REED MATHIS | THE NEXT REVOLUTION

One of the truly amazing aspects of my job is having the opportunity to meet and speak with some of the most inspirational and talented musicians on the planet. But this is the very first time I have had the pleasure of conversing with someone who very well may not be from Earth. Reed Mathis (and the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey for that matter) appear to be from another world, but Reed has graciously traveled to Earth in hopes of shedding light on everything from the psychedelic nature of the cello, reinventing the bass, nutrition and touching God.

Kayceman: Well I feel a good place to start would be with, who the hell is Jacob Fred?

Reed: Who the hell is Jacob Fred? That’s a good one. Well, Jacob Fred has meant a lot of different meanings to us over the years. And we don’t take any of it too seriously at all. But I guess it started out when Brian [Haas, keyboards] was a little kid, and he was just obsessed with that name. He has two brothers and tried to get his parents to name them Fred. He just kind of kept that name around him all while he was growing up. And then when he got to college, which is when I met him, by that time him and all of his friends were calling themselves Jacob Fred. I was in high school and I was going to jam with these older dudes, and they were all calling each other Jacob and Fred and I didn’t quite understand what was going on. So we jammed and played a couple of gigs, and then I showed up to at one of the gigs maybe our fourth or fifth gig, and it said, “Tonight: Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey!” I was like, “What’s that shit all about?” “Is that what we’re called?” And everybody was like, "Ya it’s hilarious, isn’t it?’ And the Jazz Odyssey part comes from the movie Spinal Tap.

Kayceman: Ya, I kinda gathered that.

Reed: And that’s been a big influence on all of the people in our age group.[Reed is 25].

Kayceman: Ya, any one in our age bracket for sure.

Reed: It’s cool because the sickness of the jazz world is that it takes itself so seriously. I mean watch a videotape of Louis Armstrong, for crying out loud. Did that guy take himself seriously? No way! And he invented the shit. Miles Davis said Louis Armstrong had already played everything that everybody is playing now, in the 20's, you can’t play anything he didn’t already play, and that dude didn’t give a fuck! So we’re just trying to inject a little light-heartedness into the whole act of playing jazz music.

I agree with you entirely.

I mean what on earth are we playing for. What is it for? John Cage who is a musician, well he’s more than a musician. He’s an artist that I totally respect. Everything he has ever said has resonated with me, well almost everything. He didn’t like, A Love Supreme, but in one of his essays he said that the whole thing with music, the whole thing that makes it valuable, is if it’s useful. So when you're evaluating a piece of music, just ask yourself, what can I use this for? What does this do for me? What’s the purpose of this? And how an artist should definitely be aware of those questions, I mean you never really answer them fully. As a society, what do we use music for, and the microcosm of society that we usually see at out gigs, what are they using our music for? I have a wonderful time going to see bands like The Slip, and Sector 9 and just vibing on the people.

Ya, I feel that is a lot of what’s going on, the collective energy and just the exchange of that positive energy.

Well before I get into some more philosophical questions, which I have plenty of believe me, [laughter from both Reed and I], I wanted to get a little band history.

Well we started the group eight years ago, almost exactly. Spring of ’94 was when Brian and I started hanging out.

And you guys met in college?

Well I went to Washington High School here in Tulsa. I never went to college. Brian was at Tulsa University, and we just kind of met because we had some friends in common. I knew some dudes at TU who played and they were telling Brian there was this bass player he needed to hang out with. So we started hanging out, and we... well, fate kind of put together this eight-piece band that was just killing. It was totally crazy, it was trombone, trumpet, sax, Brian on Rhodes, me on bass, this dude Shawn Layton on drums, a percussionist, Matt Edwards, and a guitar player, and it was this huge slamming free jazz funk thing. We started packing the house everywhere we went in Tulsa, from like the first gig, it was really weird how quickly it was bangin’. We all took it as a sign and started taking it real seriously. Back then it was definitely a crazy big rockin party free jazz show, where we would play some totally out John Zorn Naked City sounding shit, and then turn around and play “Peach” by Prince. You know. We were doing all kinds of weird shit. We were covering Prince, Hendrix, lots of Thelonious Monk, lots of Wayne Shorter, but doing them with weird hip-hop beats and this was before we had ever heard Groove Collective or any kind of shit like that. Ya know, in Oklahoma we had never heard of any of that. So as far as we were concerned we were inventing the shit.

