Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Interview with Daniel Bachman

American Primitivism is a guitar style started by John Fahey in the 50s, reconciling the avant-garde with bluegrass finger-picking. Many noticeable guitarists have come from this tradition such as Jim O'Rourke, Richard Bishop, Jack Rose, and more, but the style owes itself to the folkloric tradition of Appalachia and other rural American sites. Appalachian guitar is obviously not an oral tradition, but it does seem to share its quasi-hereditary aspect not unlike a would-be ninja tradition of mainland North America. It is either heard and mimicked or instructed. Monkey see. Monkey Do. Monkey learn to play guitar too.

That's not to say that aping a technique is the same as excelling in it, which is what Daniel Bachman, originally of Virginia, does. Simply put, Bachman is an excellent guitar player. He's got witchfingers that seem to make a very strong case for how the speed of sound may actually be quicker than the speed of light...or is that the speed of human perception? Regardless, take a minute to watch his Tiny Desk concert on NPR and you'll see what I mean: it's hard to keep up with the dance of his hands.

Bachman's got an upcoming LP on Three Lobed Recordings set to emerge from hibernation around the time leaves begin to reappear on trees. Before that, though, he will be continuing his relentless perma-tour, doing a couple weeks in February, a week in March, two weeks in Europe during April, and finally a three week US tour in May. He's playing two shows in Chicago on February 15 & 16 and you should be there! I'll include the rest of the dates below the interview.

Daniel Bachman: What’s up, man?

Jordan Reyes: Hey Dan, what’s going on?

DB: Not much, I’m just working on this radio show that I’m doing tonight. I’m putting down tracks and getting stuff settled, which is kind of stressing me out. Today is fucking insane.

JR: What’s the radio show?

DB: I’m doing this program with my buddy Grant. I've got a lot of White Gospel records, which I guess can be considered Pentecostal or Mountain Gospel. We’re doing a three hour show tonight on the Chapel Hill station. It’s going to be fun, but I’m somewhat crunched for time. I usually am not this busy, but I've got this interview and another radio thing at four, so it’s just a wild day.

JR: I actually lived in Durham for four years so it’s funny you’re in Chapel Hill.

DB: Oh, I live in Durham now. I live on North Roxboro on the other side of 85.

JR: Awesome! Do you know Chaz at Bull City Records?

DB: Oh, fuck yeah, dude! Chaz is from Richmond!

JR: Yeah, he’s a buddy of mine! I used to spend hours at his shop.

DB: He is a great dude. I haven’t been in the store for a minute, but I should go this week. It’s just that today and tomorrow are fucked up for me. I just got back into town last night actually.

JR: From tour?

DB: No – my family took me and my girlfriend to the Outer Banks for a couple days.

JR: Oh ok. I was actually talking to your friend Ryley Walker last night.

DB: And what did he have to say for himself?

JR: First of all, he said to tell you hello, and that I should ask you about food, so…are you a fan of food?

DB: Yeah, I love food. I’m cooking food right now. (laughs) I’m cooking my lunch right now.

JR: Nice. What’s the meal plan for Daniel Bachman?

DB: Well, I haven’t been grocery shopping in a while so I've got some eggs and some sausage, which I’m going to eat that for breakfast and lunch, and then I’m going to get some soup for dinner with my buddy after the other interview stuff.

DB: (laughs) That’s really funny about Ryley. He just knows that food is very important to me. I always look forward to eating and going to different places. He’s had to go around with me before when we've tried to find something just to get sandwiches or something.

JR: Yeah, he specifically said to ask about sandwiches.

DB: Just yesterday we tried this new place in Greensboro called B’s Barbecue. They had typical Carolina barbecue but also corn sticks and all the sauces for sandwiches were in Seagram’s gin bottles. It was a country-ass fuckin' place, but it was really good.

DB: I’m always on the lookout for that shit. I have a long list of places that I really like. I actually don’t have one for Chicago. I’ll be up there for two days next month.

JR: Nice! You should fix that.

DB: Yeah, totally. Let’s fuckin’ do it. I’m playing at Ryley’s house and also at the hideout. The house show is going to be crazy – it’ll probably just be a big party.

JR: Have you been touring a lot the last few years?

DB: Yeah, I go out every month for at least a week. This month is kind of my vacation month: I’m only playing local shows, but I’m playing a lot of them. I’m doing two weeks in February, a week in March, two weeks in Europe in April, and finally three weeks in a US tour in May.

DB: But I’m going back to college hopefully and working for the park service all summer so I won’t be on tour for the summer, and if I get into school, I won’t be able to tour for a while.

JR: Do you think you’ll still be able to put out records and stuff?

DB: Oh yeah. That’s not going to be the problem. And I’m going to be paying my bills by doing weekend gigs, driving up to Baltimore or down to Atlanta, but I'm not going to be able to go out for two weeks and hitting an entire coast.

JR: What are you going to study?

