Sunday, March 9, 2014

Joe Gore 13 Questions

JOE GORE, a San Francisco-based composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist fluent in classical music, punk rock, and most styles in between.

He recorded and/or toured with Tom Waits, PJ Harvey, Tracy Chapman, Marianne Faithfull, the Eels, O.A.R., Courtney Love, John Cale,  DJ Shadow, Aimee Mann, Julieta Venegas, Oranj Symphonette, Action Plus, Meat Beat Manifesto, Carrie Underwood, Tipsy, Kimya Dawson, Jill Sobule, Jane Weidlin and Belinda Carlisle, Flea, Les Claypool, and many other artists, though not all at once.

His music appears in many films and television shows. Other clients include Apple, Intel, Disney, National Geographic, Oprah Winfrey Productions, VH1, Universal Music, American Conservatory Theater, and the American Museum of Natural History.

Joe Gore gesticulates
Photo by Tracy Chapman

Besides playing guitar, bass and keyboards. he's an ace on two digital recording platforms: Avid’s Pro Tools and Apple’s Logic. He has done extensive contract work for both companies, and I am a major independent developer for Apple’s Logic, GarageBand, and MainStage programs.

He has  toured the world multiple times and performed on The Tonight ShowThe Today ShowLate Night with David LettermanThe Conan O’Brien ShowThe Carson Daly ShowThe Rosie O’Donnell ShowAustin City Limits, and many European programs.

 Which was the first approach to sound you remember?

Standing beneath the baby grand piano while my mother played. I’d press my head up against the soundboard, letting the music rattle my skull. She was my first piano and guitar teacher.

Why do you love the guitar?

It has no formal pedagogy. (Well, it sort of does, but we can safely ignore it.) Guitars are inexpensive, and you can make cool sounds on them almost instantly. It’s the most democratic of instruments — hence its stylistic range and richness.

Which work of your own are you most proud of, and why?

Probably my work with singer/songwriters. As a non-singer, I find it incredibly gratifying to add color and shading to a great performance of a great song.

Tell me something you need from music.


What is your relationship with other disciplines such as painting, literature, dance, theater ...?

Like a proper Californian, I relate more to film than the stage. In a parallel life, I might have been a film composer. (I studied with a great one—David Raksin—and was tutored as a teen by a young James Horner.) I’ve always been a compulsive reader, but I was raised a modernist, and the notion of words directly inspiring sound was quaint, even suspect. Yet since age 30, I’ve made half my living writing about music, and that’s definitely influenced my approach, often by negative example. Finishing my own first novel in middle age gave me insight into structure and psychology. I’ve also dabbled in visual arts, especially drawing and photography. I have no aptitude whatsoever — just a general sense that cultivating the eye benefits the ear. One of my strangest projects was — a website hundreds of pages deep dedicated to the 50-year-history of ill-starred Clubbo Records. It includes music, photos, articles, history, interviews — all 100% fake, created by me and writer/composer Elise Malmberg. It was an attempt to fuse music, fiction, and music journalism while perpetrating a fun hoax. It’s as close as I’ve come to the Wagnerian notion of gesamtkunstwerk.

Video by Aïcha Idelcadi

What's your fetish device in the sound chain? 

Naked skin. I usually go pickless.

A valuable advice that someone has gifted to you in the past?

"Don’t think you’re special.” (I was photographing naked Courtney Love rolling on a pool table at the time. Long story.)

What quality do you admire most in a guitar?

A point of view.

Where are your roots? What are your influences?

I was a rock and folk kid who became a classical music snob as a teen. Later I dropped out of a music composition PhD program to play African music and punk. What was I thinking? Your guess is as good as mine. But there’s at least one common thread: Whatever the genre, I’m drawn to the music that arises when old systems break down and new languages are born. In classical music, I love stylistic revolution, be it 14th-century mannerism, Monteverdi’s opera, or early 20th-century modernism. Same with jazz and rock. I’m not a classicist. I get excited when classicism breaks.

What dead artist would you like to have collaborated with? 

