Making Music: Dave King

Uploaded by walkerartcenter on 17.03.2010

James: Thanks, everybody. Thanks for coming down.
Dave King: Thank you. [sighs] Is this far enough away? I wore this scarf to hold onto
my microphone.
James: Yeah. It looks very styling.
Dave: Well, checks and stripes is very sheik. So, I read in "Cosmopolitan." I read a lot
of "Cosmopolitan."
Dave: Because I'm in the airport, I read "Cosmopolitan." "What Women Like," I read that article all
the time.
James: What do they like?
Dave: This, the exact thing, right here.
Dave: White pants, some form of check.
James: And stripes.
Dave: And stripes.
James: Horizontal stripes.
Dave: Horizontal. Are you kidding me?
Dave: White pants, they don't like. Women don't like white pants because they feel that
it puts the man in the position of power.
Dave: Like the captain's chair. So, I wore these to create tension.
James: So, five years ago, you did this Making Music show...
James: I guess, feeling a little tense out there. I can't see anything.
James: [laughing] I'm being drawn into the light.
Dave: [laughs]
James: All right. So, five years ago, you did Making Music with us. We did our usual
Making Music. We heard all about the first songs you ever wrote and how you got into
music, your creative process.
And now, to have you back here, five years later, we thought, let's do version 2.0, where
we're going to talk specifically about these new collaborations that you're entering into
here, and these new projects. But, we've got a whole weekend of stuff coming up, and some
projects that have been around for a long time - Happy Apple, The Bad Plus - and some
projects that have never performed live at all, no music recorded released.
Dave: Right.
James: But, let's start, tomorrow night, do you want to talk a little bit about, tomorrow,
a Friday night show, what people can expect?
Dave: Well, there's a saying, "Friday night is all right for fighting." You ever heard
James: Yeah.
Dave: Why did I say that? Saturday night is for lovers. That's the theme, basically, for
the two nights. Friday, what I'm doing this weekend, you mean? I thought I'd come down
here for a few nights and play the drums.
Dave: Well, tomorrow night, an improvised-music collective, I mean, called Buffalo Collision,
which is based in New York, is coming in. I guess it should just be called a band. I
don't know why I call it an improvisational collective. That's the Walker, making me feel
like I have to categorize things like that. But, doing it gently to me, though. They're
not being forceful with their terminology. It's always a very gentle atmosphere here.
But, you have to up your game a little bit here. I can't say, "It's our band. My band's
coming in." I can't say that.
That's a good photo of us right there.
James: It'll come up later...
Dave: I thought that was a teleprompter.
Dave: Buffalo Collision features the pianist of The Bad Plus, my good friend Ethan Iverson,
and then two real icons of American avant-garde music of the last 30 years, Hank Roberts,
the cellist, who is mostly known for his work with Bill Frisell, and Tim Berne.
James: Now, that is...
Dave: Yeah. The giant man next to me, a saxophonist. And we've been playing together for about
three or four years now, three years now. We made a record called "Duck," on Tim's label,
Screwgun Records, a few years ago. We actually just came back from Europe a few days ago.
This band does a few tours a year and a few festival appearances here and there. It's
a great challenge, because it's a band that has no written music. So, every concert is
a starting point and an ending point, and everything is improvised.
James: How did it come together? What was the idea?
Dave: The history of the four of us, I should say that Tim and Hank actually grew up in
this area, and Tim and Hank I would see periodically here at the Walker in the '80s. In my formal
years as an improviser, they were super-important to me. So, to get to be playing with them
now, even to see Tim Berne with his arm around me, I'm getting very choked up here. Look
at how big he is.
Dave: I mean, look at that. He caught me looking at my reflection in the window of a train
about a week ago, and he walked by me on the train and he said, "You care about your image,
don't you?" That's what he said to me and walked away. And I said, "Yeah, I do."
Dave: I met Tim because he started to come see Happy Apple in New York, when Happy Apple
started to kind of gain a following outside the Twin Cities. We were playing New York
pretty regularly.
[referring mic] Is this still good? I think it shifted.
Dave: Tim came to see us play at John Zorn's club, called Tonic. And we really kind of
hit it off. He ended up liking the gig, and he ended up kind of being a word-of-mouth
Happy Apple supporter. And we would have lunch when I'd be in New York or hang out.
We actually didn't play together for a few years. We just were friendly with each other.
I would see him play, or he'd see me play. And then we started to have little duet sessions
at his apartment in New York. We'd just go up into his workroom. Which, actually, the
cover of the "Duck" - the record we made is called "Duck." I don't know if that image
is here, but that's his studio, that kind of messed-looking, disheveled shelves and
things. He's got this drum set up there. We just played saxophone-drum duets for a few
hours at a time.
And then Ethan and I started talking about maybe we should try and incorporate Tim into
some project of real free music. Which is what Tim essentially does. He writes these
long-form compositions and then does totally free improvising. And he was really into it.
And actually, the first few shows of this band were with the viola master, Mat Maneri.
I don't know if anyone's familiar with some of this kind of music, but Mat is really brilliant,
son of Joe Maneri, the great micro-tonal professor who just recently died, recently passed. He
was a New England Conservatory micro-tonal professor, like a genius, and his son is clearly
that, too.
Anyway, he ended up doing a few shows but then couldn't tour with us. There was some
stuff going on with him, and we ended up getting the replacement, Hank Roberts, who is basically
the most renowned improvised-music cellist in the world. And he's such a beautiful guy.
That shows his spirit right there, the way he looks in that photo. They're both like
6-10. Look at Ethan and I, man. It just heightens our squatty, Midwestern bloodlines, man. Look
at those two healthy gazelles of free jazz, and look at...
James: Ethan's standing in that picture.
Dave: Ethan's standing on a box in that photo.
Dave: [laughs] And look at these cheese-eating, Doritos people. [laughs]
Dave: We're just like, [laughs] "Chips ahoy!"
Dave: Anyway. [laughs] We ended up playing one of our first gigs here, in the Twin Cities.
We did some festival appearances and then a couple shows in New York, and then Hank's
first show with the band was at the Dakota, like three years ago. Two and a half years
ago, we played the Dakota two nights. Anyway. That was a long answer.
James: OK. So, Buffalo Collision. Going into that project, have you guys had conversations
about how you want that to happen?
Dave: What happens? No. In fact, there is never a discussion about music, never. Which
is kind of unbelievable, but we don't discuss the music. We discuss other music sometimes,
on the road or whatever, but there's never a discussion about the rule, how long we're
going to play, how long any piece is going to be, never a discussion. Which is really
freeing, and also, it can be exhausting.
I've had my most exhaustive moments touring with this band. Halfway through this last
tour I was on, I was phoning friends, asking for support. I mean, to be honest with you,
it sounds dramatic, but it's like you're very under-slept, and then there's this improvising,
it's on such a high level. And I don't mean that because I'm involved, but I mean it's
really high level because of these great masters, you know.
You can't want to make music happen with it. You've got to know when to let the moment
to appear, and you've got to allow for failure, and you've got to allow for searching. And
those things are difficult, you know. You can feel like you have to steer this thing
out of the minefield we're in now, and that's the wrong attitude. You've really got to lay
back and let things happen.
Oftentimes when you feel that things aren't going well, you've got to remember that that's
usually the moment, if you hear the recording back, that's usually the strongest moment.
So, you've got to get your head out of that moment. And that's difficult, if you're on
four or five hours sleep for five or six nights in a row; and people are there showing up
to hear some great music, and you've got no music.
You've got to make some music for someone. I keep dropping the name of your show here,
[laughs] make music. But, it's just so overwhelmingly heavy that when it really happens, there are
moments in shows that are so beautiful, and so heavy, and everyone knows it. It's so deep
to come off stage and just be like, "What was that?" We'd all look at each other and
laugh, and then it's just back to the hotel, and finding out what type of porn is on.
James: So, [laughs and clears throat] one of the features of this weekend is that, you've
got these bands tomorrow. Besides Buffalo collision, you've got Happy Apple, and The
Bad Plus, which you've been playing in for years and years. And you've got these longstanding
relationships of composing music, and performing with those guys. But then, we've got these
projects this weekend, which are taking those members of those bands, and putting them into
these new projects in a different dynamic.
So, in this case with Ethan you guys, how is that dynamic different? In terms of performing
with Ethan, has it brought anything new to your interplay with each other, or having
these other things?
Dave: That's a good question, if anything is strengthens the bond between Ethan and
I, because we are very connected. Obviously musically, The Bad Plus, one of the strengths
of the band is that it is a deeply connected personal band. We're very old friends, and
we also leave a lot of room for each other being different, we're very different from
each other.
But, Ethan is such a genius, and such a great inspiration. To me, he's really one of the
greatest musicians in the world. He really is profound. And so to get to spend time with
him in different formats, we talk about our connection then. And you can really hear it
when we play, Duets will sometimes happen or trios, and people will drop out. And a
few times a tour, it's just Ethan and I, and it just goes. It truly is magical; even they
would step back and go "Whoa!"
Because we have such a connection, that as soon as we start going on this language we
know; I was making fun of us being this sort of dopey mid-western kids, but really that's
one of our strengths, as we have come up with the same language. We had to seek out this
music; we had to really fight for it. We had to earn our place there, and we did it together.
So, it's like here we are, looking across the stage from each other, both at The Bad
Plus shows and Buffalo Collision; and it's like this thing where we know, and we're laughing
looking at each other. It's unspoken between us, and it heightens I think.
