Review Fix chats with Guitars A Go Go’s Sal Cataldi and Rick Warren, who discuss their origin in music, influences, standout work and goals for the rest of 2020.
Review Fix: How did you get involved in music?
RW: Music has always been a part of my life. We had a piano that I would love to make sounds on. Nothing was safe. I remember my dad got a multi speed tape recorder. I made a recording rolling coffee cans and stuff down the stairs and playing back at different speeds.
SC: Mine was the 60s/70s classic – the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, British Invasion leading to British Blues, then prog, jazz fusion and back to traditional jazz, with detours along the way for folks and singer-songwriter work I do in my other project, Spaghetti Eastern Music. I’ve been in bands since I virtually picked up at guitar at age 11, from funk to rock to jazz to experimental sounds.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
RW: I like to find a sound, maybe a new setting on a pedal that I haven’t tried, and just improvise and see where it leads me. If I’m not in a pedal mood, I might take some interval, maybe a set of intervals, and just experiment with combining them in different ways.
SC: With Guitars A Go Go, it is pure unfettered inspiration and improvisation, a pursuit of creating a music that impacts the body and mind, without limits and fear. Our work is either pure improvisation, which might start with a sound or a loop or a pedal tone chord, something that we both build upon, sometimes creating a virtual orchestral. Half of this album was live and lengthy improvisation with lots of effects and melodic and mood movement; the other half are pieces where one of us would layer upon a melodic beginning or soundscape the other created, by bouncing the tracks both and forth via Dropbox during the Covid quarantine! While most of this is guitar, I employed layers of synth, keys and percussion to build atmospheres around some of Rick’s improvisations/melodic directions, maybe something best showcased on the single “A Jig for Europa.” And Rick’s guitar, well it rarely sounds like a guitar, and that’s a great thing!
Review Fix: What inspires you?
RW: Sounds. Music that you find in nature and the soundscape around us. I also love to hear groups of improvising musicians clicking together, when you suddenly realize that you’ve been lifted with them to a higher plane.
SC: All forms of music, and frankly any art form where the spirit is free and not chained down by preconceived notions and a marketing sensibility with the rote cliches. Maybe what we do is more like painting than traditional songcraft. We’re dealing in sounds that have a lot of color, a vibration, and, like Rick said, trying to reach a moment where we are really clicking on the improvisational plane, and bringing an audience along for the ride.
Review Fix: What does music mean to you?
RW: As so many before me, I believe in music as a healing force. It is truly the universal language.
SC: It is a healing force, a way to bring about optimism and a calm even in the most frenzied of your life and where the sonic adventure takes you. For me, it’s also about a way to process memories and emotions and to project a bit of hope.
Review Fix: How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you?
RW: This set is a trancy-meditative ambient meadow, with an occasional peppering of electronica melded in. Maybe some sort of Santana meets Eno meets Oliveros.
SC: All of the above, with the spirit of early Kraftwerk and Krautrock wrangled out of guitars, with a smattering a low-tech classical minimalism, but something with a melodic direction and flow, an evolution, a long journey by the seat of one’s pants. We’re both massive Robert Fripp/Frippertronic fans, trying to create pieces that depart from a single sound and evolve into great cathedrals of spaciousness and spacey.
Review Fix: How are your live shows different from your studio work?
RW: We are always improvising, whether live or in the labs. Of course, live, what happens, happens and is (hopefully) heard. It is also limited in a sense, to just what we can do on the spot. In the studio, we have the option to listen back and say ‘Delete!’. And we have the option to add in different things that we wouldn’t be able to do in a live situation.
SC: Our debut album “Travel Advisory” is maybe 60% live, four lengthy performances running from 11 – 19 minutes in length, without overdubs. With their length and drone-y bedding, they can have a profound impact on the listener, like a long meditation, The other pieces were like a game of ping pong, bouncing ideas back and forth, adding and subtracting to create shorter works that fused our individual styles and inspirations.
Review Fix: What inspired you both to do this album?
RW: We had been playing together in a couple different settings. Woodstock saxman Gus Mancini is totally to blame for bringing the two of us into his Sonic Soul Awe-kestra at the Rosendale Street Festival two years ago. That is a total improvising situation. We liked each other’s playing and decided to try some duo settings, and those worked out well. And here we are.
SC: Yes, sometimes, with two guitarists, there can be a bit of a sonic class, rushing to fill the silence, but that’s never the case with Rick and I. Upon meeting, we started doing a bunch of duo gigs together, at progressive Hudson Valley venues like the Kingston Artists Collective, Greenkill Gallery and Or and the Underground Gallery in Hudson, to name a few. I love Rick’s command of sound generation and effects, which is something I learn more about from playing with him. And I’m a chordal and harmony slaves, always trying to impose a melody, a narrative drive to what’s going on no matter how out there. People were really enjoying what we were doing as a duo, as were we, so we decide to commit it to something permanent. The session for the live tracks was basically about as long as what’s on the record, no excessive planning or futzing after. We wanted to keep it as immediate and raw as our live work.
Review Fix: What are your goals for the rest of 2020?
RW: To continue to make music. It seems it will be a long time before there is much in the way of chances to play live in front of people. We’ve been bouncing tracks back and forth between us, so something will eventually come of that for sure.
SC: To get this album heard, and make it a calling card to get more live work, when the gigging world comes back to life. As Rick said, we’re already bouncing ideas back and forth and I imagine we will create another collection for release sometime later this year. Rick and I both have other projects that we work on, but this one is really central, a real adventure that helps us bring new ideas to any musical venture we are involved in.
Review Fix: What’s next?
RW: More music!
SC: What he said!