Simon Hanes is an eclectic composer and improvisor who jams in an array of genius pseudo-punk explorations, including regular appearances with John Zorn, as well as a rotating cast of deep guttural fringe weirdos in Brooklyn. Hanes is also the multi-instrumentalist band leader of the mid-century modern experimental Italian film pop supergroup, Tredici Bacci. He graced our Music Residency in the spring of 2018, equipped with a million sheets of staff paper and a half-working VHS TV and some 70s Japanese freak art tapes. Hanes is one of the few artists I know who has equal talent when it comes both to leading bands and fitting into someone else’s vision, and it’s no surprise that he has found a way to stay prolific during a pandemic. Last week he sent me this unreal video that's equal parts live, produced, conceptual, and utilitarian. Since we all started quarantine, I’ve probably only seen this level of coordinated production come out of Saturday Night Light, but somehow (I'm assuming with the help of many friends) Simon has created this expansive sprawl of new and old music with an ambitious and delightful quarantine-style “music video” to boot. We started this correspondence as a simple past resident quarantine check-in, but it evolved into a culturally rich collection of everything but the kitchen sink. Check out our initial short-form interview, his Pioneer Works residency video, Tredici Bacci’s new music video, and a full album stream of Tredici Bacci’s new Greatest Hits-style album, Fancy Mess, that includes music recorded live at Pioneer Works.
How has the pandemic impacted your creative process?
Quarantine has had the effect of simultaneously pressurizing my creative process, while also slowing it down. Pressurized because I’m constantly trying to think of creative ways to make up for the income that I and my fellow musicians, particularly those whom I was working with on a regular basis, are losing as a result of the unknown frontiers of social distancing. (Which, of course, I fully condone, but we got to get these musicians PAID!) On the other hand, the daily pace of life has slowed and afforded me ample opportunity for both study and reflection that I now realize I was (criminally!) denying myself before quarantine began. I now realize that on some level, my penchant for the hustle and bustle of city life can be seen as a form of escapism—an excuse to avoid letting the mind mull over ideas, allowing them to sink in.
I think, regardless of what form the next phase of this insanity takes, I’m going to maintain space in my life for instances of that kind of slowness.
What are five things (could be anything) helping you get through quarantine right now?
The writings of crazy Parisian author and Pataphysicist Alfred Jarry—Because what better way is there to cope with a pandemic then to immerse oneself in the hallucinatory ether-soaked ravings of a francophone madman!
John Ford Movies—I don’t know why, but they’re really comforting.
Deluding myself into thinking that I’m going to spend an entire day listening to all of Beethoven’s string quartets in a row—Every day I tell myself, “Tomorrow!” And for some reason that helps me get up in the morning… although, who am I kidding?
The two secret websites I found where you can download weird rare movies for free—GET AT ME FOR LINKS, PEOPLE!
Golden Milk—The most delicious and cozy anti-inflammatory beverage on the planet!
Can you tell us a little bit about this music video, the collection of music, and the how/why everything came together?
As is the case for the majority of people across the country and most of the world, I feel a deep gap left in my life—a painful lack of the joyous immediacy that comes from group activity. As a musician and bandleader, for years now I’ve depended on (and done my best to harness) the incredible power of music as a means of unification. Collaborative music making unites people in manifold dimensions, limitless ways; it allows musicians and artists from disparate backgrounds to speak in a shared language, unites audiences and performers in simultaneous catharsis, inspires movements and subcultures, creates communities whose bonds exist beyond the limitations of distance or skin-deep dissimilarity.
To my mind, there is nothing quite so sublime as sitting in a room, encircled by the musicians I've had the honor of forming long-standing collaborative relationships with, and boldly striding together into the uncharted territory of a new composition.
All this to say: GODDAMMIT, I MISS JAMMING WITH MY FRIENDS!
Luckily, the very technology developed to capture the fascinating immediacy of music—our methods of bottling sound so we can tinker with it to our heart’s delight and safely store it for future enjoyment by generations to come—provides us with a safe way to overcome the limitations imposed by social distancing, as well as a possible remedy for the manifold anxieties that result from long-term isolation. Music will always be a medium of communication, and although the most direct method is currently off the table—and the table has been sprayed with isopropyl alcohol and swabbed down with a baby wipe I found under the bathroom sink—the workarounds are manifold, and will continue to be so, as long as musical collaboration remains a well known and sure-fire way to improve one’s well-being.
Ultimately, that's what this song and music video are about, recovering the immediate joy of making music with the people you love most, regardless of the limitations and with the belief that it will always help, and never hurt, if you put your heart into it.
By the same token, releasing a “best of” compilation with a bunch of unreleased and live recordings is a celebration of sorts—a testament to all the crazy things my bandmates in Tredici Bacci and I have gotten ourselves into over the years. I miss everyone deeply and I can’t wait to start playing live together again!