KKSF Interview

Music Director Dore Steinberg, ca. 1995

Virtuoso guitarist and multi-faceted composer Pat Metheny has continually sought new means of self-expression. With the release of "We Live Here," the Pat Metheny Group's first studio album since 1989, KKSF (103.7 FM, San Francisco) Music Director Dore Steinberg spoke with him about his musical influences, new and old.

Dore Steinberg: You've added a new wrinkle... hip hop rhythms... on your latest album. Could you shed some light on what inspired your approach?

Pat Metheny: I've been playing with Lyle Mays for seventeen years and Steve Rodby and Paul Wertico have been in the band for more than ten years. It's like a family and there four of us have this fearless approach to playing music that is really fun for me. But there is an entire aspect of music that I have intentionally avoided, which is this whole issue of backbeats and grooves. It wasn't because I didn't like it but because I felt it was so overdone. Having spent so much time outside of America during the last ten years or so, I realized for the new album I wanted to take a look at America and see where it's at through the group's sound. My research for this was to go on several long walks in different neighborhoods in cities in the United States to see what I was hearing. I kept hearing them and wondered what it would be like if we addressed these grooves and started from a fundamental rhythmic aspect - which is rare for us.

Dore Steinberg: You've grafted that hip hop rhythm feel on to what you do without sacrificing the Metheny Group sound. Was this a collaboration like the others with you and Lyle doing the co-writing?

Pat Metheny: This is the most collaborative record Lyle and I have ever done on a compositional level. He hasn't been as involved since "Offramp" as I would have liked. But this time, more than anything since "the Falcon and the Snowman," we really wrote everything on the album together.

Dore Steinberg: On the Opening Track, "Here to Stay," there seems to be a section that quotes "What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye.

Pat Metheny: You're right. We had written a tune, and one day while I was playing the guitar solo, Lyle started playing something quite similar to "What's Going On." So rather than deny it, we said we'd put it in. Which is a first for us. I don't think we've ever quoted anything or anyone before. But if you had to quote anybody, why not Marvin Gaye?

Dore Steinberg: How did you get into Brazilian music? In the mid to late `80s there was this influence of Brazilian elements in the Pat Metheny Group.

Pat Metheny: When I was around twelve I first heard Miles Davis' "Four & More." It completely changed my life, and it's still one of my favorite records. Around that time was also when the first Brazilian wave was coming across the Sates in the form of Astrud Gilberto singing "Girl from Impanema" and all those great Antonio Carlos Jobim songs which became part of the American music vocabulary. That had a big effect on me.

For me, I realized with the group that as much as I love what Lyle and I do together, I missed that certain breadth element of the band. I missed having a horn in there. But I Couldn't find a horn player that I thought was right for the group.

Around that time I met Pedro Aznar who has absorbed a lot of the Milton Nascimento / Ivan Lins stylistic thing in his voice. He sent me some tapes of him singing with the tunes and it sounded so good that I realized that could be a solution. That's really how that started. So much of the music I've written is illustrated best when it's sung. I also lived in Brazil for five or six years and the music of Jobim and Milton Nascimento is some of my favorite music in the world.

Dore Steinberg: On your solo album, "Secret Story," there is a full blossoming of world influences - Argentinean, Japanese, Indian, Cambodian and of course Brazilian. How have you managed to learn about all these wonderful cultures?

Pat Metheny: In terms of studying Cambodian music, Argentinean, Brazilian, I've never done it and I have no interest in it. I'm only interested in bringing a personal view of music, filtered through whatever aesthetic that I've managed to develop as a jazz musician. One thing that's different about me when I tour I really try to get out there and meet people and get a sense of where we're at. I go running every day - four to five miles - and those experiences that happen along the way enrich me as a person and as a musician. "Secret Story" is a culmination of everything that had happened to me to that point in my life. It's like an autobiographical portrait. Not just musical, but all encompassing. For me, it's the best record I've done partially because it's so personal.

Dore Steinberg: "James," which you graciously donated to the KKSF Sampler for AIDS Relief #4, to this day is one of the most popular tracks that we play. Who is James?

Pat Metheny: It's for James Taylor.

Dore Steinberg: Why is that?

Pat Metheny: It's because he's a great guitar player. He's one of the best guitar players in that style. He's got such a clear sound and great phrasing, great intonations, I just love the way he plays.

Dore Steinberg: On "Last Train Home," it's amazing how Paul Wertico makes it seem like you're on a train.

Pat Metheny: That's one of those tunes that showed up in one piece. The best tunes that I've written - "Are You Going with Me" is another - I literally write the whole thing from start to finish in as much time as it takes to play the song and I didn't change one note. "Phase Dance" had that same feeling. It was very difficult for Paul to play that part. The train sound is brushes on the drum played really fast. Playing that tune every night for the past year must have really increased his arm muscles.

Dore Steinberg: What do have in store for the near future?

Pat Metheny: I've been collaborating with Abbey Lincoln, a great jazz singer. I've done two or three different sessions with her for her new record. This is the first time I've accompanied a jazz vocalist and something I've always wanted to do. There's also the new Bruce Hornsby record that I played four or five solos on. As much as I've hidden the fact that pop music was important to me, I've never really done pop other than with Bowie until I did "Harbor Lights" with Hornsby last year. It's kind of a special challenge to play an 8 bar solo on somebody's record.

maintained by Thomas Hönisch TOP last update: October 14, 2001