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Progressive Rock Interviews

ScienceNV

Interviewed by Gary Hill

Interview with Science NV from 2010

MSJ:
Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music – both individually and as a band?

Rich Kallet:  I’ve been playing drums on-and-off since I was 10, and was in one rock-n-roll garage band or another from 12 to 18.  Oddly, most of my experience was in symphonic music and pit orchestra for operas.  I trained classically throughout high school and had one year of formal percussion training at the University of Miami.  That’s where I first began working in a recording studio.  Over the past 40 years I’ve had modest experiences in drum and bugle corps, percussion ensemble, stage jazz band, Afro-Haitian and West African drumming.  However, I became very heavily immersed in Afro-Brazilian music from the mid-80s until I began grad-school in the mid-90s.  I essentially did not sit behind a drum kit from 1981 until 2001.

David Graves: I’ve had very little formal training but have always been writing and recording music, really since I could first get access to the equipment, in the mid-1970s.  Until 10 years ago, like everyone in the band, I had a pretty intense day job.  But I managed to “retire” to full-time music, and now I write for a wide variety of genres, in addition to ScienceNV: jazz, electronic soundscapes, experimental video, (Berkeley’s Symphony) orchestra, film, theater.  So ScienceNV is a wonderful amalgam for me, drawing on our skills, a crazy approach to writing, our variety in instrumentation, and -- of course -- tasteful complexity.

Jim Henriques: Lots of formal training, finishing an MM in composition in 1994. But I’ve been performing since I was 13 in everything from ‘50s bands to prog. My teenage prog band did the whole live UmmaGumma album, much to the enjoyment of our chemically-enhanced audiences. Did a fairly successful folk duo in the ‘70s, and I was the musical director of the Rocky Horror Show in 1978 in Miami. Bar bands and solo through the  mid ‘80s, then movie and play scores. Formed a blues band in ’95, a goth act in ’96, and an alt-rock in ’97. ScienceNV started in 2004 and has been the most satisfying ensemble I’ve ever played in.

Larry Davis: I’ve been playing guitar off and on since the early 60’s because I didn’t pass the ear test for violin in the 3rd grade band auditions. Not long after that came the Beatles, so it didn’t matter any way and guitar became my instrument of choice. My first guitar was a Sears Silvertone with the built in amp in the case (nope don’t still have it). My second guitar was a 1963 Strat which I still have and you’ll hear its bright nasal tone on many of the cuts on Pacific Circumstances.

MSJ:
If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
Rich Kallet:  Creative writing and a worse workaholic than I currently am.

David Graves: Gardening with a large bottle of wine.  Although that’s also where I usually come up with my musical ideas…  So I guess that doesn’t count?

Jim Henriques: Astronomy research, novel writing.

Larry Davis: I would probably be in the pharmaceutical industry like I am now only without a creative musical outlet to keep my sanity.

MSJ:
How did the name of the group originate?
David Graves: Jim and I both had experiences with composition instructors who went out of their way to “impress” us with their academic credentials and explain to us how this added something to their music.  I believe one of Jim’s instructors actually demonstrated that he knew how to use the log key on his handheld calculator.  It was as if they had some sort of insecurity that their chosen field of endeavor had less sophistication than, say, a physicist or a doctor.  I attended a composer’s workshop shortly before Science NV’s creation where a virtuoso clarinet player voiced his frustration with people who write music “as if it were carefully created in a laboratory by scientists in white coats.”  We had a good laugh about that, and we called it science envy.  I’ve since heard classical musicians refer to this phenomenon when they get a piece of music that has been written to appear complex.
MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences?
Rich Kallet:  As a young drummer I was most influenced by Bill Bruford, Phil Collins and Michael Giles.  More recently, I greatly admire Gavin Harrison of Porcupine Tree, Jimmy Keegan and Nick D’Virgilio of Spock’s Beard.

