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Dan Weiss: The Creative Absence of Egotism

By Published: August 3, 2010
AAJ: Do you think about how your music is going to be perceived, especially those influenced more by Feldman, or do you strictly look at it out of respect towards that music and compositional approach? Or does the appreciation and respect for that music drive you in that direction?

DW: I'm never really concerned with how the music is going to be perceived. No matter what I write, it's always going to be honest and I think that that's the most important thing. I think audiences gravitate towards that, they can see that and they are aware of that honesty no matter the genre or context of the music. So I'm never worried about that. As long as I'm honest with myself, the rest will be OK.

David Binney Quartet at L'Astral in Montreal, Canada, 2010 From left: Jacob Sacks, David Binney, Zack Lober, Dan Weiss

AAJ: Are your compositions more a result of the ideas that have influenced you or is it a result of meditation and the exploration of your inner being, or perhaps even a combination of both?

DW: I think it's a combination of both because without the first part, I don't think there could be the second part. My inner being is made up of a combination of all of those things.

AAJ: With the new recording, Timshel (Sunny Side Records, 2010) (meaning "thou mayest" in Hebrew), there is a particular mood and movement throughout this music that works best if one listens to it all at once. It seems very important with this recording. A person can obviously listen to it this way but when you are in the recording studio, it may not necessarily come together that way. When you were in the studio, did you have a specific spiritual feel and did it stay with you the entire time throughout the time you spent in the studio?

DW: It's a good question. I mean, it was recorded in three chunks. We tried to record it in one take but it wasn't possible as I had to play with the audio. It's the Glengarry Glen Ross thing. But if it wasn't for that, we would have tried to do it in one take. We tried to keep that mood in the studio but it's really tough not playing for an audience. And for me, that's the toughest part about recording—it's playing a in a vacuum and it's a lot easier if there are people there.

I like being in tune with the audience and how that affects the shape of the performance and not having that is always a challenge for me. And for this music, which is very, very sensitive; it was also new to us at the time, so we were not that comfortable with it yet. So with all of those things, it's really hard to maintain that level of spirituality though that's the most important aspect. Consequently, it's hard to get a good take and capture the essence of the piece, which is again, really, the most important thing.

AAJ: There is an element of a search and journey throughout your music. Can you describe this search and how important it is to your creative process and to who you are as an artist?

DW: I guess that's what it is. It's a cliché but it's true. The search is more important than the destination and I try to embrace that. Early on, I always wanted to get to a particular point but now it's more about the journey itself and how I evolve in that journey. I agree with it. It's definitely about the unknown and not about the destination, but how you go about it.

AAJ: Honesty and integrity is at the root and foundation of your music. Was there a point in time when you crossed a bridge and music became more important at a higher level for you? And how do you keep this at the core of what you do?

DW: I have been this way my whole life and it's easier for me to portray that in music but my teacher had a really huge impact, too. I cannot say enough about that but the roots were also always there. There was never any BS in there [laughs]. It's my family or whatever, but yet I don't really know. It was always straight up, all of the time and that is the way I have always been. And that's also what I respect most in people and what I have always gravitated towards but I think there are personality trait factors, too.

AAJ: If a musician is not centered, there are plenty of things that can be a negative influence. How important is humility to the creative process?

DW: Going back again to the tabla, I get my ass kicked every single day and that also adds to that humility. It's like getting into a boxing ring and I get crushed every day. But I have learned to accept that and I think it adds to the humility [laughs].

AAJ: Are you at this point, more connected to a specific instrument in your search for a specific sound and a specific place spiritually?

DW: Eighty-five percent of the time that I am performing is on the drums. But when I'm practicing, it's primarily with the tabla and piano. For the past couple of years, I have been practicing piano about an hour a day and it's really been fun. I also have a handful of regular students and of course, I perform a lot. And whatever I am doing with the tabla or piano, I am making that my business to see how I can adapt that to the drum set rhythmically or say, to a Beethoven sonata. I really try to think about it so if I am not at the drum set physically every day, I am mentally everyday. I am at a point now where I don't need to practice every day, although I want to and once I am at a place where I am allowed that, I am going to. If I could spend some time with each instrument, that would be even greater.

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