Drummer Dan Weiss surrounds himself with musicians who are open to different types of music and explore things they don’t know about.
The far-reaching Weiss, who’s equally at home playing experimental jazz and playing Indian music on the tablas, has been performing on and off for the past fifteen years with Mr. Bungle and Secret Chiefs 3 bassist Trevor Dunn, pianist Craig Taborn and guitarist Ben Monder, who played on David Bowie’s final album, Blackstar.
About five years into working together, they realized that they all love metal and decided to incorporate it with jazz and electronic elements, as well. The four musicians, along with keyboardist Matt Mitchell, whom Weiss says “is another person who is just an encyclopedia of metal," teamed up to record Starebaby, which was released in April on Pi Recordings.
Weiss says the album’s title was borrowed from something his friend’s eight-year-old son said about Weiss’s infant daughter.
“We were at the beach one day, and he called my daughter a starebaby, because she’s got this intense gaze,” Weiss says. “And it kind of fit the music for me. It’s kind of curious. There’s an intense kind of gaze that’s going on in the music. It’s intense, and there’s some kind of vibe throughout the record that kind of, I don’t know, it just kind of captures it in those eyes.”
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Weiss, who will be performing from the album with the four musicians at Dazzle on Sunday, June 17, says Starebaby isn’t a metal record — far from it — but there are definitely sections where you can hear the influence.
“It’s just really about the guys," Weiss says. "We listen to the music. When a thing needs to hit, we know the intensity that it should have, whereas maybe someone who is not exposed to that kind of music, maybe they wouldn't have that same sensibility. So everybody in this band has that sensibility. We’re able to go in that direction when it’s needed. That’s the main thing — having that sound in our head that we could draw on it and go into those zones when it’s part of the music...when it’s necessary for the music.”
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While composing songs for Starebaby, Weiss says he takes the Duke Ellington approach. “He had that same band for decades and knew who he was writing for. So I always like to get a guy’s sound in my head and think about what they like and think about what would be a good place for them to solo. You know, all those kinds of things go through your head when you’re writing.”
In addition to listening to a lot of the metal act High on Fire, some doom bands and French electronic composer Bernard Parmegiani, Weiss was also watching the third season of Twin Peaks on Showtime during the middle of the writing process, and that inspired two songs on Starebaby: “Badalamenti” and “Episode 8.” “That kind of world was definitely in my head, so it made its way into those tunes,” he says.
Weiss says he listens to everything from modern classical to hip-hop to Cuban music to samba and punk. “We try to always investigate and just let it inform the music that I write,” he says. “But those electronic things were definitely influential ,as well as the different metal bands.”
Dan Weiss Starebaby, featuring Craig Taborn, Matt Mitchell, Ben Monder and Trevor Dunn, 6 and 8:30 p.m. Sunday, June 17, Dazzle, 1512 Curtis Street, 303-839-5100, $15-$30.