Appearances at SoundCellar -
THE ANT LAW QUARTET - Thursday 23rd January 2014
Question 1 - What made you want to become a musician?
I had a Guns and Roses video and I remember thinking that Slash was a real badass - that had something to do with it. Doing a Physics degree also made me realise I really shouldn't do anything except play music! Certainly it helped me understand that I wouldn't be going into that field anyway.
Question 2 - What was your practice routine when you decided to get serious about playing jazz?
I always worked on repertoire more than anything else, and tried to find my own routes through chord progressions, rather than strictly copying people, although obviously I did try to steal loads of Pat Martino licks.
Question 3 – What advice can you give to other musicians to get the most from their practice routine?
A friend of mine, bassist Kevin Glasgow once told me the way to stay productive all day is: shed for 25 minutes, then rest for 5 mins i.e. chill/have a tea/go for a walk. That way you can continue all day long! I think taking a step back and really working out what you want to learn is important too. And learning from as many teachers/cds/books/youtube clips as possible to find what works for you. Multiple insights into the same subject certainly helped me (I think).
Question 4 - Can you recommend some books that helped you with your studies?
"Rhythmic Illusions" by Gavin Harrison. Also Ari Hoenig was/is a big inspiration. Studying with him in person was really really helpful - his books "Introduction to Polyrhythm - Expanding and Contracting Time Within Form" were really helpful. For any guitar players I recommend tuning in fourths as it makes things much easier. I wrote a book on that subject available from my website or at the gig!
Question 5 - Which recording, either as a leader or a sideman, do you think is the best example of your playing?
My album Entanglement
Question 6 - Do you have a standard procedure for your compositional process?
I have a few different ways of writing. Some things come together naturally, other ones might evolve out of a chord melody or I'll have some chords and write a line to fit them. Or I'll have some rhythms I'm working on, and I'll put notes to the rhythms. This is true of the opener on "Entanglement" which is called "Kanda Jathi" - that's Indian for Quintuplets. I have a new piece "Mishra Jathi" which is septuplets, we'll play that one at the gig for sure. I often use other people's compositions as frameworks for my own, for example Kurt Rosenwinkel's tune "Use Of Light" was the inspiration behind "13 Moons".
Question 7 - What qualities do you look for in your collaborators?
Excellent banter for long car journeys! After that, the thing about my music is it is (relatively) dense harmonically and there are some tricky rhythmic turns, so the band need to be on top of that kind of thing. They are also all capable of pushing things in different directions night after night, which keeps it fresh on long tours such as this.
Question 8 - Name some of your favourite standards and tell me why you like them.
I really like Monk and Mingus tunes. Monk for the humourous element and Mingus for the inventive use of bluesiness. Take Monk's "Bye-Ya" or Mingus's "Reincarnation Of A Lovebird". I also love older tunes like "Wichita Lineman" or "I'll See You In My Dreams"
Question 9 – What are some of your desert island discs?
Every album by Ben Monder! I feel like I could listen to that stuff for aeons and it would still sound fresh...
Question 10 - What music are you listening to at the moment?
"Hydra" by Ben Monder, "Tevot" and the Violin Concerto by Thomas Ades. Always lots of Gnaoua too!
Question 11 - What motivates you to focus on creative music?
Love of music, and wanting to share it and love it collectively. I suppose anyone who focuses on creative music thinks they might be able to contribute something pleasing/meaningful. I am constantly trying to do that but I'm not sure I achieve it.
Question 12 – Tell me about some of the most memorable gigs you’ve played?
A recent highlight was doing Pizza Express Dean Street with Gwilym Simcock, Tim Garland and Asaf Sirkis, since they are all so beastly. Earlier in the year we sold out my album launch there, which was a lot of fun. I also play with a mad accordion player called Koby Israelite - his music is a mixture of everything from Metal to Balkan and Gypsy styles, so jumping genres with him is always a pleasure!!
Question 13 - Tell me about some of the most memorable gigs you’ve been to?
I saw Empirical recently and they were very killing. I saw the Eagles too a few times! And Rage Against The Machine at the Reading Festival. Actually one really great memory was going to the Gnaoua festival in Essaouira and seeing the Wayne Shorter group play alongside Moroccan musicians - that felt really special!
Question 14 – Tell me about your current equipment set up?
I'm currently using a newish Gibson ES-175 strung with flatwound 11's into a Polytone. I use that amp in Stereo with an old Fender for the transistor/valve blend for recording, but there's not much room in our car for the tours! I think Benson did this and maybe Kurt R and Jonathan Kreisberg, I'm not doing anything new here.
Question 15 – Tell me about some musicians you think people should check out?
Jimmy Wyble will change the way you think about guitar - so check him out! I also love pianists Vijay Iyer and Jason Moran. Chris Potter's "Follow The Red Line" is cool and quite accessible. On a different note, Alois Haba has a really cool quarter tone opera called "Mother" which I like. Ravel and Dutilleux are cool. Olivier Messaien is another classical dude that has great appeal with jazzers. If you're interested in Indian music, Suresh Talwalkar is great. Lage Lund is probably my favourite straight ahead guitar guy at the moment...
Question 16 - What's your favourite cultural pursuit other than music?
I like travelling, film, books and art but usually I am exhausted from gigs so I focus on eating, drinking and video games.
Question 17 - What do you think of the state of jazz in the UK?
I'm not that sure about this. I think there are loads of great musicians, but not that much audience. The audience seems to be older too, and they often prefer older jazz styles, which is a shame cause it may mean that we (younger cats) all have to leave the country to play our music! However, I also think it's our responsibility to make music that is accessible.
Question 18 - Have you got any tips for jazz promoters?
I have no idea what it is like to promote a gig, so I'm not sure I can offer any tips, but I certainly think that promoters could save themselves (and hundreds of musicians) countless hours by replying in a timely fashion! Sometimes it takes a few years to get a reply from bookers/programmers! In fact, I started emailing people when I moved to London around 7/8 years ago, and some STILL do not reply.
Question 19 - What was the last thing you heard that got you excited?
John Escreet's cd "Sabotage and Celebration" - I loved it and it is very exciting!
Question 20 – Have you got anything you'd like to promote?
If anyone is interested to hear more I'd be delighted to put them on the mailing list (currently I send only a few emails a year, so it hopefully wouldn't be too annoying). We will have copies of "Entanglement" cds at the gig - the album featuring myself, James Maddren, Michael Chillingworth, John Turville and Tom Farmer. Also my perfect fourths guitar book! After this tour we're heading straight into the studio to record the music, so we'll hopefully have some cds next time we're in the area!