We're away from The Bad Plus, and some of those well worn paths The Bad Plus has gone
down. And we're just playing free music. Which of course The Bad Plus has always incorporated,
we're die-hard fans of free jazz musicians. And we use those tools, but just to be stripped
away from everything, and just be out there playing with each other; it's very fun and
very connecting.
James: Is there anything about tomorrow night's performance that will be different, or will
it just be typical Buffalo Collision?
Dave: They're all different; my only hope is that there is no added feelings because
it's like my weekend here. I've already explained to everyone we have to make me look good.
Dave: That's the only thing, so if that adds any pressure to what you're going to play,
I really don't want that. I want you to play what you want to play but you've got to make
me look good.
Dave: That's the conversation.
James: Sorry?
Dave: My mother flew in for this, you know.
James: [laughs] from [inaudible 0:13:51] ?
Dave: I actually said that to him, and he's just looking at me. Like this [laughs] ,
the last night of that tour, the last thing I said to him was "next week, Friday, you've
got to make me look good." And I was in an elevator and he just kind of looked at me
like this.
Dave: And the elevator doors shut. Anyway, it's going to be a little bit shorter than
we usually do, we usually do 75 to 90 minutes - which sounds unbelievable, sometimes it's
straight through. Sometimes there are 20 minute pieces, sometimes there are 40 minute pieces,
but it doesn't matter. But, since we're only doing 45 to 50 minutes, it could be this thing
where, you know, I just don't want to be looking at a watch. That's the whole thing.
We only have a certain amount of time; we're just going to play and hopefully we'll hover
around the time that the union needs us to stop, or something. I don't know. That's all
I can say about what's going to happen.
James: All right.
James: And that will be followed by, is Happy Apple playing first?
Dave: Happy Apple is going to play a song. Of course, that's kind of my home base band,
and obviously the deepest connection, you know.
James: That's pretty deep. Good lord.
Dave: Good god, wow. That, look at that guy in the middle for a minute.
James: [laughs] He's gone through some metamorphosis. [laughs]
Dave: Anyway.
James: What's the song you're going to do?
Dave: We're going to do a piece call "see sun spot run," off of our record "a piece
between our companies," which, check the sales, go online check it out. Almost 1000 copies
in four years.
Dave: That one right there, that record is... Why, am I pinning? Ow ow.
James: That's all right.
Dave: Anyway that's a piece that's a little long piece, so we're doing one song. It incorporates
some of the stuff we use with Mike, using some old sampling keyboards. And then horn.
Of course my long relationship with them, we actually got together today and played,
and we're going to be working on a new record this year.
We took 2009, and we didn't do much. We actually played out of town; did a west coast tour,
a few shows in New York, and that's it. We were really just kind of recharging. Mike
was also doing some work, he plays base with Andrew Byrd. So, Mike was with Andrew Byrd
a lot, and I was with The Bad Plus a lot.
This photo was set in New York, at Joe's Pub about two years ago. I remember that, a microphone
fell down during a song. That's an action shot. Look at Mike there; look at his knees
bent together. I don't like that.
Dave: I don't like that at all. That's not a power position.
Dave: In Yoga, that would be very submissive, right there. It's almost like he wants me
to hurt him, look at that.
James: [laughs] So, one Happy Apple song, "see sun spot run," and then...?
Dave: And then The Bad Plus is going to come on and we're going to do one new piece called
"My Friend Metatron," one of my tunes. And then we're going to play a few from our records.
Why do I have to know, I mean I guess we have to plan this a little bit...
James: Well, it's...
Dave: Within these pieces anyway, obviously whatever is going to happen is going to happen.
But, we will play a couple of tunes because we're shorter.
James: And then?
Dave: And then we'll come together.
James: Then, it's The Bad Apple. Right. Now has The Bad Apple played since you played
here for the Ornette?
Dave: We opened here for the Ornette Coleman thing here about five years ago, whatever.
And that was a great thrill for us. We played one other time; we played the Edinburgh Jazz
Festival in Scotland together.
James: Right.
Dave: And that was really great. We do an Ornette Coleman program; basically we play
all these more obscure Ornette tunes.
James: And you're doing that tomorrow?
Dave: And we're doing that tomorrow. Speaking of Ethan, I don't know if that was up there.
When we did that Ornette show here, when the new Walker opened and Ornette was here, it
was his celebration. We played his music for him.
He doesn't usually say anything about his music or anyone playing it. This is only worth
noting because we're talking about Ethan. A few months later, he was quoted in an interview.
We got this email saying Ornette, he talked about how touched he was by our performance,
the two bands together, and how he felt like we really understood the music. He doesn't
usually say that. This guy sent this to us who was his friend and knows him.
Ethan was weeping. It was just like seeing Ethan's connection to Ornette and the music.
Ethan writes this jazz blog, and he's very serious about his obsessions with improvised
music. He's just crying, reading this.
It was really a moment, sort of like his master was saying to him I appreciated what you did.
It was really a great moment. It was in Downbeat or something. It was really interesting. It
was fun.
James: Do you see that project ever being more than doing these Ornette...?
Dave: We really do. We want to do a tour. We want to do a tour of the two bands and
do this Ornette Coleman program because I think it's interesting.
Fratzke plays guitar in the band. He's an incredible guitar player, if anyone has ever
checked out his band, Zebulon Pike, or the other group I do with him with the bass player
of Husker Du called the Gang Font.
His guitar playing is just as iconoclastic and brilliant as his bass playing, and he's
such a heavyweight. You should see him. He plays guitar in the Trucking Band that's going
to play the second night. He switches to guitar as soon as Reid comes on, and then it's double
trio. It's really fun.
So, we will hopefully do more. We've had some invitations for some festivals to do it. We
just haven't hooked the schedule up. But, we did the Edinburgh one. It was just a blast.
We were like, OK, we should do this more.
James: Have there been any tunes that you've been working on of your own where you've been
like this might be a Bad Apple?
Dave: We haven't thought about original music for that. It's almost like we're both so focused
on each other. We're just like in our worlds. This is our music. That's The Bad Plus; this
is the concept.
But, it's really we find this common ground where we find a composer we all love, a concept
where we switch instruments, the sonority works. So, we just stick with that right now.
Who knows? But, that's what that is right now.
James: All right. Then Saturday night, we're going to get these two new projects, Golden
Valley is Now, and the Dave King Trucking Company, with a little guest appearance by
the Gang Font.
Dave: Right.
James: Gang Font's been around for a little while now.
Dave: Yes, we've only played a couple of shows in town, but we've been steadily working on
James: How did that come together as the Gang Font?
Dave: Wow. Look at him.
Dave: Is he here? He's not, thank god. He just got his black belt. I was saying that
during our set, at the end of our song, I was going to throw a floor tom up and he was
going to chop it in half.
Here's our idea, because we're only doing one song. We were going to make it like a
performance piece. We're going to try and get a grant for it where we cut a little bit
into the floor tom so it's scored a little bit, because I don't know how good he is at
slicing them in half yet. I don't really know how the black belts do that yet.
The song ends. We throw the floor tom up. He cuts the floor tom in half. At the exact
same time, Fratzke's dad, who's a renowned crossbow deer hunter, Fratzke's dad comes
out, all the lights go up, and he points a loaded crossbow at the audience, and all the
lights go off.
James: So, that will be Saturday night.
Dave: That's Saturday night.
James: You kind of gave it away, so don't tell other people.
Dave: That's Craig Taborn there, a great keyboardist who's originally from Minneapolis. Reid and
I and Craig grew up together here. He's been in New York for 12, 15 years. He's in Golden
Valley is Now.
James: Craig's the one in the greenish jacket and the jeans.
Dave: Yes. I'm also in his group called Junk Magic, which we released a record a few years
ago on the Thirsty Ear. That's with Chris Speed, who's also in the Trucking Band. The
nepotism runs high with this sort of crew.
James: You haven't even said who this guy is with the...
Dave: We don't need to talk about that guy in the red. I think if you're from Minnesota,
you know.
James: Black belt.
Dave: Yes, the black belt with the mustache.
James: You can say it.
Dave: OK. That's Greg Norton. He was in the band Husker Du.
James: Now he's a black belt.
Dave: He's a black belt and a chef.
James: And he plays what?
Dave: He plays bass.
James: In the band.
Dave: Yes.
James: The Gang Font. So, how did the Gang Font come together? What was the deal?
Dave: It came together. He's a lifelong avant-garde music fan. That's really his main thing. He
played in the seminal punk thing, but he's really... Actually, I've only ever seen him
listening to old Genesis, and then he listens to Bartok string quartets and stuff. He's
into lots of stuff.
He approached me at a Bad Plus show. He's a pretty big Bad Plus fan. In fact, he actually
comes out on the road with us sometimes, believe it or not. He's actually got a bit of free
time these days.
He comes out and hangs out. He's been at different tour stops, you'll see Greg. He actually came
to Iceland with us. It was a very funny story, if I can tell this story really quick.
We were playing in Iceland, and we went to this bar afterwards. We were sitting there
with Greg and the promoter, and then the singer of...
This is going to sound so lame and name-droppy, but it was funny for us because Greg is just
sitting there, and the singer of the band Sigur Ros came over. In Iceland, it's all
like it's not a big deal or whatever.
James: There's only 200,000 people there.
Dave: But I had just seen him on Conan O'Brien, and I really liked this song they played.
