Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent.
Silent Movies (out now September 28, via Pi) is a gorgeous and insular detour for downtown guitar visionary Marc Ribot, a dude best known for frenetic Tzadik -endorsed aggro-jazz, wild excursions with Cuban music, atonal balloon-rubbing antics, and percussive ejaculations on any number of Tom Waits albums. The album is a meditative and sober hour of solo guitar work that ranges from gorgeous to foreboding, everything played with the meticulous unspooling of bittersweet black-and-white slapstick. Its 13 tracks were all composed for films–some released, some delayed, some imaginary–and each bulge with a slow, unraveling sense of drama. “Delancey Waltz” was composed for the as-yet-unreleased John Malkovich indie flick Drunk Boat but doesn’t require images to tell its tale, as Ribot gently strums out his sad, kinetic, intimate tumble.
Tell us about recording “Delancey Waltz.”
It was originally called “Fat Man Waltz,” meant for a scene in which a depressed bootleg liquor hustler is trying to fix his broken down Cadillac on a highway in the Midwest in the rain, or something like that. I watched the film a few times, let it ferment in my brain, then composed a few themes, then went back and played them against the film… I’ll perform the whole CD four, five, six times. Somewhere in one of those performances, a vibe will start to happen, and the heart of the record will appear. Usually at least two-thirds of the record will happen more or less in real time. That’s how I like to work–drives the poor engineers and producers crazy. Luckily, JD Foster, who produced this, is used to my idiosyncrasies by now.
How did you get involved with the film Drunk Boat? Whatever happened to that movie? Was it any good?
Its release was delayed for reasons unbeknownst to me. I wouldn’t work on a film I didn’t think had something going on.
What are the joys and annoyances of composing for film?
John Lurie, who I think knows something about this, once said, “The thing is that all music works with all film.” Which should make it very easy, except that all also music changes all film. So it’s a big responsibility, because it changes it in a completely counterintuitive ways. I played on the score of The Kids Are All Right and in the love scene, just when you would think the music should be speeding up to signify excitement, he incrementally slows it down, and it works like crazy. Carter Burwell really knows his stuff. But you probably didn’t notice that when you saw the film, because when film music works perfectly, it becomes inaudible: You think you’re seeing what you’re really hearing. Anyway, it’s an amazing process. The downsides are: One, at this point, directors expect fully executed demos which sound exactly like the finished product, which is impossible, even if you’re a MIDI genius, which I’m not. Two, directors fall in love with their temp scores, watch their edits with them a thousand times, and reject your first, and usually best, 20 ideas because they don’t sound exactly like the temp scores they can’t afford.
What’s the most memorable show you’ve played in New York City?
With one of my bands: A few months ago with Henry Grimes and Chad Taylor at Rose Live Music in Williamsburg. I’m still learn new things about improvising every time I play with that trio. As a side musician: backing up Chuck Berry at the Ritz circa 1988. He dug my blues playing–and I got to watch something like raw musical power at work. And speaking of “raw power,” too bad you said “in New York City.” Otherwise I’d have told you about backing Iggy Pop in Germany with the members of my band, Ceramic Dog. We performed “Mass Production” in an abandoned factory that once poured steel for Nazi tanks. Bet you never did that, muthafucka!
What’s your favorite place to eat in New York?
I’m lazy. I mostly go out near my apartment for a serious throwdown. I’m into Saul’s on Smith St. Saul is one of the great chefs, with none of that Manhattan pretentiousness bullshit. Right now I’m into O’Barone in Red Hook. Laid back, great food and wine list…
Marc Ribot plays the Jazz Standard in on September 28 with Jazz Passengers.
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