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Alex Machacek / Jeff Sipe / Matt Garrison: The Improvision Round Table


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Alex MachacekAlex Machacek, Matt Garrison and Jeff Sipe have been responsible for some of the greatest moments in electric jazz since the turn of the new millennium.

Now thirty-five, Machacek was unknown until the release of his first solo effort in 1999, but the guitarist's releases since have increasingly upped the ante. Teaming with beyond-drummer Terry Bozzio in 2001, they issued Delete and Roll (Austro Mechana), establishing Machacek as a Zappa-esque rhythmatist and re-composer. Tapping fellow Zappa alum Patrick O'Hearn, Machacek and Bozzio reunited to produce the Out Trio DVD (Altitude Digital, 2001) project. But it was [sic] (Abstract Logix, 2006), again with Bozzio in the throne, that firmly ensconced Machacek as a new star on the progressive-music scene.

Garrison took an opposite tact, emerging from Berklee in the early 1990s directly into very high-profile sideman gigs with Gary Burton, Steve Coleman, Joe Zawinul, John McLaughlin, and John Scofield, continuing the trend most recently with Herbie Hancock. By the time the bassist released his solo debut at age thirty in 2000, Garrison's post-modern approach and technique were fully formed and matured, filtering out all obvious influences, resulting in two more self-published and stunning recordings, Shapeshifter and a combo live DVD and CD, released on the same day in 2004. While many live gigs and the occasional recording show he is equally gifted in avant and straight-ahead settings, and his bloodline stems from jazz' most sacred tradition, Garrison remains committed to the mantle of electric—and electronic—jazz styles.

Jeff Sipe has a decade on his current project-mates, and has played with virtually every name on the jamband scene including the Aquarium Rescue Unit (ARU), Leftover Salmon, Phil Lesh and his own Apartment Projects (he was christened Apt. Q258 for reasons known only to Colonel Bruce Hampton). The drummer was there onstage with the ARU, to many, that scene's most gifted instrumentalists, for the first HORDE tour in 1992, jamming with virtually every band that took the stage.

Sipe became more known to fans of electric jazz in the late 1990s through his collaboration with bassist Jonas Hellborg and guitarist Shawn Lane. In 2002, they released their most hard-hitting recording, Personae (Bardo), upping their international profiles with some electrifying concert dates worldwide. While this was to be their last collaboration due the untimely passing of the great Shawn Lane, Sipe had already set out on another project with ARU guitarist Jimmy Herring, called Project Z, with bassist Ricky Keller, in 2001. This collaboration also culminated because of another untimely passing, that of Keller, dubbed "Lincoln Metcalfe by the Colonel. Their 2005 recording, the first issued on the Abstract Logix imprint, ventured further into jazz with guest Greg Osby, and was fittingly called Lincoln Memorial

So too, has Abstract Logix, the brainchild of one Souvik Dutta, changed the landscape for this music since 2005, growing from a mere storefront into label and clearinghouse, to the point that the name is now synonymous with what fusion has become. With the release of Improvision (2007) comes another transformation; Dutta has moved from label owner to impresario not only because it was his idea to put these guys together, but because he got them to actually do it.

Now they all continue their new-millennium track record by claiming collective responsibility for the electric jazz release of 2007. It roars from the speakers with an abandon and authority rarely felt since the halcyon days of this music, precisely because it is re-contextualized into the now, or perhaps days into the future, of whoever listens to it.

AAJ convened the Improvision membership to discuss the toil and fruits of their collaboration and what may yet come of it.

Chapter Index

  1. Improvision: The Concept
  2. Improvision: The Music
  3. Improvision: The Business

Improvision: The Concept

All About Jazz: So who had this great idea to put this project together?

Alex Machacek: It was Souvik Dutta, the owner of Abstract Logix. It was his idea to put the three of us together. So we got together, played, and then I treated it a little bit, and...now it's done.

AAJ: You did what?

AM: I treated it a little bit.

