MICHAEL EVANS INTERVIEWS THE GREATS
Interview #1, David Grollman. David Grollman is a percussionist from NYC who performs freely improvised music. He performs in art galleries, tiki bars, and venues of curious ambience made more curious by his mongrel sounds. David bows, scrapes, blows, slaps, rubs, caresses, abuses, and generally tests the limits of his instrument. Anything is game. Artist, instrument, audience, and environment become ambiguous terms, conspiring in a theatrical exploration of chance dynamics and serendipitous exchanges.
For a number of years now you, Andy Baas and myself have been involved together recording CDs and performing live (too infrequently!) in the NYC sound exploration trio Ghosts Of The Holy Ghost Spermic Brotherhood (GOTHgsb). I have gotten to experience close-up and first hand how you create and navigate assembling various sounds and silences. For those unfamiliar to the GOTHgsb trio, Andy plays curved soprano, various ethnic reeds and electronics, David plays acoustic-snare drum and objects and I play amplified-snare drum and objects. What is your cognitive thought process going on when you’re performing freely improvised music that is in the moment?
Not thinking. That is what I strive for. Trying to completely clear my thoughts and inner voices. Becoming an animal. Working off of instinct. When I took martial arts as a kid I was taught once I had the techniques down to look at someones hips when ﬁghting. Avoid the face because expressions can fool you. From the hips you see the kicks and punches coming. I would just focus on the movements and react. Letting go of everything else around me. That is how I perform. I let go of everything except the sounds around me. Focus, not thinking.
What were some of your main influences growing up?
Growing up I mined my father’s record collection before starting my own. He had a great little collection. Max Roach, Louis Bellson, Buddy Rich, Traffic, Pink Floyd. Stevie Wonder, Wagner to name a few. His tastes were all over the place. He was always listening to music. So as a kid l was surrounded with eclectic sounds always coming out of the speakers.
What projects have you been involved with recently, performing or
Other than solo shows and recordings, most recently performed with Hag: a trio of Brad Henkel (trumpet) and Sean Ali (bass). A longstanding group that has released a couple of tapes and CDs. The Quartet: a percussion quartet of Flin van Hemmen, Max Jaffe, and Carlo Costa. We just released a tape on Wee Space Tapes, my small tape label. Captain Phillips: a duo with saxophonist Sam Weinberg. We released four tapes in the last year. Sleep Talk: a duo with violinist Natalia Steinbach is one of my favorite tapes. We used recordings of Natalia’s sleep talking. Gives the music a very surreal vibe. Have released several solo tapes under the name Yerd using balloons and voice.
Please elaborate on your unique approach using friction in your work producing unique sounds with the various instruments/objects of your orchestral set up.
Rosin changed my life. Making surfaces tacky, giving resistance, made anything a sound source. That completely changed my focus. Rubbing my drum with my fingers lets me get to that place I mentioned earlier. Turning off my thoughts and becoming an animal. As an audience member once put it, it looks like I am trying to dig myself out of my grave after being buried alive. That’s kind of how it feels too. A clawing to get to the next level of sound and intensity.
Oh and for the connoisseurs of producing friction: what rosin are you using these days for your snare drum, etc?
I have a little bag full of different kinds of rosin. My favorite though, is Carlsson rosin. A Swedish bass rosin.
Please describe how you came to have such incredible balloon-playing technique.
Not sure about that, but thank you! I just love to play the balloon. It really brings out the animal. The snarls, yelping, crying, vocal, spit filled, aggressive sounds I am able to get from the latex push me to want more.