As mentioned in Pt. I, the band BURNING GHOSTS releases its new CD today. What I didn’t mention is this!
BURNING GHOSTS // CD Release // Saturday, May 7th, 9:00pm
Celebrating their debut CD release on Orenda Records, Los Angeles expressionist metal-jazz mavens BURNING GHOSTS present a live concert-film recording IN THE ROUND at Downtown LA’s premeire live creative music venue, BLUEWHALE.
Daniel Rosenboom | Trumpet
Jake Vossler | Guitars
Richard Giddens | Bass
Aaron McLendon | Drums
Joining them for this special event will be video artist extraordinaire, Travis Flournoy on live psychedelic visuals, and countercultural force of nature John Skipp. (Ain’t I fancy?)
123 Astronaut E.S. Onizuka St., Suite 301
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Hope to see you all there!
Meanwhile, as promised, here’s a brief conversation with the man both behind and in front of the curtain: on sonic evolution, cultural revolution, working with brilliant musicians, and forging new ways to get that music heard.
FUNGASM INTERVIEW WITH DANIEL ROSENBOOM
1) What cultural forces provoked this music?
Truth be told, by the summer of 2015 I found myself disgusted, despairing, frustrated, and somewhat helpless in the face of the continuous onslaught of “bad news” that seemed to really explode after the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. By that point, it had been almost a year of pulling the curtain back on police brutality, particularly in majority black communities; and along with this rampant disgrace, all sorts of reports on rape culture, economic and class inequity, gender discrimination, LGBTQ struggles, and political corruption seemed to be boiling over in our newsfeeds. And as a white artist living in an incredibly diverse city, I couldn’t make sense of any of this – it just didn’t compute for me. How could this be our 2015 America? How could people enact such bigotry towards each other? I was almost feeling paralyzed by the need to do something, but not knowing how to put these feelings into action.
Of course making art, particularly expressionist music, is a pretty abstract way to react to all of these cultural ills. But my voice is most effective through the horn. I’m not saying that this music is a mode of effective action against police brutality or discrimination – but I do think that music has the power to inspire discourse, to make people reflect and share in a feeling. And if knowing the influences that, as you say, “provoked” this music can help our audience to ask themselves some difficult questions, or to reflect on our society while listening to the collective emotions the band puts out, then I think it can be a pebble in a pond. And hopefully the ripple radiates wide.
In a certain way, music IS the rock that hits the social mirror. And change really IS possible.
2) Why these instruments, for this particular experiment? Why these guys?
For me, making music always comes down to the people involved in the project. Depending on who’s in the band, the approach, sound, and concept are going to be unique. So, I had been mixing an amazing duo project between Jake Vossler on guitar and Aaron McLendon on drums. I’ve known these guys for well over a decade now, and Jake and I have been close musical compatriots, bandmates, and brothers that whole time. Mixing their duo project, I said to myself, “I gotta play with this combo.” Jake and I have had a duo relationship for years, Aaron and Jake have had a duo relationship, Aaron and our bassist Richard Giddens have had a duo relationship, and Richard and I have had a duo relationship, but the four of us had never all played together in the same context. So, it was an exciting opportunity to mix these elements, these incredibly strong musical personalities, together.
The sound of these guys together was always going to be visceral and intense – some might even say extreme. So given the timing of the recording (summer 2015), and the culture maelstrom that felt totally overwhelming, it seemed like the perfect band to dive into that fire and say something bold. But rather than write music specifically designated to certain social issues, we basically started a dialogue about all these things – the warts on our American cultural identity that were just too big to ignore – and we set out to make subversive music in a spontaneous way. That is to say, some of the pieces had some loosely structured compositional elements, and some were totally improvised, but all were played against the backdrop of serious cultural examination.
What’s really amazing about this band is the range of musical influences that integrate seamlessly in the moment. For me the broad umbrella of “free jazz” was an important element, not only musically, but for its cultural implication. I think of it as an attitude more than genre. And that attitude is pretty aligned with punk, in many ways. Jake’s background as a metal guitarist informs everything about his sound and approach, but his musical tastes are incredibly diverse, and his approach to improvisation is so dynamic and colorful that sometimes it’s impossible to believe it’s the same guy. Richard and Aaron have deep roots in jazz, but they’re also spectacularly diverse improvisers, and approach their roles as a rhythm section with an incredible drive and intensity. There aren’t that many “jazz guys” that can shift gears from burning swing to straight up metal or even almost avant-classical as effortlessly as they do. Basically, I knew this band was perfect for creating music that felt as shifting, dynamic, and conversational as this subject matter demanded.
