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Fox Millions Duo

INTERVIEW: Greg Fox on Guardian Alien, Ex Eye, and Roskilde

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Greg Fox (right) performing with Fox Millions Duo. Photo by Morten Krogh.

Drummer Greg Fox is the sort of performer whose name comes up in a variety of contexts. Though perhaps most often associated with Liturgy, the human drum machine is also currently playing with Guardian Alien — his one-time solo project, which is currently a duo including Alexandra Drewchin of Eartheater — and Ex Eye, a new band formed with Colin Stetson. He also has an ongoing pairing with fellow drummer Kid Millions of Oneida known as Fox Millions Duo.

It probably shouldn’t be surprising that Fox’s appearance at this year’s Roskilde Festival wasn’t limited to one set. But when you consider how exhausting a festival can be for a mere spectator, Fox’s three performances over as many days with as many bands is damn impressive. Unsurprisingly, Fox was difficult to track down between sets, but he answered a few questions for us via email after the festival.

How was your Roskilde experience?

I enjoyed Roskilde. It is a huge, overwhelming festival, so luckily the backstage area for artists was very hospitable. The food was great and it was easy to relax back there.

How do you prepare for three days of shows with three different projects?

Regarding preparation, there isn’t much to it, really. More than anything I try to prepare for presenting a full set for the audience. Seventy-five minutes is longer than most sets I tend to play, so there was some thought and planning given to what material to play and how to structure the sets. The nature of Fox / Millions duo and Guardian Alien involve more improvisation within a predesigned structure, so clearly outlining those structures was the main aspect of the preparation. For Ex Eye, it’s a matter of playing the material we have been writing, so not much to do before that set besides stretch!

How did you end up playing with Ex Eye?

Colin and I had been talking about doing a “heavy” project together for a while, both of us being fans of what you might consider various forms of extreme music. Shazhad [Ismaily] has been a longtime friend and collaborator, and one of my favorite people to play and travel with, so him being in the project was a no brainer, and Toby [Summerfield] is an old friend and collaborator many times over of Colin’s, so at his suggestion Toby came on board. That’s it really. We just wanted to start a new project, so we did!

Fox Millions Duo is a fairly unique set up. What inspired the project?

What inspired the duo is mainly just Kid and I really enjoying each others’ playing and company. We have a good time together. We were asked once to do a “drum off” as an opening act for a Lightning Bolt show, and instead we decided to come up with something collaborative. And it just went from there. I think we will definitely be making another record soon.

Guardian Alien has been through a few incarnations now. Is it going to continue to evolve?

I don’t know if i can speak to any kind of permanence regarding anything at all, so it’s hard to say – but I definitely enjoy the current duo lineup of Guardian Alien. Yes we have been working on new material, using new instruments and technologies, and we are very excited about what we have been creating together.

How is Guardian Alien different from your other work?

Guardian is different than other work that I do because Alex is my partner in the non-musical realm first and foremost, so the collaboration is obviously different than it is with other people. We know each other extremely well, for better and for worse, and we also love each other very much — and we share our lives with each other. So in many ways doing Guardian as a duo with her is really joyous and fun, and in other ways it can be very challenging. But I think that challenge makes for better creative outcomes.

PHOTOS: Roskilde Festival 2016, Day 3

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Photos by Morten Krogh and Tom Spray.

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LIVE REVIEW: Roskilde Festival 2016 Day 3, 01.07.2016

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 Reviews by Charlie Cassarino and Amanda Farah. Photos by Morten Krogh and Tom Spray.

Fox Millions Duo — Gloria

An hour of two drummers doing there thing sounds like a hard sell. What on earth would they possibly do for all that time?

But Greg Fox and Kid Millions are two of the best drummers in New York. Their day jobs in Liturgy and Oneida respectively constantly push them outside of your standard rock drumming, and they’re not afraid to let things get a little weird. They spend the first twenty minutes of the set sat on either side of a snare drum with a backing track fading in and out over them, Kid Millions with a serene, trance-like expression on his face the whole while (Fox is a bit more fidgety, though it’s impressive watching him get up and shift around without it affecting his playing).

