rainey Trio, which is essentially the same people but the music’s very different.

MH: Yeah, very different. Ingrid is a great composer, I really like what she does.

RC: And a great player, too.

MH: Oh yeah, she’s one of my favorites.

RC: My sense is that the Tom Rainey Trio is more improvised.

MH: It’s entirely improvised.

RC: Oh, it’s entirely improvised, OK. And then Anti-House is quite tightly constructed.

MH: Yeah, again but with spaces for things to happen, but yeah, she writes—her compositions are actually pretty involved and pretty difficult. I usually have to spend a lot of time learning them, which I’m happy to do because I love her music.

RC: So how so, like what makes them difficult?

MH: Rhythmically, there’s a lot of tricky rhythm stuff and also a lot of like big leaps sometimes pitch-wise, so, um, yeah, it sometimes it just takes a lot of coordination and a lot of times there will be tricky rhythm stuff and somebody else will be playing a different tricky rhythm simultaneously but they don’t necessarily line up until a certain point. You know, it’s not like you’re playing against a beat so you have a sense of where you are so it’s also tricky. You have to really learn it.

RC: Well, it sounds so effortless on record and some of the live things I’ve heard.

MH: That’s good! [Laughs] That’s nice.

RC: But maybe that sort of tension is sort of built into it. Like, there’s some music that is, um, I think some of Braxton’s music is like this, where there’s so many complex rhythms going on that it doesn’t really matter if they don’t line up completely.

MH: Right.

RC: That sort of imprecision is sort of a part of what makes the music interesting.

MH: Oh, totally, yeah, I think that is.

RC: So, well the new Anti-House record be similar to the last one? Or will it be moving in a new direction?

MH: I haven’t heard the final version, I’ve only heard drafts of it but I think it’s great, I think it’s going to be really good. The sound is amazing and it’s, the band has been together longer, so there’s kind of more cohesion.

RC: Uh-hm. And is Kris Davis a little more involved on this one?

MH: Yeah, yeah, she’s on I think every track.

RC: You don’t play with pianists very often—

MH: Not very often. I love to, but yeah for some reason it doesn’t seem to happen very often.

RC: Well, I think it’s kind of hard thing, I think, two harmonic instruments like that, it’s hard to get a blend. But she’s really amazing player as well.

MH: Yeah, she’s incredible.

RC: And always seems to know what register to be in and never gets in anyone’s way but yet there’s always a lot going on. So that will be interesting to hear.

MH: Yeah, I’m excited about it.

RC: So this duet with Stephan Crump seems like that’s a recent sort of thing, you started playing together?

MH: Yeah, it’s been about a year and half ago we started getting together playing and recording—he has a studio in his home, a music studio, so we’ve been getting together and just basically recording everything we’ve done. And so we put out an album. And that’s all improvisations, although we’ve been writing compositions, too, so the following record, which will be on Intakt a couple years later is going to be those compositions.

RC: Ah, great! So, what about Thumb Screw, which is you and Michael Formanek and Tomas Fujuwara? So how is that different from like your trio stuff, it’s a guitar/bass/drums trio…

MH: Yeah. It’s funny because I was wondering that too but it feels very different, it just has a very different energy, partly just because Mike and Tomas are such different players than Ches and John and partly because it’s not all my compositions, it’s also their compositions. And I think you write differently for different people, so probably even my compositions are going to be different for that band, for the trio. Somehow, it feels really different. I can’t really articulate how but that’s been interesting to notice. I didn’t know what was going to happen and then once that band started, I was like wow, this is really different than the trio.

RC: That’s really exciting. I’m looking through your list of gigs with all kinds of people, Instant Strangers with Tim Berne—

MH: Oh, that hasn’t played yet, but we’re going to have a gig later in the month.

RC: Mike Reed’s Living By Lanterns….I mean it’s just sort of endless. It’s almost like, um, it’s almost like you’ll play with anybody—no, that sounds awful, I mean—

MH: [laughs] That’s fine!

RC: But it’s not like you’re locked into a “this is my thing.”