AAJ: Yes, well this is what we need to find out more about. I spoke to Souvik briefly last week, and he said you got in only a very short recording time. Can you tell us about that.?

Matt Garrison: We just did kind of a jam session gig, which was really fun and then, the studio. I can't remember how much time but it was like six, seven hours maybe.

Jeff Sipe: It seemed like it took us six hours to get the headphone mix [laughs by all] and then we had four hours left to cut.

MG: OK, yeah for sure.

Machacek AAJ: Did you guys share the music beforehand or share files or anything?

AM: Nothing.

JS: Yeah this was totally off the cuff.

AAJ: You're kidding me.

JS: No.

AAJ: You had six hours in the studio and came out with this! I mean, the gig must have really helped then!

MG: Actually I think so.

JS: Yeah, for me too.

AM: I was just in there for the money [laughs by all]. Each of us made what—twenty bucks? It was truly, like $22, I guess—where is my check, man? [Laughs by all]

AAJ: Can we take the last tune, for instance? "Put Me Back to Sleep. I mean this is a warm, mellow, loose, spacey, pretty tune. But it also has very composed-sounding head. It's a very hummable, catchy, ditty. This is not a written song?

AM: No.

AAJ: Well how do you do that? Can anybody tell me how it's done?

MG: I think Alex is going to have to do most of the talking here.

AM: Well, the basic idea was not to prepare too much composed music. I only brought two tunes, which are the second tune ("Along Came a Spider") and the ballad ("Very Sad"). Everything else was just jammed. After the session I took all the material home on my hard drive and listened back to it over and over again. Then I worked on these jams and tried to make songs out of them. I structured these jams, sometimes I wrote a little melody, or I took pre-existing melodies, for instance, some that Matt had already played, and just established them as the main theme. If I thought, "Ah, there's something cool happening," I just worked with that and put it in. The whole re-composing or editing process is comparable to solving a puzzle—but sometimes I had to create new puzzle pieces if something was missing.

MG: Yeah, it's fantastic, man.

AM: That's what I did. And the beauty about that is if you don't put music in front of people, they play in a much more relaxed manner. It's because they can do what they think is right and trust it their ears.

JS: Yeee-ah.

AM: So that's my statement for the record.

Alex AAJ: That's hard to conceive, y'know. And without having exact samples of the music available for you and the audience to hear as we discuss it, as if we all in the same room, I don't know how deeply we can get into it.

What about the two composed tunes? Was "Very Sad written out for the musicians?

AM: No, it wasn't. Well, that's just a little bass riff. Just a simple...

AAJ: Two triads with some call-and-response.

AM: But then the melody—and then that's it.

AAJ: But it's a crazy chord progression, not so much harmonically but that drops accents in crazy places over the bar line, etcetera.

AM: That was just done on cue, live. It was the middle part and we all just look at each other like now, ok—and now, again—done.

AAJ: But Sipe is hitting all the fills, accents and drum parts at the exact right moment. I mean, don't you have to rehearse that?

JS: [Laughs] The part you're referring to was done post-production, matching their parts to my drum part.

AAJ: OK. Well, a slower tempo thing I can see how guys of your incredible caliber can do that but there are some sections that seem superhuman. The first song, "There's a New Sheriff in Town —everything is in there—allow me to oversimplify, death metal, Bad Brains Zappa, Zawinul, Tribal Tech.

JS: There are a lot of influences going on that's for sure. I prefer to think of it as an American ECM kind of approach. There's a lot of space and a lot of groove too—a great balance.

AAJ: Yes, I couldn't agree more in terms of the whole recording. But indulge me on a specific example here. There is a specific part of "Sheriff where there are 32nd notes over an almost synchronized drum part—that's not rehearsed?

AM: No, man, that is not rehearsed, that's overdubbed!

AAJ: The dawn now breaks over our perplexed interviewer. [Laughs by all]

AM: Sorry, I sort of revealed a secret.

