For a while I was trying to figure out how the hell I was gonna organize all this shit on the three discs. I was like, "What am I gonna do? Is it gonna be like one disc has songs on it, one disc has like weird shit on it, another disc has like…" I didn't know what I was gonna do. So pretty much every disc is like a healthy serving of all three worlds: the tune world where it's a song, and the free-improv world, and then the cover world-the original take on a cover. Every disc has that. Like the third disc, amongst all that crazy drumming and piano stuff there's "Birthday Boy" by Ween. And then "Gimme Some Lovin'." And then disc two, there's a Leonard Cohen song in there; disc one has a Pink Floyd tune; there's a Quasi tune… So I tried to make it so every aspect of it was on each disc. So if you just took one disc in the car, you pretty much get it. I was thinking, "Why don't I just have it progressively go out as the disc goes on?" Which it pretty much does.
You think so? Yeah, I guess that makes sense.
I think so, because the first disc has a lot of tunes between four minutes and six or seven minutes at the most. And then as the discs go on, it's like twenty-minute tracks. But pretty much, yeah, I tried to go for that.
Actually, how I had it set up first was the Mike Gordon stuff began each disc. But it wound up sort of having a weird momentum where each disc started with this old school Benny Goodman song and you're like, "What is this?" What I decided to do in the end was put those tunes at the end, and it changed the whole vibe of the sequence. "Oh yeah, just put the Benny Goodman stuff at the end of every disc." And the listener is left with, "It's piano, bass, a lo-fi sort of sound."
It actually is better because the first song on each disc, I was like, "OK, the first song on every disc has to be killer." Like, "Listen to the rest of this album!" So I thought "Clouds" was a really nice sort of epic rock journey. And "Peppermint Hippo" was the first song on disc two, and the third disc was the solo version of "Vaya," which I was really psyched about.
Yeah, that sounds great.
It was an interesting process. I didn't really expect to spend so much time on it. I just was sort of complacent when I was sitting down and listening. I was like "Oh, OK." And time would just slide by, and suddenly it was like three in the morning and I was still working on stuff. It's was like "Oh, Jesus, wait a minute…"
[laughter] Right, yeah.
I was lying in bed thinking about what to write as far as liner notes go. And I sort of went off a little bit into spaceland and just started talking about stuff that I was thinking about. I was like writing, "Oh, I wanna thank da da da…" and "Oh, it was really fun…"
I read what I wrote and I was like, "I don't wanna sound like that." So I decided to change it up. I don't know what was the better decision, but we're about to find out. The liner notes are in there, and they're sort of like, "What Marco Thinks About Before He Goes to Sleep." That's pretty much what I'm talking about. It's sort of weird.
Well, it seems like this has been a great experience being wrapped around this project so much.
Yeah, it was kind of nice; it was accidental. I was like, "Joe, what do you think about this album I'm going to put out?" And he's like, "Oh, that's cool." And you know, Marc [Allan] was like, "Oh yeah, that's great." Marc is the Duo's manager. The Duo's not going to put out any records in the next year, obviously, as we're still writing songs. So, I was like, "Yeah, sure, let's do it." It was kind of a no-effort thing. And then all of a sudden all the effort just sort of crept in and it was like, "Oh yeah, I'm enjoying working on this. Let's see what happens." And why not have a live piano record? Eventually it would be nice to get in the studio with Matt and Reed, or Ari or Joe or whoever else, and mess around with some piano stuff and then get more into the mixing, which, like I said before, unfortunately didn't happen this time around.
I want to ask you a little about free music. On "Peppermint Hippo," you can tell something's going on. You hear it when Steve Bernstein comes in with the trumpet. He lays it down, and it feels like you can visualize what's going on in the room. Like you guys are looking at each other, anticipating what to play next and you can just feel the energy in the room.
Right. Well, one of the great things about free improvisation is no one has any expectations. I didn't have any expectations when I went into the gig. I didn't know what notes I was going to play, what songs I was going to play, because it was all free. And the audience doesn't know what to expect either. So, already there's an amazingly tender ground of like, "Whoa, what's going to happen?" And then to further go into that sort of concept, if you have that feeling of no expectations, then there's that feeling that whatever you do is going be right as long as you just do it at the time that you feel it. If the timing is right, it can all land into where it's supposed to go, right? So when Bernstein sort of laid into that note where we go out of the duo and we just kind of groove, I was doing my thing, everybody was doing their thing, and then Bernstein made that move, and it was just the perfect thing to do at the right time. So a lot of that free improv stuff, you just sort of try to let it all play you as opposed to you playing it.
Free music and improvisation really got me going into music, I would say. Like in high school, in the summers, my dad would go to work, my mom would go somewhere and do stuff, no one was around and I would just set the little tape recorder on the piano and just make up stuff for like an hour and record it. That was the greatest. Then I'd go over to a friend's house and just make up music for a while. It was always the thing that I just loved about music: "Let's just do stuff with it! We don't need to talk; let's just use these twelve notes and talk with these twelve notes and see what happens."
There's always been a love for free improvisational music in my life, and in going to Berklee and being in Boston for five years, I saw Bob Gullotti, George Garzone and John Lockwood play every Monday night at the Lizard Lounge. They're called the Fringe... It was so amazing. I would go there and it would just sort of reset my brain for the week. It's like dental floss for your mind. Brainal floss. [laughter] Or like, cranium… there's got to be a word… mental floss! Yeah! [laughter] Mental floss.