Interview: Andrew Weathers

486ad2bd7e3a6d8b1cd9742760250c40Andrew Weathers is one of those polymath type of musicians that make lesser players want to toss down their instruments in frustration. The North Carolina-born, California-based artist has earned it though. He’s been studying both acoustic and electronic composition, as well as a wide variety of playing styles with an impressive roster of teachers encouraging and training him: Roscoe Mitchell, Fred Frith, Alejandro Rutty, and Eugene Chadbourne.

All of this has culminated in a series of releases that find Weathers working either side of his musical brain, and on one of his most recent recordings What Happens When We Stop (released on his own Full Spectrum label), combining the two. On it, he takes long improvisations recorded with ensembles on both sides of the country, and edits them into more concise and heady pieces. The acoustic side take precedence, but the use of electronics by Weathers and Erik Schoster helps add some delightful texture to the mix.

Tonight at 8pm, this site and the folks behind Lifelike Family are happy to present a solo performance by Weathers at the Alberta Abbey (126 NE Alberta). He’ll be joined by one of his Full Spectrum artists Radere, as well as a trio of incredible locals: Ethernet, The OO-Ray, and Ruhe. But before you head out, please check out some sounds from Weathers and this interview he was kind enough to take part in.

Reading the description on the Full Spectrum site…it sounds like the process to create the music for What Happens When We Stop was a pretty involved one. How much editing/synthesizing time did it take you to create the finished product?

It was definitely pretty involved – about a year and a half from start to finish. I started writing the songs in Fall 2011, but didn’t go into the studio until March 2012. The east coast band recorded the tracks that make up the basis of most of the record at Solotechne Studios in Asheville, NC, those tracks sat until about August when I started to edit in performances from the west coast band.

Was it a hard thing to be an editor for a project like this, to make cuts where they needed to be made, etc.? Or are you confident enough in what you’re trying to accomplish that you can get through the process comfortably?

The editing process happened pretty organically. There was definitely an excess of material for this album. The players honestly made my job very easy, they are all just so good. The hardest thing that I had to do with this material was cut songs and sequence the record – I became very attached to the tunes. I think all of the tracks that we recorded will end up released somehow, though.

What about vocally on this album? How did you come up with the lyrical content? What was inspiring you at the time?

All of the lyrics (except for O/OU) I’ve lifted from folk and blues tunes. “Pale Face to the Sun” comes from Dock Boggs’ Country Blues, “Hard Ain’t It Hard” is a Woody Guthrie tune. Even though the songs are fairly old, I think they still speak to my situation, sometimes even in a surprisingly specific way. I sometimes feel like I’m wandering around the world without a culture of my own. Using folk sources is a way to feel like I’m part of something much larger than me.

Do you stick to this material live now or are you moving on to completely new sounds? If it is the former, how do you go about re-creating or re-working the material for performance? If the latter, what are you working on these days and in what medium?

These days, I’m still playing some of the same songs, some new ones in a similar vein. I like this material a lot because it’s very flexible-I can play it solo acoustic, solo with my Max/MSP patch, or with other players improvising with me. The tunes keep changing. The recordings aren’t necessarily definitive editions of these songs for me, it’s more like a fantastic realization of what the songs might be like if everybody in the band played at once. I think Eric [Perreault] and Rachel [Devorah Trapp] might be the only people other than me who have met everyone else who plays in the Ensemble. I’m also working on some performance pieces for sine waves and just intonation guitar, but I’m generally performing these tunes with my Max patch.

You’ve studied with a pretty jaw-dropping bunch of artists…what was the most important lessons or techniques or qualities that you took from those experiences?

I’m constantly blown away by the people I’ve been lucky enough to work with. I keep discovering things that I’ve learned from other artists over the years. These folks are all very very different, but they all have in common a work ethic that has influenced me a great deal. Everything good takes a lot of hard work, and I hope that I’m putting that in. Fred Frith once told me to never keep anything static in a mix.

Being a musician in this day and age is tougher than ever, as far as trying to make it your only profession. What difficulties have you run into trying to maintain your creative output?

I’ve been lucky in the past few years to have been studying music, so my day-to-day has been fairly in tune with my creative output. I recently finished my MFA though, so now I’m trying to make the full time musician hustle happen. The difficulty there is that it never ends. You don’t get any days off doing this. There’s not a single day that I don’t have something I should be sitting down and working on, especially because I handle all of the “business” end of my operation. But I love it, I wouldn’t have it any other way, even if no one seems to want to pay musicians very much money for anything.

It also says in the notes for the new album that you are a voracious listener of hip-hop music. When did that first enter your life and what in it sparked such an interest from you?

I honestly came to hip-hop very late, I’m a total dilettante on that front. In my teenage years, I was more into punk and totally overlooked hip-hop. Lil B was the first MC that really engaged me, but since then hip-hop has made up most of my day-to-day listening. I had started to feel like a lot of experimental music was stale. Four years of college in music school will do that to you. Hip-hop is just music bursting with personality, the MCs are just so huge. The production was also super appealing since I hadn’t encountered anything quite like that before, particularly as far as vocal production goes. I think the way I’ve approached using my voice in the past few years owes a lot to hip-hop.

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