MH: Yeah.

RC: It seems like any of these people in this crowd want to get together and do something, you’re there and you’re contributing to what’s required.

MH: I mean it’s sort of a combination, because I like to do a variety of things, um, but then there’s a point where it becomes too much and you feel too scattered, so it’s kind of about finding that balance where you’re doing a lot of things but, I mean, a lot of the times there’s so many things that I want to do that I’ll have to say no to even things I do want to do, just because there’s not enough time.  Or if I feel like I don’t have enough time to practice or compose or things like that, I’ll have to start cutting down. But definitely don’t do anything I don’t want to do. So, there’s just a lot of things I want to do, so it’s a tricky balance, I think.

RC: Anyone that you’d like to play with that you haven’t played with?

MH: Oh, a ton of people. You know, it’s funny, though. I don’t necessarily think of specific people that I want to, I mean there are a ton. I mean I’ll hear someone that I’ve never played with and I think that would be great but I don’t think that far ahead [laughs] so I don’t necessarily think about that.

RC: So I’m guessing you’re pretty well booked well into the future.

MH: Somewhat, yeah. Yeah. But I just kind of take opportunities as they come, you know?

RC: So you’ve made some records on Thirsty Ear, Matt Shipp’s Blue Series—have you worked with Matt at all?

MH: I’ve never worked with Matt. I know him, but, no, I’ve never worked with him.

RC: That could be kind of interesting.

MH: I’m sure that would be great. He’s a great musician, I love his playing.

RC: Um, he comes from more that sort of aggressive, that sort of post-60s avant-garde kind of thing and it would be interesting to hear your take with that. I’m sort of abstractly imagining what that might sound like.

MH: It’s possible it could happen at some point. Who knows?

RC: Um, I should probably let you go. One last question: what do you do for fun when you’re not traveling and playing music.

MH: [laughs] Um, what do I do for fun…I really actually like getting away from music because all my friends, I mean that’s the thing, you get into this thing where all your friends are musicians and you’re playing music and you’re talking about music and it becomes difficult to get away from it. So, I have a few hobbies or things I do: I watch a lot of basketball—

RC: Basketball?

MH: Yeah, so I watch a lot of basketball games. I go swimming. That’s a really nice thing to kind of Zen out, so I do laps at the pool when I’m home. I study astrology so sometimes I’ll read things about that and do astrology-related things.

RC: My wife wanted me to ask you about astrology because we noticed that you’ve said, or intimated that you were into astrology and she’s studied astrology.

MH: Oh, wow, I’ll have to talk to her about it.

RC: So, what’s your sign?

MH: A Libra. Libra sun, Libra rising and there’s Capricorn moon.

RC: We’re both Scorpios, we have the same birthday.

MH: Oh, wow, that’s so interesting. I’ve met like two other couples who share a birthday, or are one day off. That’s very interesting, double Scorpios, very intense
RC: Yeah, ‘cuz Scorpios generally can be kind of prickly but we get along great.

MH: Terrific.

RC: Do find the astrological stuff fitting into your music or affect your music or inform what you’re doing musically?

MH: Well, it’s interesting just the way you relate to people, like, um, the band Instant Strangers is a funny example because me and Tim Berne have the same birthday and then Tomas and Stephan, their birthdays are one day off and the angle that our four Suns form is a trine, which is like an easy flow of energy. So there’s kind of, you can see things like that sometimes. I had a band once in college where we had all four elements: earth, air, fire and water, each person in the band was a different element and that was also kind of a cool balance. Also, in my septet, five out of seven of the people are Libras.

RC: Wow.

MH: And I didn’t do that on purpose, that just happened. I tend to be drawn to Libras, I think in some sense, especially musically. Ches is a Libra, Jon Irabagon is a Libra, Ingrid, Jacob Garchik (__), Peter Evans. So there’s, I have a lot of Libras in my life so, but it’s not just about the Sun sign, everyone is a combination of many elements so that, if you look at the big picture, it’s one of those things where the more you know, the more interesting it gets.

