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David Binney: Airplanes, Cities, Moods and Vibes

By Published: September 4, 2006
AAJ: I don't think you've ever made the same record twice, and Out of Airplanes is another "something new from you. It's a quintet set for the most part; the band consists of you, drummer Kenny Wollesen, keyboardist Craig Taborn, bassist Eivind Opsvik and guitarist Bill Frisell. Adam Rogers adds guitar to a couple numbers as well. It's also a definite studio creation, especially in its after-the-performance editing. This is music that goes into some strange and beautiful terrain—and the more I hear it, the more it sounds like a very reasonable extension of work you've done before. One thing I hear in some of the pieces is an exploration of static structures, with the tension coming from what elements in a piece are completely locked and what elements have some freedom. In any case, this ain't a blowing session. Any overview before we discuss things specifically as to what you wanted to create when you started this project?

DB: I think at one point I had sort of envisioned this group of people together and was hearing what that could sound like. And we did a gig—without Bill—at Zebulon in Brooklyn, and it went really well. I actually used a lot of computer stuff there myself, which I didn't do on the record. Then we went to Seattle and got Bill involved, rehearsed, and it was great. But I had this idea of combining a lot of composition with completely free playing. Which is pretty much what the record is. Then I thought we'd do a lot of free playing and maybe I would go in and cut it up—do different things after the fact, as you said. Which we ended up doing somewhat, but not as much as I originally envisioned. It's actually a lot more just live playing than was originally planned. I was going to loop things, and I had ideas of adding some rap stuff, trying to contact a couple guys that I like and see if I could get that element in there—do you know Prefuse 73 at all?

AAJ: Yeah, that Atlanta guy. Scott Herren.

DB: Exactly. He's great. The amount of rap that he mixes into his projects is really cool. It's often about a third of the CD. So I was thinking along those lines and about some other different things. But it turned out to be what it was; I realized that when we just played, and then played the written stuff I had brought in, it was really great. I really loved what happened. It didn't need to be manipulated or worked on as much as I thought for me to really love the record. So that's what happened. But I really just kind of heard the sound with the musicians first—which is usually the case for every album. I try to envision that, and write for that. That's the overview.

AAJ: Let's talk about the musicians. They're a mixture of people we've heard on your records and those we haven't. Eivind Opsvik plays both electric and acoustic bass on these songs. Beyond his actual playing, he co-produced the record with you, wrote the amazingly great song "Jan Mayen, and did a whole lot of the editing of these pieces—half the tunes are so-called Opsvik edits, which really gives him a lot of responsibility for the finished product here.

DB: Well, the thing about Eivind was that before this project, I didn't actually know him that well. We had played a little bit together, and I liked the way he played. I liked his whole vibe. And I liked his own records—Taborn had also played on those records, so I knew them a little bit. So I knew that he would be the right guy to get involved, and to be involved where he did more than just play on it. And he was really into it. So I had him bring in some music, and we ended up doing one of his tunes—and the demo for that tune that he gave me, "Jan Mayen, is completely different. It's just tenor, trumpet, bass and drums. But for some reason, I heard how that could sound in this group, and I really loved the way that song came out.

And then he has editing capability—and sensibility—that I wanted on the record. It would be much harder for me to do, because I don't have quite that sensibility. He's from Norway, and there's a little of the Scandinavian vibe to it, if there is such a thing. I think you know what I'm talking about. So I thought I'd like to get that in there, and so I just let him go on some of the stuff, and he came up with some really beautiful things. So I just gave him co-production credit, because he worked so hard on it. It was great working with him. We got to know each other a lot better and now we work together a lot more often. He's also a great bassist. We just played trio with [drummer] Tom Rainey a couple weeks ago, and he just played electric. He's a great acoustic player, but it was fantastic. He's just a great all-around musician and conceptualizer.

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