AAJ: So you're dubbing a very tight melody not just over, but tied rhythmically, to a drum part that was already there.

AM: Yes exactly.

AAJ: So you're playing with, or shadowing the drums instead of vice-versa.

AM: Sometimes, yeah.

JS: The framework of the thing was done live and improv, and then afterwards, whatever the drums did—for instance, what I did on that tune—I didn't come over and redo anything. Whatever was done that day was it, for me, pretty much—I had to surrender at that point. Through the miracle of technology these two geniuses were able to not just put stuff over, but also kind of re-compose the improv. So that's how it worked out to be so tight.

MG: But I'll admit it. I did a few things, but it's fully—this is pretty much the baby of Alex—Mr Moochachik [laughs]. As far as I'm concerned, and I'm not kissing your butt here, OK, Mr. Alex—don't take this the wrong way. Man, what you did with this thing and of course, with your previous records and the way that you're putting stuff together, and conceptualizing, hearing and imagining what can be done— it's what is right now.


There's been years of editing and techniques and approaches to using sound sources and re-layering the sound sources or splicing and all that other stuff. And I think what Alex is doing is man, the most current and most modern form of that particular art form. That's aside from being a phenomenal musician and guitarist. The actual art form of editing is something that's very particular these days and there are very few people that can do it in the imaginative scope that Alex is dealing with. I haven't really seen anybody do anything like this.

JS: Me neither, actually.

MG: It's kind of weird because I've had this one feeling. I feel like Alex was just wearing my underwear for a couple of weeks [laughs by all]. My shoes, my socks too, you know. And he dealt with that and moved on, and then put on all of Jeff's clothes. It's a fantastic process and these are the things I was actually thinking listening to the record for the first time. Man this cat just sat back and learned the record—he just learned what we do and what was there and put his own intentions on it. Now, problem is, can we live up to that once we get on stage again?

JS: Y'know what? I know what you mean but on the other hand, I think the magic will be there.

MG: Yeah absolutely.

AAJ: So the title, Improvision—is that from the improvised versus the composed?

AM: I remember I was meeting with Eric Dorris , the owner of Altitude Digital, who was visiting LA. I told him about the album, explaining that it was basically just improvised, and then he said, "improvision. I'm sure he meant to say "improvisation, but the word "improvision came out. For me it is an appropriate title—we were improvising with the "vision that we had to lay down some framework that I could work with during the editing process.

AAJ: Is that the way you've approached your other recordings, Alex?

AM: With some pieces on the other recordings I did that. For [sic] I did that. On some pieces I used exclusively this approach and on others I just took what I liked or the semi-recomposing approach but that's where I started that.

AAJ: So, the mixed up writers like me who write that Bozzio or Sipe is drumming along with you—it's backwards?

AM: It's backwards. In the case of Bozzio I wasn't even there—I just asked him to improvise me six minutes of a drum solo. Then I got it on hard disc and I did stuff around that. So that's basically the same approach I did with this record. We just went to the studio and all I want there is this: I don't want to have all my parts be beautiful or necessarily even good—I just want to have enough material.

Whenever I had the feeling we were playing a certain groove or feel that could obviously end up being something I said, "That's fine for me, I have enough material for that idea. So if you luck into whatever and get fifteen minutes of material you can bet that you can make a five-to-seven minute song out of it that is going to be fantastic, especially if you play with fantastic musicians like these two cats. That's all I'm looking for. That said, the best parts for me are truly the parts that are really improvised.

AAJ: So everybody else is freaking out that you don't have enough material or studio time and you're like, "This is plenty.

AM: Oh, yeah [laughs by all]. If I put in some work, I still have four or so possible other songs on my hard drive from this session but to tell you the truth I had a deadline so I had to make decisions and take the parts I was most comfortable with, and deliver that.

AAJ: So, it leads to this question. Will you guys be jumping on stage together anytime soon?

