Monday, January 12, 2009

Monique Ortiz: The Well-Rounded Radio Interview

The first time I learned about Monique Ortiz (visit her Facebook or Myspace pages) was in The Boston Phoenix four or five years ago in an article about Bourbon Princess, the band she played in for several years and who released three albums: Stopline (2000), Black Feather Wings (Accurate Records, 2003), and Dark of Days (Accurate Records and Hi-N-Dry Records, 2005). Reading about Ortiz, who is a singer/songwriter who plays fretless bass and 2-string slide bass, and Bourbon Princess, and their approach to jazz, rock, and blues, I knew I had to hear more.

Over these releases, Bourbon Princess' members have included Dana Colley of Morphine and Twinemen (baritone and tenor saxophones, bass clarinet, melodica, samples; listen to his interview with Twinemen on Well-Rounded Radio from 2002), Jerome Dupree (drums and percussion), Russ Gershon of Either/Orchestra (baritone, tenor, and soprano saxophones; stay tuned for the Well-Rounded Radio interview in the coming months), Dave Millar (drums and percussion), Jim Moran (guitars, piano), and Jonah Sacks (cello and backing vocals). Other musicians who appeared on their albums include Jimmy Ryan (mandolin, listen to his Well-Rounded Radio interview from 2005).

In recent years, Ortiz has released a sparse, solo album with Reclining Female (Obskur Vudu Records, 2007) and a new venture into "low-rock" with the band A.K.A.C.O.D. with Happiness (2008). A.K.A.C.O.D. includes Dana Colley along with Larry Dersch of Binary System, Angeline, and the Bad Art Ensemble on drums. The band's acronym name stands for "also known as Colley Ortiz Dersch."

Ortiz was inspired by Morphine's Mark Sandman in both his bass playing and voice. She's also been compared by writers to Jeff Buckley, Nick Cave, Bryan Ferry, PJ Harvey, Jim Morrison, Lou Reed, Nina Simone, Patti Smith, and David Sylvian of Japan.

Depending on how you look at it, Ortiz's sound has either borrowed from Mark Sandman's sound or helped take it to the next level. As she explains in the interview, she was drawn to the sound that Sandman and Morphine were making and, over the years, has worked with many of the musicians and artists that Sandman created with, many of which are a part of the former Hi-N-Dry recording studio (which was Sandman's home before his 1999 death) and the record label.

Ortiz wrote a terrific post on her
Myspace page
a few months back about the difficulties of being a traveling musician in this era of constant flux in the
music industry. I had been trying to have her on Well-Rounded Radio for several years, but the blog post made me
want to sit down and find out more about how musicians are tackling the new economy of the music business. We go into
the subject in depth.

I spoke with Ortiz in September in Cambridge, Massachusetts to discuss:
* how her musical paths led from Pennsylvania to Boston and what lured her
* why it's so difficult these days for bands and artists to thrive these days
* how her recent projects developed and what's next in the coming months

Photo: Kelly Davidson.