Gorge Trio (1999)
By Beppe Colli
Feb. 17, 2003
and "innovative" are common words in the music press, especially
in those magazines that deal with rock music. Most of the times, alas!,
not very appropriately. Among the legions of "innovative"
rock groups coming from the States, Gorge Trio had appeared to me a
few years ago to be one of the most promising. Three young men whom
I saw live as three quarters of Colossamite - a group to which they
gave the most interesting instrumental traits - who had released a CD
called Dead Chicken Fear No Knife. During an informal chat that occurred
the day after the Colossamite concert they had seemed to be good guys,
very conscious of their own limits and of the long road that still lay
ahead. While the young guitar players Ed Rodriguez and John Dieterich
were your basically average players, the still younger drummer Chad
Popple had appeared to me as the most impressive member of the group,
his agile, dry drumming style more similar to, say, Chris Cutler's drumming
than to the Cobham-like approach of Don Caballero's Damon Che. During
that conversation Popple had spoken in enthusiastic terms of a jazz
Festival in Chicago where some Free Music Production artists from Germany
had played, so I had decided to give him a tape with some Henry Cow
and Camberwell Now tracks on it (very good music, very good drummers).
The next Gorge Trio CD, For Loss Of (still the most recent at the moment
of this writing) had sounded to me as pretty unusual, so I decided that
a chat about it was in order. I sent the same questions to Ed Rodriguez
and John Dieterich - Chad Popple, then living in Germany, being unreachable
in Spain. The interview was published in Italian language in the Italian
magazine Blow Up, issue # 18, November 1999. It appears here in English
language for the first time.
easy to guess that your new work, For Loss Of, will surprise quite a
few among those who had listened to your previous album, Dead Chicken
Fear No Knife, starting from the fact that you've recorded it using
a larger instrumentation and together with Milo Fine - a name that I
imagine won't say much to a lot of our readers (I have to confess that,
although I had listened to some of the work he did with Borbetomagus
and Joe McPhee - way back - I had totally lost track of him). Would
you mind saying something about him and about your work together?
Ed: I feel
like I get something from him every time we get together, and I don't
believe I can say that about anyone else. Even in our dissimilarities
I find truths and he has helped me connect with myself in both my music
and my life. He's also one of the most unique and amazing musicians
I've played with.
Fine is one of the greatest musicians I've ever come into contact with.
He has had a profound impact on the way I think about and approach music.
He has been a huge influence in terms of using silence as an ACTIVE
compositional element in improvisation. The first record came about
as a direct result of playing in Colossamite and developing this very
structured, very loud, kinetic music together. When Colossamite began,
Gorge Trio essentially ended, and we were happy with that for a while.
At some point, however, we decided it would be worth trying out the
trio format to see what the new experiences would bring out in terms
of compositional development. I was writing all of these pretty, slow
things that I felt weren't jibing with the way Colossamite was moving,
and I think the sound of Dead Chicken was directly related to that fact,
and we consciously tried to explore areas that we weren't exploring
in Colossamite. By the time Dead Chicken was released, Gorge Trio was
playing almost exclusively free improvised stuff (in fact, we only played
the Dead Chicken songs live once), and we were exploring different formats
for each show we did. Ed was starting to bring in his homemade instruments
(sawed-off guitar and kringleharp primarily), Chad was bringing his
tablas and other percussives, and I was trying out new setups, as well
(electronics, pedal steel guitar, etc.).
album is timbrally very rich - it's pretty layered, sometimes - but
it maintains a "real time playing" quality that instantly
connects it to both "rock" and "impro/jazz" music;
what were your reference points when recording it? And what made you
decide in favour of one long (though indexed) track, that takes its
time, as opposed to the more compact - and maybe more listener-friendly
- episodes on your first CD? Sometimes it's pretty difficult to determine
the source of the sounds (I don't known whether this was maybe part
of your intention or just a by-product of your timbral research - or
both), for instance the sound that's on the left channel, starting at
about 1'20", which gets progressively louder. And, generally speaking,
the guitars are used more as texture when compared to what's common
in "rock" - sometimes,
I think, more in the neighbourhood of, say, Fred Frith.
Ed: I think
that in improvisation, once you embrace sound as it is you can get in
touch with the possibilities
music has always presented to you, but you may not have noticed due
to your own decided course of action. A lot of it is getting past your
first reactions and your pre-programmed forms of interaction.
group just started moving into the direction of exploring more sonic
possibilities and expanding our instrumentation. Ed had these new instruments
he was building, and we were modifying and preparing the things we already
had. In terms of the "real-time" feel, that was definitely
a conscious decision on our part. I started to go through and remix
and reconstruct the recorded material we had (almost all of which was
recorded in a day in October '98). I really didn't want to alter the
feeling that was generated by the material (the source material for
the record was completely improvised). As the process developed, Ed
was really helpful in terms of encouraging me to take risks and try
out some of the electronics ideas that I was working on, and a lot of
it ended up on the record. All of the processed sounds are based, in
one way or another, on the improvised material we started out with.
