Bill Frisell full transcript

This interview took place on the phone, a very dodgy line indeed. Odd that a man whose playing is so incisive rambles so circuitously while talking of it!

 

Pete Langman and Bill Frisell, November 2010

 

unifying element unpredictability?]

03:07 I think it’s in the nature of music itself, it’s not a conscious thing. It seems like the older I gets It’s like a tree with all these branches and leaves and stuff growing out of it and falling off of it and I think it’s just in the nature of music that you do one thing and it leads you into another thing and it’s just being curious about what that is … to me it seems the same thing, it’s all related, but it’s just this amazing world you’re travelling through …

diff ensembles ?]

04:33 well, i’ve been so lucky for the last I don’t know how long there’s been this slowly grwoing circle of people I play with, and just like the way I said the music leads you from one place to another so the people I mean my connection on this new album with rudy and avon goes way way back over quite a number of years, so to me it’s not like throwing something away and picking something new there, they’ve been there all along nd this is just an incarnation of the memory of people that i’ve played with …

they change?]

05:46 yes, and that’s so inspiring for me … especially these people that I feel from the beginning I have a connection, and i’m sure it’s not going to go away, and then it’s like every time you get together everybody brings something new and that’s really how you learn … [6:10]

learning things musically, yourself.]

all of that, definitely – it’s about the people. When I put this group together I wasn’t thinking about the instrument so much, the instrument comes later, it’s about the atmosphere, it’s just the spirirt of the person, when I thought of this group i’d played with each of them individually but we hadn’t played as a trio and I just knew somehow that aron and rudy had to meet and would connect – in that way it’s about the people but it’s also about the music, too … so many of these decisions I make they’re not, somewhat after the fact when people are asking the questions, I’m thinking why did I make this decision but with music it’s kind of instinct, that’s what happens a lot things just present themselves in front of you, something, some opportunity shows up, it looks interesting and I just enter into it …

non-guitaristic playing?]

oh boy, I think it’s maybe my attention, for me the best times I have playing, when it feels the best is when my attention so far away from myself, when i’m only aware of the whole situation, or my attention is on the other musicians and the whole sound of everything, it’s like I forget and I don’t even know what i’m doing and it’s just about making the whole thing not even trying, you just are, you’re not making anything, you just are, like you’re watching the whole thing from a distance and I don’t have that much control over it. But then the guitar also, there’s such an odd – also with the electronics, the effects, there’s kinda this double life that seems to be growing separate from each other. With the guitar i’m more and more attracted to the natural sound of the guitar, usually the electric guitar, the guitar plugged straight into the amp, and then there’s the electronic stuff and that’s a separate instrument almost – I love the guitar just on its own, just the guitar, but I also love all these other sounds

diff person?]

now I just said that they’re also … tied in such a way that they push each other, oh wow, I haven’t really thought that through … i’m trying to think … it’s like they inspire each other in a way, it’s like there’s a voice on the guuitar that’s just, I wanna just hear the sound i’m getting is closer … i’m hoping to get just a clear, good sound … but there’s this other stuff that pushes it around, so there’s this kinda constant back and forth, so maybe they’re separate there’s like a tennis game or something … one hits you the other way … I didn’t really analyse that too much in my own mind …

standards not standard standards … ] 13:00

right, well partly in the way, oh boy … I mean, with this, I don’t … it’s sort of a constant conversation, rather than … I don’t think of anything as a, very rare we think of one person being the soloist and the other … for me whatever’s out in front or in the back or the middle to me is equally interesting. To me when I listen to all my favourite call it jazz music, miles davis groups or sonny rollins groups or monk’s groups, for me the soloist is just one part of what is really fascinating, it’s like looking inside the workings of a clock … you don’t look at just one part, well, you can, but the way in which it fits together is what’s so amazing … with this group especially it’s meant to be three equal parts all the time, and with the songs … I was going to say the melody’s really important and it’s somewhere in there all the time, it’s never going away … so if you put all that together, it’s pretty far from that idea of getting the melody over with and playing a bunch of solos ….

improve ] 16:00

that’s hard to say – with this album there’s a lot of music that was written specifically for this – I mean that’s true for all of my groups – I mean whatever is written is a springboard to the hope that something else will happen … we can play what’s there and hoping that every time we play it we’re going to find something else in it – we start it in a different way, we get to it in a different way … I mean that’s why I never count off a tune or start a tune in any set tempo …you know it’s, i’m hoping that the music finds itself, more determined on who we are at the time …

tunes know?]