In order to help bring you both the bulk and the feel of this almost three-hour conversation I decided to interject with my own words, sometimes simply commenting, and others abbreviating Reed's words and ideas.

We made a couple records on our own that are out of print, but they’re really cool -- with that eight-piece band -- that actually have a lot of different kind of shit on it we don’t do now (like a lot of hip-hop. There were four guys in the band that were really good MC’s.) and a lot of weird stuff, we’ve gotten into a lot of different kinds of music over eight years. Then after playing in Boston a couple of times we got offered a record deal from Accurate, which was the label that launched MMW, Jazz Mandolin Project, and Morphine. So we did a record for them, it was our third record it was called Welcome Home and that was a seven-piece band, we did it live over a two night run in Tulsa, sold out the club and did all this new material and it just went off like crazy. So we put that out on Accurate and that opened up a lot of doors for people out side of the mid-west getting into what we were doing.

By that time we were doing pretty well in a lot of cities, we were doing the Elbo Room in San Francisco and packing it out on a Saturday, we were doing the Double Door and The Note in Chicago, The Mercury in Austin and stuff like that. But me and Brian were definitely getting a lot more serious into what we were doing then the rest of the guys were. When we started out all eight of us had this really kinetic energy about us just as individuals, everyone was positive and electric and practicing, and everyone was writing lots of weird tunes. But then after three or four years, it’s just me and Brian writing the tunes, and the other dudes are leaving their fuckin’ horns in the van for weeks at a time between gigs. I’d be like, "Shouldn’t we be practicing?" So it was just becoming apparent that there was a split happening. So we decided to do trio gigs as a side project.

And that was with Edwards?

Ya, [Matt] Edwards, exactly. And Edwards had been playing congas in the band for the first five years, but then Sean Layton (original drummer for JFJO) who was kinda like me and Brian’s teacher and a real guru for this whole scene around here. He had a lot of mental issues, and attempted suicide several times, and we asked him to leave the group because we needed something more consistent. So Eddie hopped on the drum kit and blew us all away. After never having played drums in a band, suddenly he sounds like Jack DeJohnette's little grandma, [hard laughter on both sides]. So we started doing gigs as a three-piece here in Tulsa on Wednesday’s not even on weekends. We had an every Wednesday gig for a while. And we started getting bigger crowds on the Wednesday night gigs than the full band would be getting on the weekends.

So it was time for the switch.

Ya, we were just like, "ummm... these people are trying to tell us something." After about nine shows with the trio we recorded one and put it out on a local label called Plum E records, and that one's called Live At Your Mama’s House. A lot of people bought it, and we were really shocked. It was the kind of thing where I did the cover at Kinko’s, burned the discs on my friend James’s computer - it was totally low-budg. And we sold a bunch of them, it was nuts! People were loving the trio. And after the Wednesday night gigs we would all be so hyped we’d be like, "Should we tell the other guys we want to fire them? Can we do that?" And the verdict was always the same thing, it was like they’ve been in it just as long as we have, and we started this together it’s not our place, it’s in the hands of the universe... So we would just say "what’s meant to be will be," and just took non-action. And fate took care of it. Over like a two month period the other three dudes voluntarily left. Mostly because the vibe on stage...

It just wasn’t working?

Ya, they would lead the band, ya know take a solo, and it would be kinda OK, and the energy wouldn’t really be happenin’. Then me or Brian would take a ride and suddenly it’s the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The songs had huge peaks and valleys depending on who was soloing. We still all love each other like crazy, but they also just didn’t want to tour that much. Me, Brian and Eddie were ready to quit our fucking jobs and live in the van. We were ready, the other dudes were like, "I want my girlfriend, I want to go see a movie" or whatever.

So it seems like a natural progression.

Definitely, I mean that’s the whole thing with Jacob Fred, nothing has ever been forced. You can’t force the universe. Every time in my life I have ever tried to force something to happen, it backfires. It’s just an insecurity thing for me anyway. I just need to breathe slower, and realize the universe is going to provide.

It will unfold, you just have to look for the signs.