Helborg MG: Man, I hope so. I can't wait again to play with Jeff and Alex. Alex and I briefly spoke about this—about how to find a way to make some pieces of that information come alive on stage. Of course, we already did it—but maybe not with that exact...

JS: That's a good way to do it—it's a real organic way to write stuff. The improvisations that really work—we can take pieces off of those. Great bands like Weather Report did the same thing. They'd take a jam and develop it into something so it had an organic sound.


Improvision: The Music

AAJ: Yeah, come to think of it Jeff is the jam guy. I mean the common perception would be that Matt and Alex are meticulous, that write everything out, that have these intricate compositions and solos and what you're telling me is that's not your approach—that the intricate stuff comes out of the jams.

MG, JS: Exactly

AM: Yes

AAJ: For instance, people would associate a looser type groove, like "Gem2, with Jeff, but not something like "Along Came a Spider, which has all these arpeggiated guitar parts with interlocking drum parts. By the way guys, the transition between "Gem 1 and "Gem 2 is monstrously tight. Sounds to be Jeff's fault.

JS: Well, "Gem 2, like everything else, was inspired in the moment. The music writes itself if you allow it to happen and the transition can be sudden, smooth, jolting or elegant. You surrender to the moment and hopefully get the right thing. Between "Gem 1 and "2 is obviously a sudden transition.

AAJ: And quite elegant. How "live is it?

AM: Basically that happened live with a bar or two removed. Just a little cosmetics there to make it just more...

AAJ: More unbelievably seamless! These sounds that are not guitar, bass or drum like on the CD— were any of these done during the session with computer or synth?

AM: All the sounds that you're referring to are guitar-synth sounds, and I didn't bring it to the sessions. So they were all added later.

Alex MG: No, I remember you added some stuff like this during the session—didn't you bring something?

AM: Well, sometimes I looped stuff and Matt also has a looping pedal and he also looped stuff. I took as much as I could from the original parts.

MG: Yeah, that's what I was talking about.

AAJ: Is any of "Matt's Riff looped? That one features a longer, more circular line for the theme.

MG: No, we played that.

JS: That was a live thing. Some of the call-and-response stuff to what was set up by the drums is really cool. The effect is that we're dialoguing right there and you set me up so beautifully to do that.

AAJ: The bass solo on that one just takes it to another level.

AM: Matt—you're the man [laughs by all].

MG: When I think about it I could have done more with some things on the record post-session, but that's the downside of having a studio in your apartment, right?

JS: When do you walk away? [Laughs by all]

AAJ: Can you talk about the duet piece?

AM: Because when we played live, and because I know Matt's playing from other records, I know that he always plays these beautiful chords and has absolutely no problem playing by himself. So I told him, "Matt I want to do a duo, so you just play." So he played and I just stood back and composed around that and it turned out to be a really nice piece.

MG: Yeah, man.

JS: You really enhanced it. It's beautiful.

AAJ: Wait. Time out. Do you realize you just said you wanted to play a duet with a musician so you asked him to play a solo? [Laughs by all]

AM: Yes. You know how some jazz musicians write titles to their current girlfriend? "For Monica or whatever? So I thought let's keep it a little more useable; hence, "To Whom it May Concern. [Laughs]

MG: When I heard that piece and the way it came out I listened to it forty times in a row. It's just so interesting where you took that man. We've got to find a way to do that live or even with the trio. Dissect that out and present it.

AAJ: There is a minute of that from ninety seconds out that's very complex, part of which gets classical sounding with complicated substitutions and contrapuntal work between bass and guitar. That sounds beyond you, Alex, reacting to what was laid down.

AM: But I just worked with what I had. I composed around that. On my last record, [sic], I did the same thing with an upright bass solo and we've since played it live. We re-learned it. I'd say as soon as you rehearse it just a little bit you can play stuff like that live. I don't see that we would have any problems to reproduce that song live.

AAJ: Maybe it's because it's off of something that came spontaneously out of one of you, in this case Matt, before.

MG: Cool man.

