Pop Culture

Supergroup Slow Music values improvisation

Slow Music, a “supergroup” comprised of R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck, King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp, and ex-Ministry/current-R.E.M. drummer Bill Rieflin, is one of the more unlikely rock collaborations to emerge in some time.

The completely improvised band also features keyboardist Hector Zazu, bassist Fred Chalenor and drummer Matt Chamberlain.

“It’s based on the idea of space, rather than filling space,” Rieflin told Billboard.com. “In an improvised context, instead of saying, ’Hey, play this,’ I’m saying, ’If you don’t know what to do, play nothing.’ With six guys on stage, there’s going to be at least one person to try and keep the ball rolling. Whereas so-called ambient or textural music ideas tend to live in a programmed context, I wanted to put it in a performing and playing context with musicians. In a way, it’s a challenge for the musicians to learn how to work with space.”

With shows coming up in May, Slow Music has also assembled a debut recording, “Live at the Croc,” taped last October at Seattle’s Crocodile Cafe. “Right now, this is just a limited edition kind of a deal,” Rieflin said. “There will be an expanded version for sale commercially — it’ll come out somehow, somewhere. I’ve been talking to a few people about it.” Since the music is completely improvised, there are no set song titles.

Although the upcoming mini-tour focuses primarily on the West Coast, further dates always remain a possibility. “We’re taking it one step at a time,” Rieflin said. “We did one show last October. Everyone was very excited about it, so the next step is to jog down the coast, and if everyone is still talking to each other at the end of that, we’ll see if we can take it somewhere else.”

As for R.E.M., for which Rieflin has manned the drums since 2003, Rieflin revealed, “The band’s on hiatus. The idea at the end of the last tour, which ended in July, was really to take a year off, without having to even think about it. There was a three-year period of quite intense work, (so this is) some needed time off. There’s some discussion about cranking things up in autumn, maybe winter.”

One former band Rieflin won’t be collaborating with is Ministry, for which he drummed on classics like “Land of Rape and Honey” and “Psalm 69.” “The chance of that happening are an absolute zero,” he insists. “There’s no reason in hell for me to do it.”

Here are Slow Music’s tour dates:

  • May 5: Portland, Ore.: Aladdin Theatre
  • May 6: Seattle: Showbox
  • May 9: San Francisco: Great American Music Hall
  • May 12: San Juan Capistrano, Calif.: Coach House
  • May 13: Los Angeles: El Rey Theatre
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