RC: Right. Is the opposite true,  that if there’s some sort of tension or you don’t find yourself not getting along that maybe it has to do with sort of astrological issues?

MH: I think it sometimes does, yeah. Although I guess I tend to look more at the charts of people I do get along with [laughs].

RC: Uh-huh. That makes sense. And I just remembered one other question I wanted to ask you: it seems like you were on your way back from Europe when Hurricane Sandy hit. Is that right?

MH: Yeah, I got back like the day before the storm hit.

RC: Were you badly affected by that?

MH: Actually, not really. My area which is Fort Greene, Brooklyn was pretty, relatively unaffected and I feel very lucky because some neighborhoods, I mean, still the Rockaways and Red Hook and some areas are just devastated.

RC: And it shut down public transportation and—

MH: Yeah. I was, for me it was kind of weird, lucky timing because I didn’t have anywhere to be, I’d just gotten back from a five week tour, I was exhausted, I just wanted to stay home. So that’s exactly what I did, I didn’t go anywhere.

RC: Did you have power?

MH: Yeah, they kept kind of flickering but it never went out.

RC: Wow, that’s fortunate.

MH: I mean the winds were like whipping, I have a kind of wind tunnel out my window because I’m in the back of the building and it’s kind of a narrow thing to the next street so the wind was just like whoosh, whipping down alley.

RC: Wow.

MH: Yeah, it was—but everything was fine, really.

RC: I haven’t gotten report from ____, but some of those downtown venues, I think, were affected by it.

MH: You know, I don’t know. _____ told me the Stone was fine, which I was really surprised about because Avenue C, I think, got hit pretty bad although I haven’t been to the Stone since it happened. I know that the Kitchen had a lot of damage, Issue Project Room, I think, had some damage. So, yeah, I mean, it’s tough. A lot of people are really still struggling.

RC: Yeah, it’s horrible. And apparently, it’s just going to get worse and worse.

MH: The gas thing was insane. You couldn’t get gas.

RC: Oh, right.

MH: I mean, I don’t have a car, but even I was trying to get a ride to the airport, things like that. Just, people were waiting in line, the guy who drove me to the airport, he said he waited for gas for 18 hours, he had to wait overnight.

RC: This was to come here?

MH: No, no. Just to get gas in Brooklyn, because there was no gas for cars.

RC: Has it gotten any better recently?

MH: Yeah, now it’s back to normal—but it took like three weeks. It was really hectic [laughs].

RC: Wow. And New York is hectic enough, you know what I mean? You don’t need any more complications.

MH: That’s crazy.

RC: Well, it’s after 4:30, so I should really let you go. I really appreciate this, thank you so much!

MH: Yeah, well, thanks so much for coming, that’s really cool.

RC: Oh, great and, um, I sort of fell into this website thing. They saw my blog and said, hey, you wanna write? So now I’m sort of their heavy metal and avant-garde writer, so—

MH: That’s awesome.

RC: There really isn’t very much jazz on there, but I’m—

MH: And what’s the name of the site?

RC: Oh, Spectrum Culture.

MH: Spectrum Culture, OK.

RC: So my goal is to like bring in more jazz and avant-garde stuff. It’s mostly pop music, so…

MH: Is it based in Nashville?

RC: I think he’s in Portland, Oregon.

MH: Cool.

RC: I don’t think it has a big readership yet, but he has big plans for it—but who knows. I was sort of flattered to be asked to do it because I never really set out to be a writer, much less, you know, interviewing rock stars—

MH: [laughs]

RC: So, I really appreciate it.

MH: Well, cool.

RC: So it will probably be up in a couple of weeks.

MH: Great.

RC: And I’m looking forward to the show tonight.

MH: Yeah, me too! And you said you wanted to take photos? If you do, just tell them I said it was OK if they give any kind of a problem.

RC: OK and I also wanted to ask you for you autograph.

MH: Oh, thanks, sure.

RC: I love the covers on your records, they have like a similar aesthetic. Is that something you set out to do?

