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The Heart Quintet

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"Daniel Carter Interview"

By Nils Jacobson

Tell me about anarchy.

It's funny, the word anarchy and anarchism, or anarchist... You know, there's a slightly different connotation, at least to my ear, between anarchy and anarchism...

To the people who would feel that anarchy would be disorder and things sort of going wrong, so to speak--wild rioting, overthrow of the government, or what have you--if you said anarchism, they might not feel quite as much that that's what it was. Although, who knows, maybe a lot of the people who respond to anarchy that way wouldn't use the word anarchism so much. It's a funny thing about that word.

I guess I was attracted to it in high school. In high school I had a Russian history teacher. You know, at this moment, I can't say for sure he mentioned the word anarchist, but it seems that somewhere in high school, and it was related to people who didn't think they needed a government, didn't think they needed someone to tell them what was the right thing, the "must" to do.

So there was a thing about overthrowing the government, which would be sort of treasonous. You'd be a traitor to your country if you tried to overthrow your country. But then there's this idea that the idea of democracy and anarchism (in its ideal sense) are not so far away from each other.

The idea of people freely associating, and deciding for themselves individually and collectively, what it is they want to do, rather directly... Might even be more of a democracy than a democracy, certainly as we know it. So I think there's a semantic problem in some people's ears, and I don't blame them. But for some reason I latched onto the anarchist idea, maybe because there is the misunderstanding, and it it could be interesting. Maybe even by the time I was born it had a little more bite to it, a little more of an edge to it, than the mere word democracy. But I think the real idea behind democracy, maybe even ideas that the founding fathers were not even prepared to try to realize because of their situation, is not so different from anarchism.

What's the problem with the democracy we have today?

I think there's too much... Probably Republicans would agree with me here, at least doctrinaire Republicans, because I don't believe they're really telling the truth a lot of times when they're saying "less government," because in certain ways there has probably been more government. More government has come about as a result of their policies.

And the Democrats' policies may be slightly different, but it seems like the government is largely an agent of the corporations, and a huge global financial industry. The democracy/anarchism that I would prefer would be a much more decentralized form. More rights. Give it back to the states. Of course, Democrats, if there are any left, or liberals, or progressives, or left-leaning people, humanists, or whatever, that give it back to the states was probably more synonymous with states' rights, relating to segregationist stuff, historically.

But what I mean by giving it back to the states, or less government, would be more decentralization. More grass roots. More the idea of the internet, non-hierarchical: no node on the internet being more important structurally than another.

Like with unions, I'm not studied on it, but what I've heard with unions... Some of the more progressive ideas in unions are not to be beholden so much to the central office, the central leadership. but to be more horizontal for each local branch to be in touch with each other local branch. And just trade ideas on that level playing field, across the board from each other. And of course they got a long way to go in the US.

Sounds like libertarianism...

Maybe, but it seems somehow... you've heard of Max Stirner? He's one of the prime movers, idea-wise. I got a lot of books on my shelf that I have to read more than three pages in. But I got the feeling that in this country, a lot of libertarianisms were sort of Republican in relation to money.

Motivated by business in most cases.

And I don't know how much those businesses would want to make sure that their investments, their products, and whatever else they do with their money, really promotes liberty in their own precincts. And say among people as fortunate as they, business and money wise, and property-wise.

I know that there's this guy, his last name is Gates. Not Bill, not Henry Louis. [Jeff Gates.] I wish I had my notebook, because I was going around telling people about his guy. I have to look in my notebook where I list the names of books. He was talking on the radio, and he was talking about capitalism, and he was saying that one of the problems with capitalism in this country, and probably in the world, is that there's not enough of them. In this country, there are probably only a handful of people who are benefiting from the profit, whereas the vast majority of us are wage-earners, if we're that. So all those wage-earners should be turned on to capitalism, and ask themselves, "Am I a capitalist?" Even though my vote may go in that direction, politically. "Am I one myself?" So I'm voting for this minority.

So I don't know how many libertarians might be like this Gates guy, and maybe to that extent it might be interesting to see... Maybe the universe is curved. Maybe space is curved to the point where the socialists ideally are coming from, and the capitalists, ideally in this sense, might hook up in a harmonious way. This Gates was saying there needs to be more ownership on the part of everyone. Whereas I guess the others are saying ownership should go to the state, and an anarchist might say there doesn't need to be a state. Maybe there's some point where all of this meets in a positively ironic, or paradoxical way.

Maybe some quantum physicist could help us out.

Who would get your vote for president?

Now there is a secret. Any of the choices they give, I would vote for none of the above. And that's where I think the voting system should be changed, so people can write in who they want. And I think that would be closer to democracy.

