Greg Kelley: Flesh to Metal
GK: I think trial and error for the most part. But in general I've always just strived to make music that I want to listen to, and music that interests me for whatever reason. And obviously in none of those things can you hear a precedent, necessarily, form Fleetwood Mac, to what I'm doing. When I got into college I started listening to George Crumb, and I thought that that was, in terms of classical music, pretty much as experimental as
AAJ: That is a common touchstone for every one from John Zorn, to many others Julius Vasylenko mentioned him in an interview.
From left: Bhob Rainey, Greg Kelley
GK: The first thing I heard from him was "Black Angels," which is a string quartet, amplified, and I think I felt like there was like these two extremes in the music I listened toSonic Youth, The Butthole Surfers, Tite Curet Alonso, and there was the trumpet, and music that could be made on the trumpet, and that had me listening to Bach and Stravinsky and Mahler. But it wasn't until I'd heard contemporary classical music that I realized those two things could be there in equal measure. When I first heard Crumb it didn't sound like Bach, it sounded like some of the noisier sections from Sonic Youth, or No Wave. And I liked that about it. So I think I tried to start playing that kind of music, but for the trumpet there wasn't that much composed modern classical music, and what was, was more on the modernist side, as opposed to the experimental. And through Zorn I discovered people like Maurizio Kagel.
At my school they had a great listening library, and they bought pretty much everything that was considered classical. So, they had the whole Deutsche Gramophone avant-garde series, which had Il Gruppo, Kagel, Ligeti. One thing that's interesting about Kagelmy school was conservative in terms of the scope of music they were working with, pretty much from Bach to Wagner, and everything after that was "not music," and everything before was "primitive." And those were the things that I liked. I liked early music, and I liked late music.
Ed Tarr, who was a heavyweight baroque trumpeter, worked with Kagel, and he's on these early Kagel recordsthere's one called "Der Schall," that I actually got to play a couple of years ago. That had Ed Tarr on there playing things like a mouthpiece attached to plastic tubing attached to a funnel, and other assortments ofnot very trumpet-like noisemakers, and it was really exciting for me to hear someone of his caliber, and some of my peers at school respectedand then I would play then that record, and say, "Look, this is Ed Tarr making weird noises," and usually they were horrified and hated it, and said he must have done it for money. As we well know, it's not the best moneymaker.
But I think it was just through finding that whole area of music and just listening to a lot of that that I came to play the way that I do, which is first discovering new sounds that were interesting to me, and after that you hit a wall and start wondering how to organize it.
AAJ: This, what I've called the "body/instrument continuum"where there's sort of a celebration of the body in your playing, almost as if to say you shouldn't be ashamed of your body, or your instrument
GK: Maybe. I've found the body, in terms of the trumpet, can be problematic because it's painful. And I've always been attracted to, and jealous of, people playing prepared guitar because they have a physical detachment from it. You can place objects on the guitar, turn up the volume so you don't even have to touch it, and walk away, cook dinner, come back and it's still making sound. It's a lot of work with the trumpet.
AAJ: This is what your touching on now, the massive amount of work it must have been to develop your unique style, forge your new direction. How long did it take you? Was there a "big bang" when it all came together, with a light bulb going on in your head or was it a long, slow imperceptible process?
GK: More like a long, slow imperceptible process that's sort of ongoing until I quit or die, whatever comes first. But there was never any sort of huge revelation. The only things that have come in that way were, that I'd been doing a lot of research and reading and practicing a lot, and ended up doing this thing, and I could find some sort of precedent in it in AMM, or Evan Parker, and I remember the first time I heard this duo with Toshinori Kondo and Paul Lovens, and it's the first time I'd heard anyone doing something that was so similar to what I was doing. It was a little bit shocking. I think a lot of that has do to with the nature of the instrument, when you move beyond pitch orientation, there's sort of a limited palette of what you can do.
AAJ: How about Birgit Ulher?
GK: She's someone I didn't hear until I'd been touring with Bhob Rainey for a few years.