I Sit With Lindstrøm and He Winces Not: An Interview with Dominique Leone

Dominique Leone Party

Dominique Leone is a musician and music critic. I met up with him and his friend and flautist, Maryclare Brzytwa, in Paris during their European tour this fall. His second album, Abstract Expressionism, will be released in September on Important Records. We talked about lazy music critics, ranked Beach Boys albums, and tried to figure out who actually owns the copy of The Rest is Noise in his suitcase.

When I read that you’re ‘classically trained,’ what exactly does that mean?

I’m a classical performance major. I studied trumpet performance in school. I was playing in the orchestra, in recitals, solo concerts, jazz—all that stuff that goes with being a music major.

Do you still play trumpet on your records?

D: Not really—

Maryclare: Yes! We were recording with Lindstrøm last week, and out of nowhere, Lindstrøm pulls out this trumpet—

D: He’s like, ‘Oh, by the way, I have… this.’ So I laid down this disco-salsa horn line on the fly for this Boredoms remix he was recording. I’m curious to see what he does with that.

If you scored your tracks, would they have a formal structure?

D: I do score them actually, when I play at home with six or seven people—marimba, percussion, bass, vocalists. I didn’t used to do that when it was only me performing. But when I moved to San Francisco and started putting a band together, it became useful.

How long have you been making the sort of music you play now?

D: Probably since college. It’s been about ten years that I’ve been working towards this style. The record that’s out now I recorded five years ago on my four-track in Dallas. So, that’s pretty old. The record that’s about to come out is from 2005, 2006. I have a ton of backlog.

How did you start writing about music?

D: I was living in a suburb of Dallas, and there was nothing to do, no musicians, no clubs. I was so bored. So that’s when I started writing about music. I vaguely knew about Pitchfork because they had a couple reviews I didn’t like. So I saw on the site that they wanted reviews, I sent one in and they took it. That was a really off-handed, ‘Why not?’ kind of thing. I haven’t written anything since—I can’t remember the last time. I just don’t have time to write reviews or even hear as many new records as I need to really be on top of it.

What is Pitchfork’s place in the music world?

D: I don’t know that it’s really any different than Rolling Stone was in the 60s and 70s. You’ve always got to have a place where you can find out about new music. And we’re lucky enough to live at a time where you can go to a place, hear the music there, get links to other sites about it and get different perspectives. Pitchfork is in the right place in that they can offer all of this content that, historically speaking, for pop music, people have always wanted, in a lot more formats and more quickly—you have five new record reviews a day, interviews with people that no one had ever heard of a week ago, and that’s cool. It’s not Pitchfork, in particular—with the internet, the shelf-life of a band and buzz is much shorter now… Get to the part where I stayed in a Turkish prison.

What’s it like reading reviews of your own music?

D: It’s not that surprising, to be honest. Having written reviews and having been around the culture of record reviews for years, I’m not surprised by what they look like or sound like. I knew that they were going to pick up on certain things, mention particular artists… It’s still somewhat disappointing to see the same thing written 20 times.

Why does that happen?

D: A lot of writers rely on press releases for information about an artist. And I knew that, so when I wrote the press release, I made sure to put the actual artists I love—if they’re going to name-drop people, name-drop the right people. This is who I like, so if you’re going to write about someone, write about Debussy.

What’s the relationship like between musicians and critics?

D: Depends on the kind of music. It doesn’t really happen in pop music; you don’t have a lot of rock critics going on tour with Madonna. But for some kinds of art forms, the division between critic and artist is really blurred, and in a lot of cases it doesn’t actually exist. In experimental music, a lot of the people writing about it are actually the people participating in the scene… But most the musicians I know don’t have a great opinion of popular music record critics. They don’t seem to cross paths that much.

When I first heard your music a few years ago, I downloaded it from you on a P2P network.

D: Yea, I used to have all my files up there…

Now that you’re making a living as a musician—

[Laughs]

Now that you’re releasing records, has your attitude towards downloading changed?

