Interview with Don Andrews of Spirojazz
(Published: May 31, 2014)
Q: There seems to be a creative restlessness in Space and Alienation with its melange of various genres such as fusion, New Age, and disco. Was this a conscious decision before the album was recorded or did it simply flow that way.
A: I don't know if you call it restlessness or what. It just required a few different styles and probably the fusion of a number of others to get the point across. It's always a conscious decision in the sense that I am generally working with an overall theme and a set of raw materials in terms of instrumentation from the very outset.
I suppose that is what makes each album different. The programs and the kinds of mixes I was working with when I was creating the world for Space and Alienation were very different from what I did for City of Dreams. But I was telling an entirely different story, so that's to be expected.
Q: What inspires you as a composer.
A: Just about anything. But real life, real people, and obviously from the last album, real death. I have said all I wanted to say about politics in History of our New Age. History of our New Age was in a sense of biography of the last century and the tragedies that were caused by leaders who promised a golden age. Incredibly, the people all believed them and we got hell rather than the heaven they promised. But it could be anything, people I've known, places I've been, all played out in the universal language, which is music.
Q: "Passing Through" seems to have several layers in its meaning. On one hand, it describes somebody dying; however, it could also be viewed as transcending human existence. What is it about, and how does the middle piece, "Michael," connect with it.
A: Michael was a wonderful friend with whom I had an immediate connection. We had only known each other a few years when he passed, but it seemed like I had known him forever. An old soul to be sure. Even though we only met near the end of his life it seemed like we had known each other for a thousand years. And even now his connection is still everywhere, his beautiful wife, his beautiful daughter are still part of our lives and always will be. Michael lives. So "Passing Through" is about his transformation to another form of existence, not his departure.
Q: Was "Mary (And Love's Lost)" about a real person.
A: Mary was written for my mother. I think the song tells you everything.
Q: Growing up, what artists moved you the most.
A: There was always music in the house: classical, Dixieland jazz, Big Band music, early rock and roll, '60s and '70s rock, blues, and then modern jazz in all its manifestations. I heard everything from the Midnight in Moscow to Rachmaninoff to Hendrix to Miles, Trane and McLaughlin. If there was a form of music I didn't immediately love, I listened until I understood it. As I grew older I was blown away by keyboard players like Keith Emerson, Brian Auger, and Winwood, Jimmy Smith and then grew to love everyone from Art Tatum and Bill Evans to Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett.
Finally, as I grew more mature, I began to understand that it wasn't the quantity of notes, but the story that they told and it was people like Muddy Waters and Count Basie that made me understand this. And when I understood that musicians were actually trying to tell a story I came to appreciate country music. There isn't a lot of music I don't like or can't come to appreciate in its element. I think the key is really to understand that each genre is in a way a language, as is each instrument, and showing the proper respect.
Jazz people tend to act as if jazz is the only music in the world. It wasn't the first, and it didn't just come from thin air. It came from blues and ragtime, but so did country and rock. They all came from the same womb. So when the musical forms were put back together, critics called it "fusion," which is nonsense, because they all came from a common mother. It's actually the people that are trying to keep it "pure" that don't understand the history of the music and they act like we are trying to breed show dogs.
Miles understood that it was better to keep the music alive in some form where the next generation understood it, than to turn it into a sanskrit scroll. Music will move forward because the language moves forward and things don't stay the same. There have always been people that have been concerned with "keeping it pure" but that doesn't strike me as a really forward thinking idea. And it doesn't reflect where we are going.
Q: Both the album title and a few of the song names echo science fiction. Are you a fan of the genre and did any particular science-fiction films or books have an influence on it.
A: I like science fiction as much as the next guy, but I really am more of a fan of science "fact." I read a lot of books on science, metaphysics and even physics lately. I'm especially interested in discoveries like "dark matter" and "dark energy" because they only seem to echo what Plato was talking about in his Parable of the Cave centuries ago. It seems like in a way that modern science has finally caught up to what Greek philosophers were discussing in 5th century BC Athens.
When you think about the fact that now science has come to the conclusion that we only have a sense of what is happening with a very small portion of the universe, when string theory is positing as many as eleven different dimensions, it's hard not to think about things like our future in that context.
Q: Where does the name Spirojazz come from.
A: Good question. My grandfather Spiro, a Greek immigrant, was from the island of Naxos, one of the most beautiful places on earth. He had to leave when he was young like so many other people did and came to New York and then Chicago. He had a huge impression on me when I was a young, on all of us really. The name Spirojazz is in honor of him.
More Information: http://spirojazz.com