Fifth episode of the rubric Chi fa da sé fa per tre: Ava Mendoza.|
Di Marco Paolucci
21/12/2012: Ava Mendoza is a younger guitar player from San Francisco, who assiduously practiced Jazz, Rock, Contemporary Music and Improvisation. Your Kathodik Man follows her sonic adventures from the beginning, in addition to having had the pleasure to attend her “muscle” performances on electric guitar; from there to think that she would have been a perfect guest in the section ‘Chi fa da sè fa per tre’, it was a short step. After having sent my set of questions, the answers from our amiable guitarist arrived very quickly. Here they are. I’d like to thank Filippo Focosi for reviewing the translation. One last thing: you can read the Italian version of the interview right here.
1. What are your musical backgrounds? How did grow, in yourself, the idea of playing the guitar? Why did you choose this instrument?
I grew up playing classical piano and classical guitar. I got really serious about classical guitar as a teenager but at the same time was listening to noisy rock and free jazz. Eventually I felt that something was amiss and I wanted to play music that was more exciting and expressive, closer to what I was listening to. I started playing electric guitar, improvising and playing loud and trying to write my own music. To me it's a very physical instrument and it's also an instrument that can be very personal. Whenever I go out to see a new guitar player I come away thinking "They just played a bunch of stuff it would never occur to me to play!" More so than many other instruments I think you can have such a distinct sound and approach because it's so versatile.
2. Do you have some favorite source of inspiration while composing? Are there “bad masters” to which you owe some feature of your style?
Definitely. As far as instrumentalists, Sonny Sharrock, Masayuki Takayanagi, Derek Bailey, Hendrix, Kerry King, blues players like Buddy Guy and John Lee Hooker, some saxophonists like Albert Ayler. As far as songwriting/composition goes, Captain Beefheart, Albert Ayler again, Swans, Magma, and Mingus are big ones.
3. Do you follow some particular method as you compose the songs?
Not really, it varies a lot. I usually come up with some sort of core idea for the song at the very beginning. Like "I want to write something with a bunch of weird shifting grooves where everyone is playing in their own time-world. Then in the middle I want it to line up into a heavy unison riff, then at the end it goes back into non-linear grooves." Then as I write it, it changes a lot and develops unexpectedly.
4. It seems that in your concerts you have a very physical approach with your guitar; we could say that you’re trying to overcome the traditional form performer-in-front-of-an-audience, because you also show your own engage with the instrument. Is it just my impression, or do you share with me this idea?
I have been a pretty physical player ever since I started playing electric guitar; as soon as I started playing standing up rather than sitting down I realized half the fun of playing was getting to hop around! To me physicality is incredibly important in music; that doesn't mean I have to be running around onstage or smashing my guitar, but it means I believe in playing as a whole, not just with your brain and fingers. Playing music or hearing music can be a total experience, not just an experience of sound - it is psychological, emotional, sociological, physiological. So, it's important for me to play with all of me. My hope is the audience feels it as a complete experience as well, but I can't control that.
5. With whom would you like to collaborate?
With the people i've been collaborating with! I feel fortunate to have worked with such awesome people… I did a really fun tour in Italy in spring 2012 with Marco Di Gasbarro from Squartet. We had only played one show together, playing a bunch of my songs, before we booked this tour as a duo. He put all this work into the music and learned my songs backwards and forwards. He is Superman. In Oakland my foremost project right now is my trio, Unnatural Ways, which is with Dominique Leone (synths) and Nick Tamburro (drums). I'm working on writing a bunch of new music for that band, and we'll be touring in Europe in February 2013. Not in Italy unfortunately though. I have been working a lot with a choreographer/dancer recently also, Leyya Mona Tawil. She is killer and makes some really intense pieces. As far as people I haven't actually played with yet, bassist Jamaladeen Tacuma is someone I'd love to work with.
6. What do you think about current American music scene?
One thing that is different between the U.S. and Italy in independent music is the impetus to tour; there's this American obsession with touring that maybe comes out of 70s punk rock mentality, or maybe just plain old lust for rockstardom. That doesn't seem to exist as much in Italy, or in some other European countries. Here there is the idea in the rock world anyway that you are not a proper musician unless you're touring all the time. The result is that there are a million bands constantly touring and any potential audience is basically drowning in music and bands coming through town. It's funny because it's actually much easier to tour in Italy and Europe in general. Cities are closer together, venues are able to pay more, there's generally more of an appreciation for adventurous music. But that drive to tour isn't as present there. Anyway my point I guess is the American independent music "market" is very over-saturated as a whole. So many people have the dream of playing music, some amount of technical ability, and have been told that they can do it because they are special. There's just too much stuff out there.
In terms of music that I like and find inspiring, there are some great people with working right now though. In the free jazz/weird rock world there's Brandon Seabrook, Nick Millevoi/Many Arms, Lisa Mezzacappa, Weasel Walter, Tim Dahl/Child Abuse, Ron Anderson, Marc Edwards, Dominic Cramp (Evangelista), Mike Guarino, tons of others. Finding current American music that you like is like finding a needle in a haystack, you have to sift through so much. But there are definitely people doing work I think is exciting these days.
7. Whenever you can, you travel to play our music around the world, including Europe and especially Italy. How do you see the international scene in terms of human professional and relationships?
I love Italy, and as I said it's much easier for me to tour in Europe and not go broke and/or have a nervous breakdown than it is here, so I keep coming back! Booking tours for me has always revolved around friendship, rather than on having a slick PR package that I send out to a million places. Most of the shows I set up are through local musicians or bookers who I've met before and genuinely like, and they at least act like they genuinely like me. So that is really important I think, this international network of people who want to hear new things, support each other's work, and are willing to help each other. Mainstream politics within the U.S. are a kind of absurd theater at this point, and in some of the countries I tour in it's safe to say the same. Forming bonds outside of that, forming some kind of community even if it's a small, angry one that is dispersed around the world, is vital to me.
8. We end with the “classic” unavoidable question: how you imagine your future, in terms of music, life, and all the rest?
Poof! Hm, well, above all I want to get deeper into the music that I'm playing and writing. The world is changing so fast economically that it's hard to know what is a realistic future goal. But I certainly want to keep playing with awesome, insane, dedicated people, I want to have long-lasting music relationships with my bandmates/companions, I want to understand my own writing and playing better. Unnatural Ways is my most important project right and I want to keep that going longterm and see what it turns into. I teach music as a big part of my living, and I want to keep doing that. I'd love to be able to tour more often so I can fully concentrate on developing the music. Also it'd be fun to get another cat someday, I have one cat and she is great. I miss her when I travel.
Link: Home Page http://avamendozamusic.com/