DAVID PRITCHARD
Among The Missing
(Morphic Resonance Music)

 

Southern California guitarist David Pritchard is sometimes referred to as the Phillip Glass of the acoustic guitar. Although he’s played with jazz greats like Gary Burton, Pritchard was always most at home on his stunning and hypnotic solo albums, which often blend a linear tapestry of acoustic guitar sounds. Pritchard’s 2014 album Among The Missing continues onwards in a similar realm as his critically acclaimed 2009 album Vertical Eden. Although complex musically, the sounds Pritchard makes with his guitars are simultaneously meditative and relaxing. Pritchard’s 2009 album, Vertical Eden featured second guitarist Kevin Tiernan and on Among The Missing, Tiernan returns along with yet another guitarist, Ioannis Markoulakis, as well as Leif Woodward (cello, viola da gamba), Steve Anderson (electric bass) and Christopher Garcia (percussion). The sound of Among The Missing is brimming with interweaving guitars and the addition of strings adds another quite intriguing layer to the sound. Although highly atmospheric, Among The Missing is much too enchanting to be described as being avant garde. Fans of Leo Kottke and Michael Hedges will also enjoy the all instrumental nature of Pritchard’s unique mosaic of guitar music while the album will also find a home among jazz fans with a penchant for exotic sounding neoclassical and 21st century experimental instrumental guitar music. Ethereal, hypnotic guitar music at its finest, David Pritchard's Among The Missing takes the listener to a magical place where words fail to describe the wonders of sound. www.MorphicResonanceMusic.com


mwe3.com presents an interview with
DAVID PRITCHARD



mwe3
: Where are you from originally and where are you living now and what do you like best about it? What other cities and towns and even countries do you like to visit?

David Pritchard: I’m from Pasadena, California and moved back here about 30 years ago. Prior to that I lived in Santa Barbara, California, Santa Monica, California, downtown LA, and NYC. Pasadena is a fairly vibrant place from a cultural standpoint but, like many of the LA suburbs, it’s going through quite a growth spurt right now. To get away from city density, my wife and I like to visit more isolated locales on California’s central coast. Kauai is another favorite.

mwe3: What is some of the background behind the writing and recording your 2014 album Among The Missing and how would you compare it to your last album from 2009, Vertical Eden as far as what your musical mission was this time around? How do you feel your music has grown over the years?

David Pritchard: I recorded Among the Missing over a period of more than two years. This is different from all my other albums which were all pretty much recorded within a couple of days. Stylistically, I’d consider it a thematic continuation of Vertical Eden. I’ve been writing pieces with more sustained melodic lines so, while with Vertical Eden I went with violin to play them, this time I went with cellos and viola da gamba. I also went back to some older pieces, like “Solo 1980”, originally written for steel string, and reworked it for classical guitar. That meant making it work for finger style as opposed to playing it with a pick which resulted in some new material being added to it. “Just One Look”, recorded as a quartet on Unassigned Territory, was reworked as a solo piece for classical as well. There are two pieces on the album inspired by the work of other composers: “For Kapsberger”, inspired by the 17th century lutenist of the same name, and “A Guinga”, inspired by the contemporary Brazilian guitarist/composer Guinga.

mwe3: Who is recording with you on the Among The Missing album and who else was involved in the sound and production of the album?

David Pritchard: I was fortunate to have a very talented cellist and viola da gambist, Leif Woodward, participate in the project. Steve Anderson, a great bass player who now lives near Phoenix, added a bass part to “A Guinga.” Steve played in my last jazz group back in the 1980’s and is featured on my fusion record, Metal Roads.

The other players were Kevin Tiernan and Ioannis Markoulakis, both excellent LA freelancers who are members of my guitar trio and Christopher Garcia, often on tour as a member of the Grandmothers of Invention, on percussion.

