IMPROVIJAZZATION Nation - Issue # 94

INTERVIEW with Rodger Pegues

Rodger is a player - in all senses of the word... even tho' we haven't met "face-to-face" yet, I can tell from his music (& it's the music that counts) that he's been there... in his case, he's been lots of places - in the physical sense as well as the way one of our mutual heroes (Carl Jung) would describe it... the music he plays will take you to many of those places & make you feel what he felt.  I'm very pleased that he took the time from a very busy schedule to grant us an interview - you need to KEEP YOUR EARS on this guy... he's HOT!

Zzaj:  Your bio (MYSPACE) mentions some of your earliest influences, such as piano teacher Phyllis Byrdwell and Clarence Acox… from there you seem (much like this interviewer) to have moved to various corners of the world… what took you there?  What brought you back?  ARE you “back”?  In other words, expand for my readers a bit on your bio, please…

Rodger: I never wanna get “back”.  Travel is a musicians life. When you get to a new town, like when I hit Hong Kong back in the day, you meet some new musicians, play some new clubs, and get some new reactions and connections, music, especially jazz, it’s a universal language………………..I’m gonna hit the road again 1st chance I get…………………………….but this is the source right here, so it’s good to live abroad to get paid, and be really appreciated, the way Europeans and Asian people love our music, but it’s good to be at home to get a recharge of the experience that the music is all about………………..

Phyllis B, is a superb gospel pianist, so much of gospel is in our experience of Western Music, folks don’t realize it, but gospel is soul, gospel is country, gospel is blues, gospel is jazz, gospel is the well from which all these springs draw inspiration and motif………… it’s spiritual music with a message of love and hope, and every one needs that……………….everywhere

Clarence Acox……………..need I say more…………..he’s a legend……I remember years ago as a high school student at Garfield when the drummer wouldn’t show up for class and Clarence would play with us…………..the song would just come alive……….the drummer holds the key, he’s the de facto leader of the band, if you don’t believe it, you’re playin with the wrong drummer…………he taught me to read a crowd………….and that even though we play jazz we never wanna get too snobby or esoteric where folks can’t enjoy the music…………………..at times I’m still revisiting this wisdom…………..as I really love to play 4 me……………and not really think about you, and just hope that you’ll experience the conviction and truth of my message…………. 

Zzaj:  Your music intrigues me, in great part because of your skill with the electronic piano sounds… but also because you seem (in a way) to be responding to some “higher power” (especially with your vocals)… without getting too “swami” about it, tell us why your music seems to come across that way?

Rodger:  I’m a big fan of VST’s, audio software all that………..the computer and the internet is my keyboard module……..I own 3 keyboards, 2 of which are slaves, meaning they have no sounds, so I use Reason, Logic, ProTools, and every VST I can figure out how to load, ultimately though, If all I had was an outta' tune upright I recognize that music, inspiration, and truth come from God. What makes people listen and enjoy is this connection: as a musician plays, when it’s “real”, people feel this……………….so you can’t be an artist without this truth without this conviction……….. 

Zzaj:  Another reason I was (immediately) intrigued with what you produce is because you seem to have a “fusion” of more than just “music”… like, there seems to be “drama” infused into what you perform as well… what’s that all about?  Or is that just another “mistake” in my perceptions?

Rodger:  I’ve had people listen to tracks and comment that it sounds like a movie. That’s what it is: the score to the movie that is my life………….as jazz musicians we explore improvisation, as a writer I want to explore form and structure as well, at times I want to improvise even the structure and form…….this is my passion 

Zzaj:  Rumor (as well, again, as part of your bio) has it that you spent some significant time in China… my own life (both musical & elsewise) was in great part shaped & formed by my experiences outside of this country… how  you feel about that?  Did the Orient “jade” (whoops, sorry for the pun) your soulness, or “enhance” it? 

