Inspiring countless numbers...
It came to me one day when doing some musical contemplating
what might others think?
So I thought why not ask?
And I reached out.
And they answered.
THE INTERVIEW 3
- a series of questions -
next up - Darol Anger
I admit it. It's true. I stalked Darol Anger!
To this day I'm not sure he knows although now we consider ourselves friends
back in the early 90's when I first discovered Dave Grissman 88 recording
I was obsessed with trying to take a stab at learning one particular tune in spite of my complete lack of knowledge or experience outside the routine classical pop scene. But what were the chords?
Somehow I tracked down a phone number for Darol in the East Bay, CA and caught him on the phone much to my surprise. Verclimt with fanaphobia I didnt even say hello but rather, "I have to know the chords to Tune 88! WHat are the chords????" after which he immediately replied with, The same as Autumn Leaves! Afterwhich I said thanks! and he said who is this? and I think at that moment I hung up.
The Questions -
How Do You Describe Your Music?
DA At this point, it's become pretty much Darol Anger music. My process of differentiation is complete by now. But it's basically music that wraps around the fiddle.
I've played Old-time, Blues, Bluegrass, Bebop, modern jazz, new-agey music, Northern California pop, 3 different flavors of Scandinavian music, Celtic fiddle, Brazilian Choro, Bar Rock, and singer-songwriter style music now and it's all gone into the pot.
So... maybe Americana or Modern World String Band music, or Music from the Republic Of Strings, which is an imaginary nation whose imaginary borders extend through and beyond all other imaginary borders in this world.
What's Your Latest Project?
DA I've got 3 things sort of in process right now. Two are bands: One is Darol Anger and the Furies, which is a vehicle for me and my girl friend Emy Phelps to play music we both write, so we're playing the material on this CD we just released. It's called Look Up, Look Down, by Emy Phelps. It's the first recording I have released that we just did the writing, arranging, recording, mixing, producing, and put it out ourselves... it's a blast and we have fantastic musicians playing with us. If you're curious you can download or buy the CD at my website.
The other band has just appeared... it's called the Old-Time Kozmik Trio and it's myself, Bruce Molsky, and Rushad Eggleston. People are kind of flipping out over that, so we'll do a bunch of festivals next year I hope.
The third thing is kind of an ambitious project which will involve all the incredible cellists I have had the luck to meet and play music with.. That is a long list-- and it includes Rushad, Mark Summer, Barry Phillips Renata Bratt, Mike Block, Natalie Haas, Eugene Friesen, Ben Solee, and possibly more. I'm working on a couple of surprises too. When I started thinking about this project I just thought I'd whip together a bunch of duets with each person, but then I started thinking that I should write all the music and that it should all fit together like a suite-- and possibly be based on a Bach composition, while still having each duet be based on that players' particular strengths. So that means funding. I have to find some grant money for that so I can go off and write it!
Do You Play More Then One Instrument? Do You Recommend That?
DA I play 4 and 5 string violin, some cello, and guitar, electric guitar and various size mandolins. Also some percussion instruments. I think it helps everything so much to get away from your main instrument. You are forced to think in other ways, make other sounds, solve other problems.
Who Are Some Other Players You've Enjoyed Collaborating With?
DA I've been very lucky with that one. I'm the kind of player who is only as good as the people he's playing music with. But I can be great when I'm with great people. There are very very few people who I haven't enjoyed playing music with. I think Mike Marshall might be one of the longest-running really productive collaborations I have had, but also Barbara Higbie, David Balakrishnan, Brittany Haas, David Grisman, Tony Rice, Tony Trischka, David Grier, Scott Nygaard, Michael Doucet, The Anonymous 4, Scott Law, Phillip Aaberg, Tracy Silverman, The Clarridges, Mike Block, Matt Glaser, Stuart Duncan, Dr. Billy Taylor, David Parsons, David Lindley, Emy Phelps, Danny Barnes, Yonder Mountain String Band... the list just goes on and on, you know. It's an amazing thing, and I can barely believe my good fortune sometimes.
Who would you like to play with that you haven't?
DA two folks come to mind: Ry Cooder and Yo-Yo Ma. I've run into Yo-Yo a lot, but we haven't played really.
Where Has Been One of Your Favorite Places to Perform?
