Yeah‚ I mean they've gone through dealing with the record labels and all that shit‚ and they're just kind of like‚ "Fuck it. It's easier and better doing it our way."
Totally‚ totally. Also‚ I would say the biggest thing about this whole thing is that I get to play piano. Playing the Hammond organ is a different thing all together. So it's just really nice to be writing more music on the piano and coming up with ideas like‚ "Oh yeah‚ Chamberlain is going to play drums and Reed's going to play bass." That night at Tonic that I played with them (that was recorded for the album)‚ that last Wednesday‚ was up there. It was a great one.
I was going ask you about that. That's the music that struck me first.
Yeah‚ Matt and Reed. You know it pretty much started when Ropeadope had that New Music Seminar tour back in like 2004 or 2005. We had two buses‚ which was awesome. And it was Chamberlain‚ Bobby Previte‚ Bernstein‚ Russo and I. We were on tour and the Philly show got cancelled. So we all had a night off in New York! With everybody there! So‚ I call up the Knitting Factory and get a gig. And Reed happened to be in town because he had a gig with somebody‚ and he was staying at my house. So I just called up everybody on that tour to see who wanted to do the gig. Brad Houser wanted to‚ Chamberlain wanted to‚ Reed was around‚ he wanted to‚ Mike Dillon wanted to‚ and I played piano. So it was like‚ bass‚ bass clarinet-Houser played bass clarinet-and Matt played drums‚ I played piano. And it was just amazing. An amazing free improvisation night. So‚ playing with Matt and Reed again was something I definitely wanted to do with the residency.
You sound like you're on a roll. What else has been inspiring you lately?
Lately I've been reading this really cool thing. I've been so inspired by these two books; there's volume one and two‚ called Incredibly Strange Music. I highly recommend every musician-or anybody-check out these books‚ because they're all about innovators as well as rare recordings and record collectors and out of print stuff-things people have never really heard of. But also information about people who are very well-known‚ like Robert Moog is in it‚ who was an innovator and an instrument builder‚ and also Gerson Kingsley and Jean-Jacques Perry‚ who both played those Moog synths on lots of albums. And then there's this other guy‚ Ken Nordine‚ who is an amazing dude. He had these Word Jazz albums‚ where he would just improvise with words. Brilliant music‚ great speaker.
Reading about all these people has been super inspiring‚ to hear the stories of how it was so foreign to everybody to create like a note or a musical sound from electronic stuff. Because up until‚ like‚ the '50s‚ every sound since the beginning of time was made via something vibrating something-a bow vibrating a string‚ or a hammer hitting a string‚ or a finger hitting a string. So it was totally bizarre to everybody to hear something like electronic synthesizers. Some people were just like‚ "I'm not digging it at all." But some people were just like‚ "Holy shit! That just opened the door! The psychedelic door!" [laughter] So anyway‚ I've just been getting real into that stuff. It's really been inspiring.
What is it about it? The nature of just thinking kind of outside of the possible?
Yeah‚ to a point. Thinking outside the normal‚ what's happening‚ what you can buy at Guitar Center compared to what you can invent at your house and use on your album‚ or use live. You know what I mean? For example‚ we have keyboards and we have a piano. As a keyboardist‚ I am trying to find an instrument that vibrates when I hit it. Like‚ everybody that plays music hits something with their hand and it vibrates. Matt hits the drum and it vibrates into the drum; it's an acoustic vibration. And Reed hits the string on the bass‚ and I hit… what? If I had a synthesizer‚ I would hit… a button. [laughter]
What kind of natural connection is that? So for the keyboardist it can be hard to find that connection. And the way you can is with a Wurlitzer: your hammer hits a reed and the reed vibrates‚ and you can feel the acoustic element of it‚ the organic quality of that instrument. Because it's living and breathing and vibrating. So I was thinking I could plug it through a distortion pedal‚ like in the Duo‚ or in any other thing that I do‚ really-I always like to plug a Wurlitzer into a distortion pedal because it sounds great-and when you plug it into it‚ it feeds back‚ because like a guitar‚ there's pickups on it and it feeds back. So you could volume swell the Wurlitzer up with the distortion on it‚ and it goes (Marco makes Wurlitzer noise). It screams. And it's awesome! It's like‚ "Sweet‚ here we go. I have my live instrument." And what I was thinking was that is the only keyboard that will feedback. In all of the keyboards that are made‚ a Korg‚ a Yamaha…a Rhodes will feedback‚ but not as live and hot as a Wurlitzer. A Rhodes will feedback‚ because it is a hammer hitting a tine‚ just like a Wurlitzer. But a Wurlitzer is a reed‚ but the pickups on a Wurlitzer are a lot hotter. So what I was thinking was something that will give a keyboardist more of a connection to their instrument is something that makes their keyboard sound hot. Like if every keyboard could have a pickup on it‚ every keyboard would feedback. Right?
