Q&A: Dave Shuford On The Bargain Bin, Writing Urban Country Music, And His New Band Rhyton

Categories: Interviews, Rhyton

Bryan Leitgeb
Dave Shuford has been ingrained in the New York City soundscape for decades as part of the experimentalist collective mutants No Neck Blues Band, which ruled both downtown's now-departed avant-garde roost The Cooler and their Harlem practice pad the Hint House.

In recent years, less activity on the NNCK front resulted in members splintering to form or join likeminded improv shape-shifters such as Excepter, Test and White Out. But Shuford has arguably been the eclectic dynamo of the lot, exploring Greek music (in his D. Charles Speer guise) and folksy twang-heavy outlaw country (in D. Charles Speer and the Helix). Now he's emerged from a smoky haze to form Rhyton, his epically trippy, all-instrumental psychedelia-heavy jamz group with bassist Jimy SeiTang (formerly of Psychic Ills) and drummer Spencer Herbst. Rhyton's slinky low end repetition, majestic guitar soloisms and noisy avant-noodling gives cred to the much maligned jam-band term and the five massive space-jazz improv tunes on the band's eponymous LP are angelic, yet damaged freak outs.

Sound of the City spoke to Shuford to talk NNCK, the Speer and Rhyton.

Is No Neck done?

It's still going on; it's not just very active. One of the members [MICO] is Japanese, and ever since the earthquake last year she has spent a lot of time in Japan.

Is MICO okay?

Yeah, she's okay, but her family was kind of from that area. So she's just been spending time [there]. That sort of cramped our scheduling of a couple of attempted shows. That's been one factor, and then also people [in the band] just have things going on. I think we're gonna try to get a show together in the summertime. We're still active as a releasing outfit because Pat [Murano] has been mixing new material we recorded a couple of years back, when we were on a European tour. The releasing part of the project has been in good shape recently; we just gotta get some live shows together. It's been difficult because we lost our practice space a couple years ago and people are more scattered over the city so it wasn't like we had another centralized location [to practice]. Things like that are the factors that have made us take a lower profile recently.

Was that the practice space in Harlem No Neck had for many years?

Yeah, we used to call it the Hint House.

How did you guys lose the space?

Columbia University owned the land after they bought it out from the previous owners and what they're doing is making a secondary campus up in that area. They already tore down the building and it's slated to be, a park bench or something, an outdoor area is like what they're gonna transform it into. It was this eminent domain maneuver. Some of us—the artists up there and the music people—attended some of the community board meetings and we were trying to fight the situation. But Columbia had already bought everything and they could do whatever they want to at that point. I think they were gonna tear down some of the high rise housing projects and relocate people and that was a big controversy. So, we tried to fight it for a while but it was too far gone.

Besides that, everyone in No Neck seems to have tons of projects going on.

Yeah, that's another thing. People have their own various interests and projects that take up a lot of time. Rarely is it like "Oh, there's a No Neck Show and oh, we can't do it because so and so is doing something else." It's not really scheduling problems; it's when we try to do No Neck, we can't all get it ready together.

Do you live up there?

I used to live up there. I live in Brooklyn now. I didn't live at the practice space. I lived about three blocks and away and three avenues over.

How long was No Neck at the Hint House?

We had the place for probably eleven years—I think it was '98 to 2009. I lived in Harlem for ten years.

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