The Bad Plus' Dave King: Our music has a lot of information in it
From left: Dave King, Ethan Iverson, and Reid Anderson
Photo by Cameron Wittig
Dave King has an all-caps approach to his creative existence. The Bad Plus drummer has so many projects whizzing around in his shaved dome that you should probably just consult his website to get the level of familiarity necessary. In short, he could put out albums in 2013 with Dave King's Trucking Co., the Gang Font, and Halloween, Alaska, and that might be less than half of his output.
With this year's Made Possible, the Bad Plus, King's experimental trio with pianist Ethan Iverson and bassist Reid Anderson, released an intense collection of original tunes (and a reworking of Paul Motian's "Victoria") that displays the precision of highly intelligent machines, but pulses like a human heart. They play some mean covers too, but this is really knotty stuff for an evening listen.
Prior to the Bad Plus' holiday slate of shows at the Dakota this weekend, King and Gimme Noise discussed his unfiltered blogging [you must read!] and being a cover boy for Modern Drummer.
Gimme Noise: You seem to have a veiled contempt for young people.
Dave King: [Uproarious laughter] Oh shoot. I even have music on one of my solo recordings called "Homage: Young People." [Note: This turns out to be totally true.] Did you hear that? I have a 12-year-old daughter. I can add something to that equation.
It was just something I noticed in a blog you wrote in September. You were detailing living by an arts high school. "Young assholes are walking by my house with their cigarettes burning holes in their frail cool hearts," and such.
I was with Hüsker Dü's Greg Norton one time, he just said to me "Man, I'm almost glad that type of thing wasn't around when I was around in high school." I said, "Oh really, I know some people who would have loved to have that kind of experience." I thought about it more, and if I had a ton of support when I was 16 for my ideas, maybe I wouldn't have developed them more.
How supportive was the setting for the creation of Made Possible?
One thing that's been nice in the whole band's trajectory is the band is based in New York City and it always has been. We always discuss recording at a home studio, which we've all done with other projects. But this band always works in hideaway studios, because we really only make records for a couple days. We pretty much just play live. We did our last three at Pachyderm near Cannon Falls, so we were really looking for another one of these environments where it's a little less hectic. Our music does have a lot of information in it, and you want to be able to clear yourself. You don't have to hustle on the Subway or anything to get there. It has really helped our band because we have three leader personalities. It's a beautiful studio in Upstate New York, and it's another environment like Pachyderm. In the middle of nowhere.
I'm not really the type of drummer that plays the Modern Drummer festivals. I'm definitely more of an ensemble musician. When I was told about it, I felt more like the body of work was being paid attention to rather than a great drum performance on any one record. The guy who wrote the piece had come to see me for years, so when he told me he wanted to do that I was really quite surprised. Usually it's the drummer for Green Day on the cover. I was like "Are you kidding me?"
How many different setups do you employ for your groups?
That's actually a great question. I actually use pretty much the same setup. For Halloween, Alaska I just have that little six-tab Roland thing. I try to have a melodic drum touch for whatever I'm playing. For the most part, it's a standard four-piece drum kit.
So if the gear is the same, you're packing a different state of mind depending on which outfit you're playing with.
Approach a group on their own terms. Bad Plus versus Happy Apple or something that has horns... all these things are on my mind on some level. With Halloween, Alaska, it's definitely less of an improvisational live set. It all comes down to the fact that I'm a fan of a lot of music. I'm not a guy with one type of music that I'm listening to. The more and more I exist in the musical world, I realize that is an anomaly. When you're in different camps of musicians, you have to have different mindsets. It's an interesting world to jump back and forth between sometimes. No matter what I'm doing, whether it's a Monday night at the Icehouse or I'm playing Carnegie Hall, I just try to be a vital component of what is happening -- whatever level it's on.
What mindset comes along with the Bad Plus holiday shows?
We're thinking about ways to make sure that the impact is there every year. We love playing in any city for more than one night. I can't stress how thankful we are. When you play music that's not based in some commercial idea, or some sort of scene, or something. You have to ask people to sit and try and become a part of the experience. When people do that year after year in the same spot, it's really heartwarming.
What is your New Year's resolution for 2013?
I might actually have one. I think I'd like to finally start my Rosetta Stone French. I have the maxed-out one, and I've had it for a few years now sitting on the shelf. It's time. We'll see if that shit works. I'm going to let you know if that Rosetta Stone shit works.
What doors do you hope that will open up for you?
[Chuckles] You know, I'll be able to order food when we play France.
The Bad Plus play at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Friday, December 28, and Saturday, December 29, at the Dakota Jazz Club. Tickets here.
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