#11: ANDREW HOCK

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Andrew Hock’s discography is small but formidable. So far, his body of work includes two albums of top-quality progressive aggression with Castevet (most recently Obsian, seen above), as well as The Drain, the outstanding new debut by Psalm Zero, Hock’s goth-gone-metal-gone-industrial duo with Charlie Looker, formerly of Extra Life and Zs. You wouldn’t necessarily guess from hearing those releases, but there’s plenty of jazz and improvisation in Hock’s musical background. He studied under Joe Morris and Anthony Coleman at New England Conservatory, and he’s worked for years to combine his interest in the likes of Cecil Taylor and Derek Bailey with his extreme-metal roots. An abridged version of this Q&A is live—along with an exclusive excerpt of a Hock improv performance with pianist Leo Svirsky—at Noisey; the director’s cut is below.

Andrew and I met in Brooklyn in February of 2014 to talk about jazz and metal.

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#10: MICK BARR

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I’ve been a fan of Mick Barr’s work for more than a decade. It’s been fascinating to follow him from Orthrelm on to Octis, Ocrilim, Krallice and, more recently, his various improvisational team-ups with Marc Edwards, Jon Irabagon, Mike Pride and many others. I last interviewed Mick roughly eight years ago, prior to the release of the Orthrelm classic OV. I’m glad we were able to resume our conversation in the context of HMB. An abridged version of this Q&A is live at the Red Bull Music Academy site; the director’s cut is below.

Mick and I met in New Jersey in March of 2013 to talk about jazz and metal.

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Black Magic

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Via the Red Bull Music Academy website, here’s a new essay on the jazz/metal intersection—a lab report drawn from my ongoing HMB research. (A print version appeared in The Daily Note, a free paper that circulates in NYC for the duration of the RBMA’s May tenure.) By way of an online bonus track, I interviewed Mick Barr, who’s discussed extensively in the article. Stay tuned for an extended cut of the Q&A.

#9: GREG GINN

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Photo courtesy of Glen E. Friedman

[Note: As you might have read, Greg Ginn recently announced a controversial Black Flag resurrection. By pure coincidence, the band’s founding guitarist is also the subject of the latest, long-gestating installment of Heavy Metal Be-Bop. As usual, you’ll find an abridged cut at Invisible Oranges and the full Q&A below.]

Greg Ginn is someone I’ve wanted to speak with since I started Heavy Metal Be-Bop in 2011. Obviously, Black Flag, particularly the concluding half of My War, has had a huge influence on the modern metal underground, but what fascinates me most about Ginn’s work, both in Black Flag and in later projects such as Gone, the Killer Tweeker Bees and Jambang, is its strong improvisational drive. I hear Black Flag’s instrumental material (1985’s The Process of Weeding Out, side 2 of 1984’s Family Man) not just as a strange offshoot of the punk continuum, but as an important step in the evolution of so-called fusion.
 
Along with bassist Kira Roessler and drummer Bill Stevenson, Ginn tapped into a current of hybrid musicmaking that began in the late ’60s and early ’70s with bands like the Tony Williams Lifetime and the Mahavishnu Orchestra and continued to evolve in 1971–74 King Crimson. Like these earlier groups, the Ginn/Roessler/Stevenson trio—led by the guitarist’s relentless quest for the most vile-sounding notes he could conjure—fused raw, rock-derived intensity with the improvisational drive of jazz. (“I remember trying to wrap my head around some of [Ginn’s] solo ideas,” Eagle Twin’s Gentry Densley told me in HMB #5, “how he could make them sound so out.”) Though Ginn’s later work is far less well known, and generally less heavy, he’s continued to explore various improv-driven amalgams for the better part of the last 30 years.

Greg and I met in Manhattan in July of 2012 to talk about jazz and metal.

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HMB lives

Warm greetings to anyone who might be reading. Two quick things:

1) I just wanted to say thanks for the kind feedback I’ve gotten re: the Heavy Metal Be-Bop interviews.

2) Despite the long silence since the last post, the series is not defunct. I have two more exciting and very in-depth HMB Q&As recorded, but I just haven’t had time within the past few months to plow through the transcriptions. Will get these posted as quickly as I can!

Again, thank you for reading. Feel free to contact me at hank [dot] shteamer [at] timeout [dot] com with any comments or questions.

All best,
HS

#8: DAMIÓN REID

Photograph: Emra Islek

[Abridged version hosted by Invisible Oranges; longer cut below.]

