Tag Archives: Bass

Artist Feature: Adam Hopkins

Adam Hopkins is a composer and bassist living in the Ditmas Park area of Brooklyn by way of Baltimore, Maryland. As part of thriving music scenes in his hometown and his current city of residence, Adam tells an artistic tale of people coming together to create great music and community. Some of the groups he’s involved with, such as Signal Problems, have been around for years and thereby boast a unique group dynamic and musical language developed over time, which add intricacies to their exciting improvisations. Here, Reflection serves as the collective memory of the artist, while Response is a collective sharing and exploration of each participant’s story through sound. In our dialogue below, Adam delves specifically into two tracks, Pogo Stick and We Turn Around, and presents a video of the Adam Hopkins Quartet. He stays busy in New York and has various upcoming records with the several bands he participates in as leader and sideman. Peep the conversation below!

Adam Hopkins | Photo by Michael Yu (2014)

Adam Hopkins | Photo by Michael Yu (2014)

Playing music is all about relationships and communicating with other people, so I am constantly reacting to their ideas and embracing their musical identity as well as my own…it’s that concept of simultaneously reflecting on one’s own unique experiences and bringing them to a group environment, which creates something that is greater than each individual part combined.

– Adam Hopkins

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at? 

AH: I currently live in Brooklyn, NY–Ditmas Park specifically. I don’t think I’d normally mention the neighborhood as part of a response to this question, but I really love where I live! A lot of my closest musical collaborators live within 3 blocks of me, and also there are trees. Lots and lots of trees, which is a bit different for Brooklyn.

I was born and raised in Baltimore, MD. I left for college and grad school, but found myself back there in 2005. I consider that time in Baltimore until I moved to NY in 2011 to be the most formative years artistically of my life to this point. The music scene in Baltimore, specifically the creative and improvised music scene, is very small but at the same time full of talented and inspiring people. We started a bunch of bands, wrote new music for them, rehearsed a LOT (something that is much more rare in NY currently), made records, and played shows. It was the best, now that I think of it. In 2011 four of us decided to move to NY from Baltimore, and settled into a house in Bushwick with a great rehearsal space in the basement. That group of people, who basically moved up on the same day, was already a band called Signal Problems led by my former-roommate-but-still-friend Danny Gouker. We continue to rehearse all of the time, and still play regularly. In fact we just released our debut album on pfMentum records which can be checked out right here: http://www.pfmentum.com/PFMCD080.html. There are no subs in the group ever, which has helped maintain it as an actual band and not just a rotating group of potential people. So, you know…Baltimore sticks together wherever we are. 

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

AH: As an improviser, reflection and response are at the very center of what occurs any time I play music, be it solo or with a group.

Reflection to me is everything that has happened in my life, musically or not, that has gotten me to where I am in that very moment. At my absolute best I am able to look inwardly and draw on all of those experiences to present a statement or vision that is uniquely my own.  

The response can be looked at from a number of angles, but primarily a response is what comes out of my instrument as a result of those experiences. Playing music is all about relationships and communicating with other people, so I am constantly reacting to their ideas and embracing their musical identity as well as my own. It’s what makes improvised music like nothing else…we all bring our experiences from vastly different places to a performance, and as a group we find a way to make it work.

How does your work specifically fit in with that definition?

AH: This first track isn’t one of my own compositions, but I think it is a great example of this concept. It’s from Signal Problems, written by Danny Gouker who plays trumpet, with Eric Trudel on saxophone, Nathan Ellman-Bell on drums, and I’m playing bass. 

It is 30-seconds or so of written music and then we immediately launch into an improvisation. This band has been playing together for over five years, and we’ve developed our own sort of group language as a result. The entire improvised section is the band responding in the moment to everything going on around us. So again, it’s that concept of simultaneously reflecting on one’s own unique experiences and bringing them to a group environment, which creates something that is greater than each individual part combined. 

This second track is a little bit older, but it’s one of my own compositions from 2011. It is a band that was started in Baltimore called Turn Around Norman, with Cam Collins on saxophone, JJ Wright on keyboards, Nathan Ellman-Bell (again) on drums, and myself on bass. 

There was a time when this entire band lived in New York as well, but life choices spread us out a bit and we don’t get to play together nearly as often as we’d like. It is a good example of my compositional approach, so I figured why not include it!? There is improvising in the track, but I think it is mostly influenced by the grunge rock of my high school years and my earliest musical experiences playing in dive clubs and wearing funny hats. There’s maybe a little disco at the end as well, and I’m not sure where that came from. It seeped into my musical being somewhere along the line. 