not the tunes, because it can really change from night to night – a lot of it has to do with the room, and the sound of the … every room that we play in is like a different instrument and resonates in a different way, and if I play it’s really like playing guitar – all these different guitars I might play, you play a large acoustic guitar, a small acoustic guitar … or a telecaster or a les paul they’ll push you in different ways, and wherever it is we’re playing … like if we’re in a huge hall and it’s really echoey you can’t really play … it really changes the speed that things go by, I think … and then there’s all whatever happened to you during the day, whatever you’re thinking about at the time, how tired you are … how hungry, how full, drunk, whatever you are ,..there’s no telling … I can not relate to the whole thing where, I guess it works for some things where you get the metronome out and say I want to know that the tempos exactly rght – at least with my music it doesn’t work that way at all …

teaching?] 20:00

I don’t teach that much – I used to, but it’s, it’s not to say that all these things … it’s a double edged, you have to … right now it sounds like i’m throwing away any kind of restraints or any boundaries or rules or anything, but that’s not – it’s just that you have to work on all that stuff until it’s deep, deep down inside you so you can forget about it … people ask me about practicing, like what do you do when you practice, and for me one of the most difficult things is … I know I need to practice, and it’s importat, and i’m not saying it’s not important … I mean, if I spend all day just thinking about some sort of technical, I play some scale all day or some sort of fingering thing or something and go play a gig at night … that can really mess me up, if i’m still thinking that way when I get to the gig it can stop me from really listening and being where i’m supposed to be at the moment … I don’t like to be thinking about that stuff when i’m playing, but hopefully doing that practising, then ten years later that stuff will be internalised so much that it’ll come out without thinking about it, and that’s the trick … you know, you have to try to absorb and learn all this stuff, but when you’re playing I don’t think it’s good to be thinking all these calculations … it’s like pre-conceved ideas, I never like to do that, either … or I can’t … like whever I .. if you go to a … if you’re about to play and you decide that you’re going to try to do something … it’s like right there you set a trap for yourself, like you’re going to be thinking about that instead of doing it.

22.37]

oh boy, I don’t know … it’s such a slow, gradual … I don’t know if I can even pinpoint that … wll, i’ve been really lucky, over the last or twenty or thirty years i’ve been really lucky to play a lot, i’ve done a lot of gigs, and I think when that started to happen, when I got busy doing gigs, and then I noticed, sometimes you don’t even have time to think from one thing to the other and then I started to notice that wow this is like, i’m doing better … a long, long time ago I had one gig a month or whatever, so all day before the gig it was all I was thinking about and trying to get ready for it and that was good too but, I guess i’m just lucky that I get to play so much. That’s when I started to, then I guess …

17.14]

i’m always still listening to old guys, you know, people who aren’t even around … you know charlie christian – I could listen to him every day and I keep hearing stuff in him that I … that’s somebody that over the last I don’t know when I first heard im, on arecord was maybe forty years ago, and it’s just like this slow, slow, slow reveal of how crazy he was, how modern … and interesting and straange what he was palying, and he’s somebody I always go back to … you know, those giants, great, robert johnson, segovia, jimi hendrix, you know … those guys it’s hard to not keep going back to all the time, and recently like mary halvorson, guitar player in new york that i’ve been hearing lately and she sounds amazing to me … there are all these guys, you know, sorry, i’m not thinking up names of people … there’s always somebody doing something … every time I hear almost any guitar player …. it’s a weird with that instrument, because it’s so, I still feel so inadequate with it, and almost anybody I hear they’re doing something I can’t, there’s no way that i’ll ever be able to do it. So it’s like, it’s kind of an amazing strange instrument in that way, so many ways of playing it and there’s not enough time …

looking for?] 19:42

well just, I think, it’s never what I was talking about with the group, it’s not so much about the instrument, it’s about how they react to what’s around them, I think that’s way more important to me than whatthey’re actually playing … the effect that they’re having on the musicians around them. If I think about guitar players that I love, I think about, say, jim hall, I love what he’s playing but I also as much or more it’s about the groups that he plays with or has played with and the function that he has in that group. You know, where with sonny rollins, or art farmer, where he was the harmonic instrument and he was causing all these things to happen from the inside of the music … or when I hear herbie hancock play the piano, you know in miles davis’ groups it’s like instigating all kinds of amazing explosions of … just inspiration all over the place. And it’s not necessarily in his solos … or anything but it’s in the whole group … or like ron carter’s bass playing in all kinds of ways how that affects the whole outcome of the music, he’ not just playing a bass part, he’s having a gigantic effect on what everybody else is doing.

