INTERVIEWS RUFUS CAPPADOCIA|
A WHOLE NEW MEANING (PART ONE)900 MILES is a collection a tales from a century ago set to the most haunting melodies and rhythms seldom exercised when the 19th century turned into the 20th Century. These songs tell of love lost, love found, a sense of purpose in the face of devastation and joy in the face of despair. This is folk music of the past 100 years souped up by BETHANY AND RUFUS, a dynamic duo with a sound that can't be pinned down. This is as untraditional ans traditional music gets.
RUFUS CAPPADOCIA OF BETHANY AND RUFUS
TALKS TO ROCKWIRED ABOUT
WORKING WITH BETHANY YARROW
AND MAKING THE CELLO ROCK
INTERVIEWED BY BRIAN LUSH
First there is the voice. Disregarding the lineage, BETHANY YARROW (daughter of PETER YARROW of PETER, PAUL AND MARY) sinks her teeth into the material. One would think the material had been with her all of her life and not the result of endless hours of internet research. "The songs kind of chose themselves" says YARROW. Internet research or not, the selections are inspired and BETHANY whispers every notes into your ear. The immediacy is chilling.
RUFUS CAPPADOCIA is not at all upstaged by his partner-in-song, BETHANY. That's what makes this duo work. These two peas in a pod feed off of each other. It's a little thing called chemistry. Rather then being obscured by the spotlight, RUFUS brings something exciting to the material: virtuosity on the cello. Who knew the cello could rock like this? One listen to the song LININ' TRACK and you'd think you were hearing a MOTOWN rhythm section; not a girl and a cello player.
However, this is more than a girl and a cello player. BETHANY AND RUFUS are a compelling listen. Nuff said.
ROCKWIRED spoke to RUFUS CAPPADOCIA over the phone. Here is how it went
As I was listening to the CD 900 MILES I was kind of struck by your playing. Are you plucking the cello?
I'm doing some two finger plucking and then doing some percussion with the bow. Other than that I've got a five string cell that I designed and I'm using an amplifier. No effects processing of anything. It's just all organic sound.
For the CD, was it just you on cello and her on voice and guitar?
Yeas. We've got one guest that joins us on percussion for one song.
There was one part in the recording where i though there was a saxophone but I quess it was your cello.
Yeah, it's all cello.
It's amazing to me the sound you get out of the cello. It's sounds like a full band. How did things begin for you and BETHANY? What brought you two together?
We met at a gig. Her friends band was opening for the band that I was playing in and we struck up a conversation and it kind of started from there.
What was the conversation?
It was about music, and what she was doing and how she had a gig at JOE'S PUB in the city. She told me that she was needed a bass player and I said 'You should hire me.'
What brought you guys to record the songs on 900 MILES. Some of them are traditional and some of them are folk songs. What drew you guys to them?
They're just good songs basically. A lot of it was music that BETHANY had grown up with and related to. When I met her she was doing a singer-songwriter thing and almost by chance in a way we started out doing some of these traditional songs, one time we did an assembly for a middle school or something, and BETHANY just kind reverted to the material she'd grown up hearing from her dad when she was a kid. In the process we kind of realized how much fun it was and it just kind of kept growing from there. A part of it was just a reaction to going to all of these folk festivals and and no one is playing folk music. It's been a process of discovery to see these songs take on whole different meanings with time. Like THE SWALLOW, which is a song from the album. The woman goes out a gathers primrose which is actually and abortion herb, and the woman in the song is pregnant. There are these little things that you don't see in the song then in the course of time they reveal themselves. A lot of these songs were about struggles from over a hundred years ago and they're still relevant today.
On the subject of songs from the past being relevant today, one song that stuck out for me was ST. JAMES' INFIRMARY.
Yeah, after HURRICANE KATRINA, that song takes on a whole different meaning. The history of the song. It was a song from England originally that had to do with a soldier with syphilis.
Tell me a little about yourself. What drew you to the cello? Was it nature? Was it nurture? How did that happen?
