Mark Guiliana Interview
It was October 14th, and Mark Guiliana was waiting for us at the bar of Teatro Pavón, minutes before his European tour with Jason Lindner (piano) Jason Rigby (saxophone) and Jasper Høiby (double bass) began here in Madrid. In this case they were playing for JAZZMADRID22 in collaboration with Villanos del Jazz, playing Mark Guiliana´s own compositions in a jazz quartet format.
Mark Guiliana is a great personality, versatile and original. It is remarkable his work and investigation into electronic music in parallel with jazz. All his trajectory has made an impact in both genres and aesthetics and his ways of thinking and playing are so open to many sonic possibilities handling projects which are between nu-jazz and contemporary jazz, like the quartet he brought to JAZZMADRID22
In&Out. Hi Mark, it is a pleasure to have the chance to talk with you today. We would like to know how do you combine these two different jazz genres or aesthetics in your everyday life and how do you handle this close and at the same time different worlds?
Mark Guiliana. I understand that these two worlds by definition are different, but, to me, they are actually all the same thing that comes from one place, so the ideas come from one place and then, as they get more specific, maybe they end up one far from another, maybe one idea starts here and ends up on an acoustic piano or another idea ends up in a synth, but because they start from the same place in my mind they are very similar. I think that this is helpful, and I am so deeply inspired from many kinds of music that makes me try to represent all those influences every time I play.
When I was young I thought that if I was playing jazz I could not let people know that I liked Nirvana, but of course all the elements can match together and end up leading in a more personal statement. For example, I love flamenco since the first time I came here in 2013 with bassist Avishai Cohen. I really felt flamenco as a deep influence to me, and of course this is not obvious in my music – I am not playing flamenco as a style. But to me, there may be influences that are more obvious or deliberate from the ones you can draw a straight line from the influence to the way I play, and in other cases some other influences act as an inspiration that I take but are not so evident in my playing, even though they are still there. If I can play drums as Camarón sings, that is what I want to do, so it will not be obvious in a ¨drummistic¨ way, but still the spirit is in there.
Does that mean that aesthetic limitations do not interfere with the freedom you feel and the creation itself?
Correct, everything is possible as long as the choices that I make at that moment are the best for the music.
How do you see the scene in New York, USA… and the world when it comes to the use of new sonic explorations and sounds of digital technology, analog synthesizers, aso. and how do you use it, affects your creations and think about it in your everyday life?
I think that everybody nowadays has access to make music like that, so it is exciting to explore. Anyway, I also really appreciate the relationship that can be created with an acoustic instrument. Sometimes with electronic instruments after a very short relationship, in the beginning of it, the electronic instrument can let you already create something, but there is no shortcut with the relation of a player and a drum or saxophone, so we are talking about a very different timeline. So I really value someone who has committed his path to an acoustic instrument, because it takes a long time to find oneself in that place. In the end, I am always happy when I use both.
If you buy a synth and you turn it on it will sound cool because it has been programmed to reproduce a specific sound, but if I have to pick up a saxophone it will not sound cool, it could take years to sound good, so there is something about that commitment in the relationship, you have to earn it, and sometimes with electronic instruments this comes sooner and effortless… of course excepting people who are the masters of it.
How is it to come here today to play with a master like Jason Lindner, who knows a lot about the synth world and with whom you have a long past playing in different kinds of proposals and artistic paths such as David Bowie, Donny McCaslin, aso? How do you feel doing this project with him?
It is great! As you may know, he has not only played piano in the last 15 years but has included a lot of keyboards and synths at his concerts. I know him from a long time ago, when he was just playing piano in New York with Avishai Cohen (bassist) and he had his own band playing piano, these are my first memories of him. So when I invited him I said to him: “you can say you do not want to” because I am aware of his commitment to his electronic path, but I got very happy when he said yes, because it is very refreshing to play like this as we have not played in this way for a long time. Moreover, the relationship is so strong that communication is easy and feels natural.
On what do you focus your musical energy right now?
I think that energy means to just keep going, it might sound simple but sometimes it is enough. I simply try to put my head down and just keep going because if I put my head up sometimes the world is a scary place and it might not encourage you to go ahead, and sometimes if you look back you may feel tempted to do today what you were doing in the past, only because at that time people liked it, and that is dangerous too. So I just try to keep making what feels right on the day I am living. If inspiration is present I just take advantage of it, and I am not worrying about where it sends me. I am just glad with the fact that inspiration exists, because it might not always be there. Inspiration is the seed and I am not worried about what it becomes, I maintain the energy and just keep going, trusting in what I do. Trusting in the process, trying not to be too calculative, of course you might be scared of what’s next but also I try to settle into that.
You have just released “The sound of listening”, an album which is deeply influenced by Thich Nhat Hanh and his concept of the inner silence required to truly observe the world. In this album in which you count with great players as Shai Maestro, Jason Rigby and Chris Morrisey you combine all your projects but the jazz quartet predominates in an introspective way. How did this project come to Earth?
Only the title and the music are inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh. The pandemic was an introspective moment in my life, so his teaching was very helpful for those moments and it made its way into the compositions. I am a person who is always doing things, being in movement, without asking the meaning of them, and in the pandemic everything changed, I was at home, I totally stopped and that made me raise big questions and think of what I was doing.
You have created your own label, why?
I created a label in 2014 because I often got impatient due to the great amount of time that happened between making an album and releasing it. I just wanted to mix some music and put it out. Also, I released two albums on the same day which probably a traditional label would not have liked. So it was less business-minded and just focused on doing something and setting it free. That was the intention behind my label.
You are on tour now with your jazz quartet. What will happen next?
Today is the first day of the tour and we will be in Europe for two and a half weeks. Most of the time I will be playing the music I will perform tonight and, after that, we will go to the USA and play at Village Vanguard, and so on. But also my inspiration and ideas now are looking to the future, I have three albums in my mind that I would like to record and they are all different. Sometimes I have to be patient and let it develop by itself. Nevertheless, I feel very lucky to have both outlets (Beat Music and the Jazz Quartet) but I want to keep for each one its own space, the space they deserve.
Do you choose which project to do next based on the people you are in contact with, taking into account the energy you receive from each musician?
Totally, this is also a great motivation. I feel I am always kind of one record ahead in my mind. I have an idea for a little bit more electronic album. In addition, when we recorded “The sound of listening” we recorded twice as much as what we released so next year probably there will be another album with these songs.
Like your album “Family First alternate takes”?
Yes, but in that case it was the same takes and now it will be an album made out of new and different tunes.
We have reached the end of the interview. It was a great pleasure to have you here today, thank you for your words. We look forward to listening to you in a few minutes!
It was great, I wish it had been longer. Thanks, I enjoy living the present moment and it is great to play with these musicians in this jazz quartet. It is such a joy, I cannot wait.