Jherek Bischoff

Amanda Palmer: The view from here

September 27, 2012

My name is Jherek Bischoff. I am a musician, producer, arranger and composer. I consider the latter title a particular honor because it means I have the privilege of working with wonderful musicians who perform my own musical ideas. I am currently on tour with Amanda Palmer as her bass player, and ad hoc musical director, organizing and rehearsing string quartets in cities where we can find them. Some folks had reached out to me, wondering what my position was on the “volunteer” band-member controversy. I am not a great speaker or writer, which is probably why I am so drawn to music, as it allows me to express myself in a way more suited to me. Anyone who knows me also knows that I am a pretty sensitive guy who would never hurt a fly. The situation has more or less been resolved by now, and in internet terms, is old news – but there were many issues brought up that are important to consider, so I wanted to share my experience anyway.

I want to start this by saying that I am super happy to be in a band that encourages its individual members to speak their minds and remain independent personalities. I have been a musician my whole life. And I have been a *struggling* musician my whole life. Living in my van, living in my friend’s closet, skipping meals, and refusing to work a 9-5 in hopes that I could reach a point in my life that I could make ends meet by doing what I love. This was a choice, and one I will never regret. Maybe for that reason, it warms my heart to see people standing up for musicians’ rights. I can’t recall musicians’ rights ever being such a major point of conversation and it has been extremely thought-provoking to see so many different views being expressed.

Moving along, eight months ago I first met with Amanda Palmer to talk about joining the Grand Theft Orchestra. I ended up doing some string arrangements for her record, and another member of her touring band, Chad Raines, did some horn arrangements. Before we recorded, before her Kickstarter, we had a long conversation about how the tour would work. I was excited to learn that Amanda also wanted to have strings and horns as part of her show. She also invited me to open her shows. Amanda was incredibly kind to invite me, in part because it’s rare to get a chance to open for someone with such an incredible fanbase, in part because my own music is orchestral.

For those who don’t know me or my work (which I imagine is the majority of you!), earlier this year, I released an album called Composed that was made after many years of painstaking work. This whole discussion has been very personal for me, because as a little-known composer, it is virtually impossible to have a traditional orchestral performance of your own music if you don’t have big bucks. As a result, I’ve had to constantly think of unconventional and innovative ways to make things happen. For my own record, I didn’t have the funds to hire an entire orchestra, so I had to improvise. Instead, I rode my bicycle around the Pacific Northwest, laptop in tow, and recorded a smaller number of classically-trained musician friends, layering their parts to literally orchestrate the sound of a large orchestra. Later, I was lucky to have some more well-known guests like David Byrne, Mirah Zeitlyn, Caetano Veloso, SoKo, Nels Cline and Greg Saunier contribute to the album. To this day I am amazed the record even exists!

You might imagine how difficult it would be to tour and bring an orchestral record to life, especially with no budget of my own. Your imagination is correct! However, I thought if I had access to a string quartet, it would at least make it possible for me to present a set of my own music. So Amanda presented the idea of reaching out to her fanbase, something she has done in various ways in the past to great success, in order to source local volunteer players for each night of her tour. We agreed that it would be my responsibility to organize them. I would get to present my music and she would get to use the quartet on a few songs.

This was all *before* the Kickstarter project and *before* making the record.

The volunteer arrangement had me worried from the beginning, because I have always done my absolute best to pay musicians in my own projects. I write grants, I have done a Kickstarter project, I save, and I often play gigs where all of the money goes to the players and I receive nothing. I do this happily, because as a composer, the opportunity to get the chance for my music to be played by awesome people is extremely fortunate! Sometimes I pay players a small amount of money and sometimes a larger amount, but the players know what to expect in advance.

Aside from the volunteer aspect, the logistics of organizing different string quartets for each city was really overwhelming. As someone who was not social media savvy, the whole prospect was completely mind-boggling and foreign to me, but the possibilities were also interesting. As an outsider, learning about Amanda’s history and success with crowdsourcing and her incredible connection with her fans, the volunteer musician scenario made some sense to me. It seemed yet another improvisational way to make performing orchestral music possible.

Boom, her Kickstarter happened, catapulting this whole project into the spotlight.

Part of the Kickstarter project included a promotional tour in which we played two shows in six different cities between June and August. I was happy to learn that there was a budget for string players on these shows. I was able to hire players, and I also did opening sets on all the gigs. It was really great and worked out well.