He sat down next to me, and we were talking about that. He slowly looked up, and Greg
is still so recognizable to anyone who was ever a Husker Du fan. It's just this recognition
of what is he doing here?
Dave: It's like this moment. We knew each other. He knew that, but he was at the show.
They were talking, and we were talking, and he just slowly is standing there. Greg is
just smiling, because Greg knows who he is. This moment of just, "You're the guy with
the mustache from Husker Du."
Dave: Greg's like, "Yeah!"
He's like this totally, incredibly friendly, bubbly personality. It was just this great
moment of this weird, I don't know, in Iceland.
Anyway, Greg was a Bad Plus fan. He just came up to me and was talking to me at a show.
We started talking about maybe doing some playing. I was always a great fan of his,
and it was fun for us to get to know each other and eat at his restaurant.
Finally, Fratzke and I got together with him, and it was an immediate connection and an
idea where the idea is that we play this very structured mathy kind of music next to Greg,
and we don't say anything to him. Greg improvises, essentially.
So, with the bass being the instrument that's really moving around and playing really busy,
and everything else is a quite tight arrangement. That was this idea we had, and it really works,
we think.
Some people hear that band and go, wow. What's going on? But, I think it's a new idea. I
think it's an interesting idea to have one person in a band that has no direct connection
to what's going on other than intuitively.
James: But, the rest of the arrangements you guys have already arranged.
Dave: The rest of the arrangements are totally tight with no improvising, and he's almost
never addressed. So, we're even rehearsing and dealing with each other. He's usually
just hanging or working something out on his own.
But, there's never a moment where we're like, "And this section is in thirteen, and you
really need to hit this note here and stop at this." That's not what he is all about.
The strength of what he is is all the music he's played and ingested, and how intense
he is as a person and a performer. If he's left alone, if he's just left to relate to
the music on his life experience, it's just profound what he comes up with. He's just
so heavy. I can't say enough about him. It's a really fun thing.
He's also an incredibly sweet mean, you know what I mean? I remember meeting him. I was
a little bit intimidated, and he was so sweet. He brought a Husker Du 12-inch and signed
it for me. He's just a sweet guy.
James: How did you decide to bring Taborn in on this one, on this project?
Dave: Craig was an old friend, of course, and Erik is in his band Junk Magic too. So,
we talked to him about Husker Du. He's an old Husker Du fan, and of course he was totally
into it and wanted to do it.
James: So, he's involved with the arranged parts... and then Greg's just...
Dave: Yep. But, recently, actually, we're using the keyboardist, a local keyboardist
named Brian Nichols. I don't know if anyone has heard of Brian, but I'm sure you have,
and he's fantastic. So, in order to play more, because Craig lives in New York, we just were
really kind of strapped for - we have all this new music, we're going to do a new record.
We put out a record on this record label Thirsty Ear. We played some shows in New York and
here, and we haven't been able to play much live because...
James: Do you have any...
Dave: I don't have any of the new music with me.
James: Do you have any of the old music, Gang Font, we could hear a little of it?
Dave: I really don't. I'm sorry, I tend not to try to listen to too much of my own stuff.
But, yeah, it's out there, you can buy it.
Dave: Or listen to it on - I think he started a MySpace page where he's just like in his
mustache and looking all tough like that.
James: All right, so that is the gang?
Dave: That's actually a soup that he made that we're standing in front of.
Dave: He's a cook. That's a gumbo. We're having a...
James: A bisque.
Dave: It's a bisque. That's a lobster bisque, you're right. His whole thing was, "What if
I make a lobster bisque, and we have our photo with our reflections in the lobster bisque?"
That was the whole idea.
James: Looks pretty good.
Dave: Yeah.
James: Did you guys go swimming afterwards?
Dave: No, he will. He put [inaudible 0:28:33] and it scalded him, [inaudible 0:28:37] scalded
his face.
James: Oh. So, that's going to be the middle slot on Saturday, right? Gang Font? How many
tunes are you expecting to do? Is it just going to be a song...
Dave: One, it's one song.
James: All right.
Dave: It's a new tune. We've been working on it, and it's great. And I should say a
little bit more about Craig, maybe, if you...
James: Was Craig playing that - with you guys, or just Brian is going to be playing that?
Dave: No, Brian is going to play. Craig - no, Craig is really focusing on Golden Valley
Is Now right now, so we just figure this is a way to break Brian in. One song, but he's
excited and he sounds great. Craig is such a brilliant musician, if you've ever seen
him. He has played here many times, but he's someone to check out, and one of my closest
dear friends from growing up together.
James: Yeah, he grew up here but now he has been based in New York for a while.
Dave: Yeah, like I say, I've been in a group of his that is based there, and he's such
a - again, a really special person and musician and a really beautiful guy.
James: Also, Golden Valley Is Now is him and then Reid from The Bad Plus.
Dave: Exactly.
James: And so how did this... What were the seeds of this project?
Dave: That was today.
James: That was today, rehearsing. How did the - Golden Valley Is Now - the whole idea
of it come about?
Dave: Reid and I were talking about the idea of instrumental music being like a pop instrumental
music, and how at times instrumental music always gets put in this category of - without
words, it's all of a sudden not something that's maybe as relatable or something. And
he had been writing some music, it sounded a little bit like the latest Portishead record
without vocals. And we had talked about doing something where Reid plays some electric bass.
He's a great electric bass player. He has a totally unique approach to that, and he's
an incredible composer.
And I had written some things, too, that we thought, wouldn't it be interesting to kind
of get some improvisers together and then not improvise at all. So, the idea is almost
like you can almost hear underneath - we're trying to see if there's anything palpable
underneath that. We're playing these kind of tight arrangements. Even though they employ
things like some odd time signatures here and there, it's kind of proggy in a way, but
it's still kind of poppy.
I mean, there is some harmonic sophistication in it, and there are some other tools that
are beyond some straight pop music. But, really, at the end of the day, it's like three-and-a-half,
four-minute things that utilize some electronics, that utilize some more inside harmony, but
played by people that - their tastes and their abilities maybe go in different directions.
And so it has been really fun. It's really restrained, and it's also a chance for me
to mess with some of those electronic things I do with Halloween, Alaska, and...
James: But, you're playing with drum pads?
Dave: Right. And then just a small kit, a small acoustic kit with a little sampling
pad, and Reid's playing a laptop where he put - he does live stuff with it. And it's
just our volley into that world, but we want to do more of it. The three of us are feeling
really good about it. We're really cramming to get it ready for this weekend.
James: The drum pads: how do you do your samples for that? Is it stuff that you get off of
a bank, or do you record them yourself, or what do you...
Dave: I'm not so good at - and you probably saw that a little bit today - I'm not really
a computer, electronics type human being. I don't relate naturally to technology. Fortunately,
I have a few people like that in my life that do that stuff for me. So, like in Halloween,
Alaska, keyboardist Ev would help me with some of my gear, and James Diers would help
me with some of my gear, and Craig, or anyone who is around that knows something about that
world. I'll say, "I really would like the snare drum from Bel Biv Devoe "Poison," and
I want that snare drum in this pad, and I need it now." And then it's just like...
James: Throw a tantrum.
Dave: Throw a tantrum, and then some nice friend steps in and realizes that they need
to do it or else it's not going to get done. And that's how I get it done.
James: All right. Do you know much about what Craig has got going on with his keyboard setup?
It looks like he's got a few different keyboards.
Dave: Yeah, I don't know what he's doing over there. Today he was doing things like - he,
like, looks around. it's like the Muppet Show when he blows that last note and looks in
the horn. That's Craig Taborn. I saw him a few times today. He's looking around the keyboards.
Like, nothing's working. He's like look around, he's looking at the ceiling. I don't know
what he's doing. He's incredible that way, though. It's almost like - he's almost like
the - he's like Italy.
Dave: Like, if you've ever been to Italy, nothing - I mean, it's so insane and disorganized,
and then at the end of the day it all works out.
Dave: That's Italy, you know? "What? I have to be at the airport in 10 minutes." "No,
you don't." "Yes, I do. I have to be at the airport in 10 minutes." And then sure enough
your plane is, like, three hours delayed and everything is fine.
Dave: Craig is just like, "It's going to be good." He's looking at me, you know, "It's
great, man," and nothing is working.
Dave: Is he here? He stayed home tonight, I hope.
James: OK.
Dave: So, none of them came over. That's what I love. It's great.
James: Adam is here.
Dave: Adam is here. Good.
James: Golden Valley Is Now, though it was a... you took it from this Steinbeck reference.
Dave: Well, we took it from the Ornette Coleman reference. "New York Is Now!" that record.
But, Golden Valley, we found that Steinbeck, John - Steinbeck wrote about...
James: You've got it on your...
Dave: Isn't it weird? It's Ornette? Is that the first name that Steinbeck - Ornette gets
the first name? That's one of the only people that share an Ornette. Bjork, let's do a Madonna.
James: Madonna.
Dave: No, I can't say her. But, seriously, I can't say "Madonna." It's like "Voldemort."
Dave: That's the level of pain I feel every time I say those names.
Dave: She's worthless.
Dave: For real.
James: John Steinbeck?
Dave: Steinbeck wrote about Golden Valley in "Travels with Charlie." There's this little
paragraph where he was traveling with Charlie... [laughs]
James: You've got it there. You can read it. Why don't you read it?
Dave: It's on this machine?
James: Yeah. We put it on there earlier.
Dave: You did?
James: Yep. You can read the whole passage.
Dave: And he is intrigued by the name Golden Valley, which is where Reid and I and Craig,
where we grew up.