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Watching each man at his own drum kit has a different feel. The delirium of the first song has evaporated from Kid Millions, and he’s now pulling faces as though it’s his college roommate sitting across the stage. The two communicate through a series of nods, with a synchronicity that is boggling. They are so in synch, at one point they each cast an empty water bottle on the ground at the same time.

If experimental music can lack an organic element, the Fox Millions project makes up for it. Maybe you can’t dance to it, but this has pretty much killed the gimmick of having two drummers for any other band to come. — AF

Mac Demarco — Arena

I arrive at the edge of the Arena tent, coffee in hand, tired from work, desperately needing a lie down. Not the best mood to dispassionately review a gig. The crowd is immense, and a good third of them looking like carbon copies of Mac himself, so no chance of seeing much. Mac and co take to the stage (or rather, as the noise from the crowd leads me to guess that they are coming on), look at each other goofily as they tune up. “Get comfortable,” Mac tells us, and at that I realize that it’s Friday, I’m drinking coffee, I’m at a festival, and things aren’t quite the disaster I’d made them out to be.

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No matter what you think of Demarco’s output, he has charm. He stands before thousands of people as easily he would be jamming in front of a few close friends. But although there are plenty of people gushing with enthusiasm for renditions of “Salad Days” and “The Stars Keep On Calling My Name”, the predominantly casual crowd drown things out a bit. This is painfully obvious during the David Syvian-esque down-tempo love song, “Another One”. Given that Demarco’s output can be a little on the samey-side, these keyboard-driven tracks become among the most interesting. But the chatter in the crowd starts to drown out everything. I suppose that’s the danger of being so laid-back. — CC

Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld — Gloria

Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld made names for themselves working with Arcade Fire and other indie darlings, but their work as solo artists does not approach those pop turns. It’s hard to even imagine the conversation that led them to decide that their instruments, bass saxophone and violin, were the two destined for a collaborative effort, but it’s for the best that they know better than we do.

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Neufeld’s violin playing feels like a series of loops, reflected in her own songs as well as her collaboration with Stetson, and it’s this light thread that acts as a guide through their compositions. Stetson, by comparison, offers more range, from the thin and reedy to a gut rumbling frequency, as on their final song, the title track to their album, Never Were the Way She Was.

It’s not only their joint album they play. Stetson provides sax for one of Neufeld’s pieces and each of them trading off in performing their own songs while the other sitting quietly to the side, setting a relaxed example for the assembled crowd. It’s weirdly perfect music for a rainy afternoon that has people taking flight into the sheltered Gloria space. The only way it could be better is if there was room to get rid of the wet rain gear. — AF

Peaches — Apollo

A muddy field is not really the right venue for an encounter with Peaches. Her confrontational brand of eletro punk is more befitting of a grimy basement. Her cartoon amazon warrior outfit, graphic in its anatomic detail, more than befits the stomach-churning stabs of bass that issue out of the PA. It feels more like an extreme form of interrogation than a musical act, but you get the impression that’s exactly what she’s going for. — CC

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Tal National — Avalon

There are no two ways about it: it’s a bit of a dispiriting, wet day today. But over the years we have discovered a secret, albeit a fairly obvious one: when things are looking a bit down and dreary, go find a West African band. And Niger’s favourite band, Tal National, are precisely the people to save this rainy Friday evening.

Look, if you’re in the habit of reading several different Roskilde reviews, you are going to encounter a recurrent word in conjunction with Tal National: tight. Certainly a merited adjective, if not exactly the most descriptive. The core sextet (although reportedly the band can consist of upwards of thirteen musicians) are preternaturally in synch, weaving disparate rhythmic patterns together, stopping and starting without warning, keeping everyone on their toes. The audience, many of whom are in the Avalon tent mainly to shelter from the rain, take instantly to the skill and enthusiasm that is at the heart of this group.

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As they say themselves, Tal National are all about unity. Its members hail from every part of the country, come together to travel from town to town (while also holding down day jobs) spreading the music. One image from their set speaks volumes: the band’s defacto leader, Hamadal “Almeida” Moumine, picks up his bandmate’s drumsticks and shows them to the crowd. They are both splintered right through the center. “This happens every time, he is a very expensive drummer.” The man in question beams on, steam pouring off his bare shoulders. — CC

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