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Improvijazzation Nation - Issue # 49

INTERVIEW with Oren Zero

I participated in the ALLMUSIC news group many years ago, when it was in it's infancy.  O.z. (tka n.n., or Jeff) was a participant there, too... in those early days, my interest(s) on the net lay (primarily) in using them to generate contacts with home tapers.  The ALLMUSIC group had several compilation tapes, mostly of other people's musics, which was all right, but I was (far) more interested in seeing the group evolve into a force for changing the FACE of music.  As a result of my pestilent determination & my (often) agressive/offensive manner (& some VERY unpopular opinions), I made few friends there... even some enemies.  

Ah, well... the perils of "learning the nets", I guess!   (I never DID really learn "netiquette", either... which will be part & parcel of the ZZAJ-RANT this issue).  There were 3 or 5 of those folks that stepped in (every once in a while) & piped up about "original" music on some of the collabs, though, & O.Z. (if I remember right) was one of 'em.  

He contacted me as a result of a recent posting to a ng (in which I was soliciting interviewees) & here we are... his answers!  Check him out HERE!!!   THANKS, O.Z....


Zzaj:  Last contact we had was in the middle of me strafing or being strafed by (someone on) ALLMUSIC (well deserved, I'm sure).  Do ya' still hang around the NG's?

Oz:  Sure. I read a few of the music and guitar-related Usenet groups (and actively participate in fewer, still), but I haven't kept up with the Bitnet stuff... I don't even know if Bitnet still exists, but it seems unlikely.  Of course, Adam Levin and Mike Karolchik both
went on to host other things, post-ALLMUSIC. Levin's band, Dark Aether Project, has gone on to do some pretty amazing things, I hear.

Zzaj:  Your .mp3 site has a LOT of interesting tunes.  Do you record/play with other folks, or is it all solo work these days?

Oz:  Thanks for the kind words... much too kind.  I've worked with a local (Nashville, TN) bassist, Steve Forbush, on a couple of tunes, including one you heard at the site; Steve played on "The Foundry," and we've done a few things that haven't been uploaded yet. Otherwise, it's usually just me and a few toys.

Zzaj:  Has the Internet, .mp3 & other sites that take artist's work(s) caused a "glut" of indie music?  Is that (terribly) important?  Do you care about "gluts"?

Oz:  No... I think people would be doing these things with or without the networking technology. It's just now that we have an opportunity to hear more of it. That may not be a good thing!  Sometimes it's a great thing, though. I doubt it will have a serious impact on the state of affairs viz-a-viz the "music industry" until filtering technologies mature to a much higher degree, though. Face it -- less than 10% of ANY of this stuff floating around will be appreciated in any lasting way by any individual, let alone society-at-large... and that goes for what's in the bins at your local CD retailer, as well. Music is disposable, and
recycleable!  Heh!

Zzaj:  How do you think the new Republican czars will influence independent activity (of all kinds) across the land?  IOW, does (or can) politics (no matter what ug-lee flavor) influence independence?

Oz:  I keep hoping for a little more sanity in D.C., and occasionally you'll see glimpses, but not often enough. Here in Tennessee, the Governor (who campaigned on a staunch anti-spending, "no state income tax" platform) and many in the Legislature are trying to pass a state income tax. Thanks to the tireless efforts of a talk radio station here in town,
thousands have flocked to Legislative Plaza in Nashville to personally voice their opinions on the matter... and I'm proud!  What the U.S. needs is a credible libertarian (small "l") leader, who isn't afraid to draw lines concerning the government's interest in our personal choices, nor afraid to eviscerate the fat, wasteful budgets on so many marginal and
ineffective programs. I doubt that will happen in my lifetime, but I maintain hope.

Zzaj:  I remember a couple of collabs on ALLMUSIC that featured playing by list members (some of us, anyway).  Do you collaborate (through the mail or over the nets) with anyone these days?  What projects do you HAVE in the works?

Oz:  I've collaborated a little over the net, but it's slow, tedious work. I haven't given up on the idea, but I think I want to wait for affordable DSS 2-way broadband before really committing to a major project.