In terms of the "one long track," it just became more interesting
when putting the material together to set up more complex relationships
between sections, things that could never happen in "real time,"
and present it as a sort of whole, rather than a bunch of disparate
sections. The last step in the recording was giving it to Milo, who
suggested that he improvise his part in real time while not listening
to the recording, which is what he did (he listened to it once a week
before he laid his tracks down). Milo's contribution really added another
layer of immediacy and gave a depth to the music that wasn't there beforehand.
a "sawed-off" guitar? And a "kringle-harp"?
Ed: The "sawed-off guitar" is an instrument I made by taking
the neck of the guitar and moving it on top of the body, sawing off
the bottom of the guitar to access the neck. Its more neck than body
with seven light strings criss crossed over each other to get a sound
like a ring modulator. The kringle-harp is another homemade thing. I
really like the sound of open bowed strings so I made this open box,
with bass strings criss crossing inside of it. I play it with a bow
in each hand. Each string has a pick-up in it and at any time I can
bow a single string or touch up to three surfaces at the same time.
It's the low repeated string sound you hear at the end of the record.
It's a nice textural instrument.
different plane, I wonder whether you've listened to Grow Fins, the
Captain Beefheart Box Set. I was recently exchanging opinions with Peter
Frame (the English "rock historian") about the box set, and
he told me that, in the late '60s/early '70s, in the U.K. Beefheart's
albums sold more than the Doors, Frank Zappa or the Jefferson Airplane
- which was totally unexpected on my part. Anyway, when it first came
out, Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica was considered a "rock"
album; here's my question: how do you see the state of "rock"
music today when it comes to experimenting with form?
Ed: I really
see some great things happening in rock music. Part of that is because
I realize the multiple functions and forms of music. If you look to
the mainstream you'll do nothing but drive yourself crazy, because we
all know that it's not OUR music. The second people realized they could
make money from it, it no longer was ours anymore. If we look to those
we feel a connection to you have a better chance of staying positive
and encouraged about music, which is what is important. I think of those
like Storm & Stress and U.S. Maple, anyone with an adventurous spirit.
That always keeps me excited.
me, the most interesting experimentation with form often comes from
the rock world, which sort of makes sense in that, in the rock context
you usually have a group of people who get together and stick together
for a while and work towards something. This sort of process seems to
lend itself to developing a unique vocabulary, etc. The problems come
when the vocabulary is codified and growth stops. I just saw a GREAT
band the other night called Deerhoof, and it reminded me of what is
possible with rock music.
think I get what you mean, but what about improvisers or jazzers? Don't
they develop a "unique vocabulary"?
Yes, improvisors also develop unique vocabularies, but the difference
to me is that improvisors are constantly attempting to break down those
vocabularies and search for new ones (or at least they should be, in
my opinion). I also don't mean to imply that there are hard and fast
divisions between these things, because there aren't. I consider Gorge
Trio to be a group of improvisors who also happen to be interested in
rock, and I think that's very formative, for us.
kind of music are you grooving to, so to speak, these days?
present I am not really listening to music much which is quite normal
new U.S. Maple, Christian Fennecz's Hotel Paral.lel (still), Xenakis'
electroacoustic stuff from the 70's (Electroacoustic Works), etc.
I saw you play last year, in Colossamite, I liked what I saw, though
that tiny, smoky, humid place (not to mention the headbanging contest
at the end of the concert) did not exactly help one's concentration.
Do you have any plan to tour as Gorge Trio?
are hoping to tour mid-2000, and plans are in the works.
anything you want to add about your current musical projects, occupations,
Ed: A new
Iceburn record, on which I play drums, is completed and coming out in
November. It's a double trio (sax/guitar/drums). We're planning to tour
soon and hope to come to Europe in 2000. I'm also playing drums with Nick Sakes (Colossamite/Dazzling
Killmen) in a band called Sicbay, which will be recording soon. I'm
also working with my own group (playing guitar) which, for the moment,
is called Glitterati. I'm really excited about that right now, it's
showing great promise.
living in Oakland, California and studying electronic music at Mills
College right now. I'm also playing in a Mills performance ensemble
directed by Fred Frith. I'm working on a solo record of electronic music
(tentatively entitled Lucky Florist) which I have all the pieces to
but still need to assemble. A collaboration with Ed Chang, (NY) David
Forlano and Sean O'Donnell (Philadelphia) called Ring Steppers will
be done within the next couple of months (finally), and I'm working
on a bunch of other things, but I'm not sure what will happen with any
© Beppe Colli 1999 - 2003
CloudsandClocks.net | Feb. 17, 2003