Name: Eric Revis
Occupation: Bassist, composer
Current Release: Eric Revis's Slipknots Through a Looking Glass is out now on Pyroclastic Records
Recommendations: ‘Sapiens’-Yuval Noah Harari; The works of Clyfford Still; ‘Quatuor á cordes n 1’-Giacinto Scelsi
If you enjoyed this interview with Eric Revis, visit his homepage and/or his facebook account for everything you ever wanted to find out about him.
When did you start playing your instrument, and what or who were your early passions or influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
From my earliest memories I have always been into music.
As a toddler, my Mom would take me to the record store around the corner from our house and let me get a 45. Of course at that point my choices were solely based on the colors of the labels but I do remember the anticipation of getting back home and listening to my record-of-the-week.
At around 8-9 years old my parents got me a guitar along with some lessons at the local music store. Even though I didn't fare too well with the compulsory beginner guitar material (“Tom Dooley”and such”), I did develop a love for the bottom four strings of the guitar. After a few months my guitar teacher suggested that I should probably play bass. Seeing as how when practicing on my own, playing along with records, my only interest was to figure out the bass lines … so naturally I thought his suggestion was a great idea. After a couple years of bugging the hell out of them, my parent’s bought me a bass guitar. Then it was on!!! After many years playing bass guitar I switched to the Double Bass … and we’re here.
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 the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
I think emulation is a somewhat important part of developing one’s voice. Through that process, you start honing in on your “likes” and “dislikes” which in turn, begins to lay the groundwork for developing your own voice. It also helps you to develop your musical vocabulary.
The thing to keep in mind is that no matter how much you copy, there will be certain things that you will be particularly attracted to, that’s your voice emerging. But I also feel that with this process every artist should spend a concerted amount of (if not most) time developing their own ideas. These things combined allow for a certain informed creativity.
What were some of your main artistic challenges when starting out as an artist and in which way have they changed over the years?
A big challenge for me has always been to divorce myself from my “likes” as to allow the music to follow its own path. Early on in my writing, I would always go for my likes and after a while it dawned on me that I basically had written the same shit a bunch of times.
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 play the Double Bass. My relationship with it is mostly good. Like anything else, it’s better when I am able to spend more time with it. In terms of performance, because of travel restrictions, most Double Bassists are rarely able to travel with their instruments. At first this was a nightmare given no two Basses are the same. One night there will be a very large instrument, another night a very small one. Different strings, set ups, etc. But over the years, this situation actually honed in my particular sound in that I can get “my” sound on most instruments … or pretty close.
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?
I just listen to as much music as possible.
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?
Playing live is dynamic. There are are all of these interactions happening simultaneously between you and the instrument, the music, the other musicians, the audience. To me, the give and take between all of these factors is very exciting. The studio is ‘end-product’ driven. Which almost always leads to a certain sterility vibe wise, but also allows for a level of concentration that’s usually not present in performing live.
Ideally, I would love to personally crossfade to two and get to the point where my live performances have the level of concentration as the studio and my studio performances have the dynamism of a gig.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
Coffee, piano, long tones, Cello suites, playing along with some records or as I call them “time-groove studies”, transcribe, work on ideas/concepts for playing, compose. This is a perfect day and rarely happens. I do get some permutation of these things pretty much every day.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
It seems that my most creative moments are totally unpredictable and usually come as somewhat of a surprise to me. I have never had luck with “Ok, now I am going to sit here and be creative”. I do work in a creative fashion every day in hopes of the miraculous gracing me with her presence. But, that bitch is finicky. Life is a distraction. But I think that’s a good thing ultimately. I’m not certain that the best art would be produced in Eden.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
I am so behind the curve when it comes to technology. Up until recently, my technological savvy extended to Sibelius, the notation program. Which I think is great. Lately, I’ve started using Logic and getting into sending ideas to friends for them to collaborate on.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
I think it’s very alluring with notation software to over compose. There have been quite a few situations where while writing, more was more … or so I thought. But having those at my disposal and ultimately realizing that the “more” I was doing sounded like shit, it made me be very aware of discretion and taste or like my brother J.D. Allen calls is the 13th note … silence.
How do you see the relationship between sound, space and performance and what are some of your strategies and approaches of working with them?
On an instrumental level, I have always been intrigued with and work diligently on tone. The rationale being that no matter what I play it should be sonically pleasing to myself. At this point I think the notion of a great performance space is an individual thing. Sometimes what are supposed to be fantastic sounding rooms sound like shit to me, and complete dives sound amazing.
As I have gotten older I very much subscribe to the notion of letting the punishment fit the crime, and not try to force a preconceived notion as to how I think something should sound, into the reality of what is happening in that particular space.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
One of the most profound concerts I ever saw was The Art Ensemble of Chicago in San Antonio Tx. It was absolutely transformative for me. They were collectively able to conjure up shapes and colors and moods in such a transformative way. I remember at one point it was as if the auditorium was on a barge rocking back and forth. It was unbelievable.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I think it is the job of every artist to objectify reality. To seek out and gain a perspective that is bereft of the mundane, media driven, capitalistic bullshit that we all are inundated with. In doing so, anything you produce will be a revolutionary act.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
It is my hope that people will become smarter and more compassionate. Hopefully musicians will reflect these attributes and music will become BETTER!!!