NAKED CITY
Naked City were more than the sum of its elements: John Zorn [Alto-Sax], Bill Frisell [Guitar], Wayne Horvitz [Keyboards], Fred Frith [Bass], Joey Baron [Drums], and Yamatsuka Eye or Mike Patton [Vocals]: this was a band able to play almost anything anyone could think of. Having all these albums put together clears the whole process that guided John Zorn's mind during those years. The band was born in May 1988 at the Knitting Factory and it ended on September 1993 on the first ZornFest in the same place. Between the two dates above, seven albums were pulled out; starting from the first effort "Naked City" (1989), it was clear enough that this was everything but a normal band. Surf tunes, soundtracks covers originally by Ennio Morricone, Henry Mancini, Jerry Goldsmith, Johnny Mandel, George Delerue, jazz moods from an Ornette Coleman cover, hardcore punk speedy pieces: all jam packed! This album is a sort of overview of what Naked City were meant to be: an ensemble ready to face different styles of music at extreme speed, sometimes even in the same song! The following projects move into different and more definite directions. "Heretic, Jeux Des Dames Cruelles" (1992) is a collection of short improvised cues played by fragments of the band: duos and trios with players rotating and confronting each other. The John Zorn/Yamatsuka Eye duos must be mentioned because they anticipate a long and strong telepathic collaboration between these two figures.

"Grand Guignol" (1992) features the artwork that “disappointed” Elektra/Nonesuch and forced Zorn to leave the label not ready to deal with an uncompromised artist like him. The title track is a sort of audio horror movie with howls, scary landscapes, screams from beyond. Originally conceived for the vocals of Diamanda Galas, it now has Mike Patton performing it in the only bonus track newly recorded for the box-set. The second block of tunes contains tributes to classical/contemporary composers, Claude DeBussy, Charles Ives, Alexander Scriabin, Olivier Messiaen, Orlando Di Lassus, and the third block of thirty-three short tunes that added with the nine ones in "Naked City", form the album which is considered the best Naked City result: "Torture Garden" (1989). Forty-two tracks for twenty-six minutes. "Torture Garden" tunes compress many types of music in less than a minute, combining speed metal and free jazz with country, surf, rockabilly, blues, and noise in between. The power of Yamatsuka Eye's vocals emerges on almost all tracks, and perfectly fits in this environment where Zorn blasts his furious solos.

This Zorn/Eye bond gets stronger in "Leng Tch’e" (1990), the next step of Naked City's voyage. Borrowing the name from an ancient Chinese torture (meaning [victim cut in] hundred pieces), this extra slow thirty-one minute track represents a tribute to The Melvins and is the other side of the hyper fast approach just discussed above for "Torture Garden". The endless intro slowly achieves the boiling point when the saxophonist and vocalist meet and start their tortured dialogue until the closing. This long trip is a brutal experience: take it or leave it! "Absinthe" (1993) probably is the most obscure side of Naked City. It is dedicated to the cursed French poets and it is quite difficult to believe we are hearing to the same band we have experienced so far. Slow tempos, noisy rumours, heartbeats, ambient scores: these are the ingredients for a travel in the darkness; another challenge for this ensemble and for the listener as well.

Last but not the least, "Radio" (1993) brings Naked City back to the roots, to where it all began. It is a sort of balance album, reminder of "Naked City" except that this time the material is organized for a virtual radio broadcast starting with calm and relaxing pieces and closing with fast and nervous assaults. The trip ends with a multifaced/multigenre tune, "American Psycho", that summarizes the whole capabilities of the band in six ironic minutes. Naked City were an incredible band and all this studio material proves it. Each disc contains the original liner notes and credits of the albums and the lavish booklet provides information of the band members who also contribute by giving their impressions and recollections of that era. Comments from artists influenced by Naked City are also contained in the “Eight Million Stories - Naked City Ephemera” booklet. Uncompromised artwork available and many nice shots of the band. Also available a sketchbook that shows how the tunes were conceived on paper: nervous and schizophrenic as they sound on air. The way this box is packaged makes it worth the price. The box is perfect for newcomers, however, old fans could complain for not receiving more bonus material. This would have made the box set a superb gem. In fact, Naked City used to play many cool covers and lots of unreleased original tunes in their live shows, so this box set could have been a wonderful chance to compensate this lack in their discography. A sixth special extra disc would have been amazing.