James: I think we've got a picture of Golden Valley. Like, kind of a little picture that
we can... right here.
Dave: It's all gone. All hope is lost.
James: No, it's underneath there. There we go. See? Golden Valley.
Dave: That's my family crest.
James: Now, did you grow up in...
Dave: It's gone. There's no hope left.
James: You grew up in Golden Valley, right?
Dave: I did. The mean streets of Golden Valley.
James: You...
Dave: We used to huff paint behind the Terrace Mall.
Dave: All right. Now, I'm just going to try to read this like John Lithgow. I think it's
a great idea. Because I think that if you write a book and you have to do a book on
tape, you've got to get John Lithgow to read it. If John Lithgow reads your book, it's
going to sell. I have this weird feeling that John Lithgow reads the hell out of books.
James: Himself, he....
Dave: Books on tape. Think about that. He's killing it.
James: Have you heard any books that he's read?
Dave: Of course. He does - he does most of them.
James: Can you name one?
Dave: I can name them all. I mean, all the Dan Brown books.
Dave: Dan thinks he's the only one that understands esoteric history. That's the problem. He pops
it out for the bushwa, but there's real stuff under there. He thinks he's got the key. But,
he's just doing this Oprah thing, and I don't like that. There's real stuff behind that.
He's selling it out to, like, secretary's night out. You know what I mean? I don't like
that about Dan Brown. Fuck Dan Brown. All right here we go.
James: So, this is from Steinbeck. This is from what book?
Dave: I'm not going to read this am I?
James: Yeah.
Dave: This is ridiculous.
James: No, it's great. You wanted to do it.
Dave: OK. This is just a real quick paragraph that he sights Golden Valley. Maybe Golden
Valley is proud of this, but he actually drove by, and he never got to see it. He really
regrets it, and he regrets driving past between the cities because he'd heard so much about
whatever. This might be the whole thing.
"I still have the arrogant plan, into St. Paul on Highway 10 then gently across the
Mississippi. The S curve in the Mississippi here would give me three crossings of the
This is already really boring. I mean, the syntax of that sentence sucks.
"After this pleasant John, I meant to go through Golden Valley, drawn by it's name that seemed
simple enough. And perhaps it can be done, but not by me. First, the traffic struck me
like a tidal wave and carried me along. A bit of shiny flotsam bounded in front by a
gasoline truck half a block long. Behind me was an enormous cement mixer on wheels. Its
big [inaudible 0:38:21] are revolving as it proceeded."
"On my right was what I judged to be an atomic cannon. As usual I panicked and got lost.
I ended up at the Red Lobster."
No, no.
Dave: "Like a weakening swimmer I edged to the right."
James: This silence.
Dave: I had this idea. You know what this is? I have this idea of a Red Lobster. For
real, lobsters are expensive, OK? Like a good lobster. I think in order for... The first
meeting I would have with the Red Lobster people to cut the bottom line down. In today's
economy, selling lobster has got to be difficult, especially lobsters that have been out of
the water for weeks, like the ones they sell.
Here's what you do, man. You go down to Bassett Creek in Golden Valley, you get a bunch of
crayfish out of there. I used to do it all the time. You get a tank that's a giant tank,
but it's also a magnifying glass.
Dave: And you have people pick out their lobster, and there's these little crayfish. For real
now, hear me out on this idea, man.
James: So, they think they're getting a lobster.
Dave: They think they're getting a lobster. I want that one. Then they can't see it's
this magnifying glass, right? Then they go, "OK, we'll bring it out." You sit down, and
you pull the crayfish out, throw that thing away. That's actually not cool, put him back
in the creek. Then you get some sort of white fish mixture, and you say, "We'll shell him
for you because no one in Golden Valley wants to shell their own lobster. This isn't a cultural
experience. You're not in, like, some Massachusetts town. You want your lobster shelled for you.
And you don't want any of that lobster mustard either." Trust me.
You get some glommy piece of white fish molded in the tail of a lobster. You sell that, and
you're killing it. Within months you've turned Red Lobster around.
You can ride high on this idea for a few years before somebody gets wise. And I think, honestly,
at that point you sell them all off. You sell off all the Red Lobsters. You open a fake
competitive - now it's really getting heavy - called Blue Lobster.
That reminds me, Happy Apple attempted to open a motel. We've told this story once or
twice before. We attempted to have some sort of money venture where we opened our own motel.
We were threatened with a lawsuit, because we were going to call our motel Motel 7. That's
not a joke. We were going to call it Motel seven and our catch phrase, truthfully -
and we said it today [inaudible 0:41:23] . Our catch phrase was... Their catch phrase
is, Motel 6's catch phrase is, "We'll leave the light on for you." Motel 7's was, "We
will turn the light on for you once you arrive."
Dave: Anyway he goes on and on about he just misses St. Paul and Minneapolis here. It's
not a big deal, but we found it kind of funny, or interesting, that Golden Valley is sighted
in a Steinbeck novel, I mean in his travel diary. It was just an interesting thing. So,
one of our plans is to kind of have that quote maybe as a bio or something. To use it in
some different way than just like, this guy plays this and this guy plays this, that type
of thing. And that's the city we all kind of grew up in.
James: Right. And New York is now, and it's Golden Valley is now.
Dave: Exactly. New York was in.
James: So, these songs that you're... Have you guys recorded anything?
Dave: No, we haven't tracked anything, but we've been thinking about a way to do a record
this year. And we've been thinking about trying to do it with... We were either considering
doing it with David Torn, the great kind of guitarist sound sculptor, or whatever. He
was David Bowie's guitar player. I don't know if you're a David Torn fans here, but he's
really this brilliant guy I'm sure everybody knows. We have a connection to him through
Craig and through other people.
Actually, David Torn and I are going to do a duet concert in San Diego in June, if anybody's
going to be there.
James: We might now.
Dave: No, maybe not. Anyway, he's this great guy, and we're thinking about maybe doing
a record with him. He's got a lot of ideas, sonic ideas, and we'll see what happens. That's
that. Yeah, maybe.
James: All right. That's the first thing tomorrow, or on Saturday night, is Golden Valley's now,
then Gang Font.
Dave: Then Gang Font's going to play one song.
James: I was going to say though, with Golden Valley is Now, that's another example. You're
doing a project with Reid. In The Bad Plus all this time. And you've done projects with
Craig, too. Has doing that project... What has that brought out new in your relationship
with Reid as a collaborator? And you guys are both writing songs, you're both working
at each other's range.
Dave: I think it's more like sharpens the idea of Reid and my interest in all music,
in rock music too.
James: Shorter forms.
Dave: Reid is my oldest colleague, my oldest friend, and my oldest like... He and I have
been playing together for so long that his relationship with me is the center of..
James: How old were you guys when you first started?
Dave: We started playing when we were 14. We're up there now, so...
James: We don't have to do the math, it's all right.
Dave: It's a long time. So, we grew up as musicians together, every experience we had.
We have such a deep connection, so for us it's just effortless to be... Especially bass
and drums, we have this connection that way. Then we're like, man we love experimenting
with all this different music. And Reid is the most profound name, greatest composer
I've ever known, one of the greats. He's deep.
It's just like that. For us it's just, this is so fun because we're doing this thing that's
not this thing. Then it makes this thing seem that much better. They pay each other.
James: Now, when you're composing for Golden Valley is Now, these new compositions, are
some of them - do you know in the moment that you're coming up with an idea that's for that
project? Or are some of these things that you thought initially might have been for
a different thing, and then you tweaked it and made it a four minute version?
Dave: Yeah, a little of both. I mean, I haven't done too much writing for Golden Valley is
Now. I've written a couple of pieces. We're doing about six or seven tunes. Reid wrote
about four or five of them. I wrote two of them.
So, they're just coming how they come. You know what I mean? We're still writing with
the idea that there's no soloing and there's no words.
So, we're going to fill this time with some interesting stuff but also some stuff that's
got some pop element to it, something that's sort of obvious and beautiful. Not be afraid
but do that, not be afraid to play something that's simple.
James: So, knowing that, knowing that's the objective when you're composing that, what
choices do you find yourself making - certain decisions about a song form or an arrangement
or a melody that is new for you in this project? What is it about Golden Valley is now for
you that's really the most exciting thing as far as this new form?
Dave: Oh, I think the sonic pallet is different than anything. Not improvising at all so,
therefore, it's like being in a rock band, but there's no lyrics so that's a different
experience than I've had playing rock music.
It's almost like - the idea is almost a throwback to when instrumental music used to sometimes
appear on some sort of pop chart, where the last time was, maybe, the theme to Chariots
of Fire or something. But, the idea that you don't need words necessarily.
And so, that's a challenge in a way to make something interesting that isn't also just
a jam. None of these bands are jammy in any way. That's almost like a dirty word for us.
We don't want to put somebody through some long jam. This is we just want to actually
have a thing, a song.
All these bands, the common thread, except Buffalo Collision, is that they're all song
bands. It's one of the strengths of Happy Apple and The Bad Plus is the idea that it's
avant-garde music but uses contemporary classical elements, jazz elements, rock elements. We
use these tools evenly, but ultimately the idea is that it's a celebration of a song,
too, not just a vehicle for your incredible blowing ability. It's really like a dialogue
based improvisation centered on song.
That's actually not something that happens a lot, improvised music, the idea that the
song is celebrated as much as your prowess on the saxophone, you know what I mean. You
can just shred anybody, but who cares if the music is boring and just laden with all your
clever harmony. We're really interested in that idea, a statement in and out.
