Thollem McDonas: The Beauty of Never Going Back Home
TM: Indeed it does. Bob and I will be working on a new solo album of mine I'm calling Thollem's Confluence: So Many Heavens, So Many Hells, in November. I'll be actively looking for a label for that album soon.
AAJ: I would also like to discuss your project with John Dieterich, the guitarist best known for his ongoing work with the experimental rock group Deerhoof. I take it you've worked with [drummer] Greg Saunier...
TM: I've been friends with Deerhoof for quite some time, and I have played a bunch with Greg in the past, here and there, including the Blue Note in NY. It was Martha Colburn's idea to get John and I together to do a live soundtrack for her films at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
AAJ: In The Valley Of The Cloudbuilder (Post-Consumer Records, 2013) is so different from the other things you've done, yet the sound is unmistakably yoursand John's. This collaboration is a free-standing aspect of your artistry; it's as if you both had this idea of what the record was going to sound like before you did it.
TM: Oh yes, John and I work really well together. It's a bit uncanny. When we are editing, without even thinking or looking at each other, we'd both say: "Cut there!" Very often. And this would happen again and again. We have a great time working together, we both love to collaborate, and we really trust one another. One thing we realized as we were putting the record together was that this music is not really based in any sort of cultural framework at all. In many ways, it's purely non-intentional music. We're not playing rock, we're not playing jazz or free jazz, we're not playing noise, or classical, or post-classical, or whatever [laughs]. It's completely genre-free! And it's not even intended to be genre-free. We had very, very specific ideas about how the music was going to be structured...
AAJ: ...and these related to the images and thematic content of Martha Colburn's film?
TM: No, actually, John and I did an album [All for Now (Dromos Records, 2012)], which we recorded the day after we performed the live soundtrack for Martha's film at SFMOMA. It's on a label called Dromos Records, based in Portugal. They do everything by hand, all in limited quantities.
AAJ: An artisanal record label!
TM: Yes, totally artisanal. So this is our second recording together. And we had this very specific concept and very elaborate overall structure around the music. We were going to record a bunch of large pieces, and these were going to be surrounded by smaller, shorter pieces which were, in turn, going to be surrounded by even smaller shorter pieces. And the smaller pieces were going to be repeated throughout the album, but in different ways. We had it all mapped out. So we did the recordings, but then we lost the notes. And here we were with all of this music recorded, and no ideafor the life of usof how it was all supposed to be put together. It's funny, because what you're hearing was created by a process that, itself, cannot be reproduced! We created the music using a very fixed set of ideas that we essentially forgot, and created an entirely different album based on this disparate material.
AAJ: You're right, that is an interesting process... [laughs]
TM: [laughs] Yeah, really interesting. There's absolutely no way we could repeat this unless we somehow hit each other on the head simultaneously and got amnesia...
AAJ: ...so you'll continue collaborating [laughs].
TM: Oh yeah [laughs]. We're also working together in the Hand to Man Band, which is me, John, and former Minutemen bassist Mike Watt. Tim Barnes was the original drummer, but now we have Mike Guarino on drums. We just recorded our second album together.
AAJ: So, how many projects do you have running in parallel?
TM: There are so many I haven't mentioned yet. We've just touched on a few of them here. I've got a great trio, MAGIMC, in Italy with [saxophonist] Edoardo Marraffa - Tonino Miano and [percussionist] Stefano Giust, and another one called the Soar Trio with [saxophonist] Skeeter Shelton and [bassist] Joel Peterson that's based in Detroit. I'm working with [saxophonist] Rent Romus in the Bloom Project, which has several records out. There's Electric Nashville, with [guitarist] Ed Pettersen, [violinist] Tracy Silverman, [vocalist] Ryan Norris, and Dylan Simon on electronics. I'm continuing to collaborate with [bass clarinetist] Arrington de Dionyso on 10,000 Tigers. It's music that we describe as being relentlessly ecstatic, and it is, man! We performed at the Cecil Taylor festival last year at Issue Project Room.
I've got a quartet of incredible Italian string players in Daniele Roccato, Francesco Dillon and Marco Rogliano. We've got an album coming out on Setola Di Maiale. Stefano Scodanibbio put this group together not long before he died. Also a duo album with [percussionist] Gino Robair on the same label. I've got a duo album with Lukas Ligeti coming out on Leo Records and a duo album with [guitarist/vocalist] Sabrina Siegel as well. There's also a new project with The Stooges sax man Steve Mackay, some solo explorations and performing live to Martha's films in a full scale performance called Triumph Of The Wild. I've got a new band with Brian Chase and Todd Clouser called Hot Pursuit Of Happiness; we're recording in August. I'm also in Matthew Barney's newest film, which was shot in Detroit, and I've just started talking about making a feature length film as a collaboration between Postcommodity and the Estamos Project.