By Cal Meacham
Throughout the past three decades David Grubbs has been at the forefront of the indie rock/post-rock scene. In the 80’s with Squirrel Bait and Bastro, the 90’s with Gastr del Sol and the 00’s releasing his solo records, even finding time for a stint with Codeine and Bitch Magnet. The last few years has seen David continue with his prolific output including the jazz tinged trio of Belfi/Grubbs/Pilia, his new group The Wingdale Community Singers and a brand new solo record out this month on Drag City.
As I sit listening to his excellent record The Spectrum Between and can’t help but think back to the impact his band had on my life and the lives of many others who grew up enamored with the Louisville and Chicago post-rock scenes but I will save most of my gushing for the David Grubbs Retrospective which will be published later in the week. I must say that it is an honor to have David as a guest (writing to us from Europe) in this edition of 5 Questions.
CM: Your new solo record The Plain Where The Palace Stood will be released on April 16th and we have heard the title track (as well as the sound clips on the Drag City site). Can you give us an idea of some of the inspirations that you had during the writing/recording process? How was the recording process in comparison to your previous records?
DG: This record really benefits from playing together in the trio with Andrea Belfi and Stefano Pilia. Since the time of Gastr del Sol and my playing in the Red Krayola, I’ve always enjoyed making records piecemeal, bit by bit, sometimes Frankenstein monster-like. The feel of the Plain Where the Palace Stood comes from playing live with Andrea and Stefano, and to me it has a much more live, in-the-room feel. In this era of diminishing interest in albums as albums, I also aimed for a set of songs and a sequence that hopefully works particularly well as a start-to-finish album, much like a would select a sequence of songs for a live show.
CM: You spent your early musical life in two highly influential groups Gastr del Sol and Squirrel Bait. Do you still see and hear some of that influence/impact on your current work, or in feedback from talking to fans?
DG: Yes, but the Squirrel Bait fans tend to be awfully old now! My age, practically.
CM: With the current barrage of reunion tours that we have seen from 90’s bands, do you think that there is a chance of Gastr del Sol or Squirrel Bait hopping on that train? (I know it would be difficult for Gastr with Jim living in Japan now)
DG: Both of those bands as well as Bastro have been offered numerous reunion opportunities: ATP, late-night television, a tour in Japan. The only one that has been considered seriously is the version of Bastro with John McEntire and Bundy K. Brown, and I think at some point it might happen—especially as that was a version of the band that never went into the recording studio. And they’re lovely people and great musicians.
CM: Both you and Jim O’Rourke have dabbled heavily in experimental music as well as orchestral and soundtrack work. These fragments of sound and experiments were all over Upgrade & Afterlife as well as spackled across your solo output which included a split 12″ with Animal Collective’s Avey Tare. It seems that Jim has ventured further down the experimental trail, abandoning traditional song while you have always held on to both worlds. How important is that balance to you?
DG: It’s a matter of taste and personal preference, entirely. And instinct. I’m glad that The Plain Where the Palace Stood seems to blend or mash or segue between or however it might be best to describe combining unlikely or disparate elements.
CM: You have had a very busy start to 2013 with the release of The Wingdale Community Singers Night, Sleep, Death album and a your new solo album The Plain Where The Palace Stood out in April. What else can we look forward to from David Grubbs in 2013?
DG: It’s a busy year, thankfully, because it’s my sabbatical from teaching at Brooklyn College. I have a book forthcoming on Duke University Press entitled Records Ruin the Landscape: John Cage, The Sixties, and Sound Recording. The second Belfi / Grubbs / Pilia record is finished and hopefully will be out before the end of the year. And I have just recorded an EP of solo guitar improvisations called Borough of Broken Umbrellas. I’m writing to you from the Abbaye de Royaumont, a 14th-century abbey just outside of Paris where we’re taking a break from rehearsing Noël Akchoté’s arrangements for five guitars of madrigals by Carlo Gesualdo. I’m liking 2013.
Drag City D.G. Site – Link
David’s Tumblr – Link