Jazz Australia interview with James Muller

JA: You describe this live album as a kind of liberation for you, recording wise. Can you explain?
JM: I had never enjoyed studio recording. Some musicians love it but I hate it. A lot of it has to do with using headphones, which I find very destabilising. I think all of my prior studio recordings suffered because of it and none really captured the way I play on a gig. I have been meaning to do a live recording for a long time and I finally got around to it. I’m glad I did.

JA: Tell us about the choice of location to record this ‘live’ album?
JM:I had recorded at Wizard Tone studios a number of times before and liked the room. It’s big and has nice acoustics. The engineers there seemed to be able to capture my guitar sound well too. Producer David Theak and I thought it would be the perfect place to do it.

JA: How did you go about choosing the repertoire on the album?
JM:I’ve been on a bit of a bebop kick for the last few years and wanted include a few of my favourite bebop heads. Playing on jazz standards is my favourite  thing to do in the world and I hadn’t really documented that side of my playing much, although I’ve done a lot of it in my life. Previously, I had felt pressure, from myself and outside, to record original music but these days I think it’s more important I perform and record what I feel most comfortable doing and really ENJOY, which is playing standards. I still like to write a tune here and there but I’m not very prolific and I don’t really think of myself as much of a composer. Having said that, there are three new tunes of mine on the record as well as the standards.

JA: You assembled a great band for the occasion. Tell us about them?
JM:The rhythm section, Ben Vanderwal and Sam Anning, have been in my trio and quartet for the last few years and I love playing with them. They work really well together and bring a fantastic energy to the music. New York alto sax player, Will Vinson is really one of the most phenomenal musicians I’ve had the good fortune to play with – a true master. It’s all so easy for him, I think. Sam, Ben and I have been lucky enough to be Will’s touring band when he has come to Australia in previous years.

JA: Do you think you will record again in a similar ‘live’ scenario?
JM: I hope so, yes.

JA: What are you listening to at the moment that really inspires you?
JM: I hate to sound like an old grump but not very much. I think that naturally happens the older you get. I was a mad listener throughout my twenties and early thirties but these days it’s rare I’ll listen to anything much. I’ve recently started learning the piano so I’ve been going back and listening to some of my favourite pianists like Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Wynton Kelly, Herbie, McCoy etc but that’s more for study purposes.

JA: How do you find the jazz scene in Adelaide?
JM: I don’t really feel I’m part of any scene anywhere, any more which is actually kind of cool. I’m a real recluse these days. In Adelaide, I do one gig a week at a pub with an organ trio called The Airbenders which is good fun, but that’s about it. I can’t tour anymore due to a vertigo illness that I’ve had for the last couple of years and, to be honest, I’m happy that way. I always found performing super stressful and ultimately it all became very unenjoyable. These days I mainly teach which seems to suit me at the moment. There are some fantastic young players in Adelaide but, sadly, a lot of them have to leave to further their careers which is totally understandable.

JA: Where do you see your music heading in the future?
JM: I’m not really sure. I’m still super excited about playing the guitar and learning about music so I’ll be doing something.