Naked City without lead vocalist.
Naked City in Montreux 1990.
Naked City with Yamatsuka Eye 1991.
Naked City with Mike Patton 1992.
Naked City with Mike Patton 2003.

"Naked City" review written by
Stefano Pocci.
Book Review
AUTHOR: John Zorn & Kazunori Sugiyama
TITLE
: Eight Million Stories - Naked City Ephemera
LABEL: Tzadik Records 
RELEASED: February 22, 2005
LENGTH
: 130 Pages
Eight Million Stories - Naked City Ephemera is available inside the Naked City Box-Set. This exclusive ephemera contains all Naked City's original uncensored album artwork, promotional images, live photography, and even the Naked City Scrapbooks illuminating John Zorn's incredible genre-shifting compositions. This one-hundred and thirty page book includes testimonials where musicians and admirers have reflected on how Naked City's music has changed their life forever.
CD Review
ARTIST: Naked City
ALBUM
: The Complete Studio Recordings [BOX-SET]
LABEL: Tzadik Records 
RELEASED: February 22, 2005
DURATION
: 326:43 - 121 Tracks
The Complete Studio Recordings has been radically remastered by John Zorn and Scott Hull, making them available through this exclusive box-set from Tzadik Records. Naked City's music is now louder, clearer, and more intense than ever before. The Complete Studio Recordings comes with a specially printed 130 page booklet entitled "Eight Million Stories - Naked City Ephemera". A collector's edition and essential for those wanting to experience Naked City's music in the way it was intended.
Selected Discography
ARTIST: John Zorn
ALBUM
: Naked City
LABEL: Nonesuch Records
RELEASED: February 20, 1990
DURATION
: 56:35 - 24 Tracks
ARTIST: Naked City
ALBUM
: Grand Guignol
LABEL: Avant Records
RELEASED: 1991
DURATION
: 58:31 - 41 Tracks

SAMPLE: "Speedfreaks" 0:52
ARTIST: Naked City
ALBUM
: Radio
LABEL: Avant Records
RELEASED: December 10, 1993
DURATION
: 57:23 - 19 Tracks
ARTIST: Naked City
ALBUM
: Heretic, Jeux Des Dames Cruelles
LABEL: Avant Records
RELEASED: December 10, 1993
DURATION
: 56:35 - 24 Tracks
ARTIST: Naked City
ALBUM
: Absinthe
LABEL: Avant Records
RELEASED: December 10, 1993
DURATION
: 46:17 - 9 Tracks
ARTIST: Naked City
ALBUM
: Black Box: Torture Garden & Leng Tch'e (2CD)
LABEL: Tzadik Records 
RELEASED: 1996
DURATION
: 57:52 - 43 Tracks
ARTIST: Naked City
ALBUM
: Naked City Live Vol. 1: Knitting Factory 1989
LABEL: Tzadik Records 
RELEASED: May 2002
DURATION
: 52:09 - 20 Tracks
ARTIST: Naked City
ALBUM
: The Complete Studio Recordings [BOX-SET]
LABEL: Tzadik Records 
RELEASED: February 22, 2005
DURATION
: 326:43 - 121 Tracks
Exclusive Interview
Justin Sanvicens from Xtreme Music received responses to an e-mail interview with Wayne Horvitz on July 16, 2005.

Xtreme Music: Many were first introduced to your music through John Zorn's Naked City. Please tell us about when you first met John Zorn, and how you got involved in Naked City?


