In March we gathered some of the most talented minds in music in Tokyo for a performance at Sound Museum Vision. Among the crew was acclaimed DJ Benji B of Deviation in London, and genre-bending instrumental band Badbadnotgood from Toronto. Benji caught up with Leland, Chester and Matty of Badbadnotgood fresh off their tour to talk about the spontaneity of their performances, recent collaborations, and the jazz solos everyone should hear.
Interview by Benji B
BADBADNOTGOOD (Matty, Chester & Leland)
Benji: We were recently brought together by Stüssy to play in this great venue, Vision Sound Museum, in Tokyo alongside myself and Judah, and No Vacancy Inn. That was a really good Tribe Gathering. A really special lineup.
Matty: Yeah that trip was sick. The show was amazing. I remember we played a good set but I was so jet-lagged I don’t have many vivid memories from that night. The trip was really special for me because it was the first time I’d played with the guys outside of Toronto for a year.
B: Where did the interpretive dance moment come from?
Leland: Alex and I started goofing around because there was a long piano solo with bass accompaniment. I don’t think it was something we planned it just happened and we thought it was a funny way to break up the set and do something a little weird.
B: Seeing you play together I notice you don’t have to look at each other, you know exactly where each other are. Musically speaking there’s a very special kind of chemistry that comes from playing with each other, that many times and that frequently. Where did you all meet? How did Badbadnotgood begin?
Chester: We met at music college and started talking in the halls and jamming in the school classrooms. It was never really a thing we put much thought or time into at first, we just had fun playing together. We were on the same page musically and kept playing more and more until it became this thing that people surprisingly were checking out online. We were super surprised with the attention we were getting and then decided to take it seriously, drop out of school and play together all time to see what would happen.
M: When we dropped out of school we made playing together like a full time job. We’d get together almost every day for eight hours to produce and write music, but also just jam.
B: As you know I’ve been a fan of you guys, both the live experience and studio recorded experience, since day one. It’s great to see the explosion not only in the size of venue, following and popularity, but also the number of gigs you’re doing in a year. Can you give us one immediate special highlight from touring?
L: A highlight was Massey Hall for me. It’s such a legendary venue in Toronto and we were able to play with Matty again, and do special arrangements with Jay Electronica, Charlotte (Day Wilson) and River Tiber.
M: We had a string quartet too and we all played really well together. For me, it’s when we did the Danforth two days in a row. There’s a lot of improvisation so shows varied day to day. I felt like the second day was way off from the first day even though its the exact same material. That’s always a risk of being improvised, right. For whatever reason the energy changes.
B: Absolutely. To be honest I think that’s a positive thing because it’s a great feeling as a ticket buyer to know that every night is different. You know it’s not going to be an identical experience.
A highlight for me was seeing you at The Fillmore in San Francisco for two reasons: one was because I had never been to The Fillmore and it’s a beyond legendary venue that everyone ever has played at. Another was just to witness a couple of thousand kids moshing to jazz. I’ve seen Onyx and Rage Against the Machine concerts, but I’ve never seen that while someone’s doing a jazz solo and they’re moshing as though it was Odd Future. It was amazing. The energy that you have on stage is pretty special.
C: We can never predict when things like that are going to happen. We played last week and everyone was crowd surfing even during these really quiet moments and it didn’t really reflect what we were doing on stage. When it happens it’s always really cool and I guess the energy is just on that night.
B: When we were in Tokyo we went to Dinner at Kaikaya by the Sea, which is a legendary sashimi spot. One of your friends put me onto some of your songwriting credits that I didn’t know about. I know you’re super modest but maybe can you reveal some of the well known songs you’ve worked on?
M: I cowrote “Deja Vu” which is a Justin Bieber Post Malone song. We’ve also worked with Mary J. Blige, and Chester played bass on “0 to 100” and co-wrote “Sex with Me” by Rihanna. We just write stuff and then it just kind of happens, it’s really cool.
C: The most recent track to come out is “After the Storm” by Kali Uchis. We recorded instrumentals with her at our studio last year. We also worked Charlotte Day Wilson on her new record, and Jerry Paper who has new work coming out soon. He’s really dope.
B: That’s incredible, and it all really makes sense now. Can you recommend a record with your favourite solo in the instrument you play for us to check out?
L: I play the saxophone. We’ve been talking about the second Miles Davis Quintet a lot recently and I’ve been really digging Wayne Shorter’s playing on that. One of my all time favorite Shorter solos is “Free For All”. It sums up his playing in a really good way. He’s so in the moment, artistic and expressive. It’s kind of one of the best jazz solos in general, and specifically for sax. Everyone should listen to it.
B: Such a strong selection man, and not an obvious one either.
L: A Love Supreme is an amazing one too, but it’s one of the first records people go to if they’re into jazz.
C: Probably one of the most amazing bass soloists that I can think of right now is Scott LaFaro, who played with the Bill Evans Trio. If you want to check out some really interactive bass playing that’s super unique check out Sunday at the Village Vanguard, and really any record with the three of them playing together. LaFaro actually died when he was 22 after only starting to play bass when he was 18, and not many people to this day can sound like him.
B: That’s Amazing. I had no idea he passed away at 22. Wow.
M: There are a lot of piano players I’m influenced by, but I don’t think there’s anyone I’ve been more influenced by than Bill Evans. Him and Herbie Hancock are the absolute top of the pyramid, if it’s hierarchical, which it isn’t. Portrait in Jazz, Sunday at the Village Vanguard, and Explorations are amazing. It’s really hard to pick a specific solo off any of those, but I think “Come Rain Come Shine” off Portrait in Jazz. It’s super inventive. He plays in a very impressionistic way and borrows a lot of harmony from Ravel, Debussy and Chopin, while also very immersed in the jazz tradition. I think he’s a really perfect player.
B: Lastly, I wanted to ask you — there’s such a big thing happening in my hometown at the moment with Jazz. It’s really popping off in London. Are you aware of some of those musicians and have you checked out any of that?
M: I remember you mentioning that and also other people telling us that London is really crazy. If you recommend some people now we’ll definitely check them out!
B: I really like Yussef Dayes and Mansur Brown. Dayes is a fantastic drummer and Brown is an incredible guitarist. There’s also, of course, Shabaka Hutchings. They’re the young guys and then the older set are still people like Tom Skinner and Dave Okumu. There’s some really amazing musicians in London right now, and it’s really great climate for your recorded music as well, so thank you for all your musical contributions!
Videography & Photography by Antosh Cimoszko