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Progressive Rock Interviews

Matte Henderson

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Matte Henderson from 2013
MSJ:

Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music?

I started with piano lessons at the age of five. By the age of eight, it became glaringly apparent to me that I would never play at the same level as my older sister, who was tearing through Debussy's “The Children's Corner.”

Thus began my lifelong obsession with guitar. I took lessons with a good friend of an older brother. He showed me the basics…Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Cream, The first version of Allman Brothers, Frank Zappa (I could recite  “Billy the Mountain,” in it's entirety, in fifth grade) and Mountain. 

I learned so much off of records back then. Got turned onto Holdsy in 1977. I never looked back. At this time, I was studying heavily with the late Ed McGuire. He was boys with the late Joe Pass. He was incredible teacher who introduced me to the world of The Real Book. 

I studied North Indian and Turkish classical music in undergrad at Simon's Rock of Bard College. Great teachers, small classes, total immersion. My Turkish music teacher, Collins Lein, was an extraordinary musician and studied with JG Bennett. Gurdjieff, Ouspensky and Hazrat Inayat Khan were heavily featured in our syllabus. This all was to serve me quite well during my tenure as an assistant teacher for Robert Fripp and his League of Crafty Guitarist Seminars. I did this while working on my MFA requirements at Bennington College, where I minored in post Platonic Greek Philosophy. While at Bennington, I was introduced to the brilliant and talented David Torn, who encouraged me to move to Woodstock, New York upon graduation from Bennington. During this time, I also met David Fiuczynski. These two mavericks, to this day, remain extremely close friends and supporters.

I had the privilege to work with so many talented musicians in Woodstock. What an incredible music town! David Torn, Bad Brains, Natalie Merchant, Tony Levin, Jack Dejohnette, Dave Holland, Steve Swallow, Carla Bley, The B52s, Psychedelic Furs, Jerry Marotta, David Sancious, and Pat Metheny. I could go on forever. Its proximity to the city made it a haven for creative musical endeavors. I got to record with the late Mick Karn, Percy Jones, Tony Levin, Jerry Marotta, David Torn and many more extraordinary musicians during my time there. Veneer of Logic was mixed there. at the incredible Applehead Recording Studio, with Michael Birnbaum and Chris Bittner, Coheed and Cambria's production team.

MSJ: If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
Philosophy, Kabbalism, Occult Physics.

Low pay/High reward.

Maybe advertising?

MSJ: How did you link up with Marco Minneman?
Marco Minnemann was introduced to me by my compadre, Ed Degenaro. I was in the midst of tracking Veneer of Logic and realized that the music demanded a drummer who had both extraordinary facility and a compositional perspective to direct it. 

I could not have hoped for/ imagined a more suitable person than Marco.

MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences?
I played a great deal of music (which I transcribed for guitar) by JS Bach (Solo Violin Partitas), Paganini (Caprices), Debussy (Dr. Gradus ad Parnassum), Bartok (Violin Duets), Messiaen (Quartet for the End of Time), Stravinsky (clarinet solos) at Bennington. I was blessed to have studied with the late Lionel Nowak. He pushed me harder than any teacher I have ever had. His musical standards were incredible.

My initial influences as a budding guitarist were the usual suspects that anyone picking up a guitar in the early ‘70s would reference. Eric Clapton (I wore out three copies of History of Eric Clapton before sixth grade), Jimmy Page, Leslie West, Jeff Beck, Billy Gibbons (Tres Hombres was a watershed record for me) and Frank Zappa (“Transylvania Boogie” from Chunga’s Revenge in particular) opened up a lot of creative doors for me.

In 1980, I was introduced to Robert Fripp’s genre defying work. There was no turning back. Alan Holdsworth (Vernon Reid used to tell me that I could outholdsworth Holdsworth) is another absolutely indelible guitar influence. 

As far as stylistic and compositional influences as concerned, Squarepusher, Mark Bell, Ustad Rais Khan, early Mahavishnu Orchestra, early Sabbath, Bad Brains, Joe Zawinul and Gender Wayang all weigh in heavily on my “process.”

MSJ: What's ahead for you?
The follow up to Veneer of Logic is well underway. Also, writing for a record with David Fiuczynski.
MSJ: I know artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?
Music journalist and creative consultant Anil Prasad said it best:

“It's an amazing tour de force that explores the worlds of post-rock, industrial, metal, and ambient.”

Doctor Know (Bad Brains icon) refers to it as “Muttcore.”

MSJ: From where did the idea for doing a DVD of videos for each piece come?
That was a strong suggestion from the brilliant Anil Prasad. The video component enabled me to tap into my "art school" proclivities. I’m a huge fan of Experimental Film. Ira Cohen’s “Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda,” in particular, was a tremendous influence on my videos for Veneer of Logic. Most of my time at Bennington was spent with incredible visual artists like Tom Sachs and Andrew Kromelow. This really shaped my aesthetics.
MSJ: How did you make that happen?
I simply downloaded a demo of Final Cut Pro and dug in deep. I didn’t simply want to shoehorn in stock images. It took some time to make everybody play nice.
MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?
Die Antwoord, Squarepusher, Morgan Ågren come to mind.
MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
Nobody wants to work for free. Why should we?
MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?
As someone who had an abundance of bootlegs in college, I can't indulge in self-righteous indignation. I remember buying live vinyl boots on Bleeker Street back in the early "80s. Nothing like hearing Zep doing "Thank You" as an organ trio - brilliant.

I don’t, however, smile upon those who monetize from my work with neither my benefit or approval.

MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
Flaming Carrot, without a doubt. His Dadaistic relationship to “reality” offers him nearly as many challenges as any well equipped arch nemesis.
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?
Squarepusher, Ustad Rais Khan, Joseph Spence, Sun Ra, GG Allin and Al Jolson could MMA their way to the mic.
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?
Die Antwood, Squarepusher, Bad Brains, Boris, Lightning Bolt and some guy (could be anyone) playing Satie's Vexations on the big stage for the full 72-hour duration.
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
Mahavishnu: Trident Sessions.
MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
Absolutely!

Here’s a short list.

Listen Little Man- Wilhelm Reich

Mystical Concepts in Chassidism- Jacob Schochet

Morals and Dogma - Albert Pike

Secret Rituals of The O.T.O. - Francis King

Book Four- Aleister Crowley

Auto-Necrophilia - Bill Knott

MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Bad Brains: Paradise/Boston. Absolutely transcendent!
MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
Fall Out Boy- “Sugar We're Going Down”
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
Artie Fufkin
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?
Nietzsche, Giacometti and Jack Kirby.
MSJ: What would be on the menu?
Ether, Absynthe and Vegan Hog Maws
MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?

I feel so blessed with the life I have. It's such a pleasure to make music with such extraordinary musicians.

Thanks for listening! 

 

 

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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