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Chris Tarry

interviewed by Josephine Ochej

May 31, 2001


As they approach their fifth anniversary, the foursome who make up Metalwood can proudly take stock of their incredibly prolific and consistently excellent musical output accomplished as a Canadian indie jazz band. That success - five albums in four years, two Juno Awards, one further Juno nomination, a tour of Europe, plus holding it all together from three different cities - has, of course, led them to become the first jazz group in Canada signed to the legendary Verve Music Group.

Their debut major label release, the punchy groove jazz "The Recline", hit the streets in May 2001, and the band is currently in the middle of a cross-Canada tour (with stops on the festival circuit - Listen to CBC Radio 2's "After Hours" this Friday, July 13, 2001 to catch Metalwood performing LIVE from the Winnipeg Jazz Festival - bringing their "jazz for the brain/grooves for the body and soul" music to the masses.

Prior to the tour, electric bassist Chris Tarry took some time to chat about the band's unlikely past, exciting present (including thoughts on being in the studio with guitarist John Scofield) and wide-open future.

Metalwood is: Ian Froman, drums; Mike Murley, saxes; Chris Tarry, bass; Brad Turner, trumpet/keyboards.

Writer/Photographer Josephine Ochej is a regular contributor to The Jazz Review, the Westender and Coda Magazine. Her column "Jazzie" appears regularly on vancouverJazz.com.


JOSEPHINE OCHEJ: Tell me the brief history of how the band hooked up.

CHRIS TARRY: I was on tour with my band, and Ian Froman and I had played together for years, in the Chris Tarry Trio, Chris Tarry Group kind of thing, and he and I talked about starting up something that was a little more groove-based, cause we were doing pretty sorta ECM, kinda jazzy stuff and so decided on Mike and Brad. I came back and called Brad, and Brad and I sort of ran with the idea, you know, we sort of put the concept into motion. He called Murley, and… that’s how it started; we just sort of called them up and said, ‘Let’s do a record, you guys wanna do it? There’s no money, but whaddya say? Something cool could happen.’ Murley didn’t know me or Ian, but knew Brad and said, ‘Ya… ok’ and he came out. He and Froman flew out on the same plane, and by the time they got off they were best friends. By the time we all hung out and watched a couple hours of hockey, we were all best friends. Then we went in and recorded a record.

JO: What point did you feel that thing where it clicks and you knew it was gonna work?

CT: It’s funny, I do have a specific point – I don’t know if Brad would say the same thing – when we recorded the first record, I thought it was really good, but I wasn’t… sure. I didn’t know. Brad and I had put the record in a certain order, a different order than what ended up appearing - putting a record in the proper order is a very big thing. We sent it to Murley, just on a chance, and he said, ‘Well, how about this?’ and the order that he suggested is what ended up on the record. When he did that and I listened back to that, the whole album made sense and it clicked for me; and I thought, ‘Oh gosh, this is really good. We’ve got something here, you know, we have a sound and [it’s] something I haven’t heard before. That was sort of it right there. And when it won the Juno, we thought ‘Uh oh, hang on…’.

JO: Did you have any sort of thoughts about how you would manage the tri-city thing then? Or were you just really trying to see if the music worked and then you would deal with the consequences?

CT: Ya, we wanted to see if the music would work and we knew we were all so busy doing other things. I was doing a lot of the Chris Tarry solo stuff, and Brad was doing his stuff and Murley’s doing his thing and Froman’s busy in New York, so we sort of just came into it with the idea of, ‘Well, we’ll just do it when we can do it, and when it won the Juno, we thought, ‘Hey, we should tour’. Brad and I actually financed the first hit that we went out; we played just to get the word out and get the press to be able to get some grant money. We did one weekend in Van one weekend in Toronto, and that was sort of the start of it, and that got a lot of press. The clubs at both places were packed and that’s where it started to roll from there. We got a lot of government support and it went that way. Without the Canada Council’s support it never would have happened; they paid to make sure we could all end up in the same city. But even today as it’s getting more and more, and the major record label’s behind us, there’s still a lot of flying-in the night before the gig or the day of the gig and just playing.

JO: It’s just a fact of the jazz world?

CT: It’s a fact of the jazz world. But now we do it so much more than we ever have that the band is… it’s able to keep that edge a lot easier than… before it may have taken us a set to warm up. But it’s amazing how fast it’s able to come back with that band. It’s just, like a couple of tunes, it’s like, ‘Ok, this is where we’re at,’ and it just goes.

JO: Was there ever a point it became difficult to manage the three-city thing or you just deal with it?

CT: No, we just deal with it. And now it seems to be the way it is, especially with the major label thing. We had to make a real commitment to them that we would be ready to go at the drop of a hat, so yeah, it doesn’t seem to… it’s funny, in a way, not that it saves money, but if there’s a gig in Vancouver, you’re only playing for 2 people to fly in. And then, if you’re playing a gig in Toronto, you’re only paying for 2 people, kinda cause Ian lives in New York. So really, in two gigs we’re only paying for the whole band to fly one place, really, in the space of two gigs. It sort of works out.

