Dismiss Notice

Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

Feature Interview: Matthew Garrison

Discussion in 'Features' started by TalkBass, Sep 2, 2004.


Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. TalkBass

    TalkBass News Poster

    Mar 12, 2004
    <table width="100" border="0" align="left" cellpadding="7" cellspacing="0">
    <tr>
    <th scope="col"><img src="http://www.talkbass.com/images/garrison/garrison1.jpg" width="250" height="247"></th>
    </tr>
    <tr>
    <td><div align="right"><font size="1">Photo by Veronika Garrison</font></div></td>
    </tr>
    </table>
    <p align="center"><strong><font size="+3">Matthew Garrison</font>
    </p><p align="center"><strong><em>- Interview for TalkBass.com by Mike Flynn </em>-<br>
    </strong></p><p>Emerging as one of today's most striking and original virtuoso bassists, Matthew Garrison was born with some heavy jazz lineage in his genes, due to his father Jimmy's lengthy stint as John Coltrane's bass player. Despite this Matt has found his own voice among the hordes of technically and musically advanced bass guitarists, in part due to his own hybrid picking techniques, distinctive sound, and harmonic approach, but also as a solo artist willing to push the boundaries of jazz traditions, and a willingness to fuse a myriad of musical strands to create his own polymorphous sound universe. His self-titled debut solo album was a tour de force of his mastery of both his instrument and music as a whole, and came after years absorbing the musical language with luminaries such as Joe Zawinul, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Gary Burton, Joni Mitchell and Steve Coleman - all shaping Garrison Jr. into a lean mean bass machine. Now Matt returns with a new solo outing that finds him extending the ideas of his first solo record, while mastering the full potential of his home studio recording set up. The result is ‘Shapeshifter': a dramatic, worldly, poetic and deeply musical album that fuses the world-jazz of Zawinul and Weather Report with modern electronica and stunning live performances, creating an edgy environment where he can let his imagination and his fingers run wild and free. He has also simultaneously released a stunning live DVD and CD of him performing songs from both albums in an up close and personal setting of a New York studio, in front of a small invite-only crowd. </p><p>Garrison is still only 34 with years of playing ahead of him, and it's his rebellious and passionate approach that fuels much of his thoughts and feelings on music and life in general, as he has also embraced the possibilities of our modern switched on, plugged in, download age, running his own self-sufficient, mainly web based label. We spoke about all of the above and more over the phone recently (me in London, Matt in New York), and I began by making an observation that his all-encompassing approach was very similar to another fiery bassist who tears down the musical barriers with his jazzy drum and bass style...<br>
    </p>
     
