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Marco Benevento: Interview part 2

The great pianist, composer and mad music scientist Marco Benevento is representatve of the large contingent of non-local artists who set up shop for a round-the-town residency for the duration of Jazz Fest. With the mesmerizing and experimental solo album Between The Needles and Nightfall released last year and the brand new LP Always Be Happy, But Stay Evil with Garage A Trois hitting the racks just this month, Marco has been keeping crazy busy both on the road and in the studio. Here is Part 2 of a recent chat with Benevento; click here for Part 1.

Marco Benevento”s schedule for this weekend:

Thursday, May 5 | The Maple Leaf | New Orleans, LA
Friday, May 6 | House Of Blues “The Parish” | 2 a.m.
***(w/ Anders Osborne & George Porter, Brian Stoltz and Adam Deitch)
Saturday, May 7 | Siberia Bar |
Sunday May 8 | Blue Nile |

Between Needles & Nightfall is really unlike anything I’ve heard. It’s got a very rare, mood-altering, almost cathartic quality. The whole sound is strangely alluring, evoking nostalgia for one reason or another (particularly “Ila Frost” and “Between the Needles”). What made this project unique from past records?

I had some songs in mind that we were playing on tour that I wanted to track (“Greenpoint” and “RISD”) and I also had some song sketches that I wanted to run through and see what would become of them (“Between The Needles & Nightfall,” “Music Is Still Secret,” “Wolf Trap”) and of course I wanted to leave room for total improvisation, so that was how “Snow Lake” was recorded. “Ila Frost” I played with Reed and Matt Chamberlain in 2007 touring our first Yoshi’s residency – so that was an older one that came to life a bit later.

The making of BtN&N

By this time the band had matured a bit, so I feel like Reed, Andrew and I had reached a level of comfort in the studio. We were pretty loose and did lots of playing and tracking, with no aims for perfection or “the” take. I did a lot of post production stuff back in the bat cave like reamping a lot of drums and overdubbing casio keyboards and mellotron over things.

As a mostly instrumental musician, do some of your song concepts start as a simple attempt to capture a mood?

Yes – well said.

Where did the title “Music Is Still Secret” come from? How about the album name?

“Music Is Still Secret” – I always feel like music is still this secret language amongst musicians. It’s funny, because our alphabet only has 12 letters (notes), so in that way you might think it would be pretty boring, but adding rhythm to the equation makes it more complex. On top of that, you can add things like where the person is from and what kinds of food does he or she like to eat to it. So there are so many different ways to write music as well as to perceive it. It seems very unexplainable to people, because everyone has their own experience with songs.

I’m not a scientist or a musician; please explain the process of circuit bending in layman’s terms and how you got into incorporating these effects and sounds into your music.

Picture a Speak N Sell (by Texas Instruments).
Now picture yourself removing the back cover.
Now imagine that you know what you are doing.
Find a wire.
Cut the wire.
Add a volume knob or toggle switch to reconnect the wire (now with a “bend” in it because you intercepted it with a control switch).
There you have it – you have now bent the circuit.

Recently, Big Head Todd and the Monsters played a wake-up song for the astronauts on the Discovery shuttle (becoming the first band to wake up the astronauts with a live song). A lot of your music as a solo artist, with the Duo and on the new Garage A Trois album, seems tailor-made to beam out to the space walkers and aliens. If you were gonna play a tune to blast out into the galaxy, what would it be?

“The Real Morning Party”

Three current albums and bands you can’t get enough of.

The XX
Sleigh Bells
The Black Keys

What’s a restaurant, store, bar, club, voodoo haunt and/or gallery (or two) that you can’t come to New Orleans without visiting?

Le Bons Temps
Bamboo Spa (4112 Magazine)

What’s your favorite neighborhood/area of town?

I love goin’ to Stanton’s house across the river in Algeirs.

So after a barrage of releases these past few years, you seem to have really hit a creative and prolific stride. What’s the next project on the agenda?

New record with Reed and Andrew! Also a new record with Surprise Me Mr. Davis.


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