AM: The only reason I wouldn't want to for that live is I wouldn't want to be trying to do it and hear people chatting and yelling [laughs]. That would take away the beauty of it. [Note: The participants then go off the record and name some venues where just such things have happened.]

Matt Garrison AAJ: Let's discuss the leadoff "There's a New Sheriff in Town.

MG: I remember we did that in a very short amount of time. That first minute took us literally one minute!

AAJ: Wow! I want to ask Jeff about it. You've got a seven-second tom intro on that and go right into the Bad Brains punk riff and then, thirty-five seconds into it, a Mike Clarke, Headhunters type snare and hi hat groove.

MG: Killing!

JS: The moon must have been in Scorpio that day—we just needed a shredder to start—a fast tune—so we just launched into something and everybody came up with something right away.

AAJ: Then we get an incredible and lengthily crazy 32nd note riff over a walking bass line. Now I know this was worked out after.

AM: Don't make me play that live because—at that tempo...

AAJ: That's a nut-buster yeah. [Laughs by all]

MG: Now we've got to do it—that's it!

AAJ: Two minutes in a different lead line, or motif, is used over the walking bass line. It changes the song up completely, and then turns right into a guitar solo laden with mini-motifs.

AM: That was inspired by Matt because he was playing these pedal notes.

AAJ: But to clarify, even though you tracked the solo after the session, I'd bet the solo was done live in your studio.

AM: Definitely, yes—live, but at home.

AAJ: This one also gives us Sipe's only real solo of the session.

JS: Well, there are lots of little moments, like segues or transitions after a solo and into other sections that would be like a rhythmic poetry session. Some of those are little spots, not a drum solo per se, but nice little statements between sections.

AAJ: This one is the longest of those. Then it seems like it's going to fade out but this perfect little movement ends it. It seems like it could have been added from another tune.

AM: No, that was Matt live. He just looped something and played long notes and we used it.

AAJ: It's got that mystical, eastern tonality Matt's been using in his music. It really ends the trip poignantly.

Matthew JS: I'd like to urge people to check out "Yoga for Cats. Right in the middle of that first movement, when we go completely out like insects flying around and go back into the groove. That is a real Zambi moment there [Note: Sipe is referring to 1:45 to the end of "Yoga for Cats 1, and the pickup to "Part 2. "Zambi is a term describing superlative spirituality, as coined by Colonel Bruce Hampton, founder of the Aquarium Rescue Unit].

AAJ: Yeah, that's triggered by a little backwards bass loop there.

JS: A departure then return.

AM: That's all Matthew on that part. For me that it was beautiful to play with a bassist that uses the whole register of the instrument. You get the whole palette. It was really exciting to work with that.

AAJ: One of the themes I hear throughout this record is that Matt plays the top, middle and bottom of the songs, unlike other bassists. Another theme is that many of the solos don't come out of a solo section per se—they emerge from the music, or the arrangement, in a natural way. Sometimes it's surprising for the listener to realize, a couple of bars into it, that we're now into a guitar, bass or drum solo.

AM: That was intentional

AAJ: On "Gem 1, again, the drums parts just build throughout the duration of the song, as does the melodic complexity of the head and then finally the solo, where Jeff and Alex just completely go crazy at the end of it.

AM: At the beginning of that song Jeff plays so many accents that it has to act as a kind of head, if you want to make that kind of comparison. The tune is three times sixteen bars and is in layers. So the first time you hear the first theme, the second you hear theme one and theme two, and the third sixteen you hear all three things together. I actually worked out a fourth part for it that I left out because I was running out of time.

AAJ: On "Gem 1" there is a passage just before the two-minute mark where extra lines are added to the contour of the theme and Jeff shadows you, but actually, then—and now I am getting it—you based that line off of what he did. That tune certainly has enough motivic information—the climbing motif you do in the middle becomes a sub-hook that takes over.

JS: That's my favorite part of the tune—awesome.

AAJ: I noticed you added a second guitar part behind the main one, like chasing yourself—this adds forward momentum.

