with Aron Magner (The Disco Biscuits)
We’ve always referred our style as trance-fusion. We’ve always aimed to create the craziest music that we can possibly imagine, that’s still palatable to everybody to actually listen to in terms of songs that passed the memory test and songs that stick in your head for a while but that have meaning so they have lyrics as well as the driving beat behind them that makes you wanna dance. We kind of called it trance-fusion, we thought that it was kind of an original style of music taking elements that certainly bands have done before, you know Kraftwerk being one of my favourite bands out of your homeland and definitely putting some lyrics to it that tell an entire story within the songs.
What are your and the other band members musical backgrounds?
I grew up as a jazz piano player, Marc kind of grew up as a funk bass player, Jon kind of as a shredding guitar player, you know a lot of Hendrix stuff, Sammy was kind of always the heavy metal guy. And what’s interesting about those four different combinations of musicians is that we’re really able to fuse a lot of different styles that we kind of grew up with and put it into a band to create the music that we really want to hear as a collective band. Fortunately, the audience wants to hear the same style of music as well. (laughing)
We’ve been lucky to create music that we enjoy listening to, that we have a fan base that also enjoys listening to it.
Can you tell me how and when you started incorporating techno beats in your music?
I think it was 1998 and we were all in college at that time, maybe 97 even. The guitar player Jon had a lot of friends that were in the international scene that came to college from overseas and at that time techno-electronic music wasn’t really as popular in the States as it is today. We’re still kind of underground in order to go see these dee-jays, you would go to an underground warehouse party or something like that. It still took a couple of years from then in order to see or to hear this kind of music on the radio or on TV advertisements and stuff like that. And so these people come over and said “Oh man, you got to”, you know, people from the UK, “Oh man, you got to listen to this guy, he’s like the Jimi Hendrix of Goa music!” You know, we started getting influenced by this stuff and one Halloween night we kind of started experimenting with different beats and different sounds from my keyboards. Everybody just kind of did something that wasn’t immediately natural to them and we experimented a little and realized that we were kind of onto something new and different and kind of continued with this.
And you think it changed a little bit in the last one or two years?
Oh yeah, I mean our sound is definitely evolving constantly. We’re always trying to put in new songs. We haven’t put in many new songs in the last year but the sound is always trying to evolve, eventually when you strip it down to a bare minimum, it still has the same elements to a driving beat that gets everybody up and dancing for a party and lyrics and song structure that tells the story. And that’s what it is in any case but the actual sound is always evolving, I’m always trying to push the envelope of sonic abilities by making new sounds on my keyboards and you know, the guitar player and the bass player are always putting…, Jon and Marc are always adding new pedals to their repertoire of new sounds and we always try to push different boundaries.
With you keyboard I got the impression that your contribution to the sound of the band is not only melody oriented but rather providing beats and rhythms.
Sure, I mean mainly the beats and the rhythm are coming from Sammy, our drummer. Of recent I started incorporating a computer into our set-up and now Sammy and the computer are sharing responsibilities with the driving pulse behind it. Pretty much my responsibilities have of course been melody and harmony, but also soundscape textures. So if Jon has the beautiful melody going that’s sitting right in the pocket with Marc’s bass line, I put down some sort of ethereal pad that would just kind of put you in a different environment, and if that pad has the textures of a jungle sound that will take you over to that land, if the pad has a texture like a sharp metallic, shrieky different tone then you maybe feel like in an industrial warehouse of some sort. So definitely the different ways that I’m able to control the sonic capabilities coming from my keyboard definitely dictates where you think you are when you’re listening to our music.
How much of your shows is improvisational, how much is pre-planned?
Well, we make a set-list before we go on stage, so we definitely have songs. Within those songs it opens up into different structures where we improvise. And once we’re getting into a section of a song where we begin to improvise then we can go anywhere, you know, then there are no real rules. All that we know is that we start to improvise and we kind of know where we’re going to end up and it doesn’t necessarily end up, back in the same song. We’re sort of doing is to realize that we can start a jam and take it to a different place and end up in another song, at the beginning of another song, perhaps in the middle of another song, sometimes we start a song in the middle and when we’re getting to the improvised section we improvise it to the beginning of the song. So, we know, we’re just trying to find different paths, if we eventually need to get from point A to point B, you know, we figured out that it’s much more fun for doing this on nightly bases to always choose a different point A and a different point B, so we don’t start a song and say “Okay, the jam starts here and ten minutes later the jam ends and we’re back into the same song”, we always try to find different places to jam out of and to jam into, just gives you more options, it’s more fun for everybody.
Very free, so you got also inverted versions of songs. What’s that?
