California guitarist David Pritchard is sometimes referred
to as the Phillip Glass of the acoustic guitar. Although hes
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. Pritchards 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
meditative and relaxing. Pritchards 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 Pritchards 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
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: Im 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, its 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 Californias central coast. Kauai is another
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, Id consider it a thematic continuation of
Vertical Eden. Ive 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
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 1980s and is featured on my fusion record, Metal
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,
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
Pritchard: As long as Im 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 its 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.
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: Its 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 Kens work. I was amazed at the number of custom
I primarily used Kens 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.
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
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 cant 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.
the other hand, my Angel Benito Aguado classical didnt 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
Im 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 youre
writing, recording and even practicing the guitar? Can a recording
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 1980s. I now use Logic for my personal recording
and Finale for notation. The album was recorded using Digital Performer.
Theres 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.
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 isnt
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.
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 dont see things improving any time soon for independent
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 youd like to branch out into such as
David Pritchard: It seems like there is an obsession with music
from the recent past, particularly in the current jazz scene. Im
not aware of a lot of innovation happening in that genre. I was fortunate
to discover jazz in the late 1960s 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 Guingas
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 Garys 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?
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 1960s 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
Pritchard: Yes, I was fortunate to hear him live. I heard him
a few times at Shellys Manne Hole, which used to be the leading
jazz club in LA before Wally Heiders 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
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
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?
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 youre planning moving forward?
Are there new roads so to speak coming in your career?
David Pritchard: Im 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 wed 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