“AT UCLA, I WAS TAKING classes on Western music history, classical music, twentieth-century music, and then I was going back to my dorm room and listening to the Chemical Brothers and Orbital and Aphex Twin and Future Sound of London—a lot of electronic music,” Thompson said. “It was a bit of a paradox.”
I asked what drew him to electronic music.
“My mother and I used to take really long car rides when I was about six years old, and she had a record by this guy named Ray Lynch. I think at the time he sold cassette tapes out of the back of his car in California. It’s New Age music, synthesizer, very simple stuff, and I heard it over and over. It’s almost like we weren’t really thinking about what we were listening to. It was just a tape that we put it in. But that kind of listening can have a profound effect when you’re a little kid. I think the sound of that record instilled in me an affinity for electronic sounds and electronic music.
“I know Matt grew up dissecting jazz records. For me, it was more about the emotional impact, being aware that this music was transforming the way I saw the world when I listened to it. I knew I wanted to continue to seek out that emotional experience.”
North Carolina passing by.
“THERE WAS A TIME when I was kind of stubborn and ignorant, saying to myself, I’m going to drop everything, all the years of training, and just play Brazilian or Latin music because that’s what I really enjoy,” Yamashita said. “But then I understood the reality, and I’m actually very grateful I did all that training. Especially living in New York as a musician and percussionist, you take any gig you can. By doing it, you end up liking it. It opens yours eyes.”
I asked Smallcomb about his life as a freelance percussionist in New York and what he was working on, in addition to HIVE. “I’ve been practicing a lot the last few days, learning a new Broadway show to sub in, Something Rotten, and I was playing on Les Mis that week, too. And there’s an artist in town through a friend of mine who is in the studio, and we’re rehearsing to record that next week. Meanwhile, I’m practicing music for a couple Alarm Will Sound concerts at the Whitney. And I’m learning a part for drums for a production of West Side Story in Mexico. That’s right after the Whitney shows—literally the next day.”
What’s it like working with Tyondai Braxton?
“You don’t think there are people out there like that until you meet them,” Smallcomb said. “I’m really inspired by Ty. I grew up playing drum kit, playing jazz and in a hip-hop band, and studying with a symphony orchestra. And Ty is doing the same thing. He’s in a lot of worlds, and he’s really great in a lot of worlds. When he does his project, he’s bringing it all. I started thinking, Maybe it’s okay I’m doing all these things. I’m being me. That’s okay, right? I’m still not sure.”
I ASKED THOMPSON if Braxton had given him and the other percussionists any instructions about playing on the pods. “All Ty said was, You have to be seated, and we were like, Can’t you cut holes in the middle of the pods so we can stand? No, you have to be seated—that’s the point. But those instruments weren’t meant to be played while seated on the floor, and we’ve been trained to use the weight of our bodies in a certain way, so you have to retrain your body. I’m trying really hard not to fidget while I’m up there. There are legs falling asleep, lower-back pain. We’re human beings, after all.”
Yamashita said, “Musicians in jazz bands and rock bands, they often look at each other and groove together when they play. But Ty doesn’t want that—that I know. Be still. Don’t look around. Just play.”