JO: You and Brad sort of taking the ball and running it earlier on, did that sort of de facto make you guys the leaders, really? Were decisions largely up to you guys and you would check in with the others and see if they were able to do it?

CT: Brad and I ran the band for the first couple of years. And that’s where having a four-piece band spread out over the country makes it hard, so it’s obviously the two guys who live in the same city who have to deal with the day-to-day stuff. There wasn’t that much. It was sort of just… run by itself. People with gigs would come in, and people would want to fly us in to do these amazing gigs and we’re like, ‘Ok…?…!’ and we’d just work it out. Now, it’s a whole different thing. We’ve got management in Toronto and all the official things, so everything is split. It’s like a four-way thing. To be honest, Brad and I – the four of us, we just concentrate on the music. We have nothing to do with the day-to-day running of it anymore.

JO: That’s got to be a relief in some ways and kind of scary in others when you’re used to having your hand in everything and knowing exactly where it is. You have to put your trust in them.

CT: Totally. For me, though, it’s beautiful. Now Murley and Froman have taken over a lot of the sort of… Froman’s like the road manager, he deals with all the money and that sort of stuff, which was always sort of my and Brad’s job. So they really stepped up to the plate and said, ‘Ok, you guys have done this for a couple of years, let us take over.’ Murley does all the set lists. Brad just… all he has to do is carry his Rhodes which is a big enough worry [laughs]. It’s sort of nice, for me, I’ve got a solo record coming out in September, and a bunch of different things, so it’s allowed me to go and do a lot more things and play with a lot more people, too.

JO: Are you at all shocked by how well-received the band is by the public? It does cross musical genres, and jazz isn’t exactly known as being a huge-selling thing very frequently. You’ve definitely got an audience, and a lot of people know who Metalwood is, for sure across Canada, I don’t know about the States. I’ve read things in Downbeat, etc. Is that at all surprising, coming from jazz?

CT: I guess a little bit. We approach it very much as an acoustic jazz quartet, because we’re all jazz musicians. It’s the only way we know how to approach it. The thing is, it’s got this energy and a sort of spark-plug drummer that makes it this spectacle to watch, and also, not only watch, when you’re playing in a big club, people can sort of get down to it. A lot of musicians tell me, 'My wife can dig it cause she can dance to it, and I can listen to all the happening solos'. To me, that’s where the crossover is, and I think this kind of music, if you’re not having fun and doing it and making it into something, it can tend to fall flat. I think we’re really fortunate where we’ve got four really strong musicians in this band and are able to take it to a level where it appeals to jazz people and people that are players, and also to people that are just normal people. It does sort of surprise me, I guess. But it’s great, we’re excited. In the beginning, we were like, ‘Are we more of a soft-seater? Or are we more of a big club [band]?’ It sort of seems to me like it goes over everywhere.

JO:  Maximum Jazz. I got the story from Brian Watson (who bought the label last year), but I’m not entirely sure… Which came first… the label…or…?

CT: …The egg? Ha ha. I’ll give you the whole story. I was there from the beginning. What came first was that Shawn Pierce and I started a company that was actually a production studio to produce records for people, and for major labels. Basically, we had a studio in the 12th & Arbutus area [in Vancouver]. We went in there and did a bunch of records for people and produced our own stuff, even pop stuff and whatever, building up a catalogue for publishing, so he’s big into the film and TV industry. So, it started as Maximum Music Ltd., which is the main company. One of the first records we did – in fact the first Metalwood Record was done as a test project for the studio. When we were rehearsing the band in the studio, Shawn was busy setting up the studio in the control room. The day we recorded the first record, he [had just] plugged all the stuff in and there were no buzzes and hums, and we just went ahead and recorded the album. That studio ran for about a year. Metalwood took off and we had a couple offers from different smaller labels and things, and we decided, ‘Listen, if we want to make some money at this – well, not necessarily money, but keep it until something really big happens, we should do something ourselves.’ So, Brad and Shawn and I started a division of Maximum Music Ltd. called Maximum Jazz, the record label. We got a distribution deal with Festival, because the Metalwood record was selling, so we got a distribution deal for the whole label. And then we took on a couple of people like Kate [Hammett-Vaughan] and Mike [Allen], different things, basically just offering them distribution deals. We didn’t have anything in terms of being able to do what Brian’s doing, like promotion and all that sort of stuff. So it was sort of like, listen, give us your records and we’ll put it in stores, and we’ll take $2, kind of thing. And that just became really hard to manage; it was becoming too much for Brad and I and everybody, it was sort of a self-run label, and people would just sorta call me or Brad or Shawn [and go] ‘What do I do? Where do I drop my CDs off?’ ‘Oh, well, you take it over here’ ‘Ok, cool’. It was a way for them to have a distribution deal with a really cool-looking logo that was attached to a fairly successful band, and it had a really cool mailing address, basically a mail box. And at the point that the whole deal with Metalwood happened, Brian, who had the company Maximum Management, approached us and offered to buy the label from us. So, it worked out great because Metalwood was leaving for a newer thing and he bought the label form us, and has run with it terrifically; he’s going to grow it into one of Canada’s biggest jazz labels, I think. So it’s great, cause he’s doing all the things that Brad and I as musicians, and Shawn, just due to time, we couldn’t do.


