Issue 122, Interview with Jack Gold-Molina
I’ve been working with Jack Gold-Molina in one fashion or another for many years now… I’ve reviewed him, of course (most recently in issue # 94) & he’s reviewed my own CD’s (Tantric Triage, with multi-instrumentalist Ernesto Diaz-Infante & cellist Matt Turner, among others)… he’s constantly “on the move”, creating and writing about jazz… so it’s a true pleasure to bring you this insightful interview with him – enJOY & spread the word far/wide, please – also, read my review of one of his latest releases, “ARC”, in this issue!!!
Zzaj: Your bios (that I’ve read anyway) don’t really give a lot in the way of “location”… (or, I just didn’t spot it)… though you may’ve done it before, please spin off a few spontaneous words in the way of telling our readers where you came from & how you got here from there…
Jack: Well, I grew up in Seattle, for the most part. I am actually originally from LA. We lived in Missoula for a few years, which is where I first got introduced to The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Miles Davis, and Lionel Hampton. That is what my parents were listening to in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. I remember when The Beatles broke up, it was a huge deal, but then “Band On The Run” came out, Elton John got really huge. It was a great time for music in Missoula, aside from the saccharine pop stuff of that era that was being played on AM radio. Missoula is definitely not a hick town like people tend to associate with the state of Montana, and it wasn’t then. It is a really beautiful Northwest city. My family moved over to the Puget Sound area in the mid-‘70s, and at that time I was really taken with the music of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, Focus, Jethro Tull, and The Moody Blues. Music was always a driving force for me from the time I was really small, and after I started playing the drums at age nine, it became even more so. That was a good thing! I was getting into a lot of trouble and we had moved into a tough neighborhood while my parents went to college. Playing the drums saved me from a lot of violence and the potential for a lot of bad stuff at that age.
Zzaj: Now we’ve got the “where from” out of the way, tell us about the “where to”… in other words, bring us up to date on your most current activities – music-related or elsewise…
Jack: I just started playing with the hard rock band ML3, that features the excellent vocalist April McBride. That band has a long performance history and I feel honored to be working with them. I am involved in a recording project with Nik Turner, Hawkwind’s original saxophone and flute player, and I am really enthusiastic about that. Working with him has been very enlightening, and he is in fine form. I released two CDs in 2011: “One Hundred Years Of Abstraction” with guitarist Chris Pugh, which is avant-rock/free jazz, and “Arc” with the Acoustic Reign Project, which is improvised jazz and is the final release from the session work this group did with Roger Fisher in 2002. Both of those CDs have been getting really good reviews and international radio play. That I am happy about. The main thing for me is not to make the mistake of doing too many things at once, like a lot of players do. I have been guilty of that in the past, and it is a recipe for burnout. I do like jamming and doing free improvisation without taking things too seriously, you know, when there is the time. You have to keep your creativity alive and flowing or else you get stagnated and get caught up in the minutiae of day to day living.
Zzaj: You seem to have a multitude of musical things going on in your life… one of the more intriguing (for this writer, at least) is that you write some music reviews… tell us about that… do you think the fact that you play gives you any kind of unique insight into reviewing that others may not have? Or not?
Jack: I think it does. I approach things objectively when I am playing with other people so that I can have a more accurate picture of what we are doing musically without being too biased about what is “right” or what is “wrong.” That allows for greater freedom of creative expression. Using that approach when doing a review gives me the opportunity to write a better description of what is happening with regard to the overall musical tapestry. I have written for different magazines and web sites over the years, and I have had articles rejected because they didn’t fit with a particular editor’s viewpoint or his politics, but never because my writing wasn’t interesting enough. You know, if the article is about someone who does creative music and the editor decides that he wants something that is more consistent with his idea of what jazz is supposed to be, then it gets rejected. Anyone who reviews creative music goes through that. But to be fair, I have had good editors, locally and nationally. I still write for more than one web site in order to accommodate my various musical pursuits. I try to keep things focused accordingly with what my musical goals are and what my approach is as a player, that way I learn the most and get the most out of the review or interview experience.
Zzaj: Are you primarily a jazz drummer/player? Or do you cross genres? If you play more than jazz, which is your favorite genre… or is that a ridiminious question?