MH: Well, that’s actually, the covers are designed by Megan Craig who’s married to Nick Lloyd, who runs Firehouse, she does all the graphic design. So she did this. The other ones that had drawings by my dad, which she then put into color and did the layout, so it was kind of a collaboration between her and my dad. And this one she did all by herself. So basically, she kind of presented me with different directions she was going in and then we kind of went from there. I liked this one.

RC: Oh, they’re beautiful. Well, if you wouldn’t mind signing it, I’d appreciate it.

MH: Yeah. Is your name R-O-D-G-E-R?

RC: Yeah.

MH: OK. I couldn’t remember if it had the D in there.

RC: Oh, you are left handed.

MH: Yep [laughs].

RC: So I understand in Suzuki it doesn’t matter which handed you are, they teach you to play right-handed.

MH: You know, I don’t know, because I picked it up naturally rightie, which is weird.

RC: And you play guitar right-handed.

MH: Yep. But I do, it’s kind of weird, it’s like certain things, like half of sports I would play, like I would play baseball rightie but I would play basketball leftie. You know, I write leftie, eat food leftie, but I play guitar rightie so it’s kind of a weird—

RC: So you’re sort of ambidextrous.

MH: Yeah, I guess so.

RC: Interesting. So I wonder how would it must be like to have your fretting hand be your dominant as opposed to your non-dominant hand.

MH: Well, actually I had to spend a lot of time working on my picking hand because that’s the weaker hand. So I spent years just doing like picking exercises with a metronome just trying to get that hand up to speed because it was weaker. So, I mean I still work a lot on picking stuff.

RC: Wow. Well, you have a very aggressive pick attack—or it can be, not always.

MH: I always wanted, instinctually that’s how I always I would, from the very beginning I think I’ve played like that, for some reason.

RC: Hmm.

MH: I don’t know why [laughs].

RC: Interesting. Well, I feel like I could talk with you for hours but I’m sure you have things to do.

MH: We have to go soundcheck soon, so I’ll probably go get ready for that. Anyway, maybe I’ll talk to you after the show but, yeah, thanks again.

RC: OK, well thank you—I really appreciate it.

MH: Cool, well I’ll see you in a little bit.



May 8, 2013

Mary Halvorson Interview 2012-12-01 (Part Two)

Mary Halvorson 2012-12-01b

Secret Keeper, the new duo of Mary Halvorson and Stephen Crump will be playing "Indeterminacies" at Zeitgeist Gallery here in Nashville on Friday, May 10. The event starts at 7:00pm and is FREE and open to the public. In honor of their Nashville debut, here is the full transcript of my interview with Ms. Halvorson which took place on December 1, 2012 at the Blackwell Inn in Columbus, Ohio prior to her quartet gig at the University of Ohio. A drastically edited and rearranged version appeared on Spectrum Culture in January (Part One and Part Two). I am no journalist so I apologize for the rambling (if not totally incoherent) questions. She was actually quite gracious and generous with her time and it was pleasure to talk with her. The full transcript will be posted here over the next few days. Herewith is Part Two. Enjoy!


RC: Um. I’m kind of jumping around, I’m sort of improvising this interview…

MH: That’s great [laughs]. That’s cool.

RC: So you and Jessica Pavone just did a little tour; that was your tenth anniversary?

MH: Uh-huh.

RC: Now, I take it then that was maybe the first thing you did when you came to New York was work with Jessica?

MH: Yeah, it was. She was the first person I met.

RC: Oh, really?

MH: We were neighbors, weirdly enough. It’s funny to be neighbors in New York. We live like a block away from each other.

RC: How funny. And you didn’t meet through Braxton’s group then?

MH: Not through Braxton, but we had mutual friends because, she actually didn’t go to Wesleyan, contrary to what many people think, she went to the Hart School of Music where she was playing with Middletown Creative Orchestra and she would drive down a lot and work with a lot of Wesleyan people. So, we had friends in common, so we did meet through mutual friends.

RC: Now those records are really interesting too because, um, you’ve said it’s like “writing your own folk music.”

MH: Right.

