Behind the Beat: A Life in Sound, Part Two

This week: part two of an interview with percussionist Matt Weston, who’s releasing a new CD, The Last of the Six Cylinders. 


You’ve played with a great many amazing musicians and composers. How has your wide-ranging experience affected you?

Sometimes it’s been in horribly mundane ways: when I started playing with Kevin Drumm, I had trouble hearing myself, so I started using electronics. During one of my first playing encounters with Chris Cooper [of Barn Owl and Fat Worm of Error], I threw my drumsticks at him to get him to stop. He didn’t, and we’ve been pals ever since. It taught me a lesson not just about patience and letting certain things establish themselves, but of the different compositional curves that different musicians use. But the one experience—or really, many experiences—that was the most influential was studying and collaborating with the late Bill Dixon. I’ve carried his lessons everywhere; in the early days of Barn Owl, when our pieces sometimes were long and meandering, I suggested limiting ourselves to one- and two-minute pieces, which was an exercise Dixon often used. When helping to mix Tizzy recordings, I would sometimes think that a certain instrument—maybe a tambourine or backing vocal—doesn’t necessarily need to be a heard presence but what Bill would call a “felt presence”—it’s there, but you feel it more than you overtly hear it. Playing with Andy Crespo [Barn Owl] is always a joy, too. He does things on the bass that seem impossible, and maybe they are, but he’s in touch with dimensions that shan’t be spoken of. Every time I’ve played with him I’ve tried to steal his ideas.

How do you change hats—sometimes within the same week—so quickly: from rock guitarist to electronic musician and beyond?

I don’t see those situations as distinct from one another; I don’t know how to. The only changes are physical—equipment, etcetera.

What’s the new CD like?

It’s a 12-track operatic investigation of why the word “bowelie” isn’t used more as an affectionate term for excrement. Either that, or it’s a three-movement orchestral work utilizing multiple overdubs of percussion, electronics and other instruments. Often in my solo performances I’ll want to make one area sound bigger, like there’s three people playing it instead of one—with recording, part of the approach involves isolating certain areas, and amplifying them via multiple overdubs. And while there’s guitars on this recording, I use them as if they were a part of my kit. That’s the clinical explanation—unfortunately, pending lawsuits, restraining orders, and a certain “unpleasantness” prevent me from speaking publicly about the inspiration behind these pieces. I should add, however, that local legend Jotham Stavely [ex-Binky] did the cover art, and it’s brilliant.

Anything wild or wacky that readers should know about you?

My grandparents [co-founders of Black Mountain College in North Carolina in the early ’30s] once took Aldous Huxley on a picnic.

Author: Matthew Dube

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