Chris Forsyth – Album By Album
Evolution here we come! The gradual blossoming of a modern-day rock guitar maestro. in the latest issue of Uncut magazine – in UK shops from Thursday, July 21 and available to buy from our online store Chris Forsyth talks us through nine key records in his career as a transcendent guitar player. Here, to whet your appetite, please enjoy Forsyth talking through some of his earlier recordings…
“The guitar is like a puzzle,” muses Chris Forsyth, zooming in from an airy cabin in Upstate New York, where his wife Maria Dumlao has an artist’s residency. “I don’t think you ever really figure it out. But it’s important to punch through and find other things, to keep it interesting. Like any relationship, if it stagnates then it becomes less rewarding.”
Forsyth cut his teeth on the New York avant-garde scene of the late ’90s and early ’00s, where rock was a dirty word. But slowly he found his way back, via an enduring love for the work of Richards Thompson and Lloyd; he credits his renewed enthusiasm for the guitar to a period spent studying with the Television legend. Eventually reverting to something approaching a classic rock-band lineup – minus the egotistical frontman – Forsyth retains a nose for adventure and a determination to take rock music somewhere new without abandoning its core principles.
“I’m always trying to reconcile these two sides of my brain,” he admits. “There’s a great Eno quote where he says experimental music is like the North Pole: I like to know it’s there, it enriches what I do, but I’d much rather live in the South of France. I feel that way about both extremes. Jazz, rock, blues, anything can become this regimented, predictable thing that gets frozen in amber or put in the museum, and then it’s supposed to not change. And that’s despicable to me. It’s got to be alive, and being alive means changing.”
Family Vineyard, 2011
After a decade or more in the New York avant-garde, Forsyth makes his first ‘rock’ album
I grew up playing in rock bands, and then in the mid-’90s I kinda got dissatisfied with that. Culturally it felt like rock was drying up and I became more interested in experimental approaches. That coincided with me moving to New York City from New Jersey and being exposed to a lot more diverse music at venues like Tonic. Honestly though, part of why I drifted away from rock music was that I wasn’t very good at it. When I studied with Richard Lloyd, he basically taught me how to play the guitar and how music works on a fundamental basis.
By the time of Paranoid Cat, which was coming together just before I moved to Philadelphia in the summer of 2009, I felt like I was at the point where I could deploy some of these things in a way that was interesting to me, that was worth sharing. I still think of that song [“Paranoid Cat Parts 1–3”] as one of the more complete things that I’ve done. It’s got that hypnotic, repetitive thing, which comes from classic New York minimalism, but it’s also got this folky thing. I’ve always been attracted to where those places meet, a sort of ‘back porch minimalism’ – stuff that’s got its toes in the mud, but that’s also reaching for something else.
Paradise Of Bachelors, 2013
Over the course of four sturdy psychedelic sorties, a band begins to take shape
When I moved to Philadelphia, I got an artists’ fellowship from the Pugh Center, which was a pretty significant chunk of change. They said, “What’s some small project that you’d really like to do?” And I said, “I’d really like to be able to go into a recording studio and record with a full band.” It’s the first time I worked with Jeff Zeigler, who’s been involved in almost all of these records.
We mixed Paranoid Cat together, and then I was able to go into his studio in Philly. We did Solar Motel in three days, it was still very quick. Peter Kerlin helped me record Paranoid Cat but this is the first record where he’s playing bass. Mike Pride is an incredible drummer who can play anything. Shawn Hansen, the keyboard player, is also one of those people who can play anything, but he also was totally fine with playing something really simple. It’s like when guitar players talk about George Harrison, they’re like, “He never played the wrong thing.” Shawn is great at that.
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