An interview with drummer Chris Corsano and guitarist Bill Orcutt

Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt

Bill Orcutt and Chris Corsano should need no introduction for readers of this newsletter, but let’s give it a go anyway. Bill Orcutt first gained attention in the early 1990s for his guitar mangling with powerhouse noise-punk group Harry Pussy. In 2009, he returned with a series of recordings rewiring musical traditions in his singular playing style featuring a 4-string Kay guitar. Corsano is an endlessly prolific and creative drummer, whether performing on his own or with a list of experimental heavyweights that stretches far beyond the limits of this intro.

The duo are now set to release their latest collaborative album, Made Out of Sound, on Orcutt’s label Palilalia. Recorded remotely, it showcases a relatively restrained approach in comparison to previous outings with the guitarist overdubbing spidery dive-bombs onto the drummer’s free-flowing clatterstompf. Jesse Locke chatted with Orcutt and Corsano on the morning of Joe Biden’s January 20th inauguration, with everyone keeping an eye on their televisions or news feeds. This lively conversation touches on Canadian connections, finding inspiration from individual musicians instead of genres, and the importance of personal chemistry in improvisation.

Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt. Photo by Hans van der Linden.
Jesse Locke: How’s it going, guys? Are you watching TV right now?

Chris Corsano: Yeah, I just noticed what time it was so I came upstairs and tore myself away from the thing. 

I’m honestly really glad to be doing this interview today so I can tear myself away from it too. Have you been following American politics as obsessively as everyone else seems to be?

Chris Corsano: I think so! (laughs).

Bill Orcutt: You know, four years ago I was so pissed, just on a selfish level. I couldn’t believe I was going to have to look at this guy, listen to this guy, and think about him and his stupid family. Aside from all the terrible things he did, it’ll be nice to not have to look at his face every day.

Absolutely. OK, I guess we can dive into some questions. I’ve read that the first time you played together was a trio with Alan Bishop in 2011 that you called B.O.C.—Bishop, Orcutt, Corsano. Had the two of you met before that?

Bill Orcutt: No, I don’t think so.

Chris Corsano: Not really. We did meet quickly at Byron Coley’s place when we both played that church in Amherst. I talked to Tom Lax a lot that night so everything else was eclipsed.

I’m sure Tom has a lot of interesting stories.

Bill Orcutt: He thinks so! (laughs).

Chris, you’ve mentioned that Adris Hoyos from Harry Pussy is one of your all-time favorite drummers. What specifically do you like about the way she plays?

Chris Corsano: Nobody else is like her! It always fit perfectly with whatever was going on with Bill in Harry Pussy. It was the thing that needed to be done and I don’t think anybody [else] could do it. Seeing her live was eye opening because she generates a different economy of motion than I had ever seen before. She moves a lot! Sticks get fully extended in the air, almost like a Pete Townshend windmill thing. It’s amazing that you can keep this continual flow without it being disrupted. She invented a whole style that I haven’t seen anybody else do. I mean there is that video of the dude playing the ZZ Top song with stick twirling and crazy arm motions…

Oh yeah, it’s called something like “the drummer is in the wrong band.”

Bill Orcutt: Yeah, that’s it! (laughter).

Chris Corsano: If you close your eyes, that guy is just playing straight beats. I guess that’s a different thing, and the YouTube play count would tell you it’s interesting, but for me it’s way less interesting than a drummer like Adris. The physical movement of what she did was all about opening up new sonic possibilities, I guess. Nobody sounds like her. At the same time, it did the same thing for me as Muhammad Ali—Rashied Ali’s brother, not the boxer. A lot of so-called free jazz drummers were able to generate all of this sound with so many things happening in it that were far away from a straight 2/4 rock beat.

Bill, do you still talk to Adris? Is she playing drums at all?

Bill Orcutt: I don’t think she’s playing. We swap emails a couple times a month probably, but if she is drumming she hasn’t mentioned it. I’ve encouraged her and think she should be, but she’s also busy raising a couple kids.