Martin, Medeski Discuss Mago, MMW, Wood Bros.
Crowds tonight (June 15) at the 2007 Bonnaroo Music Festival will be treated to a rare occurrence, as keyboardist John Medeski and drummer Billy Martin perform as Mago for only the second time ever. TCrowds tonight (June 15) at the 2007 Bonnaroo Music Festival will be treated to a rare occurrence, as keyboardist John Medeski and drummer Billy Martin perform as Mago for only the second time ever. The pair is, of course, better known as two-thirds of the trio Medeski, Martin and Wood, but this particular configuration comes in support of Mago's self-titled debut, released April 10 through Martin's own label, Amulet.
"We had been talking about making a record, just the two of us, for a long time. Playing out with it will just be a special occasion, I think," Martin tells Billboard.com. The effort, recorded last year, features Medeski on Hammond B3 and was produced by Martin. It contains elements of the crew's funk and groove sound intertwined with experimental and improvised structures.
"A lot of it was pulled together from spontaneous sessions. We had to learn to listen closer and try to make music that's unique to us, that hasn't been done already," Medeski says.
The setup presented a new sonic palate for the pair to work from, but also brought them closer together as friends. "We discovered how much we care about each other as musicians and friends. It's hard to get deeper into a relationship when you're already touring with each other, especially as long as we have." The two started playing music together in 1989 in New York.
It would be no understatement to say that Martin, Medeski and Chris Wood have no shortage of projects to work on. The group is preparing to set off on tour with guitarist John Scofield during July and September, a stint that has been waiting in the wings since the four musicians released "Out Louder" last year. That album was released through Indirecto Records, the label the trio built after fulfilling their contract with Blue Note in 2006.
"It's great having our own label now, where we feel like we can release things at any pace we want," Martin says. The trio is currently considering releasing a few efforts before the end of the year, including a live album from a performance in Japan and a collection of songs recorded live with Medeski on acoustic piano (instead of organ or electric piano).
MMW also hope to see the release of "Little Monsters," an all-original children's music compilation, to which Blue Note still controls the rights.
"We never made a lot of money selling records to begin with, so it won't matter much if any of these don't sell a lot," Martin says. "We can be as productive as we want, but it's touring that brings the money in."
Medeski and Martin will also be heard on the upcoming, sophomore set by the Wood Brothers, the folk-pop collaboration between Chris Wood and his brother Oliver. Medeski is producing the set while Martin was invited in for a handful of drum tracks. Frazey Ford of the Be Good Tanyas and Amos Lee will also be featured on the album, which is still in the process of being recorded.
"It's great to work on a project like that because I love all kinds of different music. It mixes it up for me," Medeski notes. "Music is a business, and for a time, the business was running us. But now we do things at our own pace, with the people we want to. We'd put the brakes on [MMW] if we ever got bored, but we haven't yet. We have so many other things going on that we don't really have time to get bored."