Skinny Vinny: The Answer to Everything
I went to the High Wire gallery in Philadelphia, and Toshi Makahara was playingand I knew there was an art show, and I was expecting an art show. And I walk in and there's two guysthere's some drums but there's two guys standing at the windows. And they open up the windows and they stick their heads out, and they scream out, "Hey! Hey!" and mind you, we're like on the third floor, and I have no idea what's going on. I know it's not an art show. Everyone's staring at these guys. They scream at people for a while and they try and invite people in. They were just screaming! and it went on and then finally one of them started playing, they both started playing, one went back to the window. There was this Norwegian guy and Toshi Makahara. It was a fantastic duo. And then fifteen minutes later, I was like, "Wow." I'm not sure exactly what I just saw, but that really piqued my interest.
I lived there for a couple more years and started to get into percussion. But it wasn't until I moved to Baltimore that I started "playing." There was a great scene there. They had shows like twice, three nights a week. At the Red Room and at other spots there was improv going on. I wanted to make it. I wanted to play, and at that point I started to get into playing.
AAJ: Did you buy a drum set?
AE: I started with bucket drums, and bits of trash, and pots and pansit's always been that. I still used some electronic, I still had a television, white noise and whatnot. But never a kit. I acquired, someone gave me drums once, like three pieces, and this weird tie-dye kit. I did buy some drums and I tried to play it, but that was many years later and I don't use any of those pieces anymore. I came at it from pots and pans and trash and it's evolved into pieces, but I play backwards. I don't know how to play the kitI play as if I'm lefty although I'm righty, I play without one of the sticks, just one hand. My left foot kicks the kick-drum, my right foot keeps the time, and nothing talks! I'm always baffled when I see a "real" percussionist and how they do it. It just seems uncomfortable.
AAJ: It seems like a radical transition to go from electronics to acoustic, organic drums. Is that a political or conceptual statement?
AE: My tastes changed a lot. There was a very easy line to start. If you start in techno and electronica, and that sound
AAJ: There's a beat to it.
AE: There's a beat, but it's also very DIY. It's a very small scene. And I always wanted to be on the edge. I was always trying to find what the fresh sound is. And somewhere in the late '90s, techno started to get "dirty." There was more and more improvised music. I remember a group called Pole, Microstoria, they were leading something of the experimental sound. From there the crossover was more happenstance than anything else. It seemed like the most immediate way for me to get in was to be percussive with it. The physicality of it took over, where with electronic music I was trying to, even though it was a very physical thing for me, it wasn't as fulfilling as what I do now: shake and beat on things.
AAJ: Josh, what got you into experimental music?
Joshua Jefferson: I was just lucky enough at the time to be renting half of Andrew's studio space, at the Piano Factory, and it was just the right time to be around Jules [Vasylenko], and Andrew, and a couple of other people. And I was exposed to what Andrew was doing, he played with this guy Travis and this other guy Josh, in a band called Junior Science. And at first I didn't actually like it! I didn't get it. I just thought they were being silly, they were stupid.
AAJ: What music did you like back then?
JJ: The sax sound, the jazz soundI always liked jazz. But the improv, it was different. Andrew wasn't playing what he's playing now, he wasn't playing drums. So I was around people who were playing improvised music, and I found a clarinet at a thrift store, an antique shop. I started pulling on Andrew's sleeve to play together, and we did.
AE: The first night you got it!
AAJ: That's an interesting idea, being fresh on an instrument with nothing ingrained in you, it's just a fresh approach.
JJ: That's something Andrew and Jules always remind me of, that fresh approach that's not related to anything except the individual, expressing that pure essence, it's not filtered through school or institutions, it's completely unbound. That kind of energy or that kind of perspective is always what's best about improv. But I wasn't around free jazz. My tastes slowly grew.
AAJ: You both started as artists. Josh, you do collages, and Andrew, you're conceptual.
JJ: At the Museum School where we both met, I was doing mostly printing and drawing, and Andrewwell you were doing the TVs then.