Yeah... Just like relax and be alert, and you’ll reap more rewards than if you work your ass off. So that’s been our approach and it definitely turned us into a trio pretty quick. And that’s why we called that record Self Is Gone because we made that record three weeks after the rest of the guys left, so that’s three weeks into Jacob Fred being a trio. Actually it spans that because we did one session with the seven piece and two of those tunes ended up on the record. “Critters,” the one about Critters Buggin, and “Why Is No One Happy,” the one about the band Dead Clowns. And the rest of the session we scrapped because a week after that the guys split. So that was on the East Coast when we did the first session and then we toured across the country. By the time we got to L.A. we had been a trio for three weeks and we went into a studio there and basically did what we do live, in the studio. We recorded the whole record in like two hours it was all first takes, and we called it Self Is Gone because that’s what it finally felt like. After all those dudes left, they were complaining, and ya know they were beautiful guys, but they were not having a positive charge, and after they split it was just so easy to play.

Being on stage was effortless, there was nothing blocking us, there was no energy blockage, so that’s why we called it Self Is Gone because it felt so blissful and plus the day we left for the tour I was in this deli and there was a newspaper sitting out on the table, I opened up to the sports page and it said, “SELF IS GONE” in huge letters. And I had just been reading this Buddhist thing that morning before I went there and I was like "oh my god!" I thought I was hallucinating. It turned out the TU basketball coach was named Bill Self and he just retired, but ya know. So anyway we toured for like nineteen months without a break, and during that tour we changed drummers twice, (cracking up) without taking a break from touring.

This in and of itself is a testament to Jacob Fred as a whole, but more directly an indication of the musical bond Brian Haas (Rhodes and melodica) and Reed Mathis share. A bond that spans eight years here on earth.

Damn. I don’t know how the hell you did that.

We did it without effort. Matt Edwards will always be one of my favorite people in the world, but he wanted to get married. He was into sacrificing, but this is a big ass sacrifice. It’s a huge sacrifice, to really do it in the music world you have to either be rich or you have to sacrifice everything you have. Those are the only two ways to pull it off. So Eddie left, and we kinda put it out there to the universe "Well who’s gonna step and play drums?" And that same day we got a phone call from Brian’s brother [Richard Haas] who has sat in with us since we started the band, ya know total family. And he called and was like, "Yo, I heard Eddie’s leaving the group." And we told him that's what we all decided, because ya know we all decided it together, and he asked if we wanted to buy him a drum kit? And we thought he was kidding but he just kept saying "no I’m serious."

Was he a drummer prior to this?

Oh ya, he had been playing drums for a long time, but I had never really heard him fully do it. I had heard him do a lot of great djembe playing, but I didn’t know if he could rock a band. I was like, "We need some power, we need some Elvin Jones, I mean can you bring it?" And he was like, "Fuck ya! I can bring it man!" We were playing his town a couple days later and we did the first set with Edwards, and Richard did the second and got fucking standing ovations after every tune. We didn’t even rehearse with him, we just gave him a bunch of bootlegs and told him to learn these tunes. So like a week later, Eddie got married and a couple days after that we hit the road with Richard. And on Richard's third gig we got offered a record deal, like a six album deal. We didn’t even tell them it was Richard's third gig, they were like, "You guys are tight." It was cool.

Sure, for someone like Reed and a band like Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey it's cool to get a record deal, for the other 99% it's the dream come true. And I don't think anyone does it in a three-piece with a new drummer.

Ya, that is cool.

We went on the road with Richard and we did that for like six months. And the road was a little too much for him and his wife. It just wasn’t quite the right vibe. But we got through it as always and we knew that everything that happens is happening for a reason and good things are on the way. As it turns out, the universe always provides a way, a couple of months before that we were in Cincinnati hangin’ with Jason Smart who had just left Ray's Music Exchange. So we went over to his place and he had a drum kit and piano set up, he and Brian started playing duets. We were all just like "Fucking a, this kid's a fucking genius, where did this guy come from?" I couldn’t believe the shit he was playing on the drum kit, and this was like with brushes at 4am, it was totally soft but I could just tell he was a genius.

