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Questionnaire: Will Guthrie (2007)

November 2, 2010

1. Have you got any formal musical training, and what do you draw from it now?

Yes, I learnt piano as a kid, and from when I was 12 I played drums. I have different periods where I switch between trying to tap into as much of this ‘training’ as possible, and trying to forget or ignore as much of it as possible.

2. What kind of equipment/instrument do you use, and what is you relationship towards it? What do you think lies behind your choice of the equipment/instrument?

I use different sound sources for different musics, what I use depends on the music or the sound I want. I still play drums in some groups. In my solo music I often use a setup of objects and percussion, microphones and cheap electronics, and for composed things I use whatever will give me the sound I am looking for at that given time, whatever is at my disposal.

3. What is it that attracts you towards musical experimentation?

For me experimentation in music is not something that belongs only to ‘experimental music’ or ‘improvised music’, I could say I have experimented just as much in different styles such as rock, jazz, flamenco etc … I studied drums formally but it was really trying things and experimenting with sounds and rhythms, playing along with the radio etc, that I really learnt how to play. I guess a lot of the attraction with music for me has always been to try to find a different or personal way of dealing with certain structures and sounds. I am more or less the type of person that has to learn by ‘trial and error’, not just in music, in everything! So I don’t really know any other way to learn other than just trying things, stuffing up, trying again, differently, changing… etc…

6. Do you “practise” for an improvisation, and what are your general thoughts on the idea of “practising” for improvisation?
When you improvise, do you use sounds that you’ve already “tried out”, and how much room is there for actual sound experimentation?

I used to practise drums for hours everyday so I could be closer to being technically able to execute any idea that came into my head. This is still relevant for the drums, but not so much for the more electronic stuff I do. For the electronic stuff I am thinking about music all the time, about how I can arrange sound, how to deal with form and structure, so in a way this is practise. Playing live is always a balance between playing the things I already know, structures I have already thought about etc…and trying to get to the place where the unknown can happen, or sometimes I deliberately introduce random or chance elements to use sounds that I don’t know how they will turn out, this can force me into different areas…

7. How do you evaluate an improvisation? What is it, according to you, that makes one improvisation better than another?

For me it is always important to have a sense of form and structure, no matter how abstract that sense of form or structure could be … so success or failure (whatever that is!) is not as important to me as if it makes sense to me.

8. When you are recording for a release, does the awareness of being recorded influence your playing, and in what way?

There have only been very few releases (live ones) i have done where what i actually played has stayed as it was played. Usually I record sound, then work with it, so the whole concept of ‘recording live’ is not so relevant. For CDS I’m not so interested in live documents, I’d prefer it to be pretty different to what I would do live, being a different medium and all…


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