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Published: 2009/11/16
by Brian Robbins

On Fillmore: Glenn Kotche and Darin Gray’s Extended Vacation

BR: I wanted to ask you about Dede Sampaio, who is credited for “bird calls” on Extended Vacation. When you look into Dede’s background, you find out he’s this total rhythm master. How did you hook up with him – and end up having him do bird calls?

DG: It’s funny, you know, because you’re right – that’s not really what he does. Dede is a master Brazilian percussionist who’s played with heavies all over the world. Here’s a man who has played percussion with Miles Davis … and we asked him to come in to do bird calls. (laughter) But I think he really enjoyed doing it.

GK: I’ve actually known Dede for years. He was friends with some teachers that I had back in high school and when I was in college, he would sit in with our percussion ensembles. Right around that same time was when these really high-end handmade wooden bird whistles were starting to be imported from Brazil – I remember my professor bought a set of them from Dede. They weren’t just something you blew into, though – you actually had to know how to play them. They were a little instrument by themselves.

DG: There’s a percussion shop in Chicago – Andy’s Music – that Glenn and I always try to go to whenever I’m up there. They have tons of world percussion. It’s pretty much a drum geek sort of thing to do, but it’s always fun … more for me, no doubt, than Glenn because he probably owns most if it already. (laughter) So we’re in Andy’s and they had these beautiful hand-made bird calls – just gorgeous. And when they told us that this guy named Dede Sampaio makes them, Glenn said, “Hey! I remember him from when I was in_ high school_.” And I was like, “Really? Man, if there’s a guy who makes these, that’s somebody we should know.” (laughs)

GK: The sounds of his bird calls were just what we wanted. They’re beautiful, but at the same time they’re just a little different, as well. I just got ahold of him out of the blue; I didn’t even know if he’d remember me, but he did.

DG: And it was a really big thing for both of us to have him come in and play – not just because of who he is as a musician, but as someone outside of the duo. I mean, between the two of us, we know so, so many great musicians who could have come in, but we’ve always wanted to keep it a duo. So we talked about it a lot before we had Dede come in to do the bird calls … now I’m so glad we did.

BR: The first time through the album, I thought they actually were field recordings.

GK: It’s a good combination: some of them sound real; some of them sound a little … different (laughs) and that’s good. But it was like doing a jazz session and having a trumpet player come in and do a pass – take a solo, you know? He was actually playing music on the bird whistles – not just making sounds.

DG: At the same time, we didn’t want him to simply play something in reaction to what we were doing. We really just wanted him to come in and play. By the way, I won’t go on record saying that there’s not field recordings on there … there might be a mix of things. (laughs)

BR: That’s cool. I want people to be interested enough to go out and hear this for themselves, but … you know … the rabbit … the hat. (laughter)

DG: We want to keep some mystery going! (laughter)

BR: Here’s one more question before we get into specific cuts on the album – and this is really my own ignorance showing. I guess I’ve always thought of the vibes as a melodic instrument, rather than a percussive instrument, but that’s not entirely true, is it? I mean, when I think about it, the way I play guitar is definitely more percussive than melodic at times. (laughter)

GK: Well, I’m definitely playing pitches, melodies, and harmonies on the vibes. It’s the sonic textures that are so other-worldly, you know, with the oscillations of the sound waves that create layers of rhythms on their own … so I guess I think of the vibes as a percussion instrument. I’ve always been drawn to a lot of metallic percussion for that exact reason: we’ve used a lot of crotales – those tuned metal percussion discs that are really ear piercing. And because their overtones are so ear piercing and so intense, they create their own patterns and rhythms against each other. We’re both drawn to that kind of thing because you get these extra rhythms, this extra musical/psycho-acoustic/rhythmic shit happening (laughs), which is just great.

BR: Anyone in particular who’s been an inspiration on the vibes for you?

GK: No – not really. I mean there are some really amazing vibe players out there, but they’re mostly in jazz settings, playing like a pianist would play. I guess my style is derived from my limitations on the instrument. (laughs) I can only play very simple melodies – it’s the only melodic instrument I have … and my style comes from having limited resources.

BR: Yeah, well … you do all right. (laughter)

GK: Well, thank you. I think sometimes limitations yield the greatest creativity. (laughter)

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