Inverted is what I just described. It’s when we don’t start at the beginning of a song, we start the song in the middle. And we don’t just count it of “one, two, three” and then you’re in the middle of the song, it’s we’ll be in song number one let’s say, and then we jam it in the middle of song number two and when we get to the end of song number two, then we take that and then begin song number two. So we’re starting it in the middle, so it’s like inverting it.
There are some guitar oriented jambands out there, but in your music, it seems as there is no master instrument in front, it’s all on the same level.
I think that makes it so very interesting.
Ah, thank you, I agree. It’s something that I think has taken a lot of maturity over the years. You know when we were younger everybody in the band just kind of wanted to play as many notes as possible and it takes a little bit of age and maturity to realize that it’s not necessarily about what notes you play, it’s about what notes you really don’t play. That makes the notes that you do play sound ever so much better. So rather then, you know, “Okay, now it’s your turn to solo, now it’s your turn to solo”, we are all about having a dialogue, a four-man dialogue at the same time. So the four of us on stage are constantly trying to tell us a story. The problem of the thing is that there is not one narrator to the story, all four of us are telling it simultaneously. So the question is that what we have to try to figure out everytime we get up there on stage is we’re not necessarily passing the ball back and forth to each other from one person that tells a different section of the story, we’re all telling it together, so nobody can speak out of term, nobody can step up front and speak louder than the rest of the people, we’re all telling it collectively.
How would you describe your relationship to your fans?
I think that we have a very strong relationship to our fans. Look at Amsterjam, you know, we are a band from America and I’m hoping that a lot of Europeans will be coming out to the show in Amsterdam. But there is also a very large section of fans that will be coming out from the United States as well and that’s a lot of dedication for a fan from America to fly over to Europe with all the expenses involved to go see one of their favourite bands. Our fans are very loyal, very rabid, those come and see us, they’ll travel huge distances, I mean we always thought that it was incredible when we started touring on the east coast of the United States and finish it on the west coast and we’re seeing the same faces all the way across the country, you know a 3000 mile country. I find it more impressive that those fans are also coming over with us to Europe. Our fans have a very strong loyalty to us and I think it is very much reciprocated and we have a very strong loyalty to them. They make it possible for us to do what we we’re trying to set up to do and they are supportive and we very much respect that.
The term jamband and the scene belonging to it are not well known in Europe. What do you think might be the reasons for that?
I think a lot of American bands have a hard time breaking out in Europe. I think there are a lot of expenses that are involved when any band from America needs to go to Europe and that kind of scares away a lot of people because like any market that a band is trying to play you kind of need to pay your dues. We figured out we were always an east coast band in the United States and when we first started travelling the west coast, there weren’t that many people on the west coast as there were on the east coast but there was a market that we needed to build up. Same applies for an international show like any show in Europe, it’s a market that needs to be build up. Expenses are so high that I don’t think that many jambands have really made the way over to Europe yet. I don’t think it’s necessarily that Europeans aren’t going to like this style of music. It’s just that they haven’t really been exposed to it as often as everybody in America has. So that’s an exciting thing, it’s a movement of music over here in the United States that hasn’t really been exposed over in Europe yet, minimally in Japan. Everything has been widely respected whenever a jamband comes over to Japan, so I’m hoping it’ll have the same effect over in Europe. I mean the name of the game here is about having an all-out party and certainly Europeans are no different than Americans in wanting some party and listening to driving beats, especially Germans, you know, you guys have had driving beats well before anybody else. So we’re taking a lesson from you guys in what we’re doing. I’m hoping that we definitely pick up a lot of European fans.
What do you think are the reasons for you and the other bands playing at the Amsterjam festival? Do you want to reach a new market or is it more a fun trip for you all?
Definitely a combination of both, business and pleasure. I think that the festival in and of itself is going to be a really fun festival to do, personally, to make our way over to Europe and play some European shows but I think that this will definitely lay the groundwork for us to come back in the future.
A few years ago, a German fan of the Disco Biscuits got invited to attend and even to introduce a show of yours…
Yeah, how could you forget that guy? I love that guy. Do you know him?
Yeah, he is a friend of mine, actually.
Excellent. Please send him my fond regards.
Sure, I will do that. So you got any more expectations playing here in Europe then?
I really don’t know what I’m in for. I’ve only made a couple of trips over to Europe in my lifetime. I know that before I go to Amsterdam I’m gonna check out some of the other beautiful countries that your continent has. I think I’m gonna go snowboarding somewhere in the Alps.
You probably don’t do anymore shows in Europe like in Germany or something?
We were originally talking about it and then we decided against it, there were a couple of other things that came up that we needed to take care of here in the States. We’re playing three shows in New Jersey immediately following Amsterdam. So we didn’t put any more shows but I hope to be back very soon and do a little bit of travelling and then the shows and very much looking forward to.