“I will be a student as long as I test what I play against the outside world. People’s ears. My own ears.”
Introduction by Adria Leeper-Sullivan
Interview by Theo Constantinou
Original Artwork by Cameron Vance of Banned Books for Paradigm Magazine
Greg Saunier has an interest in the tested methods that history has to offer, and how those traditions may morph into contemporary music to create something original. Greg becomes involved with the origin, construction, and techniques of various instruments in order to understand numerous styles of music. With a solid knowledge of musical history, and an eager interest in musical developments from all over the world Greg adds to the high energy, and eclectic mix of Deerhoof. Obsessed with education and accurately merged traditions he displays the effortless sound of improvisation as a master of the drums. Greg Saunier is an example of diligence that anyone should follow before working with limited effort.
Here is an excerpt in Joseph Campbell’s A Hero With a Thousand Faces,
“Driven towards an end that I do not know. As soon as I shall have reached it, as soon as I shall become unnecessary, an atom will suffice to shatter me. Till then, not all the forces of mankind can do anything against me.”
What end are you driven towards in your life and do you feel that once you have reached that end an atom will suffice to shatter you or is your end just creating music for the rest of you days?
This quote refers to the inevitability of dying, no? At least it’s about an end the hero doesn’t know, and that’s how it already feels when I’m playing drums or writing a song. I never know where it’s going. I’m always trying to teach myself to follow my gut.
I came across this quote of Glenn Gould’s and his perspective on art, “The justification of art is the internal combustion it ignites in the hearts of men and not its shallow, externalized, public manifestations. The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline but is, rather, the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity.” Do you think that art is the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity?
Why can’t it be both? Gould was an excellent pianist. The film of him playing the last two movements of Beethoven’s 109 Sonata is my favorite musical video ever. But he was a fool too. He says art’s not for ejecting adrenaline but then he just used uppers instead to eject his adrenaline. And anyway his performance in that film is anything but serene. My friend is listening to Zomby right now and trust me the adrenaline is ejecting, it’s helping my fingers tap away. I think that’s wonderful. I cringe every time I hear universal pronouncements about what art is. Especially when the word serenity is in there. How’s that for a universal pronouncement…
I went on tour with Banned Books and before we left we watched Charles Mingus’s ‘Meditations on Integration.’ I found this quote of his, “Creativity is more than just being different. Anybody can play weird; that’s easy. What’s hard is to be as simple as Bach. Making the simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.” Do you think that making the simple, ‘awesomely simple’ is truly creativity?
I’m no Charles Mingus but as far as I’m concerned, making anything is creativity. Mingus poor guy was defending himself against the jazz naysayer snobs who called him a weirdo and thought his music was too complicated. Anyway it’s a bit of a goofy quote because Bach’s music isn’t really that simple. When I think awesomely simple, I tend to think more of “Wild Thing” or something like that.
Can you show me the chords to your purple past?
I could. Not over email. There is a piano score that I made for that whole album Offend Maggie. We sell it at our merch table. Those are some dense chords. Dissonant.
I just finished reading Henry Rollins’ book Occupants last night actually and the final commentary is as follows, “Starting now. Sometimes the world is so great that you don’t want to blow it to smithereens to put the whole planet of your misery. Something you see things that are so amazing, so humbling, that you realize you will always be a student, that you will never know enough, that you will never have enough hours in the day or years in your life to get more than a rudimentary understanding of the world and how it really is. The best you can do is approximate, sidestep your expectations and all that you project on to them, and let it be. You will never be more alive than in those rare moments. The rest is just mediocre casting, average dialogue, and bad direction.” Do you think that you will always be a student, specifically with music and do you agree with the idea that life is just compromised of those rare moments when you are truly alive?
I will be a student as long as I test what I play against the outside world. People’s ears. My own ears. Those moments might be rare for Henry bless his heart but there’s no reason they must be.
You described the dynamic between you and Satomi to that of Miles Davis and Tony Williams. Why did you choose those two musicians particularly and do you feel that your intensity and her coolness provides for the amazing force that is Deerhoof?
If I said that I was stretching a bit, clearly. But yeah that mix of hot front and cold front makes for some stormy excitement. The mix of the Apollonian and the Dionysian makes for some ancient mystery.
With the current violence that is ensuing in Syria I wanted to hear your thoughts on this dialogue I had written down when I saw Akira Kurosawa’s film Rashomon:
Commoner: But is there anyone who’s really good? Maybe goodness is just make-believe.
Priest: What a frightening…
Commoner: Man just wants to forget the bad stuff, and believe in the made-up good stuff. It’s easier that way.
Do you really believe that people just want to believe in the made-up good stuff and forget about all the bad shit that is constantly happening all over the world?
I didn’t see that movie but that line strikes me as a joke, an irony. Because Kurosawa’s movies are about battles and violence – bad stuff. But also just because we remember that there’s bad stuff, we read about it in the paper or we talk about it in rock interviews or we make westerns about it, doesn’t mean that we address it, let alone solve it. No need to pat ourselves on the back just yet…