Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Le'TALK: Mark McGee of Basuketto

by Juleana Enright

A new improvisational collective has taken up residency at the Red Stag Supperclub on Wednesdays during the month of March. We know what you're thinking: how is watching someone else's jam session any fun? But trust us, the Red Stag's Basuketto residency is nothing like being dragged to your friend's band practice, hanging in a basement awaiting a night full of false starts and endless loops.

Featuring central members Mark McGee (Father You See Queen, Votel, Marijuana Deathsquads, To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie) and Ben Clark (Votel, Cecil Otter, Doomtree), Basuketto unites Twin Cities musicians - such as Nona Marie Invie (Dark Dark Dark), JT Bates (Alpha Consumer, the Pines, Bryan Nichols Quartet), electronic beat conspirator Albert Elmore, Adam Marx (Father You See Queen, the Cloak Ox) and super-producer Ryan Olson (Gayngs, Poliça, Marijuana Deathsquads) - from a variety of genres to explore time constraints, tempo, sound and vocal arrangements live. What results is an eclectic mix of original collaborative work from some of the most innovative artists under the TC radar.

Mark McGee. Photo by Robyn Lewis

Tonight, Clark and McGee are joined by fellow Votel bandmate and former Lookbook and Digitata vocalist Maggie Morrison to tackle the lascivious synth sounds and pulsating metallic beats of Swedish electronica duo The Knife. We caught up with Basuketto curator Mark McGee to chat about the criteria for selecting the weekly rooster, the art of improv and how musicians can benefit from practicing an “open” relationship with their bandmates.

l'étoile: First off, tell us about Basuketto. What was the inspiration behind it?

McGee: Originally Basuketto was basuketto buro, Japanese for basketball. Basketball is one of the most improvisational sports.

l'étoile: From Nona of Dark Dark Dark to Aby Wolf and Joey Van Phillips, many of this project's guests – past and present – are musicians who are no strangers to working within collaborations and collectives. Is this one of the prerequisites for choosing the lineup?

McGee: No, not really. We are interested in seeing what will happen in an improv environment, regardless of any prior experience. Hopefully, if we continue this, we will work with more musicians that have no improv experiences.

l'étoile: Basuketto isn't completely an “anything goes” type of improv format. The performers are asked to maintain a certain criteria as far as time, tempo and a few other technical aspects are concerned. How do you prepare each guest to stay within these confines during their set? Does any sort of “practice” set go on between you and your guests before the night of?

McGee: We do two sets. A cover set, which we do light rehearsals before the set. The second is pure improv. We decide time, tempo, and key right before. I'm excited for this week's covers. Maggie Morrison is doing The Knife and Aby Wolf is doing Björk the next week.

l'étoile: Music duos seem to be the trend “du jour” in local music. They take us by storm, become buzzworthy, but also have a tendency to fizzle out just as fast as they caught ablaze. Local collectives tend to have more longevity. Do you see music as having monogamous and polyamorous qualities? Do you think bands who add a little variety into their “relationship” – in the form of a side project or a solo act – tend to flourish and grow on a creative level?

McGee: I think every artist benefits from multiple experiences. Basuketto has been an inspiration for me personally. But, yes, playing with multiple people does grow the creative level, in my opinion.

l'étoile: Creatively and personally, do you find it easier to interact with people who have had experience working with a variety of musicians and cross genres compared to those who have mainly stuck to small bands?

McGee: Yes, I always learn from different artists, and the more genres the better. I really want to work with more jazz and country players.

l'étoile: Locally, with whom are you dying to collaborate you haven't yet worked with?

McGee: I really don't want to say, I mean I don't want to jinx my chances.

l'etoile: There are two more performances of Basuketto left. Can we expect other improv-focused projects from you and Ben in the near future?

McGee: Yes, we are going to play at the Turf Club on May 25 with Laliberte and Votel is opening up for Big Freedia on May 11.

Basuketto plays free shows tonight and next Wednesday, March 28 at the Red Stag Supperclub (509 1st Avenue NE, Minneapolis) at 10 p.m.

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