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Thursday, September 23, 2004
TR talks Rock n' Roll by Sean Corbett

Tim Reynolds talks Rock N' Roll
By Sean Corbett
Published: Thursday, September 23, 2004

(See below for entire, uncut interview)

For three or four years I have been fully intrigued by a man I heard on a live Dave Matthews CD. He played an acoustic guitar song called "Stream". I initially thought for sure that there were at least two people playing this song because the combination of strumming and finger picking together at such high speeds was jaw dropping.

It was months later that I discovered that a man named Tim Reynolds, just barely above five feet tall, single-handedly played this song and hundreds more like it. I went on to discover he is a master of the violin, sitar, drums, drum machine, bass, keyboard, electric guitar, acoustic guitar and is rumored to have been seen playing hard rock on the harp in the '80s.

Under his belt are seven independently produced solo records with four more on the way in the next year, one solo DVD, countless records in collaboration with other solo artists, six or more records in collaboration with the Dave Matthews Band, thousands of solo tour dates, thousands of Dave Matthews Band dates, thousands of Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds dates and over a hundred Dave Matthews and Friends tour dates.

Tim Reynolds though is not a member of the Dave Matthews Band nor is he signed with any record label. He lives in New Mexico with his college-aged son and elementary school-aged daughter Eura (who is featured singing on some of his records).

His solo shows are few and sporadic; those who are able to attend are changed forever. He chooses only small venues for himself, with the desire to create a reality with his emotional instrumental music that speaks volumes to themes such as politics, death, love, happiness and spirituality. He has been called by many the "Mad Scientist of the Guitar."

After being fortunate enough to step into the green room at Harper's Ferry in Boston, Mass., I was able to talk to Reynolds about his music, career, and future ventures.

Sean Corbett: Where did you learn to play, and how did you pick this instrument over any other?

Tim Reynolds: Mostly in the bedroom. It picked me. Yeah, I mean, generally that's where you...do it.

Now, I know that you're interested in all string instruments. Which one is you favorite, or is that obvious?

Well, the guitar is, because I'm, like, so familiar with it, but I like playing the sitar. I don't have one anymore, but I've had one for years. I like how I was able to flow with it. ...I usually record with drums and base (referencing a type of recording that uses a drum machine and a base sound effect).

This is the question I have wanted to ask ever since I bought my first Tim Reynolds CD years ago. How do you name your songs [that have] no vocals?

It's just some songs are like that, and some I think about. It just depends. It's really different for every song. Some are like a story in my mind, and I just relate it to what that incident feels like and writing it. You know, some are political, even though they don't have lyrics, but just my thought.

It's almost like you're speaking through your instrument, it's really something to hear. I think that's what makes you most intriguing.

That's hopefully the thing that happens ultimately. Otherwise it's not really worth [it]; it's just human error for no reason, but it's got to have something going on, you know? It's like you try to invest it with all this meaning as it were, and if you get one second of that, then it's all right.

What do you think about you, well, your name at least, being so attached to Dave Matthews?

It's very fortunate that I'm able to financially support myself enough through that, which is what I do most of the time. So it's good in that respect, you know?

And what about being introduced to people as "Dave Matthews' Collaborator" like you were tonight?

Well, it's inevitable, really, because that's what's going to pour me into big arenas, and that's why I like to take a step back from full-time big arenas. And with the tight following, you know, that's fine. I can just make the music how I want for better or for worse, and it's not that I don't appreciate people who go the other way (big arenas all the time) because that's a science and a giving that's beyond human capacity.

Your ideal gig. Would it be with Dave Matthews in a big arena? Would it be Dave and Friends? Would it be a small show like tonight where the big entrance is you walk from the bar to the stage, and instantly people start sitting around you, instead of requesting Dave Matthews songs?

The ideal gig is any of those that is just a good gig. Like tonight was an ideal gig because it was just simply a good gig. It depends on all the factors. The expression of doing a solo show, though, is just naked, so when that's really good, it's the most good. Tonight I was able to create the illusion of a band with the pre-recorded drum machine and bass. And to create that reality is just...awesome.