I recorded at the same studio and with the same engineer, Scott Fraser. that I used for Vertical Eden. Scott is an incredible guy to work with and is an excellent musician as well as first class engineer. He also works regularly with the Kronos Quartet doing their live sound when they tour and has recorded some of their studio albums as well.

mwe3: Several of the Among The Missing tracks feature solo guitar and some have two, three and four guitars appearing simultaneously. What are some of the challenges in overdubbing guitars on your own as opposed to recording guitar parts with other guitarists on the multi-tracked compositions?

David Pritchard: As long as I’m recording a piece that has a steady pulse where I can use a click track, overdubbing is quite easy to do. Edits and punch-ins are a piece of cake now with digital editing. On my first album, Air Patterns, which was recorded analog, doing punch-ins was nearly impossible with all the fast arpeggios and only microseconds between individual notes. There is only one piece on Air Patterns where I did a punch-in and it bothers me every time I hear it, although it’s hardly noticeable and no one has ever mentioned it to me.

The advantage in recording with other players is obvious on pieces that do not have a steady pulse where trying to line up notes would be tricky. Recording with other players also produces a track that feels more like a real performance when slightly different picking techniques and different guitars can illuminate individual parts more effectively. Dynamics sound much more natural as well. I always prefer recording with other players but because of scheduling conflicts, some of the pieces on the album had to be all overdubbed.

mwe3: Why did you call the new album Among The Missing and can you tell us about the album artwork and design of the CD?

David Pritchard: I have a difficult time coming up with titles so I usually end up “borrowing” titles from books and short stories. The title for the album and also the title of one of the tracks, “Slowly We Opened Our Eyes” came from short story titles by the excellent short story writer Dan Chaon.

With the exception of Air Patterns, all of the artwork for my albums have been designed by Jay Toffoli (www.jaytoffoli.com), a first rate graphic designer here in LA. I just let him go with however the music inspires him.

mwe3: Have there been any fresh developments in the guitar world for you lately? Last time we spoke you had acquired a handmade steel string guitar by luthier Ken Franklin. Was that guitar featured on Among The Missing and what other instruments did you use to record the Among The Missing album? Also what guitar strings, amps and other effects did you use on the Among The Missing album?

David Pritchard: It’s hard to keep up with all the great luthiers at work today. A few years ago, I went to the Healdsburg Guitar Festival in Northern California to do a short demo concert highlighting Ken’s work. I was amazed at the number of custom builders there.

I primarily used Ken’s instrument for the recording (www.franklinguitars.com) but on the DADGAD pieces I used an older Larrivee with a slightly longer scale which is great for that tuning. Kevin Tiernan used a Guild for the recording and Ioannis also used a Larrivee. For the classical pieces, I used a guitar built by Madrid luthier Angel Benito Aguado (www.angelbenitoaguado.com/en_init.htm). I use John Pearse steel strings and Galli nylon strings.

No amps were used and no direct ins either as I am not a fan of acoustic guitar pickups. The only effect was a chorus plug-in (Juno-60 VST chorus) that Scott Fraser used in the mixing of “Slowly We Opened Our Eyes.”

mwe3: What do you look for in a guitar? Is it playability, looks, a certain type of wood? For instance, if you had two or three different guitars of the same model, would you be able to decide which guitar suited you best? Are there certain woods that you prefer for different tonal qualities and what is the future of the steel string and also nylon string guitar? For example, will they all be made from wood forever or is there something else on the horizon? (say for instance when we run out of wood?)

David Pritchard: You can’t underestimate playability. My first high end classical was built by a local L.A. builder that sounded incredible but for various reasons was really hard to play so I ended up selling it.

The best builders are all very particular about their wood. Ken loves to build with unusual tone woods. For my instrument, he used a very responsive Italian spruce; the instrument has a wonderful warm sustain and richness; it sounded great as soon as I tried it.

On the other hand, my Angel Benito Aguado classical didn’t sound that impressive right out of the box. A year later it sounded fantastic after having been played a lot. This is typical of many spruce top classicals.

