Interview with Stephen Menold: You gotta have soul: Video

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Jazz interview with jazz bassistStephen Menold. An interview by email in writing.

JazzBluesNews.com: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Stephen Menold: – I grew up on the west coast of Canada in Victoria, BC, just across the water from the Tacoma and Seattle area. I guess music has always been around in my family. My dad played trumpet in university and later switched to guitar, which my brother picked up too. What got me interested was that I always loved being part of an ensemble, the power of adding your voice/sound to a group made me feel like I was a part of something bigger. Also I was crap at everything else.

JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

SM: – My intonation has hopefully gotten better, haha! Honestly, it’s such an elusive thing to nail down. I feel like I try to emulate my heros as best as I can, P.C. Ron Carter, Ray Brown, and hope that if I’m in their shadows, I’m doing the right things.

My sound is informed by my life experience. I used to drink a lot and was pretty angry most of the time at myself and others. I’m a little more even keeled now and that has allowed me to make more conscious choices with my sound.

JBN: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

SM: – Metronome. Metronome. Metronome. It always comes back to the ‘nome. Rufus Reid showed me this great warm up of chromatic scales while alternating a drone note…that has been really helpful in getting a fuller sound as well as correcting some shifting issues.

JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

SM: – I’m not too sure what you mean. I find it hard to believe that my voice is so singular and unique that I need to protect it from influence, especially in a music that is founded in call and response. As a White man playing Black American music, I spend a lot of time thinking about how careful I need to be with this precious music. People have died for this music and I need to honor them. What I’ve come up with so far is trying to entrench myself in the history and music and moving from a place rooted in tradition. I guess if you hear influences it tells me I’m moving in the right direction

JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?

SM: – I like to rehearse. I used to hate it because I had a low self worth and I felt bad for taking people’s time to work out my music. I’m a little more confident in myself now, and I’ve found that I really like being prepared, taking notes and going over things again that weren’t made clear. I keep things loose on the bandstand but it feels good to have a foundation of rehearsal.

For musical stamina i’d have to say simply just doing a lot of really scrappy gigs has given me the resistance to weather many storms.

JBN: – Ism is culled from a variety of lives dates with various performers over the course of a few years. Did your sound evolve during that time? And how did you select the musicians who play on the album?

SM: – I have been playing with the drummer, trumpet player and sax player for over 3 years. We have a “chordless” quartet that we perform in. We’ve played way too many late night bar gigs and over the time we’ve managed to find our way of communicating. The pianist, Josh Rager, is an amazing musician and he found his way into our groove expertly. As for choosing these musicians, I think I’m always looking for people with unique voices who have something worth saying. It comes out in their playing and makes a more honest record.

JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

SM: – You gotta have soul. It’s different for every person, but I think that if improvising is expressing yourself, you better put some feeling behind it.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

SM: – When I was doing shows before, that’s all I was doing. Giving the people what they wanted. I was kinda shticky with some of my things, because I wasn’t confident in my musical abilities. I’m still working on the music but I’ve found that being honest with an audience and speaking your mind and connecting with them is what makes a great show. A few jokes thrown out in between songs doesn’t hurt either.

JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

SM: – A lot of memories that come to mind from gigs are mostly unsavory for print, but I’d say that the most surreal thing would be getting interviewed by college kids for a jazz class. This was during the break of my Charles Mingus tribute band Oh My Mingus and all of the musicians are in their mid-20s so it felt so strange to be seen as any sort of role model for these teens.

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

SM: – My approach to that question is that I have a very “in your face” kind of mentality in that I think that jazz should not be constrained to jazz clubs and concert halls. I’ve brought my bands to rock/punk bars with great success. Just because a chart might be dusty doesn’t mean that the music has lost its power. Just look at Charles Mingus, his music resonates just as strongly today as it did in the late 50s. I think the young people are there, and we just have to expand our definition of jazz and open the door for everybody to get a good look inside.

JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

SM: – Oof. I’m not sure I do. I spend a lot of time thinking about it, but as soon as I get the meaning of life, I’ll let you know. We’ll write a book about it and get rich.

JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

SM: – Ridged, imposed lines. I think that if we knocked down the barriers between genres in our minds we could accept more music.

JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

SM: – I’ve been listening to some great bassists on the scene right now. Linda Oh is making some really beautiful music these days, and I am just blown away by Hannah Marks’ concept and her compositions.

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

SM: – You probably get this a lot but i’d love to go to 1959 where I could go see Mingus launch Mingus Ah Um.

JBN: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…

SM: – How did you hear about me? I’m just getting my feet on the jazz scene and I’d love to know what piqued your interest in my music.

JBN: – … from internet. Why you did not agree to cooperate with us, we did not understand.

JBN: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?

SM: – I’m not sure I completely understand. I’m harnessing it all together okay.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Stephen Menold Videos | ReverbNation

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