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Interviews

Ben Monder: Le Monde du Monder

By Published: January 1, 2002
AAJ: Are the players all in the same room, or are you overdubbing on a lot of the "sideman" stuff?

BM: That depends on the type of record, the studio, the budget, and of course the format of the recording. Sometimes fixes are done, sometimes not. Sometimes it's not possible to fix things even if the recording is multitrack, because of the way the band is set up. Actual overdubbing is rare on most things I do, with the exception of more rock oriented projects. A couple of my tunes have overdubs, like "Hatchet Face."

AAJ: How long is the recording process for your records? I'll bet extremely short. How much rehearsal occurs beforehand?

BM: We rehearse a lot and generally record in two days. Dust was a little different in that we had played the material a number of times on gigs, so rehearsal wasn't such an issue. Also, I've always done the solo pieces on a different day.

AAJ: With all you've got going on, how do you decide on which project to do next? It seems like you make room for everything. Is there a lot of work you decline?

BM: I don't decline that much. And the business is really erratic. Some months are wall to wall work, and some are really light. But when a conflict arises, I naturally try to choose that which is most rewarding musically.

AAJ: Explain to us your perception of yourself as an artist. Where do you see yourself on the jazz landscape. Are you even on the jazz landscape, or would you prefer the compositional or improvisatory landscape?

BM: I don't see myself on any landscape, which is maybe why I don't have any gigs. Or maybe because it's January...

AAJ: It'll warm up...trust me. Do you see yourself crossing into an almost modern classical approach ?Do you have tunes composed this way that are waiting in the wings?

BM: I just (as of a few hours ago) finished a long through-composed piece that might qualify as what you're talking about, but I wouldn't necessarily designate it as modern classical. I think it's hard for an individual to categorize his own work. I value composition as a means of expression, but I feel improvisation, both free and structured, is equally important. I wouldn't feel complete without both.

AAJ: Please explain to the fortunate folks who have seen you play live your thought process behind what tunes, or parts of tunes, you play sitting, or when you stand. Although you may not see it that way, I think it's a special element of your performances. It seems like you stand for single note passes. This makes it more dramatic, especially when your playing starts going in a rock direction.

BM: I just find it easier to play single note passages standing up, for some reason. I would prefer to stand the whole time, but a lot of things I've written are impossible to play that way. It has something to do with where the neck is in relation to my left hand.

AAJ: Are there other aspects of your technique you consider "unusual"?

BM: There's one tune where I have to play a bass note with my nose.

AAJ: What music holds your most extreme interest these days, and what of it may influence your next project or recording?

BM: I'm listening pretty much exclusively to two CDs right now—Alfred Schnittke's Psalms of Repentance and Morton Feldman's For Bunita Marcus But I find things to be influential obliquely, not directly.

AAJ: To wrap up, please tell us your musical plans, or projects in the pipeline , for 2002.

BM: Well, I'm writing a new batch of material for the quartet, and hope to get it recorded either this year or next. I've also been wanting to do a standards oriented recording, with a trio—maybe this is the year it will actually happen. Some other things—I have a duo tour with Theo in Japan coming up in May, and I'm working on some dates in Europe for the quartet in June. Other than that, I'm looking forward to a fairly busy spring of traveling with one thing or another, mostly sideman work. I guess my main hope for the coming year is just to stay inspired and productive.


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