When I perform, it’s definitely about duration. I don’t play any kind of time signature known to man.
Every once in a while I’ll find a new way of playing something, it will suggest itself. But generally speaking, there’s a set sonic potential, and that’s in concert with a set instrumental technique.
You have to be loose enough so that when you listen to what’s coming, you can follow it. In that sense I am improvising, but I don’t think I’m experimenting. I have a problem with the whole term “experimental music.”
When I was playing with synth players, I was still within a conceptual framework of playing music. When I started playing solo, I became much more aware of the acoustic phenomena that the instruments were producing.
I’d been collecting different ethnic instruments here and there, and then I started making little bell type stuff, looking for weird little sound toys.
It’s really hard to find materials. Also, prices of metal have gone completely through the roof, insanely expensive. And if you go to a dictionary and look up starving artist, you’ll see my picture.
In L.A., I called every scrap yard and surplus place that was listed, about 50 or 60 places, and only at one of them did the owner get intrigued and let me go around the yard to find stuff. Because the insurance regulations are such that you can’t go into the places anymore.
I lose all track of time on that level. I used to have a really good sense of time. I didn’t need a clock to play, and I had a sense of when five, ten, twenty minutes had passed. Now I can only play with a clock.
Some of the stainless steel discs that I play, I cut myself from pieces of stainless steel that I found. I don’t make as many as I used to, because you can’t get into surplus and scrap yards as easily anymore.
I started working with synthesizer players, and I had to find new instruments. I needed a more complex sound, so I went to a surplus place and got a bunch of hard plastic stuff and stainless steel stuff, and that stuff worked. So from that point on, from the 70s on, I’ve made instruments.
I really like accompanying. I like working with vocalists, I’ve worked with a lot of poets.
A lot of the people that I play with are electronic-based, so there isn’t a direct physical analogue between what they’re doing and the sound you’re hearing.
I’ve always been interested in finding out more about the properties of acoustics.
I don’t want to see an experiment. Experiment at home – when you show up on stage, I want to see a result. I think a lot of improvisers, you’ll see them some nights and they just stink, and they go, “Well, we’re just improvising.” Like that’s a license to have a shitty night!
The majority of my training was as a drummer, and drummers are basically accompanists.
I don’t really need new stuff anyway. I like to make big stuff, and it’s too expensive to travel with. So I have my refined set that works well, and I’m pretty much set with that.