Sunday, January 23, 2011

Joey Baron master class - part 3: I Forced Myself To Kick My Own Butt

Part 3 of Joey Baron's 1994 New School master class:

Um, drown them out? No, well, you can't make somebody listen. You can try to hint, you can do things like with the dynamics- seriously, you could drown them out- you could lay out, you could do something with the time, like take it into a different feel, you could jump up and down and make funny noises- I've kind of tried all of those and they all work. It just depends on the context, who you're playing with. But you can't make someone else do something, but you can try, and those are ways. If you're playing in a funk groove and it's a constant backbeat going on, and the soloist is going on and on and on and on and on and just you feel like, wait a minute it's like this is turning into like, they should get a rhythm machine or a sequencer, instead of...

You can do things like: don't affect the intensity of the groove but just don't do a backbeat, like in hiphop stuff- or in the stuff that's all about mixing- a lot of times, they'll just mix out the backbeat with the rest of the track is going on. That's a big change, if you're not listening. I mean you'd have to be deaf not to notice that kind of stuff. In a more subtle situation, like if you're playing jazz or more softer type of music, you know just change the texture. If you've been playing on the ride cymbal for a while, play on a closed tight sound, change up the sound, do something to kind of wake people up or something?

It was pretty confusing at first. I was playing drums; the keyboard player, Wayne Horvitz was from a whole other genre; Fred Frith, again like he was coming from the art rock scene- he's a prolific composer for dance troupes and everything and he's an amazing guitarist- he was playing bass in it. Bill Frisell, he's coming from a different place; and John, who as a player is mainly coming from an improviser point of view.

So, it was pretty strange, we'd try something and it would just fall apart and we'd keep going and gradually it was about trusting, again, trusting what the composer wants. Like John said, look, I want you to play mbup-mbup-mbup-mbup-mbup as fast as you can, and I thought, that's horrible! I don't want to do that! And we fought all the time, and then, as time went on, yeah, it's his band [taps head to represent thought]! Trust him! He wrote the music, it's his concept, trust what he does and you know don't worry if it doesn't feel OK at first, you might learn something. And the more I did that, the better everything went, and I could say for the rest of the group too, you know, because they had their problems too. But I was on the hot seat, most of that band relied on [my cues]...

It doesn't have to be either/or- that's the mistake to me, in my opinionated opinion. A lot of people have this very stern, like you're either in or you're either out. That's bullshit. There's room for it all.

For me, as a drummer, I always felt bad about myself because I didn't have the information that a most piano players have, like chord changes- being able to hear and name, hey, that was Dm7 going to this, with a tritone substitution- that's not part of my skills and I always was under the impression that you had to have that before you took any kind of leadership. So that's part of [what is] difficult for me in thinking about having a band- thinking that if I had band I would have to write tunes like Herbie Hancock, they gotta be on that level, that sophisticated, and I look in the mirror- that's not going to happen, not for me.

Also at the time I had already been playing with a lot of people, and I thought if I'm going to do something on my own that's personal, I don't want it to sound like a band that I already worked with, and I don't want to become a sideman in my own group. So, I figured OK, what instruments do I usually play with, and most of the time I usually played with full "normal" rhythm sections: a bass player, some kind of chordal instrument, sometimes percussion, soloists. A lush sound- two or three horns if not a chordal instrument. Always a bass player, and then guitar player or piano player; a lot of playing with stuff like that. and I thought, OK, I do that in other people's groups, so I won't have a bass player; it'll let off certain tones of the drums, that I hear when I'm close up to it. It'll allow room for that, sonically. And I thought, playing a lot with Bill Frisell, who's got this huge sound on the guitar, and he plays these incredibly lush chords, it's like heaven when you're up there and you hear that sound. I figure I want to go as far away from that as possible; because, if I get a guitar, I'd be trying to make it sound like Bill Frisell's band, and that's like pissing up rope, it's-- there's no point.

So I forced myself to kick my own butt, a sound which was as far away from it as possible. And also, to do with dynamics- instruments that were lung powered, so that's why I chose horns. And eventually that's why I chose not to play with a sound system or anything, just to let the sound of the instruments the way there are come across, to try and make use of this sound, that was very- it's not a lush sound at all, it's not a comforting sound, but I wanted to take that and try and make it musical.

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