Roger Kleier: Organizing Sound

What would happen if Sun Ra, Link Wray, and Stockhausen made a recording together and had King Tubby do a dub mix of it all? Well, it might sound a little like the musical universe of guitarist and composer Roger Kleier. With an interest in musical styles ranging from contemporary classical music to the American guitar traditions of jazz, rock, and blues, his music emphasizes noisy guitar instrumentals, improvisation, and electronic sound. Whether he is writing for one of his own groups, performing alongside others like Annie Gosfield (his partner in numerous musical endeavors and in life) or Phill Niblock, or working on his next studio recording, Kleier is always thinking about creating the sounds that will best serve the project at hand.

Kleier grew up in Los Angeles, California, and became entranced early on by the electric guitar, immersing himself in a musical landscape that included Captain Beefheart, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, and King Crimson, among many others. Eventually the influence of friends with record collections and Guitar Player magazine opened up an even wider world of musical possibility that led him to study composition at North Texas State and the University of Southern California, where he began to develop a style that employs extended techniques and digital manipulation. Since then he has played as both side- and front man for an eclectic assortment of musicians and ensembles in the worlds of rock, jazz, and experimental music. His “fringe improv rock band” El Pocho Loco addresses his own perspective as a Mexican-American who grew up in East L.A on the “Hispanic experience” in America.

Kleier’s compositions are richly textured, evocative, and sometimes quirky glimpses into his life and interests. For instance, the work “Sonny’s Song” on the CD Klangenbang is a tribute to jazz guitarist Sonny Sharrock, who helped persuade Kleier to move from L.A. to New York City, while The Juan Cortina Suite, recorded on Deep Night, Deep Autumn, was inspired by the outlaw and military leader. Kleier describes much of his music as deeply personal “diary pieces” that express how he felt about an event, an experience, or a person. His toolbox of performance styles, extended techniques, and guitar preparations provides a myriad of ways to get the work out into the world, which is his primary goal.

“I think my music is about exploring the nooks and crannies of all kinds of Western musics, and attempting to put my own stamp on the whole stew I cook with those ingredients. I’m mainly interested in getting the music out there—whether it’s recording it, on the radio, posting it, or performing concerts. To me that’s what music is. You have to make sound. Air molecules have to move. There has to be something that says, ‘This is music,’ not just the sounds of the buses outside your apartment. You have to do something that creates sound. So that’s what it is for me. It’s like, whatever I’m going to do so that the organized sound I call my music exists in the world. It’s pretty much just that simple.”

Discography
Klangenbang (Rift 18)
Deep Night, Deep Autumn (Starkland 211)
The Night Has Many Hours (Innova 685)

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