Brad Turner

JO: So, how exactly did the major label thing happen – did they find you or had you been sending CDs around?

CT: It’s always they know who you are, but in order to get a major label deal – I think, I know this is my first time I’ve ever been involved in something like this – but it definitely had to do with us having a fan on the inside.

JO: Not to mention probably pretty decent record sales?

CT: Ya, for an indie jazz thing we had good sales, but it was really championed by Scott Morin. Scott worked at Virgin Records in Vancouver and he loved the band. He went to Capilano College [Jazz Studies Program] and he knew all of us, and he loved the band. He went on to work as assistant to A&R at Verve New York, and then when the gig in Canada came up, to head up Verve Canada, he got the job. First thing he did was sign us. That’s how it happened for us. It’s always a bit of luck and a bit of timing. You never know what a nice fan will do for you. And now it’s Metalwood-o-rama.

JO: So the structure is, technically it’s Blue Thumb Records, distributed by Universal, which is owned by the Verve Group? Is that how it works?

CT: How it works is Universal owns the Verve Music Group, and VMG is a group of labels that is Verve, Blue Thumb, Impulse and GRP. So essentially we’re released on the VMG, with the Blue Thumb imprint. Each imprint within Verve stipulates a different sound kind of music, so Blue Thumb is traditionally the groovier stuff. There’s a lot of logos on the back of  that CD!

JO: So how thrilled were you to see that Verve logo on the back of the CD, cause that’s a lot of history, a lot of great jazz…?

CT: We’re the first Canadian jazz group, signed in Canada, to have the imprint, so it’s a big thing for us. It was amazing, and Scott did it, he made it happen. He really believed in the project, and he’s done an amazing job of getting everybody including the mail room guy at every Universal across the country totally psyched about it. So we have this amazing support from the label and we have this amazing support on a grassroots level from an unbelievably big label, so it’s pretty neat to see.

JO: And Maximum is still the biggest logo!

CT: You notice that it’s a new logo for Maximum? Since we sold the ‘M’ and the Maximum Jazz label to Brian… Maximum Music Ltd. is still a company that Shawn and I own. We did the deal, technically, with Maximum Music Ltd., cause now basically they’re just the sole owner of Metalwood, with Universal. All it is, is that everyone’s keeping the name Maximum, cause they love it. There’s too many Maximums now! Basically Maximum Ltd. is Shawn and I, and Maximum Jazz and Maximum Management are Brian.

JO: The long-term plan. When was the point that you started to go, ‘We’ve got something going here, we’d better make some plans’, or was it still just taking it as it came?

CT: I think now there’s long-term plans, now that we have management and they block off dates with us, and stuff. I mean, it’s still a hard band to book cause we’re all so busy doing other peoples’ projects and other things. Brad’s taking a sabbatical, a year off Cap, and [has] done some stuff like that to sort of free up the schedule to be able to do various things cause we realized they’ve put a lot of time and energy behind us and we’re sort of willing to go for it right now. It’s interesting, we’re seeing where it’s gonna take us. It’s still a hard band to book. The way we do it is book blocks of time. They’ll say, ‘Listen, we want you to do a college tour, for instance, in October for two weeks. Do you have two weeks here, two weeks there, and we’ll get together as a band and say, ‘Oh we’ve got these two weeks, Murley can do this, I can’t do this, let’s do this’ and then we present them with two or three weeks and then they fill it, and that’s how it works. But it seems to work really well for us, it makes it seem like we’re out there all the time, but to actually get us out there is still a big job. This time [May-June 2001], this tour time has been held for a year and a half, coming up. We’re doing 2 1/2 weeks, then we come home for a week, then we go out for another two weeks. The second two weeks was originally held for Europe, but we decided to stay in Canada and do more just to push the record. So basically they just point us in the right direction, they tell us what they want us to do and we work it out and we come to a general consensus and we go for it.

JO: The deal with Universal, is it a single deal, a multi-album deal, distribution – or is it all of it?

CT: It’s all of that. They picked up all of our old albums for a distribution deal, so all of the old albums are being distributed by Universal now, so that’s why people are having such a hard time finding them in stores, because they had to be pulled out and then remanufactured with all the stuff and then go back into stores, so… plus… so they’re gonna be back in stores in the next month. The other one is an A&R/licensing deal, which they’re doing more and more these days, which is basically, where they license the album from us for a period of certain time, but it’s multi-, like an A&R deal, so they have options up to six different albums – so it’s sort of a six-album deal, I think. Don’t quote me on the number, I don’t have it in front of me. [Ok, Chris, I won’t. JO]

JO: What were some of the things that maybe made you nervous about doing a major label thing?

