Chris Cochrane is a songwriter and guitarist who has been playing in New York since the 1980s .
Chris has played with Thurston Moore, Zeena Parkins, John Zorn, Marc Ribot, Eszter Balint, Mike Patton, Henry Kaiser, Andrea Centazzo, Annie Gosfield, Tim Hodgkinson, Miguel Frasconi, Richard Buckner, Davey Williams, Ladonna Smith and Jim Pugliese. He has composed music for Dennis Cooper, John Jasperse, Neil Greenberg, Nayland Blake, Ishmael Houston-Jones, Jennifer Monson and Circus Amok. He was in the bands No Safety and Curlew, and is currently in Chris Cochrane's Collapsible Shoulder with Brian Chase, Mike Duclos and Kevin Bud Jones.
Chris Cochrane / David Watson / Andrew Drury - at Soup and Sound, Brooklyn - Oct 17 2013
Which was the first and the last record you bought with your own money? What were other early records you bought?
My house was full of music growing up. My father was an avid jazz record collected and my mother liked "classical music." so there was every variant of stuff in the house, jazz, classical original cast show tunes. The first stuff I remember is Frank Sinatra, Trini Lopez, Peter Paul and Mary, then tons of other stuff because I had an older brother and sister and it was the 60's. AM radio was big, there was tons of great music on the radio all the time I remember watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan with the entire family. My parents loved the music, hated their hair. Every new Beatle record was bought within the first couple of weeks of release and brought into the house. The story is that my parents used to pop Ritalin and go into NYC and hear Charlie Parker play. My father was a huge Miles Davis fan. My mother liked Puccini and Bach.
My first recollection of buying a record was a the forty-five of Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields. There was a drug store in town where you could by 45s and lps, a very eclectic and un predictable selection. I would save and buy stuff as often as I could. That day I hit my head on a curb while playing running bases. I went home after that and listened to the single over and over again.
My parents divorced early and my father moved into Manhattan, we often went to museums and concerts. He decided to take us to a rock concert to do something different. It was Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention at Town Hall. My brother and I had crew cuts and were in suits and my sister wore her Mary Janes. I remember being very confused and falling in and out of sleep. I wish there was a picture.
Today is a composition by George Cartwright and Paul Haines, arranged by Chris Cochrane and Zeena Parkins. Produced by Tom Cora
My mother said one of the most sublime moments for her was hearing and watching Jimi Hendrix in the Woodstock film play the Star Spangled Banner. She loved Wooden Ships by Crosby, Stills and Nash and Janis Joplin's Try, to name a few. It was the beginning of FM radio, so again there was tons of music on the radio, in my house all the time
I've collect music all the time. The last music I bought was Morton Feldman's For Philip Guston. I just recently heard it performed. 4 /12 hours: Time was suspended and at times it altered how I was hearing. I'm curious about the recording as compared to hearing it live. Very different experiences.
Do you prefer play alone or in a group? What is the difference for you?
I often play in duos or ensembles. I like having different roles in different settings, rhythm guitarist only, feeding back only, improvising with any assortment of instruments and players, being the only accompanist to a singer song writer, playing in my own bands. I also have done a lot of solo gigs, mostly my songs and some improvising. With that I can remain in control mostly, with the possible exception of how the room will sound and how the audience will respond. I've improvised with many many people.
I went to college as writing major, and used to spend an exorbitant time alone making things. I gravitated to creating music because it was a collective process of making things, which seemed to make more sense, politically, socially and psychologically for me
Chris Cochrane 8/8/10 Atlanta. Things ChangeWhat guitar gear do you use?
I only have ever had one electric guitar, a 1976 Fender Stratocaster. It was modified back in the 1980's when I started doing more studio work. The original pickups were so noisy. I had them replaced with Bartolini pickups, recommend by Fred Frith, Fred Chalenor, a Portland bassist or Myles Boison, now out in the Bay area producing, engineering and playing music or someone not from NYC. The Bass pick up is configured like a Humbucker and the other two like single coil pick ups, to give me a wider range of options. My toggle switch also has five positions so you can have a combination of pickups as well as a powerboost switch to increase the power to the pickups.
I hate tech questions and conversations. I've never been one to go on and on about this guitar or that or I use this equip or that. I'm not all that interested. In that, I have a MXR classical Distortion fuzz box and Boss DD-5 Delay pedal, a Analogman compressor and a Cry baby wah. I've always used compressors; I tend to burn through them. I loved the old MXR compressors. For a couple of years I was using a Mooger Frooger Ring Modulator version until I broke it. I have put knives and other objects through the strings, I have used a bow, thrown things at the guitar. At home and most local gigs I use an 70's Fender Princeton which has been re-configured to hold a 13 inch speaker and some old Russian Tubes.
