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Bill Frisell: Why So Stressed Out?

By Published: September 26, 2006

AAJ: Would you say it's one of your better recordings?

BF: Oh boy, I don't know about better or worse. For me it was about the chance to play with Paul and Ron and have them together. That was the big thing for me. I've been playing with Paul for 25 years, and Ron, I first got the chance to play with him around ten years ago. They're both still kind of these big hero characters for me. I don't know when I started thinking about wanting to get them together. They played together a little bit in the '60s, but they hadn't played together for a really long time. So it was a big dream come true just to get them together in the same room. The whole vibe of the thing was so great. We had a lot of fun doing it. I hope some of that comes across. Not just the fact that I was petrified to be doing this in a day and a half with these guys. It's pretty intense to not know what's really going to happen, with so little time to do it.

AAJ: Well that kind of brings me to my next question. The music you play is pretty mellow. Are you a mellow guy?

BF: [laughs] Well people say that when they see me but I don't think they know what's going on under the surface. Half the time I'm totally flipping out.

AAJ: Really? What stresses you out?

BF: Just being in this world right now. It's like, whoa, what's happening, you know. I can't even turn on the TV without going insane. I'm probably stressed out by the same things that affect everybody else. [laughs]

AAJ: What about the stress of recording in a day and a half, like you did, and not knowing what's going to happen. Is that stressful?

BF: It's a different kind. Maybe I worry about it more beforehand. Although this was a weird one because I didn't even have time to worry about it. I was touring and a lot of stuff was going on, and I knew that we weren't going to rehearse. So I figured I've been playing music my whole life and there's nothing I can really do at the last minute to prepare.

AAJ: Has anyone ever said to you, "Hey Bill, you're too stressed out. You need to relax!

BF: [laughs] I do hear it from my wife. She tells me that every day.

AAJ: Well a lot of people have been stressing out over the Al Gore movie An Inconvenient Truth. Have you seen it?

BF: Oh I still haven't seen it. I guess I've been not really wanting to see it, but I've been meaning to see it. I'm sort of scared to see it. There's just so much stuff going on in the world now. I feel so helpless sometimes.

AAJ: Let's talk about our home, Seattle. How long have you been living in Seattle?

BF: Since '89. But during that time I've been traveling so much that the actual time that I've been here seems a lot less.

AAJ: Do you have any kids?

BF: I have a daughter, Monica, who's now living in New York. She's going to school, studying photography. We came here when she was three; and then last year she moved to New York. So that's kind of cool for me. It seems like I'm seeing her more since she's in New York. The last couple of years when she was in high school here in Seattle and I never saw her.

AAJ: What do you like about Seattle in general, and its music, specifically?

BF: When I came here I wasn't looking for a scene to get into. I had been living in New York for 10 years before I came here and I was sort of looking for an atmosphere where I could concentrate better and write my own music, a more meditative place. Something just feels good to me about being here. I'm not sure what would happen if I was here every day of the year. I don't know how that would work, but somehow it works when I'm traveling so much and then to come back here it always feels so good. But I remember the very first time I came to Seattle, I guess it was in 1988, and I got off the airplane, and the smell of the air just hit me. Man, I thought, what is that smell? It was oxygen. [laughs] I'd been on the east coast for so long.

AAJ: And in your neighborhood right off of Puget Sound you get some of that salty sea air.

BF: Yeah, there's fog that comes through.

AAJ: Well, I thought we could rap it up with a nutty little series of this-or-that questions. Ready?

BF: Uh oh.

AAJ: Given the choice, what would you rather do: Watch the sunset behind the Olympic Mountains, or hail a cab during in New York during rush hour?

BF: The sunset. I just did that the other night; it was unbelievable. About three nights ago I walked over to the edge of that park in Ballard that's on a cliff above the beach. It was awesome.

AAJ: And there's the Ballard Locks.

BF: Yeah, I go there a lot.

AAJ: Would you rather watch the boats go through the Ballard Locks, or try to park your rental car in Paris?

BF: [laughs] So far Seattle's sounding pretty good.

AAJ: Who would you rather listen to: Robert Johnson or Robert Plant?

BF: Well we still have Robert Plant, but I've thought a lot about what it would sound like to actually be in the same room with Robert Johnson. That would be one of those...I can't even imagine what that would sound like. Nothing against Robert Plant, but I'd have to go with Robert Johnson because I don't know when I'm ever going to get to hear him.

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