Right. [laughter]
So‚ I was just thinking about… [laughter] This is a long story. But I was just thinking outside the box: Why don't I invent a pedal that's a feedback pedal for every keyboardist so they can have feedback? Say the backline company can't get a Wurlitzer and I had to play something else. The feedback and the way the whole thing sort of speaks back to me accidentally is a big part of what's going on. So I was thinking maybe I could just‚ like‚ slice the pickup out of the Wurlitzer and make a feedback pedal for every keyboard to use. I was telling Joe (Russo) that‚ and he's like‚ "Dude‚ you should totally do that!" Like the TIE Fighter in Star Wars‚ how it goes (Marco makes TIE Fighter noise). It's like a reverse lion‚ right? It's like reverse lion sound. And he was just telling me all about it‚ and he said‚ "You should call it the Reverse Lion Pedal!"
So that's just part of thinking about how music works and what can I do to get what I need. If I had just started playing‚ discovering Guitar Center would be like‚ "WHOA! Guitar Center is awesome!" It'd have everything I need. But because I've been doing it for so long and I know a lot more about music‚ what's going on and how it affects me‚ I'm thinking more outside the box. And reading about Robert Moog and all those people inspires me. Like the person who invented the Mellotron‚ the keyboard that uses actual tape reels to play back the instrument. Then I was looking into that‚ and reading about how somebody invented the Melloman‚ which is like a smaller version of that that you just use Maxell tapes to make the tape loops. If you really start searching these days‚ you can get into some stuff‚ thanks to the World Wide Web! [laughter]
I've just been super inspired lately. Having a baby‚ turning 30-I'm getting married in September. Joe and I finally have some time to stop our little Duo train for a second. We're still writing music and getting together and whatnot‚ but at least we can stop touring and think‚ "What's going on here? How can I improve upon my being here in this musical environment?"
That sounds good‚ man.
Yeah‚ it's just been a lot of reading and thinking and writing‚ a lot of music and experimenting with different things in my house. I'm doing this tour with Matt and Reid‚ and I was thinking‚ "Okay‚ I could go on the road and just play pianos." And then I was like‚ "Well‚ you know how many freakin' piano trio combinations there are?" Like‚ "Dude‚ you play piano‚ you play bass‚ you play the drums." Do I really want to do that? So what I was thinking was‚ "What can I do?" And at home I've been playing my piano through my laptop and through distortion pedals and through samplers and delays and all this stuff. And I'm like‚ "Well‚ I want to shut the lid of the piano‚" and‚ you know‚ if you run a piano through a distortion pedal‚ it'll feedback. So that's cool. I just want to try to be a little bit more expressive and have different dynamics.
I love little gadgets and little weird things that change sounds. I just love them. I've always been into that stuff. With all the circuit-bend toys and whatnot. But I'm also an admirer of the jazz purists‚ for sure. For example‚ (Brad) Mehldau is a big inspiration. And I can get that dynamic range by seeing him play the piano because he's so expressive on it. And in a smaller setting‚ especially in‚ like‚ the Village Vanguard‚ you can just hear everything so sweetly and everything sounds amazing. I hope he'd never play a piano through a distortion pedal live‚ you know. He's just so awesome at what he does.
Well‚ he's kind of experimented‚ but not too much. It seems‚ besides Largo‚ he's stuck to strictly playing piano. And being okay with it‚ and that it works. I mean‚ it's funny‚ years ago when we were talking about McCoy Tyner-he's the same way. He never moved into doing anything outside piano. It just worked for him. I think years and years ago it was like‚ "This is my instrument; this is my voice."