In college I really began to explore, the guitar as a sound source, not just something to only to play chords or notes on. I did this with Doug Henderson, who currently lives in Berlin and creates Sound Art.
THE CHUTNEYS open the Xperimental Love Festival at ROULETTE in Brooklyn on Valentine's Day 2012.
Fast Forward, Gelsey Bell and Chris Cochrane.
Which work of your own are you most surprised by, and why?
I recently completed a three year tour of a full cast version of THEM*accompanying nine dancers along with Ishmael Houston-Jones and Dennis Cooper. in New York (American Realness); the Netherlands (Springdanse); Paris (Teenage Hallucination Festival); Berlin (Tanz Festival); and Pointers, France.
In 1985, as many of our friends and colleagues were dying of HIV/AIDS--still a new phenomenon at the time--we created a performance piece investigating how men interact with men. THEM combines Ishmael's dancing, Dennis's words, and my own original music into a work of bracing, collaborative art. The lives of our friends and community--the loss of their lives--grew to become part of the piece.
On No by Doug Seidel and C.C.,
No Safety who at that time was Tim Spelios, Ann Rupel, Doug Seidel, Zeena Parkins and C.C.
THEM was created in 1985 as a collaboration of Ishmael Houston-Jones, Dennis Cooper and myself. Who know when we made it then, that it would be re-mounted in 2010 and have a whole new live to a whole new generation.
In the original piece I played live along with some backing tracks that were recorded and played back on relatively low fi cassettes. In the most recent version 2010-13. I re-recorded the backing tracks using the cassettes as source material, but also adding layers of guitars, bass, drums, bells and the like.
I felt like this piece was an inspiring collaboration between Dennis, Ish and I and the dancers. The piece was about personal interactions, mortality and memory. The work transcended all those things and became about something else as well. I also got to play in large halls through quite large PA's, which is not always that common for me. I also got to play loud, which I like to do. It could have been louder though.
Thirst is by a band called the Same which is compromised of Ruth Peyser, Evan Gallagher, Paul Hoskin and C.C.
Quite recently I played some compositions of the composer and great pianist, Richard Carrick and they were very quiet. That was lovely and inspiring as well.
Besides that I am often surprised that I can play guitar as well as I do and know so little theory etc...I don't practice as much as I could or should or whatever. I only practice for specific projects that are coming up. I could and can always learn more and am constantly doing so. Having a beginner's mind is always so important. I'm surprised about how large the palette of sounds I have and also the variety of musics I can fit into and or play
Ishmael Houston-Jones, Chris Cochrane, and Dennis Cooper perform THEM at PS 122's Old School Benefit.
Why do you pick up and or play guitar?
...to be more present, to collaborate, to make noise, to explore sound, to get confused, to be loud, to not understand, to write songs, to deconstruct, to perform, to be less of introvert, to make statements, to have beginner's mind, to not make statements, to be background, to blend in, to surprise myself, to articulate things I do not have words for, to stay up late, to travel and to meet people, to enter into dialog...
Where are your roots? What are your influences?
...The Beatles and growing up with Motown, both of which I still listen often, well maybe I listen to a lot of Stax lately, though Motown arrangements still slay me. I learned to play music by learning Bob Dylan and the Band songs. My first group we tried to play Allman Brothers, Led Zep, Alice Cooper, Jethro Tull and Jeff Beck tunes as accurate as we could. I wasn't very good at that, so they kicked me out of that band. Influences have changed and grown over time. All the people I played have ended up being the most influential. Other influences are having lived in NYC full time since 1982, people dying of AIDS, being gay, political disillusion, my life as a Social worker, which is the vocation I have done for 15 years to make a living here.
