mercredi 4 août 2010
"I was a lot more into Dave Mustaine's solos in Megadeth than Marty Friedman's"
Mick Barr is one busy man. Playing in Orthrelm, Octis, Ocrilim, Krallice and many others bands, he's been developing his intense, frenzied, almost esoterical playing since many years and has already released an impressive amount of records.
He answered to my questions in the way he plays: quickly and with accuracy. Enjoy!
Let's talk about the beginning: how old where you when you started to play, and what made you want to pick up the instrument? What kind of memories do you keep from that period?
I was about 13 when i started playing guitar. I originally wanted to play bass because i was so inspired by Cliff burtons bass solo track on "kill em all". But i knew a kid in the neighborhood who was selling a guitar and shitty amp for cheap, so i went with that instead getting a bass.
I never had much interest in learning how to play guitar well, i just wanted to have an original sounding band and write riffs. I had lessons for the first year or 2. It was from a friend of my sisters. He would occasionally try to teach me scales and chords, but i just wanted to learn how to play Danzig and Voivod songs. He was an awesome metal shredder, so i learned some tricks from him like pick-squeals and hammer-ons. I didn't actually get serious about practicing until i was 19 or 20.
Your playing is instantly recognizable; this very intense, fast, repetitive alternate picking. What, or who helped you to develop this way to play?
It's hard to say exactly what lead to how i play. I was very influenced by thrash and death metal as well as the more spazzier hardcore bands and japanese bands like Ruins early on. I had a band in high-school called Thinner that started out heavy and experimental and then went a bit more melodic. I would write riffs to try and annoy the other members, and throw off the parts they were playing. But the riffs i wrote kind of worked with everything. And that helped shape a lot.
I was also later equally influenced by a lot of intense free jazz like Albert Ayler and "Interstellar Space" era Coltrane. And a lot of indonesian and moroccan music, and a lot of modern classical composers as well. And as far as influential guitarists goes, Piggy from Voivod, Tony Joy from Universal Order of Armageddon, and Mike from 1.6 band all had an impact. I never liked the traditional big names like Steve Vai and Satriani. Maybe John Mclaughlin a little bit, but much later.
I don't want you to over-analyse it, but I'd like to ask you how do you feel it. I guess that it goes beyond just "fun". When I was a child, there was a radio in the kitchen. It was never turned off. As I was growing up I started to find it quite irritable. But now I can hardly eat in silence. I'm telling you this because I'm wondering how you perceive silence and/or the fear of it. I can totally relate to an idea of fear. That's maybe why I got interested in noise and drone music years ago.
I don't have much of a fear of silence. In fact i love it when i'm able to find it. Which isn't too often as i've lived in New York for a while now. But i guess i'm more drawn to the construction of music. And i definitely feel a serious unexplainable need to do this, one that i don't question. And it all definitely transcends "fun", though it is fun from time to time.
I think that even if your playing has a "shred" aspect in it, it has a lot more in common with the "wall of sounds" of many abstract music than with the "Shrapnel- school". When I heard the "OV" album, some parts reminded me of Tony Conrad : the use of repetition and the fluidity. Do you listen to those abstract/minimalist music? Is it something that inspire you?
I'm not really that familiar with Tony Conrad, or Steve Reich for that matter (someone i always get compared to and asked about). I only just heard of that shrapnel stuff a couple years ago when Ben Chasny from Six Organs of Admittance asked me what i thought of it. Still haven't checked any of it out though. But i will say i was a lot more into Dave Mustaine's solos in Megadeth than Marty Friedman's.
I really like some philip glass. And i like Morton Feldman and some other somewhat "minimalist" composers. But OV was mainly inspired by turkish and moroccan double-reed horn and drum music. Like the Master Musicians of Jajouka and turkish wedding music.
If you haven't listened to all those guys you lost nothing. That Schrapnel thing was quite big at the time and I think they are the main reason why so much poppy nerds still consider all kind of fast playing as a dorks macho thing. Most of those albums were awful.
Alright, i'll continue to avoid.
I remember of an old and short interview you gave to Guitar World mag; you spoke about this obsession of patterns. Can you talk a bit more about it?
Patterns and muscle memory play a big role in what i do. Also just letting the fingers go where they want, as opposed to thinking too much about the actual notes they hit. Letting the music shape itself outside of a pre-conceived plan. Thats not entirely it, but i plays a role.
There's not much more to say on that. They aren't really conceived by any process other than how it feels to play, and how it sounds. I'm not schooled enough to tell you what kind of intervals they tend to be. It seems to be based mostly on chance.
With Orthrelm or Octis, everything is written. Would you be interested in a more improvisation-based project? Maybe you have already one.
For a long time i avoided improvisation, but in the past 5 or so years i've come out of my fear of it. I played with a band in San Francisco called the Flying Luttenbachers, led by master composer and improviser Weasel Walter. There was a bit of improv written into the songs of that band, and that kind of got me started.
Then i made a record with master drummer Zach Hill, and that was completely improvised.