You and miles?] 22;15 – that’s very nice, but it’s not, I can’t even … for me miles is just some whole other, I mean i’m just a little insect crawling around … what he did, I can’t even think about that …

album – evocations ]

I mean the writing was, most of the stuff was written more recently … with the idea, when I knew we were going to have the chance to record I really wanted to have ll new … I didn’t want to rehash old themes and stuff, which i’ve done a lot … that was really a conscious decision, to have all new music for the group, to try to … I really wanted this group to have its own world, its own language separate from my other things, so, I didn’t re-arrange older things, so lot of the music was written in the last few months before the album, whatever that means i’m not sure … and again when i’m writing, i’m not even thinking … I wasn’t writing specifically for that group, I was just that I was writing during that time and that’s where I drew the stuff from but when I write there’s sort of that same thing where I don’t what it’s going to be for or anything … that gets in the way when I try to force it into instrumentation or something, the little tunes or melodies they just sort of appear and I write them down and a lot of the process is what happens later, editing them cutting them down or finding which one of them fits with which particular group …

genre – how does bf play? ] 25.50

that’s hard too … that’s the other thing, because I know i’m in a kindof unusual situation because i’ve been able to record a lot, and it’s been over … more than 30 years I guess i’ve been recording music and at a point I guess I’ not looking at any one of them as being the , you know I put my whole life and energy into each one but also I look at them like … you know, it’s just a moment you capture at that time, almost like however many albums i’ve made it’s like on econtinuous thing, so in that way it’s hard … it’s hard to just take one spot … ok, let me … I think if someone has never heard me before, I guess something like that eastwest thing, because, also that was live, and I think it shows it wasn’t really done, I mean although it was just a moment, it was just one day, or two days or whatever it was that the music came from, but it was, it a … there are two trios on there and groups that i’ve wored with a long time, so there are lots of different facets of my playing … in there or of the musica and the way we … and it draws from older things and newer things and things that we had never even played before … so for someone just dropping in out of thin air on what I do I guess something like that or also that history/mystery album that came out a couple eof years ago … again that was recorded live too, and that was a much larger oh boy, I don’t know, I guess that shows maybe more about the writing and the way that the musicians are all together playing together … that one maybe. That’s a question I would try to avoid …

evolution in taste? 29:30]

well, some things have faded away but there’s so much the same as it was that I keep coming back to and it keeps hitting me strong, you know like, any kind of pop music, I grew up in the 50s, 60s, so whenever I hear the beatles they still sound good, they sond better than ever … I cold say the same thing about that, if I don’t hear a beatles song for a while, and i’m walking down the street and i’ll hear one or whatever and I hear one it’s like wow there’s something that i’ve never noticed … stuff that i’ve heard a thousand times just keeps revealing more … it’s just me, I guess, whatever my awareness or something keeps … so I can keep coming back to that or a lot of stuff from my past, bob dylan stuff, I always keep coming back to that … keep hearing more and more and more in it.

Two or three tunes? 31:30]

no I don’t think, well, there might be a guitar in it, probably, some kind of bob dylan song, hey mr tambourine man, there’s some guitar in there … oh man i’m blanking on his name, the guitar player that plays with him on that tune, mr TM, love thatguy so much … i’ll think of his name in a minute … I don’t know, there’d have to be some sort of a monk thing at some point, or miles davis, my funny valentine from 1964, something like that … Bruce langhorne, that’s the name of the guitar player that played on TM, that guy played like … when I hear that now, he just plays these tiny little counter notes along to the song with BD laying the main rhythm guitar and I realise that was a sort of blueprint for the way that I do so much of what I do, that was somebody that influenced me so much and I didn’t realsie it until years later, he was incredible, is incredible, but not too many people know about him

mostly for the last quite a while it’s been some kind of a telecaster .. and I have a diseaes where I keep buying more of them, and they all just slightly different, and on the BD album it’s a telecaster but with a slightly shorter neck, it has a gibson scale, it looks like … maybe it’s not a telecaster at all but it looks like a telecaster and it has these de armond pickups and a fender pickup and it’s also hollow inside, the shape is a telecaster but there’s a lot of hollowed out stuff inside, a guy named jay black, he used to work for fender he’s sort of put a lot of guitars together for me, I also have another guitar … carmine street guitars in new york, rick kelly makes these guitars out of old wood, he finds, people have been giving him really really old pieces, pieces of pine and really really strange pieces of wood and he makes telecaster kind og guitars out of them …. I have one of his that i’m playing now … i’m talking to you from ny and playing at the village [bangrove?] and playing his guitar now … although I have a fender jaguar, which was one of my first electric guitars when I was a kid and I’ve recently got into playing that again too that was weird because I hadn’t played it for so long and thought this feels so comfortable, familiar … my very first electric guitar was a mustang, fender mustang, and then you know maybe a year later I got a jaguar, so I played that jaguar a lot

