An interview with
Herb Heinz (dud)
"My newest band is called dud. It is a large improvised music
ensemble, somewhere between art music and jam-band, a little like The Grateful
Dead, but completely improvised, with vocals. We are starting to play local
shows." So spoke Herb Heinz in an interview we did about three years
ago. And given the fact that Heinz is both gifted and original my curiosity
had been stimulated.
Given the importance that the visual side has in the whole picture,
the collective (whose name, by the way, is dud) decided to release a DVD-V,
titled eyes. Since - as I wrote in my review - I found eyes to be well
worth my time, I thought this was the perfect time to ask Herb Heinz a
few questions. Conducted by e-mail, the interview took place last week.
a first topic, I'd really like you to talk about the way dud originally
came together. Whose idea was it?
was formed primarily by myself and my longtime friend and improvisational
conspirator, Mark Briggs in early 2003. Mark and I had been playing together,
in various formats, on and off for 20 years, primarily as a group called
Hmmm... We had recently completed our CD, I Only Want Love, and we were
ready for something new.
the time (and still now, to be honest) I was wondering about the relevance
of music to the people and other important things in my life. In particular,
I wanted to explore new ways of creating and presenting my music that might
feel more connected and relevant to my community. dud is a great forum
for this exploration, thanks to our quick and interactive creation process
and our relatively frequent and very diverse performance schedule.
about the musicians who appear on eyes: I have to admit that I know just
a couple of them, so I'd really appreciate if you would talk about them
all, however briefly, and about their contribution to the group.
long list of artists and musicians contribute to dud. It's fantastic to
have such a major talent pool, for the tremendous collection of skills
and experience, and because, in general, we've found that a larger pot
of musical/artistic brains makes a better soup. Here's a bit about most
of the performers on our DVD.
Ball is an inventive and skilled multi-instrumentalist and my former band-mate
in Amy X Neuburg & Men. He was an early member of dud, playing bass,
fretless guitar and his z-tar (an electronic controller) on several tracks
on eyes. He also sang the song mind.
Briggs and I have been friends and collaborators forever. I don't know
of anyone who can create a coherent "lead" vocal, on the fly
like Mark. Religion, the rules, and kool-aid are some examples from the
DVD. Mark also contributes experimental guitar and wind instruments like
Carroll is a totally original electric cellist. Doug was one of the earliest
members of the band and he is on most of the tracks on eyes. Doug played
cello and spoken-word vocals on several tracks.
King is an extremely creative percussionist who was an important contributor
to my CD, Another. Shawn has been with dud since the early days, but because
of his busy schedule, he is only on a couple tracks on eyes. His percussion
on mind (along w/Richard Smith) shows a glimpse of his talent.
Latta is dud's newest recruit and a very talented and original multi-instrumentalist,
who deserves mention even though he is not on eyes. Craig joined dud late
in 2006 as a bass player; currently he is playing guitar.
Rae was originally "just" a listener to dud, but she quickly
found her way into the group and developed her unique role as a kind of
(Greek) chorus, commenting on the various goings-on. Melissa’s lovely vocals
are featured on several tracks like canyouhearme? hopes&fears, and
religion. She also plays clarinet.
Ruddle is another very talented artist who contributed a tremendous amount
to early dud. Kate's fearlessness and her gift for verbal expression enabled
her to function, often, as the "archetypal" voice. Although she
is no longer with the group, she can be heard on several tracks of eyes,
like fear, try and nothing. Kate also worked a bit on the visual side of
dud, contributing camera work and handwriting to the track mind.
Sheats is simply a fantastic bass player. He played on seven of the eleven
tracks on eyes, holding down the grooves and never missing a beat.
Smith has been dud's drummer since the beginning, and he is such a crucial
part of the group that it's difficult to imagine the band without him.
He is featured on every track of eyes, either on electronic drums and/or
singing in his rich distinctive baritone.
Walters is a widely and deeply talented multi-instrumentalist, songwriter,
producer, recording artist, and performing musician. He is one of the more
recent additions to the band. Tim brings several of his musical skills
to dud, including laptop-based sound design mayhem and bass playing.
Abusaidi and his son Alex have contributed tremendously to dud, bringing
a different point of view. Reza operates video cameras and created several
of the earliest dud videos. He eventually brought his (10-year-old,
at the time) son Alex into the group. Alex has worked in several technical
roles, from camera to lighting operator.
Juris is an extremely gifted artist whose work and talent I admire. He
only performs with dud occasionally, but these are often very special shows.
Andrew's "live digital painting" is completely original and unique
- hopes&fears is a great example. Andrew is also the main on-screen
visual performer in the track hungry.
Keller is gifted artist with a bold and original style who joined dud more
recently. Franz's work is featured on the first half of the track called
fear and the track nothing.