RC: And I know you’ve mentioned Robert Wyatt being a big influence for a while. I hear a lot of sort of Canterbury elements to that music.

MH: Hmm.

RC: Kind of folk-rock, um, it’s not jazz.

MH: Not really. And I think because Jess never studied jazz, she’s coming more from a classical background and she’s also really into a lot of folk music and a lot of chamber music so I think it more takes on that kind of influence. There’s probably some jazz influence there but it’s not that strong.

RC: And maybe not even a lot of improvisation, more through-composed.

MH: Some of them are through-composed and some of them have improvisation.

RC: And the singing is lovely, I love the harmonies and the, and you both have sort of plain voices—I mean that in the best way.

MH: We’re not singers, yeah. So that’s the kind thing that, I kind of like it when you have singing that’s kind of raw, like it’s not polished. Although some polished singers I really love, but it’s kind of, we’re just singing almost not because we’re trying to be singers but because the song requires that, you know what I mean? [laughs]

RC: Uh-huh. Right.

MH: So, we’re just singing. It’s pretty simple, yeah.

RC: It’s beautiful stuff. And so you’ve made three records?

MH: Four actually.

RC: That’s right, the new one on Thirsty Ear makes four.

MH: The new one, yeah, Departure of Reason is the newest one. It’s I think it’s now almost a year old, though.

RC: Uh-huh. Um. Oh yeah, and so then People is another area where you sing as well and it has very much a rock sort of feel.

MH: And that was also another when I left the New School and I was thinking of doing different stuff. I was more interested in rock music around that time and People was probably the second band I formed after the duo with Jess and I was kind of experimenting with having a rock band and then I met Kevin and we just started working on that stuff.

RC: That’s great stuff. And you have a new one coming out.

MH: Theoretically. [laughter]

RC: Theoretically?

MH: It’s been—I couldn’t even tell you what we’ve been through I mean we recorded that, the “new CD,” I think was recorded in like 2009 or something. And we had three different labels kind of screw us over, kind of string us along and say they were going to put it out and be like, oh never mind, and then we’d be back to square one. So we’ve been sitting on it for a long time. But I really like the record, I hope it gets out. We have a plan now which is actually the same label that put out our first two records. It’s funny, we ended circling back around. They weren’t doing stuff for a while and then by the time we’d gotten screwed over enough times, they were ready to put it out again. But Peter Evans did some horn arrangements on it.

RC: Yeah, I saw something about that. That will be interesting.

MH: It’s really cool, I like what he did. And then we have a bass player now, who also sings. So it’s a little different than the other records.

RC: Have you ever thought about adding a rhythm section to what you and Jessica are doing or is it strictly a duo, intimate kind of thing?

MH: I think…yeah, we’ve more thought about it as a duo although we’ve other groups with rhythm sections, like we did that quartet with Devin Hoff and Ches Smith, which did one record and that was a while ago. And we’ve worked with Tomas and Taylor in the 13th Assembly, so I guess we feel like we have other contexts where we can work with other people and the duo will probably just remain the duo.

RC: Particularly when the singing is going on it’s almost like, if there was a little more heft here, you know, this could almost be like popular music.

MH: [laughs] That’s great.

RC: But maybe that’s something you’re avoiding, you know, doing something overt like that.

MH: Part of the duo in a sense is kind of just a natural extension of our friendship, you know? So we hang out a lot, we spend a lot of time together and then we get together and play music and, it just seems, I guess the idea of adding someone never occurred to us.

RC: It might make it more complicated.

MH: Yeah, because it’s so easy. It’s so easy, you know, it just feels natural. We show up, we have some songs, we’ve rehearsed them. It’s easy schedule. We work really well together in terms of just planning stuff and working on music and so it’s pretty easy.

RC: Yeah, there’s almost no division between like what her material might be and your material, it seems very integrated.

MH: That’s good.

RC: So, you’ve gotten a lot of great press, in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, a big write-up in Downbeat this year—have you had any major labels come knocking on your door wanting you do something?

MH: Actually, I haven’t, you know [laughs].

RC: Maybe that’s a good thing?

