The men of OM discuss the primacy of rhythm and how songwriting is really a lot like sculpting
Part II with Al Cisneros
Is there a tambura on Advaitic Songs?
Al Cisneros: Yeah, on "Gethsemane."
What do you like about the sound of that instrument and what it conveys in the music you're doing?
It conveys sort of the same thing as bass frequencies. It's a substratum that's constant, and it's unchanging underneath all the variations above. It's cool because it also sounds like it goes together.
Who plays that instrument live?
It's [Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe]. Over the past few years, it's grown to be a three piece band.
How did you meet Rob?
We were on the same label. OM's first album and Lichens' first album. Then we met at a show. Lichens was really different. I wish I'd had the opportunity to see the 90 Day Men.
When you were forming OM, was it founded on bass and drums for the instrumentation?
Yeah, just rhythms. It was everything we needed. The percussion got the rhythm and the groove, and the riff happens through the groove, so it was all there. Why have a guitar because you're "supposed" to have a guitar? That's a lot to deal with, having to deal with all the guitar player egos and all of that. It's better to have the songs tell us what we need to put in them and take it as it comes, go slow and let the songs build. Then it just turns out better.
Live do you use samplers or other devices?
It's far beyond a bass amp and a drum set now. I'm excited with the live show because we've translated the studio music into a really cool show that really holds the energy and conveys the feelings.
Do you feel that archaic music from various cultures and religious traditions informs what the band does rhythm-wise?
In some ways. But ultimately it's just the way the song sounds to us that is the outcome.
For Advaitic Songs, did you incorporate Arabic and Persian musical ideas into the songwriting more so than on previous albums?
No, I mean it's just what it is. It's the sounds of the songs we were hearing in ourselves, and that's the music that is on the album. It's just the sum total of the three musicians and the way that we hear music and what we think needs to be communicated in that song. It's not a design, like, "Oh, let's have this sound like it's Turkish scale, Persian scale today." There's always a rhythm. It's a really cool band in the sense that we know when the song arrives. It really does. We're like, "Yup, that's it." We know from that point we switch over to being technicians and then make it more structured. But I'd say 90 percent of the song, the essence of the song, is already there and we just tuned into it.
It's kind of like sculpture.
Yeah, it's in the block. It's already there. Exactly.
Emil Amos has been in the band for the last few years. How did you meet him, and why did you feel like he was a good person to be the drummer for this band?
We did a tour of the Northwest in 2005, maybe. We became good friends, and we really got along well. [We have] amazing music compatibility and a lot of the same inspirations. We resonated with one another well. He's an amazing musician.
You're touring with Sir Richard Bishop. Was it your choice to tour with him? What do you appreciate about his music?
Definitely. [His music is] his path. It's his heart through sound. I really respect that.
What attracted you to playing bass as opposed to another instrument and what continues to fascinate you about playing bass?
In my first band, I was trying to play drums, and Chris [Hakius] had a bass, and Chris was better at drums. He could play this one beat I could never play. We wanted to make a band so bad that I just started to play the bass. It was cool because we could make more progress. From there it just seemed like the way to go.
Drums and bass both are equally inspiring to me. It was cool -- switch over to Geddy Lee. It was alright, and I'm happy it went that way. And you know, it's neat because those two instruments are very similar -- bass is a percussive instrument. I don't mean slap bass; I mean that it's just rhythmic. The rests, the space in it. There's lots of notes you don't play, as well as those you do play. It's just awesome.