Wayne Horvitz: Naked City was really the last big project that I did with John Zorn. We met in Santa Cruz in 1978. My friend from college, Polly Bradfield, had moved to New York City and begun working with John and others in that scene. She called one day and said that John Zorn and Eugene Chadbourne had some gigs in San Francisco and wondered if I could set something up in Santa Cruz. We put on a concert for fifteen or twenty people in the living room of a friend of mine. Robin Holcomb and I moved to New York a few months later and I immediately began doing stuff with both John and Eugene. As I mentioned, Naked City was really the last project I did with John. Before that we had done years of improvised gigs, he played on my second album "Simple Facts", we did a lot of John's game piece, and even played some weddings!

Xtreme Music: Both Yamantaka Eye (previously known as Yamatsuka Eye) and Mike Patton have featured on vocals throughout Naked City's performances in Europe and North America. Please tell us about your thoughts from the Naked City reunion concerts that took place during June 2003 in Amsterdam, Holland, and Warsaw, Poland.

Wayne Horvitz: Well I enjoyed them a lot, and in many ways for selfish reasons. One of the really difficult things about Naked City when the band was touring was that it was right in that period where everyone used synthesizers instead of real keyboards, and somehow I never felt like we could just ask for a Fender Rhodes and a Hammond B-3. So here I was night after night following a Bill Frisell solo, which is already intimidating, on a fucking DX-7. On these last two shows I asked for both, and especially the Rhodes was so great to have, I was actually playing a real instrument, and one that is essentially my main instrument... and I could hear myself! Piano was always tricky in Naked City because either I couldn't hear myself, or else we'd suddenly play a ballad and the ONLY thing I could hear was the piano because I had it up so loud in the monitors, and suddenly I couldn't hear Joey at all! Naked City really was a band that needed a small crew, at least a monitor mixer and one technician. But we always toured like a jazz band, which in some ways has its advantages, but not in others. Seeing Mike Patton again was great, he is fantastic. Eye of course was also a blast to play with, both of them are amazing.

Xtreme Music: Could you shed some further light on what happened to a rumoured album recording from Naked City. A collection of cover songs and eclectic arrangements from important and influential 20th Century composers, dubbed as "Radio Vol. 2"?


Wayne Horvitz: You would have to ask John. Frankly it was so long ago that I sort of lost track of what was what.

Xtreme Music: Who would you say are your main influences that have helped shape your musical direction?

Wayne Horvitz: Just like everyone else, I listened to a lot of music and certain things just stuck. I get asked this a lot, and usually some of the people I mention are The Band, Bob Dylan, all the San Francisco bands like Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Grateful Dead, and Jefferson Airplane. Pharoah Sanders moved me into a whole other area of music including John Coltrane, and Cecil Taylor, who was a major influence, and especially the AACM [Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians], and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Béla Bartók and Igor Stravinsky opened the doors for me to a lot of classical music. Just like in Jazz, I tended to start with the more modern music and work my way backwards. For example, Charlie Parker led me to Lester Young and soon I was listening to Teddy Wilson, and then stuff from the 1920s. A Merce Cunningham show I went to had John Cage, David Berman, and David Tudor all making a bunch of noise which was incredible and quite beautiful. I'm a big fan of Captain Beefheart, Sly And The Family Stone, and all the greats, like The Wailers, and The Rolling Stones. I like Chic and still pull out their record once in a while. Just like most of America, Nirvana sounded killing to me. Kurt Cobain seemed to find that same place emotionally that Billie Holiday and Al Green seem to find. I like Yo La Tengo. Honestly, probably even more important than all the above were people like Otis Spann, and Muddy Waters, and when I was young, The New Lost City Ramblers and plenty of Mountain Music. My wife, Robin Holcomb, has influenced me profoundly, she can really write a melody. A friend of mine said to me once, "You know how you listen to Korean music and you hear a John Lee Hooker lick." I knew exactly what he meant. It seems to me that people are always talking about how different music is, and I don't really get that.

Xtreme Music: One of my favourite albums is the Sonny Clark Memorial Quartet's "Voodoo". How has Sonny Clark's music influence your work as a musician?

