An espresso with…

Image Credits: studio © Drew Wiedemann; live © Sophie Conin

July 17, 2018

Sonic exploration

Chris McQueen, Henry Hey and Jason ‘JT’ Thomas are respectively guitarist, keyboardist and drummer, who, together with bass player Kevin Scott, give life to the kaleidoscopic instrumental quartet Forq.
> Ivano Rossato

What project are you currently working on?
(Chris McQueen) – Right now we’re writing new material for our fourth studio album,, which we will be recording in December. It will be the first time we’re recording with Kevin Scott on bass, so we’re excited to see what we can develop together.
(Henry Hey) – We just completed our summer European tour including UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Romania and Italy. It was fantastic! We are planning our new record for later in the year! We will be touring some more later in the year, including Asia and Australia.
(Jason ‘JT’ Thomas) – I’m working on my solo project, and the new records for Forq, Mark Lettieri, & Snarky Puppy.
What is your approach to the composition of the new material and how does Forq music come about?
(CMQ) – Songs happen in different ways, sometimes they start with a groove idea or a melody. Sometimes I come up with an idea for an ending section and work backwards. One of the main things we do is try to write for the members of the band specifically, so I might write a drum part with JT in mind, or a keyboard melody that I know Henry will find a great sound for. It doesn’t really become a Forq song until we play it together and start to interpret it as a band.
(HH) – We tend to compose individually, meaning that one band member would compose a song. Then we bring the music to the rest of the band and it is shaped by the way the rest of the musicians perform the music. In fact, the music is often changed quite a bit over time as we continue to perform the songs. The process works very well because we all know each others playing and musicianship quite well at this point.
(JT) – The beat or the melody, whichever comes first. From there it takes form like pieces to a puzzle, in no certain order. For Forq I just make sure we can reproduce all the parts “live”.
Forq Jazzespresso magazine jazz Ivano Rossato interview
Which artists of the past have influenced you the most and which musicians of today are particularly interesting for you?
(CMQ) – I listen to so many different musicians. I grew up on classic rock and 90’s grunge, but then I studied jazz very heavily. In recent years I’ve gotten really into West African music, especially Bombino. But I also love some of the indie rock that is happening, like Unknown Mortal Orchestra. My tastes are all over the map, which is why my songs for Forq are often combinations of many genres.
(HH) – We are fortunate that we all like a lot of different music and a lot of different styles of music. We listen to music of the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s etc. Some of our sound is influenced by punk music, some of it is influenced by classic R&B, and some of it is even influenced by the classic sound of video games. There are a lot of great musicians making music today, too many to count, but it’s fair to say that we are listening to musicians in the jazz scene, but also quite far outside the jazz scene as well from cinematic electronic music, to hip hop, to rock songwriting, to metal and on and on.
(JT) – No group or Artist in particular, as I’ll listen to anything if it sounds good. Though I love melodic based music more than anything. I’ve been checking out this singer songwriter from London named Ruhksana Merrise, a Brazilian guitarist/singer Chico Pinheiro, and the latest recording from Kamasi Washington.
Talking about both of musicians and the audience, what is your opinion about the US jazz scene, compared to other continents?
(CMQ) – It’s hard to generalize about these things, especially because the word “jazz” has different meanings for different people. If we take “jazz” to mean improvising music in general, I’ve made the most personal connections with musicians in Dallas, Texaz. But it does sometimes feel like audiences are more appreciative of jazz outside of the US.
(HH) – The US jazz scene is a mixture. There are a lot of young musicians trying hard to push the boundaries, and this results in some cool new music these days. The general US public is, of course, still not all that interested in jazz on the whole, but this is no different than it has been for the past 30 years. We do find that audiences appear to be more engaged and receptive to jazz in Europe and parts of Asia than they are in the US, even though there are fantastic pockets of enthusiasm in the USA.
