Andy Milne's Music for the Human Condition - A Little Dapp'll do Y'All
“ Dapp Theory?s concept comes from my desire to see the condition of humanity improve. I think there are simple messages out there that get clouded by greed and ultimately keep us from truly living in harmony. ”
Pianist and composer Andy Milne's music emphasizes badass groove-power that's grown from his roots as one of Steve Coleman 's Five Elements, specializing in some rhythmatic arithmetic that easily grabs more booty than some other M-BASE analogues. He draws inspiration from all types of music and from sociology, philosophy, and science fiction. While noted for sparse harmonic ideas and chord voicings that add texture to his compositions, he's also capable of seemingly effortlessly tossing off choruses full of musical sophistication in variegated timbres. By his own account, the five years from 1992 to 1997, spent as a one of Coleman's Five Elements, complementing and responding to that music gig upon gig, played a major role in the development of this distinctive approach.
During his run with Coleman, Milne independently booked, promoted and led four extensive tours of North America with his own band, releasing a now rare, self-produced cassette in 1995, called the 'The 'E' is Silent,' that featured incendiary performances by Gene Lake on drums, Matthew Garrison on electric bass and vocalist Audrey Martells. His 1997 CD, Forward to Get Back , features drummer Mark Prince, bassists Garrison and Reggie Washington, trumpeter Ralph Alessi and two duo performances with Coleman. Milne left Coleman's band after the release of this record to devote more energy to touring and recording his own projects and to pursue appealing offers from other musicians, including Ravi Coltrane , Carlos Ward, and Grammy-nominated vocalist, Carla Cook.
In 1998 he formed his Cosmic Dapp Theory, now shortened to Dapp Theory, releasing New Age of Aquarius a year later on his own label, which sports the telling moniker Controlology. The newest Dapp Theory release, Y'All Just Don't Know, hits the street on August 12th, with major label backing from Concord Records , who have made the band part of its 30th Anniversary Plan. Dapp Theory has made some powerful personnel shifts between releases, and has taken steps to cross over their fan base, including three songs documenting their collaboration with fellow Toronto native and socio-political folk icon Bruce Cockburn . But they haven't changed their conceptual focus, which translates perceptibly aurally. Milne wants his music, 'to go beyond notes and rhythms. I want to use it to tell passionate stories, promote peace and inspire collective responsibility towards uplifting the human spiritual condition. While M-BASE stood for creatively expressing one's life's experiences through music, Dapp Theory stands for respecting the laws of nature to create balance in love, compassion and good karma. The music seeks to explore the truths which exist in universal cosmic wisdom, while creatively expressing life's great journeys.' We'll let the man take it from there himself.
Allaboutjazz:If you don't mind, please tell us how old you are and where you're from.
Andy Milne: I am 36 years old and I was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. When I was very young, I grew up in the town of Kincardine, two hours northwest of Toronto. I lived in Toronto from the age of 13 onwards and spent the majority of my formative years in terms of my musical training and experience in Toronto so that's why I say I'm from Toronto when asked that question.
AAJ: How did you first get into music?
AM: I first got into music when I started piano lessons at age 7. I later taught myself guitar and played alto saxophone in school, but piano was always the instrument I knew I'd be playing.
AAJ: Who were your first influences, as a musician, and more specifically, on piano?
AM: I think folk music, classical music and pop music from the mid 70s were my first influences. The first pianists I began checking out were Les McCann, Oscar Peterson, McCoy Tyner and Duke Ellington. Later I got way into Bill Evans and Herbie Hancock and eventually Herbie Nichols and Art Tatum.
AAJ: Was there an evolution in influences, or was there a point when you feel individual influences stopped?
AM: There's always an evolution of influences at least I think there should be. One influence leads you to another, which leads you to another. Beyond recordings, the people in your physical world hip you to new influences and it just goes on that way.
AAJ: What musical experiences in Canada precipitated your attendance at York University in the late 80s?
AM: I attended York University in Toronto. At the time I was finishing high school, Oscar Peterson was an adjunct professor there. I knew I wanted to have the option of studying other academic subjects, but the attraction of Oscar made York seem like the obvious choice. Plus, Toronto is like the New York of Canada with all the best players migrating there, so I wanted to stay close to that scene.
AAJ: Why did you pick York University? Was your time there your most intense growth period as a musician?
AM: I can't say it was my most intense growth period, but when you are young every period seems intense because you tend to learn quickly and have a lot of energy. When you get older you tend to take more time to learn, and the way you learn evolves. So far, each period of my life has had a unique feel or flavor and that's how I relate to each period versus if it was the most intense or not. Each period was intense for something unique to that period. That's the best way I can put it.