Brian Chase (Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, Chaikin Records)
When he’s not rocking the free world with Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Brian Chase is experimenting new territory with his drums performing with such notable improvisors as Zeena Parkins, Anthony Coleman, and Jeremiah Cymerman.
Brian is celebrating the release of Drums and Drones: Decade, a triple album with book covering the first ten years of his Drums and Drones project. It is the first release on his label, Chaikin Records. For more info visit www.chaikinrecords.com.
We tuned in with Brian about music, New York, and drums!
Fresh Pots: It’s always cool to hear how people came up musically, so what’s your story?
Brian Chase: When I was about 5 or 6, I asked my mom for drum lessons. She obliged. From there I continued on the formal path of learning music as well as the 'informal;' jamming in basements, and playing with friends. My love of music was not limited by genre. James Brown, Stravinsky, Coltrane, Slayer and Nirvana where favorites as a high schooler. Exposure to a diverse musical language has been part of my background from an early age.
FP: You’ve started your own record label, Chaikin Records, how did that come to be?
BC: Starting Chaikin Records came to be at the urging of a friend and mentor, John Zorn. One day he asked me if I had any recordings in the works. I told him, "Yes," but that the recorded company who was interested wanted me to pay for the manufacturing costs. Zorn said that for the same amount of money I could put out the music on my own, and have fun doing it. He then outlined a first phase trajectory for the label. Running a label was a role in which I never imagined myself, but now that it's happening, it's pretty good. Zorn was right!
FP: Any particular releases you’re proud of?
BC: The first release on Chaikin Records is particularly special. It's a triple album and 144 page book. Super deluxe! It came out exquisitely thanks to book designer Stacy Wakefield. The release coverers the first ten years of my Drums and Drones project, a project aimed at meditative soundscapes derived from drums and percussion. Each of the three albums represents a different phase of the project over its years, and the book covers much of the personal, conceptual and compositional ideas behind the music. There are also tons of photos mostly featuring the project's collaboration with two leading NYC video artists. It's a very special package and gives an insiders look into the music and art.
FP: How do you consume music these days, streaming, buying records?
BC: I still listen to terrestrial radio, a luxury in NYC since there are two amazing stations: WKCR and WFMU. It's an amazing way to hear new music. Aside from that, I'm a big fan of Bandcamp. Many of my friends and colleagues release music on Bandcamp as it's a platform which makes listening to and buying music very simple.
FP: Your drumming has always been very eclectic, it’s awesome to see musicians trying to push their instruments into new territory. Whats been your routine and who would you say have been some of your biggest influences?
BC: Totally. Outside of YYYs I stay pretty busy on local NYC scene. I have had the good fortune to play with some legendary musicians such as John Zorn, Zeena Parkins, and Anthony Coleman. These musicians inspire me to keep expanding the limits of my music and instrument. This is one of the values of being a part of community, and that's an important part of music. As for personal influences, I credit my drum teacher as Susie Ibarra. I would see her playing clubs in NYC when I was 19 or so, and her style and sound connected deeply with me. She has since continued to be a mentor and everlasting source of inspiration.
FP: Someone of your background must know a lot of cool music, tell us a bit about your playlist?
BC: This playlist is anchored around my latest solo release, Drums and Drones: Decade. The mood of the music is usually very meditative as the project aims to uncover 'hidden' yet natural acoustic qualities of resonant drums; this also applies to moments when the music is 'intense.'
For this playlist, I was guided by music with similar traits - music with a sensitivity for sonic subtleties and an appreciation for stillness. Playfulness and spontaneity are often important factors, too :)
FP: Do you feel a lot has changed in New York’s music scene since YYY’s came up? Any newer bands that have peaked your interest?
BC: Much has changed in NY since the early YYYs days. For me, this is particularly relevant in regards to Brooklyn's housing and economic landscape. Brooklyn 15 years ago was 'the playground,' a place where people could live and work and make art freely without pressure. Now, artists are pushed deeper into the borough and cost of living has gone up. That being said, artists are very resourceful and find a way to persevere.
One of the few mainstays from the earlier times - and without them I'd feel very sad - is the arts venue Secret Project Robot. If anyone wants to tap into what I feel represents the Brooklyn scene then I highly recommend visiting this spot and checking out their calendar. The owners, Erik and Rachel, have a bar and coffee shop as well, Happy Fun Hideway and Flowers For All Occasions. As for new bands, I've been loving Gold Dime!
FP: Lastly, does Mr.Chase drink coffee? If so how?
BC: I do. French press in the morning and the occasional cortado in the afternoon.