Really, the music is like a mashup of Ornette Coleman and Wadada Leo Smith with Fantomas and The Melvins, imbued with the spirit of Rage Against the Machine and Dmitri Shostakovich. Fans of Napalm Death, Burning Witch, and Earth will find common ground here with fans of Albert Ayler, Charles Mingus, and John Zorn – it’s a complex sound that has appeal to folks on either end of the spectrum for ironically similar reasons. Timbre-ly speaking, it is metal and timbre-ly speaking it is jazz, but these are ultimately superficial and secondary distinctions. What it really is, is a group of four musicians with broad interests fluidly integrating the entire spectrum of their shared language in a naturally spontaneous way. It’s a musical dialogue, and the sound is just the result.
3) I love that you put the trumpet in the foreground on this project. So often, you generously offer the spotlight to your band members, to the point where you spend more time blending in than popping out. What’s the difference this time?
Thanks man! Yeah, usually speaking I try to go for an ensemble sound more than a soloist sound. In this instance, it was an important delineation to only have one horn – we were going for a very strong and distinct sound for each instrumental voice. But the trumpet is also an appropriate “narrator,” if you will, for the conversation. Historically, the trumpet is a signal instrument – in the ancient world it was literally used to signal approaching danger, or announce important events. In that way it has a deeply ingrained role as “the voice of the call,” so to speak. So, in this context, it really operates like the lead voice in a narrative.
On a personal note, this is the first time I’ve positioned myself as the only horn in a band. It was a distinct choice to put my voice out front and center, both to challenge myself as an artist, and to really direct the conversation. Because of it’s timbre and natural melodicism, the trumpet acts like a guide through the ever-changing textures the other guys weave. Richard and Jake both have really deep, rich, big sounds, so they provide a huge sonic bed for the trumpet to float over. Aaron’s drive and percussive sonic palate are like waves to surf as a horn player.
But really, I think the feeling that the trumpet is at the foreground is actually just a bi-product of the instruments we used, and the natural way we play together. The idea was to really have a group dialogue going the whole time. It’s not music where there are very many clearly delineated solos and backgrounds. We’re all contributing equally all the time. The trumpet just has a timbre that rides on top very naturally.
4) Orenda, like Fungasm, is a small label with a fierce determination to put out challenging, genre-defying work. Can you talk a bit about the Orenda aesthetic, and the kind of work you push, why?
For me, as an artist, I’m most interested in work that’s pushing the boundaries of its chosen direction. So in terms of music, that naturally tends toward projects that are quite genre defiant. But the genre-defying isn’t the point. It’s simply that musicians today listen to an enormous range of music. Since we’ve got about a century’s worth of recorded music to draw from, and hundreds of years of scores to check out, and thousands of years of traditions, I think most creative musicians today see genre lines as almost laughable.
In the days when record companies had to give stores clear genre distinctions in order to help them organize their shelves and sell products to people of certain persuasions, it was more important. It’s how people moved music to the masses. But the most creative artists never really played by the rules anyway. The difference was label executives used to take more chances. I saw an interview with Frank Zappa once where he laid it out perfectly. To paraphrase: “The label executives were old guys with money, who recognized that they had no idea what kids would like. So rather than worrying about whether or not they could sell an artist or album, they just threw money at the weird stuff and let the kids figure it out.” I love that attitude. And I’d totally go with that ethos…except I have no money to throw at anything! Hahahahaha!
But that’s largely why we put out the music we do. Most of the stuff on Orenda Records would have a really hard time finding an appropriate home on another label. Most of the artists we work with are at the beginnings or early stages of their public careers. They’re taking chances, trying things, and experimenting with music without worrying too much about sales. Worrying about sales is the death of creativity, and in my experience, the bolder your creative choices, the better chance you have of success. So, I’m inspired by artists and musicians who take those risks and go for it!
That’s created a catalog that’s pretty damn diverse. This is our 30th record, and we’ve got everything from creative jazz, to electronic music, to contemporary classical, to cross-cultural, to avant-garde, to chamber jazz, to experimental metal, and more. And what unites all of this is a sense of community – all these artists are working with each other, playing on each other’s projects, sharing influences, and pushing each other. That’s the most exciting part. And we’re just getting started…
CD Release Show: http://burningghosts.eventbrite.com