Interview with Chris Corsano

I am an addict. Chris Corsano's work, solo or in dozens of dizzying collaborations with such names as Paul Flaherty, Wally Shoup, Death Unit, Thurston Moore, etc, etc, etc. continues to provide me unlimited inspiration. Corsano is of a rare breed of musician/artist who just knows how to let it flow out of him, unfiltered, with an intense focus. How many drummers do you know that have the balls, and ability to drop jaws, to tour solo? Yeah, me neither.

How did you first get started in music? What was your first instrume

First was some piano lessons when I was young. It was a battle of attrition between my laziness/zero-practice regimen versus my mom's heart-felt desire for me to do something other than waste my youth on video games. The second time she tried to get me to take lessons, she dug up this guy who, to my 12-year-old eyes, seemed like he was pushing 90. I think his bread and butter was Americana (e.g. "You're A Grand Old Flag"), so when I said I wanted to learn something a little more modern he went straight for Billy Joel's "Piano Man" and Bon Jovi's "You Give Love A Bad Name." Shot through the heart! A year or so after that, I got a set of drums. My older half-brother had been playing since before I was born, so I guess it was a natural thing to want to do.

Growing up, what music/artists had the biggest influence on you?

When I was in my early teens Hendrix was probably the biggest. Also Led Zeppelin, The Who, Cream...basically anything on the classic rock radio stations that had busy drumming. When I was about 16, my sister's boyfriend hipped me to the minutemen. That was lif

e-changing. My brother turned me on to Beefheart and Ornette Coleman at around the same

time. I can go back to any of those three and still have my mind blown by something I'd missed on the 8,000+ previous listens.

You have played with some incredible musicians. How did you first get into hooking up with these artists?

I worked for Byron Coley for a good long while. He introduced me to Thurston and also Michael Ehlers (Eremite Records) when Michael was doing a concert series in Amherst, Mass. In exchange for putting up posters around town or doing door, I saw concerts for free. That's where I first heard Flaherty-Colbourne, TEST! (Daniel Carter, Sabir Mateen, Matt Heyner & Tom Bruno), Harry Pussy, Joe McPhee, William Parker, Brotzmann, No Neck Blues Band, and on and on. I asked Paul (Flaherty) and Randy (Colbourne) to play a show I was setting up. I gave Paul a copy of a record I did, and maybe a year later he asked if I wanted to jam. Things

developed from there.

Who are a few of your favorites to play with?

That's a tough one. It's like putting "thank you's" on a record, you're inevitably gonna leave some people out and end up short-shrifting people. Maybe instead of talking about the best, I'll talk about the worst. Years ago, I answered a flyer put up by somebody who wanted to do some kind of rock/free-jazz amalgam. It listed Sonic Youth and maybe Ornette (this was a long time ago, so my memory's hazy), among a lot of other stuff, as influences. So I read it and my mind saw FREE in big, bold letters, where I think the other people who turned up saw JAZZ or ROCK or I don't know what. It was an hour and a half of mismatched aesthetics hopelessly grinding into each other. At one point the Jazz-with-a-capital-J keyboard player started snapping his fingers at me so I'd do better job of keeping the beat. Awkward.

Aside from playing alongside traditional instruments, you’ve also performed with those in the outer realm of sound and noise. How do the two experiences differ for you as a drummer?

No categorical differences, really. Everybody's approach is different--even from saxophonist to saxophonist--so it goes person to person rather than instrument to instrument. One thing that can quickly differentiate certain players from others is the use of heavy amplification. There are different approaches/responsibilites that go with being the loudest motherfucker in the room or the quietest.

Do you get more a fulfillment out of playing with different types of musicians versus having a straight “band” per se?

I like to do both, so I don't see it as either/or. It's been great developing something like the Flower-Corsano Duo over a long period of time. But I also really like doing one-offs with new musicians. Some of the things (techniques or whatever) that develop out of one playing situation, I'll carry over to others. Hopefully, everything influences everything else for the better.

This past year, you released and album, and toured, with Rangda. H

ow did you land that gig?

That band was Ben's idea. I'd played with him a bit on some Six Organs sho

ws and one record. He knew and had already played with Rick, so he wanted to get the three of us together and see what happened.

It seems like, aside from Rangda, that you primarily improvise when you play (and maybe even with Rangda). Do you prefer improvisation versus writing?

Short answer: I prefer improvisation. Longer answer: I prefer whatever approach feels like it has the best chance of creating something worth people's time. With Ben and Rick, those guys are natural born riff-writers, as well as improvisors. That's not something that's in me like it is them. So Rangda is basically me riding their songsmith coattails. There's also im

provisation w/in Rangda's songs, though. I don't think I could hang for too long in a band that was all-composed at this point.

You have performed a good bit , solo. Does performing solo allow you a freedom that you don’t get when playing with others?

I think it's more about creating a different context than looking for missing freedom. I try to find people to play with where I don't feel restrained. In a way, I feel less free on solo sets. When it's solo, it's all on your shoulders--when you stop, it stops. And if it's not happening, then there's nobody else that's going to come to the rescue.

1 comment:

  1. Great interview - I always like when drummers get recognition. I was checking out some of Chris C's stuff and parts of it remind me of big band drumming. Of course this might be me needing to categorize everything :)