INTERVIEW- Drum machine man: Tim Reynolds' wild fantasies
Even more than record sales, sold-out shows, and critical acclaim, the biggest testament to Tim Reynolds' thorough mastery of the guitar is the fact that his specter still seems to lurk around Miller's, where he maintained a residency for several years. Since blowing town almost 10 years ago, Reynolds has struggled to balance his roles as surrogate guitar hero of sorts for the Dave Matthews Band and experimental independent musician.
His 2002 homecoming show at the Outback Lodge, for example, drew throngs of college students expecting the light acoustic fare featured on the duo record he made with Matthews in 1999. Instead, Reynolds came out in a gas mask and started playing hard rock and industrial metal, clearing the room rather handily before the night was through. But to hear him tell it, that's all part of the fun.
The Hook: Which side of you will we see at Starr Hill, acoustic or heavy?
Tim Reynolds: I'll be playing mostly acoustic, but there's this one effect that I've learned how to use– a ring modulator– that brings in a crazier side. I also love drum machines, and I've actually realized that I'm a bit of a drum machine myself. I'm that neurotic. It's acoustic, but not necessarily chill.
The Hook: Aggressive, maybe?
Tim Reynolds: It has its moments of that, for sure. I guess I go for the electronica sound.
The Hook: Even though you tend to use less sequencing on the acoustic projects?
Tim Reynolds: I realized that after using sequenced stuff for a few years, I really dug it and got what I needed, but I also wanted to go out and learn a lot of new music and be able to play it at gigs; it's better to drop all the technology. What I learned from the drum machine project was how you can program your body to play things.
The Hook: Of the various musical paths you've gone down over the years, which has been the most educational for you?
Tim Reynolds: I think ultimately, just learning what it takes to make a song or an improv moment in music. It can be the littlest thing, a vibration or whatever, but those can be the most important things. Ultimately it's not a technical thing–- how weird a sound you can make with effects or how fast you can play– it's just all about the feel. And that;s a momentary thing that can happen one night and not the next, even if you play the same thing both nights. Music is super dynamic, just like life.
The Hook: What about all the other instruments you've learned to play?
Tim Reynolds: Well, most of the experimentation with other instruments was when I was in Charlottesville in the late '80s. I used to play sitar at Miller's for a couple years straight, to the point where the people who worked there didn't even know I played guitar. And then I came out here and started working with the machines. There are so many things I've learned from.
The Hook: Some of this stuff has probably kept you out of the mainstream. Have you ever had second thoughts about that aspect of it?
Tim Reynolds: Everyone has their own fantasies and their own reality checks, and I've had both. I realized when I was in the position to be offered anything that what I wanted to do was not what they'd want. I wanted experimental noise. Nobody would want that. That's just the way it goes, I guess, but I was learning something from that kind of music.
Photo by Ursula Coyote