In terms of people who are out there, I feel very ignorant as far as who the various socialists are, who might have run for president... I know the Green Party, with Nader, of the visible ones... he would have been a better choice. And maybe if there could have been a coalition between the likes of Nader and... I don't know what happened with Jerry Brown, inviting marines out there to Oakland, and being tough on crime. I don't exactly know what that's all about. Before he went back into politics, he seemed like a good one for starters. But I think all of these people, to the extent that they are leaders, need to be shaken down in a rigorous anarchistic fashion. So they would know they are always truly (not just lip service)... It's the people they have to be constantly in touch with for their direction. And there have to constantly be referenda. All the things that people would say would make government too inefficient, too chaotic, too anarchistic, maybe, are the way to go.

I got this know Gregory Bateson? He was Margaret Mead's husband, I believe. He had this book called Steps to an Ecology of Mind... there's another book called Ecology of the Mind, and I think it had a subtitle, something like 'by God,' and it was supposedly written by God. And God spoke through this guy's computer. Somehow this guy's computer was picking up on some stuff. And he had to search and see if this came from some weird file, or someone had gotten into his computer. I guess this was before the internet was as widespread as it is now. And sure enough the guy had to admit there was some entity, even if it wasn't God, but there was some entity that was speaking through his computer. And this entity said, "Take notes, save everything I'm giving you." And it really boiled down to the fact that God was trying to let us know that democracy really is the way, but not a democracy full of lawyer politicians. The milkman or farmer or truck driver could be better trusted. Anybody you know with a good heart in your neighborhood, or in your block, or in your building, who is trustworthy, would be a better choice than what we've got.

So what we need is more true decentralized grassroots democracy. And there doesn't even really need to be a president to be a democracy. That seems to be sort of this top-down idea. I'm sure it would be quite a chaos. The Europeans--even with our white male-founded democracy, with only white male property owners voting--the Europeans thought this would be chaos, this would be too unwieldy, even at that. So maybe what a lot of people now would say what I'm talking about now would be too unwieldy. But who knows.

Because in a way we're getting less people voting. How many people voted in the last presidential election? A large percentage did not vote, and apparently it keeps going in that direction... I would prefer to think that these people are voting too. They're voting by not voting. And you have to look to see what they are doing in their lives. And I would dare say that most American people, whether they officially are Republican or Democrat, or Independent --whatever, some other party--they are voting for material security. Even though they are probably working more hours, they're probably trying to steal some hours away for themselves and their family and their friends. More and more of them want to get cell phones and pagers and be on the internet. And if they have to work more hours, they want to have a guaranteed at least two-week vacation, where they can just get away from it all. And probably a lot of them would vote for not having to go to work for near as many hours to get the amount of money they've got. If we could find out from most people, they'd probably transform the government. You wouldn't have to look to any wild crazy anarchist who would want to totally innovate the government. Just the majority of the people...

How does this idea relate to the music?

It's been constant pet peeves for decades. How quickly someone wants to be the leader, or feels that they should be the leader! How quickly! And I guess some of my pet peeves are how little mosquitoes, and maybe sometimes the mosquitoes are big mosquitoes, come on the scene. And I don't think it's any kind of mean-spirited way, just sort of the way people have been trained and brought up...probably the people who they liked and loved in music were leaders. And I don't know how it got to be that by degrees in New York City since 1970, I would run the other way, rather than to be a leader or a sideman. Sometimes I get caught, I got caught recently, flatfooted, and I've participated in some things as a sideman. And I've been accidentally caught flatfooted being a so-called leader.

I just think that if the music is essentially people improvising--people playing spontaneously--then how could it be under somebody's name? And I can answer that question. There's that thing also left over that if somebody got the gig, then it should be under their name. I sympathize with how hard it is to get gigs, and I'm certainly guilty of being one who doesn't get gigs, so who knows? Maybe if I spent as much time as these people getting gigs, maybe I would be corrupted: "Hey man, this group is me! The name of this group is Daniel Carter!"

Most of the groups I'm in are collectives. Sometimes they've started out otherwise, and I've fought for them to be under a collective name, because that name... just as in the case of Jews and Muslims naming their children... some name that would be inspirational or aspirational for the whole group. So that when everybody is really throwing down, and there's all that blood on the tracks, they don't have it at all in their mind that this is not equally them as an individual as anyone else in the group. It seems to me that spiritually and energetically, it should work better for the group to do it that way.

But then you pay the price by not getting exposure, right?

