Tuesday, November 15, 2011
ugEXPLODE Artists #1: Marc Edwards/Weasel Walter Group
The Marc Edwards/Weasel Walter Group formed in early 2007 and has executed 18 actions of molten aural eruption since. In 2006, Marc Edwards somehow found my Myspace page and wrote me a note saying he liked what he heard. I was familiar with Marc's music - particularly the torrid 1976 Cecil Taylor album "Dark To Themselves" - as well as his reputation as a steadfastly incendiary torchbearer of high-energy free music. I told him I was coming to New York to play and asked him if he would want to make a group. He said, "Most drummers are scared to play with me! Okay, great!" I saw this as an opportunity. If Marc kicked my ass all over the stage, well, it would have been an ass-whipping by one of the best. I stood to learn something, no matter what.
I have constantly looked to great musicians from past generations for inspiration and comradery. The originators of form tend to possess valuable information most new generation players have no clue about. The new musicians tend to draw their inspiration from fully codified and formalized sources, whereas the creators of the actual source material had to invent their language from nebulous origins, outside of accepted categories. There is a certain quality of experience in older improvisers which I'm not hearing in most younger players. Since many of the elder players came to free music from other forms - whether it was straight-ahead jazz, classical, etc. - they have a broader foundation on which to build upon, whereas new improvisers tend to be primarily influenced by . . . improvised music. There's often a lack of guts in contemporary improvisation. I don't hear much struggle. I don't hear much pain. I don't hear the desperation of someone who needs to speak as if their life depended on it. That's what I want to hear from music. Marc Edwards plays the drums like his life depends on it.
Our first meeting took place at the defunct New York City club, Tonic, on February 12, 2007. The personnel consisted of myself and Marc on drums, Damon Smith and Lisle Ellis on basses, Marco Eneidi on alto saxophone and Elliott Levin on tenor saxophone and flute. Essentially we shook hands and played. Extracts of the concert appear on the 2007 ugEXPLODE release "Firestorm". The music was extremely dense, well-articulated and completely full-on for the entire duration. There's a certain sort of mass that Marc and I achieve when we play together: Marc is coming from a more rudiment-oriented marching band style of playing, whereas I tend to deal in a lot of fast single strokes as an extension of blast-beat and punk drumming. We are both concerned with clear execution at extremely fast tempos, so I believe there's remains a transparent quality to our cumulative efforts, despite the fact that together we tend to be louder than a nuclear bomb. Luckily we had an extremely strong group of players to kick off the proceedings.
The two following performances took place in New York at Lit Lounge on May 5, 2008 and The Delancey on September 22, 2008. I was still living in Oakland, California, but had begun travelling more frequently to the East Coast in search of new playing situations. Excerpts from both shows appeared on our out-of-print 2009 CD-R release "Mysteries Beneath The Planet". The Lit Lounge show was originally conceived to be a combo with three drummers and three saxophonists. Unfortunately Charles Gayle couldn't make the gig, so the line-up consisted of myself, Marc and Andrew Barker on drums and Ras Moshe and Mario Rechtern on reeds. We maintained a flesh-melting intensity for the duration of the set. The Delancey show featured another all-new lineup with myself and Marc on drums, Peter Evans on trumpet, Paul Flaherty on tenor saxophone, Darius Jones on alto saxophone and Tom Blancarte on bass. The music took on a more orchestral form at this performance with a lot of timbral variation, while still maintaining the volcanic energy we always aim to conjure.
We did another gig at Otto's Shrunken Head in New York on April 28, 2009 with Elliott Levin, Darius Jones, bassist Adam Lane and trumpeter Forbes Graham. Something really seemed to stick with this particular formation, so we recorded this sextet in the studio on November 14, 2009, resulting in the 2010 ugEXPLODE Release "Blood of the Earth". The CD consists of two half-hour tracks which rage with fury and eloquence, thanks to the great soloists. I tried to keep this line-up together, but it was proving to be very tough, considering the lack of gigs and money as well as the fact that Elliott and Forbes were travelling from out of town to do the shows. After I moved to New York in December 2009, we tried to reconvene the group but couldn't nail down consistent personnel. The January 31, 2010 gig at Knitting Factory featured Adam Lane, Elliott Levin and Forbes Graham, but substituted Aaron Burnett on tenor saxophone for Darius Jones. The February 25, 2010 Paris London West Nile performance had Levin, Burnett and Tom Blancarte on bass.
It was beginning to seem like a logistical and financial nightmare to do the larger, twin-drum groups and I was looking to develop a group language with a consistent group of musicians, so Marc and I decided to scale back the unit for the time being. Most New York venues cannot handle the extreme energy and volume of the big group, so Marc remained on drums, while I switched to bass (my first instrument). We re-emerged on June 18, 2010 at the Bowery Electric as a trio with soprano saxophonist Marcus Cummins. This has remained the core group since. Marcus is a very linear, logical player and he is talented at unravelling endless, winding streams of melody which I tend to complement with shifting, broad harmonic pedal tones. A lot of the time, I am rapidly tremolo-picking to maintain the group momentum, as well as to create a constant tonal density for Marcus to work with. We have never really discussed any specific approach towards the actual music, preferring to let it manifest itself spontaneously without critique or analysis. Since then we have made nine performances with this formation (one gig substituted Matt Nelson on tenor saxophone for Marcus, and another added Mario Rechtern to the group for a quartet).
I have been searching for another permanent lead voice for the band for a while and we may have found it in tenor saxophonist Jeremy Viner. I saw Jeremy performing with drummer Danny Sher a few months ago and was impressed by his phrasing and technique. The first time Jeremy performed with us was last night, November 13, 2011, at Freddy's Bar in Brooklyn. I think he worked really well with the group as I think the recording below will prove.
Weasel: What are you trying to do with this music?
Marc: That's a good question. I was heavily influenced by the sci fi thriller, "Forbidden Planet". I believe playing this music will help raise consciousness on this planet, gradually, as mankind evolves to higher states.
This is what the Marc Edwards/Weasel Walter Group does: create massive fields of intensity in the hope of jarring listeners into action and feeling. This is the sound of revolt.
-Weasel Walter, 11.14.11