CT: Right from the get-go, there was always a discussion of ‘Okay, well, there’s a major label, there’s some support behind us…’, [and] - at least from Scott’s point of view - ‘Let’s get some guests on the album. Let’s do something a little different, because we’ve done four albums already. Let’s change it up a bit, cause Metalwood’s always gotta keep growing, it’s always gotta be fun.’ So when he approached us and said, ‘Hey, you wanna play with Sco?’ [Laughs] We were like, [taken aback in disbelief, but obviously thrilled] ‘Ohhhh-kay…!’ and ya, that made me a little bit nervous. And then he said, ‘How about Mino?’ And I said, ‘Now I’m even more nervous.’ Anyways, it was a pretty amazing experience. It’s a bit of a different sound, and you know, it’s cool, there’s still that Metalwood edge to it.

JO: I think the jazz fans probably would like something a little different, and the groove fans are even more satiated because the groove thing flows consistently through it.

CT: We’ve had a couple people say that Scofield sounds like Scofield, like Scofield stuff.

JO:  Well, he is… him.

CT: Ya, Number One: he is him, a definitive sound. And Number Two, we only had a day in the studio with those guys. All the stuff that was recorded with them was recorded in about ten hours, so we had to make sure that they came in – they were coming without any rehearsal, so the best thing in order to make stuff like that happen, being guys that have done countless records with different people and wanting it to go smoothly, the easiest way is you write for them. So we wrote for them and wanted to make them feel comfortable and that’s the key and that’s why it worked and that’s why it worked as well as it did. There’s that tune “Pressure” at the end, and Sco takes that solo on the fade out and he’s playing like I haven’t heard him play since, like [1997’s] “Blue Matter”. He’s playing some unbelievable stuff on there. And you know, it just was proof that they really had a great time. They were terrific to work with, and oh my, it was just an amazing experience.

JO: Was it a comfortable thing? At first, it was probably like, ‘Here we are with John Scofield…’

CT: Unbelievable. He comes into the studio and he started plugging in his amp and we’re sitting there, and all of a sudden he started warming up and the mic was on and Shawn turned it up, and it’s just like, ‘There’s Sco coming through the speakers. He’s in the next room.’

JO: Had you met any of those guys before?

CT: We played with Mino the night before at the Cellar. That was pretty crazy. Wow. A lot of sound going on there.

JO: Actually, you could kind of see the point where it clicked. It was later on, I think, in the second set.

CT: Ya, the second set. The first set, we were a little taken aback, going, ‘Oh my god’. You could see the shock in our eyes. It was great right away. Sco was amazing and he just imparted some really great talks to us, about playing with Miles and stuff. He’s just a normal guy, working on his thing like everybody else. And he had some great things to say. Brad would finish a solo and he'd go, [affects awe-struck, yet laidback Scofield imitation] ‘Man, what a great solo’. He was sitting in the control room when I took the bass solo on the record [UB the Monster intro] and I was really self-conscious and I went in and I was like, ‘I gotta re-do that’. And he goes, ‘Man, no way. That was a great bass solo, man, you gotta keep that. You are fucking great, man!’ He’s like, just totally supportive and he loved the musicianship in the band, and he was knocked out by Murley, too. ‘Man, you’re a great tenor player, man!’ This is how he started talking!

JO: Right on. Sounds like an awesome experience. Did anybody videotape it by any chance?

CT: There is videotape. I don’t know where it ended up. They were doing EPKs [electronic press kits] and stuff, it’s all at Universal.

JO: Videos? Is that entering the picture?

CT: Well, we have one that we did a little while ago for Bravo.

JO: I have never seen it.

CT: There’s an alien in it.

JO: Which tune?

CT: It’s called, the tune “Newton”, off the second record [Metalwood 2]. It’s on Bravo every once in a while, but we’ll see what happens. It’s pretty funny. We’re not even in it. [It was done by] this really great guy Marcus Rodgers, he was nominated for a West Coast Music Award. He’s in a lot of videos and he was just into the band he wanted to do it and he hooked it all up.

JO:Q Wait a minute, maybe I did see it. Is there a loop and a lot of street…

CT: Ya.

JO: Alright, I have seen it. What about the future?

CT: I don’t know. Hopefully. Be funny to see it on Much Music. Hey, if Herbie Hancock could do it, why not!

JO: A difference on this album from previous ones is the musical credits. First of all, they’re not listed on the back of the CD by person, like they usually are. There are no Metalwood-credited songs. Is that because the Metalwood-credited songs on previous CDs were improv songs in the studio?

CT: Ya, every time you see a Metalwood [credit], it’s always an improv in the studio. We did some improvs on this one, but we just decided, ‘Let’s just feature the guests’. It would’ve been – the other Metalwood records are notoriously really long cause you know, we didn’t care, we just put whatever we wanted on it. You listen to it, you’re in for a good hour and a half. But we wanted to make this a concise statement, it’s our first major label thing, plus we didn’t want to cut any one of the things with the guests on it because playing with Scofield, for us, was a pretty momentous occasion. So we got some stuff that we’ll maybe release on the next one, and that kind of thing.