My most revered musicians are Claude Debussy and Duke Ellington, but I never fantasize about playing with them — there’s nothing I could have added. I could write endlessly about my love for Goya and Dürer, the Brontës and Nabokov, Chopin and Stravinsky. But sadly, they never call. (And if they did, it would only be because Ribot was booked.) If I think in those terms at all, it’s more likely to be about someone whose music I feel I might have augmented. I would have loved to play with Laura Nyro, for example. Wouldn’t it have been bitchin’ if she’d made one great, late-career album?

What’s the difference between a good guitar and a bad guitar?

Can it make cool music?

Why and how do you use extended techniques in guitar?

I don’t use many, at least not in the usual “new music” sense. But I believe in transplanting (i.e., “misusing”) traditional techniques. Example: I play gnarly rock with right-hand style pilfered from 16th-century lute technique. I like Bartók in my blues. I sincerely believe that a liberal application of fuzz guitar would improve most classical concerts.

Mental 99 (guitarist Joe Gore and drummer Dawn Richardson)

What’s your next project about?

I’m working on a second Mental 99 album with drummer Dawn Richardson. I’d also like to do at least one solo guitar album — perhaps a set of 100 miniatures. I’m also thinking about a second novel: a horror story set in the world of 19th-century music. And these days much of my effort goes into sound design, whether it’s writing sound libraries for music software, or just building cool shit at the workbench.


2013 Time Easton Before the Revolution: The Best of 
2010 The Switch [Music from the Motion Picture] 
2008 Eels Meet the Eels

2008 Tracy Chapman Our Bright Future
2008 Eels Useless Trinkets
2007 The Star Spangles Dirty Bomb
2006 Tom Waits Orphans 
2006 DJ Shadow The Outsider 


2006 Stephen Yerkey metaneonatureboy 
2005 Eels Blinking Lights and Other Revelations
2005 Hear Music XM Radio Sessions, Vol. 1 
2005 Same !@#$ Different Day 
2005 Tracy Chapman Where You Live


2004 Courtney Love America's Sweetheart 
2004 Kimya Dawson Hidden Vagenda 
2004 Knife and Fork Miserycord 
2004 Rick Stone Turn Me on, Turn Me Out
2003 Erica García  Amorama


2003 John Cale HoboSapiens
2003 Eels Shootenanny!
2002 Tom Waits Alice 
2002 Tom Waits Blood Money 
2002 For the Kids [Nettwerk] 

2002 KCRW: Sounds Eclectic Too 
2002 Tracy Chapman Let It Rain
2001 Stella Soleil Dirty Little Secret
2001 Eels Souljacker 
2001 Mark Eitzel The Invisible Man


2001 Tipsy Uh-Oh!
2000 Cathal Coughlan Black River Falls
2000 Julieta Venegas  Bueninvento
2000 Tom Waits Hold On 
2000 Liberty Heights [Original Soundtrack] 

2000 Shanti Project Collection, Vol. 2 
2000 Take Me Home: A Tribute to John Denver 
1999 Bijou Phillips I'd Rather Eat Glass  
1999 Tom Waits Mule Variations
1999 Kathy Acker Redoing Childhood 


1999 Josh Joplin Useful Music 
1998 Pansy Division Absurd Pop Song Romance 
1998 Tom Waits Beautiful Maladies: The Island Years 
1998 PJ Harvey Is This Desire?

1998 MTV's 120 Minutes Live 
1998 Noella Hutton
1998 Oranj Symphonette Oranj Album
1998 Lisa Germano Slide


1997 Tipsy Trip Tease
1996 Dead Man Walking OST
1996 Driving Blind Driving Blind
1996 Les Claypool and the Holy Mackerel Highball with the Devil

1996 Oranj Symphonette Plays Mancini  
1996 Shots in the Dark  
1996 Meat Beat Manifesto Subliminal Sandwich
1996 Volume 16  Guitar


1996 Volume It: Copulation Explosion!  
1995 Stephen Yerkey Confidence, Man
1995 PJ Harvey  The B-Sides 
1995 PJ Harvey To Bring You My Love


1994 Jon Hassell Dressing for Pleasure
1993 Tom Waits The Black Rider
1992 Tom Waits Bone Machine
1992 Tom Waits Night on Earth 


Joe Gore runs
one of the best guitar blogs I know