conceptualist Jon Durant has always been unique and thus in
a sonic class all his own. Tempered by his attack on New Age and his
love of progressive rock and jazz guitar sounds in the spirit of Terje
Rypdal and more recent icons like David Torn, Jon has released a number
of incredible guitar instrumental albums in recent years, including
his 2016 album with the band Burnt Belief. Jons 2018 album,
Parting Is will do wonders for his many fans. Ostensibly
a solo album, the 9 track Parting Is is brimming with electric
guitar soundscapes that transcends genres. Perhaps its the way
he records or maybe its his myriad of influences, but the jaw-dropping
effect of the album is staggering. Jons trademark is his cloud
guitar sound, which is just that: an ethereal effect that makes his
electric guitar sound appear weightless as if its transpondered
by mere thought inspired by invisible kinetic energy. Anyway, its
nearly impossible with mere words to describe the magic Jon Durant
brings to the entire 21st century concept of just what the electric
guitar means in the now century. Theres no sweet sorrow here
as Jons credits at the end are most telling and, although Parting
Is remains a solo album in the best sense of the term, in doing
so he tips his hat to his musical associates and peers, Colin Edwin,
Tony Levin, David Torn, Stephan Thelan of Sonar, Michael Bearpark
and others. So if any of those names ring a bell or a chord, by all
means find a way to hear the magical guitar movements in play on Jon
Durants 2018 album Parting Is. www.jondurant.com
mwe3.com presents an interview with
After the third Burnt Belief album Emergent it was surprising
to see another solo album. Was Parting Is inspired by the Burnt
Belief era or are you moving into fresh sonic waters with Parting
Is? Its very much a guitar-centric solo album. What was
your frame of mind during the Parting Is writing and recording
Jon Durant: In many ways, Parting Is is a look into
my most personal self as a musician. I had no intention of doing another
record, solo or otherwise, but Id had a conversation with a
friend in Turkey who was asking about what I do on a daily basis when
I dont have a specific project that Im working on. So
I shot a couple quick videos on my phone and sent them off. Her response
was to ask why I wasnt recording these pieces for real. And
my first thought was that these are not done with the intention of
being recordings, or songs, or anything; they simply exist in the
moment. But I promised Id try to record some things, and very
quickly I had assembled some really interesting pieces.
Of course, my first thought was that it was too personal and no one
would want to hear it. It turns out that its precisely that
personal sense that people have been responding to! Another interesting
aspect of Parting Is is that I didnt use any synths on
it. On the Burnt Belief albums, Id used MIDI guitar to do things
like Middle Eastern wind instruments or mini moog bits. But I noticed
a lot of reviews assumed that all the textural elements were synths,
and decided this would be a good opportunity to correct that misconception!
mwe3: Tell us about your two recording studios on the east
and west coasts. You mention that Parting Is is kind of a sad,
introspective album. When did you relocate to the Pacific Northwest
and how would you compare the influences and differences between the
coasts as to how they appear in your music? Do you find Oregon inspires
your music more than being on the East Coast?
Jon Durant: Our older son went to Reed College in Portland,
Oregon, and we all fell in love with the Pacific Northwest. Our younger
son stepped on Reeds campus and declared that he wasnt
even going to look at schools in New England. He just graduated from
Whitman College, in Walla Walla, Washington. We knew we needed a landing
place, and found a condo that we loved, right on the river, which
has become our second home. And it also has become very much a writers
retreat for me.
The sad, introspective part comes from the fact that Ive been
doing so much back and forth that I constantly feel like Im
leaving something behind. When I travel west, leaving my wife, if
shes not coming on that trip, or after brief visits with the
boys, or leaving the city Ive come to love, Portland and all
my friends there. But every bit of that constant parting is for good
things, so theres also an upside.
As for how the location influences the music, its hard to put
a definitive stamp on it. Except to say that the bulk of the Burnt
Belief albums and Parting Is were written there. So I definitely
feel inspired when Im there.
mwe3: How about the Parting Is CD cover art? Was it
just a picture you selected with that color pattern or was there something
more going on?
Jon Durant: The cover is a shot that I took in Iceland. Its
a definite nod and wink to ECM and the covers that have so inspired
me over the years. But its also a reflection of an amazing week
with one of my sons, exploring an absolutely amazing place that I
long to return to.
I was glad to see you pressed a CD on Parting Is because, do
you think CD is becoming something of the past? Are your other CDs
going to stay in print? Do you consider that Parting Is is
your eleventh album including the two Burnt Belief albums?
Jon Durant: Yeah, CDs are indeed becoming dinosaurs, though
thats what everyone said about vinyl 20 years ago. Meanwhile,
the older CDs are still around, until they run out. I wont press
mwe3: Have you been spending more time on Facebook? You always
post a live improv or tune live, which is great. How has the social
media thing impacted your music? Seems to be quite different time
from when we grew up and FM radio and print mags and zines was how
we found and heard music much for the first time, also in physical
Jon Durant: Yeah, the world of music has changed so much. Its
a very strange thing, once upon a time musicians were up on a unique
plane, and it was a big thing to meet one of your favorites. Now,
theres very little division between facebook friends and fans.
Its not all bad, though
I have met some amazing people
around the world that I would never have encountered before, and now
cannot imagine not having them in my life. Its also opened up
some interesting dialogs with other musicians with whom I wouldnt
have had as much opportunity to communicate with.