I’m doubtful that in the future there will be all composite guitars that sound as good as instruments made with aged high end tone woods.

mwe3: How has the internet and computers in general impacted your guitar playing, writing and recording? Did you record Among The Missing with other musicians in the same room or was there a lot of overdubbing? What computer programs do you prefer when you’re writing, recording and even practicing the guitar? Can a recording be over-computerized?

David Pritchard: Recording and notation programs have made the writing process easier, despite the frustration at times with software that was not beta tested enough before being put on the market. That was a problem when I first started using these types of programs in the late 1980’s. I now use Logic for my personal recording and Finale for notation. The album was recorded using Digital Performer.

There’s only two pieces on the album where all the musicians were in the same room at the same time. On the pieces with cello and viola da gamba, I recorded the first guitar part at the same time Leif did his. Leif had a fair amount of overdubbing himself on the title track. Then I layered the guitar parts after that. Steve Anderson, who lives near Phoenix, recorded his bass part himself and them e-mailed it to us.

I do think recording these days can be over computerized given all the plug-ins and constant rewriting on a hard disc when mixing and editing. I always find it interesting in the mastering process to see how the project is run through analog (tube) equipment to make it sound “warmer.” It does make a noticeable difference.

mwe3: Many musicians are complaining that their incomes are being hurt by downloading and free music on places like You Tube. What is your opinion and how can we make places like You Tube and other internet sites more equitable for artists and musicians so their music isn’t being given away or downloaded “en masse” for free? Is the internet a two-edge sword or is this free music culture the result of bad planning?

David Pritchard: The internet has developed into a two-edge sword for musicians. On the one hand, product distribution, which was always a struggle for independent musicians releasing their own albums, is no longer a problem. All the digital music distributors, like CD Baby for example, send new releases to all the retail and streaming outlets that matter. Also, record companies, who were the gatekeepers in deciding whose music was released, are becoming increasingly irrelevant. This has led to a glut of music being released which results in making it more difficult to get noticed.

And, as it is well known, it has gotten extremely difficult for musicians to earn anything from their own recordings. As Jaron Lanier, the virtual reality pioneer and author of “Who Owns The Future,” has pointed out, the internet, as it is now configured, is controlled mainly by what he calls “siren servers” (e.g. Google, Facebook, etc.), where the network power tends to be at the very top with the giant internet companies. Sites that sell music or provide streaming services pay small amounts to artists. Streaming in particular pays extremely little and that seems to be the real growth area now. Unless somehow there is a complete transformation of the way the internet is set up, I don’t see things improving any time soon for independent artists.

mwe3: What do you think about the current music scene and are you listening to other guitarists and recording artists these days either for enjoyment and/or for sort of comparing notes musically? How do you try to expand your musical scope and grow musically and are there other avenues you’d like to branch out into such as soundtracks?

David Pritchard: It seems like there is an obsession with music from the recent past, particularly in the current jazz scene. I’m not aware of a lot of innovation happening in that genre. I was fortunate to discover jazz in the late 1960’s when it was going through a very transformative period. Every so often, though, one can discover something new and exciting out there, not just in jazz but in all kinds of music. I remember feeling that way when I stumbled upon Guinga’s guitar music a few years ago for the first time. I also try to check out programs like Global Village on KPFK in LA, New Sounds on WNYC and Late Junction on BBC3 to find interesting stuff I never heard before. Fortunately, the latter two programs can be listened to online.

mwe3: You were a member of the Gary Burton Quartet way back in 1969. What are your favorite memories of working with Gary Burton and have you kept in touch with Gary? Do you recall what guitars you featured in Gary’s band back then and are there other early recordings you were involved with that will see that light of day and/or that you were involved with such as the Metal Roads CD reissue, which was reissued in 2010?