AM: Exactly. That was intentional to make it happen to get all the themes in.

AAJ: All that cat and mouse propulsion gives the song an odd-time feel.

AM: But it is in four

JS: Most of it is, isn't it?

MG: Yeah

JS: It just doesn't sound like it. For me, this is the freshest recording and the first that I've had the chance to play odd groupings. I mean even-spaced odd groupings, more along the lines of what Frank Zappa was doing, and Edgar Varese, and that kind of rhythmic approach. It was a real thrill for me to play with cats that can hear that stuff and actually apply what little I've been delving into. I feel like I'm scratching the surface of it but I've actually been able to open the door to my stuff with this CD.

Helborg AAJ: How do you feel that this rhythmically is an extension or a progression from what you did with Shawn Lane and Jonas Hellborg?

JS: We never got into that so much actually. We never even touched it. We did a lot of talas and cycles and stuff like that but as far as the truly polyrhythmic stuff, no. We did lot of syncopated stuff but not so much polyrhythmic stuff. That's the difference between the rhythmic challenges of the two groups as I can see it. This group can kind of delve a little bit deeper into the rhythm aspect of the whole thing—it's really exciting for me.

AAJ: That's interesting , because people think of the Hellborg, Lane, Sipe thing as challenging in that way, and if this is on another level ...

JS: I think it's a little more elegant but a little bit deeper in some respects. It's hard to talk about music. That group was a great group but this one allows for a little more poetry I think. There's a breathing room around the notes on this CD that's missing in a lot of the groups I've played with. There's space surrounding every note— no matter how dense the music gets or simply how fast it is, there is always space between the notes—it makes it for me—it's beautiful.

MG: That's great, Jeff

AAJ: Another theme—at first listen, this music is much less dense and complex than at least the stuff Matt and Alex are known for on their own, and I think a lot if that is due to your involvement Jeff.

JS: It's interesting playing in this trio, with the improv and just doing frameworks and sketches. Because at times I felt like, "Wow, I've really got to give these guys something to work with, because I knew they were going to go back and do some stuff over the top of it. So we would launch into an improv and it was like, "Alright, what are we gonna do now?" I remember myself thinking, "Alright, I've gotta spark it here or I gotta push it there. I've got to give these guys something rhythmically to do." You know, instead of laying back. It was very much kind of fronting or sparring with myself.

AAJ: The cool thing about it is whatever's happening there that loose feel underlying it all actually brings out the musicality and virtuosity of Alex and Matt more, to me, than almost their own stuff. You start thinking to yourself, "Man! These guys can do anything."

JS: I think that's true with most collaborations. People get outside of their box when they're in the new place—the new zone.

MG: That's exactly why I was really glad about this no matter how it turned out. That little gig we did before that was actually very helpful to me, to get a feel. It's not really about what we're playing ever. Of course that's part of it ultimately, what's coming out of your hands—but like how do you relate to each other in those moments that you're just there?

JS: Yeah

MG: That moment—that's the shit for me—being able to relate to another human being. And then whatever objects we use to do it, so be it.

JS: [Laughs] It could be a broom or a guitar.

MG: I think we all dealt with each other in a very—I don't know—it just felt really nice, man.

AAJ: Like Jeff said, maybe in the space around those notes there was room for everyone to have a dialogue.

JS: Yeah man, just to be able to throw something out and have it come back at you in a split second is amazing.


Improvision: The Business

AM: I'd like to say something. This is just what Souvik from Abstact Logix envisioned. He came up with the idea and he is the guy who made it happen so my deepest gratitude goes to him. Sometimes you have ideas—inspirations to play or record with different people and it never happens. Souvik is the guy who puts it together and makes it happen and that's what makes him so different than most indie labels and now, major ones as well. He comes out of the blue and makes stuff happen and that's quite extraordinary in my opinion.

JS: If you try to imagine the planet now without Abstract Logix it's not quite as bright a place.