Naganuma is a very talented and successful dancer who has been involved
in several dud performances. She is the performer in soundwar.
Thompson is a brilliant and inventive computer programmer and artist who
created much of the visual content of the eyes DVD. Tim came to dud with
only limited experience in this area but has developed his own very distinctive
and sensitive style.
noticed that in concert most of you wear headphones, I guess for monitoring
purposes. Talk about this aspect of the group's live dimension.
headphone monitoring has turned out to be one of the basic elements of
the band. Because we create and inhabit sometimes dense and complex electronic
sound environments, it is important that we all hear as much detail as
possible. There is one "live mix" in a show: our headphones carry
the same mix as the audience, so we can hear all the details and evaluate
our contribution to the whole. This method also helps our recording process
because the "live mix" recordings are usually quite good. We
do usually record in multi-track, in case there are things to "fix" or
creative changes are wanted. But sometimes there's a recording problem,
and the live mix is all there is - for example, on the DVD, the tracks
mind, nothing, and fear are all
"live mix" recordings.
is a way in which headphones can feel like they are separating the band
from the audience. Yet they also bring you closer to the (shared) musical
space. I think they are a nice way to listen to dud, as it allows the listener
to inhabit the sound-scape like we do when performing. Someday we may find
a way to have an entire audience wear headphones.
the music on eyes is definitely on the accessible side, I think it really
needs a certain amount of attention on the part of the listeners to really
work. So I'm curious to know more about the different types of places
you play in, and audiences' reactions so far.
best audience reactions tend to come from open-minded and creative people,
particularly other musicians, artists and people who appreciate the un-ordinary.
isn't really surprising, because the music does not really "tell" the
listener how to hear it. It probably requires "creative listening" to
really appreciate. Ideally, there is enough happening in the music to keep
"creative listener" busy. I like this notion, because the audience
is participating in the process.
has performed in a lot of environments like galleries, parks, parties,
theatres, clubs, festivals, etc. We are interested in different venues
not only to access different audiences, but also because the venue has
a major affect what we do. The "topic" of a concert always includes
noticed that in concert you play a Novation keyboard - but what's the
guitar, a Strat-like Modulus (with, I imagine, a graphite neck)? It's
because it works well against the Gretsch?
guitar is usually a Modulus Graphite with a Roland GK pickup, often driving
a Roland VG8 guitar processor directly into the mix (no amp; the VG8 simulates
that). The great thing about the VG is I can change everything (tuning,
effects, amp, etc.) with a footswitch.
often plays the Gretsch, but he also uses other guitars. His instrument
is a bit more "traditional" in that sense.
usually use the Novation X-Station as my keyboard. I use it to drive various
synths or the internal one.
the music of the group is, I understand, improvised, the resulting whole
sounds surprisingly coherent, and quite easy to grasp, I think. Do you
think there is an “imaginary” conceptual whole the members keep in mind
while playing acting as a "rejection rule"? (Hope this is clear.)
coherence you refer to is, to me, our goal. It is a thing that we recognize
immediately, but it's elusive. We sort of know how to get there, but we
don't when we are there... we can't know, because once we (think we) know,
we tend to lose touch with our connection to it. Getting there seems to
require some intention but primarily a kind of pure openness, sincerity,
and/or heart. Kinda like quantum physics... or maybe religious faith. Sometimes
we call this place
than that, we're just a pop band, dig?
course, everyday life gives us plenty of topics to think about (I often
wonder about the reason why so many groups restrict themselves to such
banalities in their songs...). Would you mind talking about the way reality
contributes to the group's work? (I mean, in the way of the lyrics.)
lyrics are attempts to poetically state what's on our mind that day, that
moment. It often starts with something banal. When it is "translated"
or expressed as a poetic idea or an image, possibilities open up in the interpretation
it must be true when it is said. Again, I go back toward the coherence/truth/heart
is really a strange name for a group, inviting all sorts of reactions
(dunno whether you remember J.D. Considine's review of an album by the
group GTR, which consisted of just one word: SHT). How do you see the
group's work in the context of today's (music and media) landscape?
artists and makers of (pop?) culture, it's our job to be creative. Much
of today's music/media/cultural landscape, like other competitive environments,
favors non-creativity. So the name - our first impression or introduction
- tries to get you off on the right foot by challenging you to form your
own opinion. The easy choice is to mindlessly agree. The creative possibility
is to decide for yourself!
closing, the usual question about future plans.
is really all about our live shows. Everything else is window dressing.
But dressing the windows seems to be my job, and it keeps me busy. So I
do not currently have plans for any major artistic projects outside of
dud. We will likely release a DVD of our January 6, 2007 concert, in order
to open another window. Maybe a series of "video singles" on
DVD. That's about it... oh, except for the expedition to Mars...
Beppe Colli 2007
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