that changes all the time too because I’m travelling, and usually i’m renting stuff or borowing stuff but here in new york I have a fender princeton which has a bigger speaker in it, and thre’s a guy who lives near seattle where I live, jack anderson, I have a few of his amps. I have one of his amps here, small amp, he just makes hand made amps, really nice … I have a bunch of stuff, at hime I have a bunch of stuff, I have this little gibson amp, I think it’s an explorer or something, but it’s like a 1×10 from 1960 or whatever, and I just lov that amp, very simple little amp

I usually have a line 6 delay, that’s what i’ll usse mainly for the looping stuff, and i’ll have a lexicon multi-effects, like the mp100, whatever t is ut I just use that for reverb, because a lot the amps I use don’t have reverb in them so I just use that … and I have a tube screamer, and I just got this new pedal it’s called a fuzzstang, it’s like this really extreme fuzztone thing – this amazing ott fuzz thing, this guy in portland oregon makes those …

40] – the pedals … it does a lot because it changes the whole … it almost turns it into another instrument, with the sustain and attack, for me it draws, it makes me play things that I wouldn’t play otherwise, just the way notes connect, the whole way the amp reacts and everything is total …

not really, I just don’t, sometimes i’ll tune the low string down to something else but usually it’s just regular tuning, I think about that sometimes, but I never really have time to – someone was telling me about this tuning that these old guys in the 20s used to use where the low string was all the way down to bflat, bflat f, c, and the top three strings were normal, but the bottom thre strings were way, wy low … i’ve been thinking I wasnt to mess with that but I haven’t donw it yet …

oh man, that’s really … I think i’d have to run away. I think that’s part of the deal with music, it’s so hard to see where you are, you just have to stay with it, and every once I a while you get lucky … almost by accident you have a memory of something you were trying to do at some point nd then you’re actually doing it. That’s a really nice feeling, but it’s only a momentary thing, but it’s enough to keep you going ….oh wow, five years ago I was trying to play this chord and now I just played it and it was really cool …

I think it’s just with music you can’t get too … you’re never gonna get it, all of it, right, and you just have to get comfortable with the fact that it’s just a constant struggle and yiu have to kind of almost learn how to feel comfortable with that it’s ”ok, i’m in it, i’m playing music, i’m doing the best that I can’ it’s never gonna, you can never finish it because what you haven’t done is larger than the first time you picked it up, so you have to find a comfort level with that aunting task of hving that infinite thing in front of you …

other instruments] I’m glad I had that experienecee and still, I learnt so much from that and I know it’s affected the way that I play, and the way I feel the notes coming out, but then it’s also, there was a point also where I’m going to have to concentrate on one thing if i’m going to get it together … there’s something good about playing, having an understanding of other instruments but then also you have to … I guess you could spread yourself too thin, not get one together …

career] 45:00

well, maybe something like now i’m, last week and this week i’m playing at the village …. with paul motion, that’s one of those things looking back when he called me that was a pretty huge punctuation point for me … it’s easier to see it now after all this time, but I think about that now as a pretty important moment when someone gave me or he put his confidence in me to be myself and here I am still playing with him 30 years later. That’s kind of amazing, I mean there were so many people before him that gave me confidence too, but that was an important moment for getting me out, really doing my own thing … it’s hard, a lot of those things are so fast, something really great happens in the middle of a song, in a way they’re just these tiny little, microscopic nuclear explosions,

fav moment?]

I haven’t really listened to it since we did it – I do see it more as a whole, I don’t see it so much as … we recorded for two days or whetever it was and I was thinking about the whole piece of it … so its …

well, now … a lot of them were … we had played just a few days before that we had some gigs and that’s when we started to play the new music … so we were kind of ready when we got there … we had four gigs before that, and just went in and did it pretty fast, a lot of them were first and second takes and we didn’t do a lot of takes and … it happened not much different from … oh, I shouldn’t say that, it is different from when you’re on a gig … it’s a whole different atmosphere and it can’t be the same as a gig but I just can’t … it was more like maybe … I was just happy with the way as a whole the way the whole record came out it wasn’t laboured it was fun, I mean we were working hard … it wasn’t as if we were struggling to make something happen … it just felt really natural and the vibe was just really good … I think that’s what I was really happy with, was the fact that it was going to exist as a recording …

Text © Pete Langman 2010 – ask nicely before you steal it, thanks!

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