Since I do these music blogs and since I have just released my first album, Travels in Tyme
(Ruby Flower Records 009), and moreover, since there is something I'd like to convey about that music and for the moment I doubt that an interview will be happening in the major media, I thought I'd interview myself (and of course ask some very tough questions) by way of talking a little about what I am trying to do. I beg your forbearance...
SELF: So what, do you think you are special or something, coming out with an album of your own at this point? What are you doing?
GREGO: Special? Anybody who is honest thinks they are special, because like it or not they must live a lifetime inside themselves, and to do so you must take a certain amount of care in order to keep surviving. So the first thing I do when I wake up every morning is take a little care that both feet are placed squarely on the floor before I stand. Everybody does that sort of thing. It is the special quality of existing that makes them do it. But otherwise? I have been given the opportunity in my life to express myself and I have taken some care there, too, that it be somehow worth doing. The hearing of the music I have made is up to others. That either follows or does not by subsequent events. So, really no, not special so much. Just here and creating out of my life whatever may come.
SELF: OK, so you care. Tell us why we should care about this album?
GREGO: You shouldn't. Not automatically. There is so much music out there, who can afford to care about it all without somehow losing it? There's no good reason on the surface of things why you should care. It isn't going to matter at this very moment, to you at least, whether you hear this album through or not, of course.
SELF: Well that's all well and good. We should not care, you tell us. So why are you here? Come on, you know you want people to listen and if possible to get something from your music, don't you?
GREGO: Alright, yes. But not in some "put on the CD and life will be groovy" sort of way. It's not going to make your life groovy. I can't see how any one album will do that right now. Though when I was younger some albums really DID change my life. But with my album that would be asking too much. The first time you hear it you may hate it, not understand it, or maybe you will find it interesting. That's in part a matter of who YOU are as much as what the music does. But sure I want people to like it.
SELF: So then what sort of person do you think will respond to the music?
GREGO: There's no one answer. I can only say that the music reflects at least in part three musics that have most influenced me in my years of listening, thinking, playing and writing. One part is the electricity of rock as explored in the golden years of early Hendrix and beyond. There is some of that juice to be heard in these pieces. Another is the intensity of so-called free or avant jazz. Coltrane, Cecil Taylor, Ornette, Ayler, Elvin Jones, all have had a big effect on music as I hear it. But then the entire jazz tradition is something inside me and it fills me with great respect, though this music doesn't channel the tradition really. Others do that, better than I could. Still, I hope there's some of the elation and power of that music, though this music is not about long solos, chops, or much in the way of the individuality of any one instrument. It's more an ensemble music. The third area involves modern new music, from the sound advances made in the last century by composers such as Cage, Varese, Ives, Stockhausen and the kind of trance elements the best minimalists have brought to us--I mean Reich, Riley and such. Well now as I think of it, there is a fourth element--that of world music that has influenced me too, especially the music of Africa and South Asia, though this isn't a direct thing. Just part of my musical being when sounds go through my head. I sometimes get that, a hint of it, in the music and my whole idea of rhythm has been shot through and through with those traditions, which you could probably say of any serious drummers out there. It's a common heritage and so it's in the back of anybody's head that came up learning to drum.
SELF: OK so some four different stylistic areas have gone into the music. But what about where we started, that a certain kind of person, or kinds, would most likely respond to the music?
GREGO: I guess anybody who has cast a wide ear-net of listening over the years, who has delved in one or more of these areas in some depth might be likely to respond to the music. Not to sound pretentious, to claim I am this or I am that. Just that my music partakes of some of those essences. But all more or less directed in a particular way of looking at "time" in music.
SELF: What do you mean, like different meters, Brubeck and Time Out or something like that?
GREGO: Well I heard Brubeck's time albums growing up. "Take Five" was an AM radio hit, which is hard to imagine today. Many of my generation got exposed to odd meters through some of that. But really Brubeck only did that for a while; he had other things that made him interesting, too. The classic Coltrane Quartet did things with polyrhythms and polymeters that took it further. And really that influenced me more. And so also in my musical training and practice meters have been important and in part I address that in my music. But there is something else as well. Rhythm with a big "R". What is it really? It is a series of occurrences within linear time, of sounds and silences. Africa and South Asia developed the most sophisticated rhythmic senses in their musical cultures, and that's one thing. John Cage made us very aware of all sound existing inside and outside us as potentially significant. And the fact is the sounds of humanity, nature, the universe in motion can go pretty far along in terms of the ratios of the sounds and their coincidence. So if you listen to a bunch of crickets in a natural setting, for example, you'd be hard pressed to express the whole of it in simple musical notation. And yet theoretically there is a ratio-specific complex, a rhythmic whole to be grasped. Imagine that the entire universe could be conceived of as built on one tempo, with everything branching out as differential ratios against that?
