May 9, 2014
1. Something arbitrary, meaningless and ironic
Mostly Other People Do the Killing is a jazz quartet based in New York City, including trumpeter Peter Evans, saxophonist Jon Irabagon, bassist Moppa Elliott and drummer Kevin Shea. The group formed in 2003 and has released five albums to date, on Elliott's Hot Cup label, including an eponymous debut.
We met Moppa Elliot right after their concert in Bucharest, on a rainy night and had a very pleasant discussion, (almost) one-hour long.
Dragoș: You mentioned a few times, during your concert, about the titles of the compositions, being named after small towns of Pennsylvania. What’s up with Pennsylvania?
Moppa: People write jazz tunes and there are no words, right? Not really about anything, ever. And if they are, nobody could tell us and it doesn’t matter. So I was thinking that titles are really stupid and I didn’t want trying to think of titles, because whenever one tells us ‘this song is called..’ I don’t know…
Bogdan Scoromide: Lost in myself
Moppa: Yeah! Nobody gives a shit, at all. So I just wanted something arbitrary, meaningless and ironic. I’m from Pennsylvania and the state has lots of funny names. They have absolutely no relationship to the songs themselves.
Dragoș: Is the environment influencing you ?
Moppa: Playing live shows is what we do. The only reason to make an album is so that people who aren’t seeing you live, can hear your music. It’s impossible to play out for everybody in the world. That’s what we would like to do. So you have to make recordings. And recordings are always kind of really short snapshots, like one little frozen second, which is always kind of strange, especially with a band in these days, because I’m travelling constantly. So the album gives you a wide perspective, and so because of the albums, we make alterations with the live performances. What we did tonight, going from one song to the next song, to the next song, to the next song…you can’t really do that in the studio. And we don’t. In the studio we just play one song, from start. And some crazy things happen in the middle, but it’s the same song. Whereas when we play live, we’ll start with one song and then turning it to another song and then we’ll turning it into a bunch of shit, and then we stop. Or not. Whatever.
Laura: Do you know when to stop?
Moppa: Do I know when to stop? (laughing) I think that’s a question you can answer more than I can.
Laura: How do you know when to stop?
Moppa: I think that’s like a skill musicians developed over time. Ok, so tonight you probably heard a couple of times, where it gets to a stopping point. And sometimes we all stop and one person just keeps going. That happened on the first tune, three of us stopped and Peter just kept playing. And we have a way of playing where that happens a lot, sometimes by choice, sometimes by accident. And we all know that if the entire band drops up behind you, just do your thing, and maybe the band will come back in, or maybe it won’t, but we all have to trust each other that we’ll make accurate music decisions. And yeah, sometimes it’s a total disaster and sometimes it’s not, but if you’re not taking those risks, really cool shit doesn’t happen. Because then everything would be organized, planned and rehearsed and that sucks.
Bogdan: I can’t remember the person who said ‘you can’t improvise with an asshole, you have to like the guy’.
Moppa: It’s definitely true. And, in addition to liking the guy, there are plenty of people that we like, that don’t work in this band. Just because there’s a very specific way of playing that this band does, and there are a handful of other people that we know they can do it, return like a handful. So we have a piano player friend and a trombone player friend and another saxophone player friend and a guitar player banjo guy; those are the only people we’ve met, that understand what we are doing into a deeper level and fit in.
Bogdan: Who was the guitar player banjo guy?
Moppa: Brandon Seabrook. Check it out! He’s on the seven LP’s album we did and he has his own stuff and songs.