MH: Yeah, I mean it’s, you know, I’ve actually been really happy working with Firehouse. That’s been really great. Um, and in a sense I don’t really see a need for it. I mean, it’s like, it’s nice having, I mean I have total control over the music and they do a great job and they also have great insight. In the studio, I mean, Nick is really great in the studio from Firehouse and if I ever have some kind of a question about, oh, I don’t know which track, he always has great opinions. I’m just really comfortable wth them and I really like working with them, so…

RC: Do you like making records?

MH: I love making records.

RC: You do?

MH: Yeah.

RC: I can sort of tell because you have a pretty big discography.

MH: It’s just so nice, recording is such a nice process, I think. I really enjoy it.

RC: Hmm. A lot of jazz people are like, "I don’t like making records…"

MH: Really?

RC: Like, "the bandstand is where it’s at…"

MH: I mean, yeah, I mean probably if I had to choose one, I would be a performer rather than a recording artist.

RC: I don’t hear a lot of difference between you on the bandstand and you on records, particularly with your own band. Maybe because you rehearse you rehearse a lot.

MH: Yeah, well, my band doesn’t rehearse a lot [laughter] but we play a lot of shows. Um, but, I mean, it’s different, there’s a different energy you get in the studio and it’s different than a live show, I mean just to be able to spend time capturing the exact perfect sound for each instrument and to really, the nice thing about recording is the clarity that you’re able to present that can’t always get in a live show. Maybe the sound is bad or maybe one side of the room you can’t hear the guitar, the other side you can’t hear the bass, you know? It’s nice to have, to present something the way you want it heard, with the exact precision, I kind of like that about it.

RC: And it’s great for fans, particularly ones who don’t live in New York, so we get to hear what you’re up to. Um, so…I don’t really want to get into a whole gear discussion but on my humble little blog, I’ve described you as the “most complete guitarist” and what I mean by that is that you, you take advantage of every aspect that the instrument has to offer, you don’t just sort of limit yourself to certain sort of sounds and one of the things I find really interesting is that you know you play that gigantic Guild, which has this big acoustic sound and you incorporate that acoustic sound into your electric sound, you’ll pull the volume back and there’s just the acoustic sound, maybe blend it, with a little bit of distortion with that clean sound and, um, you’re willing to use technology…um…is there a question here? I’m not sure.

MH: [laughs]

RC: Um, well, OK. You mentioned that you got a little sick of the guitar and you went out and got a bunch of effects pedals and sort of worked your way through it.

MH: Yeah, that was when I was at the New School, it’s true, I did do that.

RC: And so what is your feeling about technology?  A lot of guitarists get, you know, they get a huge rack of gear and they bury their sound in effects and you don’t do that, you, you’re basic sound is that acoustic string, that pure sound of the guitar but you’re totally willing to warp that sound.

MH: Um-hm. Yeah, I mean, I think that, obviously every guitar player approaches it differently and it’s just my taste but I really like having a mix of these things. I really like having the acoustic sound of the guitar mixed in because I really feel like that’s a really important aspect of the guitar, the attack of the pick and the sound of the wood. But then you’re having at your disposal an electric guitar so, you know, it’s nice to be able to take advantage of amplifiers and get a tone that you like and feedback and effects, and so but I like that to be balanced and blended. And I’m not saying that’s the only way to do it because I’ve heard plenty of guitarists who maybe have a wall of effects like this, which could be really bad, but if you have great control over that stuff, I’ve heard like Ty Braxton is an example of somebody who has complete control and does amazing things, looping all these effects. And then you get people that don’t have any kind of acoustic element really to their electric guitar, you know, it’s all from the amp. And that can be great, too. But I don’t know. Personally, I just like having that balance and I like to being able to think that if the amp was taken away and all the effects were taken away that the core of the instrument is still there and I could still come up with something. And I kind of think of the effects as like ornaments, like ornamenting or adding something to it.

