Michael Manring answers a few questions about the Attention Deficit project he recently took part in from Magna Carta Records.
How would you describe your songwriting/recording process for the album?
The best word is probably, "experimental." We decided to have fun with the concept of doing an improv-oriented record and we experimented with several different ways of working. In some cases we started with little bits of music or basic outlines of tunes, in some cases we just specified a basic mood or rhythm and a few things were totally free.
How was it working with Alex [Skolnick, guitars] and Tim [Alexander, drums]? Was there a difference from your previous encounter with them with your Thonk project?
It's a pleasure to work with Tim and Alex. I'd have to say that the Attention Deficit record was especially fun because we all got to participate and trade ideas. Thonk was fun too, but it was more a matter of getting a job done. With musicians as creative as Tim and Alex it's a pleasure to bounce ideas off each other. Especially since we come from different musical backgrounds--there's always something unexpected happening.
I notice that there's a great deal of synergy between the three of you. In a project of this type, where three musicians who are virtuous with regards to their corresponding instruments interact, there's always the worry that it becomes nothing more than simply each of the individual musicians showcasing their talents. How did you get around this problem?
Thanks! Actually, I don't think that any of us really think of ourselves as virtuosos. Not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just that we tend to see ourselves more as people who love music and try to have enough ability on our instruments to be able to say something interesting. We don't tend to sit around thinking, "what can I do that will impress everyone?" Our focus is more on making music as a group that expresses something--dark, weird, ridiculous, funky, chaotic... whatever has some meaning to us.
What has the response been like to your new album The Book of Flame?
So far, it's been great and I feel very lucky. I really enjoyed making it, but I didn't know if it would make sense to anybody. In making the music I found myself thinking about some big issues like religion, society, fashion, life and death. But I didn't want to hit people over the head with that. I wanted to make a record that people could just listen to for fun. I hope some of that comes across.
How has Magna Carta treated you with this project? Did you have complete creative freedom?
Everyone at Magna Carta was great. They gave us a tremendous amount of freedom with the music. That takes a lot of courage and I admire them for that.
What's your favourite music? Who would you cite as influences?
While we were making the Cd we brought in some music to listen to--unfortunately, I don't remember everything but I do remember listening to some Frank Zappa. We all have slightly different taste but there's a lot of overlap. I don't have a favorite genre of music; I like to listen to good music of any kind. I think that I might listen to more 20th century music than Alex or Tim: Alban Berg, Harry Partch, Morton Feldman, Gyorgy Ligeti. But you never know--they might have some of that stuff in their record collections, too!
What are your future plans and where do you see yourself in the year 2000?
I just want to keep learning and having opportunities to make interesting music. I sure hope we can do more with Attention Deficit. I think we have a lot more music in us!