Not that there is one tempo, that we know of, but suppose there was. Absolutely every sound occurring in the universe could be related to all the others in terms of ratios--and those ratios would soon become too complex to hear perhaps, it might turn to a kind of aural mud, yet there would be always a connection you could put together in your mind's ear so to speak, a connection of relations of one pulse with another. And those ratios would soon get far more complex than is typical of music as we hear it.
SELF: So what are you driving at, then?
GREGO: Hold on and I will try and bring this back to where we are here. Before I was aware of Cage or had any sophisticated understanding of music, as a kid, I nevertheless was a keen listener to the sounds in my world as I grew up. I believe this is natural, especially for anyone with a musical proclivity, which I definitely had early-on. Anyway crickets, katydids, clocks, raindrop patterns as they fell against a window or onto the roof, multiple bells ringing at different velocities, I heard those things growing up and it fascinated me.
At some point by the time I was around ten I guess I had two old farmer's wind-up alarm clocks I found that I used to keep going. They would tick at different tempos so that sometimes they locked together but other times they became farther and farther apart until they began to converge again. I thought that was cool.
A couple of decades ago I was jamming with some friends and one of them brought a cheap Casio keyboard that could sample. Once you sampled something you could press different notes on the keyboard and each would play back the sample at a different velocity and pitch--the high notes giving you faster velocities than the low, in a gradated way. If you pressed a number of keys down it would give you that same convergence and divergence that the two alarm clocks did, only there were more velocities involved so there were different stages of convergence.
SELF: So what does that have to do with the music on Travels in Tyme? Anything?
GREGO: Yes. When I set up my multitrack recording studio some years ago I was in the middle of working on some music, and the Casio, the alarm clocks, the bells, the crickets and their synchrony and dis-synchrony came back to me. What if I wrote some musical pieces that tried to capture that feeling? I started to sketch out some musical motifs, some rhythmic entrances and such that might be utilized to create that dynamic unfolding. I started laying down different tempoed click tracks for each channel on my recorder, then listening back to see how the clicks worked together. After a while I had a set of pieces in my head that could work with different simultaneous times, different meters, with varying degrees of freedom and precision. That was the basis for the Travels in Tyme pieces that you can hear in finished form now. It took many hours to compile all the tracks, one at a time, but the result was something I thought interesting...
SELF: But all the pieces don't have that as far as I can hear...
GREGO: In some cases I grouped a bunch of instruments at a common tempo and came up with some through composed melodic phrases that would contrast with the open time zones, to make it a little more varied and I hope interesting, so it's not all bleeps and bloops coming together and scattering.
SELF: OK. Why do you play all the instruments yourself?
GREGO: I did that so I could fool around with the attacks and sounds in a kind of experimental way and not waste people's time if I tried things that didn't work. Plus I had no resources to pay anybody to play the music then (or now, for that matter). It was a shot in the dark, really, too. I wanted to be able to play with the structures and see what worked.
SELF: And so you ended up with an album of music that sometimes sounds free, sometimes has a rock edge, and sometimes has a new music feel to it. Was that on purpose?
GREGO: Not expressly. I just let myself flow and see what came up. As it happens the various influences came though in ways that I could predict, and sometimes in ways that surprised me.
SELF: And so that's what we end up with here?
GREGO: Yes. I hope those who listen to the album will experience it as a whole, because each section follows out of the others. In the future I hope to do something further in real time, with a live orchestra or big band.
It's not a "pick the hit" sort of thing, as an MP3 for your i-pod. It may take a little patience to get with the music, but I hope some people will give it a chance. I thank folks in advance for listening. By the way, to my creditors, if you are reading this it is not about making money. I doubt that this first album will net me more than a pittance. It is being released for the sake of the sounds, not to gain an income from it. So don't be expecting this to amount to more than a piece of change, and that in a long while. This is not music for money. It's music for the music.
SELF: Well thanks for the interview.
GREGO: No problem. It's the least I can do for my SELF.
SELF: Ouch! That was bad.... Oh, anyone curious about the album and/or who would like to buy a copy, go to https://www.createspace.com/2247783