Greg Kelley – “I tend to like things that are in between the cracks and haven’t yet been codified”


I love the totally different shelves/boxes/furniture where the records are stored. It’s funny, they even look like if they’re from different houses. I suppose you don’t care about having ‘stylish’ things around, like for instance Robin Rimbaud/Scanner, whose red shelves were very appreciated by some of our readers…

Over the past 20 years, I’ve lived in over a dozen different apartments, so my collection has expanded and contracted throughout that time. If I ever move into a house and/or something that I consider “permanent,” it would be great to have a library room with all my records, CDs, tapes, books, etc. organized on uniform shelves. For now, as more things pile up, I buy some kind of storage container/shelf that can accommodate the immediate growth and can also fit into one corner or another. (The plastic tubs that are housing my cassettes right now fit conveniently underneath my bed.) So, it may be more out of necessity than “style,” but the modular, bricolage, bric-a-brac approach is a style, too.

Well, so it’s a very ‘organic’ description of the way you manage your records, adding pieces by pieces of furniture as soon as their number grows up. I also notice only now that you even named the files you sent me in a way that reveals a tidy attitude. So at a first sight it all looks like a bit chaotic, then you discover that there’s a quite structured mindset behind it. So, pardon my very basic interpretation, but can we say it’s partially reflected by your music? When I first heard it, I only got a sort of first layer of it, a bunch of interesting sounds, but after a while I recognized an extreme richness and a strong structure behind the surface…

Interesting observation. I think I certainly try to mix organization while allowing a certain amount of flexibility or chaos to enter in, so maybe it is similar to my music in that way. And thank you for giving it some more time beyond that first impression. I got some very negative reviews of my first solo CD “Trumpet” including one that said albums like mine ‘are musically about as arid as reading a computer instruction manual.’ I strive to inject a little bit more below the ‘arid’ surface.

Funny, as not only I don’t find your music ‘arid’, but the same album has got also totally positive reviews, like the one of Scaruffi, that you perhaps know

“Greg Kelley’s improvised trumpet noise of Trumpet (june 2000 – Meniscus, 2000) could have the impact and the significance that Anthony Braxton’s Saxophone Improvisations had in the 1970s. Not only is the instrument reinvented, but the very idea of music is turned upside down.” Piero Scaruffi, 2003. History of Avantgarde Music.

Your music is really the kind of stuff that can generate a debate… but, apart of that, is there any music you consider ‘arid’?

If it didn’t generate any kind of discussion, then I’m not sure it did its job. I don’t even necessarily consider “arid” a bad thing. The dictionary says arid means “(of land or a climate) having little or no rain; too dry or barren to support vegetation” or “lacking in interest, excitement, or meaning,” both of which I find pretty interesting in one way or another. I have seen the Scaruffi review and I really appreciate it. The negative ones can be kind of galvanizing or humorous as long as they’re not too personal. As for music I would consider “arid,” I’m not sure I would describe music in that way and if so, I might mean it in a complimentary way or even just a literal way, like a very dry recording. And if I did mean it in a negative way, that it’s boring or soulless music, it could end up being one of those things that sticks in my brain, that I think about and try to understand what it is that I don’t like about it and in that space of reflection I start to really like it.

GK Cassettes 3.24.19

It’s interesting to see the cassettes, I suppose you grew up in the DYI cassette exchange culture of US in the past. Do you still listen to them? It’s lovely to see Eminem beside Aaron DIlloway, with the Cure just a few rows above, and Godflesh and Fushitsusha nearby! Somehow this makes me think that, in a way, all these music have been digested in years by you, entering from you ears and flowing through the trumpet, right?

I had cassettes (in a variety of genres) growing up, but they were predominantly mass-produced tapes until the wave of underground cassettes I started picking up in the late ’90s/early 2000s. The Cure and Godflesh are relics of my high school years from a time when I was trying to reconcile the kind of music I was listening to with the kind of music I could create on the trumpet. The Eminem tape was probably purchased at a truck stop on one of nmperign‘s 4+ week cross country tours. Bhob (Rainey, my nmperign bandmate)’s car had a cassette player, which my current car does not, so I end up listening to cassettes much less frequently than I have in the past. Having them stored under my bed probably doesn’t help much either! But yes, a lot has filtered in and out and apparently I haven’t heard enough yet because I keep amassing more and more. (Hence the pictures of the 100+ yet-to-be-filed or even listened to records that give me a bit of anxiety. But as I go through those, it’s nice to pull out one I bought a few years ago and forgot about and get re-excited about listening to it).

