‘Longevity is a huge bonus’: Chris Abrahams talks The Necks and new trio

Unsound Adelaide will premiere an exciting new trio featuring some of this country’s most lauded musicians: The Necks’ Chris Abrahams and regular collaborators Oren Ambarchi and Robbie Avenaim.

The launch of the Ambarchi / Abrahams / Avenaim trio is a coup for Unsound Adelaide as Chris Abrahams is one-third of post-jazz and minimal group The Necks, who were recently called the greatest trio in the world by The New York Times. Over their three-decade career, The Necks have released 14 acclaimed studio albums and their improvised live show is one of the great contemporary live music experiences. Abrahams’ new trio will, like The Necks, be an improvised one but with a drone and robotic edge.

“Robbie will be playing a combination of robotic and played drums and Oren, I’m assuming, will be affecting his guitar through various modulation techniques,” Abrahams says of the live show.

“I’m going to approach the acoustic piano probably quite texturally for this event. I’m very interested in the metallic resonant quality of the piano, and, particularly in this situation, I don’t think it will be that melodic. I want to really explore a certain volume that you can get out of a piano, which is something I’m interested in with other projects as well, but I think with this one it will really go into a new area.”

Abrahams has known his collaborators for a long time, as they all hail from Sydney. Ambarchi and Avenaim have been playing together since high school and formed the noise band Phlegm before founding and curating the experimental What is Music Festival. Ambarchi also worked with the band Sun 0))) while Avenaim was mentored by new music maestro John Zorn.

“I first met Robbie and Oren way back in the early ‘90s and I was involved as a performer a few times for the What is Music Festival that they put on for many years. So, we’ve known and associated with each other for various intervals in the past.

“Robbie and I have been playing a lot together. Oren’s so busy these days, it’s kind of… for us all to be in the same city is quite a rare occasion. I’ve been travelling quite a lot with The Necks, so it hasn’t been easy for us to get together to play. It’s been something we’ve talked about a lot over the last couple of decades. We’re really glad it’s hopefully going to come to fruition.”

Though Abrahams has collaborated frequently with Avenaim and the drummer and Ambarchi have worked together since high school, they haven’t played together as a trio. And Abrahams believes that the most important thing when playing live is trust.

“I play in a lot of situations where the material is going to be quite open but it will be informed by my experiences in the past and my knowledge of what the other people are going to do. More importantly is the fact that I trust the other people. I think live music works mainly on everyone respecting each other.

“Not that I’m in situations where people don’t respect each other but if you don’t know the other person, or the other members, I find there’s always a nervous kind of a certain hurdle you need to get over before I can relax. I know a lot of festivals like to put people that have never played together before and put them in situations playing together. Personally, that’s not something I’m all that interested in. To me, music is a representation of the relationships between the members, the ensemble that is playing.”

Abrahams says he was blown away by the Geoff Dyer piece on The Necks in The New York Times, where the English writer called them the greatest trio in the world.

“We knew Geoff was someone who had come and seen the band. Personally I think he’s an incredible writer and I really enjoyed his books and it was just amazing, what can I say, it really was quite extraordinary. I’m speechless. Thanks Geoff Dyer.”

Abrahams says the spirits are high in The Necks camp as they will soon embark on their sixth tour of the year soon after the Unsound performance.

“The basic philosophy of the group has just been to allow one thing to lead to another and I think that’s representative of our music. Over the years we haven’t aggressively sorted out things, things have actually come to us and whether that’s us just being incredibly lucky, or whether that’s just been a good way of going about things, I’m not sure.

“This current frequency of playing, it’s something that’s just crept up on us. Longevity is a huge bonus, you keep doing what you do and not try to expect too much and things just sort of tick along. For the first 10 years of the band’s life we played maybe three times a year, this year we’ve probably played about, I don’t maybe 100 times, 80 to 100 somewhere around there. We wouldn’t have thought we would be doing that 20 years ago.”

Ambarchi / Abrahams / Avenaim, NMO and Senor Coconut
Thebarton Theatre
Sunday, November 19
unsoundadelaide.com

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