A Drum n Bass troupe, a brazillian band, an aspiring tabla and bansuri player, a classically trained jazz musician are just a few of the people that have gone into making Walk Skip Run Glide a possibility.
AV: Its not everyday you hear someone American using South Asian influences and instrumentation in their music. So tell us when did you guys get started with this idea?
WSRG: Well actually my little brother is adopted from Cochin, Trivandrum in the early 80’s. At the time I figured it would be best if I read up a little bit on my future brother's culture. Then for his high school graduation my family and I went to visit India and Nepal. There I had the opportunity to see Zakir Hussein. Before this I hadn’t even seen a tabla. I was so blown away by the music that I went out and got a set of tablas right away and started to play around with them. I have never been really good at them but from then on I incorporated them into everything I did.
AV: So do you yourself play the tablas on your tracks?
WSRG: While I do play the tablas, I am not very good. For the tracks that are on the album I use a live tabla player; it’s never me. I have actually worked with three different tabla players from three different cities for these tracks.
AV: Does that mean that there are no set of core members that make up Walk Skip Run Glide?
WSRG: Yea, it has been a very open development. So far I think I have had seven or eight people contribute significantly to the project. Usually it’s a matter of getting the samples from these people and then working on them. Sometimes I will request what I need from them but its usually they will give me samples to produce music from.
AV: So who are you working with right now? Who is part of the group now?
WSRG: Well mainly I am working with this guy named Terry Reid. He has been the other half of Walk Skip Run Glide in terms of the production end of things. Although, he is still in Milwaukee. The album rygu ba also has a piece by Sandhya Sanjana. I have worked with her on a number of songs. But, other than that I am looking for a tabla player out here in San Francisco and trying to get together a live show. Slowly but surely. We are also finding that we have to re-write a lot of the tunes in a way that they are actually playable. A lot of the music, especially the drum n base stuff is a bit too fast - so we are trying to ease that up a bit.
AV: So when you originally wrote the tabla tracks they were all done through sequencers?
WSRG: It was a combination of things. Mainly it was this great little program that I bought online for $35. It has a series of taals that you can use and do improvisation on also. Its called TaalTrax
AV: Well now you are releasing the new album. Rygu Ba. What does the title mean?
WSRG: It's actually Tibetan. It means journey. We searched around quite a bit before we decided on a title that we figured was appropriate for the album.
AV: Maybe its jumping the gun here. But are you working on anything else now?
WSRG: Well we have started working on the next album and for that we have taken a step back and trying to find something that is a little more groove oriented where we can have a variety of different instrumentalists play live.
AV: So have you been looking for any other instrumentalists or tabla players out in San Francisco for this album?
WSRG: Well you know there are a lot of tabla players out here and a lot of really good ones. But, most of them are really busy. So the search continues because they are in pretty heavy demand out here.
AV: Besides tabla have you considering working with sitar or some other type of instrumentalists?
WSRG: Actually we have. It's a combination of things. It's a matter of getting recording studio space and actually getting together and recording. Well one new development that exciting is the fact that I will be playing live with Sandhya - it's going to be a wedding in Phoenix. We are playing one hour each for two days.
AV: Is she also based in the US?
WSRG: Actually she is in the Netherlands.
AV: When are you performing with her?
WSRG: October 29th and 30th I believe. She usually plays with a tabla player and a cello player. I am just going to drive down and meet them in Phoenix.
AV: Wow! How did you guys connect up for this album?
WSRG: Well actually the first song I did with her was a remix for a tune that she had done. Aum is actually her song without any beats or drum n bass behind it. It's a very ambient and meditative song. So after we remixed that Sandhya and I started working together as part of the Indian Music Collective. As part of that, what she will do is every six months or so she sends out to a certain number of people about eight or night vocal tracks and then they go to town with them.
AV: Have you tried to pull together people from that collective to become part of WSRG?
WSRG: Well once again they are all over the globe. There is a guy up in Cortland named Trut has remixed songs for her, couple of guys in Germany have worked wit her - so it's a very wide reaching project.
AV: Changing topics here a bit. When you try to compose your own tracks that aren't remixes. How do you try to approach the work?
WSRG: What I usually like to do is sit down and start with the tabla. Just because the tabla samples one uses really drive the track. So we start with that and then build a beat around that and a drum track around that and then work in other aspects of it. With Sandhya's stuff it always starts out with her stuff - she is obviously the one who carries the melody.
AV: So being that Terry Reid is in Milwaukee and you in San Francisco - how do you guys put together your brains to work on a track?
WSRG: Well until very recently I used to live in Milwaukee - I am fairly new to the Bay area. He has a wonderful studio, space to record and all kinds of really nice things so we did some of the work out of there and now we just transfer files back and forth over the internet.
AV: Then, I am guessing you are starting to building up your own studio out in the Bay area.
WSRG: Yea, you kind of have to.
AV: All right, then share with us how do you have it all set up?
WSRG: Well right of the bat my studio is inexpensive, not cheap but inexpensive. I have a Korg M1 synthesizer and then an Akai S2000 - which makes up the basis of the external stuff. Then I have them hooked up to both a PC and a MAC G4.
AV: Ok changing topics here a bit. You have so many albums/tracks on mp3.com - so how did you come up which tracks to use for this most recent album?
WSRG: It was mainly listening to what went well together. I had talked to a couple of record labels so far and the first guy I spoke to runs this label called Malvado. He was very instrumental in helping figure out what to put on there. Terry also helped with that. Sometimes as the composer you get too biased and too close to the music. So it's hard for me to decide - I mean i'd put it all on there and sell it for five bucks. I just want people to hear the music.
AV: So are you thinking of signing on with Malvado then?
WSRG: Well I am not sure actually. For a little while there we were even thinking of producing it independently. But, it’s a bit cost prohibitive to do it that way. So we are still thinking about our options.
AV: Let me ask you the staple question I have asked practically everyone I have interviewed. How you respond to someone who upon hearing the words Asian Underground automatically assumes its drum n bass? What’s your reaction to that?
WSRG: Well first and foremost it turns people off - simply because some people just don’t like drum n bass. But, it’s just a matter of getting these people to listen to the albums and realize that it’s not all drum n bass. Even Badmarsh and Shri have tracks that are not at all drum n bass - and they started out mainly doing that. I mean one just has to look at Tabla Beat Science where you have aspects of Laswell's drum n bass but you also have the down tempo, dub and classical that everyone else does really well.
AV: Speaking of Tabla Beat Science - the live element of being a musician comes to mind. So what is your role in that aspect?
WSRG: Well first off I play the keyboard and I am a developing bansuri player. So in a live element, for example as for upcoming gig with Sandhya - I am probably going to end up sending them a CD of my stuff that I intend to play and then being that Sandhya is a classically trained jazz vocalist she will definitely be able to improvise on top of any music you give her. She never really has to rehearse. But, it is hard to figure out how to perform this type of music live. For example, I am working also with this Brazilian band that is doing electronic based Brazilian music and we are coming into the same problem: how do we do a live show with that music? So that’s something me and the people that I am performing with have to figure out.
AV: So, tell me more about this Brazilian group that you are working with.
WSRG: Well actually I just joined them - we have our first rehearsal soon. There is a base player, a guitarist, a vocalist and myself. I am really looking forward to it.
AV: All right those are all the questions I had - thanks a lot for your time.
WSRG: And, thank your for having me.