LA Excursion: BT, Album Leaf, Devo, Heede

I’m heading back from LA today after gathering some great interviews. After several false starts, cancellations and venue movements, I interviewed BT. It’s interesting that in the dance and film music worlds, BT is very well known, but outside of that, people seem only vaguely aware of him. His recent music has been extremely impressionistic and ambient and This Binary Universe seems to bridge the divide between ambient music and progressive rock and could be the Tubular Bells of the ’00s.
This Binary Universe BT is working at both the technological and emotional end of music (hence the name of an earlier CD, Emotional Technology). He designs many of his own instruments and programs and can get teary-eyed recalling a live performance or wax giddy when talking about his “bent circuits” essentially broken electronic toys like Furbies that he wires up and plays.
An hour after BT, I was in Mutato Muzika interviewing Mark Mothersbaugh, the frontman of Devo. It’s been 30 years since I saw him perform at the Hot Club in Philadelphia but he still has vivid memories of that gig. We talked mostly about his soundtracks for shows like Rugrats and films like The Royal Tannenbaums.
He took me through his process, played banjo-guitars and klanghorns and toured Mutato Muzika, his retro-futuristic building where he works. ALl the while, his pug, Finster, snored loudly.
The next day I drove two hours south to San Diego where I met Jimmy LaValle and his group, The Album Leaf. They played a great chilled set of music from their new CD, Into the Blue Again.
Into the Blue AgainI discovered the key to a good interview with Jimmy is to get him alone. If the band is around, he tends to play to them and things get a bit jocular and superficial. But on his own, he had a lot to say.
Back to LA on Sunday and an interview with Fritz Heede. We first discovered Fritz when he played with Suzanne Teng’s Mystic Journey group in an Echoes Living Room Concert a few years ago. He almost shyly handed us a CD of his album Illuminated Manuscripts and said there might be something on there we’d like.
Illuminated ManuscriptsJeff and I listened to it on our way to our next session with Donna DeLory and were blown away by it. It became a CD of the Month, even though it was already a year old. Fritz has shaved his head since then, but is still making great music for a new video by John Banks, Ritual Path. Fritz took me into his recording process and also gave me a glimpse of his next project with Yes singer, Jon Anderson.
That night, I got together with synthesist Vic Henneghan and I caught Massive Attack at the Hollywood Bowl featuring the resurrection of Elizabeth Fraser.

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