Name: David Fiuczynski
Occupation: Guitarist, composer, improviser
Current Release: Mikrojazz and Flam! Blam! on RareNoise Records
Recommendations: There are major art works that I love, but I think most people will already know them, so I'd like to use this opportunity to highlight a painter who may not be that well known and that's Andre Derain. He was one of Matisse's protégés and they were part of a movement called Fauvism. They caused an uproar around 1905 for breaking with tradition and using colors in unusual ways. A French critic dismissively called them "Les Fauves" ("the wild beasts") and the term stuck. One of Derain's paintings I particularly admire is "The Dance".
I would love for my sounds and harmonies to sound like this. And although critics argue over the influence of Gauguin (or not) and the mix of folk, African and Romanesque traditions, I would like to introduce a possible alternate "Garden of Eden" narrative where Adam and Eve (and other participants) are sex-positive, eternally unashamed of their nudity while they enjoy many, many apples and the company of snakes and other animals and know how to preserve the blessings of Mother Earth without destroying it. Unfortunately, in the day and age we live in, this may be utopian in of itself.
Website / Contact: Visit the facebook profile of David Fiuczynski to find out more about his work and current projects.
When did you start playing your instrument, and what or who were your early passions or influences? What is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
The first time I noticed that music was more than just a listening experience was when I was 7 years old and my parents had a 45 vinyl single of George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" and I listened to it 10 times in a row and started wondering, "why am I doing this?". The music had a particular effect on me and although I haven’t listened to that song in decades I still have the same listening habit of listening to something over and over again, be it because I'm inspired or I’m analysing something, but it's the same process of repetition that's almost like a drug where I intoxicate and immerse myself within the music. I wouldn't consider having early influences until I started playing guitar when I was 13. I don't really remember the general rock and pop stuff I listened to, but quickly got into jazz. My parents had a few Stan Getz records and then I quickly got into Miles, Coltrane, some Scofield (Live 1977 where I listened to his solo on 'Softly as a morning sunrise' over and over again) and then harder stuff like the Mahavishnu Orchestra and eventually hard rock (Van Halen) and punk.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
To be honest, for me there was first a phase of immense self doubt, because it was very difficult to just physically play the instrument, so in the beginning I didn't have very high aspirations and I was very self-conscious about the low level of my playing. I remember seeing a band on TV and there was a guy standing in the back playing rhythm guitar and I thought, "well I could do that, kinda stay out of the way and that way less people would notice me". Then, when I was a bit more proficient there was a pretty harsh process of getting a more unique sound essentially by default.
I would A) emulate guitar player X and then B) get compliments for doing a good job imitating guitar player X and C) the total shock of being a copycat would set in and I would just feel absolutely horrible because I wanted to sound like myself and not like someone else. Then D) I would stop listening to that particular guitar player. Then the whole A) B) C) D) process would start over again with guitar player Y and Z and so on. This happened in my teens with about 7-10 guitar players that I tried to emulate. And then I would always feel horrible for not having my own ideas. But during this process I unconsciously carried something along from each guitar player I tried to copy (a whammy bar technique from one player, a picking technique from another, a melodic concept here and a harmonic idea from over there) and pretty quickly these aspects became blended into something different. I'm very lucky that this somehow ended up this way although emotionally it was a real roller coaster dealing with the perceived failures of just being an imitator.
What were some of your main artistic challenges when starting out as an artist and in which way have they changed over the years?
