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Chris Schlarb: Are You Creative?

By Published: December 31, 2007
CS: Oh man, I was actually really stressing out about that. I got invited to this festival, and as soon as they told me that they would pay for my ticket I thought, "absolutely, I'll do it, and I hadn't given a whole lot of thought into having to put an ensemble together, and I would only have a day to rehearse. So I got about four or five different musicians that lived in the area, and a few coming in from out of town.

I have a lighting box with five light switches, each corresponding to a light on an extension chord and each light will be assigned to a different musician so I'll be essentially conducting them with lights; I'll turn the light on when they're supposed to come in, so it'll be like a visual representation of what happened on the record. I want there to be a tether between the two, an audio-visual connect.


If I can, I'm also going to play some sounds in the audience, but that's dependent on the equipment that's available to me. Ideally I'd like to have to have prerecorded sounds in playback devices in speakers in the audience. It will almost confuse them even more [laughs]! Ambient sounds of people in amongst people... making ambient sounds [laughs] .

AAJ: Anyone on drugs is in for an interesting of a night!

CS: They might be trying to get into the speakers [laughs].

AAJ : Chris, can you tell us a little bit about Twilight Variations?

CS: Because the piece is so dense and so much is happening, I thought if I took a section of the composition it would be really neat if I opened it up and let people see what were all of the building blocks to what they're hearing. So I put all the raw audio files that I got from the musicians or recordings I'd made and put it all in a garage-band file or just in regular WAV files, so really high quality files.

They can go in, take things out or listen to only one element, or a few elements, kind of mix-and-match, and if they want they can add new sounds and then send it back to me and I'll catalogue them on the website and keep track of all these different variations. Not to trivialize it, I am also hoping it might deepen the listener's understanding of how much went in to this. It's dense and this is why it's so dense. I'm just sharing this with everybody; I'm opening it up, and not trying to hoard everything.

AAJ: It's an interesting concept for sure. I'd like to ask you about your record label, Sounds Are Active, which you founded about a decade ago; are you happy with the way it has evolved?

CS: Financially, Sounds Are Active has never been a profitable exercise. Emotionally and artistically, let's say I could never have put out Twilight & Ghost Stories or composed it without Sounds Are Active. I'm finally able to focus more on being an artist than being an administrator. I'm getting to a point where I want to concentrate more on being a musician rather than being an executor of all these responsibilities.

AAJ: Twilight & Ghost Stories came out on the Asthmatic Kitty label; why not out on your own Sounds Are Active?

CS: There area couple reasons, but the most important involved money and I think a certain amount of notoriety; Asthmatic Kitty has a larger infrastructure and they have a bit more of a cache. I'm certain that there wouldn't be as much attention for Twilight & Ghost Stories if I had released it on Sounds Are Active. It's amazing that those types of things make a difference.

At the same time a lot of the musicians on the album are on the Asthmatic Kitty roster; Liz Janes and Half-Handed Cloud and Castanets are all on Asthmatic Kitty.

AAJ: You are involved in a lot of projects and one which is particularly interesting one is Create(!), which is an interesting concept; could you explain how that started and how it has evolved?

CS: Create(!) really started for me and Steve Richardson and Orlando Greenhill, it was just a trio project. We'd played with each other at different points. I was coming out of a band in which I'd rehearsed for a year and played one show, or two shows, and then joined Create(!), and the second time we ever played was a live show so it was a total about-face. It was like boot camp, musically [laughs]. It was a total kick in the pants, to stop trying to refine and formulate, and just create, and just do something, just be something, right now. If it's good, great, and if it's bad, just keep moving forward.

To me it was probably the most perfect thing that I could have been involved in at that time. As the group evolved and changed it's been so many different kinds of band; it's never made a concession to anything, it's been its own, bizarre, metamorphic entity. For five minutes it could be a live drum 'n' bass, and a few minutes later it could be like a Latin jazz band and then total free-jazz chaos. We've played with live MCs with all these guys rapping over us, improvising, and we've had DJs sitting in with us, and we've had saxophone players and woodwind players sitting in with us at the next show.


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