After the promotional tour ended, I was happy to learn that there would be a small budget available to me to hire some extra players. Uncertain I would be able to organize quartets in every city, I started by approaching musicians in cities in which I already had contacts and friends – namely larger cities which I had played in before, and some of the musicians who had played with us during the promotional tour. A major help to this effort was Classical Revolution, whom I had collaborated with a few times in the past for my own projects. For those of you who don’t know, Classical Revolution is an international organization of classical musicians looking to bring classical music to new audiences and venues (AWESOME! — and more about that at the end of this letter). In July, we worked with CR on the San Francisco stop of Amanda’s promo tour, and at that time the head of their SF chapter expressed interest in being involved during the fall tour that’s happening right now. We fantasized about creating AP/CR merch that could benefit CR and other ways to bring more attention to the organization. Unfortunately time was not on our side, so we couldn’t realize the merch ideas. When it was certain there would not be a budget to hire musicians in all cities during the fall tour, the head of CR SF decided he would no longer be able to help, a decision which I fully respect. However, he did say it would be okay for me to reach out personally to the heads of other CR groups.

Part of the reason there was such confusion surrounding crowdsourcing musicians is because it wasn’t happening in every city. From the beginning, Amanda and I were approaching assembling extra players in different ways. For her, it really *was* all about engaging her fanbase, and her belief that it would be an exciting and unique way to involve her fans, that would add yet another element of intimacy to each show. I, on the other hand, approached it like every other project I have done. Having to organize, rehearse and play with a completely new group every single night was a crazy amount of work and somewhat of a crap-shoot. The easiest way I saw to manage all of that work was to  contact the very best players, hope I could lock in one or two ringers each night, and build the ensembles from there. So the first thing I did was reach out to friends, friends of friends, and to the CR network, some of whom were outside the AP fanbase, some of whom had been paid to play during the promo tour, all before the open call was even made. This is how some of the cities ended up having paid players, such as in New York.

When the plan to crowdsource volunteers for the rest of the shows was brought up again, we discussed the things we could offer the volunteers, settling on the now infamous “beer, hi-fives and hugs”, as well as guest list spots, merch and food. During the promo tour, we had also invited the guest musicians to sell their own merch at the shows, and some expressed interest in playing before the show, which was something we were very happy to try and accommodate. Since the string players would be playing for my opening set as well, it was important for me to have some way of making sure the selected players could actually play their instruments, hence the call for samples of their work. Not having any idea what the response would be, it was basically some sort of filter to help me sort through all of the possible submissions.

Finally, the open call was made, via AP’s website and through her twitter.

We were inundated with offers from all types of musicians from many different cities. We found players who are talented and extremely excited to be there to play music with us. (Some of them were even from CR, for instance we had an all-CR band in Washington D.C. Lovely folks!) In some cities we weren’t able to organize players, and that was okay too, for example in Atlanta where instead I opened for Amanda with a solo set.

It wasn’t until the tour actually started, some weeks after the open call was made, that the comments against the call began to mushroom on the internet. When the feedback started rolling in, you can bet everyone involved began reassessing the entire situation. Both Amanda and I definitely have some regrets. For one thing, I’m sorry it wasn’t clear that there was a budget for some cities, and that I had approached players on my own outside of AP’s fanbase before the open call was made. This, in particular, seemed a big contradiction to the original intent of crowdsourcing volunteer players from AP’s fanbase as a unique approach to touring. The whirlwind of activity and attention that surrounds an “overnight sensation” like Amanda’s Kickstarter can really mix up plans and intentions and execution in ways that are hard for the public to discern, especially when so many different people are involved. It certainly wasn’t anyone’s intention to take advantage of or exploit anyone. And for what it’s worth, once the feedback started rolling in at the start of tour, I was glad to forgo profits from the nightly sales of my own merch in order to compensate the volunteers. And of course, Amanda announced later that all of the volunteer musicians would be paid, retroactively as well, which I am very happy about.

Having spent a lot of time now with AP, I am continually inspired by her passion, innovation, and genuine support and love for her fanbase and everyone that works for and with her. She is a pioneer, navigating through an evolving music industry in which paradigms are shifting. There is definitely some trial-and-error along the way, but I absolutely know that her heart is in the right place.

** A quick postscript about bringing composed music and classical instruments to new audiences. I teased this point above — how important it is to reach new audiences — and I think it’s worth stating at  length: Most folks in smaller towns (and by that I mean any city under a half million people) lack the chance to hear *any* classical music, much less the new, dynamic composed music happening in major cities like New York, London, and Los Angeles. One of my life goals, therefore, is to bring my own music to cities outside of normal classical music capitals. I’ve spent a long time building relationships with classical musicans/groups everywhere to help make this happen. And it’s always a  pleasure to work with groups like Classical Revolution for this reason, as they have groups around the whole world. The Portland chapter just played some of my music a few nights ago at the Time-Based Arts Festival, and they also assembled an amazing chamber orchestra for me a couple years ago for a concert. In return, I am volunteering my services to play a big benefit for them in S.F. later this month. Point being, the world they and I are operating within is not one to which normal pop music economics always apply. It’s not ideal — but it is okay — and, more importantly, it’s a reality we need to deal with to keep this music alive. Maybe it doesn’t compete with EDM in the minds of the traditional music business promoters but, hey, if we keep breathing new life into it, maybe, just maybe, one day it will.

