If asked to name two formative musicians who’ve opened the floodgates for noise and experimental music today, you would be hard-pressed to come up with two better entries than Bill Orcutt and Chris Corsano. Free-form guitarist Orcutt brought his avant-garde din to the Magic City in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s as part of his pioneering noise-rock band Harry Pussy. With the exception of a brief nonmusical respite, he continues to push the bar with solo and collaborative output.
Orcutt's counterpart, Corsano, has banged out forceful rhythms and clattering swaths of percussion with esteemed peers like Nels Cline, Kim Gordon, Six Organs of Admittance, and many others. The two teamed up, first as a trio with Alan Bishop in 2011, and then as a duo, releasing their LP The Raw and the Cooked in 2013.
"Bill and I didn't meet until about 2011 when we played as a trio with Alan Bishop," Corsano remembers. "Clearly I'd been a fan since the Harry Pussy days. When A New Way to Pay Old Debts [Orcutt’s first solo record] came out, I heard it and loved it, like anybody in their right mind would."
Thankfully, Corsano and Orcutt don't have any plans of slowing down in the future. The two recorded a new album in September and are currently in the process of mixing it now. They hope to have it ready some time in early 2016. The mention of the new album jolts Corsano into perspective. "I should be mixing right now," he jokes.
But before that, the dup bring their unique improvisational voices to Churchill’s on December 27. We caught up with these two talented innovators to talk past, present, and future.
Miami New Times: You both play an experimental branch of improvised music, with footholds in jazz, avant-garde composition, metal, and noise, to name a few. What acts or sounds were formative for both of you?
Chris Corsano: Tons and tons. Records by Ornette Coleman, Captain Beefheart, Albert Ayler, John Coltrane, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Ascension, Linda & Sonny Sharrock, Diamanda Galas, John Cage, etc. And maybe more importantly, live shows.
Bill Orcutt: As far as records, as a teenager I loved Hendrix, Beefheart & the Velvets, then the blues, Muddy Waters, and punk, Voidoids and the Ramones. I discovered John Coltrane from reading Lester Bangs’ articles and started listening to jazz. But the biggest influence on my playing was being in a band with Adris [Hoyos, drummer for Orcutt’s band Harry Pussy] and having to respond to what she was doing on the drums.
Corsano: I had seen Harry Pussy a coupl times in 1996, maybe. Seeing Adris Hoyos play drums really raised the bar for me. To see somebody put that much energy into playing and then hear what came out of that energy...wow. At the time, I think I was about 20 or 21 years old and probably struggling with how to reconcile my love of so-called "free jazz" drumming with the fact that I don't have a jazz background. I didn't want to be some young kid doing a pantomime of revolutionary music that had come 30 years before me. Those clichés of needing to "find your own voice" really are true, but how to go about doing that was the mystery. Adris was not coming from jazz — but her playing, to me at least, had that same sense of wild abandon in service of the song — and not just for show or for its own sake — that I found so intoxicating in free jazz. But when you're 21 and you hear somebody blow the doors off the joint, it sure as hell helps show the way.
You two could be called a supergroup of sorts, both having storied careers in music, from Bill being in Harry Pussy to Chris collaborating with Thurston Moore, Jandek, or (personal favorite) Jim O'Rourke. Can you describe how you knew each other, and how you began collaborating?
Corsano: Bill and I didn't meet until about 2011 when we played as a trio with Alan Bishop. Clearly I'd been a fan since the Harry Pussy days. When A New Way to Pay Old Debts [Orcutt’s first solo record] came out, I heard it and loved it, like anybody in their right mind would. Hearing Bill solo kind of made me realize how part of what had blown me away so much about Adris' drumming wasn't just about her drumming, but also about Bill's guitar playing, and how the two were perfectly matched. The whole was greater than the sum of two already awesome parts. Lee Etherington from the Tusk Festival in Newcastle, England, asked if I'd be up for that trio with Bill and Alan. Kind of equal parts intimidating and inspiring to play with people when you've been listening to their records for years, but I guess that's kind of what I do — play with people who are better than me and try to make music out of me trying to keep up with them.
You released an LP together in 2013, The Raw and the Cooked. How do you approach the act of recording versus performing live, and what do you think are the strengths of each medium?
Orcutt: Probably there's a bit more urgency live. The Raw and the Cooked is actually a live LP, from a series of shows Chris and I did in 2012, so we didn't have to deal with the difference between live and studio for that particular release. We have been doing some studio recording recently, though, and are feeling our way through some of the issues. Right now in the studio, we haven't really diverged from our live show. I think recording in a studio is just a way to get a better sounding representation of what we do in front of an audience.
Is it necessary to you that your recorded output match people's idea of what an Orcutt/Corsano show could feasibly sound like, or do you allow yourselves certain freedoms in the studio?
Corsano: A little of both? Or maybe I'm as guilty as everybody else of having a preconceived notion of what Orcutt/Corsano could sound like. Part of me wants to get the best version of that on record. And another part of me wants to play against those expectations and surprise everybody somehow.
Do you have any memories or associations with the Miami music scene and Churchill's Pub in particular? Bill obviously grew up around here, but I'm also curious to see what Chris thinks about the city.
Corsano: I've only been to Miami once before in November 2013. You could not ask for a better Miami host than Rat Bastard. And Churchill's is amazing. I went there a few nights while I was in town and saw a ton of bands — some from out of town, but most local. I gotta say, the diversity of age, ethnicity, gender, genre, etc — was unlike anything I've seen in any other town I've been to and I think the music was stronger for it.
Orcutt: The first time I went to Churchill’s was 1985 or ‘86. I saw a Broken Talent/Prom Sluts show. It was much smaller then, no stage, and literally a Radio Shack PA. After that, my band Trash Monkeys played there a bunch of times. Harry Pussy played there a couple times a month. There's a permissiveness about the place that was essential if you were trying to do something different.
What does the future hold in terms of more Orcutt/Corsano collaborations? Is there another LP on the horizon?
Corsano: Yes, one that we recorded in September in San Francisco that I should be mixing right now. And the trio record with Alan Bishop. Well, a half album. It's a split LP with Thurston Moore and John Moloney for Three-Lobed's Parallelogram series.
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SHOW ME HOW
Orcutt: Yep, hopefully we'll wrap up this new record and get it out in 2016.
Bill Orcutt and Chris Corsano. 7 p.m. Tuesday, December 22, at De La Cruz Collection, 23 NE 41 St., Miami; 305-576-6112. RSVP via delacruzcollection.org.
Chris Corsano solo drumming show. 8 p.m. Wednesday, December 23, at Audiotheque, 924 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach; 305-674-8278. Admission is free.
Bill Orcutt and Chris Corsano with Silvia Kastel, Kenny Millions, Steve Bristol, Forlatt, City Medicine, and Decasyntax. 9 p.m. Sunday, December 27, at Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE 2 Ave., Miami; 305-757-1807; churchillspub.com. Admission is free.