Issue 132 interview with Ed Drury
Zzaj: There seems to be a lot of ‘60’s & ‘70’s influence in your music(s)… groups like Mahavishnu keep popping in my mind when I’m listening to your trax… tell me why? Or, tell me if I’m just having “anxiety flashbax”, & wanting your music to sound like somethin’ it ain’t.
Ed: Well flash backs are part of the trip for sure. I was playing music then and of course, a lot of the music I grew up playing was even older. My earliest influences were guys like Don Ellis and Miles Davis but I also played in a lot of rock bands. I listened to a lot of stuff out of the bay area early, one of my biggest guitar influences being from a group called The Moby Grape (huge fan) but also Jefferson Airplane. That was one side of me. The other was following the folk music scene. Paul Simon being a huge guitar hero of mine. I also was a huge Doors fan and would marvel at the sounds of guitar and organ together. I played a lot of keyboards and guitar in those days. But I’ve always been picking up new instruments all my life. Growing up, there was one rule in my house. If I could play any written piece of music on a particular instrument, my dad would find away to supply me with an instrument. So it was that my house always had some kind of electric organ, an acoustic piano, several guitars, clarinet, more than a few trumpets and of course some type of recording equipment. My first really good deck was a Roberts reel to reel. I love that thing. I also had an early Ampex which did the all important sound on sound. Later I got a four track Teac and my life as a gear head continued as money permitted.
Zzaj: It’s obvious that you do a lot of collab work… I’ve slowed down a bit on that (used to do about 8 to 10 collab tapes/CD’s a year… what about you? How many do you do? Is collaborative work a preferred method for you?
Ed: I do a lot of collaborations. I don’t usually do CD length ones, but I’ve done enough of them to put some together. I work on several levels with in that area. For example, I was a guest artist with the Tapegerm collective. Great group of looping fanatics. In that vein, I’ve had a long time collaboration project with my friend Chris Phinney aka Mental Anguish, aka Harsh Reality Music. I don’t know if we’ll ever actually release a CD, but we’ve done easily a CD full of collaboration via creating and trading our own loops. That’s fun. People look down at loopers, but really a lot of people out there are looping and more than you would guess are full on professional music directors for film and TV projects.
But that’s the thing about collaborations, they allow you to do projects you’d have trouble doing solo and keeping together an ensemble for. I love it. Since I’m not usually a vocalist these days, a chance to collaborate with one is always welcome. I was fortunate to have some people cover vocal songs I’ve written. Also very lucky to have the great Lisa T from the UK write a song with me called “She Said Ahhh…’ which is something very different from anything I could create solo.
The other level is that I create backing tracks and through them out there for other people to use. A great example is a Didjeridu and Tabla track I called Eastern Sun, which was then taken by four different artists Evan Paul, Phillip Stone, Evan Paul and Joe King who each made a fantastic track of their own out of the same recording. That’s mileage. But more often I will simply get together with another artist and throw tracks at each other until we feel it’s complete.
But back to the sample and loop thing. Jack Wright (Quantum Kids) and Jamie Dubberly have both made tracks using didj and jaw harp samples of mine. Jamie did a fantastic cover of the jazz classic “Caravan” and Jack created a wild jazz guitar piece called “New Age Trash Compactor.” I couldn’t have dreamt a better out come from those samples.
Zzaj: Can you give us a little bit of a “bio” sketch? Where you live? Where you work? Where you “grew up” (or didn’t)? How old you are? You know, all the “gossipy” tidbits that other musicians always love to hear….
Ed: Well, I am old. I think God was a senior when I was a freshman so you can forget those rumors about me being older than God. But we could hang. I live in Portland Oregon. Nice little town. And I work teaching didjeridu and performing music, these days mostly for second graders as I am quite involved with teaching performing arts in schools. I also teach at the Hillsboro Cultural Art Center in Hillsboro Oregon. I travel and give workshops. In the 90’s I gave three didjeridu works shops in Olympia Washington as a matter of fact. I’ve taught workshops all over Oregon, Washington and Nevada. I also was one of the first didjeridu players, along with my friend Rick Dusek, to play on the strip in Las Vegas. That sort of thing. I grew up all over the Pacific Northwest, but I was born not far from a place called Celilo Falls Oregon which is an Indian Reservation. I started elementary school in Seattle Washington, finished in Portland Oregon and went to high school in The Dalles Oregon. I’ve spent considerable ‘adult’ time in Hawaii, Australia and traveled all around the Pacific Rim including many places in South East Asia. You could say I’m a Pacific Ocean/Oregonian.
