ADN: Could you tell us Something about the origins of the group?
ADN: Is MTG an open group?
James: I assume you are asking about the socio-political organization of the group. MTG was formed to play my compositions an to play freely improvised music, so there is a dual character to the group (sometimes a benevolent dictatorship and sometimes an anarchy). As free-improvisors there can be complete individuality, yet the musical result is better when we improvise as a team, with sensitivity to the total picture. And even within my completely notated compositions, there is room for individual expression; In fact, it is essential to all compositions! Everyone in MTG is involved with other groups, and some are band leaders. I am responsible for the musical direction and our albums reflect my personal music vision, but in exchange for this, I am responsible for all business and promotion and 100% financial risk.
ADN: Which musical styles influenced your music?
James: I listen to a wide variety of music, but certain things have had a particular influence on me. As a youngster, the psychedelic music of the late 60's (Beatles, Traffic, Jefferson Airplane) was a revelation. As an adolescent, I listened to progressive rock (King Crimson, Henry Cow,Soft Machine, Zappa, Beefheart, Eno) and began to discover jazz (Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, Weather Report) and avant-garde classical (Stockhausen, Cage, Varese, Ives). In college, my musical identity was formed; the 3 major paths of study were: 1 music of Bali (and its assimilation into Western music through Debussy, Cowell, Reich and others) 2 music of Messiaen (his treatise of composition covers topics as diverse as Indian rhytmic modes & serialism of musical parameters) 3 music of medieval renaissence Europe (still the most eloquent models of sound sculpture). Lately I've been drawn to the music of Gyorgy Ligeti and Conlon Nancarrow, whom I see among the greatest living masters of composition.
James: It was a necessary step in order to present this music and retain indipendence from commercial concerns. Self-publishing is a difficult and time consuming activity, but I am glad that I've been able to publish groups like 5UU's, Steaming coils, Cartoon, Rythm Plague and others.
ADN: How do you explain the difference between MTG musical products?
James: I'm often asked this question, which surprises me, as I'm more aware of the similarities than the differences. I think the music of MTG has remained essentially the same, but the instrumentation and the focus of the arrangements has changed. I look upon each album as an unique project and I like to introduce as many changes as possible in each successive album project. I'm also dedicated to the idea of stylistic hybrid, which strives to juxtapose and superimpose many different stylistic approaches, within a particular piece of music as well as throughout the complete body of work.
|Omaggio a Luigi Futi|
ADN: Do you often play live?
James: Not as much as we did in 1985/86. Then we played as much as once a week, now is more like once every 3 months. This is primarly because many venues have closed and what was once a 'scene' has become fragmented.And we are now a larger group, so it is not as easy economically.Also, we have found that we can reach a much wider audience with recordings, it is better for us to spend more time with them now. The latest live project is a collaboration between MTG and musicians from Cambodia nad Laos. This project is sponsored by COMA (California Outside Music Association). It will be a true collaboration ,with both ensembles playing together and separately.
|City of Mirrors|
James: When it works it is wonderful...a joy! But when the communication falters, it can be horrible. I think it is an increasingly important field to explore; since the advent of recording media it is now possible to analyze and learn more about the experience of improvisation. Still, it will not replace the structural approach (be it notated or memorized).
ADN: How would you define your music?
James: Our audience seems to be comprised mostly of Europeans, at least in terms of album sales. We are really quite isolated in Los Angeles; Though we perform here, we are considered an oddity in the land of milion-dollar entertainment (may be we should move?). There is an audience in America, but it is not concentrated in any particular place. The world seems conservative now, but there are always people with radical ideas; I think things will turn around soon.
Nowadays, I think the Motor is still alive we will ask James a.s.a.p. Meanwhile James and some of his friends went on to U-Totem and than Nimby but that's another story!