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Interviews

Jack Dangers: The Mind of Meat Beat Manifesto

By Published: October 24, 2005
AAJ: Let's take the song "Wild from the CD as a starting point. It's built around a bass clarinet vamp, and to me it has a kind of Bitches Brew vibe in its overall density. Taborn's playing, I think, Fender Rhodes and Hammond.

JD: He's playing piano and Fender Rhodes at the same time. It was great to be able to get that double texture. Actually, that came from his line on the Fender Rhodes; I just sort of followed it on the bass clarinet instead of the other way around.

AAJ: So it's built around a Fender Rhodes vamp. Maybe it was your bass clarinet on the track that evoked Bitches Brew to me because, although it's not a leading instrument on that album, it's threading through the textures.

JD: Again, that's Bennie Maupin playing that.

AAJ: How is a song like this composed? Did it come out of the band actually playing together in real time or written and tracked in increments?

JD: A bit of both. The whole album was stretched over a period of a year. So we did the initial studio recordings. Then I had it here in San Francisco to send through some of the gear I've got hear and sort of take it somewhere else. But we didn't do the flute at the same time as the drums and the keyboards, so the flute work was put on afterwards. That's why it more or less follows—well, it's sort of vice-versa. Some of it follows the keyboards. Some of it was already put down as a scratch track—like melodies, sounds I'd had in the computer. So it was a bit of everything, really, over a long period of time as well. So you could go back and refine things, change things. We weren't working on it every day, you know; it was stretched over that period and I think it was good to have that luxury of being able to relax and not listen to it for a couple of weeks, then go back. Sometimes, especially if you're being pushed into a tour/album/tour/album—when you're in a contract with a label—you don't have that luxury of space and time.

AAJ: And it gets so hard to even tell if what you've been working on is good or not, I suppose.

JD: Yeah, it definitely turns into a routine. You've got to have this finished by this date because we're going into the rehearsal rooms, and you know—it becomes a bit of a manufactured machine at that point. I like the freedom this particular record gave me.

AAJ: On this same tune, "Wild, Dave King is playing live drums here, as he is throughout the album. Did then you loop them after the fact or cut them up, manipulate them in some way?

JD: Not generally, no. He's so incredibly tight. If you could actually see his drums as a wave form in the program I was using—compared to a click track, which we use as a metronome, it was pretty frightening to zoom in and see how precise it was. On some of the tracks, I might repeat a piece after sixty bars or something like that, but generally—not really, no. There's a couple of tracks where the drums were mainly an eight-bar loop or something, but then it goes into another territory. But on the whole, no.

AAJ: I'm very impressed with him—and a little surprised, just because he is so metronomic that I was convinced you must have looped him.

JD: On a couple of tracks, I definitely did that. But not through the whole song; there are no songs where the same loop is going all the way through. I think "United Nations, that has a short loop, but then it goes into this other place right in the middle. But most of the tracks were as-is, and I might have just faded them out for a breakdown or something like that. He's just incredibly tight.

AAJ: "Wild seems like a San Francisco anthem with its spoken-word soundbite references to Pacific time and earthquakes.

JD: [Laughing] Yeah. That's actually going to be a single. It's coming out, I think, at the end of October. It's going to be on an EP called Off Centre, with three other tracks from the same session which aren't on the album and some live tracks from the last tour. So that's going to be an interesting little accompaniment to this.

AAJ: My favorite song on the CD is "Murita Cycles.

JD: Ah, that's actually my favorite, too.

AAJ: In its own studio-spooky kind of way, it's perhaps the jazziest song on this CD—certainly, it's Dave King's most traditionally jazz-oriented drumming on the album . There's an overall sense of anxiety and claustrophobia to the tune, but there's also a great deal of beauty.

JD: That's an interesting thing to say about this track because I feel the same way. It's got that claustrophobic sound—mainly, I think, because of Dave's brushwork. Brushes seem to do that; they give you the space, the sound of the room. It's named after one of my favorite films, a film which came out in the seventies. It was a student film about this guy's dad, who was a compulsive, obsessive collector of things. It's a really interesting film. I think you can get it on DVD now; it's by Barry Braverman.

That's the story of the track—you've got to see the film. But musically, yeah, that one's my favorite. I like the drum sound on that. I think the drums work on it better than any of the other tracks. I think it's got the best flute work; Peter tends to sometimes bathe his flute in digital effects and I like to sort of have it clean and send it through old spring reverbs, things like that. So it's got that old sixties flute sound to it. Once again, the bass clarinet's more or less following the bass line, Bennie Maupin-style, like Bitches Brew and Herbie Hancock's Sextant. It's the obvious thing to do, especially if you're a bassist, you know: follow it along with another bass instrument.



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