Interview with a bad musician, as if drummer, ungrateful and faceless person John Carr. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.com: – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music. How exactly did your adventure take off?
John Carr: – My dad is a jazz drummer, so I’ve been involved in music my entire life. We lived in a little town north of Milwaukee, but he played all the time in the city. I went along whenever I could, like to NBA Bucks’ games when he played in the house band. I always knew I wanted to play music, but it took a while to find an instrument. I started on French horn, but was not any good nor was I motivated to get better. I liked piano, but I wasn’t patient enough to stick with it. I had avoided trying drums, since my dad was already doing that, but once I learned how to hold sticks, it was over. That’s what I was going to do. I’ve never been able to make a living at it, but I’ve always been playing. Now I’m an empty nester and I have more time to pursue it seriously.
JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?
JC: – I’ve always loved jazz, and especially big band jazz, since that’s what my dad did. It is the most exciting sound ever, hands down. Nothing like it. In my teens, I was drawn to the punk rock attitude, but I didn’t much like the music. I was doing concert band and jazz band in school, but what I really wanted was a band where we could decide what to play, not what an adult told us to play. I love electric guitar and their attitude was in line with mine. In college, I spent a year in Ireland, and wound up playing with a country and western band that played all over the country. That experience opened me up to the roots of American music, which has been my focus since then. In the late 90s, I played with a jump blues band. That was the perfect fit for me: guitar, horns, cool New Orleans rhythms, and high energy.
JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?
JC: – I’ve amassed a sizable collection of practice pads over the years. There’s a pad and sticks in every room in my house. Tapping away on a pad is like meditation for me. I’ll forever be working on paradiddles. You can never get too good at paradiddles. I’ve also always plinked at keyboards, but never been serious. I’m trying out one of the new online piano learning apps, so maybe I’ll get more serious about that.
JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?
JC: – Of course! My mom bought me a Walkman in the early 80s, which introduced me to serious listening, focusing on the music and trying to pick it all apart. The cool kids in school listened to New Wave, so I did, too. I outgrew it, but I still can hear little licks I do that originated from that era. The big shift for me was getting into American roots music. Some music is like candy – tastes great at first, but too much of it and you’ll start to hate it. Jazz, blues, R&B, and even country are more like a delicious main course. Not trendy, fulfilling, good for your soul. Then I learned about how all those rhythms work. That will take a lifetime and more to master. That’s what I’m deep into now: how ensembles interpret rhythm, and what the drummer does to make that happen.
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JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
JC: – Diﬀerent types of music feature diﬀerent balances of intellect and soul.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?
JC: – Absolutely! Otherwise, why do this? It’s all about the magic that happens when a group of musicians play together in a shared space. The musicians are half of that; the audience is the other half. The sides give and take from each other. Sometimes the musicians need to introduce the audience to something unfamiliar. That’s where the skill of performing comes in: good performers take you somewhere you didn’t know even existed.
JBN: – Can you share any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions over the years?
SS: – No memories, old man? ha, ha, ha …
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in blues when most of standard tunes are half a century old?
JC: – It’s all about authenticity, not about the age of the songs. People instantly identify with blues music. To keep them engaged, the feelings and spirit need to be authentic, not merely impersonated. This means the musician needs to dig deep to transcend from mimicking the blues to playing the blues. If there is authenticity, young people will be drawn to it.
JBN: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?
JC: – I don’t know what makes me love music, but whatever that is, that’s the meaning of life.
JBN: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?
JC: – Universal music education. People will make music. They can’t help themselves. Give everyone the opportunity to learn from those that went before, and to partake in the greatest group activity humanity has ever created.
JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?
JC: – Not so much whom, as what. Early jazz, early R&B, and a lot of Jamaican music.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?
JC: – It’s hard to pick just one. I’m going with the moment our ancestors created the drum. I want to witness humanity’s drive to make music in its most primitive form: beating on things.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan
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