After tearing it up improv-style with J. Spaceman back in September (get the live recording of that performance on vinyl this Saturday), drummer and composer Kid Millions (aka John Colpitts of Oneida, Spiritualized and many other awesome collaborations) will return to LPR on Monday (4/21) for a release show celebrating Ryonen, his new Man Forever album with So Percussion.
We caught up with Kid Millions to ask him a few questions about Man Forever, collaborating with So Percussion, and what’s inspired and influenced his work. Check out his answers below, along with a video in which he drums everywhere for a shipping container to an airplane. And get your tickets for Monday’s Man Forever and So Percussion show.
LPR: How did your collaboration with So Percussion come about?
Kid Millions: I met them through Ronen Givony of Wordless Music [and LPR]. He proposed we work together at a concert at the Metropolitan Museum during a Punk: Chaos to Couture show. I guess I was the punk. It was a stretch but it allowed us to work together. I wrote Ryonen specifically for So and then The Clear Realization was already there – we just expanded on it and I crafted it a bit more.
How would you describe Ryonen in relation to Man Forever’s previous work?
Man Forever was very abstract before – I wanted the overwhelming confusion of percussion to beget a kind of peaceful acceptance and letting go. For Ryonen I chose to base the pieces on a pulse. The Clear Realization is a rhythmic tour de force. The rhythms and stickings (the strokes the drummer uses to execute certain rhythms) are challenging and require practice. I wanted it to be something powerful and immediate for the listener because I felt as if I had explored dislocation and confusion for a number of years and through a number of pieces. That confusion was an exciting and fruitful source of material but I felt like it was time for me to just play the drums for a bit. In a way it felt like I was avoiding that with Man Forever. When I started Man Forever in 2010, I was sick of being overwhelmed with anxiety about my technique as a drummer when I stepped onto a stage. . .that’s where Pansophical Cataract came from. I just wanted to walk on stage and not worry about my technique and being able to play well. A single stroke roll is one of the first things you learn as a drummer – I figured that most people could do it – even novice players – and the results would be interesting. I probably played 90 shows of the pieces from Pansophical Cataract. They were satisfying and the musicians were always overwhelmed with the experience. Musicians wanted to do it again – almost immediately. At the same time I started to wonder about the audience experience. . .the piece was really gratifying for the musicians – but sometimes for the audience it wasn’t so much. Plus sound techs didn’t really understand what I was trying to accomplish – so there was a lot of performances that probably felt flat from the audience. I’m not one to obsess about this all the time but I thought that it would be fun to write a piece that was exciting right out of the gate. The result was A Clear Realization. . .something that was an explosion; a kind of drum raga that built upon itself over the course of 20-30 minutes.
Ryonen was written more to cohere to the musicians I would be working with in So Percussion. I wanted to try to write something that was extremely challenging on a technical level while still remaining in the spirit of Man Forever – that endless flow of energy I’ve always wanted to tap into. . .plus I wanted the guys to sing. I love singing but I’m afraid of singing. I’m not great at it. I can’t hold a tune so well while I play the drums. It’s hard and I feel insecure when I do it. But I love to sing and I thought – let’s try to bring that into the mix. I also felt like the guys in So hadn’t been asked to sing much. They were game. . .but they sing worse than I do. Love ’em though.
What was the recording process like?
It was pretty straight forward – we tracked in two days and then I mixed the record and expanded a few parts – but we just went in and played the compositions. When you work with So you’re in the big leagues.
Man Forever and So Percussion
How did you come up with the album’s title
Ryonen is the name of a Zen Buddhist nun that I first read about in this collection of Zen texts called Zen Flesh, Zen Bones. It’s a short koan – kind of a “life of a saint” combined with a very confusing and disturbing story about a beautiful woman who renounces her family in order to study Zen. But the teachers keep rejecting her because she is too beautiful. Finally she hideously burns her face in order to be accepted by the Zen teachers. There was so many elements of this story that were disturbing and horrifying. I don’t reference the story lightly. But it’s a koan so it defies a certain interpretation. It’s not Chicken Soup for the Zen Soul (TM) – it’s a really wrong story about desire, family, sexism, self-mutilation. . .it resonates on a lot of levels. I would say the title is meant to resonate in this way. The koan is important.
What’s your earliest memory of drumming?
Well I started in high school so it’s not too too remote. . .I was in New Hampshire, in my school’s music building. They had a drum set – and I just started messing around. . .pretty simple!
What’s your compositional process like?
It’s pretty intuitive – I present myself with a couple of goals and problems. I wanted to play drum set for this next project – so there was that. . .I wanted to fit all the gear into a car – so that limited me further. I decided I wanted to play a beat that was really exciting for me – so that was The Clear Realization. Everything kind of built from there.
What collaborations or experiences outside of Man Forever have most influenced or inspired Man Forever?
Working with the Boredoms for five years, seeing Metal Machine Music transcribed by Ulrich Krieger and performed by Fireworks Ensemble at the Miller Theater in 2010, La Monte Young’s Dream House, conversations with Brian Chase about Just Intonation tuning for drums, Oneida, Steve Reich, So Percussion – things like that.
We heard that you recently quit your day job. How does it feel?
Great! It’s hard but then so was working in IT. The money was better in IT though.
What should people expect when they come to Monday’s concert?
To get their faces blown off.
What’s your favorite drummer joke?
What do you call a drummer who split up with his girlfriend?
Man Forever and So Percussion play LPR on Monday, April 21. Tigue opens.
Photo credits: Lisa Corson / Alex Nathanson
posted by John