Thursday, June 02, 2011

In full: An interview with Peter Brötzmann

About a month ago, I spent one and a half hours on the phone with Peter Brötzmann (from midtown Manhattan to Wuppertal, Germany). I've carried on in recent posts about my intermittent addiction to this man's music. For about a decade now, his sound has functioned for me like a somewhat exotic favorite cuisine: not something I'm always in the mood for, but when I am, I won't settle for anything else.

Mr. Brötzmann was a delight to talk to. (At this point, I'd like to extend a hearty thank you to Patricia Parker at Arts for Art for setting up the interview, which was Time Out New York–backed and timed to Brötzmann's June 8 appearance at Vision Festival XVI.) It would be somewhat absurd to expect a creator of extreme and often violent music to also express these qualities in conversation, but it didn't seem out of the question that Brötzmann might be a bit brusque or no-nonsense. Actually, he was unfailingly warm, totally unhurried, funny, reflective, occasionally profane. In short, I got a constant "I'm talking to a really good guy" vibe throughout our interview. It made me wonder why I hadn't read more interviews with the man before. After all, he tours the world regularly; you'd think that press folks would get curious and request Q&As. Whatever the case may be, I felt completely elated during and after this experience. I almost always enjoy the interview process, but this one seemed to be in a class of its own.

I feel that the results will be of interest to Brötzmann fans, which is to say that they were/are of interest to me, i.e., I learned a lot about him and clarified a lot more. Just to cite one example, I've always been fascinated by Brötzmann's inimitable verbal sense (Nipples! Balls! Hairy Bones!), and he spoke candidly about this:

"If you take Balls or Nipples, the sexual side of the music, you have it in rhythm & blues as much as you can. It's very important, and was and still is for me."

That's just a small snippet. If you have a chance, please check out the interview and let me know what you think. If you're new to Brötzmann, I suggest starting with the profile piece that the conversation fueled.

I should mention that this Brötzmann interview was just one component of an NYC-jazz package created for the Time Out New York website by myself and my esteemed colleague Steve Smith, whom you might know as @nightafternight. In addition to a calendar of the top jazz shows for the coming summer, you'll find our thoroughly subjective list of 25 essential New York jazz icons of the present moment. (DFSBP regulars might be able to guess who my No. 1 pick was, a pick at which Steve and I each arrived at independently.) As with the Brötzmann materials, I welcome any feedback regarding this list. I had a blast working on it, but it was definitely an eye-opener in terms of my own biases and blind spots.

P.S. I encourage all Brötzmann fans to visit his new shared web home, Catalytic Sound, where you can buy records direct from the artist.

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