Scott Tinkler: ‘I’ll keep laughing whenever I can’

“Joyous pointillism, exhilarating rhythmic interplay and rich walls of unified meta-sound”. North of North’s description of their music is, to say the least, intriguing. But, of course, the trio comprises of Anthony Pateras (piano), Scott Tinkler (trumpet) and Erkki Veltheim (violin), so nothing less would be expected. Just before they set out to play their debut album, Scott Tinkler shares his thoughts on this venture, as well as his overall experience in improvised music, that keeps his “inner child” alive. What is North of North? How would you describe the dynamics among the three of you? What does each contribute?
Scott Tinkler: North of North is Anthony Pateras on piano and Erkki Veltheim on violin with myself on trumpah! We are intense, funny, cynical, virtuosic and energetic. We love rhythm, harmony, intervals, sounds, we explore them with passion and joy in an improvised setting. We don’t let each other get away with anything, always question, tease, mimic, confront. We are great mates. We all contribute everything, though Anthony is more organised with tour logistics and CD production; he’s got a PHD, so he is smart and can do that.

AJN: How does this project fit in with your other ventures? What is its position to the broader Australian jazz spectrum?
ST: I don’t know that this fits into the ‘Jazz spectrum’. I’m from a Jazz background, but Erkki and Anthony have no links there really at all – maybe some through Cecil Taylor with Anthony – but he’s never played a Jazz gig to my knowledge, he’d laugh at the idea I’m sure. This is however improvised music with interactive discussions of language and ideas of rhythm and harmony. Let’s not forget that classical music was once full of virtuoso improvisors, we are influenced by all sorts of musical traditions, good luck locking us down.

AJN: What is “Australian Jazz”? What does the term mean to you?
ST: Simply music derivative of the ‘jazz’ (whatever that is) style, played in Australia. By that rule, both Bob Barnard and I are Australian Jazz. Totally diverse but from here. Aussie music is the people that make it; beyond that, I’d read Bodgie Dada or The Australian Jazz Accent.

AJN: You have been creating some pretty serious music, all the while without seeming to take yourself seriously. How do you achieve this kind of balance?
ST: I think humor is very serious; being able to laugh at yourself gives you strength and humility, god knows I could do with more, so I’ll keep laughing whenever I can. I also hate the term ‘serious music’, it’s so pretentious, it’s just music, people are serious about it in different ways. I was talking to my daughter about a gig she saw last week, a high profile international band. I asked her how she found the music, her response was ’empty’. To be this says it all; I don’t care what style of music you play, but fill it with your life and experience, empty music is not for me. Like Miles said, it’s 80% attitude; anyone can play notes.

AJN: What is the easiest part of your work?
ST: Practice; I love it, it’s fun.

AJN: How important is it for you to challenge yourself?
ST: It must be important to me to challenge myself as I try to do it all the time, but it’s just what I do, not really a decision I made.

AJN: What do you consider to be your single greatest accomplishment?
ST: My family; they’re awesome, but obviously not all my doing! As far as music goes, I reckon I sound like me, and no one else, that’s really what I feel good about. I have a long way to go still, plenty more to explore and learn, but having your own sound and being recognised by it is surely what I feel is most important, other than not sounding like shit.

AJN: What is the greatest concession you had to make in life?
ST: You know I can’t really think of a significant one. I’ve played music, got a great family, excellent friends, what’s not to love?

AJN: You’ve mentioned in the past that improvisation helps you release your inner child. What is this child’s life like?
ST: Creative, free, joyous, curious, unaffected by learnt protocols, unbiased, that sort of stuff, but mind you, I can play the trumpet better now than when I was a kid, so….

AJN: Is there any musician you’d like to invite to one of your regular “Tinky Tuesday” gigs but hadn’t had the chance yet?
ST: There’s a few; one in particular is Ted Vining, but he’s rarely here on a Tuesday as he lives in Tassie now. None of my Sydney mates have been here either as yet, people like Carl Dewhurst, Simon Barker and Phil Slater, actually, the list could easily keep going, there’s a pool of great players around the country.

AJN: Which song best describes your current state of mind?
ST: The music in my head.

*North of North will perform their debut album The Moment In And Of Itself at the Melbourne Recital Centre on Thursday 16 June, at 6p.m.