Colin Holter interviews Nick Zielinski.
On being a composer/performer/improviser:
The playing informs the composing, which informs the improvising, which informs the playing, so it’s kind of a circular thing, and it’s all related. These days I spend maybe 25% of my time practicing technique things on the drums and equal parts composing and improvising after that. I’ll say 40% improvising and 35% composing.
On his first drum:
In tenth grade, for my birthday that year, my mom bought me a drum kit and decided to get me lessons. Before that I had a snare drum, a marching snare that I wish I still had, that I got for like ten bucks from the school. It was a very cool drum, though.
On the Holsum Family Fiscal Planner:
This is where I started to think of myself as a composer. During my experiences with the Creative Arts Orchestra in Michigan for that first semester that I was there, one of the things that frustrated me was that sometimes I felt like nothing good was happening; having to improvise everything all the time and come up with things that are interesting to listen to is extremely difficult, I think, so I thought, is there a way to have some sort of safety net where you can have composed things that you can use to build improvisations, and you can either start with an improvisation and end up with a composed thing or vice versa, so I started putting this book of ideas together; I’m not exactly sure how I decided to name it the Holsum Family Fiscal Planner. There’s been a couple different iterations of groups who have played stuff from that book. It’s divided up into chapters, and it’s grown over the years. My role in the whole thing is composing and/or arranging things on the fly. I conduct and I use a dry-erase whiteboard to cue different things from the book.
On playing a billionaire’s daughter’s wedding:
Sure, if he wants us to play what we play, then we’ll do it. If he wants us to play standards, we’ll still do it—we just won’t call ourselves Ingo Bethke.
On Ingo Bethke:
That group began in 2006 or 7, and it was kind of the brainchild of myself and a friend of mine, a trumpet player named Geoff Senn. We wanted to put together a jazz combo that didn’t necessarily just play weddings and real book tunes and that kind of thing, so we decided to focus on original music and sacrifice volume of gigs for quality of gigs. We wanted to really make it a compositional experience, a group effort, which is proving to be extremely difficult in that kind of situation. I’m not sure if that’s just how people in jazz groups learn how to do things, like someone brings out a chart and it’s all arranged and laid out and you play it. I’ve been in rock bands where group composing is much easier; it still takes a long time, but it seems like it’s a more natural process for a rock group. So we’re still trying to do that; we were able to find a group excellent musicians and get them together and get them interested in it, and we did it. We rehearsed for maybe a year and half or so before we made a full-length recording everyone contributes compositions to the group. Once in a while we play a standard—there’s an Israeli folk song we play every once in a while—but other than that they’re all original.