James: Well, you were talking earlier today when you were upstairs here, talking to a
bunch of the students that are visiting that are here about how important that fellowship
is the word you were using in all these projects. These are people that you've got a deep close
friendship with over years. Let's talk a little bit about how...
Dave: These bands are an open challenge to the idea that individual virtuosities, the
thing that basically lords over jazz to this day. The great jazz groups, the ones that
you turn to or, at least, I do; the Miles Davis Quintet of the 60s, the classic Coltrane
Quartet, one of Coleman's bands of the 60s, late 50s, the Keith Jarrett Trio, the Paul
Motion Trio which includes Bill Frisell.
These are bands. You don't sub out. The Motion Trio doesn't play without Joe Lovano and Bill
Frisell. These bands, in my opinion, or the Keith Jarrett American Quartet which is probably
my favorite or most inspired by which was in the early 70s, mid 70s, really several
records on Impulse and whatever.
The idea is that the band esthetic, the fact that these people come together and make this
certain sound. This is not as common as you think it would be or should be. It sounds
so rational. It sounds so great, the idea that you get this person, this person, this
person. They have a connection and they come together, and they make some new connection.
That doesn't happen much anymore. You have individuals that are fire brand, heavy chops.
Maybe, they have some sort of compositional concept or two.
Ultimately, a lot of the time, but sometimes it's not their fault, but due to economic
pressures, due to whatever, in New York, it's a much more expensive city than it was in
1959 up through until the 80s. In the 80s you saw this start to happen where things
would splinter and then the downtown scene started where this group of people needed
to get going. And then the neo-Wynton movement which were incredible bands, too, in the early
80s, whatever.
The whole idea is that the band is more powerful than the individual, and we were very drawn
to that idea in Happy Apple and The Bad Plus and whatever. It's the idea of committing.
That's what all these bands do. They commit to each other.
And the thread with all with these projects, by summer the nepotism runs high. This is
really a collective of very like-minded people that are all quite good friends. In many ways,
it's not this snarky Judd Apatow thing. It's not like, there's Seth Rogen again. Wow. And
Paul Rudd's hanging out with him and they're smoking weed. [laughs] It's none of that.
It's like these connections are old, and they're based on the idea that the band is important,
that the working relationship is more important than the individual virtuosity. And that we
all give up as much as we want for ourselves. We give. Man, you'd be surprised at how many
leaders in bands need their solos to be - they need you to politely lift them up.
There's no polite anything going on in these bands. Every member of these bands welcomes
someone getting in their way, someone re-adjusting their view of what is happening in the moment.
Buffalo Collision is an absolute ground zero version of this. At any moment someone will
take your idea from you if you like it or not or if you can work with it. But, it's
not done in an aggressive way. It's not done in a way of dominance. It's done in the way
of the service at the moment, and that's what all these bands are based on.
Happy Apple never - there's not a moment when you're politely comped. They're like, "Eric,
please take a solo." It's much more like, "What can we do together here that can strengthen
us and strengthen the experience for people?" We believe that that is it.
I believe ultimately the success of a band, like The Bad Plus, or a band, like Happy Apple,
is based on the idea that it's a committed ensemble that turned down other gigs to do
gigs together. And charged plane tickets and slept on the floors and did the van tours
and did the whatever in the way that any one of these people could be playing as John Scofield's
bass player or whoever, name it.
That's accessible. These people are deciding, no, this is a band. We're going to dedicate
ourselves to this, and hopefully we can create some sort of sound that's bigger than ourselves.
James: Is there anyone here that was at the very first Making Music Show that Dave was
on about five years ago? Oh, your dad was there. So, that's good.
Dave: My dad was there.
Dave: He was there in 1979, too, when I got a motorcycle helmet for my birthday. That
was a weird present.
James: No, motorcycle; just a helmet.
Dave: Yeah. He was protecting me.
James: I was going to say... You were always putting your head in the wall, kind of thing.
Dave: Probably.
Dave's dad: He tried to go through things like they were windows.
James: I would think once he had a helmet he would have been even more emboldened, but
no, I guess not. We have a clip from back then. Yeah, I know. We hadn't quite evolved
the show back then to have the camera do things like zoom or move or anything like that.
Dave: Can we seriously not do this?
James: We have this clip because - it was five years ago we were talking about you were
just hypothetical about dream projects you would like to... We're getting a message that
we can't show that clip.
Dave: See that intervention, Dan Brown?
James: Well, anyway. The angels are among us, James. You understand that, right? Well,
they're on your side.
Dave: So are the demons.
Dave: You know, the thing about Dan Brown, the problem ...
James: I shouldn't swear, because I can't even see anybody out there or if there are
children in the audience. You should know that.
Dave: There's children in the audience.
James: I have my own children, and I do not use words like that in front of them. And
that's why they're pent up inside me. I don't say those words. I say things like, "I don't
love you."
James: What the clip would have shown us is you talking about this idea of a trucking
company project band that was going to combine the idea of bringing light and trucks. And
Dave: It's an inspirational theme music. The idea is that... [laughs]
James: Five years ago we were talking about this, and now it's...
Dave: Yeah, well it's longer than that. I've been talking about it longer than that.
James: Saturday night we're actually going to actually ...
Dave: We're going to get to hear it. The idea is combining some of our life experiences:
Midwesterners, and open-road. My parents are from North Dakota. We used to go up there.
My father grew up on a farm. We used to go up, and I knew country folks, and I knew the
way that they were and the way that they lived, and there's something in that music. There's
some rootsy elements to it.
But, there's also very strict avant-garde notions. In a different way, though, than
the Texas, Ornette Coleman-y bluesy thing. Actually there's something in it that's, I
think, more attuned to our demographic and our thing. And the saxophonist Chris Speed,
one of the great saxophonists of his generation - if you were fans of any progressive jazz
of the last 15 years, you'd know that name.
He's been in the band for a few years, but we're finally going to play live. He's coming
in for the shows. And a great bass player, a local bass player who's by no means local
in his stature, is Adam Linz.
James: Who's here tonight.
Dave: He's here. Cool. And he plays in an incredible band which, I'm sure if you're
fans of jazz in the cities you'd know this band, Fat Kid Wednesdays - a brilliant band
featuring Mike Lewis of Happy Apple and also a fantastic drummer named JT Bates, a good
friend of mine.
If you haven't seen that band, it's an astounding, cathartic, heavy experience to see them live,
too. They have a language and a dedicated fellowship with each other that's very apparent
within the first note. I got to catch a few of their sets. After not seeing them for about
a year, I went down to see them in December because I was home for a while, and it was
just magical.
Anyway, he and I have played on and off together, Adam, for the last few years. And we have
some sort of connection playing that's very comfortable for me, and I hope it is for him...
He didn't answer.
Dave: He's in this band. And I don't know. I think, again, it's something that if we
can pull it off, it's got some other thing going on.
James: Adam, do you have a microphone up there yet?
Adam: No.
James: One will be brought to you, for sure.
Dave: Erik Fratzke plays guitar in that band.
James: So, we don't have a photo of the band.
Dave: We don't have any press photos. This is our press photo right here, man.
James: The Dave King Trucking Company. So, how did this ...
Dave: I've never used my name for anything. But, I think it was the type of thing where
I wanted to experiment with the idea. I write a lot the music in Happy Apple, and a third
of it or whatever in The Bad Plus, and these other projects. This was a personal project
for me. This was a personal sound, a really personal thing that I really wanted to hand-pick
people not just based on our sharing thing, but actually people that I've seen and had
a connection with, separately from each other.
We've actually never played. The four people that are going to play that show tomorrow
night - the first time the four of us will have even rehearsed that music together, will
be Saturday afternoon. Because Fratzke and I and Adam have been rehearsing it. And Mike
Lewis from Happy Apple has been playing Chris's parts just to get us kind of ... But, Chris
has been on the road. We haven't been able to hook up. And we'd gotten together in New
York, just he and I.
So, Adam and Chris don't even know each other. And that's not that weird if you're going
to be playing a night of standards, or something where there's a common language. But, actually
there's a bit of drama involved when you're playing all-original music that's a little
bit thorny here and there. And there are no charts, and everyone's memorizing it, and
we've never played together. So, I'm kind of excited and pretty nervous. I don't know:
Are you nervous, Adam? Are you cool?
Adam: No, I'm not nervous.
Dave: You're not nervous at all. [laughter] But it should be fun. It should be an experiment
all the way around.
James: All right. So, musically, you said there's this Delta blues element, there's
a Texas blues ...
Dave: Not a Delta blues element. No, no, it isn't. It's a different thing than that.
James: OK, OK, OK.
Dave: You know how Bruce Springsteen, even though he's from New Jersey he has some sort
of understanding of the lonely Midwest thing. Some preternatural understanding of... even
the "Nebraska" album, or whatever. It's sort of like that. It's almost like that record,
but done with jazz guys. And there's some solos here and there. And there's a little
bit of "jazz" jazz in it, too. You know what I mean? The themes are there. The name makes
I've read a few things where there's some ironic - like Kris Kristofferson in the film
"Convoy," and all this stuff. And that's not it at all. It's none of this foam-trucker
hat crap. It's none of that indie-rock irony junk. We're not into any of that.
The idea is like, it's got these themes. The convoy as some sort of spiritual metaphor
for a movement that the law can't get in the way of. There's something that's inspirational.
