Sunday, December 15, 2013

David Grubbs 13 questions

David Grubbs - credit: Still from the film "Parallax Sounds" (dir. Augusto Contento, 2012)

David Grubbs has released twelve solo albums and appeared in more than 150 comercially released recordings. He is known for his cross disciplinary collaborations with writers such as Susan Howe and Rick Moody, and with visual artists such as Anthony McCall, Angela Bulloch, Cosima von Bonin and Stephen Prima. His works has been presented at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, MoMA, the Tate Modern and the Centre Pompidou.

Born in September 21, 1967 in Louisville. Composer, guitarist, pianist, and vocalist, was a founding member of Squirrel Bait, Bastro, and Gastr del Sol. He has also played in Codeine, The Red Krayola, Bitch Magnet and The Wingdale Community Singers. Alongside his sometime colleague Jim O’Rourke, Grubbs is one of the leading figures on America’s independent music scene. He adopted the Gastr Del Sol moniker for 1991’s The Serpentine Similar EP, an exploratory avant garde work.

In 1997, Grubbs released his abstract solo debut, Banana Cabbage, Potato Lettuce, Onion Orange, on the Table Of Elements label. Grubbs has maintained a busy schedule with his work as a label manager, producer, lecturer and curator, his solo recording career, and his involvement with Mayo Thompson’s Red Crayola. Relatively conventional singer-songwriter albums such as The Thicket and The Coxcomb appeared on the Drag City label, while the more experimental work has been issued on Grubbs’ own Blue Chopsticks imprint. Of the latter, Apertura and Off-Road teamed Grubbs up with Swedish reed player Mats Gustafsson. Rickets & Scurvy was the first of Grubbs’ albums to be focused around an electric group, and featured John McEntire, Noël Akchoté and Dan Brown and Matmos.

But after the gradually more streamlined Gastr period concluded with Camoufleur, David's output became more segregated; the albums of pop songs were more focusedly, more cussedly pop, and the more experimental projects (including duo recordings with Mats Gustafsson, Nikos Veliotis, and Loren Connors, not to mention the entire catalog of his Blue Chopsticks label) became more unrelenting.

This is a process begun on David's previous pop album, An Optimist Notes the Dusk, nearly four years previous. Despite the fluid activity of collaborations, many of which have been released in the time since (and several others coming to fruition this year), patience, meditation and time were required to afford the depth and detail to The Plain Where The Palace Stood (April 16th, 2013), which finds David once again twining together the diverse strands of his vast interests. Songs float in idiosyncratic yet exceptionally unhurried arrangements,  mention his contemporaries and kindred artists - Oren Ambarchi, Scott Walker, Talk Talk, and Sunn O))).


On Tuesday, December 17 Blue Chopsticks will release David Grubbs’s 10” EP Borough of Broken Umbrellas.  Here’s the scoop:
Strange to say, but Borough of Broken Umbrellas is David Grubbs’s first record of solo guitar improvisations.  From his time in Gastr del Sol forward, Grubbs has frequently cast himself in the role of the composer/songwriter working with improvisers—witness his collaborations with Jim O’RourkeMats GustafssonNoël AkchotéLoren ConnorsKen Vandermark, and many others.

Which was the first guitar music do you remember?

Bubblegum pop music from my childhood: probably The Sweet.  But my earliest associations with guitars would have been early rock and roll -- Elvis Presley.

What do you expect from music?

Oh my.  I'm always typing the word "musics" in Microsoft Word, and the spelling check tries to tell me that "music" is plural.  Or that "music" is itself singular.  I think of music -- musics -- in the plural.  So my expectations range widely from music to music to music.  In short -- it's difficult to generalize.

Why do you love the guitar?

Because I have a phantom guitar in my hands at all times.  The muscle memory of playing guitar is always present to me.

Which work of your own are you most proud of?

* "Borough of Broken Umbrellas" -- forthcoming solo improvised guitar 10" ep

* "The Plain Where the Palace Stood" -- my favorite of my solo records

* Squirrel Bait -- my first band, incredible memories of first times . . .

We Can't Live Without Music?

I certainly can't -- although I do know people who live with an absolute minimum of music.  (A friend's mother blew my mind when I was young in telling me that she didn't like music -- that it made her nervous, on behalf of the performer whom she assumed was about to implode with anxiety.)

What would you change or add to your guitar?

For me, it's always about small changes -- fine tuning intonation.  I've always liked a very simple setup. 