So we hung out the rest of the night and he was kind of like, "I mean, your brother's great and everything, but if you guys ever need a drummer, I’m down." He hinted that one of things that made him want to leave Ray’s was hearing us. He was really inspired by what we were doing and wanted to get into something with a trio, whereas Ray’s is like a seven-piece band, very similar to what we were doing eight years ago. So as soon as we started talking with Richard about him not playing we called Jason and he said "I’ll be there tomorrow." So basically Richard's last gig was like October 27th or something and we were opening for The funky Meters in New Orleans at the Howling Wolf for Halloween, and we flew Jason to New Orleans and without even really rehearsing we threw down the funk. And we’ve just been raging ever since.

Do you think that Jason is the final piece? Do you feel like it’s complete now?

Definitely. We all feel like we’re done fishing.

It kind of seems that way to me as well, not that I have a huge history with Jacob Fred, but I have listened to various incantations of the band and it just seems right.

It seem so right it’s a little spooky. Brian and I’s concept is not typical. Ya know, it’s weird and unique, and it’s like Oklahoman. It’s the kind of shit that only happens out in the middle of nowhere, where you're not influenced by too much stuff. The fact that Jason fits into that so perfectly is a little weird. But it’s perfect, we never even have to talk about the music, it’s just psychic.

That’s apparent.

Is it really?

Definitely.

So that’s what we’ve been doing. And we took January off which was our first break in nineteen months. We didn’t hang out for a couple of weeks, and then we got together and wrote a whole bunch of new tunes and then went up to The Knitting Factory and recorded our seventh album. It’s mostly new shit and some of the stuff we’ve been playing for the past year. I just got my copy on Friday actually, when we were in New York.

I just saw it right now for the first time.

What do you think of the cover?

I like it a lot. It’s got that full Miles Davis Pangea, like...

Totally! That’s what I was feeling when I saw that painting. I was like, ‘man this is some Miles Davis shit.’ Awesome, I’m so glad you got that vibe too.

Definitely.

I love that painting.

I do too, I think it’s a great piece of art. I really dig it.

That’s Dove, who was our guitar player for five years who painted that.

Very cool.

So I just got a copy of the record, and Bill Milkowski wrote the liner notes, and that blows my mind. I feel so blessed that I got to hang out with Bill, and I’m getting to know that guy. Because he is such a cutting edge writer. I mean when MMW was getting like twenty or thirty people a night, way before they broke, Bill Milkowski was writing about them. He is just on the edge.

Well that’s pretty much what we’re doing with you right now.

That's right folks you heard it here first, the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey is bound for greatness. I'm not sure if the earth is capable of handling their sound right now - but sooner or later - maybe by 2050 or 3020 the music will be appreciated as genius, but until then we get tiny shows with huge musicians.

[Laughing]

Right on. Ya, JamBase has taken a nearly erotic interest in Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, as we have in JamBase.

Something I’ve really been interested in talking to you about is your relationship, both musically and spiritually with Brian. I ask because when I’m watching you guys the connection on stage is at times beyond my comprehension. You know telepathy certainly comes to mind.

Telepathy is definitely occurring at times.

I feel it’s got to be more than just a musical relationship, I don’t think that just happens between two people who can play music together, there seems to be something much deeper going on.

There’s some heavy shit between me and Brian. We’ve talked a lot about it. We don’t really know what it is, but it’s like some past life shit, or some karmic shit.

That’s what it looks like, honestly.

Neither one of us quite understands it. But from the very first time we ever hung out it was just like, both of us within the first ten minutes were like, just very matter-of-factly, "Oh I’ll be hanging out with you for the rest of my life." It was just apparent. We didn’t even have to talk about it. I don’t know, we’re kind of like each other's guru in a way.

I think we all have mentors and people we find inspiration in and connect with. And that seems to be very apparent between you two.

Ya, I mean, he’s probably the most powerful musician I’ve ever seen.

He probably feels the same thing about you.

He says so. I don’t know anybody on the planet who understands what I want to do musically, more than him. There aren’t very many people who I could go up to and be like, "I wrote this tune I want to show it to you" and have it come out like I wanted it to. But with Haas it’s just effortless. He knows what I’m going for before I even explain it to him. It’s that kind of weird musical partnership where I’ll have an idea for something that will be pretty cool, and he’ll tweak it in some way, and it will be ALL the way cool.

