A Fireside Chat With Tim Berne
AAJ: It is certainly a strange phenomenon, not limited to improvised music, but music labels consistently delete material from their catalogs, further frustrating the artist's ability to develop a recorded legacy.
TB: It isn't necessary all out of print, but the label is on to the new record. A lot of these records are in print, but I defy anyone to find those records in the stores. If you can't find them in New York or L.A., I'm pretty sure you're not going to find them in the Mid-West. So just to have a website where everyone can go and get my stuff forever and I notice that every week, I sell a few Bloodcounts. There is no record that doesn't at least move a few copies a month and that is really gratifying. The JMT stuff, I would get so excited after I recorded it and the record came out and then it would be just all downhill from there.
AAJ: Not to mention the period during the acquisition and merger of Polygram to Universal when JMT titles were pulled from store shelves.
TB: Yeah, and now it is being reissued, but it is almost the same scenario over again. It is hard to believe, which is why I bought a bunch of them and I am selling them myself. It is bizarre.
AAJ: Are you going to revisit Bloodcount?
TB: I don't know, Fred. I thought about doing some gigs just for fun. I've had a lot of really good bands that I have really enjoyed and then when I move on, it just seems like it is time to move on. I don't think it is a bad thing. My ears change. My interests change. I just get different ideas. That instrumentation, there is only so much I could come up with. I sort of hit the wall because we were so prolific and we were also playing so much. I just ran out of ideas. It is tempting because, as with all my bands, they usually get really successful after I stop doing it. It is tempting and I love those guys. It would be fun, but I really don't have the time just to do it for fun. You always have people coming up to you asking, "What happened to Bloodcount?" At some point, I am sure I will get people asking me, "Are you still doing Science Friction?"
AAJ: Science Friction recently recorded two releases, one on your Screwgun label and a live double album for Thirsty Ear.
TB: I've been playing with those guys in various combinations for a long time. Craig, even, for two or three years because we had the trio. It was something that was always in the back of my mind because Ducret lives in Paris, it is not so easy to pull off. I had Marc come over. We did four gigs and then we did the record. Essentially, I did it to make a record, but I was also thinking in terms of the future because I am always thinking of ways to have a relatively small group and get a big sound and with guitar and keyboards, you can get a pretty big thing going. Recently, I've actually been doing it with two guitarists, David Torn. I like the electronic orchestral sound you can get. There is a certain power with the electric stuff that appeals to me, the texture of it. Also, not having a bass, when you want it to be there, there is a big hole, which gives Tom a lot of room, which I think is really interesting. The sound can be thick without having six people there. There is a certain kind of articulation that you get on those instruments that you don't get on woodwinds. There is a certain percussive quality that I really like. I like both albums. I was not really trying to document the live sound. It was our last gig on our tour. There were probably a couple of hundred people in the audience.
AAJ: Why haven't you visited the left coast?
TB: I haven't been invited recently. I would love to. To actually get out there with a band, you have to book a tour and that is a pretty daunting prospect. With all the other things that are going on, I just don't have the time to do it myself. I have to pick my spots, but I love playing out there. I love going out West to play. The guy from Monterey was at our gig a couple of weeks ago and wanted us to go out there and play, but unless I have a tour, it will probably be impossible. I could do it, but my focus has been on writing and working on other things.
AAJ: And the future?
TB: I just finished this huge project in England, which involved nine musicians and I wrote a thirty minute piece for that. If you want to hear it, it is on the BBC website. Next year, I have another Science Friction tour, but I am adding Herb Robertson.
Visit Tim Berne on the web at www.screwgunrecords.com .