AAJ: Most of those nice people that you mentioned are now gone.
ME: That's what sickens methat almost all of my friends from when I first went to New York in '81 are all gone, from AIDS, then drug abuse. The whole life of being an artist in America killed a lot of people; it's not so much the drugs and the diseases but the iron fist of corporate capitalism, American non-acknowledgement of the artist. And here, to answer it, you have the iron fist of the Catholic church, the previous history of Nazis and Hitler, but in America you have its history also, but the main thing is that in America you have this corporate greed and you have the hatred of anything creative and artistic and hatred of poor people. George Bush doesn't like black people. It's true, George Bush doesn't like black people, he doesn't like red people or yellow people or poor people or poor white people. He doesn't like anybody. And they do that in the name of...whoever their God is but it's not my God.
ME: So as you can see I'm a loud enough political person.
AAJ: Your orchestra work is very interesting. Have you made any other recordings in an orchestral setting, apart from the Creative Music Orchestra and the American Jungle Orchestra ?
ME: With my own orchestra? No I have not. I've worked with William Parker, in The Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra. And my own stuff, well that one that you just played we rehearsed once a week for some six or seven months before we went to the studio. I have the American Jungle Orchestra where we did a bunch of work and then we went into this club and played once a week for a month, which was recorded and is on the release that you have. Yeah I've done some work here and there but nothing that's been released...
I'm trying to do something here in Vienna. I want to make an orchestra here. I have some boys from Burgenland, from Nickelsdorf, some older Green Party boys, they're going to make a choir doing some avant-garde stuff, and I just met a woman who runs a theatre group made up of Austrians and Nigerians. Most of the Nigerians are refugees and I want to do something with that, like a bunch of musicians and vocal theatre, avant-garde group.
My favorite setting is the trio but I also like having a large group orchestra. What you just played was made up of younger musicians, a lot of whom were not that experienced. Glenn and I just loved to blow on top of that and have a lot of freedom to play on top. And I love that big sound of the orchestra, like a freight train going down the road and you just grab on and I'm there I'm not grabbing on, I'm at the front of the train, on the top and blowing. The other musicians, they have to grab on and hopefully they get on in time before the train leaves the station.
AAJ: The orchestra in Vienna is one of your current projects?
ME: It's not together yet but it's starting. Just these last two weeks I started at this wonderful restaurant, a café club called Celesté run by a very beautiful man who's helping me out in many ways, who's from Iraq, from Baghdad. He's been in Austria for 30 years I believe, and has run this place for 20 years. I have a weekly Monday night, jam session. Every week I have a new special guest. Two weeks ago it was Hans Falbe from Nicklesdorf Jazz Gallery who has this most important jazz festival in Europe, The Confrontatione. Last week I had Paul Lovens, and next week I have Georg Grawe and a young wonderful drummer from Vienna, Didi Kern. One night there was a very wonderful saxophonist, a woman from Austria, Tanja Feichtmair. We have Nigerian drummer night, and this theatre group night with Birgit Fritz, and through this jam session I invite different musicians and we play in duo or trio and we try to do something together... but yeah, I'd like to make an orchestra.
A couple of weeks ago this man came in, a translator, works in the courthouse and also plays the saxophone; a friend of mine. I was trying to get these guys to sing. And he started singing in old old Greek, Greek from 3000 years ago, old old Greek songs. And it was incredible; first I thought it was some strange Austrian dialect. Then I found out that it was old Greek. I like to play in solo, in small ensembles, and also large groups where I can compose and mold in a certain fashion, in a fashion so I can play through that.
AAJ: Sounds like there's a whole lotta shaking going on in Vienna.
ME: Yeah I'm trying to shake these people up 'cause they're sleepy and tired.
AAJ: But they do appreciate your music.
ME: I'm not sure if they do, I think that maybe I'll wake them up and then we'll find out.
AAJ: How do you see the future of your music? Which way is it going? Which way do you want it to go?
ME: I just want to continue what I'm doing, keep in good health, work hard at my work and continue being fresh, young and alive. Packing my bags and throwing all my stuff away and coming to Austriaa country where I didn't know anybody, I didn't speak the language and didn't know the placethat move was so dramatic. Sometimes it's good to just jump off, jump into the water and make a change, a complete change and that's what keeps you young and fresh and alive, brings new ideas to your mind and sustains the creativity. Where we are if you're there too long, if you're not pushing and moving, if nothing's happening, then it's really easy to become lazy and locked into your own normal routines. So this move forced me to make a complete change, and learn a new language. I'm finding Deutch to be very difficult to learn but am making lot of new friends. For the first time I have a whole bunch of friends who are not musicians, it's really quite nice. And it's filling my creative thoughts and creative energy in a certain way that if I'd stayed in California I would have not.