It seems to me that if you can really stick to the group there, that there are other things that seem to happen. You might be part of numbers of groups, and the word gets around among musicians, and you start to get play different ways in concerts, and on potential recordings, and actual recordings happen. So I don't know... Of course, some people, the way they do in their career, so to speak, is that they are creatures of one or two groups, rather than 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10. I'm sort of a creature of 5,6,7,8,9, or 10 groups, so I can understand that maybe they feel that is spreading themselves out to thin.

It's a good question. Because you might ask yourself the question, "What is exposure for?"

I've seen situations where people were with quite prominent leaders, and they had difficulty getting anywhere. Because they were sidemen. So this idea of leader-sidemen seems to perpetuate leader-sidemen. It's almost like the system of hierarchical power in government seems to perpetuate the idea that the little man says, "When I get into the position, I'll become the boss, and have a lot of people working for me." Anyhow, on the subject of anarchism, have you heard of A Mica Bunker [now called the Bunker Series]? In New York City, operates out of the Knitting Factory, but it's been an organization for... I don't know man, it could be decades. So each group of people come in when they come in, and they may just not know the history of it. Like I don't know the history, but it goes back to actual anarchists. And I guess anarchists go back to the '20s, '30s, or before?

In Europe it was before the turn of the century. And some more than fifteen years ago, when A Mica Bunker was operating on East Ninth Street, one of the actual elder anarchists spoke to us, and he used the example of engineering. He said the Brotherhood and Sisterhood of Engineers, electrical, mechanical, nuclear, civil, and now I guess you have computer engineers and spacecraft engineers--he said the Brotherhood and Sisterhood of Engineers. They don't know it yet, but because of this talent, the inventivity that they have, the kind of ideas, their ability to manifest gizmos and devices from mathematics and pure science--to be able to apply this into inventions--that they don't really need a boss. They don't need a CEO. They don't need management. For us to think what kind of world it could be if you had decentralization, if all these engineers were turned loose to be able to talk and commune amongst themselves. To trade ideas freely. Speaking of secrets, they'd have to keep a lot of ideas secret because they now work for one corporation against another. He said, "One day they will realize that they don't need a boss." In good old anarchist spirit.

I didn't mention the writing that I've been engaged in, inspired by Melville, Joyce, many of the post-structuralists, probably. Derrida, Cixous, Foucault. Again, a lot of these people I read two or three pages from their books on my shelves. Just those words... Mallarme, Artaud. And Virginia Woolf. I think the feminists in general--because the feminists have taken a lot of inspiration from the post-structuralists (some of them anyway) and sort of run with that fire themselves... and had already run with that essential fire long before there ever were what we call the deconstructionists.

Something that would deconstruct these structures and these different words, and these power doctrines. I would say that in a sort of non-hierarchical kind of flash-by-flash way, words come to me and I put them down, sort of almost by themselves, and sometimes just letters. And see what the next word might be. And if there is no next word, leave a lot of space. The next word may not go with the previous word, so leave a lot of space and maybe at some other point a word comes in and builds it up like that.

Now there's a publication called Wandering Archives. These are some young guys. Have you ever heard of David Nuss? Have you heard of the No-Neck Blues Band? David Nuss and Jason Meagher are in the No-Neck Blues Band. Well Jason and one of his partners--a guy that is in that same community, Adam Mortimer--have collected some writings, and some artwork, and photography, etc., together in a lit-mag, or zine, called Wandering Archives. it's called Wandering Archive One 1998. 638 West 131st Street. N.Y., N.Y. 10027.

(You know David, by the way? He put out two vinyl recordings of the trio, Tenor Rising. Sabir Mateen plays tenor saxophone on both of those records, and on one of them adds electric organ. David Nuss and I play drums on both records. David is intensely instrumental in this and other important groundbreaking work.)

This publication has one of my pieces in it. I just was walking around with twenty pages of double-spaced stuff, and some of these No-Neck [Blues Band] people took an interest in it. It really made me feel good, because for the last 30-35 years I had been writing stuff, and I just never had the motivation to go into the thing of sending stuff in to be published. I had much more interest in writing and writing and writing, no editing. - All About Jazz


Live at the Yippie Cafe! New York, New York LP 2009



Heart's members coalesced in New York, all coming from different musical traditions including West African and Chinese music, improvisational avant-garde, classical music, and jazz among others. Inspired by the new music pioneers of the 1960's such as Ornette Coleman and Sun Ra, the Heart Quintet negotiates the areas between traditional cultural music and the unknown. The quintet plays frequently in New York, in churches, clubs, meeting places and in the streets in order to involve themselves in the daily lives of communities.