Two of Jacksonville's most talented interesting people in one place. Shelton Hull local jazz enthusiast and writer interviews the mischievous, talented, elusive trickster Chris Spohn about music, life and his new Bossa Nova project with Christopher Byron Phillips.
Shelton Hull: "Q"
Chris Spohns name may often conjures thoughts of capes and speedos, fireworks and feedback, but the longtime noise-maker has carved out quite the diverse skill-set. A wily veteran of the music scene, Spohn has maintained a fascination with eastern rhythms and harmonies, while last years Sing Along with Chris Spohn was a sparkly little gem of acoustic folk. And now he comes forth with a Bossa Nova project, which sounds almost like a rib. Happily it is not. Newly-opened, the Sinclair (formerly the legendary Voodoo Lounge) hosts Chris Spohn & Chris Phillips Bossa Nova!!! on Saturday, September 12, in their second gig after debuting at TSI during the August Artwalk. Erzuile opens. Spohn makes an easy subject; he knows exactly what he wants to say, and phrases with an aerodynamic economy almost musical in itself:
Chris Spohn: "A". (Photo by Liam)
Q: What are you calling the project?
A: We are calling the project Chris Spohn & Chris Phillips Bossa Nova!!!. We are a duet. Chris Phillips and I have been friends/musical collaborators for over ten years. We are also founding members of Gothic and Crack Rock Asteroids in the 90s. He is a full time music instructor as well as a multi instrumentalist in many musical projects of his own right.
Q: Are you doing original material, covers, or a mixture of both?
A: We are doing mostly original Bossa Nova songs as well as a few Soft Psych numbers and few unexpected covers in this style. We will also feature some electric guitar as well as sitar in these numbers,which will surely be highlights of our set. This is a fifty-fifty split of Chris and my original material. A spontaneous endeavor that some how magically arose.
Q: How does your approach to Bossa Nova differ from the stuff you are more commonly associated with (Noise/Acoustic)?
A: We dont approach it any differently at all. Im not a Folk or Noise or whatever artist, simply an artist of any and all possible styles. Its whatever the universe wants really. Being a disciple of John Cage/Al Hanson etc. It all still follows the Happening/Fluxist principals. The only difference is we are forced to work much harder on this project to achieve the desired result of our original proposals and propositions for this particular endeavor.
Q: How long has this kind of music appealed to you? Who exposed to you this stuff, and how did you first like it?
A: We are disciples of all musical forms. Both sharing a mutual admiration for the Brazilian style for many many years. This covers the traditional Jobim/Gilberto styles as well as the later Tropicalia movement i.e. Ben/Veloso/Mutantes etc.
Q: In what ways is the Bossa Nova stuff consistent with what youve been doing before? Is it in any way related to the kind of stuff you were doing as part of Tropic of Cancer, or previous experiments with Eastern sounds and rhythms, like Percussion Psychdelia, or Futuristic Sounds of Chris Spohn?
A: Many of the Experimental/Noise artists have musical talent and ability beyond the publics common perception. This should be a trend soon in Jacksonville with many artists coming out with surprises and new bags of tricks. I personally believe in the evolution of the artist and this is a showcase of our evolution and ability to blow minds in a whole new genre. At some point it is sure to become something else as the style evolves. We dont plan to play this set/show more then a few times before this evolution is inevitable. I have also contributed original Bossa-type numbers into Tropic of Cancer and Acid Magick.
Spohn. In a vintage Spohn moment.
Q: What kind of comments did you get after the first show?
A: We played our first show at TSI to rave reviews. Everyone loved it, but we knew it could be better. This was the inspiration to do the Sinclair show. We envisioned a high class production in a classy establishment. The Sinclair was perfect. Dress to impress, emulating the 60s Bossa scene, champagne toast, long stem roses for the ladies, a first class act. Its always important to set the bar high. It challenges you, as well as the future artists to come. This has always been a top idea at the forefront of all productions I have concived. That is the artist/intellectual aspect behind all my work.
Q: Do you have any other shows lined up for Sept-October yet?
A: As for other shows, its Sinclair Sept 12th, then retreat and analysis to further better our best, and the best is yet to come!
Check out Shelton's blog at http://sheltonhull.wordpress.com/author/sheltonhull/