Like there’s a tune called "Lovejoy" on our new record that in many ways is one of the coolest songs on the album, it’s like super spacious and really freaky, and really beautiful at the same time. It’s a tune I wrote last January during our break, and I didn’t even really dig it. We got together and we promised each other we were each going to bring in a bunch of tunes, even if we thought they were shitty. Just so we would have a bunch of new shit when we went back on the road. And we played the tune, and I wasn't into it. And the next day we got together and Brian was like "Yo, let's work on Lovejoy" and I really didn't want to, but he was like, "no this is great" and he totally forced me to work on it. And now it’s one of my favorite tunes that we play, I look forward to it in every show. I don’t really know what it is. I take it for granted until we play with other people.


Photo by Scott Smith
We just did a tour with Mike Clark, it was really awesome. I was actually astonished at what Mike Clark played with us, because it didn’t sound anything like what I expected. I’ve heard Prescription Renewal, I’ve heard the Headhunters so I had expectations, but he didn’t play that shit at all, he played some totally different shit, he sounded like a different drummer he sounded like Elvin Jones or something crazy. And I really learned something in the last month playing with Mike Clark, Jessica Lurie, and Fareed Haque all of whom are great players, and I learned that the understanding that Brian and I have musically is a really rare thing.

Rare is an understatement.

I don’t even see it because I’ve been living with the guy for five years. I’ve known him for eight but in '97 we moved into the same house and we’ve basically been living together ever since. He got married at one point, and we lived down the street from each other, but pretty soon I moved into their house. And now I have a different apartment, but that’s only 90 days a year. The rest of the time we’re in a van, sharing hotel rooms...

Couldn’t be much closer.

Yeah, it’s like we eat together, we shit together, we smoke weed together, we play music together.

24 hours a day.

Yeah, 24 hours a day. In order to hang out with somebody 24 hours a day, all of your insecurities are going to come out. All the parts of your psyche, your spirit and your soul, your going to have to deal with them. And all the parts of the other person. Usually the only situation people encounter that in is in marriage. But we have basically forced it on each other because we love to play music together. There have been many times when Brian and I have looked at each other and been like "it would be OK if I never had to talk to you again." But we can’t do that because we love playing together so much. We always work through it. Simply because we love to play. We don’t know what we would do if we didn’t play together. So that’s basically the deal.

That’s apparent, this connection. That was the first thing that really made me step back and look at what was going on on stage. At least initially, as I continued to delve into your music there were many things that I was impressed with but the thing that grabbed me was the musical connection between you and Brian. I was standing there at the The Parish @ House of Blues watching and thinking, ‘ok these guys are either sharing the same brain, or have tapped into the same wave’ there’s something going on you can’t see, even with like the best fucking bands you don’t see that.

The thing that makes it important to me is that a band is like a microcosm of the world, all human relationships are a microcosm of the entire human relationship. And in a band it’s even more so, because as Beethoven said, the power of music is that it transports the listener into the artists psyche. So what makes it awesome to me is that if we can meet with each other in a peaceful manner while not holding anything back, that’s like the ideal society. Where there’s no limitations and there’s no violence. And if we can achieve that in music and express that in music... music can change people's lives.

There’s no doubt about it.

I never met John Coltrane and that guy has changed my mind. That guy has programmed me. And that’s just such a powerful thing. I feel like what you were saying about my relationship with Brian and with Jason, if we can do that through improvised music, I mean that’s a service. It makes me feel like we're doing something more than just partying.

Oh there’s no doubt about that, don’t kid yourself. That sort of ties into the next line of thought I’ve really been thinking about with you guys, which is the spirituality. I definitely hold music in a very spiritual realm, as do you. And when I’m watching JFJO as a whole I kind of feel like it’s almost as if you change into some type of clairvoyant vessel of some type. Some sort of insightful message from the past or the future or something is coming through you guys. I can see it in Brian sometimes when he’s playing and he closes his eyes and he looks like a channel for a higher power, as do you. You close your eyes and all of a sudden your bass goes underwater and your making noises I’ve never heard before. And it seems like it’s coming from somewhere else, not just 'hey we’re playing music.' I think music is very spiritual and could potentially be a connection to a higher power.

Oh I agree. I agree completely. It seems like there’s two things in a human being, there’s the spirit and the mind. The mind is the ego and the thought and the spirit is the non-thoughts, the energy that isn’t produced by thinking. And if you let go of thought then basically you are the universe, the universe is what your doing, and I think that’s what I observe in my favorite musicians, the ability to let go of your... your whatever.