I've never really seen postal mail as something to explore, probably because it's slower than 56K!  Ha!  I'm probably too impatient. But Steve Forbush and I have traded mixes and ideas over the net, even though he lives less than a mile away. He has a cable modem, so it's a lot less painful for him, of course.

Zzaj:  You list your music style as "smoke & mirrors".  This is something I can relate to quite a bit, but what does it mean to YOU?

Oz:  Well, it's a reference to my philosophy that production is a big part of the magic... it HAS to be, if you're just one person trying to cover all the ground on the recording. The technology available today -- even the AFFORDABLE technology! -- it boggles my mind. I suppose since I earn my salary at technology's leisure, it only seems appropriate that I leverage the horsepower of the PC to polish and tweak a bit... but I try not to do anything that I wouldn't be able to pull off with a band (which is not to say I'm considering a band; I can't imagine that I'd have nearly the time required to make something that complex work out in a successful way). Nothing up the sleeve, really.

Zzaj:  One of your group members is shown as "a bitchin' sound card". What card is that, or will you share the recipe for your particular flavor of madness with us?  What other equipment helps in your S&M (smoke/mirror) efforts?

Oz:  Heh... well, the card is really nothing in the context of the available technology. It's a Turtle Beach Montego II Home Studio -- it's just a stereo-in card with pretty nice specs. Other toys include a Line6 Spider 1x12 amp, a MESA/Boogie Subway Rocket Reverb amp, a Yamaha BBN-4F fretless bass, a Steinberger Spirit fretted 4-string bass, a couple of
Carvin Holdsworth guitars (one being a prototype -- a gift from Mr. H. himself), and old Ibanez Sabre, and a few other odds-and-ends... mics, monitors and whatnot.

The really important part is the PC, though. And the software. I learned enough to build a dedicated DAW system on a reasonable budget, and I can't say enough good things about a specialized, optimized PC recording rig. It's enormously liberating.

Zzaj:  How much longer do you think you can "get away" with being an "indie" in Nashville, TN?  We (some of us) thought that was "smoke & bourbon" turf (only).

Oz:  Yeah, a lot of folks look at it that way. Moving to Nashville, I soon learned that admitting to playing music was tantamount to telling anyone in earshot that you were a starstruck waiter. It's such a cliche... like Hollywood and film, I suppose. Getting back to the power and affordability of the technology, though... it's putting a lot of the one-time quite prosperous demo studios out of business here in Twangtown. I think "getting away with it" these days -- and I mean anywhere, not just Nashville -- means expecting to NEVER see an income from it. The currency is devalued. That's evolution for you. It
probably won't stay that way forever onward -- in fact, if anything, I think it may be the only thing that SAVES artistic (as opposed to commercial) music forms. When people make music for reasons other than fame and gains in creature comforts, magic can start to happen. You know, the recording industry hasn't really been in existence for very long. I'm sure the natural gas sellers were upset with the widespread availability of electrical
power earlier in this century... but life goes on. And natural gas is still a hot commodity (no pun intended).

Zzaj:  One of the basic premises I have regarding music is that "if it ain't FUN, it ain't music".  Please reflect on that (for or against, doesn't matter) a bit for us.

Oz:  I haven't often been involved in music that WASN'T fun. Is there such a thing?  The music itself, I mean. I've been involved in bands and projects where others weren't approaching the music as a fun thing, and that's usually a drag... sometimes worse. Some people make too much out of it, y'know?  It's not as if some goofball recording on is going to hang like an albatross around your neck for the rest of your life!  Even so, if that's where someone derives a major portion of their self-worth... well, there so much more in life to take seriously. Music has to be fun.

Zzaj:  Last words of advice for aspiring musicians out there across this beeg mudball?

Oz:  Yeah -- be careful of aspirations!  Seriously. I doubt I can speak effectively to anyone whose goal is to get on MTV. On the other hand, if music brings anything positive into your life, whatever that may be, keep doing it. When it stops doing that, get the hell out ASAP, and continue to try to get those positive things in some other fashion.


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