By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
CP: How did it come together?
Reid: I started doing some things before the band officially broke up, things I had always been thinking about, like bringing in more hip-hop music. The record is the culmination of two distinct sessions, the first ones in '94 with Fred Hopkins on upright bass, and James Carter, the great young saxophonist, and Graham Haynes.
CP: So it was pretty much heavy-duty jazz cats?
Reid: DJ Spooky and DJ Blaze were also in on those early sessions. Then I had a show to do and I decided to put together a band and that led to the '95 sessions. It came out of relationships. I met the bass player, Hank Schroy, when I produced a demo for his band No Walls, an alternative band out of Atlanta. Curtis [Watts, the drummer] was in this hip-hop band SSL. DJ Logic was in a friend of mine's band that broke up, called Eye and Eye. The thing I liked about him was that he was very quiet. Hip-hop is all this boisterous "I, me me me," and he wasn't like that. Graham Haynes was out of town so I called up my friend Don Byron, and he became very crucial. The sound of the clarinet and guitar together is unique. The clarinet is such a warm sound but the thing that is great about him is he is an unsentimental player; like the violin, the clarinet can sound very cloying and he has that well under control.
CP: It strikes me that this is a uniquely New York record.
Reid: Very much so. Things collide. There are a lot of odd instruments going through it. Seamus Eagen, this great Celtic musician, came by and played illin pipes. John Sherman, a wonderful accordionist and singer, has this thing called a ClopBox, a percussion instrument made out of piano wire and a banjo head that is really weird. Brian Coleman plays this variation on a dulcimer and a santur, called a marxaphone. There are tablas, and Nigerian clay pots. I love the idea of things colliding, like to have Chubb Rock and Don Byron come to the same point from opposite directions on a song like "You Say He's Just A Psychic Friend."
CP: Having producers from two generations like Teo Macero and Prince Paul seems like an intentional collision. How did that work out?
Reid: Amazingly well. The process was unprecedented. Teo was amazing. There's a song on the album, "Unborne Embrace," which is actually two pieces of music. I met this engineer, Tchad Blake, who works with Los Lobos and Peter Gabriel and he does these recordings with microphones that are set around the width of the human head; when you hear it, it is absolutely directional, you hear it just where it was recorded. And we went into a stone quarry 50 feet underground and I took an amp and a guitar and this e-bow string driver, and just improvised. At the end he gave me the DAT and said to use it for segues or whatever.
So I gave it to Teo and told him to think about it for segues and stuff. He listened to it, and you know, he's kind of Zen-like, he's got the biggest ears in the world. And he says, "You know there is something I composed and recorded in 1950 that I think is in the same key." So he brought out this record that he did eight years before I was born and we started the record and the tape together and we didn't sample or harmonize or do anything to justify them to each other. And when we played it back it came out like one piece of music.
Teo and DJ Logic are still getting together, eating meals and playing music for each other. I've never seen such a thing where this Gen-X guy and this cat--Teo won't tell you how old he is, but he's got to be at least 70. And the thing is, Teo is not laid back. This is the guy who made the first true acid jazz records with Miles, with the guitar and all that abrasion. When we were doing "Saint Cobain," and this thing was roaring through the speakers, he was into it; saying things like "this is good, but can we make it louder?" The guy should be doing rock records because he was like an animal.
CP: You're probably going to get asked more questions about "Saint Cobain" than anything else on the record. But it seems like the most straightforward, least sonically adventurous track.
Reid: Well, I would say it talks about something in a nonlinear way. There is kind of a three-chord, heavy guitar thing, because rock & roll is something that is a part of me. But it's like in the liner notes, I thank Soundgarden for their song "The Day I Tried To Live," because it actually kept me going one day in my apartment. In the same way, "Saint Cobain" is really about the effect his final act had on me because no one believes that if you have any measure of success that you have a right to be unhappy. I think self-destructive acting-out, whether it is drugs or sexual obsession or whatever, is because of the distance between the personal reality and the perceived reality of your life. It can be a cavern, a deep, dark cavern, and I think it is affecting many of the most popular people working today.