Forbes Graham: Magenta Haze
FG: I went to American University [Washington, D.C.], and got a B.A. in music. There were some excellent teachers there and I learned a lot of useful things.
AAJ: When did things click for you? Was there a major break? A moment when you knew you'd "got" it?
FG: You know, I'm not sure if things have really clicked for me yet. I'm still working on the instrument. But I do have the certainty that I'm going to be true to myself. That happened quite a while ago, but overall, it's a process.
AAJ: How are your audiences?
FG: My gigs have been mostly the same since I've been in college. Playing to around 10 to 20 people! The difference is the style of music, and I don't play in basements nearly so often anymore. Also, I never have to worry about a fight breaking out, which is great.
AAJ: I know you think about things quite theoretically. What reading informs this philosophical bent?
FG: I think about things theoretically to help me organize my own music/compositions into something resembling a coherent unity. In that regard, I'm most often inspired by numerology, particularly prime numbers, the Fibonacci sequence and magic squares. I'm really impressed by poetry as well. My favorite poets are Afaa Michael Weaver and Gwendolyn Brooks. Poetry just takes me so many places, and I love feeling the rhythm of the words and the lines.
AAJ: What will you do when you're in the limelight?
FG: I'm not into shameless self-promotion. I don't want to end up being in a flavor-of-the-month situationI'd rather have five real fans than 50 fake ones. I've become more introverted over the years. Sometimes it gets hard for me to put myself out there. I just want to play music and work with great artists. I want to meet creative people. I want to do things the right way, and I want to show respect to the people that came before me. I certainly would like to get more recognition, though.
AAJ: Now I know your wife, Lillian, is a creative person, a photographer. What is her role in your creative life? First, how did you meet? I noticed in her photography, she is very minimalist but full of moods, in the same way you are. I see in her work what I see in your playing.
FG: We met in Vermont and we met at a show. I was playing with Kayo Dot, and she was taking pictures of the band.
AAJ: Kayo Dot, to be reductivist, is a rock band?
FG: Yeah, to be reductivist. We were playing at Marlboro College where she went as an undergraduate.
AAJ: I know she also does some beautiful photos of children and of interiors.
FG: The thing she did for her senior project was to do these constructed realities and photograph them. When I saw her artwork, that was when I really began to feel attached to her. This was around 2006. I think what she does has the ability to say a lot.
AAJ: What does she listen to? She's often at your shows, so she likes what you do?
FG: She does like it but it's not something she pursues, although she was the one who introduced me to Money Jungle (Blue Note Records, 1962) by Duke Ellington.
AAJ: The one with Charles Mingus.
FG: We definitely have some intersections, like progressive rock, a good deal of hip-hop. She's more into the jazz oriented stuff of what I do than the free improv and kind of sound art. That stuff is notshe doesn't enjoy it as much.
AAJ: What I like about all of your work, and I think you have it more than any artist on the Boston scene, is the swing and the soul and jazz feel, and I feel that must have been ingrained in you at an early age.
FG: You know what's weird is that my exposure to jazz began in junior high and when I was there, the high school jazz band came. I'd been doing music since the fourth grade and I was in concert band. And that was about it. So the high school jazz band comes, and I was like, "Wow! That's really cool" ... and that was what I wanted to do. And when I got into high school that was my goal, to get into jazz band. So I got into jazz band in my freshman year and that was a big deal. It was an honor to get in that quick.
AAJ: That's great.
FG: And I didn't study jazz privately with a teacher, or in school, or in college or anything. That was all classical and concert music. So everything I learned about playing jazz from Ray Harry, the teacher of the Montgomery High School jazz band. And when I was in high school, we used to do Real Book jam sessions at somebody's house, and play for eight hours! And the funny thing is, I'm not even that good at that stuff anymore, but we would do that. That was our idea of funwe'd go to somebody's house, we'd have our "Real Books," and we would play for eight hours.
We'd play one tune for like 20 minutes, and we'd play it eight different ways: we'd play it with a Latin feel, play it with all the different stuffand this was stuff we were doing on our own. But we did want to get gigs. We did get a couple, and they did pay alright but it wasn't likea lot.