I want to keep bettering myself as a musician - interview with Chris Speed

Piotr Wojdat
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mat. promocyjne

I want to keep bettering myself as a musician - interview with Chris Speed


You have been an active musician for almost three decades. Are you still open minded for new music and not tired of touring and recording?


Chris Speed: I love working on new music and everything that goes into the process, searching, practicing, composing, touring, recording, etc. It keeps me sane, keeps me interested in the world and inspired to stay productive. I want to keep bettering myself as a musician, to keep contributing beauty (as i see it) to the world and that process for me includes staying curious, keeping an open mind to new sounds, and staying passionate about things we should be passionate about.


There's a lot of music to listen to with your participation in many projects. Let's start with the reissued "Iffy" which was remastered and released by Skirl Records. Could you say something about this album? When was it recorded and why did you decide to release it once again?


CS: Ok, well, we recorded that for the knitting factory label in 1999, back when the knit was ground zero for a lot of new music I was involved with. In retrospect, it was amazing to have had that community then, the knit was the place to hang, listen, play. Iffy represents that time pretty well, or at least my weird mash up of jazz, east euro music, rock, noise, with the emphasis on jazz with this recording.


I re-released it digitally on Skirl Records because someone put a bug in my ear to remaster it, and well, it’s necessary to protect our music, oeuvre, catalogue, history, whatever you want to call it.. hopefully it holds up!



Is Skirl Records your home label?


CS: Well, Skirl Records is my label, but more accurately its an artist driven label that I just happen to have created, now with over 50 releases that you might not of heard of, go to skirlrecords.com 


This year you've released a great album with Tim Berne, Reid Anderson and Dave King. On "Broken Shadows" you and your bandmates have chosen compositions written by Ornette Coleman, Dewey Redman, Julius Hemphill and Charlie Haden. What was the idea of this project? Is it a tribute?


CS: All four of us are profoundly affected by the music of Ornette (and logically by extension Dewey and Charlie), and of course Tim mentored with Julius, so the concept of doing this music came about pretty naturally, and then when we actually played the gigs it really took off. I mean, hearing Tim play those melodies with Reid and Dave throwing down at the highest level, it really just plays itself. No clever concepts or fussing about, we’re just trying to keep the spirit of the music as best we can. 


What were your main music influences in the past and in the present times?


CS: Like most jazz musicians, I’m forever grateful for the music of Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington etc... and well I love the history of jazz saxophone. But going way back, Led Zeppelin was my favorite group long before I heard of say, Joe Henderson :-) and I also studied a lot of classical music as a kid, and well, folk music also has been a big inspiration for me, especially with the clarinet, so without getting to nerdy those are my general parameters. But really, just being out seeing live music and playing with wonderful musicians has been my greatest influence. 


How is it to cooperate with Intakt Records? You've released a lot of albums via this swiss label.


CS: Intakt has been around for a while and they know what they are doing, are releasing some great music, and are fighting the good fight! I’m very fortunate that they’ve been so supportive about the work I’ve done with them these last couple years. I’ve been DIYing it for so long, it’s a lifeline to have their help getting music out to the world. And they don’t wait three years + to release the records :-)



What can we expect from "Light Line" with your solo clarinet performance?


CS: The ideas I worked on during the pandemic came through pretty clear (I hope)! I focused less on timbre, more on melody, and with no other musicians to help navigate it was a challenge, but ultimately inspired me to discover some new strategies.


Around 15 years ago you made an album with polish musicians - Oles Brothers. From the perspective of time, what do you remember from the "Walk Songs" sessions? How was it to work with Marcin and Bartlomiej?


CS: That long ago?!!!! Of course I remember working with them, sweet dudes! I remember their compositions being very direct, clear and fun to play!  It was a quartet with the great Simon Nabatov on piano who is a ferocious improviser. I haven’t heard the record in a while but since you mentioned it I’m gonna find it!


What are your plans for the next few months?


CS: Painting my fence, hosting my parents who haven’t seen their Granddaughter in a year and a half and relearning how to play my instruments! Musically I’m thrilled that Pachora (another Knitting Factory era band) with Brad Shepik, Skuli Sverrisson and Jim Black is going to perform in Berlin at the A-Train August 3-7 and make a new record! It’s been almost 20 years since we released a recording, and I miss that band terribly, so I’m quite happy we have the chance to play again! I’ll then play a few solo clarinet shows in Belgium to promote Light Line; and well, I’ll put it out there, playing with The Bad Plus this September in San Francisco! In October Broken Shadows will tour Europe, and in November I’ll tour with drummer Dejan Terzic (w Bojan Z and Matt Penman) who has a new record out on CAM Records that we recorded right at the very beginning of the pandemic! So, cheers to finally getting back to work!