The ideal gig is any of those that is just a good gig. Like tonight was an ideal gig because it was just simply a good gig. It depends on all the factors. The expression of doing a solo show, though, is just naked, so when that's really good, it's the most good. Tonight I was able to create the illusion of a band with the prerecorded drum machine and bass. And to create that reality is just...awesome.

http://www.fairfieldmirror.com/news/2004/09/23/Entertainment/Tim-Reynolds.Talks.Rock.N.Roll-728216.shtml?page=1

********************************************************************************
Complete uncut interview with TR following his concert in Boston Sept '04 by Sean Corbett

For three or four years I have been fully intrigued by a man I heard on a Live Dave Matthews CD. He played an acoustic guitar song called “Stream.” I initially thought for sure that there were at least two people playing this song because the combination of strumming and finger picking together at such high speeds were jaw dropping. It was months later that I discovered that a man named Tim Reynolds, standing at only five feet tall or so, single handedly played this song and hundreds more like it. I went on to find out he is a master of the violin, sitar, drums, drum machine, bass, keyboard, electric guitar, sitar guitar, acoustic guitar and is rumored to have been seen playing hard rock on the harp in the eighties. Under his belt are seven independently produced solo records with four more on the way in the next year, one solo DVD, countless records in collaboration with other masterful solo artists, six or more records in collaboration with the Dave Matthews Band, thousands of solo tour dates, thousands of Dave Matthews Band dates, thousands of Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds dates and over a hundred Dave Matthews and Friends tour dates. Tim Reynolds is not, though, a member of the Dave Matthews Band nor is he signed with any record label. He lives in New Mexico with his college-aged son, elementary school-aged daughter Eura (who is featured singing on some of his records). He is known for his fascination with Aliens and for his commands to the crowd to read certain books he deems “awesome.” He is a free spirit with who few have the honor of meeting and conversing.

His solo shows are few and sporadic and among his tight-knit following, those who are able to attend are truly blessed and changed forever. He chooses only small venues for himself, with the desire to create a reality with his emotional, vocal-less music that speaks volumes to themes such as politics, death, love, happiness and spirituality. He has been called by many the “Mad Scientist of the Guitar” and he has also been described as being somewhat Dr. Hunter S. Thompson-esque. After being fortunate enough to step into the green room at Harper’s Ferry in Boston, MA, I can honestly say he is brilliant, sometimes misunderstood and magical.

I interviewed a contemporary musician last Sunday. He sheds a great deal of light on how this type of artist thinks and approaches the media, mainstream music, and art itself. I felt as if I was talking to Picasso at times. There are many types of intelligence in the world. One of them deals with an almost psychotic ability to convey though without words; to convey emotion without understandable images; to explain some large topic while at the same time making the topic more ambiguous. At times also, I thought I was interviewing John Lennon. His music is extremely politically charged and it reminds me of a musical version of Expressionism or Cubism being used to express emotion through art. To look at modern art and know what it means without really knowing is like listening to the music of Tim Reynolds.

Sean Corbett: “Where did you learn to play, and how-how did you pick this instrument over any other?”

Tim Reynolds: “Mostly in the bedroom. It picked me. Yeah, I mean, generally that’s where you…do it.”

SC: “Now, I know that you’re interested in all string instruments. Which one is your favorite or is that obvious?”

TR: “Well, the guitar is, because I’m like, so familiar with it. But I like playing the Sitar. I don’t have one anymore, but I had one for years. That was almost like, just ‘cause it was so…easy to get into. I like how I was able to, uh, flow with it. Not to be bothered at all, but I just never followed up with it, you know what I mean? And ah…I might get back into the violin a little bit. Just guitar now, just because it’s easy, you know? Just because I haven’t had a lot of time to fuck around alot lately you know? I usually record with drums and bass (referencing a type of recording that uses a drum machine and a bass sound effect that he manipulates and pre-records to accompany his live guitar performance).”

SC: “This is the question I have wanted to ask ever since I bought my first Tim Reynolds CD years ago. How do you name your songs that have no vocals? For example, tonight you introduced an acoustic song as being about letting go of death. Hearing that explanation of the song Letting Go was like getting punched in the face. It finally made sense.”