JO: When you write your tunes and Brad writes his tunes, do you write them pretty much fully and then bring them to the other guys? I’m guessing you guys start with each other since you’re here, or do you write them and then bring pieces of it and say, ‘What do you think of this?’

CT: It’s interesting how we do it. We do it all ourselves, individually. We midi them up on the computer, so we basically have a working version of what the tune will sound like. And then we email them to each other, to the whole band, and everybody checks them out. Or we burn CDs, with this [record], we actually had 16 tunes written. We recorded, I think, like, 14. And so there’s a bunch of other stuff that will probably surface at one time or another.

JO: The out takes.

CT: The out takes!

JO: In 20 years.

CT: Exactly, when we’re all old and gray. So we sent out the tapes, a CD with charts, with midi-demos on them, and everybody gets them and we all learn the tunes, and then we come together and we play ‘em.

JO: Modern technology! You wouldn’t have been able to do this ten years ago, even!

CT: No. I know. It couldn’t exist in the old dark ages.

JO: That’s incredible.

CT: Ya. So, that’s how we do it.

JO: So you’re a high tech band, really.

CT: We are high tech. Everybody’s on email – it’s amazing how much of this booking and stuff, everything in this band gets done by email.

JO: Probably saves a lot on long distance charges, too. So, what would you do if you ever were in the same city? You wouldn’t know what to do, would you?

CT: We’d never rehearse because we don’t rehearse already. We don’t want to ruin a good thing, you know, by doing something as crass as rehearsing.

JO: It’s got to keep things fresh, because you’ve got that nervous edge, I’m sure, because it’s like, ‘Ok, we haven’t played together in a couple of months!’


Mike Murley

CT: Ya, totally. It’s becoming easier and easier. Sometimes, there’s certain things, like the tune, "U B the Monster". That was written in a sound check. I started playing a groove and Ian started playing along, in a sound check in Italy last summer. "Bumpus", "U B the Monster", and "Mr. Mike" were written [when] we had a couple of days off in a hotel room in Italy, and Brad just set up the Trinity, and he would write a tune and do a sequence, and take a break, then I would write a tune and do a sequence and then, one guy would be drinking beer on the bed and he’d be done, and we’d hop up and do another tune. We wrote a bunch there that ended up on the record. Cause that was sort of… when we were doing that tour, we were doing all the original negotiations [with Verve], which is, like, that’s over a year ago [that it] started going down about the record and the potential for Scofield to be on it. It’s been a long time coming, a year, and then even before that, getting all the guys in New York interested in it – it’s been at least a year and a half ordeal.

JO: I heard about the stuff going down in Italy. The lost/stolen plane tickets and laptop?

CT: That was mine.

[More talk about waywardness of ‘stuff’ in Italy as tape runs out and requires flippage. ]

JO: Did you have time to do any improvs with the guests?

CT: No, we didn’t do any with them, but we did do some with us, the second day. The whole thing was recorded in about a day and a half.  Most Metalwood records… all of them, actually, were recorded in about a day in a half. It’s a neat process. Go in and all this great music just sorta happens.

JO: And there was no talk of trying to do it any other way? Or it just works for you.

CT: Ya, it just works for us. We go in and we get the job done and it just happens to be at a high level. Funny how that happens.

JO: Being with this major major label, do you feel any new expectations in this new situation, in terms of sales and performance – is that a little bit more nerve wracking?

CT: It is… we’re just gonna concentrate on doing the music, but we’re out there a lot now because we know that in order for us to do more stuff, which we wanna do, we have to sell records. We’re out there doing what we love, which is playing, and the music is developing, obviously, and growing and doing all this sort of stuff, so that’s the reward. But deep down, I think, it’s obviously always there, especially for a jazz release, it ain’t easy to sell records. It’s amazing, Canadian jazz bands and stuff, what they consider a successful selling record. It would just make the pop people just absolutely die.

JO: What kind of numbers are we talking, just a couple of thousand, really?

CT: Oh ya. That’s a great…, you’d be amazed about what the American guys sell, too, not too much.. probably a little less than that.

JO: When I think of the whole debate about jazz being such a small little community and you go out to a show and there’s a few people there, and they probably all have the record, but it’s just a small pocket – per city!

CT: I know. It’s amazing.

JO: It amazes me continually how many players there are – it’s this huge pool.

CT: There’s this untapped resource that if people went down and took the time to go down and buy a Canadian jazz record, they’d realize they’ve got some of the best jazz musicians in the world, living right here at their back door. And that they can go and see them at The Cellar for ten bucks, is a real treat at this moment. But it’s hard to get people out. It’s really hard.

JO: I think it’s also this town, it’s built for leisure.

CT: I’m the same way, when it’s nice out I want to hop on my mountain bike, and go ride in the mountains. It’s part of the appeal of living here.

JO: Has all this given you and Brad any thoughts of relocating, or is working fine the way it is?

