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How did you guys come to develop an interest in jazz?
Harvey: When I was in high school, I saw John Scofield play with Karl Denson, which was great because it was a really good crossover [act]. It was jazz, but there were people dancing in the audience and there were computers and all sorts of sampling [going on]. It was a real jam-band audience. At that time, someone turned me on to [saxophonist] Joshua Redman, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Tony Williams. I first heard the Brecker Brothers around then, too. Those guys are sick.
Waterhouse: Also, jazz guitarists like Kurt Rosenwinkel and Lenny Breau.
Corey: I’m not as jazz-inclined as these guys, but I do enjoy it and I can play some jazz. I wouldn’t necessarily walk into a jazz gig and get a lead sheet and say, “Okay, here we go.” I’d say I’m semi-comfortable playing jazz.
Last Chance to Reason (left to right): Chris Corey (bass), Tom Waterhouse (guitar), Evan Sammons (drums), Mike Lessard (vocals), Brian Palmer (keyboards), and A.J. Harvey (guitars). Photo by Jeremy Saffer
How did your jazz interests meld with your contemporary classical influences?
Harvey: I got introduced to the atonal thing in school, and Evan, our drummer, was into it, too. He, Chris, and I were writing in the practice room for Lvl. 1. All of the songs on that album are based on different 12-tone rows that we would just vary rhythmically throughout each tune. Once I started learning about 12-tone stuff, I started listening to dudes like Schoenberg—but not all the time. It’s not a huge part of my repertoire, I just throw it in here and there.
Can you explain the 12-tone row for those who are unfamiliar with it?
Waterhouse: The 12-tone row stuff is kind of simple in a sense, because it’s just making a melody out of twelve notes. In some cases, it could be just a riff in 6/8 or a riff in 6/4.
Is the same row used throughout the whole album?
Waterhouse: Yeah, it’s loosely based on it. It’s a theme that occurs throughout the entire thing.
Harvey: For “Upload Complete,” the first riff is what I call a fragmented 12-tone row, where it repeats the first four notes twice, and then it adds three notes, and then two more. The second riff is the whole 12-tone row played in sequence, in a simple rhythm [sings riff]. That same 12-tone row also appears in “The Prototype” and “Apotheosis,” but just starts on a different note.
Does it continue in sequence after the displaced starting note?
Waterhouse: But you’ve also got to stray away from it here and there, and rhythmic variation with Evan is a big part of that. It gives way to creating a full song just using a small idea, being able to create something larger out of a small number of notes.