Dan Weiss on ‘Utica Box’, his Career, and Music in General (Interview)

Dan Weiss

Drummer and percussionist Dan Weiss released Utica Box last month on Sunnyside Records (read our review here) featuring Jacob Sacks on piano, and Thomas Morgan and Eivind Opsvik on bass.

We caught up with Weiss to discuss the album, his career, musicians he admires, and what he’s listening to these days.

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Can you tell us more about your new album, Utica Box, the symbolism behind its title, your overall inspiration, and your objective as an artist with this release?

Dan Weiss: The title comes from an old barbaric form of psychiatric treatment where the patients were stuffed inside of a tiny “Utica crib”.

The title is a play on words in an effort to portrait the idea that this piano trio is anything but confined to normalcy.

The compositions, instrumentation, and sound of the “piano trio” is unconventional while staying within norms of sanity (sometimes).

My inspiration is all the time changing but there are certain things that stay consistent: My need to investigate, study, and listen to music.

Music that I’ve heard before or music that I seek out in an effort to shape my decisions from a compositional or drum standpoint.

I had no objective with this release.

Only to keep putting out material that is true to myself and to my musical vision.

Stream Dan Weiss’ “Orange” from Utica Box

You make use of an unorthodox orchestration featuring two double bassists.

How did this idea come to you and why did you select Jacob Sacks and Thomas Morgan to join your trio over ten years ago, and Eivind Opsvik to be added in on this record?

Dan Weiss: Jacob, Thomas and I have been playing for almost twenty years.

We breathe together.

Eivind was subbing for Thomas when Thomas was not available.

We started to get into some different textures and territories with Eivind.

He’s a wizard with the bow.

So I decided to have them both play on the record both separately and together.

You’ve evolved in a series of drastically different ensembles, lead a trio and a sixteen-piece orchestra, and have performed with the likes of Lee Konitz, David Binney, Rudresh Mahantthapa, Tim Berne, and Miguel Zenon.

What are in your opinion the highlights of your career so far? Where are you headed next?

Dan Weiss: They are all highlights.

I’m blessed, lucky, and privileged to have a career in music.

I feel honored to have played with such great musicians of different generations.

Honestly speaking though; getting up each day and working on my craft is probably my favorite part of being a musician.

That’s a constant for me and that dictates what comes next.

I’ll keep working hard and putting out recordings that I think are worth something.

My standards are absurdly high and I hold myself to them daily.

I beat myself up too much but I’m working on being kinder and more patient with myself.

Who are some of the musicians you admire most?

Dan Weiss: Guys I play with are doing amazing things.

Looks at my records to see the personnel.

All of them.

Jacob Garchik is someone who is a tour de force, Miguel Zenon, Ryan Power, Anna Weber, Kim Bass, Noah Preminger, Nate Wood, Pedro Martins, Godwin Louis..

Too many people.. Too many.

What are your thoughts on the state of jazz music today and what the future has in store for the genre?

Dan Weiss: It’s in a great place.

There are so many people doing great, creative things.

It’s a real deep time for the music.

I have no idea what the future has in store.

Do you have any advice for younger musicians at the start of their careers or trying to make a name for themselves?

Dan Weiss: There is no substitute for hard work, discipline, and work ethic.

Manage your time efficiently, don’t put out a recording before you have something to say as an artist, have a good attitude, push yourself, put yourself in uncomfortable situations, be on time, and smile.

Your website lists your favorites albums, movies, and books.

What have you been listening to, watching and reading recently?

Are there any other works which have made an important impact on your life?

Dan Weiss: I just bought Gorguts’ Obscura on vinyl, Willie Nelson’s Stardust, Todd Rundgren’s Something Anything, Nørgård’s Works for Guitar, Sam Rivers’ Contours, Ram Narayan’s “Gujari Todi” and “Lalit”, Berio’s Wasserklavier, Ohio Players’ Fire.

I’ve also been listening to Meade Lux Lewis, Pedro Martins’ Vox, and so much other stuff.

I’m always listening.

I read a book called You Are Not Your Brain that changed my life.

As a nod to Pannonica, if you had three wishes, what would they be?

Dan Weiss:

A new President for 2020, A mandatory, rigorous course in music appreciation for people of influence in the world (politicians, cel’s, etc) A world without guns, and a world where my daughter and her great great great grandchildren can grow old in without worrying about the effects of global warming.

That’s 4 wishes… but fuck it… we need all we can get!

Utica Box, the new album from the Dan Weiss Trio Plus 1, is out now on Sunnyside Records.

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