MG: Completely agreed.

AAJ: So what's it going to take to get Sipe off the road with Phil Lesh and Alex out of his tenured professorship at GIT [Guitar Institute of Technology]? It's too much money for you guys right? [laughs]

AM: Oh yeah, man, that's where I chime in.[Laughs]

Alex AAJ: Are you relying on Souvik to put something together or what's the business line on the gigging end?

JS: Man, it's hard to find a booking agent in America that will touch this creative stuff, at least in my experience. It's hard to find any established agent that will take a chance on us because this is art music and not music for the masses. We'd do better in Europe and Japan than we would in our own backyards.

AAJ: Do you agree with that, Europe guy?

AM: No, I think you can play in America and I have a guy soliciting people. I think what's more important is that it comes down to a matter of schedules and we have to decide on a time frame and—we will have to!

JS: Yeah man!

AM: As far as Japan goes, I have a connection there too—so who knows?

JS: I've been trying to introduce this group to the hippie scene, you know, the jamband scene, because I really think people would love it and really dig it—but it's hard to find the machinery.

AAJ: If anyone has those connections in that world you do.

JS: I'm starting to think I 'd be better off calling the clubs myself, because the agent route is not working out. It's a little depressing because after like, fifteen years on the scene you get really excited about something and you want to break something in that you just know would be real exciting and just great—but I'm having a little trouble with it. [Laughs by all]

MG: I hear you, man.

AAJ: Did you ever crack the Hellborg, Lane, Sipe thing in America a little bit?

JS: We did five tours in Europe. Jonas had some help with that, although he booked some of the gigs himself. He had various promoters over there helping him out. Over here we just picked up the phone and called a bunch of clubs and I booked the thing myself. But we'll do it.

MG: I tell you what. Something that could help is maybe—if we could roll it around—because it seems like Souvik was already mentioning that he wanted to do a follow-up already—so quickly. But what I was thinking is that maybe we could properly try to video-capture this stuff. Even if we can't get this thing booked we can still propagate this information as much as we want with whatever modern media is available to us.

AAJ: It prompts me to ask, Matt, I know you are gearing up to present some video lessons and perhaps, sessions, via the web and I was wondering if you'd be interested in doing that with this band.

MG: Of course, man! I have some video equipment and I have just begun shooting sessions. Literally I shot my very first one a few weeks ago. For me it's the marking of a new thing I want to do which is really getting as much of that information, that music, from various types of group situations that I've been trying to put together. I mean if you look at all the issues around getting tours for this type of music these days—if we can't get it into clubs we're going to get it out anyway.

AAJ: Would you guys work this way again or what would be more ideal for you?

AM: For me it would just be ideal to go in and have a great headphone mix right away. Just two full days, with no time lost like we had at the beginning of the session. Another thing that would be interesting would certainly be not to do all the editing by myself, but to have everyone participate.

MG: Right.

AM: At least to have everyone in the same room so that everyone gives his comments on the part, so there is more of a collaboration in the editing process—that would be really interesting.

Helborg JS: That would be great. it would probably take a lot longer though [laughs].

AM: Because then we have to argue and beat each other up.

MG: Then the band has to split up and rejoin. Reunions.

AM: A reunion always sounds better than the original, right? ([aughs]

AAJ: What about the composer credits?

AM: The two songs I referred to earlier are given to me and everything else is just shared equally because everyone did stuff to create the composition.

JS: That's really generous of you man. You put a thousand hours into this thing.

MG: It's true. Thank you Alex.

AAJ: Oh yeah, I mean the publishing on this should be huge [Laughs from all].

MG: I'd really like to do another session and do, like a full video capture. Whatever we want to do with it, capturing all the angles. If we could maybe find a way to combine what Alex is doing sometimes in his studio with what we're doing in a live setting—who knows?

AAJ: Jump cutting from, say, the session to Alex's edits to you guys playing down the rearrangement would be pretty cool indeed.

