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Rob Ingram - Interview

TMRX I've seen people say they'd followed your story since the begining and send heartfelt regards; which has always had me curious to know you better, so what exactly is your folklore and what makes the rob ingram story unlike any other? How DIY was this record?

ROB Who are these people? Show yourselves! Just kidding…I feel in my travels I’ve been lucky to be respected and appreciated by my peers in music and people in the community. I also expect I am the butt-end of many jokes; I am a batshit anomaly. In a perfect world, I would consider myself a bridge-builder - one who brings disparate people together to vibrate to a transcendent unity. Specifically through music. Jimi Hendrix is my musical North Star so to speak. My favorite song of all time is Voodoo Chile - the 15 minute blues jam in D featuring Steve Winwood on Organ. His innovation and transcendence made a strong enough impression on me at an early age that I sought to pursue the same electro-spiritual potency and mission. I was born outside of Boston and raised in the lower-Hudson Valley of New York. I wanted to be a cartoonist/animator between about the ages of 5 and 9. When I turned 10 I got my first electric guitar, and from then on I was completely obsessed to the point of freaking the fk out when I didn’t have a guitar on hand. My music (and mind) began to transform when I started doing psychedelics at age 16. I wrote my first orchestral piece - a string octet plus me on guitar - based on my first mushroom and acid trips. It was called "Alien Fungus" Renaissance. At age 18 (2010), I had a psychedelic experience that was so powerful that left me psychotic in a type of spiritual emergency. I dropped out of Berklee College of Music after one semester, but not before discovering the Yi Jing (I Ching) which I have been a major fan of ever since, as it was the one thing keeping me going during this difficult period. I spent some time to recuperate and returned to school in 2015, but have wrestled with schizophrenia since 2012. Schizophrenia, drug dabbling, sleep deprivation - these things have given me a creative edge and there are references in the songs. One thing I experience is the vivid sensation of animistic psycho-spiritual power that is known only to the experiencer. I use this as creative fodder, as well as my shared mission with Jimi Hendrix to be a messenger of love.

I wrote The Medicine in portions - parts of it in 2017, 2019, then during the beginning of covid season of 2020 I pieced it together and wrote lyrics. They sort of wrote themselves, very Jumanji- ish. Anyway, it was during early covid season that I started piecing the song together in a Logic Pro session. Later, I tagged Thomas Pridgen, former drummer of the Mars Volta, in a demo of the song on Instagram - asking him to play, half kidding. He agreed but unfortunately had to cancel three months after the request. I got a more local (Rochester) drum legend, Marco Cirigliano to play on it. It was probably for the better because I could convey things more easily in person with someone than long distance. But yeah, the track was written and developed by me, some of it composed in notation software. It was recorded and roughly mixed mostly in my apartment, my friend’s studio in Boston where we did vocals and some mixing, and Wicked Squid Studios of Rochester where we recorded drums/percussion and did the final production. I have an amateur-intermediate understanding of how to use Logic Pro and use it to get rough mixes, which I bring to Wicked Squid to properly produce with an engineer.

TMRX How much room for improvisation did you leave within your recording process considering being somewhat of a "big band jazz ensemble on lsd"? Is there a spiritual nature to this record?

Improvisation - Big band on LSD? - hilarious! I thought of it more like Bitches Brew on Crack. (juuuuust kidding, I have nothing but reverence for that album [Miles Davis]). Also, I felt I had emulated “You’re Dead” by Flying Lotus, which Herbie Hancock (from Miles’ record) also appears on. What we have in the jazzier sections of the song is a walking rockabilly bass line based in the aux-diminished scale in 10/4 (double tempo of the rest of the other sections). With this framework, we have Herbie-esque Rhodes shimmering played by Monk Catallo, Jordan Lerner improvising on sax, bass clarinet and flute, Sunshine Qu’an playing diminished harp arpeggios, and me playing a guitar solo all at the same time. Absolute madness-interludes, an expedition into a dark cavern where a single match lights the way forward, creatures scutterring about.