Last Night is from the only true solo record Bath. C.C. plays all the instruments on this tune, the CD was co-produced by Marc Anthony Thompson aka the Chocolate Genius
I also think of myself as folk musician. I have lived in NYC for most of my life and identify as one of many indigenous musicians from NY. Finally and not only other influences include Wittgenstein, many of the recordings Alan Lomax did, particularly the recordings of men on Chain gangs singing and his recordings of Haiti and discovering Iggy and the Stooges at age 50, PJ Harvey's Missed, the guitar tone and it being in 11 and how it grooves etc...other influences any music by Pygmees, I find Pygmee music so of the most spiritual music I know, Public Enemy's Bring the Noise, Messiaen's Quatuor pour la fin du temps and most recently Death Grips, George Harrison's Wonderwall, his and Ravi Shankar's collaborations, ragas, Ann Rupel's tone and phrasing, Ginsberg's Kadish, and Ikue Mori, etc, lots of musics and musicians. I listen to all types of music and often find inspiration and garner influence from all that I listen to. Going to the Gospel tent at the New Orleans Jazzfest and spending a couple of days there almost exclusively changed my life. Also seeing Sun Ra a bunch in the early 80's changed how I thought about things. Hearing Henry Cow for the first time was big, hearing Chris Cutler and Fred Frith duo in 1980 or solidified for Doug and I what we were doing wasn't so outlandish or pointed us in many directions...I really could go on and on - music I hear on the street or in the subway, you know...
Crack Lobster is a song by the band Dim Sum Clip Job, who were Gordon Knauer, Laura Cromwell, Jay Brown and Robert Price. Chris Cochrane contributed some guitar on this track
Most recently it was very influential in the summer of 2012 to play as percussionist in Manhattan Samba and as a guitarist in MbiraNYC. That summer I was also listening to a lot of music from Northern and Southern India, as well as recordings of a range of Vedas. Also all the time I spent improvising with Paul Hoskin and working with Zeena Parkins was hugely impactful. Finally organizing gigs at Amica Bunker introduced me to a wide range of musicians and highlighted the importance of organizing, supporting and helping other musicians, which I'm sure has impacted the music I play, listen to and am interesting in ultimately.
Cinema performance 10.6.13. Chris Cochrane - guitar. Kevin Bud Jones - video projection, capture, and sound recording. David Linton - curator
What's the role of technique in your work: playing, production, recording, internet sharing...
I choose not to learn to read music. I can read a little, though this silly and dogmatic choice has limited to some extent what I can and can't do as projects that I can get involved with. I do have an exceptional memory and pretty good ear. I can learn quickly, though there is an Arvo Part piece, Fratres for Strings and Percussion, that am learning, that I need to read to learn so it is a gorilla to try to memorize. The obstacles I've created aren't always helpful. I wish I could spend more time in the recording studio, it's a whole other instrument that I barely know and would like to invest more energy in.
I use medium gage strings starting at 13 for the high e. I often drop my low E string from D down to A or even lower. I use a capo a lot with those drop tunings. I detune other stings also. I think of myself as rhythm guitarist. I occasionally play slide.
Chris Cochrane's Collapsible Shoulder at Rough Trade NYC 5/11/14.
Chris Cochrane - guitar, Brian Chase - drums, Mike DuClos - bass, Kevin Bud Jones - synth
What are the challenges and benefits of today's digital music scene?
The lack or very little payment for musicians and songwriters is the biggest challenge with music being so available on the Internet. Ribot with his band Ceramic Dog has a new song entitled, Masters of the Internet, which looks at this issue. Labels are less and less willing to put anything out. The broader access to a huge variety of music and the ability to be able to record very sophisticated music in one's bedroom and then put out and promote the music yourself is the plus side suppose.
Chris Cochrane (guitar) Ron Anderson (guitar) Brian Chase (drums) Michael Evans (drums)
Depict the sound you're still looking for.
...to not sound like a guitar, like a Shehnai or any saxophone after it's reed has been bit or a Sarod, or Jimi Hendrix on a very out tune version of Machine Gun from the Band of Gypsys record, John Lennon on Cambridge 1969, Steve Cropper on anything, Tim Hodgkinson's organ solo in Henry Cow's Ruins from Unrest or violin am steg or a sitar, or sound like Oren Armcharchi sometimes can, or any mid 1960's Jean Luc Godard films or any other sound I can't imagine. to sound like a drummer or saxophonist, not like a guitar.
Scott Heron + Chris Cochrane "Tender" Dixon Place 2001
Which do you translate into music from other disciplines such as theater, painting, architecture, ballet...?
I've worked a lot with choreographers which I like very very much. I find that I always learn more about music and collaboration every time I do this work. Its often inspiring and challenging work.
I often derive ideas by looking at other forms of art, reading, sitting still or anxiety etc...
What is some valuable advice that someone has given to you in the past?
To listen to the room when I am playing. To stop listening to so much other people's music, to find my own voice, when outside to listen to the most distant sound. To consider time.