For much of my life (1969 through 1989) I worked in various roles as a health care provider and diagnostic tech. Many of the stories and feelings behind my music also come from that experience. The people I met during all those years and the circumstances I met them under. I’ve seen people face death and been with them when death came. I don’t have words to describe all that, so I fell back on my language, which is sound, to tell their stories. It is perhaps why I first got into music from other cultures, because I found that most cultures around the world are much more in touch with what I was experiencing. Most people in the US, pretty much distance themselves from any notion of life ending. Death is hidden, secret and feared greatly as the ultimate enemy. I found it interesting that there is a wealth of knowledge on dealing with it out there and much is expressed musically as is all aspects of life in these musical traditions. It’s not all boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy is a rough and tough dude sort of thing as found in a lot of popular mainstream song subjects. But don’t get me wrong, I listen to top 40’s music too! I’m as much a product of pop culture as anyone you’ll meet.
Zzaj: What are your main reasons for playing music? Is it because you “have to”, as some players say? Or is it because it’s a “profession”? Or, a little of both of those?
Ed: I’ve done both. I actually took about a 15 year hiatus from playing music. Which explains a lot of the rust on my guitar playing. I think that I have to play music for my mental well being. Ironically, it has also driven me crazy at times. But I remember something a old boss told me when I was pretty young. I had a job helping deliver pianos and we were driving for hours to deliver a Lowery home organ to some little old lady in a remote little town in Eastern Oregon. Anyway, the guy asked me what I was going to do in college and I told him I was going to study music. Well he told me that was great and I’d never regret choosing a life in music. He said, “even if you just sell instruments like I do, you’ll have a wonderful life touching people in a very real and important way.” You know, he was right.
A huge part of my music comes from the lands I’ve traveled to and the experiences primarily with nature. I’m a huge lover of animals, and they influence me a great deal. I’ve always been quite taken with animals of all sorts and take my rhythms primarily from their movements and sounds.
Zzaj: By now, most of us know that you do didgeridoo… what other instruments do you play? What’s your favorite instrument (to play, or to listen to)?
Ed: Well I play a lot of instruments and I don’t know if I have a favorite. There are so many favorites. I love playing the guitar, always have. It was the guitar that completely took over my life when I was about 16 and it’s the guitar that still calls me. That being said, when I think of a melody, you know of writing something down, I visualize a keyboard always. Never the fret board. The fret board to me is patterns and chords. The keyboard is how I picture notes. I also like playing my various end blow flutes which I’ve collected from all over. I play jaw harp, studying mostly East Indian techniques. Amazing rhythm device that. I also enjoy playing (or trying to play) tablas and dumbek. I enjoy various hand drums, my favorite is an Egyptian Riqq, small tambourine with amazing variety of sounds.
I listen to a wide variety of music from around the world. From electronic to field recordings of remote tribes in South America and Africa, to symphonies. I’ll happily listen to most music with the exception that I don’t like people around who sing, clap or otherwise make noise while I’m listening. That would include talking to me. It’s always been something I just can’t deal with and I think the height of disrespect. When I listen, I am completely silent. I am listening. How people can just have music on and go about their trivial chatter about the weather or politics is completely beyond my understanding. So it is, that although I do a lot of listening, you won’t catch me at it often or for long. Not unless you take a vow of silence lol.
Zzaj: What kind(s) of musical projects do you have in the mill over the next year? Do you have any CD’s out? If so, where?
Ed: I’m working on my first CD in about two years. It will be pretty new age, but then maybe not quite. Most of those tracks I’ve stuck up on my Ampcast page. I need to put them some other places to get more feedback on them I suppose. Most of my CD’s are out of print. I did about 20 CDs and four or five cassette projects not counting an old didjeridu instructional booklet/tape combo I did in 1994. And an instructional video I did, I think around 1999.
I am fortunate to be a guest on some really nice CD’s. Sundown, produced by Barry Durdant-Hollamby available at his website http://artofchange.co.uk , She Said Ahhh by Lisa T, Wrighdudes Ditties and Internet Collabs (available with purchase of Quantum Foam and American Road by Jason Didner.
