Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Monday, July 19, 2010
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
and always remember: "sometimes you do it..."
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Friday, April 23, 2010
Monday, March 29, 2010
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
The style of drumming virtuoso Zach Hill is instantly recognized. Dropping the jaws of concertgoers, his blazing stick work and hiccupping footwork are as tight and wild as free-jazz legends, but often as punishing as metal beat makers.
A Sacramento resident and founding member of spazz rockers Hella, Hill is among the most accomplished and prolific drummers in the avant-rock community. Yet before August, he had not achieved two of his oldest goals: transitioning into a bandleader and releasing a solo album.
With the release of Astrological Straits on Ipecac, Hill begins this new journey. Borne from a vision that dates back to when he picked up sticks, this solo life finds Hill changing how others view the role of drummers — as capable of being more than a melody-free cog in the musical wheel. With Astrological Straits, Hill pushes the boundaries that other drummers-turned-leaders have set before him, and he does so in the form of a demented tech-pop oeuvre.
“Drummers don’t normally put out solo records unless it’s just drums, improvisation, or avant things,” he says. “But in the sense of being a bandleader in the spirit of Frank Zappa or any of the great jazz bandleaders, it’s really not that common. Very early on, a goal of mine was trying to achieve something like that.”
And though Astrological Straits is rife with high-profile guests — Les Claypool, Chino Moreno, and Marco Benevento are among them — Hill is the overriding force behind its direction, responsible for vocals, keyboards, guitars, basses, horns, and drums.
The hour-long opus, with a 33-minute freeform bonus disc, is an epic space-math conception. It draws from visionary artists like Devoand Captain Beefheart, laying warped, warbling, alien vocals over the majority of tracks, and employs squeaky effects evocative of electronic artists like Dan Deacon.
Its springing synth sounds, tweaked guitars, fuzzy bass, and convulsive drums lay a strange foundation for bits of classic instrumentation; notably, the saxophone and piano on “Tick On,” the penultimate track, result in one of the album’s most interesting stylistic convergences.
Yet despite Hill’s lengthy instrumental credits, listeners may be surprised to find that his influences are spawned primarily from non-drummers.
“There are so many amazing drummers that I’ve learned from, but I relate to the emotion of certain guitarists or composers,” Hill says. “The emotion that they can convey through their instruments, I envy so much. That stuff strikes such a deeper chord with me, but I’m a drummer. There’s a certain lyrical quality to a more melodic instrument.”
That inspiration led Hill to experiment with harmonics on his drums, creating “inaudible” melodies around which he wrote other melodic parts. And for as experimental as Astrological Straits is, it stands in stark contrast to Church Gone Wild, his solo effort as part of Hella’s 2005 double-disc release. For Church Gone Wild, Hill penned a 59-minute, single-track noise jam; for Astrological Straits, which he jokingly refers to as “Church Got Dialed,” Hill scaled back the frantic freeform moments.
“In the past, if there was some crazy shit or some real alien thing going on, I would have been looser about it and more careless,” he says. “On this album, I was very hands-on and particular about what I wanted to hear. There are a lot of the same ideas, and in some ways I have a sound of my own, but I feel that I’ve refined [the sound] and what I’ve wanted it to be. [Astrological Straits] is really intense, but dynamically, it’s a lot broader and a lot smarter of a record. It’s a lot more advanced.”
And it’s that dichotomy that causes Hill to struggle with his musical creations. His trademark free-spazz beats come naturally when he’s behind the kit, but when he’s pulled outside of his musical world, he often finds himself listening to more straightforward or poppy albums. So for his proper debut album, he opted to make something to enjoy when he’s not that obsessive, zoned-in drummer — when he’s simply riding his bike or doing normal activities.
“It’s weird,” Hill says. “Sometimes the way that I express myself isn’t parallel to the kind of music that I like to hear. My personal taste is much different than 70% of the records that I’ve ever made. It’s bizarre, because everything that I’ve made I love and I’m super proud of, but it doesn’t necessarily line up to my tastes.”
Thus Hill’s confliction between id and ego may ultimately define his legacy as a solo artist. Known for his dozens of experimental projects and collaborations, and with another proper band in the works, the drumming prodigy plans to maintain his other efforts.
But he is already planning for his second solo recording, which could begin as early as the end of his summer/fall tour, set to feature theAstrological Straits material. To be orchestrated with a live band that uses samplers, sequencers, and keyboards to fill in the blanks, that tour could captivate audiences with its unorthodox presentation. More importantly, however, it could redefine Hill as an artist.
“Horn players and guitarists — people like Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, and Ornette Coleman — are so expressive,” he says. “That goes back to that attitude when you start playing the drums: ‘No, you have to stay in this small fucking box, just chopping wood out there so that other people can do their thing.’
“There’s so much to do with [drums] that hasn’t been done yet; the roles can be reversed. You can’t do anything outside of the box on the drum set — or go freeform in a pop-structured song — without someone going, ‘Drum solo!’ But if you’re a guitar player or a horn player expressing yourself in free time while others are holding it down, it’s some brilliant shit. In my mind, that just equates to brainwashed propaganda.”
