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Dom Minasi: Vampires, Chaos in Time, and Total Control

By Published: July 17, 2006
AAJ: Those transitions are hugely important; they're one of the elements that make the record good.

DM: "Vampire's Revenge, that piece, was the last arrangement that I wrote, and I'd thought about what I wanted to do on it for a really long time. I had to come up with some new language. Everybody got notes on everything, and one of the notes said, "each instrument has its own particular sound, so when I want sound effects, it's going to say 'sound effects.' Improv means musical notes, not sound effects. So when we rehearsed "Vampire's Revenge, the first run-through on that tune, there was so much the guys had to be attention to. They had to count time, they had to know when they were playing free, then they had to go back into time. So the first rehearsal was a total disaster! I didn't say this to the guys, but I told my wife, "I'm ready to jump out the window. I can't believe I wrote this so badly.

But the next day after the rehearsal at the recording, they came in and nailed it the first shot. Right on the first shot. They'd gotten it. I was so happy—I can't tell you how pleased I was.

AAJ: And relieved, I'm sure.

DM: Oh yeah. I always have a plan when I'm recording. With my smaller group, it's like two or three rehearsals. We're going to go in and do the whole thing in four or five hours; I'm not going back. Whatever we get, we get, and that was my attitude for the big group, too. I planned for sound checks to get the guys' levels, and then we were ready to record. We went in there at eleven and I wanted to be out of there by four o'clock. And we were—we were finished at a quarter to four. It was amazing.

AAJ: There are moods to this music—you used the phrase "sinister melody just now to describe one of the songs, but it works to describe a great deal of the whole recording. Your wife Carol Mennie's "one more bite lyrics on "Just One More Bite and Peter Ratray's spoken-word stuff on "Where You Gonna Go? Where You Gonna Hide? do provide some specific vampire-related information. But does this music have a narrative? Is there a story that goes from "The Seduction all the way to "The Vampire's Revenge? Or are the songs sequenced to make the best presentation of these long pieces over two discs?

DM: There's a story. When I'd written the titles and was almost finished with the arrangements, I wrote the words for "Where You Gonna Go? Where You Gonna Hide? and I showed them to Carol, and she said, "you have to be kidding. I said, "don't worry. I got an actor who happened to live in this building who's really terrific and told him what I wanted him to do. The rehearsal process was a riot for all the small groups because I couldn't get anybody together at the same time. [Soprano saxophonist] Joe Giardullo and I got together once for ten minutes and he looked at his part and said, "fine.

I called a rehearsal for four of the pieces on the Saturday before the recording. [Bassist] Ken [Filiano] was working; he couldn't make it. [Drummer] Jackson [Krall] had something else so he couldn't make it. So we only would have one or two guys at the same time. The original actor who was supposed to do "Where You Gonna Go? Where You Gonna Hide? overslept and never showed up. So I got Peter Ratray to come in in the middle of the week and we did that set of lyrics. As for Carol—just before we recorded, she said, "I have an idea. Remember, she comes from a theater background. She said, "if you like it, great. If not, we'll take it out. And all of a sudden, she's huffing and puffing and doing "Just One More Bite, and it worked!

Anyway, there's a whole storyline. I wrote a whole story just before I wrote the music. It's called "Tales of C.B.G.B's: the True Tale of the Vampire's Revenge. It's a 2000-word story with all the song titles in bold. So there was a storyline that I had in mind.

AAJ: You produced this record, but I think the first person we have to mention is Jon Rosenberg, who recorded and mixed this album. He somehow managed to make this dense music clear and audible, so everything fits. It's a brilliant mix.

Dom MinasiDM: That 18-minute piece "Blood Lust took eighteen hours to mix. There was so much going on. Plus, I couldn't get [flugelhorn player] Paul Smoker, [tenor man] Joe McPhee and [trombonist] Steve Swell in at the same time with the big group. So I recorded that section that they do on that piece separately, and inserted it. I also recorded [pianist] Borah Bergman separately and inserted that. There was a lot going on! So for the song, in the recording studio, we recorded the melodies and the free-form parts with the big groups, and then I inserted these smaller groups. I had to splice everything together because it would have never worked out live.

AAJ: So actually, it was all even more complicated than I imagined.

DM: Yeah. You wouldn't believe how long the score is

AAJ: But these are mostly first takes.

DM: Oh, yeah. Borah is a first take. Everything is a first take. That one with Matthew Shipp ["The Dark Side ] is one of the few tunes that has real jazz chord changes, even though it kind of has this dark thing happening. I sent Matthew the music months before. He walked in for the recording and said, "what do you want me to do? I said, "just do your thing. Don't worry about it. We did a little warm-up to get the sound and then we just hit it; 13 minutes later, we just had it.

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