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Interviews

Ryan McGuire: Metal Reasoning

By Published: May 13, 2010

AAJ: The three bears...Now, Ehnahre make me think of a group like Sepultura. I know Ricardo, especially coming from Brazil, likes them. Are they an influence?



RM: Not at all. Quite the opposite. They're very rhythmic. The pulse is very strong in their music. Whereas Ehnahre, on our first record, there's no meter anywhere, it's just falling apart—all over the place.



AAJ: I was talking to a New York saxophonist, Ras Moshe. He was saying that what drove the traditionalists crazy when the new jazz came out wasn't the noise, but the lack...



RM: Of meter?



AAJ: He said it's what he's heard from older musicians who were there at the time.



RM: I would believe that. That's even kind of trend in metal today. There's a lot of bands who are playing a lot more dissonantly and atonally. But they also have a very strong meter. And our music gets lost on a lot of people because they can't—there's no rhythmic element to grip onto, and it's very alienating for a lot of fans of metal.



AAJ: Now, I was just listening to Coltrane's Live in Seattle, and towards the end of one number on that album, he starts this "Roar! Roar!" and "Om!" What drives you to do the loud yelling?



RM: Growing up, I listened to metal in high school and that was my main musical outlet. And that was always present in what I listened to. And the more screaming and roaring, the more intense the music seemed to me. There's just something about that that still speaks to me today.



AAJ: What groups would they be?



RM: Bands like Morbid Angel, Immolation, Suffocation.



AAJ: More underground types?



RM: These are actually the more popular.



AAJ: How about alternative?



RM: I still love Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden—the grunge bands.



AAJ: Soundgarden, with Chris Cornell—I like the way he screams.



RM: Yeah, he kind of wails...



AAJ: How about Guillevic? Do you like poetry?



RM: I do love poetry. "The Man Closing Up," that we used on our first album [The Man Closing Up (Semata, 200)], was based on Guillevic, but it was written by Donald Justice...When I was in school I wrote a lot of classical art song, and I still write a lot of that today and so I'm always poring over volumes of poetry to find inspiration.



AAJ: Do you write lyrics at all?



RM: No. I use only poets for texts.



AAJ: Will that always be the case?



RM: Yes. I feel like, I'm a musician, not a poet. In the service of the art it would be better for me to use someone whose craft is more skilled in this area. A lot of people think that that's cheating or not genuine, but it's the same as if, if I compose this metal song, I get a drummer to play drums.



AAJ: Now, how far do you look into the future? I asked Vic Rawlings

Vic Rawlings
Vic Rawlings
b.1965
cello
this question when I interviewed him.



RM: What did he say?



AAJ: He said he looks two years. "Beyond that starts to feel grandiose."



RM: I would say I look about two months into the future.



AAJ: There was a novelist who said that writing a novel was like driving in a blizzard where you can only see two feet in front of you. I get that feeling when I listen to The Epicureans, like you are only seeing two seconds in front of you.



RM: Yeah. And you don't know what's coming around the corner.



AAJ: On the other hand you compose. But I guess at the same time, when you're composing you're looking very closely at what's in front of you, too.



RM: It definitely develops very closely from what came before it. Occasionally I'll write with an overarching theme, and certainly using the texts creates a theme, but in terms of where I'm going, what I plan to do—I don't plan too much in advance. Which maybe I should, but as it is I just go with the flow.



AAJ: In Ehnahre, what's the balance between composition and improvisation?

RM: Definitely leaning heavier towards composition. But there are definitely very strong improvisational elements. So there will be very few sections where it's completely free. However, most sections, the guitar will play a phrase, the drum will play a phrase, and it will all be encompassed, this one big phrase—and it might not begin and end at the same time; it's very loose, metrically.



So, we might be doing something where the guitar is playing a phrase and the drum is doing a roll, and the vocal line will go somewhere in the guitar phrase...It's up to the guitarist to choose, "I want to stretch this out or make it shorter." There's a lot of visual cues, and freedom in terms of rhythm. But I wouldn't call most of it free improvisation.



AAJ: What do you feel your music represents, or says? For example, free jazz speaks of freedom, racial freedom.



RM: I would say there's no political or ethical ties...For me the music plays a much more emotional, inner role. More of an introspective...



AAJ: To foster introspection in your listener?



RM: Yeah.



AAJ: On a surface level your music is very extroverted. How does the introspection play out with the loudness? I know there's a lot of complexity at work.



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