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Alex Machacek: A Very Tall Tale

By Published: June 29, 2010
If I had wanted to have an improvisational album then I would have asked for more interaction. But let's put it this way-I'm putting a musical magnifying glass on all those details that might be in danger of getting lost, unless you're one of those people who has great ears and hears everything in the first seconds, and that's not me.

AAJ: On the track "Minnemann's in Da House" you ask whether playing in 13/16 time is really difficult, to which he replies, "No." Was this to put your own mind at rest? How difficult was it to compose around this section?

AM: Well, Marco is really good at every odd meter and I'm not so good at it, and once we had this little talk and he said, "Oh, it's really easy, it's just a combination of two and three," and whenever we played some odd meter I always remember Marco told me how he counted, or how he could count. With the computer voice, I emulated how Marco would count that. I thought at this point in the album we need some comic relief. I thought if you've made it up to this point, you deserve a good laugh. It's also a little reminder that even if it doesn't sound really complicated it is actually really complicated, at least to me. For Marco it's easy, but that's Marco and that's me. Sometimes for me, yes, it is hard; I don't have a natural talent for any odd meters. I really have to practice that; it's difficult.

AAJ: Was there a particular part of Minnemann's drumming which caused you real difficulties to compose around?

AM: If you recompose around any part that's already rather dense, it's difficult because there isn't too much space for you. There's one song, "Sweet Torture"-Marco has a 9/16 ostinato going on and there is plenty of stuff going on over that. This makes it a bit more difficult, in terms of overall density, because Marco is already accompanying himself.

AAJ: Is there a barking dog in the background of "Eau De Conlon"?

AM: [laughs] No, that's your imagination. No animals were abused in the making of this record.

AAJ The only other musician on the CD, with the exception of your wife on vocals on one track, is trombonist Martin Ptak. Why involve just one musician? It just seems so close to none, especially considering you programmed all the other instruments.

AM: He's a friend of mine who stayed at my house, and I think he got a little bored and I said, "I'll give you something to do." I like the quality of the trombone, and he just happened to be at my house, so I thought, "Okay, that could be nice. Let's do it."

AAJ: So he was an accidental tourist.

AM: Yes. And with Sumitra on the second track, it's the same thing. I thought I wanted to do something like this, and next thing: "Hey, hey, can you sing this?" She sang it and I thought, "Hey, cool." So she just ended up doing these atmospheric vocals on one little part. Some people might think it's a sample and not a real singer, but it's her.

AAJ: I'm guessing it would be impossibly complicated to perform the whole piece live, no?

AM: [laughs] I guess. First of all, I would have to practice really hard, just on my parts. Secondly, there are so many guitar layers, so many tracks, and you would have to rehearse that. I'll say this-don't expect it to be played live. Actually, I wouldn't want to, because to me this album is done; next thing. It doesn't really lend itself to be played live.

AAJ: When you released [sic], you told All About Jazz that if you could record an album of entirely programmed music better than you were able to play it, you would. Do you think 24 tales maybe signals a change in direction towards more composed music? Do you have a desire to do a lot more composed music?

AM: Absolutely; a trio is nice and improvising is nice but I also really enjoy the compositional part. They are two different things and I'd get a little bored only doing one thing. The only problem with composed music is then being able to perform it live, because then you need rehearsals and it has to be playable.

I'm sure you know I'm a huge Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa
1940 - 1993
guitar, electric
fan, and you listen to some of the Zappa stuff and you think, "Wow, that's so nicely composed." I don't get bored listening to that. I like the process. Sometimes I get a little bit bored with the typical song format: solo, solo, solo, solo, head. Composition, I think, can never be underrated, or shouldn't be.

Selected Discography

Alex Machacek/Marco Minnemann, 24 Tales (Abstract Logix, 2010)

Alex Machacek/Neal Fountain/Jeff Sipe, Official Triangle Sessions (Abstract Logix, 2009)

Alex Machacek, Jeff Sipe, Mathew Garrison, Improvision (Abstract Logix, 2007)

Alex Machacek, [sic] (Abstract Logix, 2006)

The Out Trio, (DVD) Live at the Steamboat (Altitude Digital, 2004)

Sumitra, Indian Girl (Next Generation Enterprises, 2004)

BPM, Delete and Roll (Next Generation Enterprises, 2004)

The Next Generation of Sound, Musical Universal (Next Generation Enterprises, 2001)

Mc Hacek, Featuring Ourselves (Next Generation Enterprises, 1999)

Photo Credits

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