CARL WEINGARTEN
Panomorphia
(Multiphase Records)

 

With a history of recorded music going back 30 years, guitarist Carl Weingarten returns in 2012 with one of his most illuminating recordings to date. The seven track instrumental Panomorphia is a supergroup of sorts, with Carl recording his guitars, slide guitars, looping and e-bow in the studio, backed up by New Age / Fusion virtuosos including Michael Manring (fretless bass), Jeff Oster (trumpet, flugelhorn) and drummer Celso Alberti. Interestingly, Weingarten cites guitarist Sonny Landreth as well as Miles Davis and Brian Eno among his big influences and you can hear all that and much more on Panomorphia. Recorded over a four year period, 2008-2012 in Northern California, Panomorphia captures all that is best about Weingarten’s unique brand of ambient space jazz guitar sonics. Solid, hypnotic guitar extrapolations from a well respected, progressive guitar icon, Panomorphia comes complete with some praiseworthy, and totally accurate liner notes by Andy Garibaldi,the gist of which perfectly sums up Weingarten’s unique approach to the instrumental ambient electric guitar genre. www.CarlWeingarten.com


mwe3.com presents an interview with CARL WEINGARTEN


mwe3: How did you come up with the concept of Panamorphia and how did the chemistry of the musicians on the CD add to the overall sonic structures?

CARL WEINGARTEN (CW)
: Thank you for doing this interview, Robert. It’s really good to talk with you again. The title refers to immersing oneself into the expanse. I was after a big sound on this record, but “Big”, as in close up and intimate. It's like standing in front of a ship or at the base of a mountain or at the ocean’s edge. The cover image of the diver walking into Loch Ness Lake pretty much says it. I’ve been doing guitar looping for over 30 years and I wanted to take the technique in a fresh direction. So I went the extra mile with this release. It’s been very gratifying.

mwe3.com: It must have been great playing with such amazing musicians as Jeff Oster and Michael Manring, the CD features such awesome sounds.

CW: Chemistry is everything. I’m a very hands-on producer, but I believe in letting musicians do what they do best. Give some direction, be clear, keep it simple, and then get out of their way. If you stick charts in front of players, you’re going to get more reading and less inspiration. Much of Panomorphia started out as loop-guitar improvisations I spent several weeks recording in my studio. I edited the performances down to the most expressive material. I wanted Michael, Celso, and Jeff to go through the same discovery I did. It’s like putting everyone on the same runway and taking off from there.

I’ve known the guys for years now, and we have a great working relationship. They understood that this wasn’t just a punch-the-clock recording gig. They helped shape the music. The guys each have their own sound too which added depth to the music. Manring’s bass sound is unmistakable. There isn’t much he can’t do on bass guitar and he’s constantly exploring new techniques, which is inspiring. Celso brought phenomenal percussion skills, energy and personality to the music. He locked up beautifully with Michael. Jeff and I worked closely on our two songs. Jeff has a million dollar trumpet tone with a wide range. In the shows we do together as Blue Eternity, it’s not unusual for him to go from a brassy fat Herb Albert to the tiny whisper of Miles Davis in the same song.

mwe3: What guitars are you featuring on Panamorphia and how has your choice of guitars changed over the years?

CW: I only have one electric guitar and it’s the only electric I’ve ever owned. Probably made in the 1970s, it’s a Japanese copy of a Gibson Recording model that I bought from my younger brother David. I’ve had the guitar modified over the years, but the pickups are the same. The guitar has this weird, unique sound that suits the music I do. I also own several acoustic guitars as well, including two resonators, a Regal dobro, and a single cone steel guitar. Lately, the one I’ve been playing most is my Martin Backpacker. It’s a small portable guitar, but the tone resembles a beautiful blend of guitar and mandolin. It turned out to be an excellent slide guitar, too.

mwe3: What types of pedals and effect do you favor to process your sound and get different sonic textures?

CW: The pedals I use the most these days are performance tools rather than sound processors. I met Brian Eno a few years ago and got to talk with him briefly. I mentioned the arms race of sorts going on with audio gear and all the pressure to keep up with the latest technology and how for many artists, including me, the time and cost was taking away from the act of making music. He said to forget all that, and “just use the tools you need.” To make his point, he showed me his cell phone and said, “All this does is make calls.” No camera, no apps, etc, because that’s all he wanted. I then told him I didn’t even have a cell phone and he laughed! So taking Eno’s advice, I started paring things down and focused on the music I wanted to make rather than the gear I wanted to use.

I have several cases full of analog and digital pedals going back to the early 80s. In the studio, I use whatever tools I need for tracking. For my live rig, I’m limited to what I can carry, so the chain gang is usually two or three delay loopers, compressor, volume/wah, distortion and my Blues Junior amp. My aim to is get as many sounds out of the guitar as possible through my playing first, then use effects to add color.

I’ve been playing slide guitar for over 35 years. The slide is the best low-tech tool ever. It can be played at any position on the strings, which makes for all kinds of harmonic possibilities. I have two primary slides for electric guitar: a laboratory grade plexi-glass tube and a Mudslide ceramic. For acoustic, I use brass, a heavy bottleneck glass, or a custom-cut Iron Wood slide.

mwe3: The new album is surely a result of the early years and ground breaking sounds you pioneered during the 1980s and ‘90s with Delay Tactics. How would you compare Panamorphia with some of your earlier material?

