Where are you based?
The New York City area.
Is this your home town?
Kind of. I was born in Manhattan, and now live just outside the city.
What is your first musical memory?
My mother singing to me.
What was the first record you bought?
I bought two 7″ 45s: “Louie Louie” by The Kingsman and “Surfin` USA” by The Beach Boys.
What was the last record you bought?
It was a CD, “Accelerando” by Vijay Iyar Trio. I was at their live gig and bought it there.
What inspired you to start making music?
We had a piano in the house when I was growing up. I just started playing it.
You`re probably best known for the saxophone. What other instruments do you play?
Saxophones, clarinet, piano and synths, mainly. I also have played p’iri and hichiriki, double reed instruments from Korea and Japan, respectively).
Did you study p`iri and hichiriki in their countries of origin? What drew you to them? How does the playing and sound of these instruments differ?
Yes. In the early ’90s, I spent some time in Asia. I was in Seoul, Korea for a three-month residency and the following year I spent 7 months in Tokyo. I was attracted to the raw reedy sound of the traditional music in Korea and Gagaku music in Japan. I studied p’iri at the National Institute for Korean Classical Music while in Seoul and I studied hichi-riki with Sensei Togi Kanehiko, who was a musician in the royal court at the Imperial Palace. For the first lesson, I found myself walking alone through the Imperial Gardens.
The p’iri has a throatier type of sound, more gutteral, more like an Armenian duduk. The hichiriki is more shrill.
Regarding the saxophone, whom would you say has most influenced your playing? Who would be your sax hero? For me your playing in places, such as on the collaboration with Factory Floor, recalls that of Terry Riley.
As a saxophone player, I always liked the deep-throated R&B sound. Gene Ammons, Plas Johnson, King Curtis. Though if I had to name a sax hero, that would be John Coltrane. When I play the sopranino sax, or soprano, though, I tend to think more about Sidney Bechet or Balkan music. Terry Riley was a big influence compositionally, and he was my teacher at Mills College.
How long have you been making music?
All my life.
How would you describe your sound?
Epic and funky.
Which production / release / remix are you most proud of?
“Return of the Native”, an unreleased 90 minute video opera collaboration with Kit Fitzgerald.
Kit Fitzgerald also produced the short film for your new collaboration with Factory Floor. How did you meet and start working with Kit?
Kit and I were part of a community of artists working together. We had worked on projects with Robert Ashley, Lawrence Weiner, John Sanborn and others.
Where was this community based? Was it a school or a theatre?
This was a neighborhood-based arts scene in downtown New York – SoHo, East Village. Though I had originally met Bob Ashley when he taught at Mills College in California.
Which production / release / remix would you most like to have done?
Watch The Throne; Tom Moulton Philadelphia remixes.
What is it that you like about these releases?
Well, the Philadelphia groove at the time was a killer. Lots of great raw materials in the tracks, the horns and strings, all sorts of extraneous vocal parts. The lushness mixed with the funkiness.
What are your favourite places to play / hang out in?
New York: Le Poisson Rouge. Great sound, video, programming.
Hang out: East London
What is your favourite place outside of a bar / club / record shop?
I like walking in cities.
Do you see yourself as part of any scene?
In a larger sense, the New York scene, which is not singular, but rather, a set multiple scenes that inform one another.
Is the New York arts and music “scene” still healthy? Is there a lot of interaction and overlap?
I think it’s very healthy. Certainly more events than I could ever see each night. It is less centrally located. There are people working in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and even New Jersey, but I am continually impressed with new up-and-coming artists and venues.
Could you name a few places we should try to check out, people we should keep an eye open for?
In Manhattan there are the clubs on Ludlow Street, Drom, Santos, Le Baron; a lot shifted to Brooklyn, like Public Assembly, Cameo, Issue Project, Roulette. Outpost. In terms of musicians, there is a group of young Cuban musicians in New York who are redefining jazz – Yosvany Terry, his brother Yunior, Dafnis Prieto, Elio VIllafranca. Alex Waterman is interesting work, Abraham Gomez-Delgado, Neg-Fi, and some very new artists include Stephen Feigenbaum and Nero My Panda.