D: Not really—I was downloading music last night—[Laughs]. All these Messiaen tunes. I don’t do it as much as I used to, I don’t have time to listen to as much new music. Now it’s mainly for old classical music, comparing four different conductors’ versions of a piece.

When you tour, what sacrifices do you have to make musically?

D: Well, for this tour we have to sacrifice a band. It’s just us two; we don’t have drums or bass. I play keyboard, Maryclare plays flute and we can sing, but there’s not a lot of give-and-take with the music. You’re kind of just running down tracks… For the music choices, I put together a set I thought flowed well, stuff that’s generally more up, not many free-form piano ballads. Otherwise, I don’t have to sacrifice too much musically.

What would you do if you had unlimited resources for a live performance?

D: Probably something similar to what I want to do when I go back to San Francisco, more theatrical things, orchestral things, more with voices. Maryclare played in this thing I did in Berkeley. I had ten musicians in this private residence. We had two grand pianos, four vocalists, a chance to set up where we wanted And we really got a chance to play music that would be difficult to unless you had that many people. A very cool sound… I’d like to have a very resonant space to play in, an ensemble with lots of different colors and vocalists with choral harmonies.

You could build your own theatre devoted to just your music, like Wagner did in Bayreuth.

D: Yea, that’d be cool. And to be able to record all that stuff, have microphones on every single element so you can micro-mix every single thing, like they do on a lot of experimental modern classical recordings. You can do a lot more things with sounds that way.

Have you thought about writing something book-length? Have you read The Rest is Noise?

D: I actually have that in my suitcase; I’ve been reading it for about six months, it seems like. [Laughs]

Maryclare: I lent my copy to Wobbly, and then when we were at Matmos’ house in Baltimore, I found it in their bathroom.

D: Nice. Well, I have Wobbly’s in my suitcase—

Maryclare: No, if you have Wobbly’s copy, that’s my copy.

D: Oh. I thought it was his…That’s a good book. It got me listening to Sibelius.… I actually pitched a 33⅓ book about [the Boredoms album] Vision Creation Newsun, but they didn’t think it would sell. As far as my interest in writing, it’s really insular. I could write about the chord progression of one song, but I don’t think anyone else would care about it. As for big contextual books, hundred-year movements, I don’t I have it in me, I don’t think about music in those terms.

So, Brian Wilson’s 2004 recording of Smile, or a bootleg that you curate?

D: I had a bootleg, actually, that I made. That’s what I listened to for a long time. To be honest, I’d choose Smiley Smile/Wild Honey over Smile. That twofer that came out, that’s, like—I’ve listened to that more than any other record. I’d choose it over Pet Sounds, for that matter. Smiley Smile is just…genius.

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~ by ohkrapp on July 7, 2009.

4 Responses to “I Sit With Lindstrøm and He Winces Not: An Interview with Dominique Leone”

  1. a little context: this was originally an interview I did on behalf of and pitched to futureclaw, a culture/titty mag that i once (literally once) wrote for, and which has now ascended from the humble hills of vermont into that rarified world of high fashion that neither you nor i may ever visit, not even in our dreams (jk, drew! ;0 ).

    they didn’t end up being able to use it last issue (it’s quarterly), and when I saw that it didn’t find a place in the new issue (which came out today and and is a real beaut), i figured: might as well just post it on the old blog.

    my apologies to dom for the result. but, hey, to paraphrase the old velvet underground adage: not that many people read krapp’s last blog, but those who do.. also have a blog?

    visit dom at his homepage for some really great mixes. pic via dom’s photostream.

  2. I like this interview better than the Studio one! Those guys seemed kind of TTA-style Swedish stuck-up. Though I really like that you found a place for ‘porous tobacco pouches placed on the gums’ in your literary intro.

  3. Oh and it’s totally Future Claw’s fault for not seeing the tussled/tousled spellchecker oversight.

  4. oh woe! tussled/tousled! tear my hair! set in stone!

    i hate hate things like that; and i was just chortling at a vagina described in this issue as “still taught” .. glass houses, etc.

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