Friday, February 5, 2010

Mr. Bungle, Fantômas, John Zorn Masadas… legendary projects all involving legendary bassist, Trevor Dunn.  After more than two decades of groundbreaking musicianship with the aforementioned groups plus helping found Secret Chiefs Three, his own Trio-Convulsant, and many more; this would surely suffice as enough achievement to ride the wave from here on out to your average Joe.  Then again, Trevor Dunn is certainly not your average Joe.  Ithaca Underground’s Bubba Crumrine sits down with the bassist/composer – who has just returned from Europe with yet another project - to discuss his latest endeavor, MadLove. 

IU: How was Europe?

TD: It was good! It was a bit of a whirlwind tour.  We played 10 shows in 11 days and was on a lot of trains (laughs). 

IU: Which project were you performing with?

TD: I was touring with a cellist named Erik Friedlander – the project is a jazz project of his.  That was one of the freelance things that I do.

IU: What cities did you end up hitting?

TD: Amsterdam, Milan, Venice, several cities in Austria and a few others.  We didn’t see the light of day too often.  We would arrive after dark and have to get up before sunrise so, it was one of those kind of tours.

IU: Wow, I’m glad everything went well despite the packed schedule.

Turning our attention to your latest and much more personally vested group, MadLove… what inspired you to start up the new project? 

TD: That’s a good question...

I felt a void in what I’ve been creating in terms of the kind of music MadLove performs.  I wanted to write music that was more intuitive, less heady, and just write some – so-called – straight up rock music!

IU: How did you end up connecting with Sunny, Ches, Hilmar, and Erik to form the band?

TD: I’ve played with most of them in other projects, in “jazz” setting, for lack of a better word.  Sunny is the only one I didn’t know beforehand.  I heard about her through a friend of mine when I was looking for a singer.  During the process, I sifted through probably 50 different sites online listening to different singers, attempting to figure out who would be the perfect voice for this band. 

IU: Were you always focused on having a female vocalist counterpart?

TD: Yes, definitely.  I wanted there to be that balance between male and female vocals.  That’s something that I’ve always enjoyed in music.  For instance, I’ve always been really into the L.A. punk band X.  I just have a pension for female vocalists in general.

IU: I think it’s a great fit for what you’re doing!  Is the line up static or will it vary?

TD: Yes, hopefully it will stick.  Everyone in the band is busy with additional projects, Sunny lives in Korea, and Hilmar lives in Iceland so, it’s not an easy band to rally up (laughs).  I’ll want to continue working with these particular musicians and do more records.

IU: Do you think you’ll take a similar approach as you did the first time around where you wrote the basis for the songs and then got the others involved or try to get everyone together and jam pieces out on the same continent?

TD: It’s hard to say.  I’ve just stated to thing about the next record.  I might try to make it more collaborative but it really remains to be seen.

IU: How did the first string of shows go last year?

TD: There went well! I’m looking forward to this tour because it will be the first time we’ve played more than one or two shows at a time.  Everything we’ve done up until now have been one-offs or our record release show in NYC.  Last year we did three shows in the city but this is our first official tour.

IU: How have the fans reactions been, with this being your most accessible material in quite a while?

TD:  So far it has been good.  It’s a bit of a strange project because it falls in the crack somehow, even though it’s a rock band, the musicians comes from mixed worlds of music.   The music itself is not that straight ahead either.  So far I’ve received positive remarks and reactions from people online which is usually a good sign.  But, that’s the whole point of touring, to get the music out there, have people hear about it, and get exposure. 

IU: Great! I’m personally excited to see the project live. I’m fairly well versed in your other material so when I heard there would be a Trevor Dunn version of a rock band, I was pretty stoked. 

Do you feel yourself moving artistically, as a whole, in the direction MadLove has taken you or is this just filling a niche that you hadn’t explored in a while?

TD: The latter definitely.  MadLove is something that I want to add to my pallet.  I will be continuing doing what I’ve always been doing while still nurturing this.  Hopefully at some point put the focus on this, really get out there, and hit the road hard.  We’ll see how that comes.  It’s always difficult with a new band that no one has heard of while you’re trying to get it off the ground.  I wouldn’t say this style of writing is going to affect anything else I do.  You could say each band has its own place and agenda.