David Graves: I still am fascinated by Brian Eno.  I also managed to follow a variety of prog rock bands in the 1970s, although I didn’t study that genre nearly as much as Jim and Rich.  And I must also admit that I’ve really come to enjoy Stravinsky’s orchestral methods; I refer to my Firebird score when I have writer’s block!

Jim Henriques: Virtually all of the classic British prog bands, but also Duane Allman and Dicky Betts, Kate Bush, and jazz-fusion bands like Return to Forever.

Larry Davis: Early guitar influences would be B.B., Bloomfield, and Blackmore; and of course George.

MSJ:
What's ahead for you?
Rich Kallet:  My hope for Science NV is to continue to explore new sounds and incorporate various musical forms in interesting ways that click with the listener.  I think we’re very early in the process of discovering what we do well.  In particular, I’m excited about our ability to adapt symphonic compositions into a modern, quasi-rock format.  Hopefully what comes across to the listener is that we’re trying to be respectful and have fun at the same time.  I think in “Danse Macabre” we achieved a balance of faithful conveyance of Saint-Saen’s intention while being un-mistakenly “tongue-in-cheek!”

David Graves: I just finished an ambitious year.  Science NV wrapped up PacificCircumstances after nearly 3 years of work.  I also worked on a large festival (Soundwave) and completed sound design on a play.  I’m anxious to have some quiet time – so I can write something novel for our next album!

Jim Henriques: Always in motion is the future. Hope to publish my Sci-Fi trilogy soon, see an eclipse, do more shows, write more music.

Larry Davis: Hopefully more time to play music!

MSJ:
I know artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?
David Graves: “Instrumental prog rock” seems to encompass what we do.  However, that term is currently quite wide and varied.  It’s an anatomically enormous pigeonhole.

Jim Henriques: I think of a lot of Science NV as “WTF?” music.

Larry Davis: Can’t be done and that’s the beauty of it.

MSJ:
Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?
Rich Kallet:  As a part-time musician with a 7-day a week professional gig, I’m struggling to find time to practice our new music as well as work on developing my technique as a drummer.  The idea of working with other musicians just seems too remote at this juncture.  I’m just grateful to be a part of Science NV.  It’s exactly the style of music I’ve wanted to do since I was a teenager.

David Graves: Actually, we have been working on an ambitious piece for our next album that will include three classical musicians (a string trio).  Can’t wait to bring that up to speed, our music will sound fab with these local musicians!

Jim Henriques: I’d like to be in a project like Probot with Dave Grohl but more fusiony. I think he could do a good job with it.

MSJ:
Do you think that illegal downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
David Graves: There was a period of about 50 years where a handful of musicians were able to make a decent living off of recordings.  That’s a pretty brief historical artifact.  I love the idea that people can easily get a copy of Science NV recordings (at least a lo-fi MP3 versions) but of course I would love it more that we’d get paid for most of those listens.  I no longer lament this change in our social fabric; gifted and tenacious musicians will still be able to make a living today, just as musicians did in the early twentieth century.

Jim Henriques: When I vanity-search for Science NV I find sites in Outer Slobovia that have scraped our music and artwork off the web and are selling Really Loud Noises and Pacific Circumstances unauthorized. Now, I doubt that they are getting rich from this, and I’m glad maybe a few more folks are getting to hear us, but they could have asked first, you know?

Moreover, Science NV is a band of grownups with professional careers, so the money isn’t a big thing, but I worry about kids who will be trying to make a living off their music. Then again, I made a living by performing, not recording, when I was coming up.

Larry Davis: It’s a hindrance to publishers and big studios and a help to musicians who just want their music heard.

MSJ:
In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?
David Graves: I really don’t think that’s a big deal.  The quality of those recordings is really awful.  I remember having these discussions during the 1980s with Deadheads.  They were enamored with some of their bootleg recordings, but the truth is that I couldn’t listen to them because they were distorted, unclear and – most importantly – the Grateful Dead.

Jim Henriques: No problem with this at all. In fact, since we play entirely through the mixing board, I’d love to have a recording to give away for every show.

