Joe Horton on Coloring Time's Icehouse residency and new projects
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Joe Horton is one of those guys you meet and immediately want to know better. He's calmly energetic, and considering he's one of the busiest guys in the city, that's no small feat. Between fronting his experimental hip-hop group No Bird Sing, digging into a new project called Mixed Blood Majority with Lazerbeak and Crescent Moon, and clearing headspace with the jazz/hip-hop improv group Coloring Time, it's a wonder Horton even had the time to talk to us.
Horton is a founding member of Coloring Time, and along with Robert Mulrennan, Graham O'Brien and Casey O'Brien, as well as a rotating cast of characters and special guests (everyone from Adam Svec to Martin Dosh), he uses that group to push the boundaries of the audience experience. Like any good improv group, no performance is alike, and the line between music and art is entirely blurred.Coloring Time is officially moving their monthly residency to Icehouse this Tuesday, November 6, from Honey. They're hoping the new location will afford them more opportunities to integrate visual artists in performances and continue expanding the nebulous construct that is Coloring Time. Gimme Noise caught up with Horton on the move, what the group is up to, and where Horton's other projects are.
Lazerbeak on Mixed Blood Majority's Icehouse debut and entering fatherhood
Gimme Noise: What motivated the move from Honey to Icehouse?
Joe Horton: Honey's awesome. It's really great, and we had a really good time there. A couple of the guys in the band know Brian Liebeck from Icehouse, and it just seemed like it would be a good fit. The aesthetics of the venue are a little bit more in line with what we're doing... It's a beautiful space, but very casual, and those two things are hard to get together.
We thought we could do something with visual artists a little bit more easily there. We're going to be joined by a different visual artist every month... We're still kind of working out the details, but this month [November], it's Bob Schmitt. He does, like, landscape paintings and brushwork.
GN: Okay. So, tell me a little about the evolution of Coloring Time. What have you guys been up to? How has the lineup changed?
JH: The biggest change is that Peter Pisano moved to Toronto which is cool. He's a dear friend of all of ours, so we're glad that he got that opportunity. He seems like he's doing well out there, but we miss him. He's no longer in the lineup. We took that opportunity to kind of solidify things a little bit. When we first started out, Coloring Time was just this amorphous thing where just anyone could be there at any given time and that was really cool, because we're really fortunate to have really awesome friends that are really good at what they do, but I think there's something to be said for having a smaller group that plays together and develops a rapport with one another, and I feel like we've done that more over the course of the last year. We've added more permanent members like John Keston, Adam Svec is now playing with us all the time, and Chris Keller [Kristoff Krane] is playing with us all the time. So we've added more of a permanent lineup, and we're still adding guests from that. We're still adding guests from all of that, but we want to make the core a little more stable.
GN: Cool. So, long term, how do you see this project evolving?
JH: I'm really interested to see where it's going to go. We're all involved in a lot of projects and we're all really busy, and the thing that keeps us coming back to this is just the surprise of it. We surprise each other at every show because it's all improvised, and we find that even our shows have archs, and like you said, our development as a band has a big arch to it. Each member brings their own kind of influences in, and it'll affect the way that people do things. You're almost kind of constantly forced to live on this edge of almost making a mistake and sometimes making mistakes, but you have to push it that far in order to make anything happen, which is a really beautiful thing to get in the habit of. It's kind of like a boot camp for us.
One of the more concrete things we're going to do is add a visual aesthetic. We live in such a tactile, sensory world. I was talking to P.O.S. about this the other day, how you have to like, hold something in your hands nowadays, even though most people might download albums from the internet and they may not have a tangible package, providing people with that package is still very desirable for that reason. You have to give them something that they want to hold in their hands, not just a vehicle for it, which is something that is ultimately going to be a good thing, it's going to push the bounds of creativity. At a live show, technology is so much more accessible to all of us that it can work to our advantage and also force us to push the boundaries of what a live show experience is going to be like and to use the technology to our advantage.
Also in graphic design, we've been working with Kai Benson -- he's been doing all the F.I.X. design. We're working with James Benfield right now to do some design with Coloring Time in particular. Just working with these guys, I think it just adds to the overall experience. You have a warm audience when they have an idea of what you are all about, when you're giving them visuals beforehand, and then if you can reinforce that experience during the live show, I think that's all the better.
GN: Okay. So, tell me about some of your other projects.
JH: I feel like I'm the luckiest guy in the world right now. I have two records in the works that I'm almost done with--we're in the mixing phase--that I'm really excited for people to hear. One of them is the Mixed Blood Majority record with Lazerbeak and Alexei Casselle, and that has just been a really fun experience, we just had really good time making the record together.
GN: Tell me more about Mixed Blood Majority. How did that come about?
JH: Alexei and Lazerbeak wanted to work together for a really long time, and Alexei and I have wanted to work together for a really long time, and I've known Beak just from around. So we decided one day it would be fun to just to an EP together. We were just going to do, like, four or five songs, a really small project, digital release, just kind of maybe name it, maybe not. [Laughs] And it just went really well. It was fun more than anything, even aside from the quality of music, we were just really enjoying the experience, and so we decided to do a full length. So it's gonna be ten songs, forty minutes, so LP-ish length. We're done with it, we're finishing mixing right now. Music has a tendency... you can kind of lose your love for it, if you're doing it for a living, if you're doing it forty hours a week, you can start to resent it a little bit, but this has just been a really good time. It's renewing my faith in the craft, just working on it. Cecil Otter and Kristoff Krane are on the record, so we get to hang out with those guys and make music.
GN: And the other record you're working on--that's the No Bird Sing record?
JH: Yeah. It's been a labor of love, for lack of a better word. A whole lot of labor, a whole lot of love. We've been working on it for about a year and a half. This is the first time where we've written thirty-some odd songs to get to the twelve to fourteen that are gonna be on the record, and it's the best work that we've ever done together. It's way more colorful, we took it in a different direction for the last record and I'm particularly excited to share that with people. It's taken so much of me, like it really took a lot out of me to write that record, and it was in the midst of... after Mike [Larsen, Eyedea] passed away and it was just an emotional time in my life and a really heavy experience. It's been a heavy two years for me and everyone else that I know and to have this record come out of that... I couldn't be happier, really, and it was a very cathartic process, so I'm really excited to be sharing that with people.
GN: Okay. So, I'm wondering, as we're talking about Coloring Time as improv and as an experience for the audience, have you ever had a bad show?
JH: I have a hard time after every show. I have a hard time with it. Because I'm a harsh critic of myself and I'm trying to be less so, because I don't think that's necessarily the healthiest thing. I do think I should have standards for myself, but it is a difficulty of mine. So I have a problem after every show, but I don't think we've had a bad show. Because the good or the bad of it is just showing up. Every show, you go there, and it's also a very emotional experience. We show up and we try our hardest to be egoless on stage. We try to not be concerned with our conceptions of ourselves, and that sounds very metaphysical and whatever but there's a concrete function of that. If we're standing on stage naked, it's gonna encourage the people in the audience to be naked as well.
I've had people come up to me after the show being like, "Hey, I had this problem, and this show really helped clear it out." It's not the notes that they're playing, it's not the words that Chris [Keller] and I are saying, it's the action. It's just showing up. It's being there. It's being willing to make mistakes and being willing to throw yourself at it again and again and again. So, I mean, technically, I'm sure we've had tons of bad shows, but that action is just special. It's a very beautiful thing. I feel very privileged to just do it with so many people that I love and that are also really willing to do that.
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