Matthew Garrison Interview
Bass trailblazer Matthew Garrison is one of the brightest stars of the new musical universe. His DNA is loaded with gifts from his father, the late Jimmy Garrison, legendary bassist who brought time and space to the music of John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman and other jazz luminaries. His naturally inherited gifts have been aided and abetted by years of study and the use of his own innate imagination and technical prowess to produce a voice which is uniquely his own. His skills, spirit and musical sensibilities have made him an in-demand musician who has played major roles in the music of the bands of John McLaughlin, Joe Zawinul and, most recently, Herbie Hancock and Gary Husband. But, Matt is really making his mark as a leader of bass recordings that may change the face of his instrument. Matt spoke to AbstractLogix about his new recording and what is in store for the future.
AL: Your debut recording, Matthew Garrison, created a big impact in the music community and bass players in particular. How did you approach the compositions and entire production of the record?
MG: I think I approached it very carefully but with a confident feeling that I was doing the right thing. I wanted my first to be a strong statement of who I was at the time and I could only achieve that by really being hands on in every area. Composition, arrangements, selection of musicians, everything. It was a fantastic experience and it certainly prepared the ground work for my most recent work.
AL: You seem to be fond of experimenting by blending electronics. How do you know when you have things right?
MG: To tell you the truth I’m not sure if providing the right blend. I’m mainly experimenting every time I sit front of my computer and I just see what comes up next. I guess I just try not to be so judging of myself or what the sound of music should be. Tradition is starting to not have so much weight on my ideals and that feeling is starting to seep into my concept of composition. I’ve somewhat found the freedom of expression on my instrument and now I want to have that in composition and digital manipulation. I also like to view electronics as third dimension while creating music. It’s as if we’ve had 2 dimensions in a stereo world for decades. Now with the use of highly sophisticated software we can take any audio signal and place it anywhere in space. Up, down, left, right, around and of course complete reconstruction of the audio allow us to really go beyond certain long standing barriers. It’s a very exciting time to be a composer or performer if you’re into electronics and signal paths.
AL: Shapeshifter is your second record. You seem to have extended your ideas from the first CD.
MG: Yeah I think of it as an extension as well. It kind of picks up where the last recording ended and adds a little extra. I wanted to maintain a sort of balance between old and new, yet begin to introduce new elements. I actually really feel like I tackled more issues that I wanted to deal with on my first record. It’s more of what I hear in my head on various levels. This project has furthered my knowledge of music creation and I’m very proud of it. One extremely important aspect of the recording is that the music is the basic canvas on which I will construct my live shows. All of the electronics you hear can and will be reproduced on stage in real time. Me and Warren Brown, my good friend and phenomenal creative sound engineer, have been tackling my ideas for several years now and we’ve come up with some novel solutions for recreating the sound of this new music in a surround-sound setting live. There is some very exciting music coming.
AL: You decided to release a live CD and DVD at the same time.
MG: I’ve been scolded by some of my friends in the recording production industry that it’s not good to release two projects back to back but to be honest I can’t be bothered with that logic. All I know is that I haven’t released new material in 4 years, I don’t know how much time I’ve got on this earth, and I need to turn corners from time to time. I guess releasing new material is sort of a ritual of renewal and I’ve come at a point in my development as a musician where I need to get certain music out of my system in order to move forward. It’s also just an exciting treat for me to get new music to all of the fantastic folks that have been requesting it over the years. This music is greatly inspired by all those who took the time to listen and observe and deep down I made it for them. I want to give out a big thank you to all that have supported me. I already have plans for a second DVD where me and my buddy Warren Brown will really dive in to the full use of surround-sound and where I’ll truly explore the use of electronics in a recording as well as a performance setting. This time it will be no more than 3 people performing.
AL: Why did you decide to release the new material independently again?
MG: Mainly because of fantastic web sites like AbstractLogix and because I firmly believe in what I’m doing. I produce, promote, and sell everything from my production company GJP (GarrisonJazz Productions) and I don’t think there is anyone better to do it than me. As a natural consequence I really need all those whom are interested in this music to do the right thing and support these efforts by making absolutely sure to purchase rather than copy it. It’s up to all of us to keep this type of experimental music alive and because there are no middle men you can all trust that every time you buy something with GJP on it those resources are coming straight back to me, with which I will create music.
AL: Could you comment on the way you incorporate the vocals of Veronika, Sabina and Joy along with the melody lines on this recording? The effect is quite surreal at times.
MG: Yeah, it’s a beautiful thing to work with such fabulous vocalists. In most cases the voices were recorded alongside prepared melodies, but in the case of Exchange I wrote all of the music around the vocal line and lyrics sung by Veronika. The words she is singing in Icelandic, a beautiful ancient language, are based off of a poem she wrote.
I put them into me where you are
I rise up against the sky
Open and ready to receive the world
I open my eyes and you are here
You are growing from my navel
Your sounds shine through me
I close my eyes and you disappear.
MG: I also added some vocals here and there. It’s not to showcase my singing in any way, it’s rather to add that sense of human spirit to the sound of my strings. I want folks to hear and feel the breath inside the notes that I naturally feel when playing my instrument.
AL: Most of us are familiar with the great musicians on your record. Can you talk about them a bit?
MG: Well let me start with Arto Tuncboyacian, Scott Kinsey and Jim Beard… these 3 human beings have had a deep impact on me on a human level let alone the playing. They have given so much to my projects over the years that I can’t fully express my joy and gratitude. All three are absolute geniuses and what they bring to the world of music is absolutely irreplaceable. Sabina, Joy, Veronika, Jojo, Gregoire, Elliot and John have also been instrumental in making the sound of this record right. They are all some of the most talented human beings I have ever worked with and I’m grateful for all of their contributions. One important note regarding the labeling on the CD: John Arnold is the drummer on TURN AROUND. Please make a mental note of that since he really made that song come alive. It just didn’t show up in print on this first edition.
AL: We read the rave reviews on your tour early this Spring with Gary Husband in UK.
MG: Fantastic! Gary Husband has proven to be not only one of the greatest drummers alive but a deep intellectual and progressive composer, and an innovator. Teaming up with him and Arto was sort of like a strange dream come true. One of the best rhythm sections. I’ve worked with in years. Can’t wait to do more.
AL: You have been so fortunate to perform with some of the best musicians, Joe Zawinul, John McLaughlin, Herbie Hancock and many others. Could you share some of your experiences with them and how they helped you in your own musical quest?
MG: Fortune is good, useless without hard work though. That’s something I’ve come to learn over the years from all of those masters. They are extremely in tune with their work and very persistent on getting things right. As far as memorable moments I think I should write a book man!!! Just too much to put down here…
AL: What music are listening to these days?
MG: Squarepusher. Totally out of this world. A deep, deep breath of fresh air. Bjork. Dark, sophisticated, magic sounds. Massive Attack. Anthony Tidd and Quite Sane. Genius work from start to finish.Daniele Camarda. Moody, intense, virtuoso bassist with a keen sense of exploration. Maria Callas. Fleetwood Mac.
AL: Your dream band? Maybe 2 dream bands?
MG: How about three?
1. Warren Brown and myself fully exploring the use of electronics both in the studio and on stage. By electronics I mean full implementation of surround sound applications in conjunction with all of my compositions in real time. After that’s established anyone can come and participate, but that’s the nucleus of my work now. I suppose that’s not really a dream band though because we’re actually doing it! Just had to squeeze that info in.
2. Tom Jenkinson aka Squarepusher & myself.
3. A symphonic orchestra playing some of my compositions with bass guitar as the lead instrument!
AL: A special thanks to Matt for taking time to do this interview.