MSJ:
If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
David Graves: Um, I don’t understand.  My nightmares sometimes include a country western soundtrack – does that count for anything?

Jim Henriques: Any music critic who doesn’t have the mental chops to understand prog-rock, and there have been many, mostly at Rolling Stone.

MSJ:
If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?
Rich Kallet:  I would love to see Ian Macdonald, Mel Collins, Peter Giles, Bill Bruford and Patrick Moraz work together on an instrumental jazz-prog project that attempted to explore where early Crimson left off.  As this is pure fantasy, Robert Fripp having a rekindled interest in such a project would be great!

David Graves: I would love to see Rick Wakeman collaborate with Porcupine Tree.  I think they would get along well, perform together nicely, and the music would be sublime.

Jim Henriques: Yes with Bruford and Moraz.

MSJ:
If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?

David Graves: I’d make sure Brian Eno, the Picasso string quartet, and Phoenix were all playing.  I love variety.

Jim Henriques: OingoBoingo, the original Allman Brothers Band, the Doors, the original King Crimson, Kate Bush, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Bjork, and, of course, Science NV!

Larry Davis: Science NV, Zappa Plays Zappa, King Crimson, and the Robben Ford Band.

MSJ:
What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
Rich Kallet:  X by Spock’s Beard

David Graves: Simon Says’ Tardigrade has recently been on heavy rotation in my studio - yummy.  But I guess really the last CD I purchased was Phoenix - good stuff at high volumes.

Larry Davis: Lady Antebellum – I love music with good vocal harmony.

MSJ:
Have you read any good books lately?

Rich Kallet:  Frederick Brown’s For the Soul of France:  Culture Wars in the Age of Dreyfus.  It’s a very intriguing look at the rise of anti-Semitism and the conservative backlash against science and modernism in late nineteenth century France.  There are so many interesting parallels with what has been happening in American culture since the Vietnam War and the 60s cultural revolution.

David Graves: Rudy Rucker’s most recent novel was mind-blowing.

Jim Henriques: A History of the Late Middle Ages by Philip Daileader

MSJ:
What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Rich Kallet:  Over the Summer I got to see Porcupine Tree and Spock’s Beard:  both were great concerts.

David Graves: Rich and I went to Porcupine Tree here in San Francisco, where they opened their tour.  Musically and technically it was perfect.  I wish Steve Wilson and his colleagues all the luck in the world – their stuff is just fantastic.

Jim Henriques: I saw Eddie Jobson a few months back and Spock’s Beard with Rich last month.

Larry Davis: The 2005 Cream reunion concert at Royal Albert Hall (on DVD, sorry to disappoint you).

MSJ:
 Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
Rich Kallet:  “The Music Man” with Robert Preston.  It was the first musical I saw as a child and I’ve always loved it.  It represents an endearing part of American culture that is gone forever.

David Graves: When in doubt, toss in a meter change.  (Rich has a love/hate relationship with my methods.)

Larry Davis:  JoePass’ “A Six-String Santa”

MSJ:
What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
David Graves: In 2007 we played a concert in San Francisco and we brought everything.  Jesus, even the intervals between songs were in surround sound.  But I had to laugh when Rich was taking a picture of his double drum set at intermission.  I was sure he would spontaneously combust and then we would never finish our first album!

Jim Henriques: I was in conducting class, conducting the group with graceful 3/4 gestures. Unfortunately the score was in 4/4!

MSJ:
If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?
Rich Kallet:  The screen writer David Simon, the philosopher Erich Fromm and Jon Stewart.

Jim Henriques: Giordano Bruno, Carl Sagan, and Ayn Rand.

Larry Davis: My wife and two kids, we never seem to have enough time all together.

MSJ:
Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
David Graves: Don’t be afraid to give musicians feedback about our work – we love to hear from people!  We spend a lot of time making sure our music rewards multiple close listens, and it feels great when we get comments or questions.

Jim Henriques: It’s only knock and know-all, but I like it.

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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