It's gospelly without the attached dogma of religion, all this other stuff. It's got some
inspirational energy to it.
James: Yeah, you said that the trucking theme, a lot of the influence was the "Smokey and
the Bandit," anti-authoritarian ...
Dave: Right. But, not the "Smokey and the Bandit," but the legitimate trucker perspective.
That movement that became pop-y in the 70s was really based on this almost gangster-of-the-highway
thing. And in real life, truckers are hard-working, seriously - and some of them pill-popping
lunatics, do you know what I mean? There's an energy to it, a lifestyle and energy to
it that is sort of like...
Who knows someone that does long-haul trucking? That's a mysterious profession. I think it
is, anyway. I've met a few people who do that. It's an interesting personality type, to say
the least. And I think that there's something in it that's very individual and personal
and strong-willed, and willing to be alone and willing to be introspective and maybe
willing to hide from the world in some way. These themes are all in there, somehow.
James: Are all of the Trucking Company songs your compositions?
Dave: Yes. And they'd better be played right. They'd better be played correctly, or there's
going to be real problems on Sunday.
James: And how did you go about composing those pieces? It sounded like you had already
written a lot of them even five years ago, when we were talking.
Dave: Yeah, a lot of them have been written [inaudible 1:02:45] .
James: When you're writing, what's different about them than a tune that ends up being
a Bad Plus tune or a Happy Apple tune? What is it for you, as you're composing and making
Dave: With Happy Apple, there's these guys that have always been there. The way that
Erik plays bass, the way Mike plays the saxophone. In The Bad Plus, it's the way these people
play. That influences the way that I would write for them. This band is sort of like,
"I'm writing this music." And I grabbed a few people that I hear playing this music,
in a way that I don't have the same relationship like I do with Erik and Mike, or with Reid
and Ethan.
It's sort of like a new relationship. And I'm saying, really, the idea of each piece.
I'll sit and talk at the rehearsals about the idea that we're going to be like some
"Austin City Limits" house band. I used to watch "Hee Haw" and stuff when I was growing
up. My dad, we'd watch "Hee Haw," we'd watch the "Austin City Limits," whatever. And if
you watched those bands, those 70s country bands - they were probably coked out of there
minds. But, man, they were playing so effortlessly. Real country music, too. Not new Nashville,
but real country music, and even in the '70s there was real country music with people like
Don Williams and stuff like that.
But, you'd see these bands, and, like, the star would come out any play, and then they'd
have the backing band. And there would be an incredible lap steel solo, and everything
was effortless, and everything felt good and it sounded good. This made a major impression
on me, the idea that they were these working musicians, but there was something else there.
They weren't playing in Vegas, they weren't playing weddings, they were playing on Austin
City Limits, and they knew exactly what they were doing.
My idea is to take that energy and load it with improvisers. I mean, Adam Linz is a free
jazz lunatic. He can solo for 25 minutes and have no end to his ideas. What if I take that
personal and he has to play [sings in imitation of a bass guitar] "boo, boo, doodoodoo boomp
boomp boo boodoo boomp boomp boomp." He's like - and sure enough, he's just got this
huge personality and sound when he's just down there doing that.
We know that Adam can do all these other things, so no one - in the middle of all these tunes,
it doesn't need to be everybody taking a solo and, like, "You just soloed, now you're going
to solo." Like Jazzville, and 25 minutes later your song is done. We have this statement.
One person maybe is going to blow a little bit. Maybe there will be a bass solo at the
beginning of a song, and then that's it, there's no soloing. Maybe there - there are no drum
solos, maybe there's a - maybe the saxophone/ will blow a little bit, and that's it.
And the rest of the time we're playing these songs, and they sound effortless. They sound
like they're just sitting there. I just like that idea. I like the idea of finding really
capable musicians that can just play whatever they want, but they're not. They're just
- they're restraining and they're understanding the spiritual energy of the music beyond their
own need to blow for a long time.
James: Right. How long are the tunes? Are they - compared to Golden Valley is Now, are
Dave: They're not long. Trucking Band tunes, depending on the solo - there is soloing in
the Trucking Band, but it's just not like - the saxophone, guitar, bass, drum solo,
and on and on. That lords over jazz in this horrible way, I think. But, just five, six
minutes a tune, and some of the tunes - there's a ballad that's really beautiful that Adam
opens up. And that's just a ballad, we just play it through. It's two-and-a-half minute,
three minutes.
James: Is there anything that you'd like to give us a taste of on the piano from the Trucking
Dave: Well, I mean, we talked about that before. I can play a little something. I recorded
this piece that I'll play for me - I did this record. I brought a couple copies of this
if anybody wants one. I thought I'd ask some obscure question and if anybody knew the answer
to it, I'd give them one of these records if they wanted it.
But I did a duet record with myself, essentially. I did a piano-drum duet record that took a
few years to do. Over the course of a few years, I was working really hard on all this
piano music that I'd written. And I use the piano to write with, mainly. I'm not - I don't
consider myself a very good pianist, but I made this record where I'm playing all my
own through-composed pieces, and I overdubbed all the drums on top.
This piece I'm going to play was actually an outtake from this record, but I thought
it really thematically worked with the Trucking Band. So...
James: It's not on here, so we...
Dave: No, it's not. It's going to be on the Trucking Band record. It's recorded, and it's
a solo piano piece, and I am actually going to play it as the first song of the Trucking
Band set. And actually, I'm going to do a prepared piano. I'm going to prepare the piano.
I'm going to put some playing cards and things in it to make it a little bit more - make
it sound a little bit like a dobro or something.
But, we don't have that tonight, but I can play the piece if you want to hear the idea
of some of this stuff.
James: You can just keep that on.
Dave: I can keep this on, really? Is this - it's not going to feed back or anything?
James: No.
Dave: Is that OK? Should I do that?
James: Yeah. Yeah, you guys all right with a little song?
Dave: This will be good practice.
[David King plays song on piano 1:08:09-1:11:28]
James: Thanks, Dave. So, we're going to open up for questions from you guys, though. If
you have a question, you can raise a hand, but why don't you tell us just a little bit,
what that song is called?
Dave: That song is called "April in Gary."
James: Is that like Gary, Indiana?
Dave: Gary, Indiana.
James: And musically, where did that come from? What were you - what...
Dave: Where did it come from? Man, I'm just a conduit, James.
Dave: I mean...
James: What were the beginnings of it as far as what...
Dave: The beginnings of that tune?
James: Yeah. Yeah, where...
Dave: Oh, that just explores some of those themes. That's just from touring and traveling,
and I don't know. It's hard for me to say because I don't know how special any of it
is. Ultimately it's so personal, in a way.
James: Right.
Dave: I'm just - it's just stuff that I hear sometimes.
James: That's...
Dave: Because those themes are that - are a little bit in there with some of that Trucking
Band. I hear what you're saying.
James: I'm just saying it was...
Dave: In terms of...
James: Melody that was - where it started out, or...
Dave: I can't really recall. It's just more like, if I'm writing anything - I suppose
it does start with melody with me - I'll add some sort of intervallic harmony or changes,
but I mean, that's just some standard bluesy vibe. But, at the same time, I'm trying to
put in - I just feel that there are other elements there. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe this
is some blues rip-off shit, but I think it's different.
James: What makes it a trucker song, a trucking company song? What made it that song and not
a solo record or one of the other...?
Dave: I think that it explores some of those themes, the more open spatial hints at bluesiness,
hints at rootsiness. But, at the same time there's some moments of tension. I recorded
it just because in with the prepared piano, it's quite interesting, too, where this -
like I said, it almost takes on the characters of a Dobro.
At the end of the day when I listened to all the music, I was like - you know what - that
is that band. I thought it might be interesting to just play that as we open up our show with
those guys standing there and then it leads into a piece of music in the same key. So,
it's almost like an intro.
James: Awesome.
Dave: It's nothing special. It's like that intro piece of music.
James: It's beautiful.
Dave: Thanks.
James: Are there any questions out there? Go ahead. Raise your hand. Yeah. We've got
one here.
Audience Member: Hey. I was just wondering what happened to the Interloper. Were they
dropped for the sake of brevity, or what's up with that?
Dave: The Gang Font Featuring Interloper.
Audience Member: Yeah.
Dave: The band was always called The Gang Font. The record is called Featuring Interloper,
and it's just a riff on all the hip-hop records that have featuring somebody and Greg is the
Interloper. So, he's still in the band, but he's not featured anymore.
Dave: We've cut his role in half.
James: Royalties probably went down.
Dave: Royalties went down, yeah.
James: Another question?
Dave: That would be incredible if that was... That's great if there's no questions. But,
that would be incredible if that was the only question. What happened to the Interloper?
Dave: He disappeared in Greg's mustache.
James: I don't really know what this question means, but I'd be interested in hearing your
answer to it. What do you think of intuition or the origin of inspiration?
Dave: I think it kicks ass.
James: Sweet.
Dave: Well, I can say inspiration - there are times I have attempted to pinpoint inspiration
in my life, and that's difficult. So, I do think some people do chase inspiration sometimes.
I don't know. This gets philosophical or I don't know where this goes, but more often
than not I've learned to let go a lot more.
I've always felt myself as someone who has two sides of everything. I'm a Gemini. I don't
know if that means anything, but I have these two sides where my drumming is very different
from the way that I hear music. And then, they try to find each other. My drumming can
sometimes be very thorny, very dense, very wildly dynamic, very mathematical. And the
way that I hear music or write music is almost with a sweeter touch with almost a side of
me that is more gentle.