Also, many more collabs. I think that is really where I’m living at the moment. Especially when my collaborators have a good result with what we’ve done . That’s a real high. But I am working on some unique compositions which I can’t really share at the moment. (Top secret stuff lol!) All I can say is if you’ve been listening to me, keep listening. If you haven’t, well the best is coming anyway so you’re starting at a good time.
Zzaj: Do you feel that the Internet has helped to IMPROVE the quality of music(s), or (maybe even) degraded it? If you believe it’s improved it, why? If it’s degraded it, why?
Ed: You know I don’t think either. The internet is just there, you know? It’s another vehicle to get your music out there. For me it’s a great opportunity to collaborate with a lot of musicians and to get feed back on a wide variety of projects. I’m able to try things on the internet that just weren’t practical to try any other way. I can experiment with any genre I want to and put it on the internet and get a wealth of feedback. I can also listen to just a huge variety of music. That’ s an important driving creative force with me. In that respect, for me the internet is helping to improve the quality of my music.
Zzaj: What level of formal musical training have you had? Is “training” more important, or “practice”?
Ed: Tough question. I had formal training even before college, I attended lots of music festivals and played in youth orchestras from the west coast to the east. As for music lessons, private piano from the age 5, trumpet ages 11 through 16. The training was what it was. It trained me. The practice helped un-train me, or free me. I think training is very good. Excellent, in fact and I highly recommend it. I will study music with someone at every opportunity. As someone who is interested in various traditional music forms from other cultures it’s absolutely necessary. That being said, there is no substitute for practice and the discovery it leads to. I remember an Aboriginal elder telling me once, “that’s pretty good, your able to do it slow, now practice it slow for one year and when you have done that you are ready to try fast.” For me, practice speaks to discipline and devotion. I’m a huge advocate of both.
Zzaj: Do you ever play “on the road”? Or, is your work primarily in-studio? If you do play on the road, which is the more enjoyable? Road or studio?
Ed: I have been more and more a studio rat as I grow older. There are things I miss about the road, but I feel I have an enormous amount of creative work to get done and time keeps on ticking . So these days I’m playing beat the clock with father time. I want to leave something lasting, or a at least hell of a lot of things so it will take some time to sort it out . So I have to be recording. I do some recording every day. In fact, I try to write and record a piece of music each and every day.
Zzaj: There’s no doubt (in my mind) that today’s musical “business” landscape is significantly different from what it was when I was growing up. Lots more indies, & it seems (to me) that “the big guys” have less influence over what gets played. What do you think about that? Is “indie” the wave of the future? How do you think music, & the distribution of it, will change in the next 15 years?
Ed: Oh, I know only that it will change. I’ve always wanted a future when the consumer could choose the music from a wide variety and create his own mix to purchase. That kind of marketing just hasn’t happened to any real degree yet. Funny, the technology is pretty much there, but there is over whelming resistance on both sides to this approach. So I guess we can make and sell a few CD’s in the mean time. I’ve been told I can make a good coherent CD, so I’m glad to have the chance to do it the old way. You know, make a concept album. Still in the back of my mind I remember someone telling me that in the future, people will choose just the tracks they want from a variety of artists and make their own CD, their own soundtrack. That appeals to me. As for more Indies, yea that is a very good thing. I earn my small amount of crust by teaching people to play instruments and compose music. I don’t get to pick and choose who I teach. Don’t want to because I love playing and creating music and believe absolutely everyone is entitled to that pleasure. I want more people playing and creating in the world. And I want to live in a world where you can hear everyone’s music.
There’s room. There is room for street musicians, home recording freaks, electronica wizards, all to contribute to the soundscape. The problems that the music industry faces, indeed like the world’s problems, aren’t from too many indie musicians. And we aren’t in danger of having too many for a good long time..
It really gets up my nose when I hear from artists, ‘the reason no one takes ___ music serious is that there is so much bad ____ music out there.’ Fill in the blank with your favorite genre. No, the reason people don’t take indie music seriously is that they don’t know enough about it. And the time invested at pointing fingers at each other and looking for someone to blame would be better invested in getting the word out about who you think the worthwhile Indies are. I think Indies on the net get bogged down in too much negativity sometimes. You hear a lot of excuses for why we’re not more successful and they are mostly things that are not controllable because of the fact we ARE Indies.
Life is short, but writing a score for it is a BIG job.