Matthew Garrison: Core Matter
MG: We did three takes: one before the audience came, another with the audience, though we had some technical glitches [laughs] and couldn't use that, and a third when the audience had left. And actually, we used the third take.
AAJ: You draw from a very large musical palette on Shapeshifter Live 2010. Musically, your motto seems to be "anything goes."
MG: There you go, absolutely. There are just so many things that we enjoythat I personally enjoy and that I'd rather not leave out. Sometimes it's too much, but I'd rather have that and try as many things as I can.
AAJ: The opening track, "Life Burning," sounds like a cross between [guitarist] Jimi Hendrix playing that tortured "Star Spangled Banner" he did at Woodstock, and the Prodigy. What's the inspiration behind this track?
MG: Oh yeah, totally. The inspiration was that I was torn up about the bullshit going on in Iraq, and the war in Afghanistan and the problems we had in this country. I kept on seeing these images of people burning. People burning was the image in my head.
AAJ: The CD plays like a continual 50-minute piece of music. Is that how you performed it?
MG: Yeah, we played it as one 55-minute piece. It's always open to modification, and the great thing is that as we get new technology, we can add new elements and really start expanding the way the performance is presented. But it also allows the organic side to come through, and we can interact with the pre- programmed stuff in a very free, improvisational manner.
AAJ: There's a very natural ebb and flow to the music. Was the order of the pieces something that you labored a lot over, and if you played it again in a similar setting, would you play around with the order?
MG: I think the order is pretty important just for the sake of organization. As a performance like that develops, I have to be able to understand what I have to do next. But because it's computer based, it really takes nothing to go in and change the order around even before a show starts.
AAJ: The music is highly urban sounding and highly contemporary and there seems to be a thread of spacey sounds running through the music. Is sci-fi an influence on you?
MG: Oh, totally, man [laughs]. I insist on seeing the really big sci-fi movies at a really good theater. I'm really fond of going with a trio or a quartet, and we play somebody's tune or a standard. I love that, but there's some limitation to that, especially considering all the options we have working with computers, which I've been doing for years. As much as I love the emotional impact that exists between musicians, that can have its own limitations in terms of having to satisfy each other, and I'd rather feel like I'm sitting in the audience sometimes. I'd rather focus more on the sonic presentation of the music. If it's a small jazz club and the audience is one foot away that's great, you just go and play, but if we do a larger performance, then I want to present it almost as if it were a movie. I'd rather focus more on the sonic presentation of the music.
AAJ: You've spent a number of years designing and creating your website. How satisfied are you with where it's at?
MG: I feel right now like the website is too one-dimensional. I present something to you, and then you deal with what's there: you listen to it, you download it or you learn from a little lesson. What we want to do is make certain sections of the website more interactive. I'd like to record a tune, leaving spaces open for solos, and I'll record different musicians doing solos and people will be able to select who they want to hear soloing over that track. A lot of the musicians I've worked with over the years are going to come and help in that process. We want people to enjoy it but to be in control of it too.
AAJ: Apart from all the lessons you offer on your website, from bass playing to composition and improvisation, you also interview musicians and showcase musicians, and the first feature on a musician was on your father [bassist] Jimmy Garrison what have you learned from listening to his playing?
MG: Oh man, that music is so passionate. My experience has probably been more emotional than technical. I tried to see how my father was dealing with his life and how that expressed itself in his music. His bass playing is tremendously deep; I love listening to it, and I'll listen to it anytime. Then I listen to the music and try to understand what they were doing and what it meant to them. The passion for what they were doing was limitless. It's uplifting. That transcends genre, time and race. That's what I've been trying to do as a musician, and I've noticed during my career that, unfortunately, all of those limitations still exist. Personally, I've tried to stay away from things that will limit my expression. I'm not into the whole race thing, and it still exists, man. It's total bullshit. I just want to get to the core of what it means to make music.