It felt absolutely comfortable improvising with him as we matched up instantly on speed and intensity. One of my problems with improv before was the empty space. It needs to be completely chromatic and intense for me to be able to play.
Other improv projects i'm involved with are Barr-Nevai (improv war metal duo with drummer madman Nondor Nevai), and Barr/Shea/Dahl (improv combo with Tim Dahl of Child Abuse and Kevin Shea of Talibam), and Improvitor (improv thrash duo with Lev from krallice). I've done a few others, but no need to list everything here.
Octis, Ocrilim, Orthrelm...How do you approch all these different projects? Krallice is obviously the most different, for the others it's less evident. But i guess the intention vary according the project. What about Orthrelm? Something scheduled?
Octis was a solo project mainly concerned with blind productivity where the compositions weren't over analyzed or even thought much about to begin with. Pure venting. And the feel was supposed to be cold and robotic. As inhuman as i could get, thats why most of the recordings feature drum machine programming and plugged in direct metal zone guitar tone.
Ocrilim is another solo project, but this time primarily concerned with pre-meditated composition. Definitely more warmth and humanity involved in the feel. Orthrelm was/is a collaborative duo with drummerJosh Blair. I was the primary writer of the early, less repetitious material, and Josh was the primary creator of the OV album and the more repetitious parts. All hail Josh Blair! Nothing is scheduled for Orthrelm at this point, but we have been jamming a little bit here and there and we have every intention of making some form of music again together.
Krallice is a full band effort, which i'm not in charge of. I would say the other guitarist Colin Marston was the one who initiated the band and sound.
Have you already thought about an acoustic project?
Yes, i've thought about it. And from time to time i feel inspired to make something like that. But i don't own an acoustic guitar, so i never get to write anything. And i wouldn't want to write something for acoustic guitar on electric. The closest i've come is the Ocrilim LP only release "Ment". It features double-reed horns, flutes, hand drums, bells, and possibly some acoustic guitar. I don't remember it all...
I'd like you to tell me how do you practice at home.
I mainly practice whatever i'm working on at the time. Never any scales or exercises.
Really? That's quite surprising considering the high level of accuracy of your playing. I'm also wondering if you know musical theory, and how important it can be for your work.
Well, i guess this supposed accuracy comes from practicing the music i play. Although only i know when it's actually accurate or not. And sometimes it is way off the mark. I don't understand music theory and spent most of my early years trying to avoid any knowledge of it.
I always felt it would hinder growth, more than aid it. Now i feel like i could benefit from some knowledge of theory, but i'm lazy when it comes to learning it.
What kind of stuff are you working on?
Right now i'm working on a new 40 minute set of non-droney non-repetitious solo guitar music; a slower 13 minute solo piece; a string quartet that i'm writing on guitar; and i'm also recording the bass lines on the new Oldest tracks. Oldest is a newer band i'm working on with Born Against/UOA drummer Brooks Headly. No shows, no pressure.
What would you like to achieve in the future?
Being able to survive by writing and recording music and occasionally performing. Not by constant touring and selling shirts. Like most musicians i know.
Does it mean that you aren't too fond of playing live shows? And how would you describe the difference between solo shows and band/duos shows?
I like playing shows from time to time. But i get burned out pretty quickly. Mainly because i don't like hanging out at bars and being the center of attention. And i have a seriously low tolerance for touring/travelling. It's not for everyone, and i'm one of those people it isn't for.
For solo shows, what i do can be physically and emotionally exhausting. So if i play a show that seems like a waste of time and energy, it's a lot harder to laugh it off than if i was just droning into a delay pedal. And it usually doesn't work well with the traditional rock n roll bar scene where people want to blow off steam and not be subject to a straight 45 minutes of trebly solo electric guitar. But it can also be amazing when the vibe is right and people are there with me. And the bonuses are not having to truck a whole lot of gear around and not having to split up the meager money with anybody else.
Playing shows with Krallice can be awesome, aside from having to do vocals. But the other members of the band are all amazing musicians. I feel pretty fortunate to get to play with them. And we don't get to play live very much because of busy and conflicting schedules.
All the members in the band are involved in other music projects, so it keeps us from doing too much. Which in turn hopefully keeps us from getting burnt out on the band.
Last one: give me your top ten albums, please.
Ah jeez. I'm not good with these kinds of lists. Instead i'll give a list of records i've been listening to recently that feature some interesting and/or awesome guitar work, mainly death metal.
The top ten albums of all time list is secret.
-decrepit birth "polarity"
-internal suffering "awakening of the rebel"
-nightbringer "apocalypse sun"
-nocturnus "the key"
-ulcerate "everything is fire"
-stargazer "great work of ages"
-infested blood "interplanar decimation"
-virus "black flux"
-violent dirge "elapse"
-putrid pile "house of dementia"
-hellwitch "syzygial miscreancy"
-humanity falls "ordaining the apocalypse"
Mick: thank you!
Thanks for the interview. I'm self-releasing a new Ocrilim album "Absolve" via ocrilim.blogspot.com as well as numerous other cdrs. Thanks to readers.
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