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Conversations with Jamie: Artist-To-Artist Series
Hailing from Toronto, Canada, guitarist/composer Jamie Bonk has graciously agreed to become a contributing editor to Jamie will be conducting a series of interviews entitled Conversations with Jamie: Artist-To-Artist Series. We look forward to his contributions for they are both insightful and offer a unique artist-to-artist perspective over the typical interview. We hope you enjoy them.
Other Conversations with Jamie: Artist-To-Artist Series:
A Conversation with Verdun, Oct. 2004
A Conversation With Calvin L Coolidge II, Oct. 2004
A Conversation With Craig Urquhart, Sep. 2004
<<-later interviews | earlier interviews->>   <<- all interviews ->>
Jamie Bonk
A Conversation With Ron Korb
May 2005
With more than 100 flutes in his collection, Toronto-based composer/flutist
Ron Korb certainly had more than a few sonic options available on hand for
the recording of his new DVD/CD, Ron Korb - Live. Filmed live in the
pavilion at the peak of Mont Arthabaska (overlooking Victoriaville, Quebec),
Ron Korb - Live, features, in addition to Ron's own first-rate performances
on a multitude of flutes: Ray Hickey Jr. (guitar, koto, pipa); Bill Evans
(piano B3 organ and accordion); Steve Bright (acoustic bass, stick and
shamisen); and Larry Crowe (drums). Guest artists include violinist
Alain-François and footstomping by Dominic Grenier.

Ron has nine internationally released solo records and has an extensive list
of album, film and TV credits as a sideman. A few of the soundtracks Ron
has played on include: Being Julia, Return To Kandahar, The Ice Storm,
Earth Final Conflict
, and Atom Egoyan's Exotica. Ron is also a film
composer, having written music for Just A Little Red Dot, a film by
Mitra Sen. Just A Little Red Dot won awards for best educational and
multicultural film at the New York Festival and also a Grand Prize at the
Bombay Film Festival. And if that wasn't enough, Ron has had incredible
success as a songwriter for major Asian artists like Alan Tam, Stephanie
Lai and Yvonne Lau, with one of his songs for Alan Tam reaching double
platinum status!

If you'd like to learn more about Ron and his music, please visit his website
"With the audience clapping and cheering along to our songs, it wasn't difficult to work off of the warm energy of the crowd. - Ron Korb
Jamie: Recording a live album is tough enough, but your new record,
Ron Korb - Live sets the bar even higher by recording the entire album
on a single night. And to up the ante even more, you filmed/created a DVD
of the concert! How do you feel the demands of recording/filming in a single
night affected your (and the band's) performance?
Ron: Months before the concert I asked my producer about how we could
fix mistakes or technical problems that may occur. He basically told us that
it is very difficult with 5.1 and that is why most bands record a few nights
and then choose the best performances and edit around any mistakes. In
my case, I didn't have the budget to film more than one night so I just told
the band not to make any mistakes. I know it sounds ridiculous to say that
but actually that is what ended up happening. I think that because there
wasn't the option the band had no choice but rise to the occasion. In fact, I
find as a session player when there is more pressure often I play better.
"I find as a session player when there is more pressure often I play better."

- Ron Korb
Jamie: Sometimes constraints aren't a bad thing. As you say, you often
play better under pressure, but I think there was another "advantage" with
the time/financial limits put on your new DVD/CD. I've seen you in concert
and I think you captured the feel of your band in a live setting. Did you have
any specific discussions with director/producer Pierre Lamoureux about
getting such a warm, performance oriented feel for the DVD?
Ron: We spent a long time trying to find the right venue to shoot the concert
in order to get a warm town hall feeling. I saw Alain Caron play at Mont
Arthabaska a year before and I thought the Victoriaville, Quebec audience
would be great for my show. However, it was always my hope to have the
band surrounded by the audience and Mont Arthabaska isn't configured that
way naturally. Pierre figured out that if we built a stage we could have the
audience set up the way I wanted. With the audience clapping and cheering
along to our songs, it wasn't difficult to work off of the warm energy of the
Jamie: Just to talk a little bit more about your DVD... You have an
"Instrument Information" chapter on the DVD where you (and your band)
demonstrate a huge number of woodwind instruments, as well as string
and percussion instruments. I think this has a terrific educational value -- I
know I learned about a lot of different flutes, some of which I had never even
heard of!

Not being a woodwind player, I can only guess that there are some
commonalties between the instruments in terms of performance, but do
you find it difficult to keep up your technique on so many instruments? And
on a related note, how many instruments do you bring with you on the road?
Ron: When I am on the road I carry about ten different world flutes in one
gig bag and then another four or six various whistles and bamboo or clay
instruments with my silver flute. I like to bring my bass flute as well but
because of restricted baggage on aircraft these days I sometimes leave it
at home if I am travelling abroad. As far as performance I don't find it difficult
to switch from instrument to instrument anymore, but to work up the basic
technique on a new instrument is always a challenge.
"...I don't find it difficult to switch from instrument to instrument anymore, but to work up the basic technique on a new instrument is always a challenge."