Jill Burton and Chris Cochrane LIVE at the 2010 Improvisor Festival
Tell me one musical work which has provoked a change in your music. Why?
Anton Webern's Vier Stucke for Geige and Klavier op. 7. When I first heard this piece of music I listened to it endlessly. All of sudden I was hearing music that seemed to me to be more about sound than melody or rhythm. There have been so many others, yet that work was pivotal. Hearing Gagaku for the first time, Coltrane's Ascension, Bitches Brew, on and on. Cinema, in how sound is used with or against images. Bob Ostertag and Fred Frith's Voice of America in how one can improvise and besides the act of improvising weave in political content. David Wojnarowicz's readings because they were, in part about his voice disappearing and rage.
Chris Cochrane's Collapsible Shoulder at Rough Trade NYC - 511/14.
Chris - guitar, Brian Chase - drums, Mike DuClos - bass, Kevin Bud Jones - synth.
What projects are you working on now and what does the future hold?
I have a new called Collapsible Shoulder with Brian Chase, Mike Duclos and Kevin Bud Jones. The instrumentation is guitar, bass, drums, sampler and analog synth. And continued collaboration with Eszter Balint and any other musicians who path crosses with mine. As I've done for many years. I also have just completed a recording project that I've worked on for a couple of years. I am searching for label to put that out. I love this new duo I have with Kevin Bud Jones, which you have a couple of pieces here in this article, which makes me very happy
The next two gigs are with Kevin Bud Jones at Silent Barn on July 14th and with Billy Martin and Calvin Weston at the Stone July 22nd. I am setting dates for fall a tour with Collapsible Shoulder, gigs with Eszter Balint, Shelley Hirsch, Anthony Coleman, Richard Carrick, Matthew Ostrowski, Church of Betty, Sean Mehan, Jassem Hindi, Alex Holden, Stuart Popejoy and Courtney Lee Adams, to name a few.
1995 • Bath • Chris Cochrane
Chris Cochrane - Faith
1999 • Hallelujah, Anyway • Remembering Tom Cora • Compilation
Chris Cochrane - Today
1998 • Great Jewish Music • Compilation • Marc Bolen
Chris Cochrane - Rip-Off
1996 • State of the Union • Compilation
Chris Cochrane - Always Broke
1992 • A Confederacy of Dances • Compilation • Vol 1. Live Recordings from Roulette
Chris Cochrane - To Disenfranchise (Repatriation)
1990 • The Aerial: A Journal Compilation in Sound • No.2
2013 • Derek Bailey Tribute Band • Derek Bailey Tribute Band
Derek Bailey Tribute Band
Live at WKCR #4
1998 • Fabulous Drop • Curlew
Curlew - Blood Meridien
1996 • 3 Heads • Suck Pretty
Suck Pretty - All of a Sudden
1996 • Paradise • Curlew
Curlew - Postcard
1994 • Live at the Knitting Factory • No Safety
No Safety - I Turned Upside Down Into a World
1993 • Doing the Don't • The Same
The Same - Thirst
1992 • Spill •No Safety
No Safety - Summer Dress
1987 • The Whole Truth • Krackhouse
1987 • The 20th Anniversary Compilation of the Summer of Love • 1987-1967
No Safety - I Sleep
2013 • and it was alright • Chris Cochrane / Kevin Bud Jones
Kevin Bud Jones & Chris Cochrane
Bud and Chris
2011 • THEM • Chris Cochrane / Dennis Cooper / Ishmael Houston-Jones
1998 • Weird Little Boy • Chris Cochrane /John Zorn/ Mike Patton/Willie Winant/Trey Spruance
Weird Little Boy
1990 • Exquisite Corpse •From PS122
1990 • Bends • Third Person
as Side Musician
2004 • Mud • Eszter Balint
Here We Are
1999 • Flicker • Eszter Balint
1999 • The Opium War • Zeena Parkins / Ana Maria Simo
1998 • Box of Bongwater • Bongwater
1998 • Since • Richard Buckner
1997 • Harmolodic Jeopardy • Dim Sum Clip Job
Dim Sum Clip Job
1995 • Ursa's Door • Zeena Parkins
1994 • Dot • George Cartwright
1991 • Differently Desperate • The Hat Shoes
The Hat Shoes
1990 • Real Estate: New Music from New York • Compilation
1989 • Ancient Past and the Ancient Future are Both Seconds Away • Sue Ann Harkey
Photos Anna van Kooijl