Alex Machacek: Fat Beyond Belief
AAJ: Your point is very valid, and one most musicians probably share. If people don't pay for and support the music then what future has creative music got?
AM: If I could tell you I would, I don't know.
AAJ: it was a rhetorical question, but if the music isn't generating income it can't very well survive.
AM: There's one more thing I would like to add, and that's people always say, "Well, you can play live and make the money there." Well, welcome to the music business, [laughs] it's not that easy. Sure, I can play live but it's not like I can just phone Brazil and say, "Hey Brazil, I'm ready for a tour" [laughs]. Sometimes you can make money touring and sometimes you barely break even. Still, I don't want to complain too much because that's not very productive.
AAJ: You can't complain enough, eh?
AM: No, I can't complain enough [laughs].
AAJ: Another great track on FAT is "Safe Word"; what effects are you using on your guitar solo?
AM: It's a harmonizer. For some reason it sounded very synthetic because I mixed the octave relatively loud. I like the sound. The second part of the solo I programmed something with an Expression Table and I played a kind of question and answer with myself. I had fun doing that.
AAJ: As technology improves do you find yourself drawn to changing the sound of the guitar as someone like guitarist Allan Holdsworth has done for many years?
AM: That's a difficult topic, because sometimes when I practice I use a clean sound. There are so many possibilities on the guitar that I don't even need to play with the sound. Then on the other hand it's so much fun playing around with sound. So sometimes I am really torn between those two possibilities. For a record I usually try to come up with something new. New for me, but maybe old hat for everyone else. Music is usually defined in the three categories of rhythm, harmony and melody, but I think there should be a fourth category, which is sound. I think I have an obligation to research my sound.
AAJ: If you could afford to hire more musicians, particularly when touring, let's say in a quartet or a quintet, what type of instrumentation would you like to add to your sound?
AM: That's a difficult question. I'm always thinking of what to add or who to add and I don't know. Maybe if the budget was unlimited a string quartet would be nice. Trumpet would certainly be nice.
AAJ: With a string quartet it would be possible to imagine you veering towards a kind of Mahavishnu Orchestra intensity, no?
AM: Yeah, sure.
AAJ: On FAT there is a fair amount of sensitive playing, particularly Presuchi's bass solo piece "Ton Portrait," which is really his tribute to bassist Jaco Pastorius. Did you feel that it was necessary to bring things down a little at that point on the record?
AM: Definitely. I have the tendency of writing very dense music so if one listens to the entire CD it's probably good to have a little breather-a little break for the ears. I just thought of it in the big picture of the entire album. Also, when I go to concerts I like to have a quiet spot where my ears can recover, so if the next piece is dense I can probably take it in much better.
AAJ: A lot of CDs stretch to 70 minutes in length; do you have an ideal time for how much music you want to present to your listeners?
AM: I do have that in mind because I think if you release a 30-minute CD it's a fraud. I try to make them around 60 minutes. I'm not particularly a fan of 70-minute CDs, unless it's necessary.
AAJ: Your solo on "D-lite" is amazing; was that a one-take solo?
AM: Well, it's almost a one-take solo. At home I usually record and record and record, because I have the opportunity to fix things. I usually try to have three versions of a solo. Here and there I exchanged another part from another solo but basically it's one take.
AAJ: "The Life of Herbert P" is kind of hybrid between gentle ballad and more lively workout; what was you approach to this composition?
AM: That's a true recompositon. When we were in the studio I asked Herbert to play a couple of drum solos. First he played a loud one and then he played that really quiet drum solo that was so appealing to me. There's so much space in that drum solo, especially at the beginning. It was so inspiring to compose to that. That's still on the list to be played live. We haven't done it yet, but it's possible.
AAJ: "Studio Swing" starts out as a fairly contemporary, straight-ahead jazz tune before heading into what could best be described as Machacek territory; how important are the musicians around you for the sound that you want to produce yourself on your guitar?
AM: I think the band is super important for what you can do. For example, in the band with Terry Bozzio, I barely play any clean, because with his sound the clean sound doesn't cut too well. You need other musicians to complement that sound. The ideal thing would just be to have your own sound and put that wherever you go, but sometimes it's almost impossible. Who you play with dictates where you can go.