Before we get into the nitty gritty of this interview, we need to get a couple of things out of the way. First, what record or artist is currently getting the most airtime in your life (vinyl, digital, or otherwise)?
I just finished Elvis Costello’s autobiography, so I’ve been deep in an Elvis and the Attractions dive: This Year’s Model, Blood & Chocolate, Imperial Bedroom, Punch the Clock, and even the “solo” King of America album. We listen to the radio a lot at home, too, via the TuneIn app on an old iPad that acts as a modern-day tuner. Free form pioneer WFMU is our go-to station. You never know what you’re going to hear next.
Who are your favorite experimental/underground musicians? When you want to dial up the weird stuff, to whom do you turn?
I wouldn’t call this experimental or weird so much, more new and adventurous, but there’s an internet radio station called Q2 Music that plays classical music from living composers. From Steve Reich to Nadia Sirota to choral to dissonant electronic stuff, it rarely disappoints.
A lot of our readers might not be familiar with McColl Center for Art + Innovation. Can you tell us a little about the mission of your organization? How long has it been around and how did it get its start in Charlotte?
McColl Center is, at the core, an artist residency program. Our mission is to empower artists to advance contemporary art and community through the creative process. That means we give artists the space and resources to be creative, explore ideas, and make our community a better place through their artwork. We’ve been hosting art residencies in our historic neo-Gothic building on North Tryon Street since 1999 and aren’t slowing down any time soon.
McColl Center has a lot of different things going on at once, but the program we’re discussing today is New Frequencies at McColl Center. What exactly is the program and how long has it been in place?
New Frequencies at McColl Center started in November of 2014. The goal has always been to provide a platform for today’s most adventurous creators – musicians, writers, filmmakers, dancers, etc. – to present their work. Much like our art residencies do, but more performance based. Our next series of programs are our most adventurous and diverse yet.
You are the Director of Marketing & Communications…how does this give you license to book such amazing live performances at McColl?
In my younger days, I was the music director at WNCW radio here in North Carolina and for a few years ran a Latin rock and alternative music blog. I’ve always been a fan of music and how it influences so many other art forms. Its transformative power is like no other.
Is there a common thread that unites all of the artists you’ve booked for the 2017 New Frequencies at McColl Center program?
Yeah, but it’s subtle. It was important to have a variety of musical genres this time around. These artists are also on the cutting edge of what they do. For instance, Noveller, the performing name of guitarist Sarah Lipstate, is a genius on her instrument. She makes the guitar sound like a symphony, with hints of Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo (whom she has collaborated with) mixed in. Watching her perform is one jaw-dropping moment of musical bliss after another. The same can be said about Lonnie Holley’s performances. He hypnotizes his audiences with his magical voice and mind.
The program seems to focus on experimental music. Last year, it tilted towards free jazz. This year sees the pendulum swing towards more rock‐oriented artists - but still experimental. Is that by design? Is there something about McColl Center that emphasizes experimentalism?
I’ll tell you a story. When I started to put together the upcoming series of performances, I had a few specific artists in mind. Mac McCaughan was one of them. I’ve been a fan of his multiple musical projects (Superchunk, Portastatic) for as long as I can remember and since he lives up the road in the Triangle, I decided to reach out. We connected on Twitter, then via email, and went back and forth for a few weeks with ideas. I basically told him to do whatever he wanted with the resources we had and he ran with it. What we’ll get on April 20 from him will be adventurous and experimental. That’s what New Frequencies at McColl Center is about.
Like I mentioned before, McColl Center is a place where artists can come to be creative and explore ideas. That’s what drives this next series of programs. We go from Lonnie Holley’s spiritual soul to Noveller’s waves of sounds to Mary and Mac’s improvisational structures on harp/synthesizer/guitar to Ken Vandermark and Nate Wooley’s sax/trumpet jazz interplay. Then we mix it up with musician and novelist John Darnielle (of the Mountain Goats) reading from his new novel. Just thinking about how all of this is happening here in Charlotte within four or five months is a thrill.
See below for Armando's thoughts on each of the shows scheduled this Spring as part of the New Frequencies series at McColl Center. Ticket information, dates and times are also provided:
Lonnie Holley / Saturday, February 4th (8pm) / Tickets
I saw Lonnie Holley perform at Snug Harbor on a Tuesday night last year with about 20 people in the room and I was blown away. I had to see what I could do about getting him in front of a bigger audience in Charlotte. His album Keeping a Record of It is sublime.
Noveller / Thursday, March 2nd (8pm) / Tickets
I’ve had an ear on Noveller/Sarah Lipstate since she came through town years ago playing guitar in the band Parts and Labor. Her playing impressed, I dug a little bit, fell in love with her solo work, and here we are. She has a deep catalog on her Bandcamp, but her new album A Pink Sunset For No One will be big.
John Darnielle / Thursday, March 30th (8pm) / Tickets
I first heard of John Darnielle via a website he had in the early 2000s called Last Plane to Jakarta. Then came listening to Mountain Goats and admiring the guy for being creative in multiple ways. Check out The Sunset Tree for music (one of many) and his contribution to the 33 1/3 series, a fictional rundown of Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality. So awesome.
Mac McCaughan & Mary Lattimore / Thursday, April 20th (8pm) / Tickets
I mentioned how I’ve been a fan of Mac McCaughan’s for a long time and it’s an honor to get to work with him. He brought Mary Lattimore in and I’ve since become a fan of hers, too. Get Mac’s Non-Believers album, and the companion record Staring at Your Hologram if Merge still has some around.
Ken Vandermark & Nate Wooley / Friday, May 12th (8pm) / Tickets
I’ve followed Ken Vandermark solo and in various ensembles and configurations for years. He’s the perfect example of an artist who lives to create, perform, and be constantly inspired by those around him. Check out the duo records with Nate Wooley and any of the old Vandermark Five discs, too. That band was top shelf. Love them.