Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tim Berne and The Importance of Staying Out Of The Way - The Shadowman Interview

I have been uniquely fortunate to interview some of the finest names in improvisational music with none more compelling than Tim Berne. Occassionally I even learn something including the importance of writing and staying out of the way! I caught up with Tim and we chatted about Snakeoil, Shadowman and the shadowy world of the music industry!

 From a compositional standpoint how did Shadowman come to be?

T.B. - "I usually have a basic idea for my albums that differentiate them from the last.....Wanted this one to pack a lot in compositionally but still capture the rawness of the live performance."

Critics seem to jockey for position in attempting to label your music with the majority either coming down on sort of a hard post bop vibe or they bend to convention and use "free jazz" as sort of a catch all. How would you describe the sound and just how much of your music is "scored and rehearsed" as opposed to simply taking a lyrical theme and developing it as you perform?
T.B. - "We rehearse a lot in the beginning and then it becomes easier after the group learns my language.They start processing things quicker. Everyone in Snake likes to rehearse so it's not really an issue. There is a fair amount written but also a great deal of improvisation. The main thing is to avoid soloing per se and endings and focusing on the transitional moments. Keeps the momentum going."

 Shadowman is intense yet there is a more introspective intensity, an almost zen like approach at points where single notes can push colors and textures and then combined with the 4tet there is a harmonic spontaneous combustion that seems to ignite. How much does the chemistry of the band effect where you decide to go musically?
T.B. - "It's everything.....Improvisational discipline, trust etc. Comes out of the Threadgill,Braxton,Mitchell,Smith,Hemphill school."

Your influences (i.e. Stax for example) would seem to some to be somewhat of a walking contradiction in terms of where your music is now. I hear a soulful and soul filled influence throughout yet your performance is incredibly individualistic. Do you have a musical wheelhouse from which you pull or do you even think about it?

T.B. - "Don't think about it much....I like rhythm and sound and noise and logic(whatever that is)."

Improvisational music seems to be imploding from paralysis by analysis. Has the music industry done its job in keeping up with the expanding network of platforms for an artist to be heard from or has it morphed into more of a straight business deal with the artist having to pull double duty?
T.B. - "Music industry? Didn't know there was one...depends on who you mean but I think the best contributions have been made but by people who know how to get out of the way of a good idea.
Also, There are different levels obviously but favoring content over condescension is always a good place to start."

Critics? Do you think some write from such a theoretical perspective at times that they may scare off music fans that might otherwise give music such as yours a chance?
T.B. - "Anytime a critic puts in the time I'm ok with it...negative or positive. I'm not sure I can even analyze this stuff! The phrase "not for the faint of heart" seems to crop up a lot in my reviews though..."

For me, if a review is all about meter and changes then your audience is limited to professional players. What advice would you give a critic other than to be a open minded listener?

T.B. - "Put in the time and don't avoid emotional responses.......critical thinking is good and avoid the previously mentioned phrase at all costs."

Finally, Shadowman is fresh out of the gate but will Snakeoil continue and where do you see the development of the band heading?
T.B. - "I'm as excited as I ever about this band....based on the recent tour we're not getting stale.
I just have to keep writing and stay out of the way."

I wanted to thank Tim Berne for his time and have included a link to my review here for you to check out!