My brother and my mother were playing cello in Suzuki method. When I was three I kept bugging them for a cello 'cause i wanted to be like my big brother. Eventually they gave me one.
And the Suzuki method is...
It's a Japanese technique for teaching music. Basically, it's playing by ear. I emphasizes listening in group.
I was reading in you bio that you played with the BLACK ROCK COALITION?
Yea,I've worked with them a lot. I've toured with them and played in their tribute to HENDRIX at TOWN HALL and JOE'S PUB and their STEVIE WONDER tribute at the PARK. They are a phenomenal group of really talented musicians.
I knew of the organization founded by VERNON REID, but I never knew that there was an actual band.
The band comes out of obscurity every now and then to do a project.
What was the process like in getting this CD recorded?
It was all recorded in my house. It actually didn't take very long to get the bulk of it done. It always takes about a year to get things finished. That last inch always seems to take forever.
What has the response been like to your live performances?
Our performances have evolved a lot since that record. The response to our performances has been unbelievable. We seriously rock the house. You've got BETHANY really getting down up there. It's a lot of fun. It goes over quite well. I don't we've had a performance where we didn't bring the house down.
Of the songs on 900 MILES, are there any that stand out for you as favorites?
I like how the song 900 MILES came out. NO MORE SONGS is a real hit from the feedback that we've been getting.
Does anyone ever tell you why?
I think after 9/11, the song takes on this whole other meaning. It's a very evocative rendition. BETHANY plays guitar on it and the cello goes off into another dimension solo-wise. It changes for me over time which ones are favorites but I like IF I HAD MY WAY.
The third song LININ' TRACK has this real percussive groove yet I don't know if there's any percussion on the track.
The groove from that track is one I used to play on the street of Spain, 17 years. That was how I reeled in the audience. It's all in the right and left hand.
So you play the cello like a bass?
I'm showing my ignorance of the cello here but is this technique common for cello players or is this something exclusive.
It's my own thing. I see cello as a wide opened field . There is no one way to play it. Each cellist gets to carve out a particular direction or domain and I've definitely been influenced by working with dance and working with Middle Eastern and African music traditions. I play in a group called the VODOU JAZZ ENSEMBLE of Haiti and we do ceremonial Haitian music and dance music. My technique has evolved over time. A lot of what I do comes from Flamenco Guitar. I lived in Spain when I was 20 and playing on the street. The techniques for Flamenco guitar were techniques I applied tot he cello. It's sort of a hammer-on style that you hear in electric blues guitar. A lot of these influences cross reference each other.
You guys have such a spin on this material that it doesn't sound like traditional music at all.
Yeah. PETE SEGER talks about each generation re-inventing the song and it becoming a part of the tradition at some point.
In terms of training was there a classical background at all.
Yes. When you play an instrument like the violin theres more of a chance of playing another style like Celtic music, swing or Cajun. In cello, theres not not a lot of folklore music traditions but there are in North African and in Middle Eastern music.
Are there any solo projects for you at the moment?
I've released a solo cello CD called SONGS FOR CELLO. I also play in a group called the PARADOX TRIO, which is a Balkan Gypsy music outfit. I'm working with ROSS DAILEY in a group called LABRYNTH and also a band out of San Francisco called STELLAMARA. I'm also doing some work with an Indian vocalist doing traditional Indian love songs. BETHANY and I also have a new band now called PETER, BETHANY AND RUFUS. We are in the process of recording a CD.
What music got to you growing up?
Opera was the firs thing. My dad listened to opera. There was a lot of classical music in my house growing up and I eventually got sick of it That was when I discovered B.B. KING and the blues and later on it was JIMI HENDRIX and LED ZEPPELIN and the pop music of the time. As far as what influenced me the most, it was the rain forest people of West Africa. The Pygmies have one of the most incredible music traditions on the planet.
What do you want a person to walk away with after hearing this music?
I want them to walk away with a feeling of connectedness. Like the line between the stage and the audience has been dissolved and that we were all performing together. I want them o feel like we were both in the music together.