TR: “It’s just some songs are like that and some I think about it, you know? It just depends. It’s really different for every song. Some are like a story in my mind, and I just relate it to what that incident feels like and writing it. (Burp) Excuse me. You know, some are political even though they don’t have lyrics, but just my thought.”

SC: “It’s almost like you’re speaking through your instrument, it’s really something to hear. I think that’s what makes you most intriguing.”

TR: (Bowing) “Well, that’s hopefully the thing that happens ultimately. Otherwise it’s not really worth…it’s just human error for no reason. But it’s got to have something going on, you know? It’s like you try to invest it with all this meaning as it were, and if you get one second of that, then its all right. You’ve done every thing up to that that hasn’t done that and its totally worth it, you know?”

SC: “I still can’t get over that “Letting Go” song tonight, the power was….Wow.”

TR: “Yeah man, it’s got that kind of Indian thing going on.” (Gestures playing guitar on one knee with tongue out)

SC: “Yeah, I wish all Indian music looked like that.”

TR: “It does, man.” (Lights a bowl and offers it to me and the rest in the room. One man takes it.) “PETER!! Join me in Satan worship!” (loud laughter) “Sorry, you were saying?”

SC: “Oh, nothing…(speaking into the microphone) that was tobacco!”

TR: “Who cares man, it’s a free country! Or it was…It WILL be damnit!”

SC: “We’ll get to that in a bit. But now, what do you think about you, well, your name at least, being so attached to “Dave Matthews.”

TR: “Well, you know. It’s very fortunate that I’m able to financially support myself enough through that. Which is what I do most of the time, you know? So, it’s good in that respect, you know?”

SC: “Do you feel like it holds you back?”

TR: “It doesn’t hold me back…but it might hold people’s perceptions back in the larger scheme of things. But that’s because if you want people to think something about you in the larger scheme of things, then you have to make a serious effort. Because it’s all about Big Media. And I just assume not even go into that Big Dipper. It’s like mainstream politics man, really. For example, I really like working with [Democratic Presidential Candidate] Dennis Kucinich because I know him, and I know exactly what he thinks, I’ve been with him, I’ve hung out with him, but he did not exactly succeed in the larger scheme of things, which is fine. But I can’t really back anybody I don’t know, I realize now. But I can him, so it’s the same thing with music and me. In the bigger picture of things, some people are able to flow with [mainstream music and politics] and there’s no compromise, because they’re just able to flow with that. And I cant flow with it because all the idea of making it into an economic, which is the business side of music, which is good up to a certain point, but then it just goes into ‘eww whaaaa’ you know. And I’m just not down with that.”

SC: “So have you been offered record deals from big labels?”

TR: “For a while, but I just realized it was just…too much work.” (Laughter) “I just can’t deal with it man. The things I was offered I just couldn’t deal with it. They were like…whaaaa?”

SC: I’ve heard it was like what Santana does. Plays guitar, other people do the rest.”

TR: “No man, it wasn’t even that cool. The only thing I was ever offered, seriously was doing like some world beat, new age acoustic…thing. Guest vocalist... ‘Guess who?!!’ I just said, you know…at that time I was just into rocking! I could play acoustic music until my eyeballs popped out, but Im not going to play new age.”

SC: “So are you saying you are not like Yanni? And for all this time…”

TR: “Sorry man. You know, for that kind of stuff, some people just go ‘gaga’ over that. That’s ultimately what music is supposed to do. And you know what? We’re all just different cells. Like different grass and different weeds and different plants absorb the sunlight in different ways. People absorb the light of reality in different ways. And how each individual has their own religion and their own thing, so… And the bigger I would get after a certain point, I’d have to think about what other people think, before I do my thing.”

SC: “So it’s like creative freedom, it’s as simple as that.”

TR: “As well as destructive freedom too, really. (Sarcastically scratches chin) Because you have destroy in order to create.”

SC: “And what about being introduced to people as ‘Dave Matthews Collaborator’ like you were tonight?”

