Filed under: Interviews, Scene Around Town, Words of the Week | Tags: 60's, Allman Brothers, Beatles, Dave Weckl, Dennis Chambers, Grateful Dead, jazz, Jeff Beck, John McLaughlin, John Scofield, Miles Davis, Phish, Wes Montgomery
20 Watts: Tim, this one is for you. Who are your main jazz influences?
Tim: Miles Davis is probably up there. As far as jazz guitar players go, John McLaughlin, John Scofield. For more traditional jazz I like Wes Montgomery definitely. Has he been a huge influence? Probably not, but I respect his music. Miles has definitely affected me musically. Jeff Beck has influenced me for fusion, but he’s more of a rock player. He’s not a jazz guitar player per se.
20W: You guys are pretty technical musicians. You have a lot of fast runs in your music. What you all do or what did you do originally to work on your technique? Any exercises that you found helpful to get on the level that you guys are on now?
Tim: Faster! Fasterrr!
Jordan: Just gigging all the time. I mean fifteen years ago I started studying a little jazz, playing some fake book stuff. But just playing with all the different bands made me a better player.
Chris: I definitely have my routine where I practice. I’ll shed certain things. I like to practice just to keep up with my craft. Everybody’s got their own thing, their own techniques. There are little things you can do, scales type of things, practicing stuff you can’t play basically.
Tim: I did a lot of metronome practicing. I’ll start it slow, look at the technique, try to streamline it. And then just speed up, speed up.
Chris: I use a Webcam a lot. I have a webcam, I’ll sit there and practice, and then I’ll watch it back.
20W: (To Adrian) Are you big on rudiments?
Adrian: I know them. I can play them real fast, but I don’t care about them. I never practice them, but I teach them. All of my practicing was done when I was a teenager. Four, five, six, seven hours a day. All I cared about was drum solos and learning Dave Weckl licks, Dennis Chambers licks, you know. Playing every song I wanted to learn how to play. I just played drum solos for like four hours a day. You have to do it the right way, just knowing the right technique to not blow your chops out or your arms out. Lots of finger technique.
20W: (To Tim) You’ve got this project called A to Z Beatles where you play every Beatles song in alphabetical order. Which song was the hardest to remember?
Chris: All of them.
Tim: (laughing) Yeah! That’s a good answer actually. I want to use his answer. But really, all of them and then Revolution 9, you know? That’s just not your normal song with a normal backbeat.
20W: So when you did Revolution 9 did you sample any of the back-masking that was going on?
Tim: No, it was just putting recorded guitar parts into the Boomerang and using it as a delay. Basically I told (his friend) Chris to write down the dialogue, what he thinks is important. Then we started marking cues. OK, this is where band drops out, band comes in. This riff here, that riff here. Then we had one guy who just said “number nine.” He knew to say it four times, then music. Seven times, then music, you know? So we just had this loose structure that we adapted and interpreted.
20W: Do you guys notate any of your music? Or when you were first writing songs did you notate them?
Tim: In this band it’s a rule not to.
Tim: It’s all ear. That’s why I like these guys so much because everyone’s so natural we just listen to something and then we’re off.
20W: So how is being in this band different from other bands you have been in? Bands where it’s not based around this loose form of communication.
Chris: Well being the newest member, to me it was a great, refreshing experience; I have to say. It definitely changed my playing a lot. I love this kind of music, but I was coming out of a stint of playing in mostly jazz gigs or cover bands. I studied jazz for five years and learned the upright bass. But I come from going to Phish shows when I was 16 or 17 years old; I was way into this music. Then I sort of branched off and studied music–studied music. I was always playing in bands and my ear was always getting a workout, but this was kind of like the band where I was like, ‘alright, I can really push myself.’ It was a big push musically and…everything. Now it has gotten to the point where the communication is always there. The band sounds awesome right now.
20W: Adrian, what about you? What would you say your role in this band is?
Adrian: To make it feel good!
Adrian: Basically, I’m the part of the band where if I don’t go with somebody else’s idea it’s going to hinder everything. It’ll make it not go there, so my ears are open to everybody’s ideas. I will go in any direction that’s thrown at me.
20W: Jordan, you recently came back to the band after being gone for two years. Are things different this time around?
Jordan: Different in a better way. We’re all maturing, and we’ve got the addition of Chris. He’s a monster bass player. Ronnie (past bass player) was awesome, but Chris brings more of a jazz element to it. I think that everyone has gotten better in the band. Before I met these guys I had heard pretty much everyone in the area. It was a small music scene (East Haven). Then I met these guys along the way and thought, ‘damn, there’s nobody around here who plays like that.’
Tim: One thing about this band is the freedom. There’s just no rules you know? Granted, we do practice the music, we know the form, we know cues and all that. But when we get up there, we interpret the song different every night. We’re always trying to push jams in a new direction. Never trying to repeat ourselves ever.
Chris: It’s an unspoken kind of agreement how the music is going to play out. Like you said, we’re not going to try to say, this is going to happen during this jam or this set. But on stage, the communication while we’re playing the music is saying, ‘don’t force this.’ We know what it’s like teetering on something that shouldn’t happen, but the more we do it, the more we mature as players.
Jordan: We sometimes talk out the kinks after the show. See what we didn’t like; what we did like.
20W: Do you guys listen to your shows?
Tim: Every now and again.
Chris: If there’s something that I really want to hear that I remember being really good, but most of the time I don’t really feel it that necessary. I was there, I know what happened.
Tim: It’s time consuming, but it is an important process. We used to listen to our tapes a lot to refine the sound. Really we should be listening to it more, but at the same time cognoscente of what’s there.
20W: People used to compare Phish to the Grateful Dead. Do you guys get compared to Phish a lot?
Adrian: Sometimes people just compare bands that improvise to Phish.
Chris: If you want to say it sounds a little like it, sure that’s great. They’re one of my influences, so awesome.
Tim: Honestly, someone said it last night. They said, ‘hey, you guys are Phishy.’ Well, we’re all trying to tap into the same thing. It’s that transcendental jamming. It’s not thinking too much. It’s letting go. It’s not about a soloist. Anyone could be featured at the same. We’re just four entities moving at the same time spontaneously composing. Allman Brothers, Grateful Dead. It’s really a 60s psychedelic kind of motif.
20W: In terms of expenses, do you guys tour differently now than you used to?
Jordan: It’s much cheaper without a trailer. We were using a trailer for a while.
Adrian: Crew. The crew was expensive.
Chris: We scaled everything down.
Tim: Not that we want to really. It’s just that we want to survive. Survival is the game right now.
20W: What kinds of things did you do to scale down?
Tim: Got rid of the trailer, crew and lighting.
20W: Do you guys ever get in those moments where maybe it’s not locking up? It sounds a little weird? Maybe it’s off?
20W: What generally happens during those situations?
Chris: You mean like a train wreck? (laughs) No one’s really going to say anything unless it’s like, what the hell is going on?
Tim: If you’re listening it should never really happen.
Jordan: We usually look at each other and start laughing.
Tim: Yeah. We ease up a little bit. We listen and make sure everyone has got their footing before we all move together.
Chris: For this music, you gotta be ready for humility.
Tim: You’re in it together, you gotta listen.
–Interview by Gene Wexler