Interview with Rihards at Skanu Metz.
Rihards T. Endriksons
Interview with drummer, composer and
improvisor William Hooker
Approaching the eleventh edition of Skaņu Mežs
festival for adventurous music in Riga, Latvia, New York’s free jazz kingpin
William Hooker – one of the its prominent participants - was asked to answer a series of questions by
one of the festival’s curators. This conversation resulted in the following
William Hooker will perform at Skaņu Mežs
festival on October 10, 2013 together with latvian guitarist Edgars Rubenis and
lithuanian horn player Liudas Mockūnas. His new recording „Heart of the Sun” is
due to be released this year.
I find this interesting that Your last album is
influenced by a novel called ''A Father's Law''. This is an influence, an idea
that can be put into words - how do You go about making abstract music (well,
abstract in that it has no text, except Your spoken word parts) about a theme
that is rather concrete?
Can You also tell me about the novel? I haven't read
WH: i find it quite easy for me to interpret text
,colour,architecture into music by utilizing the channels of consciuousness
that i speak of.which is the cd title.it is interpretation of
feelings and meditative thought that makes this easy for me at this point..
it is also easy because this has been the way that i have made pieces/works
from my early career...my very first recording is really the sam method
as i think on it...practise and familiarity with the process have bred a natural
inclination in my perspective of art...
it is a story of a detective who realizes that his son is a killer in a
case that involves his unmasking of a murder that is at a high point in his career. it is quite
fascinating...the instinct versus our perception /caring...an interesting read
This may be a basic question, but I'd
like to ask it to You, whose music has been linked to so many genres at the
same time: Do You pay attention to names of genres or any other labels that are
being put onto music? Do You think that such definitions should be made at all?
WH: i find genres useful to a certain
extent...i do not have any problem with free jazz being the genre that has been
linked to myself and various others...my name is what matters and the integrity
that this brings to anyone looking for my work..it should ultimately define the
quality that one is seeking....many philosophical arguments are mute for me
right now...they do not make the music easier for me to create or distribute to
In Riga You are going to perform with two
musicians whom You've never played before. However, I've heard that for certain
projects the line-up of the band is important to You. Please, describe Your
usual manner of creating a musical relationship with a musician or a collective
WH: well. if you heard this-you did not hear
it from me(smile)...probably a critic or a gossip....anyway...i am approaching
this particular event with a hope that the folks i am getting into this
commitment with will do their homework and not take my being there for
granted...as in researching my recorded history and youtube entries...this will
tell them a lot..after this is done...my arrival will need a 3 hr rehearsal for
the event...with interpreters...so they understand what i am proposing to
present...this is the best way for us to understand my intention and
outlook...i recently used this method-and it worked..as an introduction..but,it
should be noted,we did not have any language barriers at the time.
I understand that Your music usually presents things
from Your personal perspective, but is it sometimes personal in its content
too? The album with David Soldier and Sabir Mateen („Yearn for Certainty”)
really gave me such a feeling.
WH: there is quite a difference in my mind between content and
composition..the head, if you will , is the structure that the improvisation
uses to elaborate on..i usually use a process of mind to compose...the
improvisation will go where it has to go...as a group...to express that..i try
not to be repetitive...so as regards this question..i would have to say - for
the most part - ..although <i am conscious of the subconscious...and who
knows what is in that area ?
Could You share Your view on the NY improvised music
scene of today? The things I've heard from musicians I've met still have to do
with the vitality of this place, but they also say things like ''A lot of
musicians competing for a small number of concerts at small venues.'' Is
it really like that?
WH: it is like that...and there is little we can do about it..folks are
trying to pay the rent and utilities...i can understand that...and being a
festival producer yourself...you know there are a lot of aspects that go into
presentation of this music...with limited audiences and performance
funding...so, to make a long story short...the improv scene is more than just
the players...that does not make it right(or fair)...it is reality that to play
for no audience is not desirable...i try to hit with the best i have though -
at any cost and once i make a commitment i keep that foremost in
i speak for myself - with a history and discography that should get a
certain amount of leverage regarding the points you mentioned..
Speaking of the previous question... What does being a
New Yorker mean to You as an artist? Do You agree that jazz and improvised
music is mostly a big city art form?
WH: i love living in new york...it is a place that is open to my
expressions of creativity...and there are more of us..this helps! i cannot
really speak to the type of art form it is because i have not lived in-or
participated in a lot of scenes other that my own life experience..i presume
you want my take on it...i love playing wherever there are folks that are open
to my creative efforts...colleges are everywhere(folks are great
there-usually)...so - i am this art form...if i lived in the city or country -
i would kick it as best i can...and will continue to do so..
In one of Your interviews
I read about an interesting trip to Mexico that You did in earlier days. Could
tell more about that?
WH: the only thing i can really tell you is
that while living in the bay area in california...i went to mexico and met good
friends there...some returned back to san francisco with us.they were really
nice and this turned me on to people that were interested in u.s. culture from
another point of view. it was a learning experience.
In Your music there is a certain love to the
electric guitar. You have managed to approach having the electric guitar in the
ensemble and come up with a fresh way of dealing with it. It seems to be a
result of mediating between musically looking back at the past and at the same
time limiting this retrospectiveness and concentrating on the moment to create
something unique. Am I right?
WH: i must say that this complex question
takes my inspiration and impulse for doing things a little too far. i really
love all instruments and value them and their players for what i can do with them
in the music i make.i try to keep my thoughts and work with them simple. but
there is a complexity in this simplicity. it is hard to get acoustic piano or
to carry one...and in some cases, the guitar fits the bill perfectly. that is
one basic criteria. this is not based on influences...which are too numerous to
name...but it comes from what i have to do when i have certian instruments available to
Improvisation is, the way I see it, a process
of constant exchange of knowledge and instant spontaneous musical ideas between
the players. Have there been cases of musical meetings where You've learned a
great lot from the other musician? Can You tell me more about them?
WH: i learn from all the experiences i have
with creative folk...not just musicians...that would be very limiting to me. i
have experiences the world of ideas with all kinds of people in many
disciplins...from economics to architecture to education. it fascinates me
- this life experience..openness...works for me..i try to remain happy
10. It is known that in college You wrote a paper on Alban Berg. Is he still an
important figure to You? I'm asking this because - at least to me - it is hard
to pin down his direct influence in Your music.
WH: forget Alban Berg an me....if college had
not asked for it...i would not have been introduced to him and his systems..no
disrespect..- it is just our knowledge grows (sometimes) not by only what
we like - but what we have to do..