Rhys Chatham’s Guitar Trio Lineup Revealed

Submitted on Aug 16, 2011

Here’s something: Every morning, one of the first things I see is a photo of the Paris-based composer and improviser Rhys Chatham, onstage at New York City’s Danceteria back in 1982. It’s on my refrigerator, next to old photos and funny receipts and ticket stubs, its unfortunate crease giving the thick stock the permanent illusion of a third dimension.

With his leather coat and wild, straying hair, Chatham looks flamboyant and proud, peering into the crowd with a look of playful mystery. To his right, a young man with close-cropped hair and a face that suggests joyous wonder stares down at his own guitar as if delighted by what he—and, really, it—are accomplishing. That is Thurston Moore, one year into his band Sonic Youth. Just as innumerable musicians (some famous, some almost anonymous) have done during the last three decades, Moore’s playing one of the most triumphant and phosphorescent pieces of music I’ve ever heard: Rhys Chatham’s Guitar Trio, a righteous piece of rock music that, at last, makes its way to Raleigh next month.

Essentially, Guitar Trio takes one chord and lets each guitar player repeat it again and again for about 20 minutes. The overtones grow louder and louder, filling whatever space they find with the warm glow of the note E, in every possible permutation. Guitar Trio is the apogee of inescapable sound.

In 2007, Chatham—who’s been playing Guitar Trio off and on since writing it after seeing The Ramones play in 1978—reunited with Moore and his Sonic Youth bandmates to again perform the piece in New York. That show also included members of Swans, Modern Lovers and Bear in Heaven and was part of a massive tour eventually dubbed “Guitar Trio is My Life!” that included versions of the piece with members of Tortoise, A Silver Mt. Zion, Collections of Colonies of Bees and Hüsker Dü. These shows were chronicled in the three-disc set Guitar Trio is My Life!, which I later described at Pitchfork Media as “beautiful and overwhelming … glorious, one-chord, electro-orchestral, garage-band minimalism.”

In Raleigh, on the first night of the second Hopscotch, Chatham will be one of 10 guitarists sharing the stage of what might be Raleigh’s most beautiful venue, Fletcher Opera Hall. With a set of local musicians I carefully selected over the last two months, plus brilliant Nashville guitarist William Tyler, Chatham will once again revitalize his Guitar Trio, a piece that’s already enjoyed the life of royalty. It is our pleasure to announce those instrumentalists.

GUITAR: Rhys Chatham is a guitar and trumpet player based in Paris, France. He has released albums on the labels Northern Spy, Nonesuch Records, Homestead Records, Moer Music and Ntone. His output with the label Table of the Elements helped define one of the key American outposts for experimental music. In 2009, he performed his A Crimson Grail at The Out of Door Series at New York’s Lincoln Center.

GUITAR: David Daniell lives in Chicago, Ill., where he not only makes solo records and runs the label Antiopic but also serves as Rhys Chatham’s Musical Director. He has performed with Rhys across the country. David will also perform his own music, as heard on labels including Thrill Jockey and Table of the Elements, Friday at The Hive at The Busy Bee Café.

GUITAR: Ash Bowie lives in Hillsborough, N.C., and plays or has played in the bands Polvo, Helium and Libraness.

GUITAR: William Tyler lives in Nashville, Tenn., where he records and tours with bands including Lambchop, Silver Jews and Wooden Wand. He has performed with the late Charlie Louvin and previously with Rhys Chatham. He runs the label Sebastian Speaks, and, last year, released Behold the Spirit, one of the boldest guitar albums to come along in a decade.

GUITAR: Jenks Miller lives in Chapel Hill, N.C., and records music under his own name and as Horseback (Relapse Records, Hydra Head, Utech, Aurora Borealis, Holidays for Quince) and plays guitar in the Americana band Mount Moriah (Holidays for Quince).

GUITAR: Cheetie Kumar lives in Raleigh, N.C., and plays guitar in Birds of Avalon, who have released three albums and an EP. She previously played in The Cherry Valence. “I was in my 20s when I really started to play guitar and spent several years mired in the boring pursuit of technical proficiency and traditional ‘rock’ guitar. Now I love to explore unexpected sounds and textures that you can get from guitars,” she says. “Guitar Trio is awesome!”

GUITAR: Paul Siler lives in Raleigh, N.C., and has played guitar in Trucker and bass in The Cherry Valence. He currently plays guitar in Birds of Avalon, who have released several recordings. He says, “I love the sound and texture of interwoven guitar tones, and I’m proud to be a part of Guitar Trio!”

GUITAR: Rich Ivey lives in Raleigh, N.C., and plays in Whatever Brains. “Rhys’ Guitar Trio is the only vehicle that could allow a relatively untalented chump like myself to play an opera hall,” he says. “Up the punx.”

GUITAR: Jenny Waters is from Carrboro, N.C., and has played guitar, drums, bass and keyboards in local bands (Work Clothes, Clok-Lok, Bevel and Shallow Be Thy Name) as well as contributing to various recordings with other artists like Mount Moriah and Hundred Air.

GUITAR: Craig Hilton is a Raleigh, N.C.-based composer and guitarist who has recorded and toured extensively throughout the United States and Europe. He has collaborated, performed and released albums with Maurizio Bianchi, Yannick Franck, UR, Baamphf!!! and played on guzheng with Steve Beresford in London and in Raleigh as part of Microcephalic Superintendent with Tatsuya Nakatani. He currently performs in Raleigh metal project Here Lies... and avant ambient group Gauchiste (with Tannon Penland from Loincloth and composer Tomas Phillips). He is now working on numerous solo and ensemble compositions for guitar.

DRUMS: Lee Waters is a musician from Carrboro, N.C., who has played and recorded in many local and not-so-local bands over the last 17 years.

BASS: Mike Robinson has lived in Raleigh, N.C., his entire life and has participated in the local music scene for roughly half of it, mostly known as the bassist for Annuals and Sunfold. He has released music locally for a couple of years (Lonnie Walker and the Hear Here compilations) and is currently at work on new music by Annuals and First Person Plural, his solo project.

Rhys Chatham plays with The Necks, J Mascis and Steve Gunn at Fletcher Opera Hall in Raleigh, Thursday, Sept. 8. Tickets are still available at To hear Guitar Trio, see my 2010 interview with Chatham.

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