- Scott Morrow
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Sunday, February 21, 2010
View Magazine (Hamilton, Ontario)
Greater Hamilton's Weekly Alternative Online Edition
Vol. 12 No. 29. July 20th-26th, 2006
Below is my horribly mismanaged email interview with Brooklyn
based art damage/free avant jazz/indie rock duo People. Formed
by Mary Halvorson and Kevin Shea four years ago, People has
given the collective heads of listeners a quarterturn, standing
highconcept on its ear and challenging the preconceived notions
of what music is expected to be. As it turns out, that spirit comes
naturally to the band, they simply cannot help themselves as they
recast what could be the painfully ordinary into something
extraordinary, even if its the most pedestrian of interview
View: How long has the band been together?
Mary Halvorson: I think about four years...
Kevin Shea: And yet, in sooth we arent a band in the common
undertaking, we dont go around raping and pillaging in order to espouse new doctrines. Rather, we are an experiment in the
laboratory gone wrong; we dont know where we came from, why
we are together, or how we met, only that we are the product of
chance relations canceling out all human feelings we may have
once had. We dont play because we want to, because we have to,
because we want money or fame, in order to trace our evolution
youll need to go back millions of years to the time before the
dinosaurs. Were functioning single celled amoebas without
reason. This is what we do, I dont know why. I dont have the
answers, if I had all the answers there wouldnt be corporate co
opting and diversion of rivers away from landlocked regions in
the Middle East, now would there?
View: How did you meet?
People: This is a mystery that must never, ever be revealed.
View: Are you on tour right now? If so, how long is the tour and
hows it going so far?
MH: Depends on how you define tour.
KS: Tour used to indicate that a band was out for 300 days of
the year, nowadays all you have to do is play one show in the
outer regions of Long Island and youll find yourself on tour.
View: How have the crowds been?
MH: People either hate us with a passion, love us, or stare at us
with blank expressions.
View: I just finished listening to the copy of the new album that
you sent over. How does People write songs?
KS: To me, these songs arent fully written. What makes the song
a song is the interpretation of the song. So many bands today get
together and play just like the record. Thats not what
songwriting is to me. Mature songwriting depends on the players
to interpret the song. If all you do is write songs, you are merely
an architect of your own demise, i.e. songs are sturdy hunks of
metal and wood, sewn together on top of the impervious surfaces
so that chemical/biological runoff destroys the natural filtering ecology of rivers, lakes and oceans. Unless you want to be
responsible for contributing to the destruction of our water
supply, I wouldnt advise writing unyielding songs.
View: How does the writing process break down? Music or words
MH: Kevin gives me lyrics. I take the lyrics and write music to fit.
Then I write it all down, memorize it, and give Kevin the charts to
View: What are your influences?
MH: Tasty meals...
KS: ...We of People are influenced by tasty meals more so than by
bands or musicians. When we play music we are much more
interested in its tangible feeling than we are by how it effects
something effervescent like ones spirit or soul. When you eat a
clove of raw garlic, kerpow! Your body has been transgressed, the
sulfur content marks its antibiotic properties. Playing music is
about human feeling, motion and sexuality.
View: The songs tend to take strange turns within the structures
that you lay down or theyll occasionally follow a straight
progression without adhering to a typical structure (like verse/
chorus/verse or something). Is that a conscious move away from
convention? What were you reaching for when you were making
People: We arent reaching toward something, certainly a troop
like The Strokes reaches toward a cutesy bubble gum pop sound
that is as forgettable as most pizza restaurants; they are reaching
toward your foot, tying marionette strings on your toes and
making it go tap tap tap. But a band like the Stones is
completely rooted in what they do, its clear what they will be
doing until they die. They arent manufactured or hip. People is
just like the Rolling Stones in this way, we are playing the music
we both love to play, and though we wear deodorant, we dont
wear colognes and perfumes. We dont need to impress you, its
obvious. You are aware of what fresh air is, and how vital it is, you value fresh air, dont you?
View: I thought it was really cool that you simulated the sound of
a CD skipping on For Michael, but where did the idea come
from? How do you describe the sound of the music that you make
and the method in which you make it?
MH: This idea came directly from the lyrics, which at that point in
the song are And it skips, as it should. I always try to have the
music fit the lyrics, so that the lyrics are an integral part of the
song and are actually meaningful; not some afterthought to fill
KS: Exactly, we arent flag waving bigots, nor are we traipsing
about panhandling/pandering party lines. This is the stuff we
grew up playing, our sound has a history, cultural diversity is
important. You may go to Lebanon and be surprised when you
hear the music, you may wish you could go home to your old
Rush recordings or phat Snoop beats. Thats not what we are
about. We are all equals. Our music should be on pop radio. I
think its safe to say that until it is, civilization will remain
doomed by impetuousness and greed.
View: Whats on tap for the rest of this year?
KS: Kenneth L. Lays funeral, more missile tests in North Korea,
perhaps another shuttle disaster.
MH: In addition we are recording our second record for I & Ear in
View: What else shall we talk about? What else do you feel should
be present in the article or would you like to see in the piece?
People: We are very excited to play in Canada!! V
[ BILL ADAMS]
What can people expect to see when you take the stage?
PEOPLE: we follow in the footsteps of our rock band ancestors in that we have drums/guitar/singing...
but we dont feel the need to pay homage to the dying breed.
In other words, there is no dialectic between the
expectations of events and the actual events themselves.
To see and the will to see are matters of ones capacity
to interpret pragmatics and to control/understand
physiological/cultural operations i.e. if you are
expecting to see anything at all then probability has
you by the balls (and dont forget probability is
only another word for nationalism).