say English must be the international language but in reality, music
is the international language. Especially instrumental music, and
to prove the point, guitarist Todd Clouser released an amazing new
album entitled A Love Electric in 2010. I guess Todd got tired
of those brutal Minnesota winters, so he now calls Baja Mexico home
these days. Perhaps inspired by the beautiful palm trees and beaches
of Mexico, Clouser cuts loose on an adventurous instrumental jazz-rock
fusion album that transcends genres by merging a swirling palate of
musical styles and sounds. Clouser, like many of us, grew up listening
to Hendrix, King Crimson and Led Zeppelin but in a bold move, Clouser
blends his love of progressive rock with an appreciation of jazz giants
like Miles Davis and John Coltane along with current guitar influences
like Bill Frisell and Nels Cline. Even with these influences looming,
A Love Electric is a remarkably innovative and cohesive listening
experience, start to finish. Clousers electric guitar work dominates
the sound stage and his music is colorful and captivating, often sounding
like three different bands in one during the course of the song. Clouser
gets solid backing from a number of playersincluding occasional
trumpet blasts from New York City trumpeter Steven Bernsteinand
the CD is quite well recorded and mastered. Another thing that blew
my mind here is how sometimes, Clouser sounds like a television theme
music writer, sounding inspired by any number of mid 70s TV
anthems. Wild stuff really. Another great highlight here among the
Clouser originals is a solid, and driving sentimental instrumental
cover of the Harry Nilsson chestnut One. The imaginative
sounds inside are colorfully encased in the excellent cardboard CD
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got my first guitar at age 11 and took to it pretty quickly. For whatever
reason, it offered me something I was lacking in terms of the ability
to express myself. That has persisted to this day. I played throughout
my teens, had a few rock and improv based bands, and got pretty serious
around 16. Once I had the opportunity to go to college, after some
time running around the country following bands and doing some playing,
I applied to Berklee and headed to Boston. I spent three years there,
took to heavier jazz, learned piano proficiently, and graduated with
a bunch of songs I had been working on during my time in school. I
was a recluse in college, mostly studying and composing, and found
the hypertension and competitive nature of the scene there, a bit
of an introduction into the music business world, kind of defeating.
So when the degree came, I got out of Boston and started a band with
some friends back in Minneapolis.
The new record that Ropeadope is putting out is called Todd
Clouser's A Love Electric. Some taglines that get attached
to it are "energy driven jazz rock", "70's era electric
jazz brought modern", etc
but the descriptive words aren't
something that really do much for me, seems music is best left to
the ears. We like to categorize before we hear, unfortunately, and
of course it makes things easier to sell.
The aim of the disc was to take these tunes I'd composed and really
allow the musicians to play and put themselves into it. The parts
and sections are all deliberate, but its a jazz disc in the
sense that we all improvised heavily. All the players are really incredible
musicians, all celebrated in their own projects, so it was a gift
to get everyone into the studio. On the upright bass is Gordy Johnson,
who used to play with Chuck Mangione amongst a host of ridiculous
projects. Steven Bernstein, who has really become a mentor to me in
many ways, is on trumpet, also playing one of the few slide trumpets
in the world. He's just an amazing person I talk about a whole lot,
maybe too much, but we've done a couple tours together now and his
musicality, sense of people, and the possibility he brings or reaching
epic peaks in the tunes always defy logic.
Bryan Nichols, who everyone in the jazz scene will hear a ton about
in the next few years is on the Rhodes, played through an old Fender
Twin with all kinds of dirt on it which kind of serves as the blanket
throughout the record. We really wanted an aggressive sound and the
voicing Bryan gravitates towards aids in achieving that. Greg Schutte
is on the drums, and he co-produced the record with me.
We recorded at Schutte's studio, in his basement, Gordy, Greg, and
myself first and then brought in the other guys. It had an attitude
about it immediately and everyone took to the tunes, so it was an
As for the guitars, I didn't want to make a guitar record, it was
more about the composition, though of course I still love to blow.
Some guitar records can just get nonmusical to me, just an ego, look
at me, kind of party where everyone else just lays down a foundation
for the guitarist. Didn't want that. So I used my normal setup and
tried to be tasteful in where the guitar was necessary, where it best
served the song, and where I could lay out. In terms of guitar style,
its aggressive, but not something Im ashamed of. I like
rock guitar to sound like rock guitar, and thats what these
songs called for, though there are some more jazz moments on there
in terms of tone and approach. We'll see where the next project leads,
but really for me it was just about being conscious of what this music
needed from the guitar, not what I could impose upon it.
play a Gibson ES 335, and have for about 6 years now, pretty exclusively.
I find its really versatile and the sound it emits just sings.
I've become almost dangerously accustomed to it, and have trouble
crossing over to other guitars, with the jazz box guitars being maybe
the easiest jump to make. There are a couple Stratocaster moments
on A Love Electric where we needed that grit and cut to break
into the kind of swath of sound we had going.