DB: I don’t know yet. I want to get into the American studies program at UNC and then see where that goes. I’ve always wanted to go there since I was a kid, but we didn't have the money when I was a kid. Out-of-state tuition is very expensive. Who knows, though? I’m trying really hard to get in and I’ve got the time and energy now. I can always go on tour, but I don’t know if I’ll always have the opportunity to go to college.

JR: I've always had a desire to do something like that – really submerge myself in the arts. I wish I had taken a year maybe between college and high school and done it. I think you've made a great choice.

DB: Yeah, even my mom was asking me the other day if I were disappointed that they weren't stricter on me to get stuff done for college. I dropped out of High School and they let me. I did two years at a university in Virginia but dropped out to start touring more. The whole time my parents were very emotionally supportive of my decision, but my mom was honestly asking me if I wished they had been on my ass a little more, and I had to reflect and say “No, I’m happy, but I’m ready to go back to school and also keep doing what I’m doing.”

JR: Tell me a little bit about the upcoming record you have for Three Lobed. What was the process behind it? What’s it like?

DB: Well, naturally it’s a series of songs and it’s probably the best sequenced record I've ever made. The playing on it is my best too. It’s very slow and the album’s pace is different from what I've done before, but that was the goal. I wanted to make slow, sad songs.

DB: There’s one side-long song that’s about fourteen and a half minutes, which is on the A-side. It took me a couple months to write. The rest of it is pretty slow, lazy river music.

DB: I’m really happy with how it turned out. It was also the first time I went into a studio to record so that’s exciting. I worked with a guy named Brian Haran here in Durham. We did it all in a day. Everything was a first or second take. It has a very live feel to it. It doesn't feel like we were dwelling on anything, which is what I wanted.

DB: (grunts) Here I am, putting my arugula in the pan. Sorry, I’m trying to be time conscious. It’s crazy. I haven’t played guitar in two weeks either. I've just been touring so much, and I have this live recorded show at four and I’m nervous about how it’s going to sound since I haven’t played in two weeks!

JR: Do you think Virginia and North Carolina and Virginia have any impact on the music that you play?

DB: Oh yeah, totally. Not so much North Carolina because I’m not from here. It’s similar sometimes and different in others. The plants look different. The trees and soil are different. But as I get older, I get more into that stuff. Fredericksburg is right between Richmond and D.C., for instance, which has a ton of history. It has definitely impacted me, whether it’s music or food or whatever.

JR: Why did you start playing guitar?

DB: It was kind of by accident. My dad was a guitar player and I never wanted to play the guitar. I played the banjo for three or four years, which are in open modal tunings. But when I got into that, I realized it was somewhat limited. Anyway, I ended up hearing some solo guitar music – Jim O’Rourke. And I remember that I thought to myself “Oh, I could probably do that,” so I started tuning to an open tuning. I didn't know about the other guys that did that.

DB: Slowly, the banjo started fading out and the guitar became a bigger part of me. But I never wanted to since it was my dad’s thing, and I didn’t want to be like my dad. Everyone feels like that.

JR: You’re totally right, and then you realize that your dad is actually somewhat of a cool person.

DB: Yeah, I've got a shitload of his records from the 60s and 70s. He had great taste.

JR: Did your dad put out any music?

DB: He did in the 90s and stuff. He lived in New York for a while in the 60s and ran around that Greenwich Village scene, but didn't play out a lot because of Vietnam. He had to get a job to avoid the draft so he didn't have the same experience. Maybe if the war hadn't been going on, he would have had a similar experience to what I've had. He was in blues bands always playing guitar.

JR: Who do you like to listen to now?

DB: It’s all over the place. All I’m listening to today is gospel. I've got a stack of about a hundred records in front of me and I have to go through each of them and pick out four songs each for the radio show tonight. That’s the stuff that gets me these days.

DB: Canned Heat has been a big fixation of mine for the last few months. I've just been jamming fucking hard to like every Canned Heat record.

JR: I've never listened to a Canned Heat record.

DB: Man, they’re so fucking good. Seriously. They have a great sense of humor and the best musicians. Bob Hite grew up with John Fahey. All those guys go way back. I’m learning some of the guitar player’s tunes. He’s got some recordings from when he tried to commit suicide – hospital room tapes – they’re pretty spooky.

DB: Damn, this lunch is pretty good.

February 2015 Tour Dates
Feb 8 - Durham, NC - The Pinhook 
Feb 9 - Athens, GA - The World Famous 
Feb 10 - Asheville, NC - The Mothlight
Feb 11 - Nashville, TN - The Stone Fox
Feb 12 - Louisville, KY - tba
Feb 13 - Bloomington, IN - The Artifex Guild w/ Tyler Damon
Feb 14 - Lafayette, IN - The Spot
Feb 15 - Chicago, IL - The Hideout w / Lagartha
Feb 16 – Chicago, IL – Ryley Walker Sponsored Party House Show
Feb 17 - Milwaukee, WI - Cactus Club # presented by Acme Records & Music Emporium
Feb 19 - Iowa City, IA - The Mill
Feb 20 - Minneapolis, MN - 7th Street Entry w/ Steve Palmer

No comments:

Post a Comment