We spoke with Daniel Bachman about working in silhouettes, staring at an unadorned horizon, seeing a blue jay and why he doesn’t appreciate those who tell him how to express himself.
I did not study with anyone, I am self-taught, and instead of basing my work on European masters, I take my inspiration from music that is part of my environment.
How would you define “primitivism” in guitar playing? The word makes me think of early stringed instruments that gave way to the guitar and banjo, but I would think it’s also a term that could be mischaracterized. Do you see yourself as a “primitivist” guitar player?
Honestly, I wish people would just refer to me as a guitar player. I don’t see much of a difference between when I play a gig and when a classical guitar player plays a gig. We don’t use our voice; it’s typically in a concert setting, and occasionally we play long pieces. The difference I see is one of education and culture. I did not study with anyone, I am self-taught, and instead of basing my work on European masters, I take my inspiration from music that is part of my environment. We had more bluegrass than Bach, you know what I’m saying?
But to answer your question, I feel that the word “primitivism” is used by folks who I feel don’t have much imagination or interest in expansion.
Can you tell me about the point in history in which gospel, blues, country, jazz and folk seemed like they may have been indistinguishable from one another? It’s a part of music history I only know a bit about, but find fascinating. What do you take away from the blending and blurring of 20th century musical forms?
I don’t think we have made it to that point and I’m not sure we ever will. Of course, people like Don Cherry and Sandy Bull helped to blur the lines between different musical forms in the later part of the 20th century, but you have people like Rev. Frank Newsome, Jontavious Willis, Martha Spencer, Kamasi Washington and Meg Baird. They seem to be content for the time being working in worlds that predate them while simultaneously bringing them into a new light. I think people might be surprised to find how many different unique cultural traditions still exist within the United States.
Was there ever a time as a child in which you felt like you couldn’t express yourself properly and it upset you? How have your expressive abilities developed with time?
Yeah. Where I grew up, I felt that so much that I eventually dropped out of high school when I was 16. It wasn’t a fun time, really. The environment was pretty oppressive and I just said “No thanks” to the whole thing. Luckily, I am from a family of artists, musicians, writers, that kinda thing, so when I started getting more serious about my creativity, they lifted me up instead of putting me down. We didn’t have the money to send me to art or music school or anything like that, but in the end, I think that’s for the best because I don’t appreciate people telling me how to express myself.
Now as I’m getting older, I feel more comfortable and less sensitive about what people think about what I make. Right now, I’m trying to put together a series of pieces that can act as a visual aid to some of the historical/folklore research I’ve been doing using silhouettes, canvas sculptures and wood carvings. There is so much information that has not been given the proper respect that it deserves, and it’s my intention to make sure that people are at least aware of what happened here.
Please describe the last time you saw a bare, unadorned horizon.
When it’s really hazy out in the summertime, you can go to where the Potomac is wide, closer to the Chesapeake Bay, and it almost looks like the ocean. It’s like the mirage effect you see on the highway, and it just wipes out the land mass on the other side of the river. I wouldn’t say it’s bare or unadorned, but it is a beautiful, smeary, shimmering thing.
How many birds have you seen?
I am fortunate to live in an area that hasn’t been completely paved over yet so there’s still quite a bit of natural life doing its thing around here. The other day when I was going into work, I saw a blue jay that was about a foot tall on top of my parents’ trash can. That was pretty cool.
There seems to be no scientific consensus on what gravity is. What do you think is our best guess?
The weight of love.
We had Jupiter to our left, Venus to our right, and a big moon directly above us. That was a pretty special moment.
Do you think books are losing relevance among the public in 2018? What about long-form musical composition?
I think that in some communities they may be, and of course, people are reading more on their devices. However, there are parts of this state that still do not have access to broadband Internet access, more than you might think. In these places, the library is still one of the only access points to information, and it’s actually a real problem. This is just Virginia, not further south, midwest, or west, in those rural communities, which in some cases I’d imagine an even bleaker scenario than here.
Can you describe the last time you saw or identified a planet in the Solar System with the naked eye?
About a month ago, I was with my family in Staunton, Virginia in the Blue Ridge, drinking and star-watching on the deck. We had Jupiter to our left, Venus to our right, and a big moon directly above us. That was a pretty special moment.
What percentage of yourself do you see as happy, calm and mild and what percentage of yourself do you see as quick to anger? What ticks you off on a daily basis, or calms you down?
These days, I’d say I feel more happy and calm than anger, although it’s hard not feeling anger living in this country that is systematically destroying the hard work of generations day after day. Fear is more of a hovering emotion rather than anger, but you can’t live your life in that either. I haven’t found a way to bring meditation into my daily life in any way that sticks yet, but I do find some peace and release in running. It’s a time where I can actually let my brain go blank if I need to, or use that time to process parts of my life. These days, that seems to be the best thing for keeping myself grounded and balanced, so I’m just going with it.
What element do you see yourself as creating for? Do you believe your works to be tied more to the earth, to fire, to air or to ether? Can you explain why?
Mother Earth, baby, because she’s the only one we got.
Was there a lot of beauty in your childhood? Do you think that your old age will be beautiful, too?
There was. Both my sister and I were both surrounded by open, kind people. There was a lot of love and I feel incredibly fortunate for that. We traveled a lot by car to all parts of the US and Canada visiting people and places, seeing some remarkable things, actually. I think it really helped us see our place in the world and realize that we’re part of something much larger than our immediate surroundings, which at that time was pretty closed-minded, small, and kind of old-fashioned — it still kind of is.
I feel very grateful for having that be the starting place for my life, because even when you get beaten down by finances, politics, life, etc., you can’t ignore the interconnections, the grandeur or the beauty in this world we all live in. I don’t see why you can’t live in that spirit for your whole life.
Curated by: Morgan Enos
Conducted by: Email
Published: July 26, 2018
Total questions: 11
Word count: 1330
Reading time: Five minutes
air, Bach, banjo, beautiful, blue jay, Blue Ridge Mountains, bluegrass, Catherine Christer Hennix, Daniel Bachman, dinosaur, Earth, environment, ether, finance, fire, Fredericksberg, grandeur, gratitude, guitar, horizon, information, inspiration, interconnection, Jontavious Willis, Jupiter, Kamasi Washington, Martha Spencer, Meg Baird, mirage, moment, natural, politics, respect, Reverend Frank Newsome, Sandy Bull, shimmering, silhouettes, smeary, Staunton, Venus, Virginia
About the curator
Morgan Enos is a songwriter and journalist originally from California. His curatorial work for North of the Internet aims to strike a deeper place in his conversation subjects — the dreamy subtext to the linear everyday. Morgan also frequently writes power pop records as Other Houses about joy, outer space, frustration, chess and spiritual light. He resides in New York, where he continues to creatively fire on all cylinders.
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