Completing the Current Circuit with Fuze

Phil DiPietro By

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Guitarist David "Fuze" Fiuczynski has remained somewhat of an incongruously well-kept secret despite his staggeringly complete resume, forward-thinking conceptual approach, and absolutely spine-chilling command of guitar technique. He's also been ahead of the curve on a few things; for one, the funk-metal crossover stylings that have dominated the popular music airwaves for quite some time now. His Screaming Headless Torsos were pumping fresh air into this genre back in 1995 with a major label studio release, and the previously import-only SHT Live!, which has been re-released on his independent label, Fuzelicious Morsels. Who knows how many of the current crop of young bands tacitly took of Torso tactics?

Unfettered by classification, Fuze was also a Jazz-Punk crossover progenitor long before releasing his indie-label-debut CD by the same name. Beyond proving he was a jazzer with a punk heart, JazzPunk also showed that Fiuczynski was out in front of the jazz/jungle/drum'n'bass/etcetronica crossover, as well—a hybrid that swirled, in great part, out of small New York clubs in which co-conspirator and, if anything, more criminally unheralded Torso, and still future—drummer, Jojo Mayer, plied his trade, holding court over his now legendary "Nerve" nights.

Arguably, Fiuczynski was even out in front of the jamband/jazz phenomena with 1994's Lunar Crush, a collaboration with Jon Medeski that barely preceded the breakthrough success of MMW's Shackman and received off-the-charts critical acclaim, similar to much of what Fiuczynski has received. Our favorite? Jazz Times, who said, "Fuze sends the bulk of today's jazz fusion scurrying into the shameful holes from whence it came."

Not so finally, let's at least give Fuze his partial due and pronounce him the world's premier fretless guitarist, shall we? C'mon now, nobody else is doing it and if they even come close to approximating this sound, it's with a slide (like David Tronzo and Derek Trucks)—not anything like Fuze's trademark fretless/fretted purple passion double neck. In great part, his dedicated undertaking of the intricacies of the fretless axe came in response to his ardor for "world sounds," yet another currently hip categorizing buzzphrase that Fuze had a way-early and genuine (not bandwagon-driven) interest in prior to its ascension to a label for bins of CDs. Among other things, this facet of his musical persona manifests itself during ventures into some extremely interesting musical territory with exotic scales and their application.

I offer the following vignette to support that statement. I attended a clinic/concert conducted by Fuze for Berklee's summer guitar week, during which Fiuczynski demonstrated two scales in succession, one containing conventionally flatted second, fifth and seventh degrees followed by another (the "name" escapes me) containing both a quarter-flat second and a quarter-sharp fifth tones. While Fiuczynski would explain that this is merely the tip of the iceberg with exotic scales, and that in no way should he be considered an expert on their application, especially compared to his Mideastern and other ethnic musical brethren, it still made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. After an instant of thinking I was alone in my admiration of his knowledge and skills, a response that could only happen at Berklee ensued-first a smattering of applause that expanded into hoops and hollers and, finally, one student's out loud—exclamation point—of, "That f%$king rocked, dude!"

Fiuczynski recently assumed a position at Berklee, which has precipitated a few very major changes. Fiuczynski and wife Lian Amber had recently moved from Brooklyn to Woodstock area, but are now moving again. As Fiuczynski explains, "I am moving to western Mass. because I'm starting this job in Boston, so I'll be near Boston, and also on the way to New York." What about all his other projects? "SHT are still working on a new record. It's going slow though. I have a number of things that are coming out now. Black Cherry Acid Lab just came out. It's a foray into punk funk and rap. Part of what inspired Black Cherry... I wasn't really interested in doing it by I did'was this gig in Paris with the trombone player, Craig Harris. He did these really short vignettes with these rappers and I really dug it. I was inspired by him and also by George Russell's electronic sonata—his piece called 'song 1A.' I did a version of it on Black Cherry, which, by the way, is an EP. So it's quite a crossbreed of references. Punk, funk and rap with George Russell! It's a really underground feel—pieced together and pretty lo-fi."