What I'm saying about, what you're talking about as far as inspiration is, I've sought
to try to merge these things, and I try to do that with different forms of inspiration
that feed one or the other. So, if there's something I can pinpoint being inspired by,
I try to also think about which part of me is being inspired. And then, I used to get
confused about that and realize that I just have to make these things come together.
They've been coming together more and more throughout the years of my life, the idea
that I can let go of more as an improviser, as a musician, as a drummer which is my main
I can bring some of that world of the sweeter side of me that comes out in some of my ballads
or my - Happy Apple, for instance, is a band that will play very aggressively and then
play a series of ballad music that almost sounds too sweet. We like to tread those lines.
Anyway, that's another thing.
Does this answer the question at all? I just feel like, when I think about inspiration,
I think about the idea of not paying so close attention to its means anymore or it's where
I'm getting.
People say, "I'm very inspired by paintings." I probably said stupid stuff like that in
my life, too. That's not stupid. That's a great thing to say, "I'm inspired by paintings."
But when you say things like "I'm inspired by paintings" you sound a little bit like
someone should say "So" back to you.
Dave: At this point, I just am like, anything goes. I don't want to pinpoint anymore that
I like Franz Kline, you know what I mean. Franz Kline made me write this song when I
stared at Franz Kline paintings. I used to actually say words like, "Man, Willem de Kooning
really inspired me" and then I used punch myself in the face.
James: Well, I didn't grow up in the 70s and 80s like you did, but I was wondering why
jazz for you? Was the Twin Cities a jazz hub when you were growing up? I guess it relates
to the inspiration question, but when you're playing that introduction or you're playing
a 20 minute song, where is that coming from?
Dave: Right. I think a lot of it was rooted in just the self-discovery of music, number
one. When I was growing up, I would listen to whatever was in my house, whether it'd
be on TV, the Tonight Show Band or Hee Haw, what was on TV. And then, also, my dad had
some classical records, some jazz records. My mother listened to country music. They
both listened to old time rock 'n roll which I still love, things like Buddy Holly, Ritchie
Valens, Elvis. I love that music.
I took what I had there and then it was almost like, what's next? What else is there because
I realized I had this appetite for music. From a very early age, I would sit all day
long, headphones, to the point where I'm sure my parents were like, "Wow." It was hours
and hours and hours or stay up - I need to hear the Tonight Show theme. I need to hear
the Tonight Show theme. And then, you go to bed. Yes, I need to hear the Tonight Show
I think it was then studying the piano, playing drums in the band and then from then it was
rock radio. So, then you get into teenager rock radio. But, then, my older brother who
turned me on to such great rock music; he turned me on to The Who, Led Zeppelin and
all these things when I was 12 or 13. All of a sudden, you hear Led Zeppelin. It's just
like Satan has appeared, you know what I mean?
Dave: It's just like, "Wow" and at the same time I liked New Wave and stuff like that.
I was in the pop New Wave, I should say, like Devoe and the Cars. Early Cars, by the way,
is actually heavier, much heavier than mid 80s. The Cars turned into some other thing.
I don't know what happened. Panorama, that record is pretty interesting from 1978.
Anyway, I was just realizing, it all was hitting me and then what's next? So then there's [inaudible
1:21:01] next. So, you're into Zeppelin. Then what about Genesis or what about Soft Machine?
What about Rush, which became a - whoa, talk about the boys club. They're were no girls
in that band, you know what I mean. It's hard to say you were into Rush, but I was into
Rush. [laughs] It's hard to admit that. I also dated here and there, and I liked Rush.
then you're hearing people that are more proficient. Then, you're hearing - whoa, what is that
phrasing? That's not in 4/4. What is that, listening to Genesis especially early Genesis.
It's very progressive music. Still, to this day, if I listen to some of that it's very
mysterious, Peter Gabriel walking around dressed as a flower. It's just unbelievable.
I'm going to do one name drop real fast here because I know we have to go, but my daughter
played Barbie dolls with Peter Gabriel. [laughter] I recorded three records at his studio in
England, and he just hangs out. I don't know what he's doing. He's like frolicking in the
woods with his foxes. Anyway, I opened the door of this room and my daughter was there,
and he's there on the floor with her and it was a real moment for me. I was, like, "Check
that out." I was a big fan of his, and that's the first I had seen him since we had gotten
there, and he's there playing with my daughter. It was very fun.
Anyway, then what's next? Fusion, 70s fusion. What's after that? Oh, Art Ensemble of Chicago.
Henry Threadgill, you know, Coltrane quartet. It just went back. It just went, "We're the
more mysterious searches." ProgRock kind of lays it out for you, but the Miles Quintet,
what's the harmony? What's Wayne Shorter's harmony all about? It became just the quest.
And the sense it wasn't, there was nothing around. You had to make it for yourself.
So, there was stuff around. I mean, going here and going to the Dakota, but I mean,
it's not like New York or something.
So we would go to the library and check out records. It was all about what you could find
next. Who was, "Oh, now it's Cecil Taylor. Now it's blah-blah-blah." It's almost like
outdoing each other, reading, Craig and I. Who was finding out the more obscure ECM record.
You know what I mean? And then it was just, from there it grew to just trying to find
yourself within it, within all that information.
I actually feel sorry for some. With the amount of information that's accessible today, I
really hope people are able to actually balance the intake with their attention spans because
there's so much available to just click a button where we really did seek it out. It
sounds, like, lame to be going, "Ah, back in my day," but I mean, we really had to find
it for ourselves.
And that's how I got into jazz. Ultimately it's a long thing, but that's the trajectory.
It went back. I've never really deeply connected with pre-1955. I'm not into big bands as much.
Duke Ellington bands I like. I'm not super into B-bop. The greatest beat-of course I
listen to Charlie Parker, I mean, but it doesn't touch me the way that the fire and everything
that was in some of the sixties bands. That's really my connection to the combination of
this modal harmony with this Tony Williams and all this stuff. It was really so evil
and mean. It was just so, "Yes." You know what I mean? I needed that.
If you grew up listening to Zeppelin, you know, I mean, it's difficult. You're checking
out Keith Moon, it's like, B-bop, this-there's something about it that didn't connect as
much as it connected to Ornette Coleman and connected to Coltrane and stuff like that
for me.
And the punk aesthetic of all of that music. Sorry. Go ahead.
Adam has the microphone, finally.
Adam: Hi, Dave. I'm a Taurus, which means I'm selfish. Or so I'm told. This might get
long-winded, but a lot of people around here know you kind of after The Bad Plus got popular.
Can you talk a little bit about the early years of being here?
I remember one time you [laughs] so awesome, and so you. You actually had a number of records
that you had released independently before anything happened, you know, on a bigger scale.
I just feel like a lot of people from the Twin Cities are like, you know, you mention
your name and right away they kind of go to the most popular thing that's out there right
now, and when I think about you I think about the early years when we were all really scraping
by and struggling and still putting out our own stuff just for the sake of getting stuff
And you know, obviously a lot of young people nowadays-I get a lot of, and I'm sure you
get this, too. A lot of kids that are right out of college, like, "Oh, how do I get signed?
How do I make a ton of money right now? How do I have a house and two cars and the cabin"
and, you know, all the things that you and I obviously take for granted now. But...
Adam: But can you talk... I mean, those early years for all of us were so special and I
don't think any of us had an agenda that it seems like young players have nowadays. You
know, we were looking for that community and all those things. It's a time period that
I don't hear you get to hear you talk about a lot.
Dave: Right.
Adam: So, can you just kind of discuss, like, not only when you moved back, but the years
that kind of when Happy Apple was first starting out.
Dave: Yeah. I'll be quick with it, too.
Adam: OK.
Dave: I know they need to go. But, thank you. Yeah. When I moved back here I was living
in Los Angeles for many years. I moved back here. Adam was one of the first people I met.
We... I mean, again the idea of the band aesthetic was apparent right away where we wanted to
try and put together these collectives for the music only. It's always really about the
music. I mean, he's making jokes about the financial whatever, but I mean, ultimately
this music is all independent music whether you're releasing the record on your own or
you're on some little jazz label.
It's not like there's money out there or an advance. I mean, I make a living touring mostly,
but when we started it was all about finding venues or the idea that the venue did not
determine the type of music. So, when Happy Apple first started we were playing everywhere
we could. But, we didn't go, "Well, I guess we better play the jazz club because that's
where we belong." We went the other way. We would play Tuesday nights at the Entry. We'd
play Lee's Liquor Lounge. We'd just be this band of just, people would be like, "What
is this?" You know? Get whatever we get.
And pretty soon we became known very quickly as the band that does this thing that people
weren't doing. What happened was then we would start to get the opening slot for things at
the main room. So, if someone came in, like the Lounge Lizards with John Lurie or the
Jazz Passengers or some bigger jazz group that was playing in the main room or something,
we would get the call to open.
We opened for Tim Berne, in the Entry. And so we ended up, our trajectory was all about-like
we were going to treat it like a band. We had our own artwork concepts. We would make
these very elaborate flyers before they were, you know, computer graphic design. We would
make the old school Basquiat-inspired insane posters where we'd literally-I mean, I hate
to say it, but we would steal color copies and things from Kinko's or whatever we needed
to do. You know, like you'd hit the button, "Whoops!" Thirteen of them. You know? But
it's like...
Dave: I pressed one, you know? But I mean, and I don't endorse that. I only endorse stealing
from your parents' wallets.