- Ron Korb
Jamie: I bet it's a challenge... I'd have a hard enough time remembering the
names of 15 to 20 instruments, never mind knowing how to play them!

When you're writing and/or recording do you have a specific instrument in
mind? And secondly, I know there are certain restrictions on the road, but
do you use the same instruments in a live setting that you used on a
Ron: It depends on the composition. Often I do write with a particular
instrument in mind but other times I just write the melody and then try to
adapt it to the different instruments. For the most part I use the same flutes
on stage as I do in the studio. The challenge is usually to cover all the
accompaniment parts with the band.
Jamie: That's always demanding for artists who use a large textural
palette -- how do you transfer your records to the stage. Some artists take
the view that recorded music and live music are completely different animals
-- that there's no point in attempting to duplicate the record in a live setting.
The flipside to that are the artists whose live performances are note perfect
representations of their albums. Of course, the flies in the ointment are the
financial and logistical realities of running a band. An eight-person band is
not only more expensive than a four piece, it's also more cumbersome to
rehearse, tour, etc.

Like many other artists, I've approached live music by using a combination
of live musicians (usually a three or four piece band) and tracks. Working
this way I've been able to be faithful to my records, retain a small band feel
and not go broke! I'd love to introduce a more multimedia approach in the
future -- video, photos etc. synced to the tracks. A heck of a lot of work, but
I think it would be so much fun to do!

I've seen you perform with a four piece and you sounded great! And I believe
you've also done a few recent gigs with a five piece. Do you have a core
band that you add additional players to for different performances? Does the
core instrumentation of the band change from tour to tour (i.e. using keys in
the place of guitar, hand percussion in place of drums)?
Ron: Yes, I have a core band which I can add players quite easily for
different concerts and venues. It is always exciting to work with new players
especially when touring in other places. In fact, the guest musicians from
Quebec that are featured on the DVD are a good example. That was the first
time we added the foot taping to "Harvest Jig" and "Long Shadows".

In my early tours in Japan I toured with a great variety of artists. The music
works well in many different configurations big and small. We did a big
concert in Mito with a percussionist and a drummer, a pianist, and a
keyboard player filling out string parts, guitar, bass and myself on flute.
Other times I toured with just a guitarist which was also fine. When it is just
a duo it becomes a different thing. It is more intimate and it is easier to play
around with delicate dynamics and phrasing. In China, a few years ago I
toured with erhu virtuoso George Gao where we played with a symphony
orchestra as well as guests Chinese musicians playing traditional
"I have a core band which I can add players quite easily for different concerts and venues."

- Ron Korb
Jamie: That must have been great! You've toured quite a bit in the Orient,
as the tour archive on your website shows. How has that experience
changed your music? And, conversely, what do you feel your effect was on
the musicians and audiences that you came into contact with there?
Ron: I think performing in Asia has given me more depth and more
understanding of the instruments of that region. As a woodwind player I
learnt about different kinds of vibrato, ornamentation and articulation. It also
gave me inspiration to create new music and a better idea of what the
musical tastes and trends are in the various countries. I think the musicians
we came in contact with experienced a different perspective in the way we
play their traditional instruments. I think they also could appreciate the
western concept of rhythm (playing in time) tuning and also improvisation. I
think for the audiences they came away with a good sense of how Western
and Eastern musicians can make music together and play off each other's
"I think performing in Asia has given me more depth and more
understanding of the instruments of that region."

- Ron Korb
Jamie: Somewhat along the same line, from a business perspective, have
your experiences in Asia shown you any differences between the Western
and Eastern music market?
Ron: There is a huge difference in the Western and Eastern music markets
not only in musical taste but in business style. Each country in Asia is
different as well but in general I would say in Asia there is more emphasis
on melody and presentation whereas in the West, attitude and stretching
the boundaries is more respected. The Asian businessmen are very
respectful of artists and gracious hosts when you tour in their countries.
Jamie: So what's up next for you? Any new recordings or tours in the
Ron: I am working on a few new projects and I also have some tours
scheduled. The main one is a ten-date tour of Mainland China in the fall.
For those concerts I will be working with some new musicians on piano,
violin and bass. I also am negotiating some tours in Central America,
South East Asia and Japan.
Jamie: That sounds great -- you're definitely going to be busy! Thanks
for taking the time to do this artist-to-artist conversation and please stay
in touch!
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