Wayne Horvitz: Well I wouldn't say that Sonny Clark per se was a huge influence on my music, but that whole zone where blues-inflected piano intersects with jazz and post be-bop in particular was always really attractive to me. Probably my first introduction to that vibe was with hearing Bobby Timmons, and when John Zorn hipped me to Sonny Clark's music, I immediately took to it. Also, he really was a very unique jazz composer, and prolific in his short life.

Xtreme Music: Please tell us about the writing processes involved in producing music with Pigpen and Zony Mash.

Wayne Horvitz: Pigpen was probably the least focused band I ever had, in that I really brought in any and all types of music I was interested in writing, and in that sense was probably the closest to Naked City just in the pure range of material. At the same time we didn't do any covers, although other members of the band did contribute a few pieces. The guys in Pigpen could really turn on a dime conceptually, and we had a lot of fun as well. Briggan Krauss is still one of my all time favourite improvisers.

Zony Mash was a totally different animal. I never intended to record or tour that band. When Robin was pregnant for the second time I didn't want to tour for a while, but I also didn't want to stop playing and thought it would be a good time to try something. At first I tried to find a regular night in Seattle with a piano and work on some acoustic music, but that didn't work out so I put my Hammond B-3 down at the OK Hotel in the lounge, and called up Timothy Young who I hadn't really worked with. I felt that I really was just a folk-rock organ player with a pianist approach to the instrument and thought this would be a chance to get my organ playing together. The tunes were really a reaction to what I had written for The President, and the Horvitz, Morris, and Previte Trio, and Pigpen. All those bands were very ensemble oriented. Instead I just wrote some themes for us to solo off on in a more traditional sense. Ironically, although it took a couple of years, what really became exciting about Zony Mash, and subsequently Sweeter Than The Day, was the ensemble playing.

Xtreme Music: What music are you currently working on producing and recording.


Wayne Horvitz: I am mostly focusing on pieces for classical players, and pieces for classical ensembles plus a featured soloist. I recently premiered my ninety minute Oratorio: "Joe Hill: 16 Actions For Chamber Orchestra And Voice" which featured Robin Holcomb, Danny Barnes, Rinde Eckert, and Bill Frisell. I am working on my second piece for String Quartet and Improviser. I am about to record my new quartet, with Peggy Lee [Cello], Ron Miles [Trumpet], and Sara Schoenbeck [Bassoon], so I am busy writing music for that. I am in the middle of producing a record for a singer-songwriter friend here in Seattle, Karen Pernick. Next week I am helping Robin finish her CD for Tzadik, and later in the month, I finish editing two string quartets of mine that I recorded in Vienna also for a Tzadik CD. Still playing with Sweeter Than The Day, doing some solo piano shows, and really enjoying improvising with this trio containing Briggan Krauss, and Dylan Van Der Schyff when we get the chance to play.

Xtreme Music: What positive highlights and experiences can you share from your extensive music career?

Wayne Horvitz: Well playing music is the positive highlight, much more than that and I would have to write a book.

Xtreme Music: Please mention some of the Naked City compositions that have become your personal favourites, and if possible, why are these particular choices important to you?

Wayne Horvitz: Well, I was always partial to "Sex Fiend", just because Zony Mash played it, and we actually finally got really inside it. One of the great things about Naked City was how large the book was, but it was also a drawback because we were always looking at the chart, and often didn't play a tune two nights in a row. At the same time some of my favourite pieces were "Leng Tch’e" and the whole "Absinthe" CD, which was a difficult but rewarding process.

Xtreme Music: For those who enjoy music from Naked City and Zony Mash, what music recommendations can you supply from specific artists and albums?


Wayne Horvitz: Man I am the wrong person to ask, I have to admit the average Naked City fan and I have pretty different tastes in music. I'm a lot more likely to listen to Elliott Smith than to.. well, I don't even know what to say. Listen to the Howlin Wolf record with Spoonful on it, listen to The Meters, listen to Al Green, listen to György Ligeti, listen to Olivier Messiaen, listen to the early Count Basie Band, listen to Link Wray, listen to The Minutemen. Find out what the source is, look for the soul in music, or maybe you already have.