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Fundamental Elements

A cozy chat with Bozart’s Peter Hawkinson


Bozart is a two-piece band from the Twin Cities specializing in tight, trim instrumentals with more wicked bends than a Hungarian scuba team. Their proclivity for sneaking six time changes into a beer-swill’s sliver of rock time and making it sound like the most fluid thing in the world lets you in on a keen compositional intelligence that you just can’t get enough of in this day and age when you can’t even heave a stack of “men’s interest” magazines out your car window without about four bands’ worth of Southern-fried trucker punk jagoffs writing songs about it. The band—drummer Derek Oringer and guitarist Peter Hawkinson—roll into Missoula this Friday on the last stop of their “Hot’n’Taut” summer 2001 tour. Hawkinson clued us in to a couple things in the following interview, conducted via e-mail late last week.

Peter, not long ago you told an interviewer that a crow had accosted you on your way to work with a riff in 5/4 time, and that the bird helpfully repeated it three times for your edification. So (a) did you see fit to incorporate it into a Bozart composition, and (b) have you had any other Pi-style revelations about recurring mathematical/musical patterns in nature lately?

a) No, darn it. I can only remember musical ideas with my hands on a guitar. Often when I am away from home I find myself humming/tapping interesting stuff, but ten minutes later I forget what it was. I have probably gained and subsequently lost entire albums of material on bus rides. Maybe I should get a portable Dictaphone. (b) The totem animals of Bozart have been silent, but one of our next releases does have a bad-ass Minnesota thunderstorm for the “vocal” track.

Please offer anecdotal evidence for both the positive and negative aspects of having a band of only two people.

The worst it’s been was in Lubbock when a guy with a mullet explained to me that since we have no bass player we “lack one of the fundamental elements of the rock and roll sound.” Which I think is a bunch of hooey, but if enough people agreed it would be bad for us.

Please explain for our studio audience the Bozart philosophy of listener-initiated meaning construction and “vocabularizing” instrumental songs with allusive titles.

Picture in your mind the music from the final round of the game show “Jeopardy.” Just play that melody back in your head (extra points if you can successfully make the key change sound right). Now, suppose you had that music on a CD, and you looked at the back of the case and found out the title was “Party Ass.” However you deal with fitting that title together with that music is up to you, and because they are all instrumentals you can choose to do that “work” with any Bozart song if you feel like it.

I’m a wealthy Greek shipping magnate and a devoted patron of the arts. Oh yes, and I also dabble in real estate. I’d like to commission a band to write a rock opera or similar large-scale composition to premiere at the grand opening of my new luxury hotel in downtown Minneapolis. What are you writing about and what’s your minimum bid?

We could do it cheaper than Ween, if that’s what you’re asking. I would say that we could do the composition part for something like $40,000—and have it done in about six months. I think we could get a tight 90 minutes out of the story of Abner Stoltzfus, the teenage Amish cocaine dealer, and his buddy, Abner King Stoltzfus (no relation). You could do one song where Abner King (n.r.) tries to counsel Abner to do what he knows is right, one where they ask the leader of the Pagans motorcycle club to sell them a bunch of cocaine, one where all the kids are totally coked out at a hoedown, etc.

Are you able to think about other things while performing? Or is playing live taxing enough mentally that you’re pretty much committed to thinking about what you’re doing and what comes next until each song is over?

If we have practiced enough and the show is “on” in terms of atmosphere and audience, then I get to just sort of check out mentally and experience the music all by itself. The exception is Jay’s, where I have to keep one eye on my beer to make sure nobody pours it all over my little pedal thingies.

Are there any words or phrases you’d like to see permanently excluded from future writings about Bozart?

I can’t think of any terms that have been hung on us way too often, but being called “emo” in even a single review was rather discouraging. I guess if I could put just one issue to bed forever it would be “No, I do not think we will ever get a bass player.”

Seen any movies lately that you found yourself imagining a Bozart soundtrack to?

The other night they were filming a commercial outside the pub where I was drinking —I think it must have been for a store called Mister Fucking Ugly Clothes. I could do a kick-ass jingle for that.

A question you would have liked me to ask in this interview, and your response(s): Q: Do you think you’ll ever get a bass player? A: Hmm...we’ve never really thought about it before. Why, do you play bass?

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