Chad Wackerman Interview
AL: How is living in Australia different from Los Angeles?
CW: I really love it out here. We moved here in 1994 after things started to go a little crazy in California with earthquakes and riots. There are about 4 million people who reside here, so it is very cosmopolitan. I still travel a lot going to the States, Europe, Japan, plus I have a very nice studio in Sydney where I do most of my recordings these days…
AL: What are you concentrating on these days?
CW: I’m currently working on two separate projects, the first project I’m just about to record with James Muller, Leon Gaer and Daryl Pratt (the same line up as Scream). They are great group of musicians who live in Australia and I really enjoy working with them. The other project is with my long time friends Allan Holdsworth and Jimmy Johnson. So far this one is turning out to be a very different and adventurous trio CD. Allan and Jimmy have been absolutely phenomenal. We started this record after touring in Japan and Australia. We recorded at my recording studio in Sydney. A lot of the tracks are improvised as a group and during the process Allan came up with a very unique sound and concept. I have never really heard him play this way before. For example, Allan is soloing with a very clean tone on some of the tracks, which is something you don’t often hear him do. I think people will be very surprised after hearing this CD. Jimmy Johnson is creative and great as ever. There is also one piece where Jimmy starts off with a quasi New Orleans groove… sounds great. In a way, it is a new concept that we are attempting .I also really love the way the composed pieces are turning out. I’m still working on the recordings so these CD’s won’t be out for a few months. Of course any updates are listed on my website: www.chadwackerman.com
AL: How has Allan Holdsworth’s music influenced you?
CW: I really feel very strongly about Allan’s music and compositions. He has been a very dear friend of mine for a long time. It is very difficult for me to separate my musical vs. personal relationship with him. To start with, Allan has musical and harmonic ideas which are very different than any other composers. He’s simply brilliant… I first met him through Frank Zappa in 1982. You know when Frank would be on TV shows or interviews, people would ask him about a guitar player that he thought was fresh, innovative and he would always talk about Allan. So that’s really how I met him and we have been able to bring our musical ideas together, sometimes though compositions, other times organically though improvisations, making records, playing live and I hope it continues for a long time.
AL: Do you ever revisit your solo records and reflect whether they got your message across?
CW: Sometimes, I think about them. Honestly, I am really happy and proud of them. To me they are all very different. I was actually in Germany and there was a label called CMP who was actually thinking about doing something different within a context of a drum record. I expressed my desire to have a band of my own and they were very enthusiastic of the idea. I immediately got a hold of Allan and Jim Cox who was the perfect keyboard player, plus Jimmy Johnson. I wrote all the compositions in L.A. We recorded at Capital studios in Hollywood. Everything was recorded live, the band tracked together plus we recorded live improvs as well. This became Forty Reasons. None of the improvs were edited at all. What you hear is what happened spontaneously at the time. Two years later we recorded again at Capital. It was quite a fascinating experience to say the least. Back in 1992, everyone was using the sax, so I decided to have Walt Fowler on trumpet from the Frank Zappa Band, to give the The View CD a new color in the music. The View was really an extension of Forty Reasons. Scream was released in 2000 with my current touring band on Favored Nations and EFA. The basic sound is based on guitar, electric vibes (triggering synths), bass and other mallet percussion.
AL: How do you get ready for a gig?
CW: It really depends on the situation. Before any performance there are some warm ups that I do. During the Zappa days, there were difficult classical parts written for the kit. This required a lot of practice and rehearsal. We would rehearse for months before any tour, because of the sheer number of tunes Frank wanted to perform; usually 80 to 100 tunes were memorized. Before a tour with Allan, I practice at home, but we very rarely rehearse as a band. We have a certain chemistry that we have built over the years that have given me enough confidence of just getting up there and going for it. I try to be very reactive with any one I perform and try to listen to what others are doing. When I am performing live with Allan, I improvise quite a bit, but really listen to what he is doing. It’s a very spontaneous approach with Allan’s music, I can play counterparts over his melodies or just try to support what is happening, depending on the circumstance and mood.
AL: What were those Frank Zappa days like?
CW: Least to say, it has been one of the highlights of my life. It was such a great learning experience. I think everyone who was lucky enough to work with him grew as a musician. Frank could be quite intense and particular about things, and I loved the challenge, getting to play this great music live and in the studio. We certainly did a lot of shows over the years… An amazing time.
AL: How can more listeners be attracted to fusion and alternative jazz?
CW: I do not really know. All we can do is keep playing and hope that we get more radio play and that the record companies market the product. There are so many records that are out in the market today that it is becoming more and more difficult. All we can hope is continue playing our music and people will come out and listen.
AL: Thanks a lot for taking the time and doing this interview. Thanks for years of great rhythm and we are very much looking forward to the upcoming records.