Jack: What does “ridiminious” mean? Actually, I do not consider myself a jazz player, and I never have. I love creative jazz, but I will never consider myself a “jazz drummer.” I play the drums. I play the drums out of necessity as much as for the love of music. As far as playing other genres, I also play Yardbirds-influenced rock and roll. I’m being honest about this. It is very straight ahead, but very demanding technically in order to do it right. I study time seriously, and I make sure not to get mixed up in over playing. It is ridiculous what some guys will do to get attention! It has to be good rock and roll, or I won’t do it. I started learning to play free jazz when I was 16 or 17, but by that point I had been playing in rock bands for years, sometimes being paid for it. I saw the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine in 1983, and that is when things started to really change for me on a musical level. Learning about Tony Williams’ early work with Sam Rivers and Eric Dolphy, and Coltrane’s work with Rashied Ali, not to mention getting “Bitches Brew” and “Agharta” by Miles Davis on vinyl when I was still a teenager, that was revelatory. I didn’t have any friends who knew anything about this music, and I found myself wanting to hang out with a completely different class of musicians, guys who were older and were better players.
Zzaj: A question often asked, but always important for the budding players in our readership… is it more enjoyable to record in the studio, or play live? Are both necessary (or not)? Why? Why not?
Jack: I prefer to do both. Not everyone does. I know some great players who could care less about ever being recorded. I also know guys who just like to record, and refuse to do gigs of any kind. I don’t know why that is. Musicians can be eccentric to say the least, and having said that, they can also be maddening to try to work with for other musicians. I can tell you that the definition of success for most players has very little to do with money. Maybe it is the opportunity to express oneself to one’s own satisfaction. Maybe it is the chance to get heard by others. I don’t know. And the next person that you ask this question to will undoubtedly tell you something different. What I do know is that if I am hiring a band for a gig or recording project, I will treat them fairly. I have experienced being pushed around by guys who thought they had a little bit of authority, and that pissed me off to no end. There is such a thing as professionalism, and I know my guys appreciate it when they get that from me. Likewise, I do very much appreciate being treated as a professional when I am working for someone else, if it is in the studio or playing live at a club or performance hall.
Zzaj: You seem to have been exposed to a lot of African music/styles in your studies… please tell us something about that… in order to learn about African music/drumming, was it necessary to absorb a bit of African culture, too; or were your studies purely musical?
Jack: Well, the neighborhood that we moved into when we first moved to Seattle in the 1970s had a pretty strong African community. There were Master Drummers from Ghana who used to visit with this graduate student, Sherry Seretse, who lived down the street, and they would play for hours. The great thing was that a couple of those guys, Obo and Yacub Addy, also used to teach music to kids in the neighborhood. I got to study with Yacub Addy. He was my first drum teacher and let me tell you, he could make his kpanlogo drum crack louder with the slap of his hand than any rim shot I have ever heard. You will never find that sound on any drum machine, I don’t care who tries to sample it. Both of those guys have become well known African jazz drummers since then. But I learned some things about African culture, definitely. I also studied it seriously with Arturo Rodriguez at his school, Ethnic Percussion And Music, when he first started teaching in Seattle in 1987 or ’88. Interestingly, in 1988 I went to the Langston Hughes Cultural Center in Seattle’s Central District to study the music of the Shona people of Zimbabwe, and it turned out that Sherry Seretse, that graduate student who live down the street from me as a kid, was the person teaching it. She was an excellent teacher! I studied with her for three months. In 1990 I studied Yoruba music with Adebisi Adeleke, and then we also did a performance together where I played the drum kit in his highlife/hip hop band. That was very cool. Bisi dubbed the music “don don rapin,” which was a hybrid of rap and Nigerian folk music. The other players included a kpanlogo drummer, a conga player, a shekere player, a female rap singer, and Bisi playing dun dun, or talking drum as it is called in the US.
Zzaj: You’ve played with a veritable “who’s who?” of (both) jazz and rock artists… what was (or will be) your most memorable recording session with a “name”… tell us a bit about why it was the most memorable…. or, if you think this questions is nuts… just write yourself a question & answer it in lieu of this one.