  2. TalkBass

    TalkBass News Poster

    Mar 12, 2004
    <p><b>MF Do you ever listen to a guy called Squarepusher? </b> <strong></strong></p> <p>MG Of course! He's one of my primary inspirations these days; I'm floating away from jazz. But you know the cool thing is that I feel that somebody like him and his peers are the embodiment of where jazz should have been going! He took up where Steve Coleman kind of left off, but in a totally different direction, meaning that it's just the feeling that, just anything goes, man. You know? Anything goes. Of course it's all very well studied on his own terms, in the way he sees things, but anything goes. It's fantastic man - I love it. </p> <p><b>MF I presume you've met Tom Jenkinson or seen him live then? </b> </p> <p>MG Yeah, we spoke a couple of times over the phone. I wanted to actually do a project with him, a kind of remix project, but I don't think he kind of dug the music that I was doing, you know, because I sent him the first record and I never heard back from him. So I though “Ok, he doesn't like this stuff!” (Laughs) This chap is just like a strange new hybrid, but the thing is, it's not even new. <em>The irony is Downbeat [Magazine] </em> gave me a ‘Rising Star' award after twelve years of me doing this as a professional. It's like, [Jenkinson's] not that, because he's been doing this for twelve or fourteen years, and it's just now that things are being seen with a different perspective. It's always that way, you know, as long as you are persistent in one direction, things will happen. The one thing I really like about him is that he's very prolific, so even if the sounds he's making are ‘click, whack, click'… </p> <p><b>MF As an overview of the album, is this record a gut reaction to your surroundings, that of New York and the times we live in? </b> </p> <p>MG It is [a reaction] to the surroundings. However I've been home-bound, [and] my gut reacts more off my touring, you know? I go meet people, I hang out, I see certain performances, I see this, I see that, because at a lot of these festivals you get to see a lot of the music as well, but that's more of my thing. You know in New York city, I haven't been going out so much these days, I just been working at home a lot, and my wife is pregnant so we're dealing with a whole other thing, you know (Laughs). </p> <p><b>MF You seem to be taking the bass very much away from the two idioms of say the ‘Jaco-sound' or the ‘Wooten-sound' – but you also play a lot of chords, with some very advanced harmony – how did you develop this approach? </b> </p> <p>MG I wanted find a way to kind of solo with chords. I don't know if you've ever heard some Wynton Kelly solos, or Art Tatum and Errol Garner? Some of these cats were unbelievable - they could solo with chords. So when I heard that, I thought, &quot;wait a minute, this is unbelievable. How are these guys figuring out all those combinations as the chords are going by&quot;? It's just unbelievable stuff. So I kind of wanted to find a way where I can, just as much as I improvise in a linear sense where you see the chord and react or whatever it is that you do, but I wanted to be able to take chords and do the same. Of course I can't do that as much as I'd like to, but definitely some of the primary inspiration was to hear guys just being able to solo over changes with big chord blocks. </p> <p><b>MF Your bass is strung like a tenor bass, with the high C on top, so did it take you a long time to be able to throw all these big shapes on the neck? </b> </p> <p>MG Yeah, it's definitely taken long, I'm kind of a bit of slow learner. I need to sit there with stuff, and I'm a bit anal with these sort of things, so I just sit there for months on end just trying to figure out something. Everything I do kind of takes time, but I prefer it that way rather than just some of these quick geniuses that just figure this stuff out. </p> <p><b>MF Does the whole ‘cult of the bass player' thing concern you – with guys just following some of these supremely technical players today? </b> </p> <p>MG I suppose it could be problematic for some work issues, but it's just schools of people following this player and that player. But it's fine - either way I think it's just fantastic to see how things have developed. More than being worried, I just love to see it happen man, and far as my thing is going, my goal has always been to try and of course use the technique, but always use the technique to enhance the music – rather than the other way around. </p> <p><b>MF It's funny - the correlation between your playing and that of Tom Jenkinson is that you both seem to be into the idea of using the bass as more of a keyboard? </b> <br> <br> MG Yeah man! Look, some bass players for me are particularly interesting these days. One is Anthony Tidd, from Quite Sane. He plays with Steve Coleman, him and Tom, and there's a great bass player called Daniele Camarda who just looks for stuff, you know, weird sonic sounds. These guys are particularly interesting because they are all doing some different s***, and that's where I like to this stuff go. </p> <p><b>MF Your father was Coltrane's rock – so how did you first begin to understand some of the music that he was making with Coltrane? </b> </p> <p>MG I think when I first started to get a grasp on it was when I was up at Jack DeJohnette's house, because he started encouraging me to listen to music with a different perspective, and listen to how the rhythm section was interacting. He basically opened my ears up to that kind of sound, but I grew up with that music through just playing all the time. </p> <p><b>MF What first made you want to play electric bass? </b></p> <table width="100" border="0" align="right" cellpadding="7" cellspacing="0"> <tr> <th scope="col"><img src="http://www.talkbass.com/images/garrison/garrison2.jpg" width="200" height="356"></th> </tr> <tr> <td><div align="right"><font size="1">Photo by Veronika Garrison</font></div></td> </tr> </table> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>MG I heard some strange group, I can't even remember their name, but they were a really tacky pop band, but there was this one bass line on it, I didn't even realize it was the bass line, but that was the one thing I really liked, but when I sorted it out from the other instruments then I decided I wanted to get a bass shortly thereafter. So I got one a couple weeks later and I tried to play that bass line, so from that point on it was like having the bass guitar was kind of fun. I wasn't in awe of the instrument; I just wanted to play that particular line! (Laughs) Then it slowly started to developed with some friends of mine, we started playing some stuff here and there, and then I started taking it a bit more seriously, but I was also in to breakdancing and soccer and all that stuff when you're a kid, I was about fourteen or fifteen. </p> <p><b>MF You act as your own producer and engineer, but there seems to be some development in your recording process, how is it being your own boss and producer? </b> </p> <p>MG Man I can't tell you, I love it to death! It's absolutely fantastic experience. And now the cool thing is I don't have this learning curve... I don't have to try and understand the hardware and the software - it's been a lot easier to get around things. I guess the one drawback is that