Audeze chats with guitarist, banjoist and composer Brandon Seabrook

Brandon Seabrook is a guitarist, banjoist, and composer living in New York City. His work focuses on the juxtaposition of hallucinatory soundscapes, angular composition, humor, chance, and a massive dynamic range that can change in a nanosecond. He has released seven albums as a leader covering everything from pulverizing art-metal to chamber music, bridging the realms of extreme rock and the classical avant-garde. Rolling Stone Magazine noted, “The fiercely dexterous musician has lunched a number of bands combining serious chops with manic intensity and a left-field compositional vision.” Brandon came to Audeze courtesy of our good friend David Breskin.

 

"Everything has changed since I got my pair of Audeze LCD-X’s. I’ve never owned a pair of headphones like this." - Brandon Seabrook
Here's our talk with Brandon:
Can you pick out any highlights from your work that you're particularly proud of?

I’m really proud of my 2014 solo album “Sylphid Vitalizers.” It was just me, seventeen tracks of banjo, eight tracks of guitar, a drum machine, and a click track. Very physical, mentally draining, and isolating. I put my body through the wringer, but it was so fun. I feel like if I don’t challenge myself physically my performances are not worthy of much. I listen back now and think to myself “how did I do that?”

How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on these days?

I’ve been a part of a few really fun remote recording projects over the last year or so. One of those was with percussionist Mike Pride and punk rock icon, bassist Mike Watt. I’m used to being the one in total control with my own recording projects, or a complete side musician on someone else’s album. I rarely take part in collaborative recording projects. I took this as an opportunity to get over myself and truly collaborate with these great musicians every step of the way. What a relief!

How did you get started in music? What kind of music did you listen to while growing up and how has that progressed?

I think it was 1984, MTV, the (Van Halen) Panama video. That was it. Then Edward led to Holdsworth, Holdsworth led to Tony Williams. Classic rock and Hair Metal led me to discover the blues, which was huge for me. Then classical, noise, punk, and on and on.

Can you name any factors that influenced the course of your musical life? Heroes, role models, moments, interactions, etc?

I studied with the infamous and brilliant drummer Bob Moses at New England Conservatory of Music. Bob taught me about clave, the clave he heard on jazz standards. It was based on the rhythmic contour of the melody, if the melody ends on beat 4 don’t play 1. Also his movable 2 concept, looping, having no fear, and he harassed me to get a volume pedal. I often went into these lessons not knowing what to expect, but when he was in a good mood, or the rare moments when he was into what I was doing, it was completely exciting. During the lessons he would often get frustrated with me and take my guitar, put it around his neck, and bang out these concepts, literally bang them out on my guitar, muting the strings with one hand, using a drum stick in the other hand. Sounded incredible. My other teachers were like nuns compared to him. From that moment on I thought about the guitar as a drum. I’ve never looked back. Rhythm takes precedence over pitch for me. He always stressed how it was important to move when you play, dance, feel it in your body. (I may have taken this too far into the convulsion realm.) No other teacher ever mentioned that - movement. So many musicians I watch are completely stiff. I ran into him years later at a gig and he didn’t remember me, but I was cool with that, he grew up playing with Eric Dolphy. Thank you, Bob Moses!

Can you briefly describe a moment of frustration from your past work, and what you may have done to overcome the obstacles? Would you approach it differently now?

I feel like there’s always a little bit of frustration happening. If you’re not experiencing some kind of obstacle then you're too complacent, you’re not growing, but that’s just me. It could be a creative block, an aesthetic rut, a technical problem, or a scheduling conflict or ten. I’ve been practicing a lot of self compassion and empathy over the last few years which has helped me deal with obstacles of all kinds.

Is there any gear you find yourself turning to most when working on a project? What are some of your favorite tools/instruments recently?

An .88 Dunlop pick. A 1962 Magnatone High-Fidelity Custom 450 amp, my main recording amp. Also my trusty Fender HMT Telecaster. A 1/4 inch cable, an Echoplex, and a 1928 Bacon & Day tenor banjo.

Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire toward a similar path for their own careers?

I’d say take your time, think things through, and learn how to talk about your work in a clear and concise way. I think “success” has to be a byproduct of the work, not the main motivating factor. Don’t wait for someone to ask you to do something, just make it, no matter what, figure out a way. Even if it feels like no one cares, you do! Most importantly, have fun, music is fun!

How long have you been working with headphones, and how do you typically use them in your workflow? How have your Audeze headphones affected that?

In the last year or so it seems like I’ve been using headphones more than ever before; recording, mixing, listening. Everything has changed since I got my pair of Audeze LCD-X’s. I’ve never owned a pair of headphones like this. These cans are so detailed with an incredible dynamic range. I don’t know what the proper audio jargon is for describing what’s happening, but I can feel it, not just in my ears but reverberating all over my body.