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

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Artist Feature: Noah Garabedian

Bassist and composer Noah Garabedian is originally from Berkeley, has lived in Los Angeles, and now resides in Brooklyn. It was a long time coming, but we were able to catch up with Noah recently at Hank’s Saloon in Brooklyn, where he played with his group The Slim Tones – a flat-out incredible set featuring their signature honking-tenor rhythm and blues. A hardworking craftsman, Noah plays with multiple groups spanning an eclectic range of sound and genre, including – along with The Slim Tones – Big Butter and the Egg Men, The Amigos Band, and the Rebirth Project. In the following dialogue, Noah breaks down his approach to music and discusses his current and future projects. Keep an eye out for a couple New York engagements this weekend and The Amigos Band’s upcoming tour in Southeast Asia in March. Check it!

Noah Garabedian

Everyone experiences countless provocations of the senses everyday, and reflection is the moment one takes to acknowledge its occurrence. Response is the way one acts after that experience.

– Noah Garabedian

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

NG: I’m from Berkeley, CA, and I currently live in Brooklyn, NY after 5 years in Los Angeles.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

NG: Reflection is the process of digesting material that has penetrated one’s exterior and provoked a reaction; whether it be within or out for all to see. Everyone experiences countless provocations of the senses everyday, and reflection is the moment one takes to acknowledge its occurrence. Response is the way one acts after that experience.

How does your work fit in with that definition?

NG: My current ensemble that I compose for is called Big Butter And The Egg Men. It is a sextet comprised of bass, drums, two tenor saxophones, alto sax, and trumpet. The compositions and sound of the group combine several influences of mine. I cannot help being influenced by experiences of my past, not only musical, and those inevitably show themselves in my writing and improvising.

As a music student, you are constantly told to understand and respect the history, the tradition, and the rules. Then you are told to throw it all out and to be creative and original. I suppose my own compositional process and my own approach to making music on the bandstand, is a response to my reflections of the past or just old habits I developed by rote.

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

NG: I am currently excited to be working on two other projects. The first is The Amigos Band. We play all types of American music – country, Cajun, blues, and jazz. We just released our first full length album, Diner In The Sky, and on March 10 we will be representing the US State Department as musical ambassadors on a 5 week tour throughout Southeast Asia. The second project I am working on is called the Rebirth Project. The music I am currently writing for this project is traditional Armenian folk music, mixed with improvisation, and combined with a contemporary compositional aesthetic.

Who or what inspires you?

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Original Mondays: Pay

This track came about from the Berkeley Sessions that V, Megan, and I had back over New Years. Cue banjo, Synth sounds from Massive, Reason 5 drums, some electric guitar work, Ableton mixing via this new crazy Akai Apc 40, Megan and my vocals and you have “Pay.” I’ll be debuting the track live at an upcoming show at Andy’s Bar in Madrid this Wednesday.

The lyrics came from two sessions. My first verse was recorded a few days before we did any work with Megan. However Megan, V, and I went out for some food at Lilly’s, the famous North Berkeley Chinese food spot and we discussed family and how sometimes at the beginning of our twenties we can think we’re ready for huge responsibilities. The lyrics I recorded during the previous session deal with age- it was almost serendipitous that we had that conversation at lunch. We later touched on these ideas in the chorus.

 

“I don’t ever wanna pay for aging that is just something that I don’t do. And I don’t ever wanna laugh for ages, I just wanna hold you.”

“Pay for aging, not enough. Insane we make things, let’s live for once.”

 

Megan

 

Pete

 

Reflection and Response

-P

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Argentina Thursdays: From Jujuy to Buenos Aires

This week I present two mash ups. One is “Horn Track,” and it samples my friend Pablo Martinez’s horn line. His music is directly influenced by his home region of Jujuy, where he grew up before coming to Buenos Aires for college (See “Things a Peña Does” below for more info). This was one of my first Argentine folk music mash ups. I threw some drums, piano, and some distorted electric guitar on the horns to fill out the beat.

Horn Track

The second mash up is entitled “Porteña de mi Corazón,” and is a remix of a king of Argentine Tango Astor Pizzola’s track Libertango. Here I threw some drums, bass and a little sax and vocal breakdown in the middle. This track is for my man Nassim, who told me he felt it way back in 2010 in our apartment in Buenos Aires.

Porteña de mi Corazón.


These two tracks are remixes of two versions of the many identifications of Argentine music.

Reflection and Response

-P

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