Northern Spy: So, you’ve known Gerald [Cleaver] for a long time, I assume?
Bruce Lee Gallanter: I’ve known Gerald since he’s come to New York and I can’t tell you what year that is but, I’ve seen him play many times. In many Vision Fests and many other gigs as well and I’ve always liked his playing style.
NS: Do you remember the first time you saw him?
B: (sigh) I’d have to think about that… The first time I saw him play… maybe with William Parker, I don’t know. I’ve seen him play with William, um, I’ve probably seen him play with a half dozen different musicians. I like him because he is diverse. Every situation seems to be different, even his bands. They’re all different. Even his new band, when I see them play two sets, their sets are different. They seem to be constantly evolving.
NS: And how do those live sets compare to the album that he’s putting out… I guess it’s tomorrow.
B: I’ve only heard that album once. I liked that album. The album is more kind of focused than some of the sets that I saw but, I could tell that when they are playing those gigs live they were taking chances, working things out, letting different people solo or push in different directions. You know, it just takes a while for things to kind of come together.
NS: They played some shows here, what was it, like a year ago?
B: I’ve seen them at The Stone, I think, twice and I saw them at Cornelia Street Café.
NS: And the line-up is…
B: The line-up is great. It’s interesting that people are starting to use Brandon Seabrook because he is a really great player. He is not bound by anyone’s style. He plays banjo and he plays kind of power banjo. He has a trio record where he’s playing like lead banjo stuff and its amazing. And he also plays crazy guitar. I never know what direction he’s going to go. He is an interesting guy. Cooper-Moore is another guy who is all over the place. I see him doing different things and it always blows my mind, no matter what he’s doing.
NS: Well, each of the members has all these different projects. Is there any one in particular that stands out to you or from each of their projects?
B: I’ll tell you something. About two years ago… I’m friendly with this guitar player from Scandinavia named Raoul Bjorkenheim and we put out a CD of his on our own label with um… I curated The Stone with Manny, my partner, in December of 2006. Raoul was our friend and he was living in town for about six or seven years. He had a bunch of different bands. He used to be on ECM when he had a band called Krakatau. I think or Krakatau and he has records on Cuneiform, great guitar player. But, when he recorded at the Knitting Factory, I mean when he recorded at The Stone, he said I want this amazing rhythm section. So we picked Hamid Drake and William Parker. So, I said you can pick whoever want and I had to fly Hamid to this gig to make the gig happen. So we put the CD out with that trio and it was amazing.
And then Raul eventually left town because he wasn’t getting as many gigs. I think he’s living in Norway now and he comes back like once or twice a year. Whenever he comes back he contacts me; I try and get him a gig. He has a trio with Laswell called Blixt that has a CD out.
He was here a year ago in January, and he played a duo gig with Anders Nelson, another great guitar player, a Scandinavian guy who plays here. They played a duo and he was going to be here for two weeks and I said to him, “you know man, that duo in happening, would you like to before you go back, would you like to play in the store?” I said, “The first Monday of the month in January, there’s nobody playing here, so we could do a quick gig.” And he goes, “Yeah, I want to do that.” And then I said, “Do you want to use anyone else on the gig?” And he says, “Well let me think about it.” And he emails me back and says “We want to use a drummer, no bass player, and we want to use Gerald Cleaver.” He said, “He’s the guy.” I said, “Okay, you picked the drummer.” And we recorded it and we videotaped it and the gig was amazing.
We stopped putting CDs out in 2008 or 2010 because we ran out of money, but we had to put that one out on CD and Manny designed a cover. I made sure it sounded great. I worked really hard to make sure it flowed. I had all different people; Bob Musso did the mix. A different guy did the engineering, someone else did the mix, but it sounds amazing. It’s called Kalabalik. So that was their drummer of choice.
They only played one gig. Then, a year later, we had an anniversary gig for the store at [le] Poisson Rouge. And it was Nels Kline and a guy named Julian Ledge duo and then that trio played. That was their second gig, and they were amazing. So obviously, it was the right three people to play. Every time I put that CD on, it makes me happy. I produced this and I’m really proud of the way it came out. And, they’ll probably end up playing some other gigs somewhere because that’s what happens with Raul. Like that band he played with Hamid and William. They are now called The Stone Trio and they played a couple of gigs in NY. So, you know, I feel good about being involved in stuff like that.