My live videos are a fun little look at my daily way of operating,
which as I mentioned earlier is how Parting Is began. Theyre
not meant to be anything more than a glimpse, but they seem to be
getting a nice response.
mwe3: How is your brother Kingsley doing and are you planning
to revive the Alchemy label with future releases? Also your son is
a guitarist as well right? Great musicianship must run in the Durant
Jon Durant: Thanks, yes, Kingsley is doing very well. He has
promised that hes going to pull a new album together in the
coming year. The material is there, he just needs to do it. My older
son plays bass, though as a cancer researcher his playing time is
limited these days and my younger son is a guitarist who is playing
As for the label, its not really an ongoing concern at this
point. After all the distributors either went belly up or disappeared
owing me money I gave up on the idea entirely. I release my own work
on the label, and if Kingsley wants to do another, Ill definitely
do that. But otherwise, there wont be any recordings beyond
mwe3: How did you decide on the Koll guitars and how would
you compare Koll with other guitars youve recorded with over
the years? They must be right near you in Oregon too right? Was the
Koll 12 string a custom guitar and which Koll guitars are you playing
on Parting Is?
Durant: I had known about Sauls guitars for years as hed
built the Tornado model for David Torn. Kingsley had known him for
a while, and when he was visiting me in Portland, we connected with
Saul. The two of us quickly became good friends. It was also on that
visit, that Kingsley brought his fretless guitar for me to check out
(made by Scott Walker). I immediately called Saul and asked if hed
be interested in making one for me, and he loved the idea. We based
it on the Tornado body, and I had him install a sustainiac pickup
which brings the phrasing to life on that guitar.
Shortly after Emergent came out, the first recording with the
fretless, Saul invited me to play at the winter NAMM show. He had
a 12-string that hed built for the show that I played for 5
minutes and told him I had to have it. Unfortunately, it was already
sold so he had to build one for me. Shortly after that I also ordered
a chambered Tornado for my sons graduation present which is
As for how they compare; its impossible to compare the fretless.
Kingsleys Scott Walker fretless doesnt have the sustainiac,
so it was a bit limiting for the phrasing I wanted to do. Also, Saul
and I made a lot of decisions on the neck that made it much more comfortable
for me. The ebony fingerboard really helps the notes sustain, even
with the sustainiac off. The 12 string is an absolute joy to play,
and it is sonically brilliant. Id borrowed one of Kingsleys
PRS 12 strings, and used it on Parting Is but it isnt
even close in feel or sound.
mwe3: Ive been amazed at how so many artists are going
the route of VSTs in their music. What do you think of VST pluggins
and how have you applied it in your music? One artist spoke about
using VST pluggins that recreates the sound of human voices and even
Jon Durant: Thats an area I havent explored as
much. I feel like Im missing something, but every time I plug
in to explore my own character disappears and the computer takes over.
I know there are people doing amazing things, and I think I need to
devote more time just to exploring it so that maybe I could find a
way to incorporate it without losing my unique musical voice.
mwe3: Do you still follow other bands or recording artists
as much as you did say ten or twenty years ago? Are there some current
musical directions you like more than others? Kind of feels like were
in an artistic holding pattern now. Maybe robots will replace musicians
in the next century!
We are in a really weird time. For starters, its virtually impossible
for a creative recording artist to make a living. The idea that albums
are no longer a viable thing is devastating to me. Fortunately for
me, I am in a situation where I dont have to make my living
from music, but for anyone who does have to it has to be horrifying.
Whats become clear is that most people simply dont value
music, and the arts in general. Its very sad.
That said there still is some very creative music going on, and its
great to see a band like Sonar getting the attention they have been
getting lately. And there have been a few amazing things lately from
the ECM catalog, including recent Anouar Brahem, Bjorn Meyer and Nik
Bärtsch records. Oh and a lovely new Steve Tibbetts record. Also,
the Rare Noise label has a lot of very cool stuff.
mwe3: With Parting Is out and getting some acclaim,
are you buoyed by the solo album concept again or do you miss recording
with great artists such as Tony Levin and Colin Edwin? I was reading
about a possible album between you and a Ukrainian singer called Inna
Kovtun. Do you have some early indications of future plans on your
next musical move and would you consider a best of Jon Durant retrospective,
possibly remixed to make the sound continuous?
Jon Durant: As I write this, Im listening to the work
in progress of the new material with Colin and Inna. Its really
exciting and interesting music, a great step from the Astarta / Edwin
record we did a few years ago. We cover a lot of musical ground, and
it features some of my most radical guitar alongside some of my most
normal guitar. I think the music is really compelling, in some ways
it reminds me of the Cocteau Twins.
Also, Ive recently done some interesting sessions including
a track for Stephan Thelan of Sonar, where Im alongside David
Torn and Marcus Reuter. Also, I played on a couple fusion-y things,
one by keyboardist Michael Whalen, and one by drummer Jose Duque.
Also, Jose has got me involved in an ambient project hes doing.
Best of? Never even imagined it. But I wonder if it might be an opportunity
to do a vinyl release? Interesting idea.
mwe3: Where do you see the guitar going by mid century? Does
it amaze you that were nearly one quarter into the 21st century?
If you had one wish what would it be for? Another ten solo albums,
fifty more years to live and record, to join King Crimson or YES?
Where is the world going next?
Jon Durant: Oh, I really dont know. Ive been so
blindsided by how technology has destroyed the music industry, I cant
even think about where the guitar is going. One wish: that the world,
the US in particular, changes course with this nationalistic nonsense.
People everywhere have something to offer, and closing ourselves off
to people who dont look like we do, or sound like we do, is
no way to move the world forward. Its regressive and will only
lead to conflict.
myself, if I never made another record I would be happy with what
Ive done. But there is more music out there for me to tap into,
and there are collaborations in discussion that could be very interesting.
All with people from other parts of the world, so stay tuned!