Jazz interview with jazz drummer Eric Binder. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Eric Binder: – I was born in the Bronx, NY, but I grew up outside of the city in Mahopac, NY. At the end of High School I moved to upstate NY to a small town called Castleton outside of Albany.
JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the drums? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the drums?
EB: – My late father, Rudy Binder always had an intense passion for music. It was he who inspired me to start playing the drums.
My first teacher David Calarco was the first teacher to really push me to grow as a player. I’ve had some other wonderful teachers as well: Cliff Brucker, Erik Johnson, Joel Spencer, and I studied briefly with Kendrick Scott.
I always say that the drums chose me but really it was hearing the great drummers that my dad showed me like Mitch Mitchell, Neil Peart, and Billy Cobham that truly inspired me to explore the instrument.
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
EB: – My sound has evolved based on the people I’ve listened to and studied. For example, when I started playing jazz in Philadelphia, I was listening to many contemporary artists like Eric Harland, Briand Blade, Bill Stewart, so my sound was reminiscent of that. I realized quickly that my playing was lacking in the history and tradition of the music so I spent many years going back to study the Prestige and Blue Note recordings. Its most important to find a balance of listening an absorbing what your hear, and creating your own unique voice. For me, being unique and having my own voice is most important.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
EB: – Maintaining your craft is ever important. This includes the typical maintenance of your chops, etc. In addition, the only way to improve is to realize that there is more to learn; this is never-ending. I am constantly looking for new material to listen to, always looking to play with new people. I also like to shed with other musicians for practice. On a weekly basis I will have a practice session with a trio, or even just a bassist in a duo setting and play through tunes. In these sessions I learn so much. Playing with other people is key.
JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?
EB: – I have studied theory and harmony for many years but my favorite way to compose is to abandon all of that and just use my ears. I compose in front of the piano using my ears and my heart, not my theoretical/harmonic knowledge. I feel my best compositions break all the rules.
JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
EB: – I believe you can have music with no intellect if you have soul, but not the other way around. Soul is a necessity and intellect is a welcome addition. I can bet you if you went back to Charlie Parker and asked him analyze his own solo, he couldn’t do it, but baby he played his butt off every single time, full of soul and feeling.
JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
EB: – Well since it’s so fresh in my memory, the session for this record back in December was full of great memories. In particular, in between takes Malcolm would talk about his time playing with Stan Getz. The stories were incredible. Also, and most interesting, Malcolm told us about some decisions he helped make while producing some very famous Stevie Wonder cuts.
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
EB: – Like anything, I think exposing young people to jazz early on is key. I’ve seen videos of elementary classes singing Miles Davis’ Milestones as a whole class. Everyone is excited and involved. In addition, using improvisation as a teaching tool is a great resource.
JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
EB: – That’s a heavy question! I will leave it at this, for me music is a huge part of my life and my spirit. Coltrane was a very spiritual person and that certainly came out in his music and playing. I hope that my spiritual connect comes out in my music as well.
JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
EB: – I would remove streaming music. I truly believe it has destroyed the music industry. Prior to being able to stream music, you had to actually go out to shows to discover new music and buy the artists record. People no longer buy music and no one goes out to support live music.
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
EB: – I will give you some records Ive been putting on a lot lately:
Wayne Shorter- The Soothsayer
Jackie McLean- Jackknife
Herbie Hancock- Inventions & Dimensions
Aaron Goldberg- Worlds
Miles Davis- Sorcerer
Trio of Doom
JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
EB: – The late 30s to Minton’s Playhouse to hang at the afterhours jams and witness the development of Bebop.
JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…
EB: – What is your favorite subgenre of Jazz?
JBN.S: – Thank you for answers. Jazz fusin, Hard bop, Meanstrim jazz …
Interview by Simon Sargsyan