Big Hassle Media
Reed Mathis (Billy & the Kids, Tea Leaf Green, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey)
Jay Lane (Primus, Ratdog)
Todd Stoops (RAQ / Rhythmatronix)
While on tour with various Grateful Dead side-projects (Billy & the Kids, Rhythm Devils, Golden Gate Wingmen) and other notable projects over the past few years, bassist extraordinaire Reed Mathis spent his spare time rearranging Beethoven (Symphonies No. 3 and No. 6), recording each newly reimagined movement with a long and impressive “who’s-who” list of his musical brethren, including Phish’s Page McConnell and Mike Gordon, Marco Benevento, Joe Russo, Brad and Andrew Barr, Robert Walter and Galactic’s Stanton Moore.
The resulting double album, “Beathoven,” was released last September to critical acclaim and fan delight, but Mathis never intended the album to be the end-game.
His theory was that Beethoven’s works — particularly these two symphonies, given the historical context in which they were originally composed — contain healing properties. As such, they are spells and enchantments as much as they are orchestral scores. Furthermore, since Beethoven himself prized improvisation above composition (a fact often forgotten in music history class), Mathis made it his mission to take these symphonies out of the stuffy institutions they’ve been locked away in, behind glass, for 200 years and bring them back to the people, where they belong — as living, breathing, improvisational MOVEMENTS.
When assembling the touring lineup, Mathis looked for players who weren’t afraid to jump off cliffs and explore the unknown, live in front of an audience. He looked for musicians who sought to create and explore new music every night, making a standard of creating live variations without boundaries. And he wanted to showcase musicians who were being criminally underutilized in their various other projects, providing them with a space where they could realize their full potential.
Introducing the world’s first CDM (“classical dance music”) band: Reed Mathis & Electric Beethoven, featuring Jay Lane (Primus, Ratdog) on drums, Todd Stoops (RAQ, Rythmatronix) on keyboards, and Clay Welch — a young guitar phenom who literally grew up studying Mathis as a bass player while following Mathis’ then-band, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, from show to show as a fan.
The band debuted by throwing an “Electric Beethoven Acid Test” in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, as a feature of 2016’s Outside Lands music festival (headlined that night by Radiohead), and showcased throughout the fall including sets at Catskill Chill Music Festival and Brooklyn Comes Alive (where they were joined by String Cheese Incident’s Jason Hann and the Disco Biscuits’ Aron Magner).
LETTER FROM REED MATHIS:
“Beethoven’s music, at its core, is about learning to love in a world in which hearts can break. We can know only the surface circumstances that made up Beethoven’s broken heart. Rejected as a child performer, orphaned as a teen, deaf at 30 and unable to perform, a string of marriage proposals rejected, and his adopted son’s suicide attempt, but the details of his life are not really the point. We all feel alike the sting of life’s indifference to our wishes, of random tragedy, and ultimately of our own mortality. We are all angels surprised to find ourselves trapped inside monkeys. We’ve all seen that bad things happen to good people. So, what can be done with a cruel and unfair world? A profound, heartfelt answer to that question is what we hear in Beethoven’s music, and it’s why some of us return again & again to these evergreens of song. The archetypes that Beethoven articulated are in every newborn baby, in every broken heart that heals. They are in me, and they are in you. The real communication happens directly between you and him, without words, in our universal dream-language of sound.
We present here two of his nine symphonies. In the 6th, called “Pastoral,” he admits that his true religion is not Christianity, but the divinity of Nature, of skies, and trees, and rivers, and storms. In the 3rd, called “Eroica” or “Heroic,” he walks us through his suicidal anguish over his encroaching deafness, and his ultimate victorious decision to commit egocide rather than suicide.
It has been such an honor to improvise on these forms, and to chant these prayers. And it is my hope to discover new realms of joy, anger, surprise and triumph lurking in the many different universes of sound contained in each movement, as we put them on top of dance beats and bring them into the new world, in a live music setting.”