Agustí Fernandez, A Portrait In Words For An Artist Of Sounds: a discussion with Ken Vandermark

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KV: You work with a number of outstanding groups, many of which utilize compositions as part of their material. How do you deal with the reality of “the road”: lack of proper rehearsal time, lack of sleep, long travel… Sometimes when a performer looks at the hours spent trying to get to the gig versus the time spent on stage, the equation can often feel pretty absurd. Is this something you just accept as “part of the job,” or do you work around these issues in other ways (finding inspiration in the work and other musicians, reading, sleeping whenever you can, etc.).

AF: As I’m getting older I’m having more problems with the vicissitudes of the road. Of course you can take an early flight, or a long ride on car, one day, but not as a rule. I need to sleep and eat properly, as a regular person. If not, my humor varies and so does my music. I’m sure you have many stories about this. Now I can’t take this anymore. Evan [Parker] says, “Sleep where you can, eat when you can”. Not for me.

And yes, usually you travel for countless hours to play a one set gig. This set is like recess when at school. The hard work is to travel. Count Basie once said to the audience, “The next two hours on stage we will play for free because we love to play, and we love you like our music, but we would like to get payed for the eighteen hours we’ve spent on the bus to get here.” This hasn’t changed.

I like to have a routine in my day, so the closer I’m to this routine the better I feel, and I think the better the music I’ll play. If not, if everything is out of place in respect to my ideal routine, I feel off-center and I’m not sure of what is going on or what I’m doing. Of course life is not always perfect and you just deal with what is in front of you, but dealing with obstacles… It’s not what I’m looking for.

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