David Pritchard: To use the old cliché, but it can be a true one, working with Gary was a real learning experience. Gary was one of the innovators in the late 1960’s when jazz was opening up to new influences. In his group concept, it was country and rock meet jazz. I had been a huge fan of the first iteration of his quartet with Larry Coryell on guitar. Steve Swallow and Bob Moses were also in that band.

I literally dropped the phone when he asked me to join the group as I was a pretty inexperienced guitarist. He had heard me play with my first jazz group in LA, the Quintet de Sade, which was a very raw sounding group. Anyway, I packed up my old Gibson ES-175 and Standel amp and flew to NY to audition and amazingly got the gig. Looking back, though, I feel I was not quite ready for “prime time.” I wish I had gotten the call about seven years later when I recorded my two Inner City albums. By then, my playing was much more polished. There is a bootleg recording that was released in the late ‘70s from the 1969 tour I did with Gary, strangely called Very Touchy which I believe is still available. I was pretty shocked by what I would call very primitive playing on my part when I heard it. Yes, I have occasionally been in touch with Gary over the years. He was friends with the late Lynn Blessing, the vibes player on Metal Roads, so I sent a copy to Gary when that album was released a few years ago.

mwe3: You were lucky enough to see Wes Montgomery perform live several times. When and where did you see Wes play and was that like? And can you also tell us what were some of the musical inspirations that shifted your focus from a more guitar-centric jazz to a more experimental type of minimalism, as you mentioned Steve Reich and Philip Glass? What are your favorite works of Glass, Reich and Olivier Messiaen and who are your favorite minimalists? Are there other guitarists you can cite who play in a similar realm as you or is your sound completely unique?

David Pritchard: Yes, I was fortunate to hear him live. I heard him a few times at Shelly’s Manne Hole, which used to be the leading jazz club in LA before Wally Heider’s studio took over the space. If you got there early, you could sit on these uncomfortable wood chairs a couple of feet from the bandstand. When I heard Wes play, my jaw remained dropped the whole time, he was that amazing of a player. He never resorted to clichés like almost all guitar players do to a certain extent. His improvising was totally natural and very lyrical.

I found myself in the early ‘80s finding the jazz or jazz fusion that I was doing starting to become a little stale. When I first heard Steve Reich doing “Music for Eighteen Musicians” in concert it knocked me out and subsequently pushed me in the minimalist direction from a writing standpoint; you can hear that influence in my album Metal Roads. I then started getting more into acoustic and classical where I continued going into a minimalist direction as well as experimenting with arpeggiated patterns in different meters.

I was also at the time listening to a lot of “Early Music” which became a large influence. I love the echoing of motifs between voices in Monteverdi, for example. Messiaen, who I would not at all call a minimalist, was also a big influence, particularly his extremely powerful “Quartet For The End Of Time.” That work has a great use of shifting meters which is something I utilize a lot in my own writing. You can also hear a harmonic reference to that work in my solo piece “Confession” from the Metal Roads album.

mwe3: What are your live concerts like? Do you have a set list and how do you feel about playing live with other musicians? Is it possible to bring your music in a live setting far and wide?

David Pritchard: The occasional concerts I do with my guitar trio are best suited to fairly intimate venues. If we need sound re-enforcement, we will use some high quality condenser mics going through a mixing board. The more natural the sound, the better for the music.

mwe3: What musical plans do you have for the rest of 2014 as far as writing, recording and possible live concert events? Can you offer some insights into what you’re planning moving forward? Are there new “roads” so to speak coming in your career?

David Pritchard: I’m working on possibly doing some concerts in Greece next year; one of the guys in my trio, Ioannis Markoulakis, is from there and knows of some music festivals where we’d be a good fit. Hopefully, we can combine that with some other dates in Europe. Also, my old musical collaborator Larry Klein, who was the bassist on my Inner City records and is now a well known music producer, has mentioned possibly using my multiple guitar concept in one of his future projects. Overall, I just plan to keep making music.

Thanks to David Pritchard @ www.MorphicResonanceMusic.com

 

 
   
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