An espresso with…
Barney McAll

Image Credits: Barney McAll © Barney McAll.

October 2, 2018

Music hunger

Barney McAll is an Australian pianist and composer characterized by an eclectic and very interesting artistic production. We recently chatted with him.

 
> Ivano Rossato
 

Which project are you working at this time?
I have a few things brewing. I have an ensemble where I have arranged the music of the great Gospel composer Doris Akers.I would like to record it somehow soon. My newest band "Forcefield" will attempt to climb the crow's tree and steal the black egg from his nest. It features some of the best and youngest Australian players so that I may learn from them and maybe they can learn from me. I will be playing mostly synth, not so much piano. We want to feature dark angular sounds. We love Steve Grossman. We love Ligeti. We love Francis Bacon. Dark beauty is apt these days we think. I have written many new pieces after listening to Miles Davis "Dark Magus" and thinking about the importance of grandiosity. Actually,  I have also been painting for fun and this has been an interesting influence on my new composing.
 
What differences did you find, if any, between the Australian jazz scene compared to that of New York and the United States? And compared to what you found in Cuba?
Everything is the same and different somehow. It’s hard to explain. Rare talented musicians can crop up anywhere, like three eyed fish or a strange mushroom with red spots and if you eat that mushroom you could die...or change.... but, you could move to New York for a while. Or you may live in Cuba too? Man, those Cubans have been through so much! Uncle Sam could never suppress that magic. Human beings are miraculous and music flourishes everywhere because spirit is unstoppable, especially amidst adversity. Yes in Cuba, musicians work harder than other places because, to be a jazz diplomat is a way out, a way to see the world. And, the education system in Cuba is astonishingly good. Yes in New York you have a jazz mecca, a pilgrimage place where the sheer density of greatness and ambition and knowledge that is crammed into New York can only make you grow fast or... get out. Wow. People in New York might pretend to hate your music because its not cool to be enthusiastic in a big city, you gotta walk around looking successful. In a smaller city, people just may not even understand your music but they are generally positive or... they just leave the gig ... But at least they don't have to make sure you see them leave. In Cuba, it’s just a whole other culture and vibe. Its so rich. Far less people are walking around pretending they are successful in Cuba... and those Cuban musicians will kick your ass! The world is becoming smaller.... people are finding ways to grow and develop using the Internet and they are finding veins of gold within their own community and reaching the globe with it. There is alot going on across the globe right now, music is flourishing everywhere, it’s incredible and it seems that it matters less and less where you live these days. I love New York, Cuba and Australia. I like unsuccessful people too.
 
By listening to your records you feel the cohabitation between acoustic timbres together with electronic and filtered ones: is it a process that originates naturally or comes from a precise idea of "sound"?
I suppose my music is kind of like my journals over the years and I can’t answer your question with one response or angle because its always changing. Every record is a new me in a way but also the same me, striving, searching. I have played with the great Dewey Redman but also with Gary Bartz and Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley. My influences have been so diverse and all these people had a strong affect on what I began to see was possible in sound and song. My vision keeps changing too even with less taking in of Culture and more contemplation. As I get older I feel more and more that I want to try to transmute my life experience into my music. My father is 94. He told me he cant distinguish between real life and dreaming now. I want to be like that in terms of my music. I want to distinguish less between notes/scales/chords and just raw expression and narrative. As Coltrane says, there is so much beauty to express but in order to do that, you have to keep 'cleaning the mirror'. Also, I need the unexpected in music, i need theatre and drama and feeling and freshness. I need emotional connection in music. I strive for that. Why do you get goosebumps when you hear something really moving or good? An ambition of mine is to make strong feelings happen and to tell a story, to set up a headspace. It can be electronic or acoustic or a blend, whatever gets me through. What is new? What sounds new? Even attempting that is better than not.
 
Your projects range from trio to more numerous ensembles: what do you look for in another musician who makes you "shoot the spark" to play together?
That's difficult to quantify because each reasoning to connect with a new player or old player is different, every band is so unique, each human being can be so them, or kind of similar to some other musician i love to hear… I do prefer someone who is mostly them I suppose! I aspire to be more me and less others because they are already them. Billy Harper showed me that an important element in music is 'hunger’. If musicians don't have that hunger, it’s over. Also, drums are crucial. Miles Davis said it’s all about the drummer. A drummer can take you on a trip! But if the drummer doesn't have the spark, or if the drummer doesn't have good cymbals, you can hear that first ride cymbal and you will have to say, "man, it’s gonna be a long night". Gary Bartz stresses the Blues. I learned so much blues form the great Gary Bartz i mean, he will play some stuff that will make you hurt yourself! and then... you gotta play after that!. Thank you Gary eternally, I learned some blues from one of the great blues masters on earth.
 
Barney McAll Jazzespresso magazine Ivano Rossato interview
 
Streaming and the Internet: a gift or a curse?
Capitalism doesn't care if it's commodity has spirit or is utterly devoid of spirit. It just cares that it can sell sell sell! My feeling is, the less money we make the harder we must work to make great spirit music, real beauty. We have to express the darkness of our times. We have to combat all the jive bullshit and atrocity with the best we can be artistically. Revenge will be served cold eventually because spirit is stronger than greed and stronger than any hype and love is what stays. Actually, I have a new strategy for all musicians: If people try to "upsell" to you like "would you like fries and a water with that"? take this opportunity to say, "no, but would you like to buy my new CD"? For real! Like, when telemarketers call me to sell some bullshit, I gracefully decline and then quickly proceed to hard sell them my CDs! I explain in great depth all about my music (in a similar way that they explain in depth to me, products that I don't even want!) Somehow society has set up a paradigm where its ok to call someone you don't even know and start selling them something over the phone in their own house. I’m turning the tables! And the best part is, they call you!
 

 

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