(JT) – I think it’s growing in a good and bad way. I love the fact that Jazz is being pushed into other audiences and areas where it hasn’t been before, but that change and focused pursuit of being different can sometimes cause a disconnect between the listener and the musician when the Artists start to make music that only they or their peers can appreciate. Then there’s the opposite to that, musicians being lazy and going with what may be “popular” with no effort being made musically. Trendy Jazz if you will. You basically see more of the latter in the US, as the standard for high quality music and the making of that music of any genre, has become extremely low. 
What is your opinion about the new streaming and distribution services offered by Internet to professional musicians?
(CMQ) – The streaming and free distribution of music has basically destroyed most of the foundation that the music industry was based on. Now you can’t really make money off your records. As an artist you have to take a holistic approach. It’s not just about making an album, you have to make it part of an entire social media push including touring and posting things on the internet. There are some benefits to this system. We have the chance to present ourselves directly to our audience, which is fun and freeing. But it also means that we can’t just focus on making art. We have to be our own brand managers too. Who knows where things will go in the future, but for now this seems to be the only way to try to have a career as a creative musician.
(HH) – There was a time, not so long ago, when an artist could create an album on their own and recoup their costs and then some, by being smart about the recording process and then selling their album on their own. That time is over. Now streaming revenues are pennies. Unfortunately, far too many people are under the impression that all music is ‘free’. It may be free to consume, but it is certainly not free to record. Eventually I think that we will see a time where many musicians simply can no longer afford to record and produce their own recordings. That’s a very sad potential future. Regarding the challenges of a modern musician: Today, so much is required of a musician that is far beyond the music. One must excel at marketing and social presence. It’s almost as if everyone is competing for attention all the time, just to survive in our modern, short-term memory world of media consumption.
(JT) – Streaming is choking the life out of musicians and artists, and all of the beautiful music everyone makes. It’s brought the value of investing and supporting your favorite artist to an unspeakable low. Convenience has now become the focus of marketing. Making unlimited access to someone’s entire album (or catalog) for free or small monthly fee is just unbelievable. It’s a war and the options are few when it comes to generating an income through the traditional ways of selling your music. How do you convince your fans to “buy” a cd, or a vinyl record (even with its growing popularity) when the most popular method for purchasing, listening to and watching music is their phone, tablet and computer (which newest models no longer have a cd/dvd player)? What then do artists sell at the merch table? 2000’s musicians must learn, change and adapt to whatever business challenges come their way. We have to be way more hands on than before. You can’t just be a “great” musician anymore, you must learn the business side of music or you will not make it in this business.
What are your musical plans for the future?
(CMQ) – We just want to continue developing the personality of our band. Especially as an instrumental group, it’s important that we have a sound and a feeling that sets us apart. We’re also growing together in how we improvise. The more we tour the more we’re able to play off of each other and take the music to weird places with the confidence to know we will find our way back home.
(HH) – Forq will continue to push forward into weirder spaces! We are growing as a band, and we will grow as composers for each other. Viva music!
(JT) – For me, I plan on continuing to write, produce and perform music to the best of my ability and hope that the music will be a blessing to whomever hears, sees and experiences it. Teaching has also become something I’m more interested in now than I have been in the past. YouTube shouldn’t be someone’s main source for learning, as it will never be a better experience than having someone there with you showing you what you want & also need to know.
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Jazzespresso is a magazine, a website, a network, a hub, connecting all the souls of jazz all over the world. Americas, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa: news from all over the world on a page in four languages. A multicultural reference point in English, Chinese and Spanish language for the lovers of this music in every country. For the amateur or the pro who wants to be updated about what is happening all around the world… Stay tuned.
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JazzEspresso 不只是一个爵士乐杂誌,也是一个能将拥有各种不同精髓的世界爵士乐,包括美洲、欧洲、亚洲、澳洲及非洲各地,互相连结起来的网站及交流站。以中文及英文写成的内容将是一个新的多元文化交流的参考点,为各地的爵士音乐爱好者提供来自全世界最新的消息。请持续关注! 
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