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Improvijazzation Nation - Issue # 46
INTERVIEW with Ernesto Diaz-Infante
(In which our improvising amigo improvises his INTERVIEW... be SURE & pay close attention to his quotes, interwoven through the Q&A... QUITE revealing...)
a - fire e - air i - water o - salt u - earth
beuys will be beuys: pt.1 the coyote complex 02.17.01
the elements of one's vocabulary:
wax milk farms and mountain springs
food (chocolate, sausage, gelatin, margarine, butter) a camera near all the time
grease six plastic bottles
felt (a fabric of wool mixed with fur, hair, cotton or rayon fibers) eleven lightweight clear plastic spoons
wood white noise from a space heater
metals (the negative energy of metals) sound of an acoustic guitar
--ernesto diaz-infante, san francisco, california usa
Madness is man's desperate attempt to reach transcendence, to rise beyond himself.--Abraham Herschel
Zzaj: Since you've just come back from a rather extensive tour of the east coast, how do you feel the "improv" scene on that coast "stacks up" against the west coast environs you're living in? Is SF different, in it's musical environs, for instance, from NYC?
edi: For me, it feels that the scene in San Francisco is a little more laid back than New York. I like the weather better on the west coast. Everything seems to move quicker in New York. I was playing more with people mostly everyday--sitting in jam sessions, recordings, going to shows. I like the public transportation better in New York and everything seems to be more dense and compact. There are definitely subtle stylistic differences between both environments. New York tends to be grounded more in the 'free jazz' traditions. But there's more diversity on the west coast. It's a nice contrast to have the opportunity to be exposed to both environments. I've certainly learned a lot from both.
artist + star = astronomer
Zzaj: You've turned out a LOT of (different kinds of) music in the last 3 years or so, Ernesto. Is the "energy" level (just) up, or do you see yourself "backing off" on releases in the coming year?
edi: The creative energy levels are high!!! I've been on a very active music schedule lately, gravitating to all these creative people. So, I feel I'm just getting started--stretching-out a bit. I'm getting more comfortable on each project exploring sound and structure to my fullest capacity. Pushing myself in different directions, taking a lot more risks. I recorded three new recording projects in New York City, during my east coast trip in November, slated for release in 2001 are the Chris Forsyth/Ernesto Diaz-Infante Duo (electric/acoustic guitars); Blasie Siwula (sax) Jeff Arnal (perc) and Ernesto Diaz-Infante Trio (acoustic guitar); and Rev99 with 99Hooker (sax, poetry), Akio Mokono (G3) Chris Forsyth (electric guitar), Ernesto Diaz-Infante (acoustic guitars). There's also an upcoming recording session in Ojai, California, with Ventura improviser/trumpeter Jeff Kaiser and Brad Dutz (percussion); Richie West (percussion); Scot Ray ( trombone); Jim Connolly (bass) and myself (guitar/piano) which will be the follow-up CD to the critically accliamed Pith Balls and Inclined Planes CD). Plus local bay area projects including a recording project with bay area musicians Lx Rudis (keyboards/bass/electronics); Andre Custodio (electronic/percussion/voice); and myself (guitar/violin/voice); A recorded project with visiting Viennese musician Boris Hauf (saxophone/G3) and bay area musicians Damon Smith (contrabass); John Shiurba (guitar); Scott Looney (electronics); and myself (prepared piano); and an upcoming recording session with ex-Chicago bay area improviser Bob Marsh (cello) and myself on (acoustic guitar).
Art is not there to provide knowledge in direct ways. It produces deepened perceptions of experience...Art is not there to simply be understood, or we would have no need of art." Joseph Beuys
Zzaj: Since you've got a "high level" of musical education, what advice do you have for "ear musicians"? Is formal training more (or less) important than just perfecting "what you have"?
edi: hmmm...I really don't think about it in those terms. I just create and I try to be acutely aware of form and balance. But having a music education has helped me be more focused and critical in a constructive way. I'm just chiseling away everyday gathering/absorbing/processing more info, organizing ideas, shaping form into some gratifying result. But sometimes I just roll tape and play with real-time. Or sometimes I take a long walk and calculate every detail, thinking through, envisioning how I want to approach something--play guitar, compose the next measure, record a track. etc.
"There's no such thing as bad publicity." P.T. Barnum
Zzaj: You've often told me that (more or less) "all press is good". Do you still believe that? Is "negative press" something artists should be very concerned about?
edi: No, not at all. Bear in mind, not everyone is going to like your music. C'est la vie! That's life. The bottom line is that it's very important not be afraid to send out promotional materials (CDs) that will help you to compete with major and independent labels in capturing/developing the attention of the media the public. These materials help introduce your recording, provide information about you and your music, and arouse curiosity which can induce people to write about, play, or buy your recording. I've been on the other side of the fence as music director of a public radio station (KAZU). There's is a lot of product out there, it's frightening! So you have to be smart, driven and quick on your feet to get your music played or reviewed--creating the buzz, the hype. The follow-up is extremely important concept or else your CD gets buried in the pile of other CDs out there at the same time.
