Bob Pence has gone by Crowmeat Bob for as long as anyone around these parts can remember. When the INDY conferred an Indies Arts Award upon him twelve years ago, praising him for his iconoclasm, inclusivity, and devotion to his art, he was already a scene veteran. Although Pence's joking prediction of MTV stardom hasn't panned out, his roots in the area's music scene have only deepened over the years. He's loaned his skills on saxophone and other horns to numerous local bands, mostly those of an improvisational bent, like Enemy Waves, Savage Knights, and Polyorchard, and countless side projects, including a recent movement-based collaboration with Ginger Wagg & Wild Actions. In advance of his monthlong residency, er, make that "vagrancy," at The Cave, we tossed five words his way.
I wish I practiced more and worked on just basic technique kind of stuff because I don't have enough of a basic foundation of that. But I do practice certain things and I have certain abilities that I think I use to advantage. There's a fine line that you've got to ride between having enough technique that you're not just completely bullshitting up there, and having so much technique that that becomes the tail that wags the dog, where you're just kind of demonstrating it. Whatever technique you have, it's important to throw it out the window when you need to, and not rely on it.
It's nice to have a set of rules for any given endeavor, and sometimes you'll be collaborating with somebody and you're not really playing by the same rules. And the stuff that comes out of it can either suck or be really cool. Rules have their uses. Just like melodies and technique. Technique is sort of learning a series of rules.
That's another interesting kind of dichotomy. It's a hard line to ride between sort of self-aggrandizing and just kind of trying to create art and make an artistic statement. So I do work in a lot of bands where people take solos, and I do enjoy taking solos, but I also like, especially in a free improvised situation, for there to be just more of a total interaction between the players, where it's sort of a combination of soloing and interacting and collaborating.
Noise is glorious. It's what we all aspire to. I love some noise. There's something about controlled chaos. You can say noise is just this—there's no real artistic thought behind it, or something like that, but when it's well done, there's nothing like it that exists in nature quite like that. It's an extremely human kind of endeavor to intentionally make controlled chaos. There are different perspectives on it. John Cage believed that the composer should step back and allow the sounds to happen, kind of, which is a completely opposite kind of attitude. But I generally tend to gravitate toward the stuff that's got more intention.
I think about bird calls a lot in relation to music. There's plenty of great performers and composers who have been heavily influenced by birdsong. I haven't studied it myself to the point where I can tell you what bird is doing what, but I've read the literature about territorializing and how birdsong works in terms of that. You can think about a musician's voice as creating a territory, and when you hear a certain musician, like Eric Dolphy, you know exactly who it is and that's kind of his song marking his territory in a way.