Bill Orcutt and Loren Connors. Photo by Justin Tripp.
Keith ConnollyA part of the premise of arranging this session was to investigate the nature of the blues as it exists in the present moment. At the risk of attempting a definition by that which it is not, I’d like to ask the both of you about some of your extra-musical pursuits: Loren, you are also a painter and have a vested interest in history, especially that of New York City. Bill, I believe you were involved in operating an art-house cinema in San Francisco, and have exhibited a strong, almost pop-art design sensibility, which belies an interest in, dare I say, fashion, or at least a kind of sarcasm about the retro-contemporary. How would you say that these pursuits inform or are interwoven into your music?
Loren Connors It’s all me. One thing affects another. Everything is an aesthetic exercise or a physical exercise. It keeps me going.
Bill Orcutt I agree with Loren—it’s all interconnected. Also for me, I have a ton of interests and tend to do a lot of pseudo-research before a making a record—reading and listening which generally has nothing to do with the task at hand, but usually winds up expressing itself one way or another. Right now I’m reading everything I can find on minstrelsy, a subject I know practically nothing about. I have no idea how this “research” might work its way into the thing I’m making now, but I’m sure it’ll find a way.
KC There’s an American band from the ’60s called The Blues Image, whose music seems to have little to do with the blues (though “Ride Capitan Ride” is something of a jam). It’s their name that gets me though, as being food for thought. is it possible to separate our image of the blues from its essence, if there is such a thing? and would you say that the blues is specifically an American export?
LC Yes, it’s possible. Blues is not specifically American. Bach was a bluesman. Puccini was a bluesman.
BO I don’t think there’s such a thing as an essence of the blues. I also disagree with Loren about Bach. It’s always been filtered through somebody’s perception. Muddy Waters learned to play from listening to records. When Alan Lomax discovered him on the plantation in 1941 and asked him for his repertoire he listed mostly pop: Gene Autry tunes, “Home on the Range,” “Chattanooga Choo-Choo,” big band hits, etc. But Lomax only recorded the blues numbers he thought were appropriate for his image.
Yes, it’s American.
KC What role does abstraction play your music?
LC It’s all an abstraction of the blues.
BO Well, the blues itself is a leaky abstraction, you know. An abstraction is supposed to exclude the complexity of the real to derive a higher concept, but as an abstraction, the blues are leaky. There’s always some bit of messiness that leaks out and reveals what was excluded. That’s what I’m interested in—the parts of the blues that don’t fit the model, the parts that are broken.
For more on Natch Music (and more sessions), visit their website.
For more on Bill Orcutt, read visit his website.