Things come in 3s!

September 4, 2012

A ton of news! First of all my birthday is coming up! To celebrate an extremely productive and awesome 33rd year of my life  I have 3 (!) releases coming out the month of my birthday, September!

First - My labels, The Leaf Label (UK/EU) and Brassland (US) are getting ready to release “Scores” on September 18th. This is an instrumental version of my record Composed in a new digital format. The music will be available to download as instrumental versions and also a new exciting version that will include full notated scores of all of the tunes from Composed! If you play violin or most other orchestral instruments and want something to play along with, you will now be able to! If you are an orchestra, professional or middle school, you could play my music! I would love to post ensembles versions of these tunes up on this site so we can all see the results! FUN!

 

Second - Parenthetical Girls’ Privilege V is coming out September 11th! This is the last in the 5 EP series. I produced the record (same as the other ones) and wrote 3 of the 5 songs with Mr. Pennington. I am really pleased with this series. I am going to miss the process that Zac and I developed. We really let ourselves go in whatever direction that our creativity took us. We worked extremely spontaneously and it was really really lovely. You can order your copy and stay abreast of all Parenthetical girls news here!

Third - And certainly not least, Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra’s Theater is Evil will be released also on September 11th! We recorded this in Melbourne Australia with John Congleton and the record has been getting a TON of  attention! It has been a total blast. We are beginning our year of touring on September 10th. We will be coming to your city and I will be opening the sets so keep checking into my live page! Order the record here! This band is really good. Don’t miss it!

 

Lastly, I want to mention there are some crazy exciting announcements coming soon. New collaborations, new performances, but I cannot let the tofu out of the bag yet. I can mention a couple fun things coming up though.

TBA Festival in PDX Sept. 12th
Classical Revolution PDX (a chamber ensemble) will be performing a few of my pieces. I selected some beauties that I think will really fit in with the other AMAZING things lined up for the evening. I will not be in attendance because I will be playing in Washington DC that night.. But I am sending the always amazing Joshua Kohl of Degenerate Ensemble in my place. There is no one I trust with my music more.

 

A Benefit for Classical Revolution in San Francisco Sept. 27th
Classical Revolution S.F. will be performing a set of my music along with some other fantastic acts! Super honored to be a part of this! I will be in town playing at the Fillmore the night before with Amanda Palmer and will be staying an extra day to join CRSF for the evening!

Sometime in the not too distant future a video for Eyes will be coming out. I just finished shooting all of the footage and it is going to be AWESOME! Here are some pics (#1 & 2 taken by Mayumi Heider) from the shoot!

I always forget how busy I have been until I sit down to write one of these updates.. sheeesh! I am sure I am forgetting a ton of stuff, but check in with me on Twitter. I will be on there a bunch this year.

HEART
Jherek

Ahoy!

July 24, 2012

I am writing to announce that I finally have a proper website! I want to thank the fine folks at The Leaf Label for pulling this together! As many of you know, I like to do a lot of different things within music, but building websites has obviously not been one of them! I am incredibly excited to now have this as a hub for everything coming up! There is a lot!


On the site you can of course find my record “Composed” for sale, as well as some of my previous output. You can find some t-shirts that are sold solo or can be bundled with music for a special low price. And, you can find a very long list of tour dates!


In September, I will be embarking on a full US and EU tour with Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra as a member of her band and as an opening act. I am trying something absolutely insane, which is that I am assembling a different string quartet for EVERY show! The quartets will be made up of local musicians from each city! We are just finishing up a 6 city promo tour where we have been testing this out and it has been an absolute blast! It is the first time in a long time that I wake up every show day with extreme excitement to get to play music! Tour is usually a bit of an endurance test for me, but this has been a serious energy booster! I cant wait to meet and play with all of these quartets!  If you or someone you know would like to take part in this, please contact me on the contact page!

On the site you can sign up for my newsletter to keep abreast of all of my news and I have also strangely taken a liking to Twitter, probably because of my proximity to Twitter master Amanda Palmer so you can check in on there too!

Take care beauties!
Jherek

HELLO

June 8, 2012

I’m excited to present my new album, “Composed”. You can find out more (and where to get hold of it) by visiting The Leaf Label or Brassland.

I have been working on this record since May of 2009 and it has been a wild journey! What started out as songs written on a ukulele and me humming gibberish has blossomed into a full orchestra and collaborations with pretty much all of my heroes! What started out as me as a very behind the scenes guy that was always afraid to ask people to participate in my own thing turned into quite the opposite.