Like previous HMB subject Craig Taborn, drummer Damión Reid doesn’t wear his metal fandom on his sleeve. Jazz fans know Reid as a deadly technician, whose crisp, busy, furiously grooving style perfectly complements the high-tech prog-funk aesthetic of bandleaders such as Steve Coleman, Rudresh Mahanthappa and Steve Lehman. His playing often heats up to an aggressive boil, but it might make you think of cutting-edge electronica before metal. So I was intrigued when a friend tipped me off to Reid’s love of heavy music. As you’ll read in this wide-ranging conversation, he’s a knowledgeable and opinionated connoisseur of metal, who understands clearly the style’s various affinities with jazz.

Damión and I met in Brooklyn in May of 2012 to talk about jazz and metal.

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#7: WEASEL WALTER

Firestorm

[Abridged version hosted by Invisible Oranges; longer cut below.]

Weasel Walter has been on my to-interview list since I started Heavy Metal Be-Bop. Not only is he a voracious, articulate and exceedingly well-informed champion of both free-jazz and extreme metal—you need his label/blog in your life—he’s made important contributions to each field as a player and composer, first with the late, great Flying Luttenbachers and more recently as an accomplished improviser and the drummer for the rebooted Behold… the Arctopus.

Weasel and I met in Brooklyn in December of 2011 to talk about jazz and metal.

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#6: BILL LASWELL

Last Exit, 1990

[Abridged version hosted by Invisible Oranges; longer cut below.]

You can’t really call Bill Laswell a jazz musician, and it doesn’t make sense to label him “metal” either. But when it comes to the murky territory between these two styles, the bassist-producer is an unavoidable presence.

Last Exit (pictured)—Laswell’s mid-to-late-’80s collaboration with saxist Peter Brötzmann, guitarist Sonny Sharrock and drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson—was the definitive noise-jazz band, an improvising quartet that reveled in sweat, volume and ugly machismo. Last Exit weren’t playing metal, but the parallel was clear; Painkiller, a trio with experimental saxophonist John Zorn and Napalm Death drummer Mick Harris, connected the dots with their grindcore-and-dub-fueled free jazz. (In Bladerunner, a later Zorn/Laswell group, Slayer’s Dave Lombardo took over the drum throne.)

Laswell also pursued mutant-metal hybrids with Praxis—whose diverse cast included Parliament-Funkadelic keyboardist Bernie Worrell and Primus/Guns N’ Roses/Godflesh drummer Brain—and Arcana, which paired jazz drum legend Tony Williams with masked guitar fiend Buckethead. On the production side, Laswell has worked with bands ranging from Motörhead (Orgasmatron) and White Zombie (Make Them Die Slowly) to the avant-hardcore power trio Blind Idiot God.

Bill Laswell and I met in Manhattan in June of 2011 to talk about jazz and metal.

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#5: GENTRY DENSLEY

Eagle Twin live

HEAVY METAL BE-BOP #5: GENTRY DENSLEY
[Abridged version hosted by Invisible Oranges; unabridged version below]

It’s common for musicians working in rock-based styles to claim a jazz influence, but Gentry Densley is a special case. Throughout the ’90s, he led the Salt Lake City band Iceburn through a startling evolution, from epic progressive hardcore to full-on free improvisation. Densley has since looped back around to metallic expression with the doomy duo Eagle Twin (as well as Ascend, a collaboration with Sunn O))) member Greg Anderson), but he continues to invite chaotic, in-the-moment interplay and pure-sound texture into his songs. He remains an encyclopedic jazz fan.

I called Gentry in May of 2011 to talk about jazz and metal.

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#4: MELVIN GIBBS

Melvin Gibbs

HEAVY METAL BE-BOP #4: MELVIN GIBBS
[Hosted by Invisible Oranges]

Like my previous HMB guest Trevor Dunn, Melvin Gibbs plays the bass. Also like Dunn, he spent the early-to-mid ’90s working with a high-profile alt-metal group—in Gibbs’s case the Rollins Band. The path that got him to that point, though, and the path he’s taken since, are unique. Gibbs was a hardcore fan prior to joining Rollins Band, but his main area of expertise was jazz fusion, specifically a punk-informed ’80s outcropping of the style. He worked closely with guitarist Sonny Sharrock and drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson, two giants of this sorely underrated mini movement, as well as with his longtime friend Vernon Reid (of Living Colour). Gibbs also boasts deep ties to funk (Parliament’s Bernie Worrell) and experimental improvisation (Elliott Sharp).

Melvin and I met in Brooklyn in April of 2011 to talk about jazz and metal.