Silver Moonshine: interviews with some of our favorite artists.
February 2005 - Reynold Philipsek
In the fifteen years that I've been a slave to the music industry I've had the opportunity to meet the acquaintance of quite a few other poor slaves, if only via a few long telephone calls and a bunch of short e-mails. I can honestly say, and without hesitation, that one of the better discoveries during this crazy odyssey has been the unique talent of Reynold Philipsek. Reynold has recorded and released over 20 CDs since 1989 ranging from quirky pop to spunky Jazz, from solo guitar to full orchestral arrangements. All the while Reynold mainains a sense of poignancy coupled with a sharp comic wit. Put simply, he entertains and amazes with each musical exploration. In January of 2005 Reynold released his latest CD, Bistro, on REPHI Records.

Tell us about your upbringing, your early musical training, and your teenage musical visions.

I grew up in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and started playing guitar at the age of ten. I started playing professionally and joined the Musician's Union at fourteen. I took my initial guitar lessons from a local trumpet player. The upside of this training was that my teacher was a stickler on reading and was very knowledgable concerning music theory. The downside was that he was not a great guitar player. Like everyone of my vintage it was the Beatles that formed my early influence. Though by the time I was eighteen Django Reinhardt and later other jazz musicians like Joe Pass and Pat Martino had a great influence.

Your portfolio of musical releases is about as diverse a body of music as I have ever seen from a single artist. In recent years you have been concentrating on instrumental music, first in a solo guitar format, next in various jazz ensembles, and finally with the gypsy Django sound. What led you to this instrumental approach?

My first recordings were jazz instrumetnal. In a way my path has been the reverse of many. I only ventured into the singer/songwriter vein after I had already made some jazz records. Later, well into my forties, I came back to jazz.

One of the lasting Beatles influences (Sgt. Pepper) has been that I always felt that stylistic shifts, even within a single album, would be well tolerated by listners. I have been wrong in this assumption. Homogenized records or albums that develop a single style sit better with listeners in most cases. I have learned that people like to be able to categorize music. Gypsy jazz is a clear cut style and I am pleased that people like it. Part of it again releates to the fact that the public at large likes to be able to identify and categorize what it is hearing. When I first started lstening to DJango (I heard him by accident on my car radio when I was still in high school on a Canadian station) I never would have dreamt that thirty years later I would be playing the music. It never dawned on me that you could make a living doing that music. The current resurgence of the style worldwide has been fifty years in the making (Django died in 1953). It is amazing how your life can take unpredictable paths. I never planned this circuitous route. It just happened.

In the liner notes of
Bistro you mention that there is a small (yet vocal) coterie of fans that miss your singing and lyrics. I guess you can count me in that small coterie. You seem surprised by that?

I was a little surprised as I don't consider myself a great vocalist. On the other hand, my lyrics are often self-effacing and I think people can relate to that. I prefer the humorous approach to the ponderous one.

You decided to write lyrics to some of your previous instrumentals. I was truly surprised with your slant on
July that turns it into a song of longing. It really freshened the song for me.

When I decided to write lyrics for pre-existing music with a pre-existing titles I was faced with an interesting problem. In the case of
July I actually ended up with something quite different that what people expected but I am happy that a few people find the lyrics very interesting and pleasing. It ended up being an unexpected twist on the title.
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