Interview: Bradford Reed

Interview: Bradford Reed

Brooklyn-based experimental composer Bradford Reed has created some seriously unique and forward gazing music over the years.

Ripe with Avant-Garde spice, last years album with Minerals (Minerals One & Two) and Ω▽ OHMSLICE in 2017 (Conduit) are two of his most recent creative expressions that stretch back to the early ’90s.

On his forthcoming LP ‘What’s Good for the Goose Is Good’, the first instrumental project from Reed in thirteen years he’s constructed ten tracks driven by the pencilina, an electric ten-stringed instrument he invented in the late 1980s.

Recorded at his own studio and at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn ‘What’s Good for the Goose Is Good’ features friends and long-time creative partners Zach Layton, Hoppy Kamiyama, Rae Howell, Nicole D’Agostino and Daniel Carter.

“I’ve been improvising with the musicians on these recordings for years. We’ve become familiar with each other’s respective tendencies as we compose spontaneously explains Reed. “These pieces can be regarded as sonic travelogues of the musical paths that we commonly travel on together.”

Ahead of his upcoming album, we talk to the musician about the themes behind the record, his inspirations, new projects and much more.

 

How are you? What are you up to today?

Excellent, thanks. I’m mixing some sungura music that was recorded in Zimbabwe for a new Vital Records release; taking intermittent breaks answering these questions and experimenting with new synth patches and gushing over the coolness of VCV Rack.

 

Nice! It’s been 13 years since your last instrumental album, so why has there been such a gap between the last one and this new one?

It hasn’t been for lack of music-making as I have days (probably months) of recordings made with a steady crew of wonderful players who love playing, listening and learning from each other through musical interaction. Thanks to the interest of Nick and John (from Youngbloods Records), it became impossible to keep some of this work contained.

 

Can you tell us about the themes behind ‘What’s Good For The Goose’? What’s the story behind the album’s title?

I find the structures or patterns that form as a result of the relationship of persons, places or things coming together due to their natural tendencies or placements (rather than by human intervention or control) to be the most potentially beautiful phenomena to witness or be part of. It’s easy to experience this beauty while in nature, because we’re immersed in it. For me, sonically, it can come through musical improvisation with the right approach, thus the correlation with the titles of most of this album’s material. I find human impact on nature to be very disinheriting and wish there were more accessible options to soften our blows to it as we go through life. I’ve heard people who live in the migratory path of Canadian geese disturbingly complain about the geese shitting and making noise on their properties. I think geese should be well received and humans should examine their ideas of land use and ownership in the context of ecosystems and other beings. Also, if I listen to flocks of geese honking or flapping, I can often hear some very interesting rhythmic phase relationships between the sounds of the individual geese. This is a phenomenon I try to approximate musically in different ways.

New album from Bradford Reed.

 

Did you have a clear sense as to how you wanted the album to sound?

I wanted it to sound welcoming, strangely beautiful and consistently planted in its own unique world.

 

When composing your music, apart from other musicians, what inspires you?

The wilderness; how the dream state appears as real while dreaming as the waking state does while awake and what this suggests about the nature of consciousness; a lot of films mostly from the 70’s.

 

Which is your favourite track of the album and why?

Maybe its, “Waves of Wind through Tops of Trees”. It was the first piece we recorded in a series of sessions at Pioneer Works. It happened on a beautiful summer day. I was extremely happy to be there. Looking into the garden as we improvised, I could see the wind in, yes, the tops of the trees. I had played in different contexts with Zach and Daniel, but we hadn’t all played together until that day. At the onset of the session I was secretly amazed by the speed and fluidity of their harmonic interactions as well as frustrated about how to contribute to the fast density of sound swirling around me. Then I stopped thinking, listened and played. Metaphorically, I felt like a container ship and that they were speed boats. Though I wanted to be a speed boat, it wasn’t called for or going to happen so I steamed along at my own pace. In the end, what I find to be a uniquely captivating piece of music came to exist because we listened to each other and played in our own individual idiosyncratic ways. Hearing it reminds me of that lovely day, to be patient and not let my agitations or insecurities interfere with the task at hand.

 

Besides the Pencilina, what piece of equipment can you not live without and why?

I can live without all equipment or happily substitute one piece of gear or instrument for another and have fun thinking about the results. That said, I’ve found Make Noise’s Maths eurorack module to be essential and magical in turning sounds and articulations into expressive voltages which are so interesting it seems to be eerily sentient in its processing.

Pencilina

What is your favourite sound?

The elusive one I’ve never heard that I keep trying to make or find which keeps me going or the one I hear which I can’t identify. When I first moved to Brooklyn into a commercial building there were a few bands rehearsing in it. At the time, I was taking drum lessons and practicing a lot. One day I heard the sound of unbelievably elated and complex polyrhythmic drumming on some insanely cool instrument I couldn’t identify drifting into my window. It was beyond anything I could have imagined. Curious and very humbled, I rushed to its source to discover two dudes throwing old kitchen equipment down a gravity roller into the basement.

 

Any other new projects on the horizon? Also, are you planning on releasing a new Ohmslice album anytime soon?

Yes, I’m cranking these days. I’m about to finish the fist Anthems of the Void record. This is my “interstellar avant rock band” with Caylie Staples singing and Geoff Gersh on guitar and me simultaneously playing the pencilina, drums and synth. We’ve been developing the songs for a few years, toured last Summer and I’m very excited about releasing songs in intervals as 4 singles starting early next year. And yes, another Ω▽(Ohmslice) record is indeed in the works- this time with Richard Hutchins on percussion, Nikki D’Agostino on sax and Martin Philadelphy on guitar joining the crew.

 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you very much for you interest in the record and how I’ve thought about making it. I hope people get to check it out, like it and share it. I would also LOVE to do some performances. If anyone knows about venues or gigs, please give me a shout.

 

What’s Good for the Goose Is Good is out 15/11 via Youngbloods Records. Pre-order here.

CF Smith

Write for Music Is My Sanctuary & Stereofox.

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