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Ryan McGuire: Metal Reasoning

By Published: May 13, 2010
Upright bass is an unusual instrument for a child to pick up.

RM: I actually started on electric bass. I didn't start on upright until I was about 21, when I was at Berklee.

AAJ: Now the upright bass is heavy—and you play heavy music. Any connection between the two?

RM: I've just always liked big, low frequencies. Even when I was playing saxophone, before I picked up bass guitar, I wanted to play baritone sax. I ended up playing baritone sax. I've just always loved that low frequency. Even as a child I can remember turning the bass all the way up listening to songs.

AAJ: You probably don't want to psychoanalyze yourself...

RM: Yeah, I don't know why, I try not to think about it too much.

AAJ: A lot of things in music can't be put into words. That's why they're music...My next question has to do with The Epicureans. Now you play a stringed instrument in the band; and Ricardo Donoso almost treats his drum like one—the way he uses the bow. He'll stick the bow into the skin. Is he actually cutting the skin when he's doing that?

RM: He's broken a lot of his drumheads. He uses a variety of tools: forks, gadgets, but he's actually sometimes ripping the drumhead.

AAJ: You play pretty aggressively, too.

RM: Yeah, I tend to.

AAJ: Dave Gross plays sax. I once read that Adolphe Sax invented the saxophone as a substitute for a stringed instrument in a marching band. So my theory is that, the way James Brown treated everything as percussion, you and Dave and Ricardo are kind of a string band.

RM: I guess I can hear that. There's definitely that kind of fluidity. It's obviously not very percussive. Dave does this circular breathing and there's this fluidity we try to create in a piece.

AAJ: There are a lot of abrupt changes.

RM: Abrupt shifts, but generally the parts aren't very staccato and the phrases are very elongated. I would say fluid in the sense that it's not rhythmically driving.

AAJ: What brought you three together? Who started the band?

RM: Dave started it. At one of the festivals at the Piano Factory (Boston), I played a solo set. And Dave approached me and said, "I'm looking to start a band. Do you want to play?"

AAJ: So you made an impression on him...He just said he wanted to from a band, not "We're going to do X, Y, Z"?

RM: At the beginning, when he first introduced himself, he didn't mention a direction he wanted to go in. That came more at our first rehearsal. He in his mind had been coming up with—he wanted to come up with a group where it was almost kind of static music. I guess something had been brewing within him to create this band but he didn't articulate it at first, we just started working on it when we got together.

AAJ: Interesting you said almost static. Time always creeps in.

RM: The idea was to take one idea, whether it was bowing one sound, or the fork on the head of the drum but just take that one sound and work with it, for a while and let it develop, just that one sound, and then change. But make those phrases much longer and much more developed.

AAJ: You are an experienced cook and chef. Like music, it's a creative endeavor and it's also about teamwork. Do you see one feeding on the other, or does your day job, or moonlighting, interfere with the music?

RM: It actually tends to interfere with my music quite a bit, but only in the sense of the hours.

AAJ: But you like what you do?

RM: I love what I do...They're so parallel. Cooking, you take your ingredients, and you make something out of it. And music, you take your different ingredients and you create something out of it. Artistically, food isn't quite as abstract as music, but they're both working in the same realm. They feed the same artistic drive in me.

AAJ: Other projects going these days?

RM: I was doing Dilettante, with was Skinny Vinny (Josh Jefferson and Andrew Eisenberg) plus me. I do a little classical writing on my own. I do some side stuff, play on a record here and there. But nothing really focused or serious. My two main projects are Ehnahre and Epicureans.

AAJ: Back to being a cook: there's an element of danger there; getting burned. And when I see The Epicureans live there's great deal of drama and tenseness—tension. At one show I saw, I imagined three guys out in the cold woods at night, trying to build a fire. Dave starts whistling at one point, trying to allay the fear. And I get this sense of impending danger that you're trying to summon up the courage to deal with, and you do. Which is the amazing thing about seeing them live.

What do you feel is captured on the CDs?

RM: I feel like the CD and the live experience are two completely different things...When we do our recordings, we close-mic everything, so that every crick and creak and every little noise can be heard, and it becomes almost this giant wash of sound and you don't know whose doing what. It all gets lost in this monolithic, sort of drone almost—shards of sound coming out from every direction. Everything kind of gets lost, in this one, giant beast.

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