Chris Forsyth – “I’m pretty deadly sincere, musically, but I have a lot of mixed emotions and a very sarcastic sense of humor”

Chris Forsyth (3).JPGThe most evident stuff is the Velvet Underground box (just above the Dylan one): are you among the many that see Velvet as a very big influence? Or is just ‘a big box that stands out over other stuff’?

Both. There’s really no one who’s not influenced by the Velvet Underground, whether they know it or not. But it’s also just a big box excellently designed to grab your eye.

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I really like the photo with the mirror (not only because I can peek into your house, whose parquet looks really warm and nice!): what’s that messy section with papers labeled with ‘archive’, ‘bla_something’…?

Just personal junk. Papers and things that I stuff there so I don’t loose them. It’s my filing system.

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I’m intrigued by the LPs ‘in exposition’: Curtis Mayfield and two others that I cannot guess… why are these there? It’s because of the music, the images, both or just by chance? Is that shelf in a particular place in your house to be see by your guest or maybe in the studio?

That’s just a little shelf next to the turntable where the LPs that I’m currently listening to live. The other records are Robert Quine & Fred Maher’s “Basic”, Charnel Ground (Chris Brokaw/James McNew/Kid Millions), and Josh Abrams & Natural Information Society’s “Simultonality”.

Well, these three albums that are next to your turntable, at a maybe shallow reflection, may be considered a bunch of stuff that includes elements that I find in your music: something more related to the tradition (Curtis Mayfield), repetitions (Josh Abrams), ans some weird playfulness (Quine and Maher, that were totally unknown to me!), plus happy music (Charnel Ground). And there’s a lot of guitar in all of them, as far as I know/hear. Can you point some particularly influential guitarist for your growth? How did you became what your website states as a “lauded guitarist and bandleader whose widescreen art-rock, fusing taut compositions and mercurial improvisations”?

I suppose I’ve been influenced by every guitarist I’ve ever heard, but there are some important ones… Richard Lloyd taught me how music works, so that’s huge on a fundamental level. My formative guitarists, people that really made me want to play at a young age, were people like Keith Richards, Pete Townshend, and slightly later, Peter Buck, Neil Young, and Sonic Youth. Around the time Lloyd taught me how music works and gave me some basis for understanding how music lives on the guitar neck, I was getting into more overtly “out” kind of players – Derek Bailey, Rudolf Gray, Blood Ulmer, Joe Morris, Loren Connors and non-guitar free jazz people like David Ware, William Parker, Daniel Carter – and then a little later I was able to digest and understand how synthesizing influences rather than imitating them is the path to a personal voice – Richard Thompson, Jerry Garcia, and John Fahey being good examples.  Later, Jack Rose was a huge personal influence. He had so much integrity as a musician and that helped me understand that following my gut was the way. He gave me the confidence to do so.

By the way, I didn’t know that Curtis Mayfield album, and I loved it! The lyrics are great “I’m so down with depression / But, ain’t no use in me killing myself”. Sound desperate and ironic at the same time… is this another aspect I found in (part) of your musical production (eg. Peeesseye’s “Pestilence & Joy”), right?

I’m pretty deadly sincere, musically, but I have a lot of mixed emotions and a very sarcastic sense of humor. I don’t see a contradiction.

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I’m not scared of showing my ignorance, so what is that huge with box named “Träd Gräs och Stenar”?

They are… the best band ever? You should definitely investigate. Another huge influence not just from their recordings, but because I toured with them for about 8-10 days in 2008 and the spontaneity with which they performed and how they operated as a unit.

I think you’re right, I’m now exploring Träd, Gräs Och Stenar (and Träden) and it looks like the start of a great discovery for me. It’s a pity I didn’t know them. You said you toured with them and appreciated their spontaneity in playing. Still talking of influences – which other artists or bands impressed you live?

I like bands that play like jazz bands – being inventive and reactive and in the moment – as opposed to so many bands that mimic their recordings. Recording and performing are two very different, though complimentary, things. I try to capture the spontaneity of a live performance in the studio and also maintain some sense the compositional frame or arc of recordings when improvising live. But you have to be willing to change it at any time and follow where the music leads in that moment between the people in the band.

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I see a John Baltessari book beside the turntable: I guess you really like his art, that is often connected to the themes of celebrity…

That book belongs to my wife. I’ve never opened it.

Funny to hear that you’re not curious about that book of your wife, or by the way not yet. I’m very intrigued by the listening habits in “families with musicians”: do you share musical tastes with your wife?

She has much better taste in everything than I do.



Chris Forsyth is a guitarist and bandleader whose widescreen art-rock, fusing taut compositions and mercurial improvisations, has earned him a reputation as one of the most distinctive and critically acclaimed guitarists working today. 

He has developed a reputation as an incredible live act, provoking comparisons to visionary artists such as Television, The Grateful Dead, Popol Vuh, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, and Richard Thompson, and drawing a following of tapers who record most of his shows.

His newest record, released April 12, 2019 on the No Quarter label, is “All Time Present,” a massive 73 minute opus wherein his “brilliance and ambition conclusively overwhelm his influence” according to Mojo’s 4 star review.

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