J.A. Granelli Interview 2004
An Interview with J.A. Granelli
by S.H. Watkins, Sr.
J. Anthony Granelli is a native of northern California. He began to study electric bass at the age of eight from San Francisco Bassist /instrument pioneer Fred Marshall. In his teens Granelli moved to Seattle Washington where he performed with Jay Clayton, Jerry Granelli, Julian Priester, and was a founding member of the critically acclaimed group Timebone. In 1999, Granelli founded Love Slave Records, a label dedicated to presenting New York’s exciting downtown scene and featuring a wide variety of artists including: Brad Shepik, Ralph Alessi, Ez Pour Spout, Jerry Granelli, Jamie Saft, and David Tronzo.
JazzUSA: Who founded the record company?
JG: I did
JazzUSA: Do you find that there are any particular obstacles put in front of you because of the fact that you’re running your own records company, instead of going through the standard distribution chain?
JG: I think the difference is that I have to do it all myself. If you’re on a label and their handling it, as an artist there’s just one less thing you have to hassle about. The major thing is that as the person whose running the label, all those responsibilities are mine. As a opposed of doing the record for somebody and having them put it out.
JazzUSA: What about placement, is there any resistance from the established industry because you’re an independent?
JG: The thing is that, the huge consolidation of the industry with quotes around industry. Has really made brick and mortar, meaning record store distribution very difficult, for small independent labels. The hardest thing, the real obstacle is you are faced with an either or situation. Either you are with a small boutique type of distributor like North Country. Where you’re basically in the catalogue, and if small record companies around the country want your product and they have dealings with the small distributors, then they know where to go and get it. That’s somebody coming in and asking if you have it and then getting it.
The other side is you take a pretty large step up to a real independent distribution somebody who will get your record into stores. When you move on to that level a real distributor is gonna want a certain level of financial activity. They’re going to want to see if you are going to put XE amount of dollars into the market in terms of advertising, in terms of buying listening posts etc, etc, etc.
JazzUSA: So you are faced with the age old problem of either swim with the big fish or have to swim around them.
JG: Exactly, I’m not trying to knock against any body in particular that I would be dealing with, but as soon as you move into the big fish world, the big fish end of the record industry is founded on ways to rip people off. If you look at it, historically the genesis of it is ripping people off. It’s become so institutionalized that they don’t even think about as ripping people off any more. It’s just simple the way they do business. For a big record label for them not to get a specific amount of reorders reported back to them, that that’s what happened or some CD’s came up missing or whatever doesn’t make that big of a difference to them. Because they are printing so many of them and destroying so many on a daily basis it doesn’t matter. But someone like me it’s horrific. Because I may be only printing up a couple thousand of them, and you know to get, you don’t really gain much stepping up in scale.
JazzUSA: It’s better to sell a few with no interference, then to sell a million that you’re only getting a penny on.
JG: Exactly, but you’d never sell a million records anyway. YOU not only set yourself up for spending more money to keep these people satisfied, but you also open yourself up for a myriad of ways to get stolen from.
JazzUSA: I’m glad to see you doing it, we’re very big on independent record companies.
JG: That’s great, for me I figured that I wanted to put some music out that I really loved, and some of my own music and it seemed like the best way to do it. This way we have control over everything we do.
JazzUSA: So you’re true to the music. Now let’s talk about Jay the bass player.
JG: That’s me (laughter).
JazzUSA: I see a lot of influences in the writing, particularly in the last album. I feel a little Charles Earland and some John Scofield in there.
JG: Yeah sure, Schofield was a large influence on me when I was younger. I guess kind of feel that a lot…like you never shed your influences. There might be times when you’re very influenced by somebody, and you try to write lot or trying to play like that person. Everyone grows out those phases and then you move on to what ever the next thing that’s interesting to you. But, you don’t ever shed that information, it might not ever be conscious. It’s not necessarily a conscious homage to these other people who have influenced you down the road. When I was writing that record the Gigantic stuff…the whole process of that band of Mr. Lucky as a band, really started when my daughter was born about 4 years ago. And becoming very dissatisfied with how I had been writing music up to that point. Which was for lack of a better word downtown New York, whatever that is. The music I had been writing up to that point was hard, it was hard, it was very complex. It was rhythmically very, lots of odd time signatures and time cycles and very angular.
I realized that I didn’t like listening to that type of music so much. Why was I writing it if I didn’t like listening to it, unless it’s because I felt like I should. Because I’m a schooled musician and that’s what I should be able to do. So I took a very conscious step back and stopped writing for a long time. I just really paid attention to what my ear gravitated towards, like what I liked to listen to. And that began this process of writing these two records and I have another record and a half of unrecorded material that I’ve been writing over the last year. It’s been kind of like that process of what’s important in music to me, is it melody, it’s groove, it’s these things. In New York a lot of the work I do, playing work is kind of like all country scene.
I think American music has become this huge fascination for me. That’s kind of what it’s all about, so people like Schofield and those guys I was really into when I was more of quote on quote a jazz musician is all in there. It influences it, it influences everything, now I looking at everything through this other lens. I just want to make beautiful music, and the end of the day and not to be schmaltzy about it, that’s what I want. I want to write something that someone will listen to, and sit there and have a great time listening to the music. Coming to see the band live, they’ll sit there and have a great time listening to the band live. They’ll be able to hear the melodies and remember them. That’s kind of what I’m after.
JazzUSA: Will this new point of view affect any future release from Easy Pour Spout?
JG: Easy Pour as a band, as the band that existed on that record, doesn’t necessarily exist. That record was like the beginning of the end for that project. Doing and playing those tunes that way, we played that music 2 to 3 years before we ever made that record. We sat down and thought about it and talked about it a lot. What are we trying to do with this, can we not play pop tunes in a jazz way. Can we find a way to play this music, where it stays emotionally true to the original. But let’s us improvise the way we want to improvise. It was a really a deliberate process that took a long time.
JazzUSA: It’s an interesting album.
JG: I’m very happy with it and over the course of the year since the record has come out. We have done special one off concerts. We done an all Led Zeppelin evening once, we’ve done a couple of things like that. Where we’ve put a confederation of people together for a special occasion.
JazzUSA: What’s next for you?
JG: I think I am working a bunch of new Mr. Lucky music. I think for this next project, this next recording we’re going to add a great peddle field player to the band that I play with out here in New York.
JazzUSA: Who is that?
JG: A guy names Joe Menke, he’s real good! Just for this bunch of music it’s gonna sound reall nice as a quintes… real full.
I’ve been working on that and… I kind of lead this wierd double existance where I write the Mr. Luck stuff, and I play in all the country bands but then at the same time I do like all these real hard core, free improvisation stuff… so I kinda work on both rails at the same time.
JazzUSA: Well thanks for your time and good luck with the CD.
For more on J.A. Granelli visit his Web Site.