With the release of Piana, multi-instrumentalist Gregory Rogove, known for his work in Priestbird, Megapuss and Devendra Banhart and The Grogs, reveals a talent for composition with his first collection of solo piano songs. Greg enlisted his friend John Medeski (Medeski Martin and Wood) to perform the songs and the tracks were recorded in one day in Woodstock, NY. It will be released on January 31st, 2012 on Knitting Factory Records.
Says Rogove: “I have a fondness for the minimalist piano works of Erik Satie and the Preludes of Claude Debussy. I admire their sense of space, simplicity, color, melody, and painterly harmony. However, more than receiving technical inspiration to try in vain what those great masters have done, their music instead inspired me to audition a few of the myriad characters the piano so adroitly portrays. More than considering my tunes minimalist, impressionist, or classically inspired, to me they sound like melancholic but hopeful, somewhat Jewish, instrumental pop songs.”
The pieces were written during a sojourn in Mexico in 2009. Rogove found a storage space situated on the rooftop of an apartment building, converted it into a studio and rented a piano, spending two months in the isolated, lighthouse of a room above the murmur of motor traffic, cumbia-blasting radios, and tamale vendors’ songs. While these songs don’t sound particularly Mexican, the spirit of Mexico is in there.
The inspirations for the songs are very specific. The opening track, “Khadi,” mimics the rhythmic turning of the weaving wheel used to make the Indian, hand-spun fabric by the same name. Mahatma Gandhi was a big proponent of spinning khadi in the 1920-40s, believing that it accomplished many things politically, economically, socially, and spiritually by invigorating the domestic business and a sense of community in Indian villages while taking business away from foreign imports and factories run by English colonialists. It also elevated the human spirit by engaging in simple, humble creative work.
“Carolyn” was written for Rogove’s recently deceased stepmother. “Castle Garden” was the name of the immigration station on the southern tip of Manhattan that was the predecessor to Ellis Island. “This piece sounds like a song my great-grandfather could have sung on his passage from the Ukraine to Philadelphia, via NYC,” Rogove explains. “Vines” sounds like strands of melodic ivy intertwining.
After completing the album portion of the project, Rogove invited a number of artists, both musical and visual, from various backgrounds to reinterpret or “remix” the tunes.
“I like the idea of a non-verbal conversation between artists and thought these pieces would be decent topics for such a discussion,” he explains. “Each artist brought his or her own particular vocabulary, perspective, and style. There are songs, soundscapes, drawings, collages, sculptures, photographs, and short films by some of my favorite creative people.”
Keeping the collaborative process open, Rogove sent the original piano pieces to each artist and asked him/her to simply reinterpret them as they saw fit. The Strokes’ Fab Moretti received “Jackyl” and went on to find the plans on how to make a jackal using origami. Then he mapped out the folding lines with delicate string, anchored by nails on a wooden canvas. It looks like a beautiful and ancient celestial map. Adam Green made “Love Cherries” into synth gamelan video game music. Billy Martin added sublime orchestral percussion to the original piano recording of “Sunken Ships.” Violens contributed an amazing musical remix of “Jackyl” that turns the original composition into a gorgeous, shoegaze-y epic.
Now based in Los Angeles, Rogove grew up in Amish country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. At the age of 18 he moved to Mumbai, India to study the tabla, later traveling to Cuba, China, and Mexico. His travels informed his musical sensibility, exposing him to a wide variety of musical genres that would show up in his later work.
He studied composition at Wesleyan University, a progressive environment (where John Cage often composed, performed, and collaborated), which boasted Anthony Braxton and Alvin Lucier on its faculty. While there, he was the recipient of the Pokora Prize, awarded annually to the outstanding undergraduate student in music composition. After graduating in 2002 he moved to New York City.
In NYC, he met Saunder Jurriaans and Danny Bensi and formed the band Priestbird (Tarantula A.D). Priestbird released two EPs and two LPs on Kemado records and shared the stage with artists such as Pearl Jam, Grizzly Bear, Marc Ribot, and the Sword among others. Priestbird recently recorded a new record with Stone Gossard (Pearl Jam) at the helm in his studio Litho in Seattle that was released in May 2011.
While in NYC he also collaborated, toured, and recorded with artists such as the Flesh, Metallic Falcons, CocoRosie, and Devendra Banhart. He contributed to Banhart’s Cripple Crow album in 2006 and the following year joined the band full time, recording and touring in support of Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon (2007) and What Will We Be (2009).
In 2008, Rogove moved to Los Angeles and formed Megapuss with Banhart and Fab Moretti (the Strokes). That same year Megapuss released their first album, Surfing, on Neil Young’s Vapor records. They are currently amassing new material for a second album. As a drummer, he has participated in a few multi-drum ensembles, including the Boredom’s 88 Boadrum piece performed on 8/8/08 at the La Brea Tar pits, and alongside Beck and Caetano Veloso for Doug Aitken’s 20-drummer/ auctioneer/gospel choir/whip masterpiece for LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art in November 2010.
In addition to his full time projects, he has recently recorded with The Family Band, (Our) Living Sacrifice, Tamara Kaboutchek, and Adam Green; and co-produced Natalia Lafourcade with Noah Georgeson. He also scored the film Guadalupe the Virgin by director Victoria Giordana.
With Piana, Rogove has created a virtual gallery and recital hall. The CD/DVD set is an inspired set of collaborations, grounded by the hauntingly spare piano compositions of Rogove and John Medeski’s inspired performances on these tracks.
[ Return to top ]