Hot on the heels of his recent UK Tour, God Is In The TV caught up with Avi Buffalo AKA Avi Zahner-Isenberg to talk covers, current artists and future plans.
GIITTV: You’ve been touring the U.K. solo recently, playing some very well-received shows. How does it compare to having a band behind you – do you prefer either situation?
Avi: I love playing by myself and with people. I started out just playing acoustic guitar by myself as a kid, and eventually writing that way, so this sort of performance brings me back to that. I also feel like it makes me have to work on my musicianship without relying on others, so that when I’m performing again with other people, I’m ideally a better player than before. Both are awesome in different ways to me.
There have been some well-chosen covers in your set (by artists as diverse as Sandy Denny and Tomás Méndez) – did you ever think about a covers E.P. or album?
Learning other people’s songs is a very important thing to learning to play and write music, so I always think of how to incorporate such things into what I do, whether playing live or in a recording context.
Last year’s Panegyric was pretty different for you. Was that a conscious decision, to do something totally different?
‘Panegyric’ came about from collaborating with the group Haunted Summer, who asked me to do a split 7″ together with an ambient theme, so it was definitely a detour from my normal songwriting process, but worked out really nicely with their song ‘Requiem’, which is the A Side to that 7″. Their piece is more of a song, and mine is a free-improvised interpretation made with some similar sounds and different ones to theirs. Music I make on my own I set up very different parameters and strange rules for myself on what and how I want to express things, but that release is an example of me letting go of those things and just trying stuff out in someone else’s work-flow context, which I also love doing. Andrew Prahlow who recorded and mixed that is also a really beautifully talented creative person, and we couldn’t have worked with someone better than that for those joint-pieces.
The video for (2010 single) What’s In It For was extraordinary. What’s the story behind that film?
The ‘What’s In It For?’ music video was created and directed by Andrew Thomas Huang. He’s a really fantastic human being and artist, and since then he’s gone on to work extensively with Bjork and others. His work consists of many things including creating physical and digital renditions of mythological or magical-realist creatures and plant life in an attempt to express queer forms of existence and to choreograph other beautiful stuff like that.
Are there any current artists you are enjoying at the moment?
I’m at this very moment listening to the Bhajans of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda, and I’ve also been listening to some Arnold Schoenberg, Rico Nasty, Stravinsky, Evie Sands, Lonnie Holley, Arthur Russell, Ali Akbar Khan, and Joe Zawinul. I love lots of music!
What would you say is the best album ever made?
I couldn’t decide the best album ever made!
Which song do you wish you had written?
So many songs, but some works of Jimmy Webb have some really great chord progressions. Hoagy Carmichael‘s ‘I Get Along Without You Very Well’ is a great chord progression and melody. I’d love to record that.
You also work as a producer – is there an artist that you would love to work with in the studio?
I’d love to work with tons of people. It’d be awesome to work with artists like Lonnie Holley, James Ferraro, Arca, Brian Eno, Jim O’Rourke, but there are really so many people I’d love to work with. I’m very excited I just got a session booked to record with one of my favorite musicians of all time in late April.
What are the plans for Avi Buffalo in the future – will there be another album?
I’m working on finishing some recordings and towards releasing new songs. I’m planning on starting with some singles.
If you could pick one of your own songs to best demonstrate a Avi Buffalo to someone not familiar with your work, what would it be?
I wouldn’t be a good reference to that probably under my own choosing, but I’m proud of the two albums of music I’ve made so far so I hope other people enjoy it! I’m very excited to share my new stuff.
Avi Buffalo have released two albums: 2010’s Avi Buffalo and 2014’s At Best Cuckold.