For effects, Im actually pretty simple, I have a couple Analog Man
pedals, the Ross Compressor Clone that is on about 70 percent of the
time, The "King of Tone", which is basically just two decked-out
tube screamers, and the ZVEX Super Hard On, kind of a pre-amp or clean
boost pedal. You can hear the traditional Crybaby wah all over the
record. Those are always around and I often play live with just those
three or four going.
Now that we're getting our on the road more, I like to have more sonic
options, so I've added some more ZVEX stuff, the Tremorama and the
Fuzz Factory, along with an old Boss analog delay. The analog delay
you can hear quite a bit of on A Love Electric as well, one
of those I picked up as a kid and has been a survivor, has a great
warmth about it. I also have a Line6 DL4, which I mainly just use
as a looper or if we get dangerous and some reverse is appropriate.
I do like noise, so have to temper myself a bit. I play mostly through
Fender twins, love the vibrato and spring reverb on them and dial
those in appropriately. On "One", the Harry Nilsson tune
we did on the record, a PRoCO RAT was called in.
On the guitar, I generally play on the neck pickup with the tone knob
at about 4 to 7, tweaking as sounds right to me. Some band mates,
engineers take shots at me for it being too bass heavy, but it sounds
right to me there. You can be gentle or scream, kind of has a tenor
sax sonic range that I love.
influences are all over the board for me, what Ive always sought
is what I perceive to be honesty in the music I really take to. My
perception is only that, but when someone really emotes, what they
have, its a pretty wonderful experience to listen to as long
as I stay open to different styles of music. I guess that could be
a piece of what has led our music to be called "genre-defying",
its a combination of all I've taken in as a listener and student,
and a lack of inhibition, or fear, in getting out whatever music Im
feeling. Generally, the limits we put on ourselves, or judgments we
place on others' music, their styles, etc, is just a reflection of
So for specific influences, I started with 90's rock, Pearl Jam, was
led to Jimi Hendrix, stayed there for a while. Once I discovered all
the great jazz players, it opened up a new world to me in terms of
what I could play on the guitar, suddenly my chord choices, melody
lines, solo lines, were infinite in possibility, which is a bit overwhelming.
I've tried to find my place in between all of it, but there is always
a sense of "man, I could never play like that, its so good."
Peter Bernstein comes to mind as one of those. His ideas are so clear
and concise, accurate, but its still achingly human. Bill Frisell
I love, Nels Cline. Marc Ribot is probably my favorite living guitarist,
from what he does with all the T Bone Burnett projects to his work
with Los Cubanos Postizos to his more avant projects, its all
real and raw. Outside of guitarists, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins,
Charles Mingus, on and on.
Albums I've loved over time are Brian Eno's Discreet Music,
Bill Frisell's Nashville, any number of Hendrix albums, Medeski
Martin and Wood's Its a Jungle In Here. The aforementioned
Marc Ribot and Los Cubanos Postizos albums, Radiohead's Kid A,
lots of the Alan Lomax field recording collections. Tons of great
going to be busy, which is thrilling. February 18th we take off for
a 3 week mid/mountain west tour in the US, then back down to the Baja
for some residency gigs, teaching, our Arts Day OUt Festival which
is this non-profit I founded down in Los Cabos to spur interaction
between the ex-pat and local Mexican communities by way of the arts,
aimed at the area's youth. We're at the Liga Mac jazz festival in
Los Cabos in March, an incredible annual event to support the needs
of some of the families lacking resources in the Los Cabos area, and
then we're off for an extended California into Mexico tour. I love
getting out and meeting everyone, taking in new towns, the inspiration
never ends when life is lived like that, so Im very fortunate
and grateful to have these opportunities coming up.
We've already begun tracking and flushing out ideas on another A
Love Electric release with some of the Mexico based players, and
I have a couple other projects, one called Drive By Film, I hope to
get recorded late summer with our classic trio of Benny Weinbeck,
bassist Adam Linz, and Greg Schutte, more sparse and straight ahead
in the jazz way of talking about things.
There's talk of Europe with Mark Aanderud in June or July and then
hopefully the East Coast U.S. Its been a lot of work developing musically
and getting to a place personally where I can feel good about doing
all this and stay healthy, took about all of my 20's, its just
beginning, and its a really great time for me.
The website is www.toddclouser.com,
though you can go to www.aloveelectric.com and end up in the same
spot. Any press and booking stuff goes to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We're kind of expanding our operation a bit with the tours going on
in two countries and now being on Ropeadope, but always make a conscious
effort to stay in the digital media loop on Facebook. Facebook.com/toddclouser.
I've got a bunch of duets and youtube specific videos that will be
up in the coming months at youtube.com/toddclousermusic and our website
has a blog as well that we keep pretty well updated.