This record is the culmination of so many things, it makes it a little hard to write about. Mostly, it has shown me that everything musically I have done in the past has been for a reason and all of the musical and non musical growing pains I have gone through have brought me to this insanely special place of working with so many wonderful musicians, singers, and the labels that have given this record a home. It has given me greater appreciation for my past, time with all of the bands that I have been in and worked with, which in turn gives me a real awareness of how exciting this time is. Many of these collaborators had never heard of me and had absolutely no obligation to be involved, but decided to collaborate because they believed in the music they heard. This gives me a lot of hope personally and for humanity!

I had a show in February at The Ecstatic Music Festival that brought everything to light. The concert was all of the tunes from “Composed“ and featured nearly all of the musicians that played on the record, most of the singers as well as a couple of my best friends. All of these people that had been put together one at a time on my little laptop and some headphones, were all now in the same room together. As I looked around the room and saw all of these amazing personalities and friends, even in the midst of all of the craziness, I made a conscious effort to take a minute every so often to really take in all of the love and support these people have given me and to remember this time where everyone is healthy, happy and freaking awesome. It was the most beautiful night of my life (so far!)!

This record to me is a celebration of my friends, family, collaborators, and to all of the musicians I have crossed paths with on the road and at home. I am taking this moment right now, before this record is released into the world and hopefully into your hands and hoping that my happiness and all of this love travels into your ears and spreads love bugs all over your brain.

This year I will be doing several tours with my friend Amanda Palmer. I will be playing bass in her band and also opening a lot of her shows. I also have some big shows later in the year planned in Seattle and NY. I hope to travel to your neck of the woods soon, so check my live page every once in a while and come see a show!

Sincerely
Jherek Bischoff

New “Young & Lovely” Video

May 15, 2012

Check out the new video for “Young & Lovely” Featuring Zac Pennington and Soko! The video was directed by my good friend Michael McQuilken and was filmed during a couple days we had off while recording for Amanda Palmer’s record in Melbourne Australia. The whole concept and cast was based on our surroundings and the good friends that we made while spending 6 weeks there in Melbourne. The cinematographer is a lovely man named Jim Batt . A very nice, talented and hard working man. We also got access to the insanely cool apartment owned by David Walsh of Mona Museum fame. It was a lovely experience working with a bunch of new friends in beautiful Melbourne! I hope you enjoy! XO Jherek

New Album, Composed

March 27, 2012

After years of work, I am extremely pleased to officially announce the release of my record Composed. It will be coming out in late May on Brassland (US) and The Leaf Label (UK). This record is the most exciting project I have ever worked on due largely to the amazing collaborators I have had the chance to work with. It is also exciting because through this process I feel like I have very organically found a way to utilize all of the things I have learned through playing music for most of my life in a genuine way. If you told me 5 years ago that I would be composing orchestral music and collaborating with my heroes I would have thought your were nuts!

The Guardian premiered the track ‘Young And Lovely‘ (which features Zac Pennington & Soko) today. You can also listen and download it for free from my Bandcamp page.

Check out the trailer for the record that gives a glimpse into most of the songs.

Composed from Jherek Bischoff on Vimeo.

Track list-

1. Introduction (Defeat)
2. Eyes (Jherek Bischoff & David Byrne)
3. The Secret Of The Machines (with Caetano Veloso & Greg Saunier)
4. The Nest (with Mirah Zeitlyn & Paris Hurley)
5. Blossom (Jherek Bischoff with Nels Cline)
6. Your Ghost (with Craig Wedren)
7. Counting (with Carla Bozulich)
8. Young And Lovely (with Zac Pennington & Soko)
9. Insomnia, Death And The Sea (with Dawn McCarthy)

Big Show Coming Up!

December 7, 2011

Feb.4 2012 – Merkin Hall NYC

A co-presentation with Wordless Music

Musical polymath Jherek Bischoff is joined by an all-star cast of guest vocalists from his new album, due out in February, including David Byrne, Craig Wedren (Shudder To Think), Greg Saunier (Deerhoof), Mirah and Zac Pennington (Parenthetical Girls). This concert features the Wordless Music Orchestra, supplemented by a number of Bischoff’s long-time collaborators, and marks the first-ever collaboration between Wordless Music and the Ecstatic Music Festival.

 

 

 

I have started a Kickstarter page to help raise funds for transportation for all of the out of town artists. You can donate here! Thank you so much for your support!

Ambient Orchestra Video!

July 1, 2011

Hello! For the first time in my musical career, I finally have something well documented! I am so extremely pleased to be able to share with everyone what I have been up to! This was shot live at The Chapel Performance Space in Seattle by some folks from Into The Woods (intothewoods.tv). I have more videos to share but they will come out later. This will give you a taste! For better quality video head over to vimeo.com/jherekbischoff

xo

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