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Bill Frisell

[Note to the reader: Bill speaks softly, slowly. He's not meek, I don't think he's even that shy. He's just thinking, considering what he says. It's like the pauses between musical phrases that say as much or even more than the notes themselves. It might seem like I'm interrupting him, but actually sometimes I'm just picking it up where a long thoughtful pause has occurred. Where this way of speaking might have been a little exasperating with some people, with Bill it was very pleasant. It made it more fun, because you could feel him thinking, considering. Although he makes no claims in this area, it was a lot like talking to deeply spiritual people. Quietly powerful, refreshingly childlike, very good listening ability, no trace of bravado or self importance, not at all your average conversation. And because I admire his musical phrasing so much, the way he'll state the melody, backtrack on it, let it echo, play against that, etc...I noticed that he does the same kind of thing in conversation, so I've made none of my usual effort to "smooth out" the speaker's delivery, so that you could feel the rhythm of his conversation a little bit. It was one of my favorites.]

Bill Frisell: Hello.

Puremusic: Hi, Bill. This is Frank.

BF: Oh, hi. I'm sorry, I got stuck on that other call there.

PM: Quite all right. Do you want me to buzz you back on my dime?

BF: Doesn't really matter.

PM: Okay. I've done a lot of interviews, but I've never had a musician ask me to call him before 9:00 a.m. before.

BF: [laughs] Well, are you on the--I should know where 615 is.

PM: Oh, sure you should. I'm in Nashville.

BF: Oh, oh, right. I'm sorry. Jeez. I guess it is early.

PM: But you got a little kid, right?

BF: Well, not really. She's seventeen.

PM: Oh, that's not little. And that's your one and only daughter, right, only child?

BF: Yes. But no, I just like to get going.

PM: Oh, it's the best time of the day. I think it's the best time of the day for writing, certainly.

BF: And for me for writing music, it...

PM: Yeah, for writing music, it's the best.

BF: It sort of deteriorates from there.

PM: Yeah. Oh, yeah, as soon as the phone starts ringing, it goes to hell.

BF: Yeah.

PM: So last week, especially the last few days, I've been listening to this new Intercontinentals CD, but also others: Blues Dream, Nashville, and The Willies. It's uncanny how each one is like a separate life, a different world.

BF: [laughs] Oh. Well, I hope there's something. I hope they're not all exactly the same.

PM: No, not in any way, although you can hear the thread. But like I say, different worlds. How do you do that?

BF: Well, I think it's just really about the... I'm thinking about the balance that you just mentioned there, it really is so much about the relationships with the people involved.

PM: Absolutely.

BF: And that's where I really get the most inspiration, whether it's meeting a new person for the first time--like that Nashville one was where I met Victor Krauss and all those guys for the first time. And that was really an incredible, inspiring learning experience. And then--I guess they're all something about... I don't know, it could be also guys that I've played with for a while, like that Blues Dream thing, it wasn't really a working band, but it was guys that I'd had relationships with for a longer time. But so much of it is just about the musicians... For me, even when I meet a new musician that I might play with, so many times I know, even before we play, I sort of know what's going to happen. Or I know that it's going to work somehow. I'm thinking of when I met Greg Leisz and I hadn't even heard him play, and I just knew that we were going to play somehow. So the personal part of it has a huge... That's so much of it for me.

PM: It means so much to hear you say that. It's amazing how Greg makes the pedal steel sound so authentically Eastern on his record. That was--he's kind of an enigma. He shows up on all your records but nobody knows too much about him unless they play with him.

BF: Yeah, well, and he's on thousands and thousands of other records.


PM: That's what I mean, all the records in one's collection.

BF: Oh, right, yeah. And I don't know how, but Greg just has this--some kind of intuition. He just kind of melts into any situation. I mean, with me it feels almost like he's the other half of my brain working or something. I've never had to hold back or edit anything that I would play at all. It's like he just sort of plays everything that I wouldn't play, or something. And it's the best feeling. When we play together, it feels like this really special thing that could only be happening with us, but I'm sure that everybody he plays with, they have that same feeling.

PM: Not to mention everybody that you've played with.

BF: And then there's also the thing--he's played with so many singers, and he knows how to support a singer in a really non-conventional way. And a lot of what I'm playing--in the bands that I have, I'm sort of thinking of myself as the singer, so it just seems to work out in a totally natural... We've never had to figure anything out or talk about anything, it just happens naturally.

PM: "It just happens because I think of myself as the singer," that's great. One of those band mates that you're referring to is David Piltch. You must be up with one of our favorite bands, The Henrys?

BF: Oh, no, I don't know...

PM: Do you know his Toronto cohorts up there, the fabulous slide guy Don Rooke in a band called The Henrys?

BF: No. What is that?

PM: It must be the same David Piltch, because it's a Toronto thing, and he's a Toronto guy, right?

BF: Oh, right, yeah. Well, he's been in L.A. for--well, he still goes back and forth quite a bit.

PM: Yeah. Oh, I've got to send you The Henrys' music. This guy Don Rooke is the most unbelievable kona player and Weissenborn player that you've ever heard. He's like Leisz's level.

BF: Oh, wow.

PM: But he'll play really convoluted versions of "Pork Pie Hat" and stuff that'll just turn you inside out. [visit our a-z page to find reviews and clips of The Henrys]

BF: Wow, that would be great. The Henrys, that doesn't--does Kevin Breit have anything do with that?

PM: No, I reviewed him recently too, with Harry Manx. No, he's not associated with them. It's this guy Don Rooke, and some of the other players rotate. David Piltch was on their last record, and he and Don go way back. Oh yeah, that's so special that I'm going to send it to you.

BF: I've got to hear that. continue

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