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Interview with SubArachnoid Space - Satyricon, Portland, OR - 9/28/97

Jester: How did you first decide to get together and end up developing an all improvisational project?

Mason: It all started because I wanted to put together an improvisational band in a rock format. Originally I knew Jason, and he was a bass player, so he was an obvious choice. Then we met Michelle, who was a drummer, and roommate of Melynda's who was a guitar player. Around the beginning of 1997, Michelle moved back to Texas and Chris happened to be handy, so he became our new drummer. When I had the original idea to form a new project, I wanted it to be all improvisational because I had spent too many years getting together with people and rehearsing. I was no longer interested in perfecting music in a bar for bar type notation. So, whenever we practice, we tend to focus more on musical ideas and concepts rather than structured songs that we play over and over again.

Jester: How does that lend itself a live performance? Do you develop a whole new show every single night you perform?

Melynda: I tend to be the greatest repeater of guitar riffs during live performances. For some reason I cannot let go of certain notes. I am the only member of the band who likes to try and improve upon certain musical structures on a regular basis.

Jason: Each show is never the same but there are almost always certain elements that get repeated or show up again on a regular basis. At any given time during a show, someone is probably playing a part that they might have played once in the past, but what keeps the music fresh is that everyone else is coming up with new material and fresh sounds.

Chris: For this tour, my constant is that I tend to be the person who sets the stage for the initial tempo of the set. Everyone else then sort of draws on whatever I happen to have come up with and sort of build the music from there. From there a certain groove seems to always be set and the music just sort of evolves for the rest of the evening.

Jester: Have you ever found yourself falling into a certain type of repetition in your music unintentionally because it is often difficult to create truly new rhythms every time you perform?

Melynda: Always. For the most part, it is really difficult to be completely creative every day of your life. However, I think you you can work upon previous rhythms and use them to help develop new concepts and ideas that you might have not though of previously. I think there is a definite strategy that is different for each improvisational band. I think that all four of us are at a point where we have started to develop our own strategy that help us create new music. Ultimately it comes down to the fact that there are only so many sounds that can come out of an instrument, so you are bound to repeat yourself no matter what you do.

Chris: One of the most important things in a band with our format is listening to the other members of the band when you are performing. You need to be aware of the mood that is being set so that you know to play a certain type of rhythm or riff that fits the mood properly.

Mason: I would say that we try our hardest to follow the mood that the music seems to be evoking. If we start playing something, and I recognize a section that someone else has played before, I might play a certain accompaniment that worked once before, or intentionally reach for something new to help foster the growth of the music.

Jason: As far as originality goes, we are by no means anything close to it. We haven't done anything that other bands haven't been doing for the last thirty years but that is not the point. The whole point is to achieve a certain level of musical bliss.

Jester: Do you ever find that one member of the band seems to guide the direction of the music more than another?

Melynda: I think that the drums probably play the most integral role in the development of the music. I know that I am always communicating with Chris on-stage as to the direction of where I should be playing next.

Chris: Since I'm still new to the band, I am still at the point that I am developing my musical relationship with each member of the band. Melynda and I seem to have clicked sooner because I had played music with her before joining the band so we had more time to bond musically.

Jester: How do you choose which live pieces eventually end up on an album?

Jason: We record a large volume of our performances and live jams and just edit all of the portions of the music down that seem to sound really good into a collection of pieces. Then we pick and choose the best pieces to eventually put onto an album.

Mason: At this point we feel that we have gone as far as we can go musically by just recording our shows and rehearsals onto DAT. Outside of a studio, it is so hard to make the quality of the music shine through.

Jason: The Relapse record just happens to be a collection of really stellar material taken from live performances. At this point we are now more interested in going into a professional studio space and jamming in order to get a much more professional sound to our recorded material.

Jester: How do you name a track or an album for music that was written almost totally out of the group synergy?

Jason: Lots of times we just randomly yell out names until we end up with something that doesn't sound stupid or pretentious.

Mason: Usually it comes down to listening to each track several times until we each focus on a certain mood or concept that seems to have evolved from the music. Then we try and find a certain word or image that best exemplifies that mood.

For example, the material on the Relapse CD mostly comes from a Los Angeles show that we did. Prior to the show our van had broken down in the desert and we had gotten lost on the way to the club. By the time the show came around we were all totally pissed off and in a foul mood, so that after the catharsis of the show, when we listened to the music, it was easy to come up with names for the material that we ended up using.

Jester: Do you find it difficult to avoid playing music that is similar to bands who have influenced you in the past?

Mason: One of the reasons for playing improvisational music is that you don't have time to evaluate whether or not you happened to be playing music that was similar to a certain artist's style.

Melynda: Personally, I think I have a tendency to fall back onto playing material that I have heard before when I am musically tapped. I don't think that playing music in the same vein of another artist is wrong either.

Jason: I agree, I think it can sometimes be fun in the middle of a jam to try and sound like a certain artist just to see what happens.

Chris: For example last night we tried to spontaneously throw in a pseudo cover of Pink Floyd's 'Interstellar Overdrive'. It just happened to fall apart but I would consider it to have been a rather inspiring moment based upon the mood of that particular show.

Jester: Do you often find yourself playing around with music on your own time and then you end up reusing certain elements that you like when you all play live together?

Chris: Yes, I am starting to do that more lately. I am not sure why, but I do.

Mason: Personally, I try and avoid doing that because I am involved in another project that consists of doing just that, working on elements alone and then bringing them back to the band to be used when we sit down and write our structured material.

Melynda: For me, I really want to work on group strategies of improvisation. I am not sure how we can go about doing that, but I feel like there has to be a way to make our musical synergy sound better. I think that a certain key to playing this type of music, is that you have to practice to play improvisational.

Jester: Where do you see SubArachnoid Space going in the future?

Mason: We will have more studio tracks on our albums. Right now we have four tracks already recoreded, of which we will use portions of them. Then we will have friends overdub other material over the tracks including keyboard parts for the first time.

Chris: I'd like see how much thought we can put into the next release so that we can maximize the amount of technology at our disposal to make our music sounds really good.

Melynda: This time around we actually are talking about the music that we should be playing prior to actually playing it. This is something we never do before performing a live show or jam outside of the studio. I think it still keeps the concept of being improvisational but it adds just enough forethought to keep the music from sounding repetitive.

Jason: I just want our new material to sound good no matter how we actually play the music. Working in the studio this time around just gives us the chance to augment portions of a improvisational jam after the fact to make them sound their best.

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