CW: Delay Tactics reflected a big part of my musical development, but I feel pretty far from that material at this point. DT had its own unique sound that Walter Whitney, David Udell, and I accomplished together. For us, experimental music was fun. DT was beat box-driven ambient pop and we’d go way out there on the synth and guitar solos. John Dilberto of Echoes Radio referred to Delay Tactics as the 80s version of The Ventures. We were among the first indie bands to use digital effects and loop pedals. I still have my original issue 1983 Electro-Harmonix 16 Second Delay unit. Our two LPs (Out-Pop Options 1982, Any Questions? 1984) got national radio play and Musician Magazine gave us a featured review. Unfortunately we never toured, so the band went undiscovered.

mwe3: A lot has changed for recording in the last 32 years.

CW: Yes, much has changed. As a musician who was part of the indie music movement in the 80s, I think it’s great that anyone can make and distribute their recorded music now. Unfortunately, that’s also become a problem... it’s too easy, so everyone does it, whether they’re ready for prime-time or not. The music market is over-saturated and the media and internet corporations like Apple, Amazon, and Spotify operate just as unfairly as major labels did. I’ve chosen not to participate in digital distribution for the time being. The numbers don’t add up for me and I’ve come to realize that promotion strategies, like giving music away, don’t work when everyone else is doing the same thing. In fact, after I pulled several of my MP3 albums off Amazon and CDBaby recently, my CD sales went back up.

mwe3: Your musical influences are extensive but in what way would you say you integrate your musical and guitar influences, that as I was reading, range from Morricone and Eno to Vivaldi.

CW: I’ve always been an avid music listener. I’ve been collecting music since I was a teenager. I seek out as wide a range of music as possible. The more music I hear and enjoy, the more I can bring back into what I do. For example, I’m not a Tuva singer, but the vocal harmonies and tones I heard in concert inspired me to find my own way to express that sound. I’m not a classical musician, but classical music has lasted hundreds of years for good reason. I’m inspired that a simple melody from the 1700s still sounds beautiful today. When producer Kavi Alexander invited me work with classical Indian musicians, I immediately heard a bridge between Hindi meditations and American blues and began exploring eastern scales. Over time, all influences sink in. I’m at the point where I’m no longer conscious of them at all. I play what feels right and it comes across in my own style.

mwe3.com: Do you still listen to music and what artists still move you and how about any new artists you like?

CW: I almost always have music on when I’m at home. Often I’ll listen to new stuff when I’m relaxing and then to favorites when I’m doing chores. Recently, I’ve been collecting the Pop Ambient series on the Kompakt label. There are a lot of good new artists, but honestly, I don’t find many that have much to say after one or two CDs. Compilations and internet radio are a good way to discover new music. Nothing, however, beats a good record store experience. Walking in to Amoeba Records is like entering a global supermarket. It’s all right in front of you. My personal favorites are too many to list. Lately I’ve been listening to Paul Desmond, (recent) Eno, Loscil, Miles Davis, Terje Rypdal, David Torn, Duane Allman, Shawn Colvin, Shelby Lynne, McCoy Tyner, and Chick Corea. As for slide guitarists, I’ve listened to everyone at one point or another. There’s been a genuine resurgence in slide guitar in recent years. None better than Sonny Landreth, whom I’ve been friends with for about 10 years. A few weeks ago I was floored when Sonny mailed me a copy of his new instrumental album, Elemental Journey, along with a note saying how much he liked Panomorphia.

mwe3: Can you say something about your photographic career and your other current interests and causes of late? Speaking of moving pictures, I noticed that picture of you on your Facebook page where you found a bullet on the streets of San Francisco. How did you come upon that and what did you make of that?

CW: I’ve been taking pictures since I was seven or eight years old. I had hopes of being a filmmaker. I focused on movies from junior high school through college, where I majored in cinema production. But even after I became a musician, photography remained a passion. I always have a camera with me. At the end of the day, I’m a visual artist who’s channeling that into music. It’s not unusual. Both Tony Levin and Andy Summers are also photographers. Again, the more I involve myself with the other arts, the more I bring something back to my own work. Creative connections are more complicated than we can imagine.

It’s interesting that you mention the bullet photo. I found that casing on my way to work. I pass the same corner each day, so it must have recently fallen there. Oakland has come a long way, but sadly there’s still a lot of poverty there as well as violence.

mwe3: How about future plans for you into 2013? Are you planning any new musical projects or performances?

CW: I have several new projects happening. I tend to work on several things at once until I settle into the next release. Look for a remixed song from Panomorphia and then an ensemble album with about 15 musicians for next year. I’ve been performing ambient-jazz shows with Jeff Oster and Michael Manring as the group Blue Eternity. We’ll be performing in the Bay Area this fall, including a festival and planetarium shows. I’ll also be at the International Looping Festival in Santa Cruz this October.

Thanks to Carl Weingarten @
www.CarlWeingarten.com

 

 
   
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