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AS: It's strange to put so much value on something like that and to put so much value on something like making a studio recording, you know?
DH: It's not like we don't have a pile of studio recordings that we have done in that manner.
AS: No, but there is a fetishistic aspect of listening to field-recorded music that is unavoidable.
DC: Do you think some of it is—I don't want to say nostalgia, but this desire for a time warp?
AS: Sure it is, but is it a time warp if you're listening to something from 1998?
DC: [Hesitates.] It's not as interesting of one, though—not as interesting a time warp. I was alive in 1998, and it wasn't all that interesting.
AS: I got some field recordings right here that were made in the last two years that will blow your mind—from Eastern and Western North Carolina.
LS: But that's the intimacy aspect of field recordings—it's raw, it's of the moment, it's like a stamp of time. Studio albums sometimes feel like they're not a stamp of time. They're these meticulously crafted representations of what the band might sound like at a particular period of time. This is an exact representation of what that person sounds like at that time.
DC: I'd like to hear that stuff you were talking about.
ALBERT AYLER, "LIGHT IN DARKNESS"
[from Live in Greenwich Village: The Complete Recordings, 1998; originally released in 1966]
[Free jazz saxophonist Albert Ayler and his band flex time and tone here, moving from spirited gospel jumps to near drone-like sheets of sound. The rhythm section—or, properly, the way it fights against that nomenclature—is of utmost importance.]
DC: Listening to Albert Ayler, the thing I like most about it is, he's informed by all this '60s out jazz, but it's also, in a lot of ways, really traditional. It's like the older style of New Orleans. Everybody is improvising at the same time. It's not as tonal as that, but that makes it sound more complex and more beautiful in some way.
AS: He loves melody.
DC: And Sunny Murray. He's such a freak. You've got to love that stuff if you're a drummer. He just changes everything. He was the first drummer that I was aware of, chronologically speaking, that discarded any notion of rhythm keeping and just decided to play textures. He was reacting to the melodies that were happening, just playing that way instead of swinging.
IW: Dave, you mentioned earlier not knowing heads from tails when your fellow drummer, Jenks Miller, mentions metal. But you seem more than prepared to talk about this free music. In this band, he generally plays the straightforward parts and then you break them apart. How much do those listening interests affect those roles, if you agree that the roles work as described?
DH: I think you almost put it in the context that he and Dave fit in. Dave definitely goes places that don't necessarily require a time signature way more often than Jenks does. Dave's drumming becomes a textural element, which I think is more a connection to this.
DC: It's funny because I play in bands where I'm the only drummer. I try to do some of this when I can, but it's liberating playing with Jenks because I'm free to do this stuff more
LS: I feel like I know the least about music in this whole group of people right now. I don't know who the hell this dude is, honestly. Whenever Dave and Aaron start talking about music, I'm just like, "Whatever." It's definitely interesting, but I lived in North Florida, and we had no good radio stations—classic rock, just like any small Southern town would have. It was a desperate act to try and find any music outside of that format or what was going on at that period of time, which was grunge. Moving up to Chapel Hill was really exciting because every day I'm in this town, I get exposed to new stuff.
I still feel like I know the least: Jenks has the black metal stuff he's really into. Aaron knows a lot about folk and country and old blues. Dave Harper seems to know a lot about experimental music. Dave Cantwell has been in the music scene for a long time. And then there's Lincoln Sward, the guy who ...
AS: You picked up Thrones like that. [Snaps fingers.]
IW: Isn't that liberating or energizing to an extent—to know there's so much music you can still hear for the first time and still get excited about?
LS: I don't ever want to be in a position where, as I grow old, I look at the younger generation and go, "Oh, I don't understand what you're doing. This is a bunch of noise." I always want to be able to take a fresh approach to stuff. So living in the area and being around these guys and always being turned on to new music is completely exciting—although I'm oblivious to most of it.
DC: Well, it's overwhelming.