Rob Mazurek is building a life’s work. Coming up in the Chicago free music scene, the cornet player and composer has made pioneering music alongside his peers, including Tortoise, Jim O’Rourke, Stereolab, and Jeff Parker, and collaborated with jazz heroes Bill Dixon, Pharoah Sanders, Yusef Lateef, and more.
But one of his longest running collaborations is with drummer Chad Taylor, with whom Mazurek leads various “Underground” groups. Their latest, A Night Walking Through Mirrors, finds them teaming with London musicians Alexander Hawkins and John Edwards. It’s both brash and thoughtful, a live exhibition of the telepathic interplay between Mazurek, Taylor, and their guests. AD caught up with Mazurek to discuss the record, and how a unifying thread, loosely inspired by science fiction and cyberpunk literature, has begun to solidify in his work, uniting it thematically and conceptually.
Aquarium Drunkard: I’d like to start off about asking you about your notion of protest music. In the biography that accompanied A Night Walking Through Mirrors you say that the various Underground albums have always been “protest” music. How, and what, does your music protest in this context?
Rob Mazurek: I mean, it’s basically just a protest against anything or anybody that wants to put up some kind of barrier between total creativity, ya know? So whether it’s music or psychologically or spiritually, that’s been the thing [we’re protesting]. The first Chicago Underground record is called 12 Degrees of Freedom. It has those same precepts, not just in music but dealing with psychology, spirituality, the whole thing. That’s always been the underlying theme with that. Whether we’re talking about Exploding Star Orchestra or Chicago Underground, it’s all about expressing freedom.