Trevor Dunn is a bassist extraordinaire. Whether he’s playing with John Zorn, Secret Chiefs 3 or collaborating with Mike Patton on any number of projects, one thing’s for sure, Trevor Dunn is one busy man. Speaking of Patton, though, one such project is the upcoming fourth full-length from Tomahawk entitled Oddfellows which finds Dunn taking over bass duties from the departing Kevin Rutmanis. Recently, Dunn chatted via phone about being in Tomahawk, the upcoming album and tour and more:
Oddfellows is your first recorded work with Tomahawk. How did you come to join up with the band?
Basically I’ve been playing in bands with (Mike) Patton for years and I met Duane (Denison) several years ago. He and I had kinda talked about doing something at some point and that never really came to anything but when those guys decided they were going to make a new record and they needed a bass player, they gave me a call.
How long did the recording take and how much input did you have with the final product?
Duane pretty much wrote all the music and sent out demos to everyone. I basically learned bass lines that he wrote and Patton added his melodies and other orchestrations and stuff. My creative input was pretty sparse. You know, I definitely added some nuance to what I was given but in general I kind of stuck to the program.
While this is your first with the band, how would you compare Oddfellows to the previous three?
I would say it’s pretty similar to the first two but also a little more concise in a way. The songs are kind of poppy. There’s some hooks. I guess the songs in general are kind of shorter. Maybe a little more succinct or something? It’s not really like Anonymous, you know, it has more in common with the first two records.
Are there plans to tour behind the record?
Yeah, next month we’re doing a West Coast thing and then going to Australia and right now, in fact, there’s a couple emails I haven’t replied to about doing some European dates in the summer time and also trying to do an East Coast run. We’re kind of splitting up the US tour in sections. We’re going to South America for Lollapalooza in April I believe. That’s two or three shows I think. No major touring. It’s all kind of sparse in small areas.
Tomahawk is your third collaboration with Mike Patton. How has this experience differed from the other times you’ve performed/recorded with him?
Actually, there’s probably more things that we’ve collaborated on and I put collaborate in quotes because for instance, Fantomas was really his vision, you know? There wasn’t really a lot of collaboration done on there at all. Mr. Bungle was total collaboration and Tomahawk is really Mike and Duane’s thing so those guys are kind of songwriting or collaborating. In all those cases there’s a sense that we’re a band, though. In this case, and I don’t want to say that I’m a hired hand because that kind of demotes me a little bit (laughs), I’m being hired to do a job.
Speaking of collaborators, you’ve played and collaborated with a number of artists over the years. Have you had a favorite experience so far?
Aw man, it depends. I jump back and forth between different scenarios all the time which is what I enjoy doing. I don’t really wanna get stuck doing one thing. Tomahawk is a pretty easy gig for me actually and it’s really fun to just play some long bass lines and not worry about it where as some of the other stuff I do, for instance, maybe with John Zorn or this particular band called Moonchild that Patton’s involved with. It’s really intense. It’s a lot of music to memorize. It’s physically demanding because for a lot of it the bass is front and center. It’s great to do that once in a while but it’s a challenge and it would probably destroy me if I did it all year round which is one of the reasons that band doesn’t work that much. I’m sure Patton would say the same thing since he screams his head off the whole time. (Laughs) I don’t know how metal bands do that. You know, touring like that is pretty self destructive. I guess that’s where the drinking comes in.
Of all your recorded work so far, do you have a favorite album or song that you’ve done?
Oh, well, I’ll use this opportunity to plug my own stuff (laughs). I have my Trio Convulsa and some film music I wrote on John Zorn’s label. I have my rock band called MadLove that’s on Ipecac. I mean, I really enjoy doing all the stuff I do but I guess there’s a certain self satisfaction that comes from my own work and for me, it’s continually developing. It’s not like I sit around and listen to my own music because I can immediately pick out the flaws and the things about it that I know can be improved which makes me wanna do the next version of it. Ultimately, those are kind of my favorite things to do which I try to do more and more of.
Oddfellows will be out at the end of the month, what else do you have in store in 2013?
Actually next week I’m going to California to do some performances and a recording with Nels Cline Trio. Technically, it’s called the Nels Cline Singers. And then there’s a bunch of Tomahawk stuff this year and there’s some stuff with John Zorn. He’s turning 60 this year so he kind of booked something almost every month of the year. Those are all kind of one off’s or for instance, that band Moonchild is going to South America for like six days. I’m also touring with Melvins Lite, a band I play upright bass in. We’re going to Europe for a couple weeks later this year and then actually at the end of this year in December I’m gonna premiere a new version of my trio music here in New York at The Stone. That’s something I’m kind of gearing up to write for because it’s gonna be an ambitious endeavor for me so I’m going to need whatever spare time I have this year to write for it (laughs).
Will your book ever see the light of day?
Hopefully! It’s hard to say but it’s one of those things that’s rolling around in my head all of the time. I do like to write and I do have some things to say and some history, I think, to put out there so we’ll see what happens. I’m not even going to guess on when that could be but you never know.
Dunn’s first album with Tomahawk, Oddfellows, is out on January 29th through Ipecac Recordings. catch him on the road, with one band or another, throughout 2013.