Which artists are you currently working with?
Factory Floor, of course; Love of Life Orchestra (my new “Symphony #5″); I co-produced Ned Sublette’s album “Kiss You Down South”, recorded in New Orleans; new versions of Robert Ashley and Arthur Russell works; talking with Tim Burgess about collaboration;
When talking to his collaborators, such as yourself and Peter Zummo, it is hard to steer away from Arthur Russell since so many people, myself included, seem fascinated by his work. As someone who worked with Arthur throughout his career, in projects such as Dinosaur L and The Flying Hearts, what do you personally think is so enduring about his music, and can you give me a very brief idea of what he was like to work with, what qualities he would bring to a recording session? Can you tell me more about the Russell related music that you are currently working on?
I am currently working on a new realization of Arthur Russell’s “Instrumentals.” What is enduring about Arthur’s music is a.) He wrote some great songs that transcend time or genre. b.) His compositions employed an open system that allows them to be consistently interpreted and re-interpreted, with both the music of Arthur coming through, as well as the music of the person playing the music. Regarding working with Arthur: working with Arthur was sometimes a challenge, because he tended to be averse to specifically saying what he wanted, if he even knew. Music was as much about process as it was about product, so each rehearsal or session would have some element of planned unpredictability. There was something very natural about this, however.
The forthcoming Factory Floor record is really great, and not was I was expecting. The Factory Floor releases I had heard up until this one were industrial and frantic in tempo. “Beach Combing” is a Komische, New Age float while “Side C”, largely because of your playing, does recall the genius of “Heartbreak”. I`ve read the press release describing how Nik of Factory Floor got in touch, which is a really nice story. I was wondering how the new record ended up on Optimo, since both you and Factory Floor have ties to DFA? Will this collaboration continue?
I do hope to continue working with Factory Floor. I am not sure how we ended up on Optimo rather than DFA, but even prior to DFA I had a connection to Optimo through the Betty Botox re-edit of LOLO.
Regarding the new Love Of Life Orchestra music, can you tell me who is in the current line-up?
Current line-up for the upcoming premiere of my “Symphony #5”: Longtime LOLO vets Peter Zummo, Ned Sublette and Randy Gun, the amazing Cuban musicians Yunior Terry and Elio Villafranca, master drummer Robby Ameen; Paul Shapiro, Katie Porter and Max Gordon on horns.
What was the original idea behind LOLO? Was it always intended to be a cast of changing players?
The original idea was to create an ensemble in which musicians and artists of different experience and genres could interact. It was a political statement as well as musical – to create music that was smart, experimental and egalitarian, as well as funky. The idea is that the ensemble evolves, but always with some continuing members. Katie Porter is the newest member. The others have been with the band for many years by now.
Are you still in contact with the contributors to “Extended Niceties” such as Arto Lindsay and David Byrne?
Not in regular contact. I do run into David Byrne at art events, and I ran into Arto in Naples a few years ago.
Can you tell me more about the Justin & The Victorian Punks project / recording?
This was commissioned by the legendary visual artist Colette for her “Beautiful Dreamer” installation, in which Colette would sleep in the work as exhibited. Unfortunately, Colette’s concept has been recently appropriated by Lady Gaga and Tilda Swinton, but Colette is a true original. In any case, I was brought in as arranger by producer/engineer Jay Burnett and we booked a session in Electric Lady studio with LOLO musicians and Colette.
Who would you most like to work with?
Beyoncé; Shit Robot
Why these two? Shit Robot made a record with Ian Svenonius, of The Make Up, who I am also a big fan of.
I like Marcus’ (Shit Robot) sound. I heard an amazing DJ set of his at XOYO last September. Beyonce? Who could resist? Though now that I think of it, probably more realistically, the NY Philharmonic.
Does playing and making music pay the rent?
What is your favourite piece of music? If that`s too difficult, what`s your current favourite piece of music?
Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”
Peter`s collaboration with Factory Floor is due for imminent release on Optimo Music.