JS: That sounds like it'd be interesting. You could be like a virtual club just like an online thing so people don't have to leave.

MG: That sounds terrible but if you can't get it booked what else can you do?

AAJ: Pardon me, but do you guys actually think that's a bad idea? It's a great idea! What about the porn business model? Virtual always outsells live! [Laughs from all]

AM: I want to say that I don't see that obstacle can't be overcome. I think it just takes a little bit of time. Over time we'll play some clubs and over time, some festivals. All it takes is some patience and sometimes some shitty gigs, maybe—but they just have to be made aware that there is a group and we make this kind of music, because people always want a box for everything. It will be, "Ah! Now we know what you guys are doing!" And then they'll book it. Matt is well known and Jeff has an audience and it just takes time. People just want a name, and names become what are important. And sometimes that really bugs me because I'm in it for the music—oh wait a minute, I forgot I'm in it for the money. [Laughs from all].

No, you know I'm in it for the music, actually and this whole name thing drives me nuts and this whole reunion thing. There is so much money in it. Come on.

It just takes time and then people know who we are and what we do and know we need and deserve a break and then they'll book it.

MG: Then we can break up and have a reunion and rake it in.[Laughs from all]

MA: Ok, that's it. We're breaking up right now. We'll reunite tomorrow.

AAJ: It's funny you mentioned the DVD thing because I just read an interview with McLaughlin that said he wants to stop making records and just make DVDs.

Jeff Sipe MG: I think he's right, man. Look what is happening. My own DVD has been surprisingly successful. People keep buying it and it just keeps going. It's selling more than the actual CDs with the new music I'm doing. And it's great because even if there are clips on YouTube they see that and they seem to want to get the higher quality video and sound of the DVD. There is definitely a visual component to what we're doing.

AAJ: And to pick up on what we were saying earlier, I think the part about people just wanting a venue to see this sort of music performed, even if it is a piece of media and not a physical place, is more important than actually seeing the details of the performance. And of course fans want to see how you guys physically execute the music.

AM: People want to feel like they are part of it. They want to be in the room. So maybe—yeah, a DVD for the next project. I'll get a good haircut and then—I'm in. [Laughs from all]

AAJ: Hey Alex, just one more thing. Can I send you this interview before it's published so you can rearrange it to make it—y'know—good? [Laughs from all]

JS: Yeah, Alex, I'll contribute by sending you a list of words to use.

MG: I would actually be curious to see that happen

AAJ: I know what would happen. War and Peace. [Laughs from all]

MG: No man, I don't want to read it! Send him that tape—that's what I want to hear.

AAJ: Actually, I have heard a couple of great jazz pieces recently where the music is composed to go along with the arc and cadence of a conversation.

AM: No, I wouldn't go for that, because then we're talking about art again, and nobody books art! [Laughs from all]

Selected Discography

Alex Machacek/Jeff Sipe/Matt Garrison, Improvision (Abstract Logix, 2007)
Alex Machacek, [sic] (Abstract Logix, 2006)
Matthew Garrison, Shapeshifter (Self Published, 2004)
Jonas Hellborg/Shawn Lane/Jeff Sipe, Time is the Enemy (Bardo, reissued 2004)
Jonas Hellborg/Shawn Lane/Jeff Sipe, Temporal Analogues of Paradise (Bardo, reissued 2003)
Jonas Hellborg/Shawn Lane/Jeff Sipe, Personae (Bardo, reissued 2002)
Alex Machacek/BPM, Delete and Roll (Austro Mechana, 2001)
Paul Urbanek/Alex Machacek, The Next Generation of Sound (Extraplatte, 2000)

Matthew Garrison, Matthew Garrison (Self Published, 2000)

Photo Credits
Alex Machacek Photo: Courtesy of Alex Machacek
Matt Garrison Photo: Courtesy of Matt Garrison
Jeff Sipe Photo: Courtesy of Michael Weintrob

Visit Alex Machacek, Matt Garrison and Jeff Sipe on the web.

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