GK New-unfiled LPs-CDs 3.24.19.jpeg

I noticed the maybe obvious (or very common) Miles Davis, so I searched for other trumpeters, but I didn’t find them… maybe it was just too difficult to see names in the pics, or maybe your influences come more form other fields? I see a lot of contemporary music (Pierre Henry for instance) and extreme sound-shapers, like Kevin Drumm…

When I first started playing the trumpet, I listened to trumpet music to see what was out there, but it didn’t always align with the music I was the most interested in. I came to love the Baroque music I got into through French piccolo trumpeter Maurice Andre, but the trumpet and Sonic Youth or New Order seemed to be on pages from different books. John Zorn’s Naked City and Kronos Quartet’s recording of George Crumb’s Black Angels (both purchased, possibly because of the covers, on cassette at Good Vibrations in the Emerald Square Mall in North Attleboro, Massachusetts where I grew up) were the first things that pointed me towards a whole new world of contemporary composition and eventually improvisation, electroacoustic music and noise. From there things spiraled outwards and whether or not the trumpet was involved was not important, but it was sometimes a point of interest. It took me a while to wind things back to where someone like Miles Davis was interesting to me and it’s not really until a few years back that I did a deep dive into Miles’ “Second Great Quintet.” Bhob had turned me on to the charms of “Filles de Kilimanjaro” some years before, but on moving to Seattle in 2014, I had a little more space and my record player was no longer just a surface on which to place books, records & CDs, but something I could actually use a bit more and I started digging into that period where Miles was moving out of bop and before he went electric all while trying to wrestle with free jazz. I tend to like things that are in between the cracks and haven’t yet been codified. And that Pierre Henry boxset shows that he somehow managed to occupy that between space his entire career. And while the trumpet is not always a primary factor in the music I listen to, the Miles Davis probably stood out to you since there’s a boxset (as there are for Henry & Drumm), but if you were to take a closer look you would find plenty of trumpet players in the stacks. Just yesterday, I picked up a new solo LP by Jacob Wick and a new 10″ EP by Lesli Dalaba. (On closer inspection, you would also see that I have more Skeeter Davis than I do Miles Davis).

GK Odd size CDs 3.24.19.jpeg

So, still talking about trumpet, what brought you there? It’s a special instrument, actually personally the only one I tried seriously to play, years ago. I choose trumpet as it gave me an extremely powerful physical feeling, I loved the way you create the sound with your own body, the lips and breath, unlike any other instrument (apart of the similar ones). But it needs practice and even physical exercice maybe more than other ones, it can make your neighbours quite dangerous and turn your wife evil. I was 35 and I wore braces, then I gave up after three years. How and why did you choose trumpet? Did you changed over a dozen apartments chased by your neighbours or ex-wives?

The trumpet was somewhat arbitrary and chosen from a list of available instruments handed out to grade school students when I was 10 years old. Drums were vetoed by my parents because of volume concerns, so I ended up with a trumpet. I hadn’t really thought much about the trumpet before then and I don’t think I had really heard any music with the trumpet that particularly stood out to me. Once I got the trumpet, I launched into the investigations I mentioned previously. There certainly is a very physical dimension to it and I’ve been jealous at times of people who play electronics or prepared guitar and can do something to activate the instrument then sit back and watch/listen. Or that volume can be controlled by the turn of a knob. But that physicality has had a large effect on the type of music that is created, so I’ve come to appreciate that even when the instrument can sometime cause pain or discomfort. (I also went through a period of playing with braces in my early teens and it was not particularly pleasant, but it was actually harder to adjust once they’d come off). I moved a lot due to changes in rent, upgrade potential, giving up a place to go on tour and sometimes relationship statuses, but no ex-wives or angry neighbours. I always practice with a mute or mutes and am cognizant of being an annoyance. It would be great to live in a place where I could play openly or rehearse with groups, but that hasn’t happened much.

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What’s that bottle with the two demons above all the CDs?

My friends Tim Leanse and Sam Rowell, who play music together as Eloe Omoe, had (have?) a project called Alchemic Ale, where they would invite an artist to create the art for a 750 ml bottle which would be accompanied by a comic/art book and filled with a beer produced by different brewers. That bottle features art by Mat Brinkman (Forcefield, Meerk Puffy, Mindflayer, etc.) and (featured) a Belgian ale from Bokrijks. Unfortunately, the accompanying book was never produced.


Greg Kelley has performed throughout North America, Europe, Japan, Argentina & Mexico at numerous festivals, in clubs, outdoors, in living rooms, in a bank, and at least once on a vibrating floor. He has collaborated with a number of musicians across the globe performing experimental music, free jazz and noise, appearing on over 100 recordings in the process. He constantly seeks to push the boundaries of the trumpet and of “music.”
He has appeared on over 100 recordings and plays in a number of long running groups including Nmperign (with Bhob Rainey), the BSC and Heathen Shame (with Wayne Rogers & Kate Village of Major Stars).
Other collaborators have included Jandek, Keiji Haino, Donald Miller (Borbetomagus), Anthony Braxton, Kevin Drumm, Christian Wolff, Pauline Oliveros, Joe McPhee and Lionel Marchetti.

Greg Kelley - PHOTO.jpeg

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