there's so much new material to work with, you just kind of have to sift through and make sure that it will be compliant with your ideas not just wasting time on figuring out how this piece of software is going to interact with this piece of software, you know, because you can get very technically minded with all the stuff that is going on these days man. Because it's just incredible! It's just crazy! Of course from the first record to this one for me it's been huge leap, technologically, because all the stuff I was using externally is now inside the computer - I'm just using a lot of plug-ins. Of course all the editing goes on in the computer, and I just have an 828 MOTU and I just plug into that baby, straight into the computer! I tell [you], there is one thing I have learned from this record.... There's a certain sound that you want to get into on the bigger songs, where they are more composed and more parts. What I was trying to do after I had recorded it and started getting it out there, was I wanted to start playing this stuff live and see how it worked. Now of course, when you hear the songs that big on the record, then in my ears or in my mind - to perform them and not have that huge sound was really a problem. Although I'm playing with Jojo Mayer, Gene Lake, Dave Binny and Adam Rogers, all that stuff we're doing live was banging man! That's why I decided to do this DVD even though it was really hard, because the really banging s*** happens in a small club – so whatever. But the one thing that I have learned about recording and then performing live is that now the music I put together for this record, and this is the most important part for me, is that I can take this material and kind of a la Squarepusher, reutilize it in a live setting. We are trying to find ways, I've been talking to my engineer and Scott Kinsey about this, to do this properly, where we just present the music and we just want it to be huge. </p> <p><br> <b>Mf What I love about the current scene, is that there are some really creative like-minded thinkers and musicians really collaborating and making something new today. </b> </p> <p>MG And it's like a beautiful, strangely underground thing happening -but it's kind of in between... it's slowly emerging... going above ground, it's become established and is very conceptual. </p> <p><b>MF Do you want people to hear these songs in a particular way? </b> </p> <p>MG It's like an entire record is like a statement: a series of things in sequence. And they [tell] a story - I kind of wanted that to happen, but simultaneously. But I know how you can just download a tune at a time these days, just the ones that are interesting to you, so I haven't paid full attention to the order - although I did give it some thought. But then I thought it almost doesn't matter these days - the way you can just reorder the sequence of tunes yourself. This is the kind of way I want to make records: some of the tunes are very thick man, but the thing is, if you've got a keen ear and you're interested in those types of things... It's like, I look at myself when I was growing up and I used to try to hone in on specific instrumentation. That's the kind of the vibe I wanted to get on [the album]. It takes time to start hearing parts – things are subdivided in 'Shapeshifter', if you listen closely. I think ‘Unity' is a good [example], if you listen to the middle section things happen in very specific spots and each one has a different part – you know, you'll hear it. </p> <p><b>MF Yes, ‘Unity' also features that weird unison line that repeats a couple of times – how do you develop those kinds of ideas? Just by riffing them around until they stick? </b> </p> <p>MG Yeah, that one was pretty straightforward - that was a series of triads. I picked the second inversion of a major triad. You pick the inversion and you move it around in whole-steps or half-steps however you want, then I built the harmony around that melody. </p> <p><b>MF You're also singing a bit on the album – similarly to Oteil Burbridge. Have you done that for a long time? </b> </p> <p>MG Yeah, I always used to as far as I can remember, from when I was in Berkley, I used to sing the solos all the time. That's interesting, as a couple of years went by after Berkley, some guy was like “Have you heard Oteil?” Er, no who is this? And then I heard him and I was blown away, because he was doing what I was doing but seriously! The real deal. The guy's phenomenal. </p> <table width="100" border="0" align="left" cellpadding="7" cellspacing="0"> <tr> <th scope="col"><img src="http://www.talkbass.com/images/garrison/garrison3.jpg" width="300" height="225"></th> </tr> <tr> <td><div align="right"><font size="1">Photo by Veronika Garrison</font></div></td> </tr> </table> <p><b>MF You also play guitar on ‘Changing Paths' very well, is this something you've done for a while? </b> </p> <p>MG Nah, I just did for this because I couldn't get somebody else! (Laughs) But to tell you the truth, I take the guitar and tune it up in fourths, (laughs), so I ended up tuning it up so high that the top string just popped off, so I just a five string guitar! </p> <p><b>MF You have this very unique finger technique – using three fingers and your thumb – did you develop this very thoroughly by starting out playing each note of each scale with a specific finger and so on? </b> </p> <p>MG I did at first but then I gave up on getting so detailed because I wanted to get more to the point! I was trying to figure this out, but I kind of did it backwards than most folks when they start learning to play their instrument – they start with the technical stuff and go crazy, then after like five or six years, suddenly think, “I don't know s***!”, then they start learning harmony. I went the other way and started learning the harmony first, where the notes are on the bass. So as that developed, it came up to the point where I was just about to play with Zawinul. I thought OK, let me try something different, from a technical standpoint, and see what is the reason that I want this? And I did come to the conclusion that I wanted the technique because I wanted to have something a bit flashy to present – when the time was necessary. But then I figured, if it's going to be flashy then I want it to be in the context of what I already do (which is knowing where the notes fall and so forth, what chords to play over and things like that), so then it made sense to me and then I said, &quot;let me look into the details first&quot;. Then I took a step backwards and thought, well no, if I want it to be flashy then I'm just going to go nuts sometimes, (laughs) so there it is! It can be really accurate and very detailed, but even I am amazed by this stuff, because I think of all the potential it has and all things that I'm not particularly doing that I could do to really expand upon it. But it's a really great technique. </p>
    <hr> <p align="center">Visit Mike Flynn on the web at:<br> <a href="http://www.munkio.com"><strong>www.munkio.com</strong></a></p> <p align="center">For more information on Matthew Garrison, including a complete discography, tour schedule, and some fantastic pictures, visit his website at:<br> <a href="http://www.garrisonjazz.com"><strong>www.garrisonjazz.com </strong></a></p>
     



Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.