We Had Two of the City's Top Guitar Players Talk About Anything But Guitar
Shred sculpting radicals of the highest order, Mary Halvorson and Brandon Seabrook are two of Brooklyn's finest six-stringers. Both have reigned as the Voice's Best NY guitarists and the intrepid pair can often be found extracting glorious sounds from their respective instruments at DIY jazz and experimental joints like Jack, Seeds, 295 Douglass Street, Spectrum, Barbès, and Shapeshifter Lab on any given night.
Halvorson and Seabrook
Mary Halvorson and Brandon Seabrook play Roulette Friday at 8 p.m.
The New England Patriots and Tom Brady-idolizing Seabrook (dude even flies the serious Pats headband live) slings both an ax emblazoned with a sticker of D Boon and a battered banjo. He leads his own punk-jazz trio Seabrook Power Plant, does the sideman thing for smooth jazz-man Ben Allison, dishes out improvising terrorism, plays in Gerald Cleaver's Black Host and is currently prepping his first solo record.
Meanwhile, his counterpart Halvorson's sonic finger-picking mastery and skronk strum has placed her in the annals of purveyors of the avant-garde. Ingrained in Brooklyn's avant-jazz landscape, the composer leads her own trio, quartet, quintet, septet and myriad other iterations, accompanied by throngs of the most daring of of local jazz innovators including Jessica Pavone, Tomas Fujiwara, Ches Smith, Tim Berne, Weasel Walter, Peter Evans, Tom Rainey, Tony Malaby and Ingrid Laubrock--the list is endless.
But we didn't bring Halvorson and Seabrook together to chat about their influences, "the scene," their styles and geeky guitar and gear-head talk. Instead, we engaged in a full-on laugh-fest full of adulation for metal, love for Child Abuse (the band) and Mick Barr, weird-ass drunken Fire Island wedding gig tales, drag queen musicals and the Boston Celtics. The normally reserved Halvorson even comes clean, admitting she sported a shaved head for a few years while Seabrook divulges his kitties meets banjos venture. This here is some fucked up shit.
So, Friday's the gig but we're not here to delve into the minutia of that.
Brandon Seabrook: The big plan, Friday. We're going to meet around 6:30....
Mary Halvorson: I think 6. We can set up and we can get some food. It'll be a leisurely...
Seabrook: ...go through a couple of ideas, maybe?
Halvorson: Yeah! I just wrote a second idea...
Seabrook: Oh, cool. We can do it there [at Roulette[, right?
Halvorson: We can probably just do it there. We can probably get together another time.
Seabrook: We can, if you want.
Halvorson: We'll talk this week and figure it out. But we can't talk about that right now...
Yeah, enough guitar talk.
Seabrook: We're gonna play through big amps.
Seabrook? Really big amps.
Shit. Are we allowed to talk about amps?
Seabrook: Uh, no. Forget it. No.
Wait. Marshall amps, like stacks of them?
Halvorson: Fenders through the PA. We'll blast!
Seabrook: Some blasting might happen.
Halvorson: Roulette is such a big space and to have contrast and to be able to fill that space with sound.
Seabrook: It's big.
Halvorson: I like Roulette a lot. And I can walk there which is really nice.
Seabrook: Which street are you on?
I can put where you live in the article.
Halvorson: Totally. Just tell people to drop by.
Seabrook: For lessons.
Brandon, you were saying you went to see Behold The Arctopus the other night at The Acheron.
Halvorson: (to Seabrook) You did? I love Behold The Arctopus!
Seabrook: Weasel (Walter) was kinda quiet that night. Colin (Marston) was talking more. Weasel wasn't really saying anything. Usually, he gets up and says a lot of stuff.
Mary, you like Arctopus? Are you into a lot of tech-metal?
Seabrook: It takes them years (to write songs).
Halvorson: I know. They work through all the music. Colin is amazing.
Seabrook: Colin said they'll do one bar. Then after that, they'll add another bar and add another bar.
Halvorson: So they write together?
Seabrook: I think they write separately but Colin plays it into his computer, sorta writes it out and then they learn it.
Mary, so you're into Dysrhythmia and other metal stuff? You're coming out of the black metal, doom metal, tech-metal closet?
Seabrook: [Laughs] Mary has the metal records and the t-shirts in the closet!
Halvorson: It's different because I didn't grow up with it; what I know about it I learned later but I love it and appreciate it. The reason I don't say I'm a huge metal-head is because I didn't grow up so I feel it's not as legit [laughs]. But I really like it.
What about Mick Barr? Have any of you played with him?
Seabrook: I was supposed to do a duo with him.
Halvorson: I've been a fan for a long time. I still remember the first time I heard him. It was at some multi-band bill thing that was happening and I didn't know who he was--this was like 2003 or something, 2004. I just wandered in and he's got this hooded sweatshirt on. Mick was just shredding this crazy stuff. I was like "Who the hell is this?" I couldn't believe this was happening.
Brandon, you have a solo record in the works that you recorded at Menegroth with Colin. Mary, what about your solo project? Will it shred like Barr?
Halvorson: It's going to be pretty different than that. I'm going to play tunes.
Halvorson: Not just standards but also friend's tunes songs. I'll then just do solo guitar arrangements of them. That's kind of my idea but I have a lot of work to do before I am ready to pull it off.
What about Child Abuse? They opened for Behold, right?
Halvorson: I played a bunch of straight ahead jazz gigs with Tim Dahl on Fire Island. So funny.
Seabrook: I think I saw a photo. Was Weasel (Walter) in that, too?
Halvorson: Weasel played a wedding with us on Fire Island--just picturing that is hilarious. It was a wedding band with this keyboard player Paul Johnson from Long Island, me, Tim Dahl on upright and Weasel on drums. I don't think there is anything documented of the gig but we were playing outside, at the beach.
What did you play?
Halvorson: We played tunes and we played standards. But there was a couple of songs we had to learn, like some Stevie Wonder song and something else and we had to play those for the wedding. I remember there was somebody at the wedding, a guest who was a huge fan of Weasel and the Flying Luttenbachers. It was just so weird.