ugEXPLODE Musicians Mary Halvorson, Jessica Pavone, Ava Mendoza, Sandy Ewen And Damon Smith On Shredding, New York Vs. The Bay Area, And Houston's Improv and Drinking Scene

Mary Halvorson.
This week, the Voice rounded up Weasel Walter's nationwide community of avant-gardist outsiders who both record for his boldly avant-garde label ugEXPLODE and collaborate with the iconoclast-about-town. The names are staggering and represent the most intrepid of musicians working in the experimental and jazz orb today: Brooklyn guitarist Mary Halvorson, Normal Love's Jessica Pavone, Oakland avant-blues guitarist Ava Mendoza and Houston improvisers Sandy Ewen and Damon Smith. Extended versions of the Voice's chats with them follow.

Mary Halvorson

Mary Halvorson, Weasel Walter, and Peter Evans [live]

How did you meet Weasel originally and how did you wind up collaborating with him?

I met Weasel because our bands shared a bill in New York back in 2006. We immediately started talking about doing collaboration. Our first gig together was as a duo at the Stone in early 2007. I felt a very natural connection with Weasel from the very beginning. Weasel recorded the concert, and we ended up releasing it on ugEXPLODE [that was our duo record, Opulence].

Is playing with drummer Kevin Shea similar [or not] to playing with Weasel?

They are very different experiences, although both are freaks of nature and true originals!

Does Weasel's intense and manic drumming steer you into playing louder and noisier to keep up with him?

Not necessarily. We do get into loud and noisy spaces because we enjoy it, although I feel like at any second I could cut the volume, unplug my guitar and go acoustic and Weasel would be right there with me.

Were you cognizant that ugEXPLODE for many years was essentially a platform for much of Weasel's own music and the presence of women on his label was scarce?

I knew that for many years ugEXPLODE was largely a platform for Weasel and his collaborators... it had never occurred to me that the presence of women was scarce.

What's your take on a women's musician movement on ugEXPLODE?

I could be wrong, but I have a feeling it's coincidence and Weasel hadn't thought much about it. He is looking for music that is honest, challenging and extreme, and musical integrity is probably his main priority. [regardless of gender].

What is your impression on how Weasel runs ugEXPLODE compared to other labels you record for?

Weasel is hard-working, organized and honest in his management of ugEXPLODE. He is realistic, he keeps good records, makes smart decisions, and stay on top of accounting and royalties way more than most labels. I trust his decision making and appreciate his integrity. He puts out exactly what he wants to puts out... no more, no less.

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