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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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