Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
I am a born collaborator. Particularly as one who lives to spontaneously improvise, such an instant joining of forces is exhilarating while also feeling quite natural. The rewards of such moments are hard to describe, but they bring me true happiness.
Then, learning other artists' music, trying to make their musical dreams come true is another way of collaborating and one in which one almost automatically engenders a kind of growth. Sharing. It can also present what may at certain moments feel like insurmountable challenges when one cannot figure out what to do, what to play, how to please a songwriter/composer. But it's worth it!
Talking about ideas is cool, and I guess so is file-sharing, but I live to be in close proximity to those I collaborate with - preferably in real time in a not-too-big space.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I must say that I am undisciplined and have never had a routine. In fact, I may have wasted untold hours / years trying to avoid music! I can't really explain it. But my personal life experiences along with my general interest in what we generally refer to as ART certainly have a bearing on my music making.
One must live beyond music, I feel. My relationship to others, preparing food, reading, absorbing some arresting visual input /ideas ... These things are beyond pleasurable and no doubt find their way into my so-called work. It is likely that my attraction to both hushed, harmonically rich, intimate and refined sounds along with crushing, overpowering and near-violent ones comes from the same place: one informed by the impact of life and art in all its contrasting richness, in its ability to make one romantically tingle and/or experience fearsome awe.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
Wow. Tough question as my so-called career has been a pretty long and rich one, full of unexpected wonders and great blessings. But the manifestation of my record "Lovers", a concept album of sorts of mainly other composers' songs centered around my idea of a more dark-hued romance record, certainly seems like a miracle, and one that I never thought would really happen.
It was a huge challenge for me musically (music is NOT easy for me), and it plays into many musical and non-musical obsessions of mine. Thanks to David Breskin, The Shifting Foundation, Angel City Arts, and all the wonderful musicians and the recording engineer, I was able to do this huge undertaking. I thought about this idea probably 25 years before actually doing it.
My friend Michael Leonhart arranged and conducted. For me, it was something pretty far beyond my skill set as a guitarist in certain ways (the "jazz" ones), but it really endeavors to primarily address many aspects of the jazz aesthetic while including some favorite movie soundtrack music along with a song by Sonic Youth, one by Ambitious Lovers ... It's a love letter to love, to (mostly) benign obsession, to jazz, to New York City, to my favorite guitarists, to my parents, all rolled into one thing in ways that are not always super-obvious unless you know me.
I'm not sure this fully answers your question, but I could go on and on. Probably better to listen to it then ask me more about it.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
I guess I feel naturally creative. But distractions for me have generally been the ones that distract people everywhere: financial worry, human suffering, things like that. But I don't feel that entering into a state of creativity is particularly difficult.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
I don't spend a lot of energy thinking about hurting/healing, to be honest. I just hone in on the things I love and cherish them. Everyone is different. This said, I am not really into painfully loud music.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
As I mentioned already, music and art from all over the world has made a huge impact on me. Coming up when I did, one could find marvelous and often inexpensive recordings (such as the Nonesuch Explorer series), hear all kinds of music on free-form radio, go to concerts such as those by The Music Circle (Indian music concerts in the Los Angeles area). World communication just exploded, and we were able to experience so many wonders. And it just got into me.
Just as I think that it's okay to try to make Mexican food if you love it, I think trying to make the sounds one loves seems pretty natural. The problem arises when one thinks one OWNS such ingredients, such traditions, such as in the case of the vast amount of African-American / African /Black culture / music that was basically imitated and outright stolen.
It's a complex issue for me, and a slippery slope for sure. My own music is full of fake raga moments (some of my favorite music is fake raga music!), West African-inspired grooves, Brazilian-inspired rhythms and harmonic content. It's just IN THERE. But not in an imitative sense, I don't think. I hope!
Everyone has a different emphasis, obsession, agenda in art, in life. It may be as important to some to leave such input out as it is to others to make sure it's in. I try to give credit where credit is due and be myself. I question my impulses, sure, but I also want to hear what I want to hear, follow my intuition with awareness.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
I'm not sure why certain music gives me gooseflesh, why music can make me cry, why some low frequencies can make me feel weightless. The "collective unconscious"?
I loved light shows in the late 60s, but I eschew projections / multi-media and whatnot in concerts with my own bands, preferring to keep them focused only on the music/musicians. I have played concerts with cuisine as part of the concept, performed regularly in duet with a spontaneous painter (Norton Wisdom, in Stained Radiance), but I have no specific ideas or theories about how our senses overlap. Pounding electronic dance music seems to enable a lot of people to not only bond, escape their troubles, but also to make them horny as hell.
I guess I haven't given this all much thought! Sorry!
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I spent years trying to avoid my own identity as an "artist", wanting to be a "worker", to erase any idea of the artist as special - particularly where I was concerned. I actually think it may have been a mistake, that it held me back. But too late now.
This said, I am still grappling with these issues in your question and will get back to you when I have figured out exactly what my responsibilities are. In the last 18 months it occurred to me that I should go work in a soup kitchen or do some other kind of community work instead of persisting in making my so-called "art". But then I got asked to play some really cool gigs with amazing people, so ...
Not every artist needs to be something they don't want to be. Political art is not for everyone, nor is ultra-insular, personal art. Everyone is different and I try to respect that - even in myself sometimes!
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
Good question. I just do it. Then, before you know it, I'll be dead.
But until then, while listening to it and playing it, I am beyond life and death and into the ineffable, even the cosmic.