B.D. Lenz: Finding His Own Voice
BDL: Years ago, especially when I was in school, I filled books with the transcriptions that I did. I spent a lot of time back then transcribing a ton of stuff. I think now it's mostly just laziness that I don't do it much anymore. I still hear things that I really dig, and I'll listen back to them a few times, but I don't actively write them out and study licks or solos anymore. I spent a lot of time doing it when I was younger, but now I have other things I like to focus on during my practice time.
AAJ: You have a strong sense of rhythm in your playing and writingon the tune "Pilly," for example. Do you focus on finding a cool groove when you're writing your tunes and then add the melody, or vice-versa?
BDL: The way that I write the melody seems to come last. I'll develop a rhythm section idea and then fit the melody around it. I'm really big on writing melodies; it's not like it's not important or that I'm pushing it off until the end. I have to get the base of the tune first, then I can develop the melody. I usually spend a lot of time working on melodies; I really like to get them as perfect as I can.
That tune, "Pilly," in particular is very rhythmic in nature. I had originally written that tune with my drummer, Joel Rosenblatt, in mind. The album had originally been pitched from the label as being Joel's album, so I was writing the tune with the idea that other drummers would be checking it out. It's a 7/8 thing, and it definitely focuses on a specific rhythmic idea.
AAJ: How much overdubbing did you do on the record? Do you approach overdubbing as a necessity or more of a compositional tool?
BDL: I know that some people are very strong in their opinions about overdubbing, especially in the jazz world. My record isn't really a traditional jazz record, it's a little more contemporary and composed, so I did spend a lot of time producing and arranging the music using overdubs. If I was doing an album of standards, that probably wouldn't be the case, but I'm more of a modern, fusion player, so I do overdub quite a bit in order to get the sounds down on record that I'm hearing.
AAJ: Since you are using overdubs as well as other studio techniques in your compositions, how finished are the pieces when you get to the studio? Do you spend a lot of time writing during the sessions or do you prefer to have it all worked out once it's time to record?
BDL: I would say that as I've grown musically over the years, the more I have everything worked out before I get into the studio. For this last record, I basically brought in a skeleton for all of the tunes that I had demoed on my home computer, and the guys used that as a scratch track to play over. When I'm dealing with high-level players, like the guys on the album, and in a very expensive studio, I can't mess around. I have to be as prepared as possible, so I can go in and just bang it out with as few issues as possible.
AAJ: On a couple of the tunes on the album, "No Regrets" and "Sympathy for the Common Man," you use an acoustic guitar, which isn't a surprising choice given your musical background. What is it about the acoustic guitar that draws you to use it in your writing and performing?
BDL: Well, I like to make every song have its own unique vibe. As well, I like to have each song on a record have its own sound, or else it might get kind of boring. Two huge heroes of mine are Mike Stern and Pat Metheny, and I love the beautiful ballads they've done on acoustic guitar. So in a way I'm emulating them, but it's also about finding a variety of sounds that I can use effectively on a record.
AAJ: On another tune, "Truth is a Temple," you use a volume pedal to get some very cool sounds out of the guitar. How do you approach using effects pedals in your playing and writing?
BDL: I wish I could say I was more adventurous with sound, but I feel it's a weak point for me, just exploring effects and stuff. My live rig only has three pedals in it. That tune in particularI always wanted to write a tune that had that kind of vibe to it. I had been listening to some players who did ambient music, and I wanted to do something like that myself, so I had to go find the right patch to make it happen, but otherwise I'm very simple when it comes to choosing effects.
AAJ: That tune is a solo piece, and it fits very well within the context of the rest of the album. Do you have any plans to pursue your solo playing furthermaybe do a whole album of solo tunes?
BDL: Not really. I want to touch on that aspect of my playing, but to do a whole solo album, I would have to be a master at that style, and frankly, I'm not. I did the one piece, and I'm happy with how it turned out, but I don't think I'm good enough as a solo player to do a whole album.
Frankly, I've heard whole records of that stuff, like Robert Fripp, and it was amazinghe's one of the best ambient solo players out therebut even then it got to be a bit much after a while. I figure if I feel that way about a master like him, than I'm probably not ready to do an album like that myself.