Jeff Greinke Interview

July 1997 via email by Paul Clark.

In the beginning, how did it all start? What made you take up music?

I became interested in music seemingly overnight when I was 10 years old. I became obsessed with pop music and couldn't keep myself away from the radio. When I was 14 or 15 I discovered a radio station outside of Chicago, where I was living at the time, that played very unusual music-mostly imported albums by groups like Can, Amon Duul, Cluster, Gong, etc.. I became capitivated by this music, and every late Friday night, I would record this particular program. I decided I wanted to do radio myself when I got older. I eventually began broadcasting similar music in the late seventies on the college radio station at Penn State University ( I was pursuing a degree in meteorology ).

I soon discovered the domestic independent music scene and broadened my programming to include all kinds of outside music- improvised, experimental, ethnic, electronic, etc. I also began arranging concerts on campus for experimental musicians. I guess I still wasn't satisfied. I then met a guy, Rob Angus, at college who was studying composition and film. I very much liked what he was doing. We became friends and he invited me to join him in the studio. At about the same time I heard an album by David Moss that blew my mind. Called "Terrains", it is a collection of primarily multitracked vocal and percussion works that explored aspects of music I was just beginning to think about, such as texture, mood, depth, momentum etc. I was mesmerized by these beautiful pieces which he composed with very little means-voice, percussion, and a four track. So I went into the studio as a vocalist, to start with, and Rob would manipulate my vocals using tape delays and a moog synthesizer. In no time I was convinced that making music was what I wanted to do with my life. That was in 1980.

electronicmusic.com: Did you ever do anything with your studies in meteorology?

Jeff Greinke: Nothing as a career. I'm still fascinated with the weather, and following it is something of a hobby I suppose, but once I discovered I could make music, this interest took a back seat. I was disenchanted with the study of weather at Penn State, for the most part. I found that studying meteorology from an academic angle didn't excite me, and at this university, the approach was highly academic-supposedly one of the best. I tended, however, toward a more intuitive and experiential approach. I like being in it, I mean fun stuff-thunderstorms, tornadoes, blizzards, etc., watching intense meteorological phenomena take place. My parents couldn't pull me away from the window during storms while I was growing up. It became kind of a joke in the house. I was pretty obsessive, really, still kind of am, but Seattle is one of the most boring places to be meteorologically. There does seem to be a correlation between my interest in the weather and my music. Much of my work involves creating a strong sense of place, and in that place I like to invoke a variety of characteristics that are common to any place, not least of which includes atmospheric conditions-dark clouds, scattered clouds, humidity, rain, wind, tornadoes. This can also be seen in some of my titles-- Big Weather, Changing Skies, Moving Climates.

electronicmusic.com: What equipment do you need to be able to make your music?

Jeff Greinke: I have three keyboards: an Ensoniq ASR-10 sampler, an Ensonique ESQ-1 synth., and a Pro-1 synth. I also use various acoustic instruments to make noises with, a multi-effects processor, and an 8-track recorder. That's it.

electronicmusic.com: Is there any new technology out there that you are looking forward to being able to use to make your music even more expressive?

Jeff Greinke: Not really. Actually I'm totally ignorant about electronic equipment and what's available. I don't follow it. I've never really had the financial resources or at least made it a priority. Over the years I've made a couple of big purchases-my 8-track in 1988 and the sampler about 4 years ago. That's kept me happy. I've been tired of my ESQ-1 for years, but haven't replaced it. When it becomes time to acquire something new, my approach has been to ask my more knowledgable friends for suggestions. Hopefully, before too long, I'll find a way to rreplace my synth. In all honesty, I'm sure I could become excited about enhancing my current set-up, but while I don't have the money to purchase anything, I tend not to fantasize about it. This way I remain relatively content with what I have.

electronicmusic.com: How do you go about preparing to make music?

Usually from a blank slate; I start fooling around with sounds- try to find something interesting to use as a backdrop, or more recently, rhythm loops that excite me. From there I begin to layer. It's an empirical process-trying this against that and listening to what happens. So much is in the listening for me--my roots in music.

electronicmusic.com: When you perform live are you able to play a piece almost exactly the same as when it was originally recorded, ir it even possible?

Jeff Greinke: When I first began performing back in the early 80's, and for many years thereafter, I never even considered performing works from the studio. They were two very different worlds for me. For one, I never used to save my sounds which went into my compositions. I used them and discarded them. So performing such works was nearly impossible. I could approach the feel and certain qualities of my studio work, which I began to do more so later, but primarily I was into performing, so to speak; I wanted to be more physical and spontaneous. By about 1990, with acquiring a sampler, I began to bring the two worlds together in performance. I began saving my sounds from the studio works and used them live. And I figured out how to present my more ambient work with my more aggressive performace style so that, for me, performing remained stimulating , while similarly remaining true to my intent to present concerts of electronic music that were fun to watch. I find watching someone push buttons and twiddle knobs on stage uninteresting, and I figure I'm not alone.

electronicmusic.com: Do you run your own record label?

Jeff Greinke: I ran a label for a couple of years from 1982-1987, putting out cassettes mostly and my first LP,"Cities in Fog" (to be rereleased on CD this year by Projekt).

It was called INTREPID. Rob Angus and I ran it. It was a good way to begin getting my music out there. But it was a lot of work, very time consuming, and not something I enjoyed very much, so I began shopping my music elsewhere.

electronicmusic.com: Whereabouts in the world have you performed?

Jeff Greinke: I've played throughout much of the US, except the deep south, which I'd like to do sometime. I've performed in Vancouver and Edmonton, Canada, in Mexico City, throughout much of Europe, and in China, Hong Kong, and Macau.

electronicmusic.com: Is there anyone you would particularily like to work with?

Jeff Greinke: Well, Jon Hassell. His music always takes me to another place.

electronicmusic.com: What's next from Jeff Greinke, are you working on a new album?

Jeff Greinke: I recently finished a collection of works of groove-based music I'm now shopping around. Tentatively it's called "Swimming". I'm pretty excited about this material. Also, a couple days ago a CD by my group LAND arrived. It's called "Archipelago". It's our second. There are seven players on it, trumpeter Lesli Dalaba, guitarist Dennis Rea, stick player George Soler, and three durmmer/percussionists, Bill Moyer, Greg Gilmore, and Ed Pias. Textural, richly rhythmic and driving, moody... Otherwise, soon I will be going into the studio, a "real" studio, to record some of my favorite local musicians to use as a basis for a new collection of works- again groove-based stuff. This will me more energetic than any of my other solo works.

electronicmusic.com: If you were to choose an album that best represents the essence of your music which one would it be?

Jeff Greinke: Probably "Changing Skies". Something kinda special happened with that one.

It encompasses a broad range of my interests-a marriage of my earlier quieter works with more uptempo pieces. Additionally, about half of the album was composed and recorded after having spent six months in Southeast Asia-Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos. It was an amazing trip, and I heard a lot of wonderful gamelan music. My experiences there inevitably worked its way into this record giving it another dimension, I think.

Website: Jeff Greinke