Yeah, that's your voice I guess.
Yeah, I guess so.
Ron Carter says that about the upright: that's his voice. He used to play electric bass, and if he had to he would, but he got to a point where he was just like, "This is really how I express myself. I don't need anything else." It's the same thing with a lot of piano players, too.
Yeah, they're just satisfied with the piano. I think John is ultimately the same way. If he had to pick one, piano is it in a second. That's a main instrument, you know? It all stems from there.
He's got a lot of toys. [laughter]
He does, and he's somehow developed this way of playing them all like they're separate personalities to the point where he sort of makes them slightly out of tune with each other, so that they sound like they're different people on stage. He just has the ability to have that kind of schizophrenic-ness on purpose. [laughter] Or another way to look at it is those guys that used to play the Bach fugues. They could really separate all the voices and the counterpoint that can happen in a fugue. In a way, John's kind of doing the same thing; it's just a different kind of music. But all of those parts, the way he plays the clav, and then Wurlitzer or Rhodes against that, and then piano, and then an organ part -- it's like these different voices. And they have different rhythmic roles, and different melodic roles. He's sort of developed that over the years into a high level.
It seems like Billy has the same -- well, I don't know about the same, but has that going on as well.
Yeah, well, he has such an understanding of not just a drum set, but basically what a percussion ensemble would do. He spent at least a full year back when he got seriously into Brazilian percussion, and he gave up the drum set and was just a percussionist. He was in these samba groups, and then of course got interested in a lot of African music and a lot of African percussion, and just sort of understanding how all the different percussion instruments fit in together the same way to make a percussion ensemble -- all these different parts that interlock -- and then he brought that to the drum set. That's what I think gives him such a great feel, and that's why that eighth note feels the way it does, because he really did nothing but play on single percussion instruments for a long period.
Did you do anything like that?
I don't know. Do you have anything to compare to that? Just over the years of playing in a lot of different musical situations, and hanging out with John and Billy a lot, and listening to tons of different music. You start paying attention to all relationships of these different parts, and the counterpoint of all different kinds of music, and how a melody and a bass line fit together and when they should be in unison, like a Bob Marley piece of music, or when they should be totally contrapuntal and different like Afro-Cuban music. Really, there're all these different tools. And then some of the different rhythmic parts that happen like claviers -- if you hear Billy talk about it, he talks about it like the rhythm, like the clavier, is a key the same way you're playing in a certain key harmonically, you're also playing in a certain key rhythmically. To be aware of that, certain rhythms are very appropriate towards that, and some are not.
What kind of music do you have a desire to make? I mean, is there something out there brewing in your head you think you need to get out?
I think my brother and I have just scratched the surface. I think there are a lot of places we can go with what we've just started. I'm excited about that. With MMW, too, there's some people we'd like to collaborate with, and then more and more since we've been doing our music camp. And we've got educational things that we want to do. We want to do a whole record based on… Billy came out with this whole book Rhythm on Rhythm, and we want to do a whole record that is based on pieces of music that are based on some of the rhythms in that book. We want to make it partly because it's just going to be really cool music, and then also because it's going to have an educational side to it, where we'd like to film it and have a DVD come out. Just try to get into that more.
Yeah, that's cool. I had a friend who went to the camp, a piano player, and he loved it.
This past year?
Yeah, this summer maybe? I remember talking to him about it and he just said it was the greatest thing ever.
Yeah, we've had a blast. It's such a great location, and it's a lot of fun. It's intense -- it's a packed six days -- but it's really fun.
Sounds cool. It must be really rewarding and interesting to teach people and just to see how they grow in just the course of a couple of days. Are you learning a lot about yourself?
Absolutely. Whenever you teach you learn so much about yourself, and you start realizing what you're preaching and what you're actually doing, and what you need to practice and work on yourself. All the students are mirrors in one way or another in how you approach it yourself. It's also cool, too, because you think, "God, what can I possibly have to offer?" and then as soon as you start, you start realizing, "Oh, OK, this is what I can offer these people." But you don't really know sometimes until you get into it.
So are you doing everything there? Are you doing electric bass and upright?
Oh, yeah. I mean, it's just music. It's all about music. The instrument is almost secondary. We do everything, all kinds of master classes and workshops. They cover a wide range of things. Just how we make music, rhythm, harmonic stuff, we show movies. Some things are very specific and theoretical, and some things are very conceptual and wide open, techniques towards improvising, writing and coming up with music -- a lot of different things. Ultimately based on how you have to actually be able to play your instrument and know your instrument inside and out, and be able to improvise and make music on it on the spot. It's ultimately what it's about.