Your ego...

Ya, if you let go of control, that’s what it is. See the whole reason why humans think is because they're trying to control. Trying to control their environment, trying to control themselves, and they’re trying to control other people. That’s the whole reason we think, and if we weren’t trying to control, we would instantly be Buddha. And that’s what’s so awesome about music is that the less you control, the better it is usually. Because control is what kills improvisation, if anybody on the stage is trying to control the music then it blocks not only them but everybody else that’s improvising. Because it’s like one conduit when your playing together, it’s like one energy field. And that’s basically the only thing we cared about in our music, did we get out of the way.

Sure, this very much ties into something I read recently that instantly made me think of you. I was reading an interview with Trey Anastasio and he was talking about a theory of improvisation, and his quote was, “The musician is a medium through which existing music in the universe is filtered.” This is a really interesting concept to me, it’s one that I kind of read and I thought it was interesting but it’s been recurring in my head and I’ve been thinking about this concept of there being existing music and musicians channeling it. You know I can’t put my finger on why a certain three chord progression sounds good, and why another certain three chord progression doesn’t sound good, but this idea of existing music, and this whole idea of tapping into a higher power, that music could potentially be the insight into that higher power. Like you said if you can make the music your doing that is real and true and affect people, then maybe music is the medium through which the higher power speaks.

Yeah. Well it’s definitely the medium through which human being express their experiences to one another. It’s much more accurate than words.

I agree, because it’s real, it’s emotion.

That’s the thing, it’s not symbols. The main way that humans communicate is through symbols, written symbols, or spoken symbols, body language symbols or whatever, and music is not a symbol for anything, it’s an actual experience in and of itself. It can be shared, it’s like actual contact of souls. You know I agree completely with what Trey is saying. I used to have this recurring dream that would always freak me out. In the dream I would be walking down the street in the middle of the night with my bass, and I would be playing and I would be looking up at the star Sirius, you know the dog star...

...ya ya...

And I would be receiving the music I was playing from Sirius, from like Venus. I had this dream three or four times. And I wouldn’t understand what was coming out, it would sound like gibberish to me, but I would be receiving these musical transmissions from fucking space.

That’s really fucking cool...

I had just read "Cosmic Trigger" by Robert Anton Wilson that talks a lot about the dog star and how he thought he was receiving transmission from beings there. It was really freaky.

I pay a great deal of attention to dreams. I feel that dreams are another area that taps into that something else, that something beyond the conscious realm of our world, what we can put our finger on. Dreams are amazing to me. I think they are definitely a look into your psyche and your spirituality, as is music. So for you to be having a dream about your music is a very interesting thing I think.

Oh man, I would say half of my dreams involve playing music, and vividly hearing the music that is being played. I can’t usually remember the music when I wake up, but it’s there when I’m dreaming.

Wow.

And that’s only been in the last couple of years that it’s been that way. I used to have those kind of dreams a couple of times a year, but lately it’s been much more often, and I take dreams very seriously. I love those dreams, I’ve had incredible dreams about playing in front of large amounts of people and having them playing the music, having them control what I’m playing. I don’t know it’s really amazing, it’s like a flying dream or something, I wake up with that sensation. A really integrated sort of, sensation, where I feel connected.

First of all that’s interesting on two tiers that you say a large crowd is affecting your playing, because it seems to me that when you guys are playing, even when your playing for 25 people, your playing for 25,000. Your sound could fill stadiums, I think. [Reed cracks up for a second] I’m looking at you guys on stage, your eyes are closed and you guys are playing for 25,000 people even though there’s 15 people in the room. And I love it, Brian looks out over the crowd, "Thank you all for coming, it’s great to see you all."

As far as we’re concerned we’re playing for every last human being on the planet.

And it comes through in your playing. Also to touch on the audience affecting your music, I think that’s true already. The exchange of energy between the crowd and the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, whether there’s one person or one thousand is some thing very unique as well.

I agree, it’s really unreal.

The connection and the energy, it sort of just feeds upon itself. It’s like you give something to the crowd, and I suppose this is the way it’s supposed to be but it’s rare, where you give something to the crowd and they give it back, and then they get it back even more... It’s like this wheel that keeps turning.

It’s an unbelievable thing, this kind of opening.