Gerald makes me proud. I like that trio that he has with Craig Taborn and William. Farmers by Nature, or something like that. I think that’s the name of the trio. Two records on Fidelity. That’s a great trio, they play kind of quiet, they’re really, dynamically, really strong and I’ve seen them play a couple of times.
NS: And what about the other members in the band? Anybody else that has projects that stick out to you?
B: Well, okay, Pascal Niggenkemper, is he the bass player?
B: He’s played the store a bunch of times, solo and duo. He’s been in New York for a couple of years. I like whatever he does, he just gave me a new trio CD. He plays with, um, there’s a Dutch sax player named Joakim Baadnoorst that lived here for awhile; those guys are great. And Joakim moved back, I think he’s living in Amsterdam again. But, these guys keep turning up all over the place. You know that’s the one great thing about New York is there seems to be an unstoppable amount of musicians playing, taking chances, playing different places. A lot of them don’t play Manhattan anymore because there’s no places left to play outside of The Stone and Cornelia Street, so they’re all playing in Brooklyn. But I’ve been going to Brooklyn for the past two years to see people out there. That’s where it’s happening.
NS: Where in Brooklyn, specifically?
B: Oh, everywhere. Okay, Shape Shifter, Issue Project Room, Jack, Little Field, Douglas St., Ibeam. Who am I forgetting? Roulette, of course. I’ll go anywhere to see music. I mean, I’ve always been like that.
NS: Are there any venues, though that you prefer that has a booker that you’re just interested in his choices?
B: mmm, that’s a good question. I don’t know if any one of those places is 100 percent consistent. Shape Shifter seems to be doing good things but to me it doesn’t matter, I’ll go anywhere to see good music. So, I mean, I have friends that book Jack. My friend Kevin Wiley books Jack like one or two Mondays a month, so I go to his gigs, because we have similar taste, so I’m happy to see him do stuff, but I’ll take a chance, as long as I can get there and find it. You know, I have to depend on public transportation, I don’t have a car, so, I keep going. You know, that’s why we have gigs in the store. You know, I want to give people the opportunity to play; there’s so few adventurous places left to play in Manhattan that this place has to be kind of an oasis for good music. I mean, that’s why we have all the stuff that we have. You know, the stores keep disappearing; the bookstores, the record stores, record labels; everyone’s having problems selling music, but, you know, music continues. And the music is an inspiration for everybody.
NS: Yeah, it definitely is.
B: I like Northern Spy.
NS: You like Northern Spy?
B: I like Northern Spy, because they’re diverse and they’re unpredictable. You know, everyone on that label is not related to other people on that label, but all of it, that I’ve heard, is interesting. So, I love that Ceramic Dog CD that came out because it has a sense of humor and it rocks. Somebody was just telling me about a band called Neptune. So I listened to a promo of that CD. That was pretty interesting, too. So those guys have big ears; those guys that put the people on that label, so I give them credit and hope they continue to surprise me.
NS: Yeah, we’re working pretty hard.
B: And Haunted House. Those are my pals.
NS: Did you see them up at the Victoriaville?
B: They were pretty good, yes, but the best gigs I ever saw them play were at my old store when they first started.
NS: Oh, so back in the 90s, then.
B: Yes, exactly. They played two gigs in that store that were just over the top and it just transcended. You know, it was like having Neil Young and Crazy Horse play in my store. It just was totally rocking, powerful. I have taped of both of those gigs, I have to pull them out and find them and share them with people, because they were just…I’ve known Loren for 30 years and then Suzanne. They played at the preview store that I worked at (?) way back when, so, I always like what they do. You know, I’ve hung out with Loren, he’s great.
NS: Yeah, and he’s constantly doing something else.
B: He wore a mask at the gig at Roulette.
NS: Yes, I remember that.
B: (Laughs) It was very strange. I was surprised. I thought he was going to do it up n Victoriaville, but he didn’t do that.
NS: The mask and the Jets jersey, as well. Which confused me a little bit.
B: (laughs) Yes. He was wearing a jersey, a Jets jersey, is that what it was?
B: Yeah, that was strange. I said, “him wearing a football jersey? Loren?” Very odd.
NS: Yeah, he’s embracing the hipster culture, he’s trying to be ironic (laughs)
B: (laughs) He’s definitely being ironic. I think being himself is ironic enough. Because he’s really unlike anyone else. I mean he plays the blues in his own sort of bizarre way, you know. That band is great.
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