Name: Jason Nazary
Nationality: American
Occupation: Drummer, composer, improviser, producer
Current release and event: Jason Nazary and jaimie branch team up as Anteloper for Pink Dolphins, available via International Anthem June 17, 2022.

[Read our  jaimie branch of Anteloper interview]

The duo have just embarked on a tour through Europe and the USA and Canada:

May 19 Brussels, Belgium @ Ancienne Belgique
May 20 Wels, Austria @ Alter Schlachthof Wels
May 21 Hall, Austria @ Kulturlabor Stromboli
May 22 Forli, Italy @ Area Sismica
May 23 Zurich, Switzerland @ Moods
May 25 Bern, Switzerland @ Bee-Flat
May 27 Lyon, France @ Le Periscope
May 28 Dresden, Germany @ Jazzclub Tonne
May 29 Torino, Italy - Jazz Is Dead Festival @ Bunker Torino

June 17 Keene, NH @ Nova Arts
June 18 Portsmouth, NH @ Press Room
June 21 Washington DC @ Rhizome
June 26 Vancouver, BC Canada - Vancouver Jazz Festival @ Iron Works
June 27 Edmonton, AB Canada - Edmonton Jazz Festival @ Night Club 9910
July 06 Toronto, ON, Canada @ Baby G
July 07 Detroit, MI @ Tangent Gallery
July 08 Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall
July 09 Columbia, MO - Stephens Lake Amphitheater @ Dismal Niche
July 10 Iowa City, IA - Trumpet Blossom @ Feed Me Weird Things
July 11 Rock Island, IL @ Rozz-Tox
July 12 St. Paul, MN @ Turf Club
July 13 Madison, WI - BlueStem Jazz Presents @ Bur Oak
July 14 Louisville, KY @ Decca
July 15 Pittsburgh, PA @ Collision
July 16 Brooklyn @ Public Records

August 26 Nantes, France @ Festival Rendez vous de l’Erdre
August 27 Strasbourg, France - Festival Meteo @ Motoco
August 28 Cambridgeshire, UK @ We Out Here Festival
August 29 London, UK @ Cafe Oto
October 08 Milano, Italy @ Teatro dell’Arte
October 19 Ludwigshafen, Germany @ Kulturzentrum Das Haus

For more information, visit Anteloper's official instagram account or Jason Nazary's website

When did you first start getting interested in musical improvisation?  

It was fairly early on. My dad gave me my first lessons on the snare drum and I would riff off of those.

One of the first records I got really into was with Max Roach and Buddy Rich playing together with a big band. Some of the trading between the two of them blew me away … you could really hear they were having an improvised conversation on the drums.

Which artists, approaches, albums or performances involving prominent use of improvisation captured your imagination in the beginning?

Miles Davis, Milestones — one of the older, hipper drummers in my neighborhood growing up let me borrow his copy and I was transfixed. The interplay between Philly Joe Jones and the rest of the band is incredible. You really hear the dialogue evolving in the moment between all the musicians.

Focusing on improvisation can be an incisive transition. Aside from musical considerations, there can also be personal motivations for looking for alternatives. Was this the case for you, and if so, in which way?

I’ve always been drawn to musicians who have a clear and distinct vocabulary, who’s playing you can tell from just a few seconds of listening.

I guess most of those types of musicians who I’ve been most interested in have been improvisers. So naturally I’ve wanted to cultivate a similar thing with my own playing.

What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to improvisation? Do you see yourself as part of a tradition or historic lineage?

It really depends on who I’m improvising with.

In Anteloper, our starting point is the sound, from our synths, from the acoustic instruments. Much of the performance is in the shaping of that sound and finding the resonance for us to inhabit. That process and conversation is all improvisation.

As far as lineage, we’re drawing from the vocabulary of all kinds of music, as much from ‘jazz’ as we are from industrial, techno, no-wave, punk, etc.

What was your own learning curve / creative development like when it comes to improvisation - what were challenges and breakthroughs?

I learned a lot from studying with Rakalam Bob Moses.

We would do exercises in what he called ‘contouring’ - basically improvising in way where the total focus of your attention is inside the sound of the other musician. He would be playing piano and my ears would be swimming in that sound, while what I was playing on the drums was happening completly intuitively.

I think learning how to access that space in improvisation was very important to my development.

Tell me about your instrument and/or tools, please. How would you describe the relationship with it? What are its most important qualities and how do they influence the musical results and your own performance?  

I play a standard drum-set and cymbals. The bass drum I have is triggering a drum synth called the super space drum. My snare drum I have is triggering a synth called the keyed mosstone.

The space drum is relatively simple in what it can do - you can dial in the start and end pitch as well as the length of the sound and it has a modulation switch that can warble slow or up Into audio rates to give the sound a sawtooth kind of vibe. The mosstone is a bit more complex. It’s a semi-modular device, so it’s hard wired to make sound with no patching (and has much of the same sonic possiblities as the space drum) but with a few banana cables it can really open up. I usually patch in a way so the pitch is randomized (with I can dial in with a knob turn).

Probably one of the more interesting things about my set up is that I always try to keep a degree of chaos and randomness in the sound creation. Another sequencer I use called the softpop, also has aspects of it’s function that are very chaotic. I like to have enough control over the synths that I can get kind of close to what I’m hearing, but I always like to be surprised by the sounds that are being generated. It’s a preset free zone! I then have all that sound routed through a delay pedal and the sp404 which I use to effect everything and to sample / loop on the fly.

The interesting thing for me with all this is how the acoustic drums and the electronics co exist and resonate with each other. It’s really an electro acoustic vibe, I try to be as deliberate with what acoustic sounds are happening as with the electronic sounds.

When you're improvising, does it actually feel like you're inventing something on the spot – or are you inventively re-arranging patterns from preparations, practise or previous performances?

I think in the sense that when we speak we improvise using our vocabulary and language, in the same way when we converse musically we can’t help but use the vocabulary we’ve developed on our instruments. I think where it gets interesting is when it’s a shared language.

In Anteloper, jaimie and I have improvised so much together and we have developed the language in our synth worlds in many ways together, so our band has this shared vocabulary that we’ve developed together.

Of course it’s in both our nature to blow it up to find the unexplored crevasses and caves in the music. I know I have an internal alarm that goes off whenever something I’m playing feels like it’s in a zone that has been explored too many times before.

To you, are there rules in improvisation? If so, what kind of rules are these?

If you’re improvising in a group - listen, listen, listen … I think the most honest music will come only when your completely immersed in the sound of the band your playing with.

How would you describe your approach to a solo performance?

For solo performance I try to focus that listening energy on the sounds in the room and the resonance of my instruments. It also helps me to have some kind of starting point or guiding concept to draw from if it’s totally improvised.

How do you see the relationship between sound, space and performance and what are some of your strategies and approaches of working with them?

I think the resonance of the room and of the audience definitely influences how we approach the music. If we’re playing in a club designed for electronic music with subs and a loud PA we’ll likely dig into that opportunity to push the sound system. whereas if we’re in a smaller room where the acoustic sound is more resonant we might have an approach that is more subtle and plays off the opportunities in that environment.

Our vibe is very flexible and whatever room we play, we aim to tune into the most resonant frequency of the space.

In a way, improvisations remind us of the transitory nature of life. What, do you feel, can music and improvisation express and reveal about life and death?

Oh I don’t know ... life and death are overwhelming prospects. We are here now, and improvisation helps us tune into these transitory moments that make up our life as well as helping us tap into the most intuitive parts of ourselves. I think that’s important.