So in some ways what you're dreaming is actually in some form a reality. I mean the crowd is affecting what your playing.

Definitely, there have been a couple of times when I really did in a waking state, feel like the people listening were dictating to me psychically what to play. It’s really crazy, and it’s a wonderful thing. I think all human brains are like that, we’re all telepathic, but it’s just a process of evolution, or it might even be like a nutritional issue.

It very well may be.

As I change the content of my body through what I’m eating, I definitely notice my psyche behaving in different ways.

I agree, just the way I feel, physically and mentally. If I’m eating like shit for some reason it will definitely affect the way my mind works, my writing, anything, and that’s just something I’ve become more aware of in the past year or so. It’s been a real eye-opening experience I’ve been having with what you put in your body and how it affects you.

Wow, that’s so awesome to hear.

I don’t know why it took so long for me to figure this out, I mean you grow up with 'you are what you eat’ but it kinda goes in one ear and out the other, but now it’s becoming a reality.

I feel like that’s the new revolution. I mean that’s the true next human revolution. It’s not political, it’s none of that shit. It’s not even musical. I think the real real crazy revolution that’s about to happen is going to be centered around nutrition. Because as nature does, when a species population gets out of balance it cuts it off, and that’s what happening to the human race through it’s food. Our population has tripled since 1960, and it doubled between 1960 and 1990 and it’s almost doubled again, it will be doubled again in like a year. So the population is swelling out of control and that population is going to shrink back down fast through disease.

That’s what we are seeing with AIDS and cancer.

Yeah, and the thing is, they call those diseases incurable, but all of those diseases are totally preventable through diets.

Yeah, that’s a thought I’ve really been thinking about. And I find it really interesting that you think that.

"Doctors should teach nutrition, not pharmaceutical addiction"
- taken from a JFJO bumper sticker.

I believe that with all my being. There are researchers who have been treated like criminals by the FDA, and the government in general because of their research in nutrition.

Oh ya, because it changes the whole food pyramid, and the economic state of America, if you change that accepted diagram it throws a bunch of wrenches in a lot of peoples plans.

All that industry and even more importantly the pharmaceutical industry...

Oh my God, that’s a fucking sham...

Like half of the board of directors on the big pharmaceutical companies are senators.

That’s such a nightmare, it’s so sad.

That’s some Aldous Huxley right there. That’s a crazy world. When the government is also in charge of the drugs.

And pump yourself full of caffeine and sugar all day and make yourself borderline psychotic.

And give it to your kids, you give your kids coca-cola, give me a break.

When I was like hitting puberty my parents were pumping me so full of sugar and caffeine and then sending me to shrinks and putting me on Ritalin and all kinds of crazy shit simply because they didn’t know how to feed me.

Exactly. And you can’t blame the victim, this is what they were taught.

Oh ya, they had no clue. It’s hilarious. So I think that’s even more important than any music, even though music is one of the most important things in my life, nutrition is definitely the new frontier.

I’m with you on that. I want to touch on more philosophical things, because I’m far more interested in that than anything else really, [a bit of laughter] but not everyone who reads JamBase is as tapped into the depth of our conversation at the moment. So I wanted to get a little insight into your bass playing, just the physical bass playing. Now I might not be THE most worldly music fan, but I’ve definitely seen a lot of music, and what your doing with the bass is very very unique, I don’t think anybody will argue that. So I’m curious when and how you started getting this concept for playing the bass the way you do?

I started getting the concept for playing the bass the way I do when I was about seven. That’s when I started playing cello. And the cello is maybe the most psychedelic acoustic instrument ever invented, the cello and the sitar. I used to sit and play the cello in my room for hours. That was my first psychedelic experience. Before I had ever smoked herb, or listened to Jimi Hendrix I used to sit in my room and make my cello do the weirdest shit. And I played cello in orchestra and stuff but I would never play the part on the page. I would always just make up some shit and play sound effects, and make it like I wanted it to sound, but it wasn’t any fun because they didn’t like it. But I liked it and the people sitting next to me liked it. Then I got a bass when I was twelve and I always wanted to be able to make all the sounds I was hearing. When I was listening to music I loved all of it. I loved the singing, I loved the sound affect shit, I loved the orchestral recording. And vocal music was definitely the root, because both my parents are choir directors and voice teachers, so I grew up singing from the time I was four, singing in church every week, and choirs as a soloist. So the voice was really important, I wanted my instrument to be vocal, I wanted the bass to be a vocal instrument because I didn’t have that good of a singing voice ya know. So that was always just my approach. From the very first day I had a bass I played it like I was singing. But then the problem was when I plug it into an amp it didn’t really sound like I was singing. I never took any bass lessons or anything, and I’m really glad I didn’t.

