Name: Chad Taylor
Occupation: Composer, educator, percussionist, scholar
Current release: Together with drummer Joshua Abrams, Chad Taylor forms the duo Mind Maintenance, which sees them playing guimbri and mbira. Their self-titled album is out now on Drag City.
If you enjoyed this interview with Chad Taylor, his portrait page on the website of New Music USA makes for a good introduction into his multifacetted work. He also has a bandcamp page.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
People are sourounded by an endless amount of creativity and sources of inspiration. It’s more a question about awareness. In society today it is very easy to be complacent.
Inspiration can come from anything and can come from anywhere at anytime if we are tuned in. My kids inspire me all the time. The title Snap yr teeth came from my 6 year old daughter Essie.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
We are not thinking in terms of getting started, or in finishing, but rather about entering and exiting. It’s important to plan but it’s also important to be able to let go of any plans.
Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do 'research' or create 'early versions'?
Everyday I wake up is an opportunity for preparation. But how does one prepare for the unknown? A majority of the record is improvised. When improvising, the best way to prepare perhaps is being comfortable with being uncomfortable, being comfortable with the unknown.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
The best ritual for me is keeping an open mind.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
We get started by getting a good tone on our instruments. Once we are satisfied with our sound, the sound itself can help dictate what should happen next.
Once you've started, how does the work gradually emerge?
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
You have to let the music lead you.
Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?
There are many roads that can be traveled but they all get to the same destination. We are usually not concerned about the different possibilities, but it’s important to have an understanding of where you are going and how you will know when you arrive.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
Being alive and aware is the creative state. There can be an element of spirituality in everything or nothing. Your mind is constantly pulling you in different directions and this requires mind maintenance.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
You don’t. A piece of music is never finished nor is it stagnant. It’s constantly changing and evolving.
How important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practise?
Listening to a piece of music never effects me the same way twice. It always produces different feelings and vibrations. Perhaps a piece of music is never finished nor stagnant. Perhaps it’s alive and constantly changing.
What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
This is all very important but not my expertise. So I rely on people I really trust in this matter.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this?
No, I feel quite the opposite. I feel a sense of fulfillment. Music never ends nor does it ever start. It’s cyclical.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
For me personally there is nothing in the world that can help one spiritually more than music. The power of music is boundless.
The knower of the mystery of sound knows the mystery to the whole universe -Hazrat Khan