TR: “Well, it’s inevitable, really because that’s what’s going to pour me into big arenas. And that’s why I like to take a step back from full time big arenas. And with the tight following…you know… that’s fine. And I can just make the music how I want for better or for worse. And it’s not that I don’t appreciate people who go the other way (big arenas all the time), because that’s a science and a giving that’s beyond human capacity. And I’m sort of becoming anal about my music too, sort of a control freak at this point. It wasn’t always that way though. The more I’ve learned to make the parts happen the way I hear them in my mind, the more I’ve gotten into the control aspect of it. And I know what ‘they’ want, but I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to make ‘ahh’s and ‘ooo’s in the chorus of my songs. I don’t want to do that. Hell, I don’t even want choruses in all my songs. I don’t even want vocals on every song. I just realize that the kind of art and the kind of music that I like is the kind that you don’t understand because that’s pushing forward, you know? And after doing a bunch of shitty albums that you really try to do something with, and then you put on layer after layer and then finally break through and you’re not afraid and you say, ‘wow, I like it here.’ It’s like psychedelic experiments really (laughter). But other people like to do things that are more apparent. I like to drop into the dream world man, I like it there.”

SC: “So what are your next projects?”

TR: “Well, I’ve got this album that’s coming out now, you see?("Parallel Universe") And that’s done, and then I got this other album that’s coming out maybe by the end of the year? It depends how busy I am really. But it’s more like a spacey meditative…it’s all about droning out. It’s not healing music because I don’t want to make it sound like it’s more important than it really is. But its very really about touching soft and the whole album is one thing like that, while most of my other albums are a mix of things. And it’s all done; I did it while I was mixing my other album. We’d be like, God, let’s take a break and we’d be sort of like… (deep droning noise)…and it’s going to be real nice man. It’s really down. And then I’ve got this metal album and then another acoustic album. But I kind of have to be in the right headspace to continue. And it takes a real soft relationship with the instrument. But with machines and rock and roll, it’s based in drums and I can do that man, that’s easy. But the acoustic thing, it’s more like you want it to be coming from a feeling and more like you want it to be true to how you felt when you wrote it. You don’t want to touch that stuff unless you’re in that feeling or else you don’t give it the time it needs to be a cell. SO I just have to be in the studio for like six months. But I’ve been in the studio for the last year like every week. Because I really got into a groove. You know, like The Beatles, they quit doing live gigs because they got into a groove. And what they did, you know…like…fuck!”

SC: “Did I hear about maybe an independent film?”

TR: “Not that I know of man. But there’s always the possibility. No, you know? I’m filming it right now, as we speak man! I’m continuously shooting my movie/book. Yeah man, that’s the [Hunter] Thompson in me. Just at least in spirit, I’m telling you.”

SC: “Would you say that you have the dream life? You do what you love, you get paid, you aren’t held back by anything.”

TR: “Compared to most people in the world, sure. Yeah I mean really I would never complain at all. I mean, I’m in New Mexico, near Heaven. Pretty much in the sky. And it’s also littered with plutonium, and like, most of the nuclear weapons in the world. Like a third of the nuclear weapons in the world are in our state, like in Albuquerque. And that inspires us to find a way to get rid of that shit in New Mexico, the most beautiful place in the world, man. I mean, what’s it doing there?! In this awesome place…there’s no break in history there man. There’s cities there that go back thousands of years that are still functioning as a whole. Places are built off of solar and lunar trajectories, as it were, it is the most non-modern place in the world…and I mean that in a beautiful way. And then there’s all this modern anti-life shit everywhere. It’s wrong man.”

SC: “So, what do you think about Christopher Columbus Day?”

TR: This is what I think and I can say it really briefly. A shirt on a Native American in New Mexico says, ‘Fighting Terrorism Since 1492.’ Christopher Columbus was a fuckin… ‘in the name of Christ let’s slaughter these poor…dark people.’ It’s just disgusting. He didn’t discover American, the people who were already here did. It’s that simple. No I think it’s just a bunch of shit. Just like all the usual propaganda we’re fed, to make us feel like we’re all powerful, so is anyone who has to do with this country. And the only way the others get a day or a month, is just a tourist thing out of pity for the lesser man. That’s what I think of Christopher Columbus, bullocks to him.”

SC: “I was watching the, um, VH1 Story Tellers the other day…and…(shreak of terror coming from Tim Reynolds)…sorry, but what I was saying was that I liked the long hair.”