Do you use extended techniques in guitar?

I don't.

What are the challenges and benefits of today's digital music scene?  

In a weird way, I've really drifted from digital music making with the exception of using software to more radically fragment existing recordings (especially on my collaborations with the poet Susan Howe).

Define the sound you're still looking for.

I really can't put it in words.

  Z Point
Horizontal Technicolour
Two Soundtracks For Angela Bulloch (2004) 
  "Coney Island, 2001" (12'04)
Commissioned by ORF Kunstradio, Austria. Recorded in July and September, 2001.
  "The Name of Ecstasy" (4'47)
Appears on the Åke Hodell tribute

 Friends of the Bumblebee (Rönnells Antikvariat / Hâll Tjäften TJÄFT 002 CD, 2002). 
Recorded April 2002 at Studio 364, Brooklyn.
  "Pullover" (2'59)
Collaboration with RLW, appears on RLW, Tulpas (Selektion SCD 024 5xCD, 1997). 

The text was generated by running Markus Caspers' German-language original through a Microsoft Word spellchecker Ð the same technique as Gastr del Sol's "A Puff of Dew."
  "The Alley of the Shadow of Rats" (8'26) 

Which living artist would you like to collaborate with?

Thomas Pynchon

What dead artist would you like to have collaborated with?

John Cage

What’s your latest project about?

It's a book called "Records Ruin the Landscape: John Cage, the Sixties, and Sound Recording."  Duke University Press will publish it in March 2014:
Coming in March from Duke University Press.


Banana Cabbage, Potato Lettuce, Onion Orange

Table Of The Elements 1996

The Thicket

Drag City 1998

The Coxcomb

Rectangle 1999

David Grubbs  Mats Gustafsson - Apertura ‎ 

Blue Chopsticks 1999

The Spectrum Between

Drag City 2000

Thirty Minute Raven

Rectangle 2001

Rickets & Scurvy

Drag City 2002

Act Five Scene One

Blue Chopsticks 2002

Comic Structure

En/Of 2003

David Grubbs Mats Gustafsson - Off-Road ‎ 

Blue Chopsticks 2003

Loren Connors / David Grubbs - Arborvitae ‎)

Häpna 2003

A Guess At The Riddle

FatCat Records 2004

David Grubbs  Nikos Veliotis - The Harmless Dust

Vectors, Headz 2005

David Grubbs  Susan Howe  Souls Of The Labadie Tract ‎ 

Blue Chopsticks 2007

An Optimist Notes The Dusk

Drag City 2008

Wooley . Lytton . Grubbs - Seven Storey Mountain ‎ 

Important Records (2) 2009

Hybrid Song Box.4

Blue Chopsticks 2009

Belfi / Grubbs / Pilia - Onrushing Cloud

Blue Chopsticks 2010

The Plain Where The Palace Stood

Drag City 2013


BC1    Luc Ferrari, Interrupteur/Tautologos 3
BC2    David Grubbs / Mats Gustafsson, Apertura
BC3    Van Oehlen, We Are Eggsperienced
BC4    Mats Gustafsson, Windows: The Music of Steve Lacy
BC5    David Grubbs, The Coxcomb/Avocado Orange
BC6    Noël Akchoté / Derek Bailey, Close to the Kitchen
BC7    Workshop, Es liebt Dich und Deine Körperlichkeit, ein Ausgeflippter
BC8    Luc Ferrari, Cycle des Souvenirs
BC9    David Grubbs, Act Five, Scene One
BC10  Van Oehlen, Rock & Roll Is Here to Die
BC11  David Grubbs / Mats Gustafsson, Off-Road
BC12  Akchoté/Auzet/Ferrari, Impro-Micro-Acoustique
BC13  Noël Akchoté, Adult Guitar
BC14  Bastro, Antlers: Live 1991
BC15  Susan Howe / David Grubbs, Thiefth (out of print)
BC16  Luc Ferrari, Far-West News (Episodes 2 and 3)
BC17  David Grubbs & Susan Howe, Souls of the Labadie Tract
BC18  Circle X, Prehistory
BC19  Luc Ferrari, Les Arythmiques
BC20  David Grubbs, Hybrid Song Box.4
BC21  Belfi/Grubbs/Pilia, Onrushing Cloud (out of print)
BC22  Susan Howe / David Grubbs, Frolic Architecture
BC23  Wingdale Community Singers, Night, Sleep, Death  
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