CT: It seems to be working fine right now. I think the beauty of Metalwood is any of us could be anywhere. It just happens so naturally when we come back that it makes it easy. I could be living in Balzac, Alberta; it doesn’t matter where we are individually. I think we’re so used to doing it this way that now that’s just the norm.

JO: It really is a small, open world in that way now. I read an article about married couples living on separate continents and making it work. Because it’s so easy to travel and the technology.

CT: Soon they’ll be able to beam you somewhere.

JO: Do you think that this deal is going to maybe open the door a little bit for some other musicians in Canada?

CT: I hope so. I really hope so. And I think a lot of people, at least the press from the other parts of the country, are amazed that one of the top jazz groups is from Vancouver. They’re like, ‘You guys are from Vancouver?’ I really hope it does, I really hope it does. I hope that it works so much that they give some deals to some other just-as-deserving musicians, cause this town definitely has them, and they’re some of the best in the world.

JO: Plans for other countries, aka the U.S.? Obviously you’re well-established in Canada, you’re gonna further that with the upcoming dates. Is there a U.S. plan or is that in the works?

CT: Yes, it’s in the works, and Verve in the U.S. has plans on releasing it. The first thing we’re doing, I don’t know if it’s confirmed, but we’re doing some stuff at the House of Blues in Chicago in July. We’re doing New York in September and different things like that, so it’s starting to happen. For the second year in a row we got talent deserving wider recognition in Downbeat this month, so that’s great. Downbeat’s doing some great stuff, and of course, the editor of Downbeat did the liner notes [for "The Recline"]. It’s good, and we’re gonna get down there. We’ve got a lot of U.S. fans – I was at Long & McQuade buying bass strings the other day and the guy at the bass centre said, ‘You know there were some Americans here. They just came up to buy the Metalwood record.’ So, I don’t know people… it’s so funny how people hear about stuff.

JO: Will the other albums get distribution in the U.S.?

CT: We’re not sure about that right now. But they’re looking at the new one.

JO: When will that happen?

CT: There isn’t a set date, but it looks like… actually, I don’t even know… they’re trying to work it out between who releases it first, Europe or the U.S. Whether we go to Europe first is sort of like where we’re at, and because we’ve already been to Europe they’re thinking, go there, and then they’ll release it in the U.S.

JO: Has Metalwood played in the U.S. yet?

CT: No. Never have. A total Canadian band. Canadian and European. But all these people sorta know about it, by hearing about it, and hearing preferably some good things, so they come up and buy the record.

JO: How many trips to Europe?

CT: Just once. It was a long one. It was great. It was an amazing tour. We did a double bill with… we did a festival that was just us and [Joe] Zawinul (leader of ‘70s fusion group Weather Report, a main Metalwood influence); and [laughing] there was also ‘Metalwood and Puppet Show’.

JO: Really?

CT: "Spinal Tap".

JO: Oh, right! Which countries?

CT: Italy, the U.K. and Belgium. It was an amazing trip.

JO: Did anybody keep a tour diary?

CT: There’s lots of pictures, some of which are un-showable. Maybe one day I’ll write down…the first 48 hours were unbelievable.


Ian Froman

JO: Is this the primary gig for all of you?

CT: Right now, because they want us to make a commitment to it. We’re all still doing a lot of different stuff. I’m on the road with Junction and François Houle and Peggy and blah blah blah. Fortunately, I haven’t had too many conflicts; there’s the odd thing I’ve had to get out of, but other than that.

JO: Although jazz festival season is coming up and that’s got to be tricky.

CT: I don’t know how I managed to pull that one off, but I ended up being able to do one of three Junction gigs, an Alma Libre gig and a François gig…

JO: Plus three Metalwood gigs.

CT: Plus three Metalwood gigs! And we’re only in town for three days! How did I manage that?!

JO: They obviously took great pains to make that work. I don’t know how Ken Pickering and those guys do that… the programming… even just with the local guys – it blows my mind.

CT: What did you think of that article?

[ Ed. note: On May 22, 2001, the Vancouver Courier ran a cover-story that purported to be about the Vancouver jazz scene and, especially, the Vancouver International Jazz Festival. It was little more than a half-baked, error-riddled personal attack on Ken Pickering, the festival's artistic director. The article carried no byline which, apparently, was left out inadvertently. The author turned out to be Monika Ullmann. The one positive result of the piece was the debate it sparked in the Vancouver Jazz Forum. To read that discussion click here. ]

JO: I haven’t seen it, but I heard about it. I heard the story from Chris Wong and that there was no byline on it so everyone thought it was him.

CT: Who was the writer? Do you know her?

JO: No. I haven’t heard of her.

CT: They called Scofield ‘PAUL Scofield’ and Metalwood ‘avant garde’.

JO: Oh man, she was probably run out of town on a rail. But I read all the subsequent things on vancouverjazz.com. What did you think of that, from a musician’s standpoint? Typical?

CT: It sounded like a  lot of musicians were taken out of context; I could hear what they were saying, but at the same time, I think that, my personal opinion is that Ken Pickering does an absolutely amazing job. I think it’s one of the biggest festivals in North America.

