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Forbes Graham: Magenta Haze

By Published: February 2, 2010
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 situation—I'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
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974

AAJ: The one with Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
1922 - 1979
bass, acoustic

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 not—she doesn't enjoy it as much.

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 fun—we'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 stuff—and 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 like—a lot.

AAJ: This may be jumping ahead a bit, but how did you take a radical shift to the left, or whatever direction, to go into thrash metal?

FG: All of that stuff happened starting in junior high and in high school. I had a friend, Gabe Shapiro, who was into Iron Maiden and Metallica. This was MTV generation, and I saw Aerosmith and Living Colour videos on TV, and thought that was kind of cool, and it kind of went from there.

AAJ: Yeah, I think music is a very social phenomenon: You listen to what your friends are listening to.

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