Q&A: Former Books Member Nick Zammuto on the Very Busy Start to His 2012

02/23/2012 1:36 PM |

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The year is only two months old, and already Nick Zammuto’s 2012 is looking busy. The former member of the Books recently released his Idiom Wind EP, with a self-titled album to follow later this year, along with a tour with Explosions in the Sky. This evening, he’ll be at the Merkin Concert Hall for a collaborative set with So Percussion’s Jason Treuting as part of the Ecstatic Music Festival. All of these projects were up for discussion when I caught up with Zammuto via email earlier this week.

The Idiom Wind EP has been out for about a month now; how has the response been?
The response has been amazing. The EP has some of the stranger/noisier tracks (from the upcoming album) on it, and I’m surprised people are so into it, since they felt like a stretch when I was making them. Hopefully it bodes well for the record in April.

Over how long of a period of time were the songs on Zammuto written?
I started right after the Books finished our last tour in April, and I finished it in late November. We made it all in my little sound shed at home. When I started out I didn’t have a drummer so the first tracks are me faking it; by the middle of the summer I had Sean Dixon on board playing on the later tracks. Gene Back (from the Books) did the strings on a couple tracks.

On some of your songs, vocals are very much an element to be chopped up and reassembled; on others, like “Idiom Wind” and “FU C-3PO,” they’re more central. At what point, when writing a song, do you decide how vocals and lyrics will be used?
Yeah, I’m really into deep vocal effects now. Since the new gear can do it live in a smooth way, it seemed like a good time to delve into vocal treatments. I like vocal effects most when they are radical and transformative and make me give more as a singer. If they are too subtle then they starts to feel like cheese sauce and it’s usually better raw. Those decisions come very early in the writing process because I commit to the effects while I’m recording them (rather than applying them post). That way I can be sure they’ll translate live.

The new album has some nods in the direction of dance music; have you thought at all about doing an entire album in this style?
Is that a request? I love dance music, I was a listening mostly to IDM when I started making music 15 years ago… like Squarepusher and Aphex Twin and BoC. Some of the thumpiness on this record is purposefully heavy handed. I’m not necessarily aiming for lower chakras with the music, but it’s nice to hit them once and a while. Again, the live show was foremost in my mind while writing the tracks.

For Thursday’s Ecstatic Music Festival set, do you anticipate the work you’re doing with Jason Treuting will appear anywhere outside of the live setting?
We were just talking about that yesterday during rehearsals. I hope this is the beginning of a long and fruitful collaboration with Jason. I’ve admired his music since So Percussion’s Amid the Noise, so I jumped at the chance to work with him. He and his wife Beth (of Janus Trio) came up to our place in Vermont for a few days in January, and we discovered we have a lot in common. We all became fast friends working on this show.

Jason is a truly badass drummer. The Ecstatic set will definitely showcase his ability to groove as well as pull off some of the most outlandish fills you’re ever likely to hear. Most of the work I created for this show is video driven and will be incorporated into the Zammuto (the band) set soon. We’re playing a lot of new things on Thursday, including “The Greatest Autoharp Solo of All Time,” “The Fig and The Finger,” a live “Laser Show,” and Jason’s “Spelling Bee,” which are all short songs about words recently added to the dictionary like “Mouse Potato” and “Unibrow.”