JO: I think it’s the best. I’ve not been to the others, but from what I’ve seen of the programs, it’s huge.

CT: It’s amazing and he does a great job. And if you compare it to local musicians getting gigs at other festivals, it’s unprecedented.

JO: Even in New York, the JVC festival, it’s really small by comparison, a few gigs a night. And here it’s a couple of dozen, at least!

CT: And the local musicians here, I think, have it the best; [some think] it’s just never good enough.

JO: I think if they visited some other scenes, they’d see that, but it’s not an ideal world. I heard a statistic that jazz record sales are less than three percent of all record sales.

CT: And you don’t even want to know what the percentage of that three percent is Canadian jazz.

JO: But, it’s the genre we’ve chosen and we have to do the best we can. A lot of us aren’t doing it for the money, cause they’re isn’t any.

CT: Absolutely. For the joy!

JO: And because you HAVE to; you have that passion, you just do it.

CT: You gotta do it.

JO: Have you dared dream of a day where this thing is so huge that you don’t really have to worry about it, you can play whatever you want?

CT: I guess that’s ultimately, I dunno, I guess we’re just sort of – we’ve always done it for fun and taken it where it takes it, and I think if we have too many expectations there’s the ability to be disappointed. It’s already gone way above and beyond anything I ever thought it would, so anything else is a bonus. To me, it’s already at that point, just to be involved, playing with these great musicians. I’ve gotten to play in some really great places and do some really great gigs, and play with some world-class, famous players – it’s been unbelievable. Everyday it keeps going is an extra thing, so it’s good that way. I don’t think we have any misconceptions that way. Of course we’d love to see it go huge and be bigger than it is, but only time will tell now.

JO: And the thing is, it’s possible now, and that’s got to be amazing.

CT: It’s probably got the biggest, best possibility right now and I think there’s a lot of people waiting to see what happens. Let’s hope.

JO: The name Metalwood. Who was the brainchild behind that one?

CT: Ian. I hope this doesn’t destroy the whole moniker for you. It’s really not a deep story at all. Are you ready?

JO: Ya

CT: Okay, this is gonna ruin it for you.

JO: Hit me.

CT: It’s named after a golf club.

JO: [Howling laughter] But it’s so appropriate.

CT: Ian named the band. He had just bought a new set of clubs and he was really into playing golf. And he said, ‘Let’s call it Metalwood, man’. And that was it. This was the first initial conversation before even Brad or Murley was… see, Froman came up with the original concept for the band, and so when I went back to call Brad, when I got home off the tour, I said, ‘Hey, Brad, I was talking to Ian, he really wants to do this band, and he wants us to run with it’. He always wanted to play with Brad, Ian did, too. And he thinks we should call it Metalwood. Brad was like, ‘Metalwood, ya, cool, man’. I don’t even think Brad actually knew the… actually, no, Murley didn’t even know the origin of the name until this week. We did like, three days of 12-hour press days in Toronto, so that was the question and Murley didn’t even know.

JO: I saw U2 on Much Music and apparently The Edge said he would love to go back and remix and re-do all kinds of things on their old albums. Do you guys feel at all that way or is it an accurate record of where you were and that’s just dandy?

CT: Ya, I think it’s just dandy. I listen to the old ones and they’ve got such a raw edge to them, you know, feeling each other out and growing, and this record is just a logical extension. It keeps growing and changing – as long as we keep it interesting and fun it’ll be around for a long, long time. That’s the most important thing.

JO: The name of this album, “The Recline” – does it juts coincide with the more laidback grooves thing?

CT: I think so, but originally there was a tune that didn’t make the record called “The Recline” that Brad wrote and we just thought it sounded cool. I didn’t even actually think about as the recline, like somebody laying down, but then the graphic artist guy at Universal sort of ran with it, and came up with the recline guy and that’ll be the t-shirt.

JO: On the liner notes here, when I open the first fold, there’s a little recline logo, the MW and then a 4. Is that album number four… oh no, cause this is album number five… but…

CT: It’s number four, but five.

JO: It’s number four in the studio sequence, is that why the four is there?

CT: Ya.

JO: Cool.

CT: It’s supposed to read “The Recline Metalwood 4”.

JO: I knew that 4 was in there for that. Cool. I was gonna say, you couldn’t call it 4!

CT: We decided it was time to get away from that or people would say, ‘They’re really starting to sound like Chicago now!’

JO: That the album is… I’m sure people are focusing on this, and I hate to do this, but it is a little more laidback, a little more groove-riddled – was that conscious thought in writing it or did it come out that way? Did it make sense because that’s where Scofield and those guys are at?

CT: I think that’s the main reason behind it, because we wrote for those guys. I think if you listen to the ones that are just the quartet, there’s some real burning, traditional Metalwood stuff. You know, we really wanted to make those guys feel as comfortable as possible, and so, you know, in order to have some people walk in on an unknown situation – I’ve done that so many times, it’s just such an awkward situation – we just wanted to make them really comfortable. And plus, we only had a day.

JO: Are you hoping Scofield will play with you in New York?