TR: “Oh yeah man, well me too. But it’s just what happened was I was sitting in front of a judge in Tennessee and I had long hair I just said to myself…this is not the look. I’m just getting nowhere…right now. So now I’m like in the earlier seventies, progressive rock phase, when everyone decided to cut their hair.”

SC: “Do you have any pre-show rituals?”

TR: (with bowl in hand) “You’re lookin’ at it. Pineal expansion, my brother.”

SC: “Your ideal gig. Would it be with Dave Matthews in a big arena? Would it be Dave and Friends, would it be a small show like tonight where the big entrance is you walk from the bar to the stage and instantly people start sitting around you cross legged instead of requesting Dave Matthews Songs?”

TR: “The ideal gig is any of those that is just a good gig. Like tonight was an ideal gig because it was just simply a good gig. It depends on all the factors. The expression of doing a solo show, though, is just naked, so when that’s really good, it’s the most good. Tonight I was able to create the illusion of a band with the pre-recorded drum machine and bass. And to create that reality is just…awesome. It’s obviously not like having a real band of humans but it’s enough to put out what’s in your mind and make it happen and see how it sounds. And it’s a band to me. Where I live, and the amount of time doing other things…it’s just too much time and too much work. Because then you have rehearsals and teaching. It’s like a small army.”

SC: “I think your army would be…well….something. A couple a words on the presidential race? Advice? I am nineteen and this is my first…”

TR: “Vote. Appropriately. Looking at history, we’ve got to get rid of the Fascists. They’re going to lead us into the apocalypse. And you can work with some people, but you can’t work with animals. Before, there really wasn’t a noticeable difference between the democrats and the republicans. But now, after putting our face ass first, we need a difference. Either that or we’ll just watch our nation go to…Nazi Fourth Reich. I’m exaggerating. It’s close though; the activities are the same but the style is very much different. It’s more like sports. It’s more like, ‘hey…Buddy Christ,’ you know? It’s just packaged so…fucking…cleverly. I mean George Orwell (author of 1984 and “Shooting an Elephant”) would just go, ‘you’re fucking geniuses.’ He’s sitting in his grave reading every day going, ‘Man, I should write a new book! I don’t even have to write a new book, it’s already being written!’ We’re living a satire. We’re all going to die, too, so there’s that other dimension of all this that hopes we say, ‘it’s all relative.’ But in thirty years, we’ll look back and say, ‘wow, they did that?!’ But maybe we need the apocalypse so that our faces get pushed into the issue and we say, ‘wow, we really do need to change.’ But death is good too, because if we had to live through everything, it would just be horrible, it’s a relief to die because we don’t have to deal with it. I mean, I love my life and all, but in the great scheme of things, I shouldn’t. There are different levels of fear of death too, so because most of us are so afraid to even talk about it, this is used to brainwash us into activities that are based on the fear of death. And that kind of thinking has to change in a worldwide way, and it hasn’t and it won’t anytime soon.”

SC: “I am in a media class right now and we left off last week with the question of whether the past is better when we would communicate small scale and get the issues from talking to our neighbors in the streets or if we are moving toward something that is better, with world wide communication that makes propaganda possible, along with bias and believable lies. But also, that worldwide communication gives us everyone’s opinions on every issue and we get all the facts and it is all at our finger tips. So basically, if you could travel in time to the past or the future, which one would you choose and why?”

TR: “Well we’ve already seen that there is a great fear of the new technology that watches us in the cities, etc. But let’s imagine, and I think our responsibility is to imagine, if all of that technology, as pervasive and invasive as it is and will be, if it was actually used to benefit mankind, I think that would be thrilling. You know it would be great if everynody could be watched and nobody would get hurt. And not to judge anyone, but our human consciences are not able to (see) the beneficial without the evil. So imagine a future where all the best possibilities come to fruition. I mean, this is an idealistic thing, but I want the future to be great. But it’s going to take a long time. Hey man I got to get going, sorry if I was a little (alien noise). Tell everyone to read Cornell West’s Democracy Matters, it’s amazing. It’s thrilling.”

SC: “Thank you for your time, Tim. This was fun.”

TR: (Bows)