The following answer may pertain more to business issues, but I think there are important points that need to be made. The main challenges were the usual, how do I learn how to play, how do I develop my own style, how do I develop my own compositional style, how do I get a band together, how do I get a record deal or do a self-release? How do I get on the road and showcase what I do and ultimately profit from what I can do so I can do more of it? What's really changed over the years is the double-edged sword of the Internet and something that's not discussed that often which is the 1000% inflation that musicians have gone through since the 19070s!!! When I moved to New York in 1989 there was no Internet and so it was extremely difficult to get known. This is easy now with EZ-DIY websites and social media. These days people know about me in countries I almost never even hear about, but because of downloading I'm not the existential "tree in the forest that fell and no one's there to witness it". Actually, I'm the fallen tree that everyone knows about and nobody cares thanks to Youtube, Spotify and other online listening habits. Consequently, it's very difficult to get bookings and make a living off of music. This is nothing new, but what's not really understood is that the cost of living has gone up 10 times since the 1970s, but musician's wages for the most part have not. A New York subway token or a falafel sandwich was about 25 to 30 cents in the 1970s, rent (if you had roommates) was about $100 to $200 dollars and entry-level gigs paid about $50, 100 to 200 dollars. Now that token or falafel costs about $2.50 to $3 dollars, rent is $1000 to $2000 dollars but entry level gigs still only pay about $50 or 100 dollars (200 if you're lucky or it's worse you engage in the whole "pay-to-play scene" which I find outrageous!!). So now musicians deal with the double whammy of downloading and brutally low wages, add in student loans and this is a recipe for disaster. I see a trend in school where more and more students say they want to be teachers, which to me sounds like a back up plan. It crushes my soul to see young people who already seem beaten down by the system before they even engage the system!!
Otherwise, I would say my main artistic challenge is convincing players to try microtonal music and getting listeners to give the music a chance. This can be hard, because it often takes repeated listening to get used to new tuning systems. I myself hated microtonal music the first time I heard it! It sounded awful and well … out of tune. But there seemed to be a method to the madness and now I see new melodic and harmonic possibilities and even a way to give tonality a new lease on life!!
Tell me about your instrument, please. How would you describe the relationship with it? What are its most important qualities and how do they influence the musical results – and possibly even your own performance?
I have double neck fretted and fretless guitars by Dean Campbell and Ozgur Turan, these are my main guitars. The top neck is short scale and fretless. This way I can play microtonal harmonies and Turkish, Indian and Chinese inflected melodies. The fretless neck also allows me to do Indian slides, and Blues slides as well. It feels like each fretting finger can be a slide at any time. I have fret lines only as markers and that way I can accurately play Middle Eastern microtonal lines with quarter-, sixth-, eighth- and 12th tones, in other words, 24, 36, 48 or 72 notes per octave. The fret lines really helped on a recent recording (MikroJazz) when Philipp Gerschlauer wrote harmonies based on a 128 note per octave grid. I can play close to the bridge and attempt to sound like a Guqin or Guzheng (Chinese zithers). The bottom neck has a whammy bar that allows me to slur chords or warp lines. I would not be able to do this with a normal guitar and a double neck fretted and fretless guitar allows me to be myself in many different ways.
Derek Bailey defined improvising as the search for material which is endlessly transformable. Regardless of whether or not you agree with his perspective, what kind of materials have turned to be particularly transformable and stimulating for you?
Most useful has been using simple composition techniques. While admiring Beethoven's first phrase of his famous 5th symphony theme and its variations, I'm inspired to use real-time melodic development in my improv, because it forces me to say something about the music at hand and be in the moment. It's my lick killer and bullshit detector and solos by Django Reinhardt ("I'll see you in my dreams") and John Coltrane ("Crescent") are models for how I want to reshape my musical vocabulary in infinite new ways!!!
How is playing live in front of an audience and in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
Although I go for a live feel in the studio with everyone playing at the same time, a lot can happen in post production. Any given recording can have tracks that are either complete takes or tracks that are total Frankensteins with multiple takes edited together, massive overdubs, parts moved around, re-tuned etc ... I'm going for a certain sound and the end result justifies the means. Live, on the other hand, is more about being in the moment, intense listening, interacting and vibing off the energy of the audience. I love both scenarios, but they are very different for me. Improvisation and composition can be polar opposites in music, but depending on the music the lines can be blurred. On a recent release FLAM! (RareNoise records) all melodies and most counterpoint are based on microtonal transcriptions of bird songs and I intentionally wanted a continuum between composition and improv. At times there's freedom to solo and do whatever you want. Or there's a gear in between with structured improv based on specific bird melody motifs. And then there are short through-composed sections, which then dictate what will happen in the next improvisation. This can also be layered with some players playing specific parts while others improvise motivic counterpoint and on top someone else solos. So it's kind of a matrix of possibilities where the lines between improv and composition are blurred.