An Interview

Mark Helias on The Definition of a Toy

This interview was conducted by e-mail, February 26, 2004.

Greg Buium: Briefly tell me a bit about your history with each of these guys. (When you met, recordings, etc.)

Mark Helias: I met Michael in 1978. Met Dylan at the Vancouver festival where we played a few years ago.

Buium: What did Dylan say when he called you about the project?

Helias: I don’t remember.

Buium: He asked you to bring some music. Did you write these tunes specifically for this date? Why this music for these guys?

Helias: Yes. They could read.

Buium: Tell me a bit about “Jacques” and “Broken.” Here you might give a brief description of the tunes (form, shape, basic plan, whatever).

Helias: “Jacques” – graphically notated, event-based each player chooses order in which to play the events. “Broken” comprises short thematic variations with cadenzas interpolated.

Buium: Achim in particular found “Broken” quite difficult. Why do you think?

Helias: Too much information and a nasty unison line with the bass.

Buium: You guys only had a brief time together (two rehearsals) yet the music sounds very natural. Did it feel that way? What are your memories of the rehearsals? The recording? What about the duet with Brad? The gig?

Helias: Rehearsal – Achim and Dylan trying to prop up the piano (it was all messed up). Trying to find a light to put on the chair that I used as a music stand. The rehearsal place was basic to say the least. On the other hand, the music was really nice and the musicians (smart guys that they are) learned it all rather effortlessly. Duet with Brad was very serendipitous, easy to connect.

Buium: What would you consider the distinguishing musical characteristics of this group, this particular mix of players?

Helias: Humour.