Ever since Evan Marien joined Esperanza Spalding and Hadrien Feraud as a top three Most Exciting New Player in BP’s 2009 Reader’s Choice Awards poll, the Illinois-born fretboard futurist has been plying his techno-trade from his Brooklyn home base—although, he notes, “The electronic music movement is globe-wide and isn’t limited to the physical world.” Marien’s fourth CD, We Are All You, is a sweeping sonic solo affair, save for a one-track appearance by drummer Dana Hawkins, and a song remix by drummer Zach Danziger, under his Mr. Barrington alias, Stix Beiderbecke. With Marien using everything from “Teentown” to Turkish music as source material, we needed to find out more.
What was the inspiration behind creating We Are All You?
It was the result of sorting through all the music I’ve written since my last solo album in 2011, Here We Are, and finding a batch I felt I should release together. I usually write my songs with drums first, then I add melodic and harmonic textures and colors in whatever tonality I’m feeling, and then I play bass over it to find a way to glue the tune together. This album features the bass as both a support and a melodic rhythm instrument; I take some solos but it’s not a solo bass CD. I wanted to showcase my entire spectrum as a musician and artist, which includes composing, producing, mixing, mastering, and artwork. I wrote, programmed, and recorded everything using [Propellerhead Software] Reason; it has a unique sound and heaviness that I can’t find in other digital audio workstations.
What led you to cover “Teentown”?
While attending Berklee in 2008, a friend showed me a version he came up with in 9/8, or something. I got inspired to do my own version and found 13/8 to flow with the melody nicely, without changing the phrasing or cutting the melody short. I worked on it, put it in a folder, and forgot about it until I was cleaning out a hard drive last year and realized it was something this album needed. My take is a fast-paced, drum ’n’ bass-infused version of the song. For my solo, I practiced with the track and came up with E minor pentatonic as a home base to play off of.
What is the Eastern-sounding technique you use on “Aeon” and “Finale”?
A couple years ago I was playing with guitarist David Fiuczynski and he turned me onto a lot of Turkish and Arabic music. I started working on Eastern inflections, like plucking really close to the bridge, and left-hand pull-ons/pull-offs. If you listen to Fiuczynski’s playing on my song “Lao’s Tao” from my first album, Between Worlds, that’s the kind of sound I wanted for the color of “Aeon” and the intro of “Finale.”
What speaks to you about using an electronica format on many of your recordings and projects?
I’m attracted to the texture and colors that are possible with sound synthesis. My influences are electronic pioneers like Weather Report and Squarepusher. I’ve always wanted to be able to create music my own way and let other people figure out how to categorize it. I think most jazz or improvisational artists are influenced by the times they live in, and it infuses in their own music. I feel my music is a product of the relationship that we as human beings have created with machines.
Evan Marien, We Are All You [evanmarien . com, 2014]
Basses Ken Smith Custom Burner 5-string; Campbell American Bass RJ Custom
Rig Markbass F1 head, New York 804 cabinet, Mini CMD 121P combo
Effects Pigtronix Echolution 2; Source Audio Dimension Reverb and Hot Hand Controller; Boss SYB- 5 Bass Synthesizer, OC-2 Octave
Strings GHS custom stainless steel set (.030–.120)