Steven Bernstein: Proud Member of the Pre-Computer Absorption Generation
AAJ: They're a little Berklee-ified.
SB: Well, I don't know. It's not just Berklee, and it's not negative. It's an observation. Steve Coleman, John Coltrane, Woody Shaw. Woody Shaw's my favorite musician in the world, but he always had a lot of expression in his playing. But it was very pattern-based, and people would follow that pattern-based way of playing, but maybe not throw in as much uniqueness as Woody would. And then Steve Coleman's whole thing is very pattern-oriented, and so he has all his disciples. So there's all these people. Michael Brecker has all these disciples. Of course, you're talking about people like Michael Brecker and Steve Coleman, who have very unique sounds. But there are people who aren't that interested in that part and they just focus on these patterns. Which is fine; that's another way to play music. But the guys in my band really focus on each note. So one note comes out, and that's what it's all about.
AAJ: Well, that really makes for a band. When people do that, you have a really band-y band. Those are the special bands, and that's the way that some rock groups beat some jazz groups. They're sort of stuck with each other.
SB: I'm totally with you on that. They're bands. And again, that brings me back to Sex Mob. It's a band. It's like a rock band because of the way we relate to each other. And the thing about MTObecause of the reality of having nine people, I haven't played with the original nine since I don't even know when. There's always a sub. It always changes, man. But with Sex Mob, we really don't do with subs.
AAJ: Well, it's almost time to talk about Sex Mob. But about the MTO record: I take it that the nine songs on the MTO Volume 1 CD are just a few from a much larger book?
SB: Right. I have about fifty arrangements.
AAJ: And there was more stuff recorded that didn't make it onto this one?
SB: Yeah. We recorded two albums worth of music. We went in and just recorded for two days. So there already is another record of music ready. But I've done so many arrangements since thensince more than a year ago, when we made the recordthat I kind of want to go back in the studio. I don't even need to get that many songs. There are a few new songs that I'd like to get to sort of round it out. I think you shouldn't make records any less great than you can as far as sequencing, and making it really well-rounded. So yes, I do have a whole record's worth of stuff.
AAJ: So there will be a Volume 2, but you're not worried about when.
SB: No, I never do. I've always done everything myself. No one's ever paid me to make a record, so when I have time, I just go on to the next project.
AAJ: This record can just work for you for now.
SB: I think so, man. I'll let it simmer there for a while. Maybe someone will even offer me some money to help me out. I had to pay for this first record. And it's funnyI thought this band would really get signed by a label. To me, it's pretty inside, you know? There's no noisy stuff at all, and that actually bummed out some people. "Oh man, I kind of wish you'd done more of that stuff you do live. But that doesn't always translate to CD.
AAJ: There is that tiny little section in the middle of "Happy Hour Blues.
SB: Right. There is. There's that one tiny section where it gets a little skwonkly. So anyway, I did that whole record myself. And [laughing] I wouldn't mind a little help!
AAJ: Just to cover the cost of tape, say.
SB: Well, we don't use tape anymore. We all just record onto hard drive. I mean, there was no tape for a few monthsit was all gone. But they have started making it again. But tape is like $180 for 20 minutes, and a hard drive is $200 for two CDs. So everyone just buys the hard drive.
AAJ: Time to talk about Sex Mob. This is your longstanding quartet of you, saxophonist Briggan Krauss, bassist Tony Scherr and drummer Kenny Wollesen. This is a pretty popular band. If Sex Mob is a party band, it's the smartest party band of all time. The group's new CD is Sexotica, which came out on Thirsty Ear the same day as the MTO CD, right?
SB: Same day, yeah.
AAJ: Before we talk about this new one, just tell me about Sex Mobwhat you like about playing with these three guys in this band.
SB: We really create a language that is so personal. It's kind of like all four of us feel that the way we play in this band is the way that we really play, and you have to change a little to play with anybody else. So everyone gets to do this really natural thing that they do. So it's incredible; me and Briggan have developed this total language together. Now when he plays the saxophone, he can sound like a slide trumpethe can move between notes in this really ridiculous way. He's always had his own language, which I immediately heard and incorporated into the sound of the band. Then there's Tony, who's kind of this über-bassist. He can just do whatever he wants on his bass: he can be the guitarist, the pianist, the drummer, the horn playerand keep pounding away on the bass. Kenny knows all these different rhythms. So we play everything. We play some straight-ahead stuff, we play rock. It's funny, I talked with someone, and he said Sex Mob was my "funk band. I don't have a funk band! I don't have any band that's a style. I just have bands.