DA I liked the vibe of Carnegie Hall, but it's the outdoor venues that seem to stay with me the most. Red Rocks Ampitheatre, and some of the little outdoor natural ampitheatres in and around Utah.There's an incredible natural ampitheatre set in the sandstone cliff face outside of Zion National Park in Utah. The Greek theatre, Berkeley... all those incredible open-air ruins in Italy... Rockygrass, Horning's Hideout outside of Portland, Oregon. All the various Freight And Salvage coffeehouses including the new palace. Troy Music Hall, an almost perfect-sounding room. One Longfellow Square in Portland, Maine, and the amazing Stone Mountain Arts room out there in the sticks in Maine. And my heart yearns for the golden olden days and all those incredible shows at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.
DA I'm really liking the Baggs Venue pre-amp. It sounds great and does everything really well.
The Bruce Bartlett clip-on mics pretty much smoke everything else I've tried, especially for violins. He has one that has an optimized EQ curve (flat, that is) for fiddle.
For a pickup, I like the pickuptheworld ones. They fit under one foot of the bridge like the Realist, but don't mute the sound anywhere near as much. But the absolute best-sounding electric violins are the London model made by AES. They sound great acoustically, and electrically, and they have 5-string models. Any time I'm using a pickup, I just bring the London. And they are cheap for a good acoustic instrument.
I'm also playing a Nathaniel Rowan 5-string violin, a Jonathan Cooper 4-string, and one I made at Jon's shop. I'm mostly onto 5-strings.
Fav Summer Camps or Educational Opportunities?
DA Mike Block runs a great camp in Florida, Alasdair Fraser continues to sail along with some of the greatest camps ever. If you're insanely grindingly serious, the O'Connor camp is really good. Berklee is an amazing scene right now with some of the best players and teachers ever hanging out in Boston. Also Belmont College in Nashville is coming on strong.
ArtistWorks.com and I have set up an online school that fiddlers can subscribe to and take pre-recorded video lessons from me at their leisure. When you're ready, you can record a video of yourself playing the tune or lesson, upload it, and I respond with a short personal teaching video which addresses your playing issues. There's no limit on how many times you can do this, and because it's uploaded, there is no appointment problem. You can watch the graded [basic, intermediate, advanced] lessons over and over. There are hundreds of 8-10 minute lessons up now, and a constantly growing reference library of 2-part lessons: the student's video, and my response video, which all stay online. There is also a great forum where everyone can jump in and chat online, and every student gets a personal page where they can post their own information.
I know that there are a lot of online lessons these days, but I think you'll agree that this is one of the best, maybe absolutely the best. The ArtistWorks folks are really going all the way to make this work better than anything else on the Web, including designing their own amazing software, multiple hi-def camera angles, good lighting, slo-motion, etc.
I'm also teaching these days at the Berklee School Of Music, which is great...
but you don't have to move to Boston for this, and it's a lot cheaper.
Who do you like to listen to?
DA Lots of Scandinavian groups such as Vasen, my students at Berklee and ArtistWorks, Punch Brothers. I used to listen to a lot of jazz, but not so much right now. I like some of the Venezuelan groups and modern Choro stuff. Mostly just people I'm playing with now-- I'm doing a lot of producing and recording also, and that is intense listening.
What do you recommend to an aspiring Improviser?
DA learn LOTS OF tunes, songs too. combine different songs and tunes.
Not just the melodies, but the chord progressions. Find 2-note chord patterns on your bottom 2 strings that work well for those progressions.
Also work on your diatonic arpeggios and sequences.
Do it all by ear, and it'll happen.
How Do You Overcome Self Conscious Playing?
DA Confidence is a huge factor here. In public, just play what you know you can pull off. Also, try to play with people who are really having fun. There's a wide spectrum between playing with people who are better musicians than you ( I try to do that as much as possible) and playing with people who are accepting of everything and having fun doing it. It's just music, after all.
Any Other Tips On Performance Practices?
DA Most audience members are not there to hear notes! They are there to experience something real with other people also having a real experience, They are there to see human beings doing intense stuff with other humans. So, it's not about the notes.
Final thought: philosophy, quote...anything at all...
DA Bill Evans famously said that he would rather listen to someone who had struggled and come from a place of "bad" playing than somebody who was all loaded with talent and everything came easily to. I think highly talented people can succumb to glibness, but everybody has to work at it in some way.
Here's a great Martha Graham quote:
"There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action,
and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.
If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium. It will be lost. The world will never have it.
It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how it compares to other expressions.
It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open."
I think it might however be your business to make it as good and real as you possibly can.
Listen to some Darol here: