Friday, February 21, 2014

Bill Orcutt

"I began playing very conventionally and it's evolved over many years into what it is now"


Co-founder of the mighty Harry Pussy almost twenty years ago, Bill did a fantastic come-back last year with his solo album "A new way to pay old debts". Here's a short interview with the man himself. Take two minutes to read it then go to the Mego website and order this masterpiece.

 First of all, i'd like you to tell me about your childhood: which musical souvenirs come to mind? What made you pick up an instrument?

I didn't hear much music early on. My parents didn't have a record player or any particular interest in music outside of AM radio. Later when I was about 15, I got a record player for my birthday. I hadn't asked for one, but I suppose they thought all teenagers wanted record players. I started buying records, discovered the blues and rock and decided I wanted to play the guitar...

From Harry Pussy early days to your actual solo work, your playing is quite directly recognizable. How do you perceive the construction- be it conscious or not - of your playing?In others words, did you choose to avoid or reject some dimensions of what we can call "conventional playing"?

Sure, it's intentional. I began playing very conventionally and it's evolved over many years into what it is now

Would you want to explain why at some point you decided to remove the A and D strings?

It happened during a time when I was drumming mostly, around 1990. Started playing a 4-string guitar, wrote a set of songs around it and then formed a two-piece band (Watt) to perform them.

Derek Bailey if often quoted to describe what you do. I wouldn't say it's wrong, but it's far from being totally true. It's "easy" to feel his jazz background; but to me yours has more to do with punk. Even if we can consider Derek as a punk, in some way!

I'm not sure what the question is, but let's say I agree. In any event I love Derek Bailey.

Last year, you made one hell of a come-back with "A New Way to Pay Old Debts". How do you feel it? I mean, is it a real come-back in the sense that you haven't played for years as I read somewhere? When I hear it, I can hardly think that you let the guitar in its flightcase for such a long time...

I did go a many years without playing, but I was playing almost every day for about a year before I recorded the LP.

There's a deep blues vibe in your playing, and I wonder what's your attitude towards scales.

As a kid I used to practice scales just for the sake of playing them, but now I just think about them when I'm playing- sometimes a piece is based on a scale, sometimes its the intersection or union of multiple scales. Anyway, I think scales are useful and I like 'em.

This make me think of the cover of "A new way..."; at some points I was wondering if there was some kind of cynical relation between the title and the mirror image that come from an old record of John MacLaughlin and Carlos Santana.

I didn't have any relationship in mind between the cover art and title- I've always wanted to use the Love Devotion Surrender jacket photo somehow- its was a coincidence it got used on this record.

Why the acoustic guitar? Could you imagine doing solo shows with an electric one?

I started playing the acoustic because it sounded good and was easier to play in the apt late at night without waking anybody up. I can imagine playing the electric solo, but I think I'd want to play with a drummer so I could really take advantage of what an electric guitar can do.

What are you planning for the future?

Editions Mego is reissuing A New Way to Pay Old Debts on CD in early 2011. I'm planning on doing some recording and releasing some new vinyl around the same time.


Last one : Give me your top ten albums, please.

I don't have a top 10 per se, but off the top of my head, here's some records I like a lot
Captain Beefheart, "Grow Fins"

Carlos Montoya, "Guitar and Flamenco"

James Blood Ulmer, "Birthright"

Roscoe Holcomb, "An Untamed Sense of Control"

Cecil Taylor, "Silent Tongues"

Chuck Berry, "The Great 28"

Conlon Nancarrow, "Studies for Player Piano" (Arch)

Harry Pussy, "You'll Never Play This Town Again"

Joseph Spence, "Living on the Hallelujah Side"

Derek Bailey, "Lot 74"