Jodi was so taken with Sound Liberation‘s album, “Open Up Your Ears And Get Some,” so much so that he put together a few questions to ask Gene Pritsker, the man behind the band. They talked about the album, influences, the songwriting process, future releases and much more…
It has been nearly four years since you released “Open Up Your Ears And Get Some.” How do you feel about the record now that you’ve had time to reflect on it a little?
I still listen to it and always love to see the various reactions from people, mostly these are positive. This particular record reflects a lot of the philosophy of what Sound Liberation is about: extremely eclectic. The difference from track to track is very extreme and many cultures and genres are represented, fused, and re imagined on this album.
Our album “VRE Suite”, which was released after ‘Open Up..’ is more focused on improvisation, jazz, instrumental writing and has the same ensemble, a quintet, through the whole recording. It was easier to market ‘VRE Suite’ since the Jazz radio stations and critics understood it immediately, it was even considered for best New Jazz Grammy, unlike ‘Open Up..’ which had so many different styles of music that if a station or a critic did not particularly like one of them they would dismiss the full record.
Classical music is obviously a huge influence both on Sound Liberation and on your other work as a composer. What is it about it that appeals to you?
My main focus is as a contemporary classical composer. This is what I wanted to be since my late teens and what I studied at Manhattan School of Music, and what I do everyday as my main job.
When I was a kid I was blown away by Stravinsky‘s ‘Rite of Spring’, one of my first orchestral memories. What got me the most was the fact that at 13 I really did not understand what was going on in this orchestral masterpiece, so I would listen to this record over and over until it became familiar and I heard many new things every time I listened. I wanted to write like this.
A little later, I was in a chorus and we performed Mendelssohn‘s ‘Walpurgis Night Cantata,’ I had to stop singing many times just to listen to the music surrounding me and I wanted to be able to create such beauty.
Now this is what I do for a living, but I also love to experiment. As a kid I heard Franz Zappa and how he blended many different styles with a rock band, this is why I started Sound Liberation to be able to experiment and express my self in any genre, and many times many genres at the same time, as my creativity allows.
You incorporate lots of different musical styles into your work – hip-hop, jazz, funk, rock and plenty more. Do you think that your upbringing in New York is responsible for many of these influences?
I was born in the Soviet Union and grew up with my father playing Jazz and my mother playing classical and Russian folk music, so from an early age I was exposed to mammy different cultures of music.
When I moved to New York at the age of 7 and grew up in the projects in Brooklyn I was exposed to Hip-Hop and Heavy Metal and pop music, and yes, when you walk the streets of Brooklyn or New York City the brilliant blend of musical cultures is very apparent and very inspiring to me. I could not live in a small town or in a suburb, I need the noise around me of life of various sounds of a constant bustling which is certainly reflected in my composition.
You rap on quite a few tracks on “Open Up Your Ears And Get Some” – is this something new for you or have you been doing it a long time?
I have listened to hip-hop most of my life, as I said above, I grew up in the projects of Brooklyn in the 80’s and rap was just getting started and getting real big. So I was always surrounded by it. I always loved words and poetry and writing rap lyrics was a way for me to express what I had to say verbally.
Part of the reason of starting Sound Liberation is that Dave Gotay (Criminal Cello) and me (Noizepunk) loved rap and loved to record little rap demos on our 4 track when we were both in college (Manhattan School of Music) so we decided to combine the classical music we are studying the hip-hop we are producing and do it with a real group of musicians and create a new sound.
Can you give any insight into the songwriting process for Sound Liberation? Do you write everything or is it a collaborative process with some of the other musicians involved?
I treat the band as a chamber ensemble and I write everything and make scores of all the music we play. I leave some freedom for the musicians in the solos and certain grooves but mostly it is all notated.
Each song or rap I consider a chamber composition, that is carefully crafted and meticulously notated. If some things don’t work we can edit it in recording and if a band mate has a better way to approach something I am always very open but before anyone plays a note the full concept and score of each piece is finished.
I can imagine it’s challenging to recreate the ensemble or chamber setup when you go on the road . Do you have to downsize much when playing live?
We do have smaller versions of the band and I have many different renditions of each song, depending on who is playing and how many instruments are there. Sometimes there are more so I do a new arrangement adding the new colors, sometimes less so I have to make sure the piece still works.
I understand you’ve got two new singles ready to be released next month. Can you tell us a little about those?
The two new singles are ‘Need’ and ‘Breath’, they are from the album called “Days,” which will be released later in the year on Composers Concordance Records. The two songs feature the amazing voice of our singer Chanda Rule.
‘Need’ is a rock song from the chamber opera ʻMoney.ʼ It features the vocals of Chanda Rule with a powerful soul groove accompaniment with predominant brass.
‘Breath’ is an R&B song. A soulful melody is accompanied by a quartet of 2 violins and 2 cellos. The Strings get featured in a showy interlude.
And how about the next album, “Days.” Can we still expect to see it in 2012?
Depending on the buzz we generate with the two singles, we expect to release “Days” toward the end of 2012. The 13 tracks are all R&B and Hip-Hop, making this album more like the “VRE Suite,” where we focus on a few genres as opposed to the very eclectic “Open Up…” album, but each song is very eclectic in itself.
We have raps over Piazzolla, lyrics inspired by T. S. Elliot, samples from Wagner and Stravinsky, and a few live tracks from our concert at Le Poisson Rouge in NYC one being a Hip-Hop treatment of a great aria from ‘Don Giovanni’ by Mozart and another ends with a famous Puccini aria, both featuring our classical baritone Charles ‘Das Krooner’ Coleman.
You played at the Bremen Musikfest in Germany last year. Do you have any plans to play more shows in Europe any time soon?
As a composer I have many concerts of my music in Europe, including Austria and Germany this summer and the première of my new Symphony by the MDR Orchestra in Leipzig, Germany in November. But with Sound Liberation we have been focusing on recording this album and have not booked any further shows in Europe. After the CD is released we will have a big CD release concert in NYC and then start setting up other performances in America and in Europe