Rodger: I was in China, Indonesia for about 3 years, a big fish in a small pond and I got a chance to be outside of the states and learn that they’re all watchin us and takin' our cues…………they loved me, they paid me, I can’t wait to experience Europe…………….any offers out there?

The Orient enhanced my expression cuz when you look into the audience at the club, everyone is quiet, they are listening, we both know, Westerners will pay $75 to go to Jazz Alley and talk through the whole show……………………. I can still remember the way this Japanese guy in Hong Kong  would stand right next to the stage holding his glasses to his face and studying the keyboard as I performed….

They listen, they take it in, they honor you... 

Zzaj:  Your “nu-jazz” thang kind of intrigues me, too… what does it mean to you, particularly as that relates to mixed media?  How are you realizing it? 

Rodger: Nu-jazz is new jazz without the corporate window dressing you get with smooth jazz. I never wanna be smooth…………….so elements of soul, rock, even classical are fused ………………..with the mixed media, as in the spoken word and innovative light design 

Zzaj:  How “tech-oriented” is your playing?  Do you use presets or sequences in your performances, or must it be “all natural”?  On that note, for the gearheads in our readership, what kind of rig(s) do you use (both studio & live)?  

Rodger: With this current project, computers, tracks, sequences, I use it all, and do live things

Around it, over it and under it……………………………….my keyboards are  your basic M-Audio slaves, that’s all I can afford…………but if I had all the money in the world,  I would  get the best hammer action weighted keyboard slave I could find………….all those expensive keyboards are, are computers, I like the flexibility of having my computer as a stand alone device rather than married to a keyboard  

Zzaj:  Who (musician or otherwise) has influenced your playing and singing the most (for instance, I noticed Carl Jung… my experience was somewhat similar, but when I was reading Carl’s stuff, it was on the banks of the Rhine river with a hash pipe… is there a certain “psych” element to what you’re doing)?

Rodger:  Jung promulgated the concept of the collective unconscious.  This is the collective experience and wisdom of everything better known as God.  When we play this is the source we need to contact to get away from reality which is actually the temporal plane of perception and existence, and get to the spiritual dimension, which is really real. 

Zzaj:  This may come across as a pretty oddball question, but then I’m known for such… do you think your playing & composition has changed (to any degree) now that Obama’s president?  Should it? (or is that just a STUPID question)? 

Rodger:  My lyrics have changed. I can’t rail against the Man anymore even though……He’s still there. It’s like when Mandela and the African National Congress came to power in SA, all the blacks still live in the  shanty towns in abject poverty, and the whites live in rich gated and guarded communities, but the political leaders are African………..it was a masterful deception on the part of the white minority but they pulled it off…………..and that’s what happened here with Obama’s election…………….I think as a Black Man, though, I never really had a victim mentality, the struggle is still there, but it is more of a struggle with self. Discipline and Artistry have a unique symbiosis. I mean I can own a $50K Steinway but if I lack the skill to play it, it’s worthless 

Zzaj:  Give us a little more insight into just what your “Pegues project” is?  I mean, I know part of the y idea is to “weave” together various disciplines (video, music, spiritual guides, web wizards and others) into something cohesive… is that “happening” yet, & what forms do you anticipate it evolving to, say within the next 5 years or so?

Rodger: thepeguesproject is the host and guide of  my new show synergy. S y n e r g y  is the jam session of all sessions where all these forms are combined and featured, the spoken word, conscious rap, free jazz, soundscapes, etc……………………..this is the work group for my next cd, as I will do a compilation of collaborations with some of the different musical and performance artists I have encountered through the s y n e r g y……………………and on that show………………I’ve been encountering and recording with some amazing players………………………….. 

Zzaj:  How important is live performance to one aspiring to make a living from music?  Can a “studio player” survive in today’s musical environment, or must one get out and play live?

Rodger:  I don’t know.  I’ve never been a studio player. My studio is my studio apartment, that’s where I produce all my music. What I do know is that I must play live….If I can’t sell it ……………………guess what……..?  I give it away…………………………….


 


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