Interview | Mike Pride

Mike Pride’s From Bacteria To Boys has undergone several personnel changes since its formation in 2005.  Perpetually evolving in order to realize the development of Pride’s sonic vision, the current quartet version features Peter Bitenc, Darius Jones and Alexis Marcelo, and their Aum Fidelity debut, Betweenwhile, earned a spot on several 2010 year-end lists.  In preparation for the upcoming Philadelphia debut of the fresh quartet, Ars Nova Workshop spoke with Pride about the new album, R. Kelly, Reese Witherspoon, and his upcoming projects.

From Bacteria To Boys’ line-up has evolved over the years.  How did the current personnel come together?

The trio version of the band, with Evan Lipson on bass, Darius Jones and I, kind of peaked at our Ars Nova Workshop concert at The Rotunda back in 2008.  After that performance, I began hearing a new type of sound for the band, more lyrical and less aggressive.  I didn’t think we could take our rhythmic-collage approach much further without sacrificing the harmonic things I was beginning to hear.  I tried a few things, one of which was a very promising quartet with Darius, Evan and Peter Bitenc (two upright basses).  This was quite a success, sonically and otherwise, but as I worked up the current songbook it became clear that I needed a chordal instrument and a less dense, more foundational bassist, and Peter became the new fulltime bassist.  I had wanted to play with more pianists for some time and had many people on my mind when I met Alexis.  Alexis came very highly recommended by both Darius and the bassist Tim Dahl (of Child Abuse and The Hub).  Alexis did two sets with From Bacteria To Boys at Issue Project Room in February 2009 and the gig has been his since.  Since that very first concert, in fact, the chemistry in this band has been unlike anything I have ever experienced on a musical and personal level.

The album title, Betweenwhile, is an R. Kelly reference from his magnum opus Trapped In The Closet.  Why Kelz?

R. Kelly is the greatest living singer, stylist, performer and conceptual artist in America.  He is an endless source of inspiration, joy and harmony in my life.  His time, intonation, and band leading charisma are unparalleled.  The album isn’t dedicated to him or anything like that, but it certainly reflects the positive turn my life has taken since letting his music, humor and dedication enrich my life.

Track two is titled “Reese Witherspoon.”  What’s the significance of the title and what’s your favorite Witherspoon film?

The title is a joke.  I used to have a band called theMPThree with Mary Halvorson and Trevor Dunn.  I can’t remember for sure now, but I either started or read a rumor that Trevor was dating Sandra Bullock on a Mr. Bungle fan page.  I then tried to propagate a rumor that he was engaged to marry Reese Witherspoon.  Trevor always told me lies were more interesting than the truth, anyhow.  I am not sure if this rumor ever took off or not.  Regardless, Reese Witherspoon is a fantastic name; she was very attractive in Legally Blonde, and Election is a fine film.

“Kancamagus II” is named after an Algonquin chief.  Is this referencing a hypothetic progeny or Kancamagus’ actual child?

I wish!  What a great idea.  Actually though, the title is “Kancamagus,” not “Kancamagus II.”  There are two versions of the composition on Betweenwhile: one as piano trio, which opens the record, and one as a sax, bass, drums trio, which closes the record.  The piece is dedicated to my father and named after the Kancamagus Highway, specifically the parts in New Hampshire.  I fondly remember many of the harrowing Kancamagus Highway “mystery rides” my father took the family on throughout my childhood.  The song appears as “Kancamagus II” only if you download the album, and it is simply to make the distinction of the two versions.  But, man, I am glad you are digging so deeply into the meanings of my song titles!  Any type of investigation always leads to a deeper experiential abyss.

What’s on the horizon for 2011, with From Bacteria To Boys or otherwise?

From Bacteria To Boys is opening this year’s Winter JazzFest on January 7th at Kenny’s Castaways and we will continue to work semi-regularly in New York City, hopefully moving into bigger, more reputable, listener friendly venues.  We will record a new album for AUM Fidelity, hopefully by fall of 2011.  I am currently finishing up the next book of compositions.  It will be a very lush, melancholic, aggressive, lyrical, rhythmic, canonic, subtle and sexy record.  I am hoping that we will be in Europe sometime soon as well.  Just gotta get that done properly.

I’m very excited about a new album coming out soon with Jamie Saft and Joe Morris, called Spanish Donkey: Epic architectural improvisations coming out on Northern Spy.   That band will start performing around the U.S. and abroad starting this spring.

Jon Irabagon and I will continue our “I Don’t Hear Nothin’ But The Blues” series by adding a guitarist very soon, and the duet version should be hitting Europe very soon. 

The wasteland improv unit called PERIOD - me, Charlie Looker, Darius Jones and Chuck Bettis - should finally have a record out at some point in 2011. I want to make a record of standards and gospel tunes with Charles Gayle.  I’ll be in Europe this February with Jason Stein’s Locksmith Isidore, one of the most fun bands I have ever played in.  I am very excited for Jacob Wick’s Hungry Cowboy album with me, Briggan Krauss and Jonathan Goldberger to come out, as well as Katherine Young’s Pretty Monsters album with me, Erica Dicker and Owen Stewart-Robinson, and Sam Mickens’ Ecstatic Showband & Revue 7” vinyl series to be released.

I’ll be learning how to raise my first child, one day at a time, with my lovely wife Brooke.  And, I hope to make a piano trio album with Jamie Saft and Larry Grenadier, performing my arrangements of all of my favorite Million of Dead Cops tunes.  The band will be called “I Hate Work.”

What would a collaborative project with R. Kelly and Reese Witherspoon entail?

I just want to play drums with R. Kelly.  In any and all contexts would be amazing.  How Reese Witherspoon could fit in isn’t clear to me at the moment, but I am sure we could figure something out.

Mike Pride’s From Bacteria To Boys perform on Thursday, January 13 at Philadelphia Art Alliance (251 S. 18th Street).