Music Interview: An Interview With David Bashwiner

Pt. I: The Musician

Robin Babb
3 min read
An Interview with David Bashwiner
David Bashwiner of Cactus Tractor (Kate Burn Photography)
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David Bashwiner is a professor of music theory at UNM, but you might recognize him as the singer and guitarist for local band Cactus Tractor. The Alibi spoke with him to discuss the double life of a musician and music theorist and how the two roles affect each other.

Alibi: Who is Cactus Tractor, and how did y’all start playing together?

David Bashwiner:
We’re a music group of anywhere between 3 and 14 people; we live in Albuquerque. The three “core” people are me, Christy Cook and Stef Graner. We got together about three and a half years ago. Stef had been playing with Christy in a trio for a couple of years; I was hanging out with the two of them at the time. So we started playing every weekend at a coffee shop on Eighth Street and Mountain—Mr. Watson’s little place (now Boiler Monkey).

Can you tell us about the making of Lydian Water Songs?

It’s our second album. While not exactly a concept album, it’s more of a concept than, say, our previous [album, Cactus Tractor]. Once we had the title and started thinking about how to work with it, it became more and more of one. Once we made the [Kickstarter] goal, we had to prep the album quickly in order to get into the studio not much more than a week later. The studio we use is Empty House Studio, with Matthew Tobias as the engineer.

Once we got into the studio, stuff became even crazier, because we’d scheduled eight hours a day for five days in a row of two consecutive weeks. It ended up feeling like a 10-day-long road trip with Matthew and me both in the front seat and a rotating cast of crazy people in the back seat. So it was awesome. But I did have a bit of PTSD when it was over with!

Are the songs on Lydian Water Songs all written in the Lydian mode?

We considered calling the first album Lydian Water Songs, because we started noticing that virtually all the tracks had water references/themes in them, and a serious number of them were in Lydian mode. [the Lydian mode is a musical scale that contains an augmented fourth.] In making the second, we recognized that all the new songs were doing this too! “Under the Sky,” for instance, is just 100% in D Lydian. Stef’s “Woman Who’s Torn” is also Lydian. My song “I’ve Moved On” is one that was designed to be purposely “slippery” with respect to key, and I do a lot of this by way of things that “are” Lydian or “could be construed as” Lydian. At their best, the modes are like colors—they can blend into one another, contrast with one another, vary in hue and brightness.

What’s next for CT?

We’re actually planning to take the concept thing to the next level, to bring it in at the level of writing the songs, orchestrating them, coordinating them with one another—not to mention ordering them in a particular way, composing transitions between them, working out stage business related to the storyline, etc.

Next week, the theorist in Bashwiner speaks out.

An Interview with David Bashwiner

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