Spiritually, I feel this song balances its chaos and moments of borderline brutality with the footsteps of a journey. The lyrics in the beginning - “If you want the medicine you need.” Ok, you have a goal. You’re in search of something to alleviate your ailment. Want and need - are they the same? This is implied. Your expectations might not line up with what is to transpire. “But tremble when you know it must begin” - scariest line of the song, and by some standard might be antithetical a softer spirituality. The forthcoming album is entitled “shükwokE” - shaken awake, so to speak. But the lyric is supposed to contradict the previous lyric - you think you’ve reached the ending, but in reality it’s just a beginning we find awe in the wake of. So there is a darkness, but something redemptive about the track. The electronica sounding part you mentioned in your review is a tale of determination and headstrong progress. I think of a martial artist in training. The percussion you mentioned in your question provides a texture that gives the track an earthiness to counterbalance the insanity in the other instruments. I’m glad that it conveys something spiritual to you. This song is partly influenced, as discussed previously, by psychedelics - which have their own sort of spiritual quality. The lyrics of the second verse - “convergence of the nexus in real time; sweet elixir purifies your lens” etc etc is sort of a reference to the type of thing you might experience on LSD.


Because we must say, at times it sounds like West African worship churches or hippie drum circles (around jazz festival season) What are your top three most memorable live musical experiences? (May include your own)

ROB Memorable music experience number 1 - Playing at a Newark Rave at age 17 for a three hour improvised set tripping balls with my friends. I discovered that the audience and band could forge a feedback loop of incredible energy - it seemed to operate as a love generator. Memorable experience number 2 - studying with Medeski Martin and Wood in the Catskills age 15 at a camp. One of the most life affirming experiences I’ve had, and I was recognized as a talent by the musicians around me. In that one week my improvisation improved by leaps and bounds as I learned about communication and experimentation. There are too many others to think of, I’ll have to maybe get back to you on a third.


Has math rock affected your music style at all? if so, how? Do you view yourself as part of the virtuoso scene and what do you think of it?


I would say I am more influenced by Progressive Rock in general than just “Math Rock.” The Mars Volta is an influence. Other artists under this umbrella include Yes, Frank Zappa and Mahavishnu Orchestra, and let us not forget more contemporary meter-bending artists such as Hiatus Kaiyote and Flying Lotus. I don’t quite consider myself a virtuoso on my instrument, but I was tasteful and knowledgable enough to hang pretty well at Berklee. So in terms of that “scene,” I guess you could say yes.


Do you remember the day you realized how special music was and that you wanted to devote yourself to its graces, can you share that slice of life with us?


As mentioned before, when I got my first electric guitar was a big moment. Camp MMW was a life affirming experience musically. I also had a very impactful experience at the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors when I was 18 which was a reminder that I had a spiritual mission with my music.


Do you have any advice for guitarists struggling on technique or acquiring thier own sound and identity? Lastly, is there anything outside music, any message you'd like to share and have us reitirate and get out for you? What else is Rob Ingrim passionate about? also, what is Rob Ingram's favorite word right now?

ROB Everybody learns differently. Having gotten into guitar at an early age, my advice to someone like me might vary from someone who starts later in life. Sometimes I feel discouraged when my improvisations tend to repeat themselves. Don’t let this discourage you - it is better to be playing than not to be playing, although sometimes a day or two without the instrument is good. There are ruts and grooves. The lightning in a bottle is often fleeting, so don’t be too disappointed when it isn’t as forthcoming. Just keep playing. Aside from music, I like to write poetry and ride my bicycle. I also like nature walks. As for a message - a crisis can be a profound opportunity. Catch hold of this tension of opposites with your art. We live in a world of poignant beauty. Nature is alive and breathing and listening. I don’t have a favorite word. Fine, how is quibble? Fine, quibble.

click pic below for Rob Ingram's bandcamp


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