I’m glad you didn’t too.

I think they would have told me how to do it right, and I wouldn’t have experimented as much.

Oh, definitely, that’s a very similar notion that Skerik said to me. [see interview with Skerik] He kept stressing and saying, "all that music school crap... it’s just making people cookie cutters... play from your heart, play what’s coming out of you..."

That’s the thing. It’s like watch a three year old kid sit down at a piano and if you can’t play with that mentality, then your not playing. And Skerik is a perfect, perfect example of that, that dude is like one of my biggest hero’s.

If I had to pick one, it would be him.

I am so about what that guy is about. When I saw Garage a Trois at Tip’s during JazzFest... Me too, I was standing there staring in amazement.

I was just like “Yes! Yes! Thank you God, that’s it...”

Yup, that’s the way it’s supposed to sound.

Although it doesn't follow chronological order, I feel it would be both timely and interesting to conclude part one of our look into the mind, spirit, and sound of Reed Mathis with the following excerpt.

I can’t wait for High Sierra, I love that thing.

Me too. I can’t wait either.

I’m going to Bonnaroo next week.

That’s right, you emailed me about that. That’s gonna be crazy shit.

Yeah, it’s gonna be interesting. I can’t figure out if it’s gonna be pulled off beautifully, and be a wonderful meshing of all these different worlds, or if it’s just going to be a fucking nightmare.

It’ll probably be both. It will probably be like Woodstock. Where it is so awful and so great at the same time.

I’m just stoked I get to go see Cut Chemist, Z-Trip and Amon Tobin...

AMON TOBIN’s playing?

Yeah, that’s like what I’m most excited for. I mean, I like my rock and roll, I really like Panic, but what I’m really excited for is Amon Tobin, Z-Trip...

Amon Tobin, Squarepusher, Autechre... have you checked out Autechre?

Yes, a bit limited, but that shit is awesome.

That shit is so innovative. That’s like no other music I’ve ever heard.

And Plaid...

Boards Of Canada. Yeah I’ve been checking out Amon Tobin and Talvin Singh for like four years, and Squarepusher, but like Autechre and some of that shit I’m just getting into.

How about Aphex Twin you listen to that shit right?

Editors note: For information about these artists check out WarpRecords.com.
Have you listened to Druqks?

Yeah. I’ve checked out both discs of that. It’s awesome.

That's some shit. You can hear the peddles and the strings of the piano flexing, he’s got that shit so mic-ed up it’s awesome.

Yeah I know. It’s unreal. I’m glad a lot of those artists are getting incorporated into the scene because my first impression of Amon Tobin when I first heard Permutation I felt like he was doing what we’re doing. That sounds more like Jacob Fred than any of the jazz bands I’ve heard playing these days. Amon Tobin’s Permutation and Talvin Singh’s OK I heard them both on the same day, and they were more like what I’m trying to do than any other music on earth. So it’s about time those artists are starting to get integrated into these festivals and stuff because that’s where it’s at!

I agree. And, well I just started working at JamBase maybe 8 or 9 months ago, and that’s been basically one of my goals. Trying to expose all this amazing music being made by DJ’s and producers and different collaborations that these kids who like our music need to know about. They don’t know who these people are because it’s not shown to them, and I’m really glad that JamBase and the festival world, are starting to bring all these wonderful areas of music together, it’s just such an awesome time to be alive.

It’s a renaissance. In retrospect this shit is gonna look like the late sixties.


This has been the first portion of my three-hour conversation with Reed Mathis. As the tape continued to roll so did the esoteric nature of our talk. Stay tuned for the technical aspects of Reed's playing, a look back at JazzFest and the fate of the world.

You will be able to catch the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey this summer at High Sierra Music Festival, Berkfest and these dates.

And do yourself a favor and check out the new release, All Is One.

The Kayceman
JamBase | Sirius
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[Published on: 6/15/02]

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