Mic CheckMusic

Mic Check: ‘Torture Jazz’ Band Skewed Collective to Release Second EP

When most people think of starting a band, they try to solidify an outfit and set it in stone, as switching out members in a lineup too often would normally be cause for concern about the stability of the band.

But Skewed Collective operates on a revolving door basis, constantly inviting other musicians to join and collaborate, keeping creativity flowing throughout the city. The self-proclaimed “torture jazz” band’s free-flowing philosophy of contributing members and collaborations has given Charlotte music fans a reason to pay attention.

On Jan. 20, Skewed Collective will release its second EP, Forever and Outcade, accompanied by a release party at Petra’s with TKO Faith Healer and minthill at 8 p.m.

What started as a one-time audio-visual performance with previous member Ryan Decker has grown into an ever-evolving collaboration with drummer JM Askew, saxophonist Brent Bagwell, guitarists Brett Green and Jody Mattiacci and vibraphone player Eric Mullis, who make up the current lineup. 

Left to right: Jody Mattiacci, Eric Mullis, JM Askew, Brett Green and Brent Bagwell (Photo Courtesy of Skewed Collective)

Askew and Mattiacci of Skewed Collective sat down with Queen City Nerve to talk about their inspirations, accomplishments and what comes next.

Queen City Nerve: Skewed Collective includes a lot of improvisations in the music. How does that translate in your live shows?

JM Askew: I mean we definitely write the songs, there’s just always room in there [for improvisations]. We don’t know for sure how many times we play a certain part, and we try not to limit ourselves with it, but we want to have a skeletal song to work off of, and then within that improvise. The way we play it live and the way we practice it tends to be different, and the way we recorded it probably doesn’t sound like what it sounded like live. We want there to be room for each time we play it to be pretty different. We know each other’s style enough that we kind of rely on each other. There’s a certain sense of trust, where like I know if I can’t think of something cool to do for a bit then I know that Jody will pick up the slack or like Brett [Green]  will do something. We know how to respond to each other and most of us have already played music together in other contexts.

Why is Petra’s a good place for your EP release?

Askew: I really love Petra’s. I really love Perry [Fowler] as a person and what he does there. It’s a really intimate venue. It’s really nice for us to play somewhere we don’t really feel like we have to rely on the sound system at all because we don’t have much going on in terms of sound system in our practice space, the only thing that we need mic’d is Brent on the sax. It seems like Perry has some trust in us. He’s let us play some really cool shows there, and it’s probably my favorite place to go and see shows like as a viewer. It just has a really nice atmosphere — it’s LGBT-friendly, and the staff is really sweet.

Who are some of your musical influences?

Askew: I mean definitely a lot of free improv jazz music, krautrock, noise rock. We all like really different stuff.

Jody Mattiacci: I like Da Baby, the local rapper, that’s my biggest influence, but there’s a band called AM, it’s like a ’60s noise jazz band that’s really good, Glenn Branca, anyone who does prepared guitar stuff where it takes the guitar and uses it more as like a receiver of sound rather than like a melodic instrument — I find that very inspirational.

Askew: When we’re writing stuff, we usually reference artists that we like a lot and we’ll be like, “We should imitate this thing,” but for me a lot of times inspiration comes from the things that we don’t sound like, like Autechre, which is an electronic music duo. Probably my biggest influence is Project because their music is entirely textural. They don’t have a bunch of chord progressions and like really catchy melodies, it’s all a bunch of crunchy sounds. We [also] have Brent Bagwell who was in Ghost Trees, which is a pre-jazz duo and they were one of the bands that inspired us to do this so we played with him and we were like, “Oh shit, there’s people in Charlotte doing this stuff.” We had no idea that there was a community for this stuff in Charlotte. Not that it’s massive, [but] I think there’s people that are along the same lines.

(Watch the audio-visual for “Emptyness is Only a Place)

Who would you like to collaborate with in the future?

Askew: We still have friends of ours in Boone, and I don’t feel like they’re not in the band anymore, we just don’t live in the same place as them. But I feel like the door is always open.

Mattiacci: The whole thing that pushed us into doing this is we wanted to have a project where we could just bring people in but they wouldn’t have to constantly come to every practice or play every show. So the idea was to have a modular project, where it was like different versions of the same band, all kind of doing the same idea but every time it’s like a different kind of thing.

Askew: It’s hard to do right now because we all have jobs and lives and stuff, but ideally we would have two or three different versions of Skewed happening at the same time alongside each other. It’d be really cool like one day, if we had two different versions of Skewed with different people touring at the same time and the audience would be like, “I don’t know which one I’m gonna see.” That would be really exciting, I think, from an audience perspective. We have some things coming up in the future. We’re supposed to do a live film score to the works of Maya Deren, who is a silent filmmaker [from] back in the ’30s and ’40s. We’re doing it with a band called High Cube, which Brett is in. They’re like the improvised synth band of Charlotte, so we have a lot in common with them. We’re trying to do more stuff like that where we cross paths with other musicians that we respect and like.

Mattiacci: Collab with Da Baby!

What’s next for Skewed Collective, besides hopefully a collab with Da Baby?

Askew: I don’t know if we have a main goal in mind, we just want to keep stretching ourselves into unfamiliar territories. I think what was so exciting about this band, not that it hasn’t been good since then, but the feeling of the first show we did was like, I felt so like proud of myself. I wanna be back in that zone where we feel scared about what we’re doing.

Mattiacci: I wanna play L.A. Guitar Studio; it’s this weird guitar shop where I know the guy that runs it and they book shows in their guitar room shop, and I think just touching on more genres and even more abstract genres. We wanna do more just noise — just totally non representational music.

That’s kind of a goal, is to keep playing shows in places that are unconventional. We’re all into philosophy about situations and creating out there stuff that breaks the normality of everyone’s day.

The Skewed Collective EP release party with TKO Collective and minthill is at Petra’s on Sunday, Jan. 20. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $6. 21 and up. 

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