CT: Well, we’re hoping when we play here at the festival, that maybe he’ll play a few tunes. Who knows? Maybe he’ll feel the urge to come up and play again. That would be a lot of fun.

JO: The “U. B. the Monster” intro, you literally made my friend weep. I looked over and I’m like, “Are you ok?’ Do you ever have that emotional an experience? You always have that huge grin on your face, you look so happy?

CT: People say that. That’s not always what’s going through my head, though.

JO: Is it tension pulling the corners of your mouth up?

CT: I don’t know what it is. That particular tune was something I started doing with Michael Occhipinti’s band. I’ve been doing some gigs and some touring with them and that sort of loop thing, I sort of got into doing it then, so I decided, doing the Metalwood thing pretty much right after that, I would give it a shot and it sort of worked out for that tune. It’s now become part of the show or whatever. It’s… I don’t know if I necessarily think that, people always say I look like I’m smiling all the time and I’m glad, because sometimes what’s going through my head is, ‘Oh, not that note again. Oh Jesus. Why do I always play that? Ah! Stop!’ I mean, that’s what’s going through a lot of musicians’ minds; there’s always that self-doubt. You get to a point where hopefully, your good nights… your bad nights sound good and your good nights sound great.

JO: Is there ever a point when you’re with these guys now, does it get more and more that you can relax and enjoy it and just feel the emotion of it?

CT: Oh yeah. Totally. I think it’s that way for all four of us now. We’re not reading much anymore, the tunes are pretty internalized. We’ve been playing the tunes for a long time. We actually played a gig in Brandon, three nights at the Brandon Jazz Festival, and Murley couldn’t do it, and Jon Bentley subbed for us. And you know, I guess, we don’t even realize how many tunes and how many records we’ve put out, and sometimes we just call tunes and do whatever, and Bentley’s like, “Man, you guys got a lot of tunes, and they’re all really hard”. And we’re like, ‘They don’t seem very hard’, but I guess we’ve been playing them for so long that’s it’s sort of like, we go to that place and it’s part of the whole experience.

JO: He’s a great player, too.

CT: He’s great. He’s a lot of fun.

JO: I love his stuff. He’s actually one of my favourite players. You do often have an expression of pleasant surprise at each other on stage. And you all get that look like, ‘Shit, that’s cool! Man, who IS that guy?!’

CT: Here goes Ian – hang on! There’s a lot of foot-tapping going on.

JO: Actually, that was one of my questions for you. You’ve got to write a song called “My Left Foot”?

CT: I know, my left foot goes.

JO: Do you wear out your left shoe more than your right?

CT: [Resignedly] I know. It’s crazy. I don’t know how it does that. It’s got a bit of a mind of its own.

JO: You also do this little dance.

CT: Like a Jaco dance. Too many years of watching Jaco videos.

JO: What would you say is each of the member’s strength in the band?

CT: Oh geez. I think that everybody in this band, to make it work on this level, has two things that make this band work, I think, to the degree that it works. They all have great time, meaning internal time. And everybody has unbelievable instincts. I think in order for that to have to happen, there’s… above and beyond musical ability, which is obviously a big part of it, but I think that those two things really make this band what they are. You say there’s a lot of smiles and stuff that go on stage, that’s because there’s this trust. This trust that goes on between Ian and I, and Brad and Murley, and we’re all connected by this invisible thread that connects us all together. And there’s never any question, it’s just always, it’s just not a question, it’s just a surprise. I think that’s probably the strongest quality of everybody.

JO: Do you think that’s a rare thing in music, maybe not so much in jazz, where you’re really out on a limb – not that you aren’t in other musics, but I think in jazz you REALLY are – because there’s so much improvising going on?

CT: Absolutely. You’re really putting yourself out there and it has the potential to be really bad. But when it’s great, it’s the best thing in the world. You just gotta go for it, and that’s definitely what this band has an ability to somehow do, I don’t know how. It’s a little bit of a mystery.

JO: Chemistry and magic. How would you describe Metalwood to someone who’d never heard it? Like maybe that alien in the video?

CT: I’d say HE is the music. He defines the music. I would say that we are… I always describe it as, I think it’s the one that works for me best, I don’t know if it helps anyone else out whatsoever, but it’s like an acoustic jazz quartet with electric instruments, I think, cause it’s got that focus behind it. The difference in a band that’s come from being a jazz-rock band and is playing sort of jazzy stuff and their influences are based in rock – it’s not that. We’re four jazz musicians that have influences in electronica and a bunch of different other stuff, but the genesis for the idea of the concept, and what’s actually going on in the tunes, you know, head, solo, forms and all that stuff, is all jazz-like, and the interaction is all jazz-like, cause that’s all we know. I think maybe that’s what gives it a bit of a different sound for all the people, you know, the crossover guys and everything else, that just sort of like… cause they get to hear a lot of bands that are coming from the funk-groove thing, but they’re coming from the other end of it.


More jazzie . . .

 

 

 

 

Related links:

Metalwood
Chris Tarry