NY-based bass player Evan Marien, who has played with David Fiuczynski, Jack DeJohnette, Ari Hoenig, Joe Lovano and more, recently gave us a few moments of his time to tell us why he makes music and where he finds his sources of creative inspiration. Marien’s experiences as a graduate of Berklee School of Music and within the musician community at gigs in both Boston and New York, have shaped both Marien’s sound and created a strong web of musicians who have also become his closest friends. What does it sound like when you play and record with your closest friends? It sounds a lot like Evan Marien’s music. Lets get into!
Although it wasn’t my decision to learn the instrument, I definitely loved the idea of learning it when I was told I had to. I had to learn because my band instructor needed a bass player for my middle school jazz band, and since I was learning trombone around the same time he suggested to my parents that I should learn bass guitar. The trombone and bass guitar read the same notes in bass clef, so it was fairly easy to learn how to read once I got the mechanics of playing the instrument solid. I grew up with a very strict and involved music program throughout middle and high school, so I did what I was told! But I wouldn’t be where I’m at today if that didn’t happen, so I’m very grateful.
You went to Berklee School of Music for undergrad. What was the community of musicians like there? How did this influence your playing?
It’s an incredible community, I don’t think anyone can argue with that. I met all of my probable life-long friends there, I’m very happy about my time at Berklee, which was kind of short. I graduated in 3 years with a degree in Professional Music. Everything and everyone influenced me there. I spent most of my time my first year at Berklee shedding 6 hours a day, mainly because I was getting my ass kicked weekly by my lessons with Matthew Garrison. I was lucky enough to study with him for a while before he left the bass department, and he shaped the musician I am today. Matt wouldn’t water anything down he told me, maybe he thought there was hope with me, and I really took everything he said to heart. Probably what shaped me more than anything is that I started going to Wally’s to hang and play on wednesday nights. I met another crew of incredible people and musicians because of that place.
You have played with a ton of amazing musicians including David Fiuczynski, Jack DeJohnette, Ari Hoenig, Joe Lovano and more. Who are you currently playing with and who do you hope to play with in the future?
I’m lucky to have played with a lot of brilliant musicians, some I grew up listening to in high school, but currently I’m playing for Warner Bros hip-hop artist Outasight. I’m lovin it, he’s an incredible person and the band is killing to play with. Usually I play whatever I get called for, and so far it’s been a wild ride…
Why do you think you make music? What about the entire process draws you in?
When I’m creating music, I’m letting something out, a part of my own personality. When I’m composing music, I do it to release the tension that builds in my mind. I get mentally frustrated if I usually don’t write a couple songs a week. I like to work on music for hours, it’s very meditative and relaxing. I get to forget about the world and just create my own.
Was there a turning point for you when you knew you wanted to commit to being a professional musician?
I was at another college before Berklee for 2 years, and while I was there I realized that I needed to be in a big city in order to have the opportunities I would need to make a living playing music. Boston needed to be the stepping stone for my ultimate destination, NYC.
Can you tell us about any recent or upcoming projects that you are apart of?
I have a couple albums out, but my recent one is called Here We Are. It’s got my friends Iakov Kremenskiy on guitar and Louis Cato/Dana Hawkins on drums. It’s an EP, and you can listen to the whole thing for free at http://evanmarien.bandcamp.com..I did a record for David Fiuczynski with Jack DeJohnette and Kenwood Dennard that will hopefully come out this year. It’s been in the works for a long time but it will be worth the wait. People might freak out at it a little bit, it’s microtonal, mad funky and at times free jazzy….definitely nothing you have ever heard before! I also have plans on recording a full length record this year with EvanxDana, a electronic project I have with Dana Hawkins.
Is there anyone you are listening to in your spare time that Revivalist readers should check out?
I listen to a lot of electronic music, but I’m on a dubstep kick nowadays. Check out Nero, great dubstep from the UK. Also Rusko and Coki are amazing! I’ve also been listening to Mike Slott, Hudson Mohawke, Bibio, Flying Lotus, Squarepusher and Daft Punk on repeat for a couple months now. A great live electronic band I’ve been listening to and checking out is Jojo Mayer’s band Nerve. I saw them a couple times last summer at Nublu on the lower east side, absolutely incredible.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Life, everything and everyone I come into contact with, but mainly women and the troubles I eventually have with them. It’s okay, because without these woes I wouldn’t have the songs I’ve written.
Can you talk about one of your favorites recording experiences? What about it made it so memorable?
My time in the studio with Dana, Louis and Iakov recording for my new album. Hands down it was amazing to be in the studio recording with my friends. I wrote most of the music for my new EP on my computer using a program called Reason. It took a lot of time and editing to get sounds the way I wanted them, so I got accustomed to hearing the “demos” of the songs, with programmed drums instead of Louis and Dana. It’s so memorable because here these guys are, playing my music and giving it their all, and it sounded so refreshing to hear it away from my computer and with live instrumentation. It reenergized the whole project for me, made me more determined to release it.
When do you think you come up with your most creative ideas? Can you speak on this a bit.
Sure. If I stay up all night, I’m most prolific around the 2-6am period. Recently I’ve been barely sleeping, always working on new songs. Excitement makes me creative. If I hear a band or song that is amazing, I’ll totally get inspired and mess around on the computer for hours upon hours. Having a platform or a vehicle for creative ideas is a must, and most guys use their instrument as that, but mine just happens to be my computer. I’ve spent years learning how to use Reason and Pro Tools, along with other programs like Reaktor, Ableton Live, Max/MSP. In the end, it’s worked out because all of the music I’ve been able to create I couldn’t write using only the bass.
What was a really tough moment for you as a musician? How did that help you evolve as a musician?
Just being a musician is tough in this day and age. One day I woke up and realized that I can’t only play the bass for people and expect to make a living. Some cats can do that but I definitely can’t. I evolved, looking for other ways to make a living using music as the vehicle. I’ve been able to make some jingles for Dirtondirt.com and other websites, and teaching music theory on Skype.
What is practicing like for you?
I don’t like to practice by myself so much anymore, but I’m constantly playing with my friends. I had a discussion with my friend Hadrien Feraud on the topic of practicing when we were out at the NAMM show together in LA. He seemed to be pursuing the same goal. What I’m trying to practice now is getting rid of muscle memory ideas or “licks”…being aware in the realm of improvising and saying something truly from my soul. I guess I’m trying to be more fearless and go for phrases that I “don’t” know how to do. I want to be harmonically aware of my surroundings and react to the choices I make.
How do you write music? Is there a specific process that you entail?
For me, staying up all night and just working on it…. it’s the only way I can do it. No specific process, just pure determination to finish an idea.
Check out more information on Evan Marien here:
Listen to Evan Marien’s music here: http://evanmarien.bandcamp.com
Interview by Nora Ritchie
Photos by Deneka Peniston
Video by Lorenz Schimpf