IU: What are your ultimate hopes for MadLove?

TD: Tour a lot and get records in people’s hands.  I’m aware of the fact that it’s more accessible that the other things I do so I’m trying to reach a broader audience with it.   Like I say though, no one knows who MadLove is yet (laughs) so we’re starting from scratch – which is fine.  It’s always an adventure.

IU: Well hopefully we can help spread the word! 

Now, after more than 20 years as a professional musician, what keeps the creativity flowing and keeps you inspired to wake up and keep doing this?

TD: I guess just curiosity, really, which I hope I never loose.  I still am discovering new music and learning a lot about music in general.  I’m inspired by the music I hear and the friends I talk to.  It’s basically all that I know and all that I do (laughs).  It’s pretty much a 24hr endeavor.  

IU: Anything you’ve run across or someone you’ve performed with recently that has particularly sparked an interest?

TD: Lately I’ve been checking out this Norwegian musician, Hanne Hukkelberg.  She has a record called “Blood From A Stone” that is really nice.  I’ve been listening to plenty of old stuff recently like Dennis Wilson’s solo record from 1977, “Pacific Ocean Blue.”  He was of course, the drummer for the Beach Boys and it’s really amazing. 

In terms of playing with people, I have this quartet that plays the music of Ornette Colman called The Proofreaders and I love playing with those guys.  Pretty much every musician I play with has some kind of influence on me and keeps the spirit going. 

IU: In addition to MadLove, what other projects or collaborations that we should be looking forward to?

TD: I still work with John Zorn quite a bit and I think there are two recordings I’ve done with him that are on their way to release.  One is The Dreamers – our third release plus a new group I think he’s calling White Magic which is a really strange sort of chamber jazz project with harp, piano, vibraphone.  I play electric bass on it and it’s a really interesting project.  We spent three days in the studio recording it and it crosses the line between Steve Reich minimalism and ‘70s fusion mixed with chamber music.  It’s a really interesting project! (Laughs)

IU: I know I’ll be looking forward to that!

TD:  So, those are coming out then I’m playing with this saxophone player named Andrew D’Angelo he has this band called Gay Disco and he’s got an album coming out soon.

IU: Gay Disco?

TD: Gay Disco! Andrew D’Angelo’s Gay Disco Trio.

IU: That’s a fantastic name!

TD: And the music has nothing to do with disco (laughs).

IU: Very cool!  Have you ever been up to Ithaca, NY either with one of your many projects or just hanging out?

TD: You know, it’s funny… I think I spent Thanksgiving up there once in the middle of a Mr. Bungle tour for some reason.  I think someone in the band had friends there.  We were on tour with Melt-Banana and we stopped at some house in Ithaca and had a giant feast!  This time around it will be the last stop on our tour.

IU: How many dates are you doing?

TD: Just eight - a short tour. 

IU: Any dates you’re looking forward to in particular?

TD: Not really one more than another, I’m just looking to get the band on the road.  We are going to Canada – Toronto and Montreal – and then Pittsburg where I have some friends so I’m looking forward to the whole thing!

IU: Will you be heading straight back after the show?

TD: Yes, we are. I actually have a gig with by band Proofreaders in Philadelphia the next night and I believe Hilmar is doing a show somewhere that night as well.  So we have to hit the road immediately.

IU: How many days off in a month do you have?

TD: It depends.  January and February have been crazy for me but the months prior were really slow.  Yesterday, I got home from Europe.  I have two days off, then rehearsing with MadLove, and then hitting the road.  When I get back I have a couple days off then a few gigs and studio time with Zorn.  I have a new Moonchild recording with him coming up.  Then I go to Copenhagen with Gay Disco for two shows and then I come home.  So, February… not a lot of days off (laughs).  But that’s just par for the course with being self employed and being a musician.  You take it as it comes.  When you have days off, you enjoy them.

IU: Well, best of luck on those first seven days and we’ll be here in Ithaca to give you a warm welcome!  Any parting remarks?

TD: Grab a CD or a shirt to help us pay for gas and if you like the show, spread the word about MadLove!