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David Fiuczynski - life as a jazz-punk?

"Jazz-punk" - this is one possibility to describe the guitar-player Fiuczynski, who recently was on tour with Victor Bailey. However he is also proficient in the fields of funk-jazz, punk and rap with his bands "Kif" and "Black Cherry Acid Lab". - On his latest CD "Jazz punk" Fiuzcynski gives us a sample of his own interpretations of well-known "standards" and of tunes that he thinks should be standards.

Before the concert in Berlin, Carina Prange had the opportunity to talk with David Fiuczynski.

Although David had lived in Germany for many years, this interview was held mostly in English ...

Carina: Your latest CD is called "Jazz Punk" - is this only a CD-title, is it a sort of program - or would you call it a "new style"?

David: I feel like I am kind of a "jazz-punk". I feel like I am a jazz-musician who doesn´t want to play jazz. It is not that much punk really on the CD, but it got something of a punk attitude. There´s a lot of "tongue-in-cheek" kind of things on it, that´s kind of the attitude. I have a band called Black Cherry Acid Lab, which is a harder "punk-funk"-version of Screaming Headless Torsos - the other group of mine - and that has some "rap-punk-funk"-thing, that has more punk - So much for the "Jazz Punk": actually the original title was supposed to be "My life as a Jazz Punk." We just shortened it to "Jazz Punk".

Carina: What do you want the listener to get from your music - fun, drive or what else?

David: Well, ideal is some type of "ecstatic energy". Some of its violence, some of its lyrical, some of its funny, some of its beautiful, some of its ugly ... Again it is a very personal thing for me - and I think everyone should get something out of. Something positive I hope - but even if they don´t like it, it´s sort of reaction. The worst thing that would be is: You put it on a café and people having coffee - and listen to it as background music. That is definitely what I don´t want.

David Fiuczynski - "Jazz Punk"

Carina: Can you explain a little bit about your personal way of playing the guitar?

David: Well, I went through a lot of stages and listened to a lot of guitar players - but also a lot of other musicians. So I picked up a little bit from a lot of people. It´s a little bit of Holdsworth, Steve Vay, Hendrix, James "Blood" Ulmer, Eugene Chadbourne, Henry Kaiser, Sonny Sharrock. But I also really love individualists like for example Erik Dolphy. Also - since I grew up in Germany - I love Nina Hagen. I would love to do something with her, because I always felt that her music never caught up to her potential. Although her first records are unbelievable! I think, it would be interesting if - you see, she is always so much in kind of like "pop and groove"-stuff! - it would be interesting to see maybe what she will do with something experimental. So along the way, I picked up a little bit of Vernon Reid, Scofield, McLaughlin.

It was such a great advantage
to grow up in two different cultures. Absolutely!

Now I am playing an Ibanez double neck which is fretted and fretless. And I am experimenting a lot on the fretless with muted sounds, with sitar sounds, with a little bit of distortion, slide sounds. Also I can play "between the frets" - because there are no frets - so I can play quarter tones or other micro tones as some of these middle-eastern scales require. That is what I am experimenting with now - it is a musical journey and along the way I picked up a little bit here and there.

Carina: Can you tell a bit more about your other projects - Kif ?

David: "Jazz Punk" is my way of butchering standards - if you know what that means. I have a trio called Kif, which is drums, guitar and cello - and it is based on middle-eastern music. It is kind of my "take" on the whole "New-York-Downtown-Improvising" thing. With a lot of dance, experimenting with eastern european music and middle eastern music as in the band I play with Hasidic New Wave, with Frank London from the Klezmatics, it is a lot of yewish music in jazz. There is also Pachora, Don Byron with the musical "Micky Katz". Sometimes I have to "groove out" - with Kif, I use a lot of rock, and funk, and drum´n´bass, and house, and "whatever grooves" - underneath the music!. On top is more or less "east-european" and "middle-eastern". I am having a lot of fun with that.

As soon as we do know what jazz is:
that´s when jazz is dead!

Then I have a group called Black Cherry Acid Lab which is a harder "punk-funk-rap-version" of Screaming Headless Torsos - S.H.T. came out in 95 and that is kind of my "experimental funk-thing with vocals". Then I play also the group of my wife, Lian Amber - she is a wonderful vocalist and we do her songs. And her songs are kind of a "folk-jazz-funk-R&B", it is very personal. And "Jazz Punk" is on a own label. I did it for another label and they hated it. So we settled an accord, and then my wife was putting it out for me - and it´s doing o.k.

Carina: You live in New York - what is nowadays special about the music scene there?

David: New York is very intense - the scene goes up and down. Sometimes there is great stuff, sometimes there is bullshit. But it´s this: always "something happening". And whoever is not in New York will sooner or later come through to New York. So for me its a great workshop, I have access to so many incredible musicians. That´s where I met Victor Bailey for example. And also important for me: I do a lot of different things - you know, I played on the last "Batman"-Soundtrack .... I do from all over experimental stuff, like Hasidic New Wave, from the Knitting Factory ... For me it is great, everything is there! It is sometimes tough to live there - it is very intense and expensive. But I love it.

Carina: What about Paris, Berlin and the uprising scenes in the east-european countries?

David: I don´t know too much about that, but I think it is great. I think it is absolutely wonderful. The more, the merrier! I hope Berlin once again becomes this great cultural centre - as a balance and couterpart, an active, creative agent with Paris and London - and yeah! - the eastern-european musics. And art and theatre and film and - what have you? - I think it is great: "Super"!

Carina: How long did you live in Germany - and where would you say, lie your roots - musically and personally?

David: My roots are in the States and Germany. I was born in the States and when I was eight, we moved to Germany. Und ich bin hier von acht bis neunzehn aufgewachsen. Also es ist beides ...

Carina: Is it sometimes difficult?

David: Sometimes it is kind of difficult! But it was such a great advantage to grow up in two different cultures. Absolutely!

Carina: What do you think is important for jazz in the future - for it not to become a music "only for old, rich people", but for the younger ones?

David: Oh! - the problem first of all: What is jazz? It is really changing. For some people it is "Smooth Jazz". Some people think, Sade is jazz. And other people only want to hear "Straight Ahead". The term "Straight Ahead" used to mean playing more free. You went "straight ahead" and - kept on going. But now it really means more "back to bebop". So, I think it is in a way going through the process that my music departement at New England Conservatory is going through. There used to be a "Jazz" department and there used to be a "Third Stream" department - which is an "experimental improvisation" department based on eartraining. Now they both merged and now they call it the "Contemporary Improvisation" department. Which to me makes a whole lot more sense! I mean - I still think probably one of the main ingredients in jazz is improvisation. But it doesn´t have to have a "walking baseline". It doesn´t have to have a "swing cimble". So - I can´t really answer that question, I don´t know. But in a way that is what is exciting about it. - And as soon as we do know, that´s when jazz is dead.

Carina Prange

CD: David Fiuczynski - "Jazz Punk" (EFA-Medien / Fuze 8898-2)

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Foto: Carina Prange
Cover: Lian Amber

© jazzdimensions2000
erschienen: 22.5.2000
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