RC: Yeah because it’s not like you just step on that distortion pedal and like that’s it and you sort use it as an accent or…

MH: Yeah, yeah it’s like something to, just a little something extra to kind of..
RC: Does that create a challenge, like in the small venues that you play in New York, you can back off and you can still hear the guitar but on like a bigger stage, that must be a challenge.

MH: Yeah, what I usually do in that situation (and for recording as well) is put a mic on, right in front of the strings, so then if it’s like a big hall or something, they can blend this mic and the mic on the amp and so then when the amp goes off you can still hear just the acoustic. So usually that works and I always record like that, with a mic on the strings and a mic on the amp.

RC: So, I heard a story where you used to tour with the big Guild and your dad built a flight case for it or something, is that right?

MH: [laughs] He’s an architect so he likes doing these really detailed drawings.

RC: He did the drawings…

MH: He didn’t build the case, he did, the company was gonna, because my guitar is such a weird size, it needs like a custom shape. So the flight company required like a detailed—I mean, they were just asking for a few measurements, they were asking, like what’s the length of the body, and the this and how long is the neck. I guess maybe they were asking for 10 measurements or something and my dad said he’d do it. But before I know it, I he’s completely carried away and he’s, I mean, he’s doing, you know, he’s measuring the distance between this and across here and this length and he’s drawing little diagrams. I mean, that’s on the cover of Saturn Sings, you’ve seen it. But it was hilarious, I mean, I can’t imagine what these people thought at the company.

RC: I assume the case was well-made.

MH: It was, I mean, it worked [laughs].

RC: Um, but then like you took it to Europe and the guitar didn’t make it until like the last minute or something.

MH: Yeah, it almost missed a gig once. Um, I mean, there’s a number of reasons why I don’t do it. One is that I travel so much and I’m not that strong [laughs] and I’m really tired and then the thing weighs 50 pounds. It takes up, you know it’s this long—it’s like a coffin, I’m basically carrying around a coffin. You know, so by the end it’s like my muscles are aching and the thing is getting lost and it’s really not good for the wood to be exposed to such cold temperatures. And, in the end, it’s like, it doesn’t even fit in the trunk of a normal sized cab, so it just creates a lot of inconveniences. And so I thought I really need to find something smaller that still has that kind of acoustic quality that I like that I can travel with. So, that’s what I will be playing tonight. But the latest update on that is that I’m having, so OK. So basically, I’m still having problems because I try to carry on my guitar. You’ll see the neck, it’s very small, the guitar I’m playing and I have a little gig bag I carry it on the plane—so but even with that, I mean, you get people telling you you can’t carry it on, I mean, with the airplane restrictions getting worse and worse and it’s really stressful because I’ll show up—I can’t sleep the night before because I’m worried my guitar is not going to make it and there’s really no right answer, you know, I haven’t figured out an answer because it still stresses me out. I have a couple of friends, actually John Hebert is one and Michael Formanek, bass players who’ve had this surgery done on their bass so the neck is removable so they can check the bass, the upright bass, like in a, um, still in like a bass coffin, but without the head so it’s like half the height and then neck goes in a separate little case and then they’re able to bring their instrument to Europe with a little bit more ease. I mean, it’s still a pain in the ass to carry around an upright bass. But I was thinking about it because I’d done a trip with Michael Formanek to California and he brought the bass that way. And I thought, if you can do it to a bass, why can’t you do that to a guitar? And then I thought if I can just put my guitar in a suitcase sized thing and carry it on the plane and I wouldn’t have to worry about anything? And so then I know this guitar builder—I would never do that to my Guild, because I wouldn’t be able to it—but I know this guitar builder who I have a relationship with who has done some repairs for me before, he’s really talented (?) and has built all kinds of insane guitars and he’s really into weird, one-off projects and he said he would build a guitar for me. So we can custom build it from scratch, so everything is custom, you know, from the pickups to the size of the body, everything, and build it with a removable neck, so I can fold up the guitar. And we’re actually going to build it into a suitcase. So we’re going buy suitcase, build the guitar so that it fits into the suitcase and then I can walk on the plane. So this is the new model, my new model of travel.

RC: Oh, wow.