"The whole process of living is my creative act." Joseph Beuys
Zzaj: As a sort of "mental drill", can you name off all the artists you've played/performed/recorded with in 2000?
edi: Jeff Arnal, Dan DeChellis, Bruce Eisenbeil, Chris Forsyth, Pat Harman, Boris Hauf, Steev Hise, Bill Horist, Bret Hart, Mark Kissinger, Paul Hoskin, Jeff Kaiser, Bonnie Kane, Bob Marsh, Dick Metcalf, Donald Miller, Kurt Newman, Nmperign, Dan Plonsey, Blaise Siwula, Damon Smith, Jack Wright, W.O.O Revelator, Stan Nishimura, Akio Mokono and 99Hooker.
"Whoever uses the spirit that is in him creatively is an artist. To make living itself an art, that is the goal." Henry Miller
Zzaj: With your "composed" work(s), do you actually score the material out first, or after?
edi: On my 'composed' works, I notate everything out in detail. It's great working this way because I have more time to map out what direction I want to explore. Everything is very calculated and thought-out I'm currently working on a large-scale chamber work, Glandelinia, for voices, woodwinds, brass, percussion and string trio. It's heavily loaded on extended techniques, sound-oriented material, music inspired by the creative spirit of outsider artist Henry Darger. There's less and less melodic, rhythmic or harmonic development and more emphasis on the essence of pure sound--an extreme minimalist approach. These pieces are for me not the public. I am also composing a new installment in my series of location-based journal-pieces for solo piano entitled, San Francisco Journal, a large scale work which combines my art drawings, music and random poetry.
"I am interested only in expressing the basic human emotions - tragedy, ecstasy, doom and so on..." Mark Rothko
Zzaj: Who are your most profound musical influences? Why? How do/have they influenced the music you compose or improvise? If you had a chance to play with one "famous" musician, who would it be?
edi: George Antheil, Derek Bailey, Pierre Boulez, Anthony Braxton, John Cage, Cornelius Cardew, Charles Ives, Harry Partch, Eric Satie, Giacinto Scelsi, Arnold Schoenberg Karlheinz Stockhausen, Sun-Ra, Cecil Taylor, Edgard Varese, Anton Webern, Iannis Xenakis, and LaMonte Young have all inspired me at one point in my life. But I think American composer Morton Feldman has made the greatest impression on my work because he created this new sound world that he kept to himself untainted by European methodology. A pure, instinctive and simple way of working with sounds unhindered by pitch and harmonic relationships. I've also been inpired by all my peers that I've worked with and their dedication to this art form/music language that we share together. If I had a chance to play with someone famous it would either be Derek Bailey or Los Amigos Invisibles: the new sound of the venezuelan gozadera.
"I do not invent my best thoughts; I find them."--Aldous Huxley
Zzaj: Do you have any difficulty moving between the composed works on keyboard (that I've heard you play) & the improvised/out guitar works? Is it an extreme mental transition, or a pretty comfortable fit?
edi: No, After several years of discipline and practice, I'm very comfortable in applying both methods of organizing sound. In my latest projects I've been consciously blending both worlds in a very subtle manner.
"It is only well with me when I have a chisel in my hand."--Michelangelo
Zzaj: With the focus on D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself) that my 'zine has, it's only fitting that I ask you... do you think that (much) D.I.Y. music suffers from "low production values"? Is that a terribly important thing, or does the "energy" for the performance count more?
edi: I believe the end result content is more important than the process or the presentation. The D.I.Y approach can be an expensive habit. But it's absolutely necessary, there's no time to be wasted lying on your bed daydreaming the big moment (after you mailed your demo like a 100 places) the A&R rep is going to send you an email or give you the 'your signed' phone call--This 'pie in the sky ' thinking is dangerous and totally leads to depression (I should've..I could've..). One works with the resources and tools one can afford or budget. What's more important at the end of day is what on that tape, CD, CDr, DVD etc. The rest is the finishing touches that help the reviewers, DJs, and the buying public get excited about your product.
"Great music is not for the masses." --Ralph Shapey
Zzaj: Along those same lines, what advice (as a composer, performer, improvisor & organizer) do you have for players out there who may feel like they've been (sort of) "left out"? Is "persistence" the route to take, or is it more important to "back off" for a while, find one's "joy spot" in the musical arena, & then pursue that with all due vigor?
edi: Remember the 3 Ps: be persistent, pleasant, and professional. And be extremely self-reliant as possible. Make things happen. Create the buzz and just keep at it 24/7!
"...You are an authentic member of society to be destroyed; the spirit of the beehive speaks though your mouth and moves through your actions. You are as useful as I am, but you don't realize how useful your contribution is to society that sacrifices you." --Che Guevara, Motorcycle Diaries
beuys will be beuys: pt.2 the coyote complex 02.17.01
cloth what do you keep?
rope what do you know?
loudspeaker honey in your coffee
tape recorders an icy evening sky
skeletons a silver spoon to stir the coffee
dead and alive animals what do I need to do?
objects (boxes, pianos, air pumps, charis, fences) a paper clip on the night stand
electric lights left & right
chemicals four boxes high
straw remind me
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