Ulrich Krieger--a professor of composition at CalArts, a renowned saxophone player of both contemporary, improvised and classical music--is a third of Metal Machine Trio, a group that's spawned of Lou Reed's 1973 album Metal Machine Music.
Their work is going to be showcased at the Project Room at the University Art Museum in Cal State Long Beach tomorrow. In a phone interview, Krieger talked about how he met Lou Reed and got involved with the Metal Machine Trio.
How Krieger and Lou Reed met: I first met Lou when I still lived in Berlin. I wanted to do an orchestral arrangement of the 1975 album Metal Machine Music, which, if you've heard it, is made up of all guitar feedback. I got in touch with Lou, and at first he said it couldn't be done, and he said no.
Then we did another piece of his that he really liked, and he said "show me that you can do it, send me a demo," and we recorded a five minute rough demo and he really loved it and gave us the go ahead. So i did the whole hour arrangement and recorded it, played it live in Berlin.
The origin of Metal Machine Trio: Throughout the years we've stayed in touch. I'd have dinner with him in New York whenever I was in town, and after a couple of years we felt like we could do something together.
After I moved to CalArts in LA, where I'm the professor of composition, it became much more feasible to play together. Lou said, I don't want to play duo, I have this electronic guy in New York and I'd like to bring him along. So he brought Sarth Calhoun in. We played sold-out shows at RedCat--we all loved it, the audience was fun, and we got great reviews. We decided to continue and released the shows as CDs. Since then we've been doing Metal Machine Trio.
On why Metal Machine Music was so inspiring: The first time I heard Metal Machine Music, it was 1979 or 1980. At the time I was preparing to study classical saxophone and I was really into contemporary classical music. I was listening to a lot of that, but at the same time I was involved in the punk scene and industrial music. Metal Machine Music, I thought, brings it all together--the richness from the world of orchestral music with the freedom and spontaneous approach of free jazz. But at the same time it's still rock. It combined all the worlds I was interested in at the same time. I always heard it as an orchestral peice on guitars, and I thought it would sound great on orchestral instruments, even though it took me 20 years to do that. Definitely there's an audience for this music now.
On the trio's process: The trio doesn't write songs, we only improvise. The only thing we do different from regular improvisations is we get together and rehearse. We play and we say this is great, this worked, this didn't work. Someone brings in an idea and we try it out. We try a lot of things out to see what fits. But we don't bring a plan on stage. We still play completely free, but because we rehearse, it changes how you play togehter.
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Occasionally we plan how to begin the show. I've been playing with Lou's song band as well,, and of course when we do that, it's songs. The material is given and it's a very different approach. In Metal Machine Trio there's no heirarchy. Everyone just brings in their backgrounds--Sarth is an electronic musician, I'm classical and rock. And Lou. All those come into the game when we play as a trio.
On the similarities between the trio and the album: The trio is an update in philosophical and aesthetic sense. We play in the spirit wherein Lou created Metal Machine Music. But the music of the trio is much broader. Metal Machine Music is monolithic. Metal Machine Trio varies all the time: it can be dark and ambient, sometimes with melodic passages and sometimes jarring and loud with noise. And it depends on the shows.
On the Long Beach installation: It's a 10-channel recording of one of our shows in New York. If you're in the installation, the sounds you hear are very much like the sounds we heard onstage. So it's like you're on stage with us--and you can walk around the stage and be in Lou's spot, or my spot or Sarth's spot and hear what we hear.
Metal Machine Trio: The Creation of the Universe at the Project Room at the University Art Museum, Cal State Long Beach, www.csulb.edu/uam. Opens Fri. Call for times. Through April 15. $4.