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A Fireside Chat With Mark Whitecage

By Published: January 18, 2003

MW: Oh, yeah, I am not discouraged. I can play all that other stuff. If somebody wanted me to do a straight-ahead bop record, I could do it. But what for? It really doesn't make any sense to me to, to me it is not improvising anymore if you are playing changes. If you are playing a standard and you are just playing the changes on a standard, you are not improvising, if you have done it two hundred times before. How long can it be improvising? What we are doing when I played with Anthony is we were taking the standards and playing them one time to the changes and then we loosened the changes and loosened the changes until we were playing the tune and not the changes and then never go back and go into something else. The whole time he was doing the piano, that is what we were doing and that is basically what I do with my trio with the electronic pedals and everything else we do in there.

FJ: And the future?

MW: I've got two records. One is called No Respect. That's the group with Dominic Duval and Jay Rosen. That's my trio. I get so much input from those guys that I stopped calling it Mark Whitecage Trio and we turned the name into No Respect. And the before mentioned Ducks on Acid, my virtual combo. Those are the two new records we have coming out. Both are coming out on my own Acoustics. I make them myself. I do the labels and I burn them on a CD-R here. It is what I've been doing today. It's better than playing bop. I would rather do that than put on a tuxedo. It is a day gig. We've all got day gigs. The new music scene, there is not too many people making money playing creative music, not in this country. Wynton has got them all wearing tuxedos and playing Dixieland and stuff. I would rather do this than do something else. It's cool. I have control and when I get tired of doing it, I've already taken a couple of records out. I call them extremely limited editions, so if you see one, you should grab it because it might not be there in a few months. Sometimes I get bored with the stuff or I don't want to make them anymore and I just take them out. So they will be around for a little while and then they will be underground. It's a good business when I am touring. When I am going to Europe, I can carry these things and I don't put them in a jewel case. I can carry fifty CDs in the space of twenty in jewel cases. Traveling now is no picnic. It's no fun anymore.

FJ: Is the reception in Europe warmer than the States?

MW: Oh, yeah. I started going there in 1972 with Gunter Hampel and I have gone almost every spring and every fall. We did longer tours, maybe five or six weeks and I did that until about '82, for about ten years and so I met a lot of people and I know all the clubs. We probably played every venue in Europe. When we first started in '72, Gunter was very hot and we were playing the festivals too. It was very nice. I know all the people over there and they know me. In New York, I can't afford to play in New York. I have been holding the Knitting Factory up. When I play there, I pay the guys and whatever the band is, I pay the guys a certain minimum and I never make it back. And guys like me have been supporting that place and now it is almost like a rock club. There is Tonic and a few other things, but New York is too expensive to play. It is like you have to pay to play. We're contemplating a move to Portland, Oregon. I might go out there. You are out there. That's right. I went out there this summer and people were really nice and they had really nice musicians. It was much laid back.

FJ: I trust whatever you decide, you will do it your way.

MW: (Laughing) I certainly will.

Photo Credit: Rozanne Levine

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