Jack: When I was 15 I played with the late Tom Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival. It wasn’t a recording session or a gig, it was a jam session at about 3 AM after we had been partying at this flat in the U-District, but it was one of the most important things I have ever done. It had a profound effect on me as a player. I learned about survival and what it means to actually play music, and it was out of experience. He wasn’t going out of his way to teach me anything. After that, I became interested in moving beyond where I was as a creative artist at the time. I don’t think I would have been able to pull that off if I hadn’t had that jam session with Tom. It was incredible. I am sorry that he passed.
Zzaj: Since it’s a “webbed world”, & since you seem to comprehend that, give us four or five of the sites you visit most often (with links, of course); tell us why they’re important to you as a musician, and why they might be valuable to aspiring players?
Jack: Well, I hate to say it, but I use Facebook a lot. I have done quite of bit of studying on the subject — in real printed books — and it turns out that Facebook and MySpace are invaluable when it comes to networking, especially for musicians and people in the music business. I also use Wikipedia to do research if I am trying to find information about a particular artist. Wolfgang’s Vault has over 3000 live concerts and studio sessions that are free to listen to and watch on video, all of them fully licensed. And then there is YouTube, where there are thousands of videos and audio samples of some of the best musicians on the planet. There is stuff there that has never been made available anywhere else, from Led Zeppelin or Electric Sun bootlegs to performances by Charles Gayle, or Cecil Taylor, or Dr. L. Subramaniam, the violinist from India. You can look up any of those sites in the Google search engine.
Zzaj: You always seem to be “branching out” into new areas… in the interest of letting my readers know what you’ve got coming up, describe your next project (or more) in detail… who is involved, why is the project important to you, & if it’s sonic, include links to samples of it if any are available, please.
Jack: I am currently working on a project with Nik Turner, who is the original saxophonist and flautist for Hawkwind. As well as having a long history playing space rock and punk with bands like Inner City Unit, The Damned, and The Stranglers, Nik also plays free jazz. As I already knew from listening to the early Hawkwind albums like “Warrior On The Edge Of Time,” Nik is a highly skilled musician, but it wasn’t until I started playing with him that it really kind of hit me just how good he is. The type of music that we are working on is free improvised jazz, and we have an album that is in its recording stages. We have also talked about maybe doing a sort of punk/free jazz thing with a guitar player, but that is still up in the air. Nik and I have stayed in contact and we are quite happy with our work so far. I am excited to get the recording done, but it is still in the stages of being worked on from a creative standpoint.
Zzaj: Many aspiring players read this magazine… please tell them in your own words why a musical career is a valid pursuit – or why it may not be valid for others. Tell them what the rewards are from your own perspective, and whether (or not) you think music is a worthwhile pursuit.
Jack: I think music is a worthwhile pursuit if you have the aptitude for it. Not everyone does. Sometimes people get into playing their respective instruments and they think they can handle working in a band and whatnot, and that is fine, but there are different levels of commitment. I think the best way to approach music is from an educational standpoint. Study it to learn about it, and therefore to better yourself. If you just limit yourself to listening to your favorite rock band or jazz artist, you are missing out on the vastness of the whole thing. If you think Wayne Shorter is great, well, have you ever listened to Frank Wright, or Daniel Carter, or Wally Shoup? What about Amy Denio or Mary Halvorson? If you like Buddy Rich or Brian Blade, well, have you ever listened to Farafina, or Alla Rakha, or Muhammad Ali? The pursuit of music, if you take it seriously, is limitless. However, I have had to learn the lesson that I cannot play everything and expect to be good at all of the instruments or styles that I am attempting to play. I have known guys who made the claim that they could play dozens of different instruments from different cultures, but I disagree with that notion. At one point I was doing session work and gigs playing multiple different styles of music, and it all got me nowhere. It wasn’t that I couldn’t handle being a jack of all trades, and I did make pretty good money, but I found that I could play my best when I followed my true passion. After a lot of hard work and hours upon hours of studying and practicing, I realized that my passion is for playing the drum kit exclusively, and although I am avid about listening to other types of music, the musical styles that I have ultimately chosen to pursue as a player are creative jazz and Yardbirds-influenced rock and roll. For me, trying to do anything else is fruitless from a creative and professional standpoint, and I have had to defend it out on the streets and on the stage. It is worth it though, but don’t expect to get anywhere overnight. Nobody ever does, I don’t care what boy band you are trying to emulate.