MH: Of course, he has five or six guitars to build before mine so I’m on kind of a waiting list. So it’s going to take a little while.

RC: I was going to ask how long it might be…

MH: I guess it would be two or three years but that’s my plan. And I’ve never had a custom guitar so it could be really cool to work with him to design this instrument from the beginning.

RC: So is it going to be a hollow-body, sort of similar kind of things?

MH: Yeah. I’m going to try to make it look—not look—I’m going to try to make it sound and feel as similar to my Guild as I can, but still, you know, have it fold up.

RC: Wow. I would wonder how the whole tension of the neck and the strings and stuff, is that like inviting intonation problems by taking the neck off and on?

MH: I think this guy would know how to do it. There are companies that are doing this now with guitars, so I’m sure they use different materials or some way where that isn’t a problem. But I trust that this guy will figure out a way so that it will be cool. Supposedly you have a bolt, you know, you fold it over, you don’t even have to take the strings totally off. You loosen the strings, fold the thing and then you bolt it back together and then just tighten the strings.

RC: Wow.

MH: That’s kind of the plan. So we’ll see. I’m very excited about it.

RC: Yeah, because I was wondering, I was looking at gig schedule, you’ve played over 100 gigs this year and you’ve been back and forth to Europe four times. Um, traveling with a guitar must be, like you said, hard.

MH: It’s just stressful and I think anything I can do to make traveling fun [laughs] and not stressful with the amount that I travel, I think it will really help. So, I’m excited about that.

RC: Do you like traveling?

MH: I love it except for that aspect of it, I really do.

RC: That’s good because you travel a lot!

MH: Yeah [laughs]. But just having it, I mean, every day is a fight, you get to one thing and, oh you can’t bring that on, and then you’re fighting with the people, then you might stopped at the check-in gate, you might get stopped up at the actual gate, you might get stopped at security, so it’s all these stages where you’re wondering what’s going happen and fighting with people and it’s just exhausting.

RC: I can only imagine Braxton with all his myriad saxophones.

MH: Oh, yeah, I mean, he told that he used to—I don’t know when this was, when he was very young he went to do a solo show in Europe and I think he brought like 10 horns or something and he just had them in piles—and this was when you could check as much stuff as you want—you just have them in piles, like moving all these horns, you know, out of the airport. I don’t know how—it’s amazing. I don’t know how people do it but, yeah, I’m trying to streamline the process.

RC: So, what brings you to Columbus, Ohio?

MH: Um, this gig? [laughter] Which I’m very excited about because it’s—I’ve played here before but not for maybe five, six years. It’s really nice, I really like being able to travel in the states because most of the work is in Europe and it’s always really great when you get an opportunity to play somewhere in the states because there’s so many interesting cities. It’s just hard, you know, it doesn’t happen that often.

RC: Right. Well, I was going to ask you what would it take to get you to come to Nashville?

MH: [laughs]. I would love to come to Nashville. But, you know, especially with a five-piece band, and you have to get everyone over with the flights and pay everyone, so it it’s not easy to do. And people are so busy, I mean even finding a time when everyone’s free is, I was lucky that this worked out [laughs], everyone was free.

RC: You’ve been playing more in “flyover country,” it seems…

MH: In where?

RC: “Flyover country,” you know, between New York and LA, you know, is “flyover country.”

MH: Yeah, actually I did a gig in—“flyover,” I like that—I did a gig in St. Louis, Missouri and Ann Arbor, Michigan recently and that was amazing, it was so fun.

RC: And 13th Assembly was in Alabama last year, I think?

MH: Yeah, that’s true, we played at the University of Alabama.

RC: And my wife and I were seriously considering going and for whatever reason it didn’t happen which is why we were like, OK, Columbus, only a six hours away, we’re going!

MH: [laughs] That is so nice, that is so cool you came all this way.

RC: Oh, hey, New York is even further so, um. Well, I don’t know how much time you have?

MH: What time is getting to be?

RC: It’s 4:15?

MH: Definitely until like 4:30. We have to go to sound check afterwards.