Sprinting, acoustic jazz quartet Endangered Blood, featuring Oscar Noriega (alto saxophone and bass clarinet), Trevor Dunn (bass), Jim Black (drums), and Chris Speed (tenor saxophone), the latter of whom composes much of the group's music, makes a stop at the Goat Farm on Monday, April 9. While the group's collective résumé boasts of its members' time with such living jazz and avant-garde luminaries Alas No Axis, the Claudia Quintet, Bloodcount, and Electric Masada, it's Dunn's legacy of working with John Zorn and Mike Patton in various configurations, all the while churning out records with such groups Mr. Bungle, Fanotmas, and Secret Chiefs 3, which seems to raise the most eyebrows. While barreling down the interstate, somewhere between Asheville, N.C. and Chattanooga, TN, Dunn took a few minutes to talk about Endangered Blood, his upcoming collaboration with the Melvins called Freak Puke, and the transitional phases he undergoes with switching from improv mode to performing written music.
Chad Radford: Endangered Blood is one of the many groups with which you play, but I'm not as familiar with it as I am with Rova, Mr. Bungle, or Fanotmas - but I've been watching the YouTube videos ...
Trevor Dunn: This band is only about two or three years old, and we just have the one disc out. We have been touring a little more though, and this is this band's first tour of this region. We've done some shows, but mostly on the West Coast and in Europe. We were actually just sitting here talking about some ideas for a new record, which will hopefully be out this year.
You in particular are often associated with the avant-garde side of things, which I think can be perceived as difficult or challenging music, but Endangered Blood looks like a lot of fun.
Yeah, it is a lot of fun. I do a lot of different things: Some stuff that's fairly straightforward - even a lot of the stuff I've done with John Zorn is fairly straightforward and melodic. I play in some rock bands too, even though I have my foot in the so-called avant-garde. But yeah, this is just a jazz-based quartet and we're playing songs and using elements of swing and meter and melody. It's a fun band live.
How much of what you're doing with Endangered Blood is improvised.
Actually, Chris Speed, the tenor player, has written a lot of the music that we're playing, and we're basically playing song forms as a jazz group would - solos and whatnot.
From my seat, I rarely get to talk with a touring jazz group or artist that isn't largely steeped in improv..
Right ... For me, it seems like there's a lot more crossover going on these days than there used to be. Even in terms of rock music - you're seeing more rock bands that do a lot of improvising, but then you'll hear other people talking about how they're being more compositional, or playing arrangements, and using less improvisation. With this group, some of our music will go into complete improvisation, but then we'll bring it back to the theme.
Is it difficult to switch between improv mode and playing written music?
Not really ... For me there is always a kind of a transition period that takes place. The more I play music in general the better I get at it. It's a technique in and of itself - going from one island to another. Even socially, I'll hang out with one group of people and play a particular kind of music. Then I'll hang out with a different group of people and play an entirely different kind of music. The more I do that the easier it is for me to be able to predict what I'm going to do with the music. With improvisation it is perfectly possible to make good music with people you've never played with before, but the more familiar with them you are you develop a certain language. It can be an abstract language, but it's a language nonetheless. With this group we've done a few tours together and we've played together in different groups, so we're pretty familiar with each other.
You're playing with the Melvins now too, correct?
I'm playing in one version of the Melvins. They still have the normal version of that band going as well. When I'm playing with them it's called Melvins Lite - I'm playing upright bass, and we did an album together called Freak Puke. The idea came from Buzz wanting to do something completely different with the Melvins, which he tries to do with each new record, so this is just kind of an addition to the Melvins and not a replacement of the actual group.
On Freak Puke you're playing an upright bass that's mic'd, but it's not amplified, which sounds insane, and is an interesting change for the Melvins ...
Right, it was recorded completely acoustic, which is great. That's usually the way I record upright in any group. Sometimes I'll take a d.i. or something to help with sound. For some of the record those guys recorded first, and then I came in and recorded on top. For other stuff we recorded bass and drums together. We co-wrote as we were recording in their rehearsal space, which was a really thrilling way to work on a record. We weren't paying any studio expenses, just an engineer with a mobile unit. I actually do a fair amount of bowing on that record - it's a weird Melvins record. It sounds like them, but there's a lot of different stuff going on. It sounds a lot different from the last few quartet records they've done, even vocally. I wrote a couple of things for it, and that gives it a little different flavor as well.
So when this Endangered Blood tour is over are you jumping in the van with the Melvins?
I am touring with them this year, but I'm not allowed to talk about it just yet ... [laughs] You'll hear about it soon, though.
Endagered Blood and Scarab play the Goat Farm on Mon., April 9. $10. 9 p.m. 1200 Foster St.
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