But I mean, we were right away very dedicated to the idea that we can build an audience
of this kind of music, and I know you're talking about some of that where we'd self-produce
concerts, different venues, mailing lists, old school mailing lists, doing it all. And
then we started touring. We did it just like any rock band or punk band from back in wherever
where we got in the van and we would sleep on a floor. And we'd play Milwaukee and we'd
play-and then you'd start to go out further, Cleveland. Hook up with different things.
And this was in about '96 is when I met you. Within a few years that band was able to generate
this underground thing. And from then, you know, I also worked in town with Bill Carrothers,
the pianist and Anthony Cox. I wanted to play with, like, the best musicians in town. Adam,
and we just put together these project and just went for it. I've had bands for years
with the basis, Anthony Cox, who maybe you've heard of. And again the idea was just to do
it very in an old-fashioned way.
And it ended up with the belief behind it, it ended up creating, I believe it created
a scene. If you go to the Clown Lounge today, that scene germinated from 1996. There was,
I believe, before that you'd find a fringe element here there at the old Loring, but
other than that there wasn't an organized... you were a part of it, booking us at the Groove
Garden series, or, you know, back in the nineties we would play the Front, which is the club
next to Ground Zero. All this experimental music in these programs.
We would just take it wherever we could, and that band built and did almost the unthinkable,
which is that band actually got a major label record deal based on being from here playing
jazz. We ended up, you know, trying to get over to Europe and do all these things and
it was like constant playing New York.
First time we played to New York there was literally-Craig Taborn was in the audience.
That was it. You know? We were just like, "Wow. We drove all the way out." And you're
just feeling tired or whatever and that was it. And then we'd keep going back and pretty
soon it was getting written about just the same way any rock band or whatever. But, the
music was so much more dense, so much more difficult to find an audience for.
When you tour rock, you know, there's clubs and there's circuits. With this music, especially
in America, you have to invent your own circuit. You have to invent your own place to stay.
We actually did that. We actually went out and for several years we played the Winnepeg
Folk Festival. We would go anywhere that anyone - we played with Mike Watt at the Winnepeg
Folk Festival in 1998. What are we doing at the Winnepeg Folk Festival? Everyone's just
looking at us like...
Dave: So I don't know if that answers the question but that is the scene and you had
your Mingus Band and [inaudible 1:31:58] Wednesday started too and The Clown Lounge started to
develop from just a series of different bands playing.
I remember the beginnings of The Clown Lounge where I was playing some Monday nights. I
let people play and then it became this thing that they created [inaudible 1:32:12] Wednesdays,
having a house band essentially and it created a beautiful scene for young improvisers down
We were doing the same thing at the Brendle Bull Theatre essentially in the mid-90s where
that was a place we were taking that music and stuff like that, outside the jazz club,
even though we played the jazz clubs. Happy Apply brought a Marshall stack into the old
Dakota. That was kind of a cool - you know what I mean.
That was a big deal. The owner of the Dakota has yet to forgive me for that. And we also
cleared the tables and we invited the audience to break dance.
Dave: Boy, we were such bad boys.
James: OK, a couple of things. One, we're talking about the Clown Lounge, which is in
the basement of the Turf Club in St. Paul.
Dave: University and [inaudible 1:33:00] , it's kind of the epicenter of local jazz
scene now. After years, it's like this wonderful thing. It's pretty much every Monday night.
Now it's expanded to Tuesday night.
Dave: And this concert's other places too.
James: Right.
Dave: Of course the Artist Corridor you should say is one of the...
James: Absolutely. Those are the established.
James: The Dakota and the Artist Corridor are great. They bring in these international
level players, but on a weekly basis to go and just see, kind of be up close to some
of the great jazz players. It's an amazing place.
Dave: Yeah.
James: I highly recommend it.
Dave: It's completely created by a few people and then there are new bands popping up from
the kids that were going to see this stuff. People coming up to me saying they were Happy
Apple fans and the late 90s and it's the reason why. All these beautiful sentiments like,
"The reason why I'm doing whatever."
On the one hand, you feel old but at the same time you're like, "Check that out" and these
young bands that are playing and they're fortifying the culture here.
Because this is a great city for Indie rock, hip hop, all these things that's on the world
map. But, for jazz, it's not as known - nowhere really is other than, but they're a very potent,
there's a handful - I shouldn't say that. It sounds like such a mean - I mean there's
a handful of seriously like world contender heavyweights in this town that are fighting
for audiences and taking it out on the road and doing things. And it's known as that.
It's like, "Wow."
When Happy Apple would go out, they'd be like, you'd hear people saying there's these dudes
from Minnesota you hear about, which was very fun for us. We're like, "Yeah. We're the dudes
from Minnesota." It's like we're these Minnesota jazz outlaws. We were super proud to be the
outsider band that suprised people - that we weren't just some jam band from Lincoln
or something. We were actually this thing with a sound and we were organized, sort of
going for it.
Of course, this is spoken with all humility. We of course have sucked many times, too [laughs]
. We deserved to not be listened to probably sometimes for sure because of Mike.
James: All right. We've got to wrap it up here but I will say that in that clip that
we couldn't run from five years ago, you were talking about the trucking company and you
were talking about how the whole thing was going to - one of the features was going to
be that Slug was going to get up on the little trucker's CB and do a little thing from the.
Dave: Man, he got too huge. Slug and I used to play together. I did a few shows in the
Atmosphere and he used to actually sit in with Happy Apples on one of our live records.
That still might happen. I mean he and I are in touch, so you never know.
James: In theory. Maybe on Saturday night.
Dave: I wanted him to do the CB on Saturday night. Have you talked to him? I told him
about it a few years ago and he's like, "Yeah." And then he disappeared on me again because
he's so huge, you know.
James: I'd love to see what happens on that.
Dave: If he still cares about real music.
James: Wow.
Dave: Come on man.
James: That's really going to help things.
Dave: Come on. I don't like Slug.
James: All right, you have these three - you have this solo record and.
Dave: One goes out right now. What's Slug's real name?
All right, well that's a bad question.
James: Better come up with something and you're going to have to pick a hand instead of having
people just yell it out.
Dave: Why does he have a seven tattoo on his arm?
James: You have to raise your hand. Raise your hand if you know why he has a seven on
his arm.
Dave: Wow.
James: Well, I don't know. I mean, I want to give you this record.
Audience Member: [inaudible 1:36:37]
Dave: OK. You can have the record for that. That is awesome.
Dave: I'm not going to say, "Give me the record."
James: Thank you.
Dave: That is seriously one of the most unbelievable piano drum duet records made by one guy you're
ever going to get to hear. It's unbelievable.
James: All right, what's the second trivia question here?
Dave: What was the name of James Everest's band in the '90s?
James: All right, who's that? Who said that? Wow, that one right there. That was fast right
there, man. All right I loved that band. Can you pass that? Hey, how are you?
Audience Member: Hey, thanks.
James: Good to see you.
Dave: All right, there's one more question and it can't be about me or Slug.
James: What year was my father the state representative of Minnesota for district - what was the district?
Dave: What year?
James: Yeah.
Dave: OK. This is a deep trivia question.
'68 dad. They're really dating you right now man. All right, fine. This is an ethical question.
James: They're just yelling it off.
Dave: What was it?
Audience Member: '78.
Dave: This is good. He got beat in '78.
Audience Member: '77.
Dave: Close. This is really ridiculous dad. Let's actually do a real question now.
James: And raise your hand because that's the only way we can.
Dave: We can't do one now. It's got to be something that people know. We've got to wrap
this up, man. We've got to, we have got to get some drinks right now.
Dave: True or false. [laughter]
James: That's not going to work.
Dave: Who said true? [laughter]
James: Here you go.
Dave: You said false?
James: No, no, no, nope, nope.
Dave: True or false - did Cary Grant charge for his autograph?
Audience Member: True.
Dave: It's true.
James: Yep, there you go.
Dave: He seems like a pretty cool dude.
James: Terry Grant?
Dave: Terry Grant would never charge for an autograph. Cary Grant - little known fact
- if you notice all those old films, his pants are pulled up very high. Have you checked
that out? Almost in a French way. He had his suits cut that way for a reason because he
had the word 'Thug' tattooed on his stomach.
James: Speaking of having your pants up high, there's another group that I thought might
be making an appearance this weekend - the Ernest Borgnine Dancers - but apparently no.
Dave: All right, cool.
Dave: It's on the record now, isn't it?
James: You should have that film.
Dave: I have that footage. What was I thinking?
Dave: All right. Well, that'll be on the next time around making music.
James: Ernest Borgnine Dancers. All right. Awesome.
Dave: And I'll work that time.
Dave: OK. All right. I had a film of my son tap dancing that I was going to play but it
didn't work. He's an incredible tap dancer. You have to check this out sometime.
James: But, hopefully, it'll be in the...
Dave: Not even a proud dad QD kid thing. It's demented.
Audience Member: [inaudible 1:39:58] .
Dave: Yeah. It's true that it's not cool - the walker, right? Where's that membership?
James: No, it's not the walker's fault.
Dave: Going to the back stage food spread. I'll tell you that right now.
Dave: I can get peanut M&M's on my own, you know what I mean?
James: Oh dear.
Dave: Oh come on. That was not - they're laughing, man. Doug liked that one.
James: They're not laughing.
Dave: They're not laughing.
James: That looks like a gun. Anyway, thank you all for coming and sticking around. These
shows are going to be great this weekend.
James: Thank you.