Fiuczynski did part of Acid Lab at his home studio, clarifying, "It was mostly done in other places, but, I have another project, called Kif, which was all done at home. Kif is Rufus Capadoccia on cello, with Gene Lake and Tobias Ralph on drums, and myself. It was recorded in Brooklyn at our place, with the help of Per Wikstrom. He's been a friend for a long time and he works a lot with Meshuggah. He's also done a lot of studio work with Mats and Morgan. So he was like, 'I am just putting my studio together. I just bought all these mic preamps and these mics and I'll be in the states..why don't we do something?' So, we did all the basics almost two years ago and then finally, I laid down all my parts and finished of the other musicians' parts and it's ready to be mixed.

"At times Kif is augmented by Lian Amber on vocals, Daniel Sadownick on percussion and Matt Darriau, as well. I arranged one of his tunes and invited him to play it, one that I don't think he's recorded, called 'Gaida.' He's playing caval, which is the eastern European version of the nay which is an end-blown flute. He's also playing clarinet and gaida (same as the tune's title), which is, in fact, the body of a goat, which is used as the bellows on eastern European bagpipe.

"I was always checking out world music, and going back to 1992, I was invited to play with Western musicians at the World's Fair in Seville with the Moroccan contingent. The Moroccans got Richard Horowitz, who plays ney and keyboards, to acquire western musicians to back up all these folkloric groups. They had Jon Hassell, Jamey Haddad and people like that. All the Moroccans were like, 'Did you know Jimi Hendrix was here? Jimi Hendrix!' That put a bug in my ear. Since then I always wanted to mix these sounds with western grooves. Now, ten years later here it is."

What's the derivation of the name? Kif is something you smoke and enjoy. If you don't know what it is you don't need to know any more. Kif will hit early next year. As far as the new Screaming Headless Torsos, that's "Screaming" so it's with vocals, there is new music and it's done, but we need to record it. I wanted to do half with Freedom Bremner (who was recently featured on Moby's 18 ) and half with Dean Bowman (who can be recently found on the road with Charlie Hunter), but there have been some delays. So it won't likely hit until next summer. This is in the recording pipeline with Kif as opposed to Acid Lab, which has been effectively finished for years."

As usual, Fuze has a new project too-one which has grown organically out of gigging practicalities and his new ties to Berklee. "Of late, I have been going on the road, with Tao, and that's looking back and looking forward. I'm kind of ripping tunes from my earlier projects like Lunar Crush, Headless Torsos, Kif, and JazzPunk and combining them with some new tunes. I'd eventually like to record the new tunes that we're playing with more cats on them, like a Chinese lute, called the pipa, or the erhu, the one-string bowed instrument from China... I also want to learn how to play shamisen. I am going to play fretless guitar, guitar and have bass and drums, but augment it with keys, winds, strings, middle-eastern Indian, and east Asian sounds. The recording should have that stuff on it.

"But in terms of gigging it, I'm gigging that stuff already, but as a trio, because that's as small as I can go in terms of the economic reality, in a nutshell. Tony Grey is my bassist and a great find in Boston, and Dave DiCenso, who also teaches at Berklee has been playing drums. When Dave has a conflict, Akira Nakamura has been more than ably subbing on drums. I am currently looking for a weekly gig in Boston—I'd love to just go nuts with that. We even have a west coast mini-tour coming up. For that I've put together a West Coast section with Adrian Harpham on drums, who also plays a couple of the Acid Lab cuts, and a bassist that Adrian hooked me up with named Kaveh Rastegar, who plays bass with Action Figure Party (note: as did longtime Torsos bassist Fima Ephron).

The direction I'm heading in is basically eastern sounds over western grooves, or Eastern-exotica-groove-jams!. And I do want to take it to the people. In addition, we really need to get Lian's music out there as well. We have a tour booked in February in Europe. It will be Kif backing her up and a set of Kif music as well—a configuration that we've gigged before. Lian has a bunch of demos ready to go, but in our opinion, they need to sound even better. You have to get good players, get them rehearsed, get 'em into a good studio with a good engineer and have money to promote and go on tour. Our home rig is good for overdubs and we can't mix. That's one thing we have to leave that to the professionals."

Besides selling more records and upping attendance at shows, what other challenges lay before the principals of Fuzelicious Morsels? "There's plenty in the works. And there's plenty of my stuff already out there (Note: check out a surprisingly deep discography here ), but we'll see. We have to get through this move first. On a personal front, we're planning slowly but surely for the next generation—planning but not into production!

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