Greg Kelley: Flesh to Metal
AAJ: So it's almost like a hike or a mountain climb, where you're driven to do it but it is strenuous.
AAJ: You have a holographic sense, capturing a large quantity in one grain. It reminds me of William Blake, seeing "infinity in grain of sand."
GK: Or trying to stay out of trouble...
AAJ: What kind of trouble are you liable to get into?
GK: Sometimes if it's easy to say somethingif it flows, you're liable to say things that in retrospect are completely inaccurate.
AAJ: Like if you're drunk.
GK: Right...But also I think a lot of the music I do, I'm not trying to make it so specific that there's a certain meaning behind it, that there's a certain meaning to be gleaned. I like keeping it abstract.
AAJ: Do you have more to say about that?
GK: I guess the important thing is some kind of engagement. And that's what I look for in music or in a bookyou want to be engaged in something, you want it to activate your brain in some way.
AAJ: Is there anything you want to impart to your listener in an ethical or political sense?
GK: I don't think in any concrete or finite way. An openness to possibilities. And expectation and what can be expected and what should be expected. I suppose you can spin that out in a variety of ways that would address some kind of ethics or politics but I don't choose to make it that explicit...I think in general there has to be a question of some kind and I wouldn't want anything to be too easy And I suppose that would reflect my world view: I don't look at anything as black and white. Well, I'm black and white in certain regards but I don't believe in "this is good and this is evil," and that you can cut anything out 100 percent.
AAJ: You're very Blakean.
GK: I like Blake a lot, actually.
AAJ: Thinking about your albums with Gunter Muller [More Gloom, More Light (Rossbin, 2003]), with Jason Lescalleet [Love Me Two Times (Intransitive, 2006)] and Ommatidia (Intransitive, 2009), the Muller seems very static, and the Lescalleet seems almost orchestral in its development. It's a great album...The first disc has that development and then on the second there's a total disintegration. The crescendo and the denouement was that something you were consciously doing? Or take Ommatidia; that seems almost a collection, a series, of songsof lyric songs.
GK: Well, one of the early working titles of that albumBhob was labeling it "Variations" for a while because he wanted a sort of dry clinical name, that represented what was on that recording. And there are a lot of recurring themes there, which in large part, for me, are definitely subconscious, especially because some of that was recorded a year apart.
AAJ: Who came up with the final title?
GK: Both of us. We got together and we were listening to one of the final versions and we came up with the idea that there are these cells that reflect the whole, and I think Bhob said it was something like a bug's eye, or a fly's eye, where they have the different cells and they take in all the information. That was sort of how the album had come out. That was an idea we both liked and so we decided to look up what the word was and it was "ommatidium," of which we used the plural.
AAJ: Again, it brings to mind the hologram where all the information of the image can be found in one particle of it...I also think of Brian Eno's "thinking music," which in one way is completely cerebral, and in another, is completely non-cerebral. Your work does inspire thought, even though the structures aren't premeditated.
GK: I think inasmuch as there's nothing necessarily premeditated, there is an intention. When Bhob and I play we don't turn our brains off and see where it takes us
AAJ: There's a mindfulness to it.
GK: Right. Oftentimes when you just turn your mind off, you play in a way that feels good but it becomes formulaic and you fall into certain habits...Bhob had a good quote he got from a Vic Rawlings radio interview about how you know when you have a good improvisation and how to continue with that. And Vic said, "You'll play something that makes you feel like shit and the feeling is so awful you never want to play that again." So you make sure to avoid that feeling as much as possible when you play again.
AAJ: In order to forge the style you've forged and to push away these things that didn't work for youthat would have taken a great deal of imagination.
GK: Well, imagination is a word with so much weight, so loaded with data and history.
AAJ: A good way of putting it.
GK: It's kind of like 1-4-5 chord changes. Words having this weight and history and all this predetermined information loaded into them. So when you say a word like "creativity," I feel like they have such a strongpersuasive quality about them. But a lot of times with things like chords or melody or rhythm, that would feel artificial to me. I do that in other contexts, like with [singing duo] Damon & Naomi, but with Bhob or solo, melody has so much weight and history, I feel like it shuts down the listener in how they are supposed to appreciate it or understand it because they have a familiarity with that kind of thing. They know that "minor" means "sad," for example.