Interview with Rollerball
Many of you know Rollerball, as they’ve been a staple of the experimental/art/jazz/rock scene since the early 1990’s. Monte & Mae have been at the center of the band the whole time & more recently they have a more experimental (read as less song oriented) project called Moodring.
QRD – How do you turn music mode on & off in your relationship with each other? Or do you find yourself pretty constantly collaborating on music even if it’s songs about cooking?
Mae – After 14 years together, it just comes natural to know when to not talk about music things & when it’s appropriate. But yeah, it’s pretty much a constant thing in our relationship. Music is just as important to us as anything that should be important so we don’t really want to turn it off.
Monte – We spend our lives with each other & music is just a part of it. I don’t feel the need to turn it off or on because it is not a problem. Everything just feels natural.
QRD – How has your music changed by having someone you’re romantically involved with working with you?
Mae – I had played classical piano for a long time, even majored in voice & piano in college. Thanks to bad teachers or fate I quit playing for five years after that thinking I didn’t have it in me. When I met Monte he was the first person to show me it was okay to play free & just create with no rules. So he helped me get music back in my life.
Monte – One of the best things about it is sharing influences, when you spend a lot of time with someone, you both have a chance of being inspired by the same things. It could be a movie, or food, or art/music. These experiences together make the music bond even stronger. I also think that in a relationship you have to learn to listen, just like music.
QRD – How do you keep things professional rather than getting personal in the band? Like not letting being upset that someone’s not doing their house chores spill into band practice?
Mae – There should always be a rule in a band. You can never talk trash about your problems with your partner to others in the band. Then they sense tension & it feeds the problems.
Monte – We don’t get that mad about that kind of stuff. Life is too short for these kind of petty bitches. We have been with each other for 15 years, so we don’t have the problems that a young couple might have. We usually know how to talk about something without having a fight. So, for us, music is always about the act of creating music & not much else.
QRD – Do you think working musically together increases the strength of your relationship?
Mae – Oh hell yes, music is powerful like love.
Monte – Hell yeah, sharing our dreams, trusting each other to make the right move, failing together. These are all things that strengthen our bond in every way.
QRD – Do you think the music ever suffers because of your relationship?
Mae – Everything has highs & lows, but I’ve never felt it has suffered because we are a couple.
Monte – Well, I hope not. Sometimes a little bit of tension gives practice some extra intensity, but I think that can be kind of good in some weird way.
QRD – Being in a romantic couple, do you try to curb lyrical content to or away from things in your relationship?
Mae – My lyrics are usually very open to a lot of interpretation, could be about this, might be about that, I guess I’m not going to clearly tell you about my personal life.
Monte – Most of the time I don’t know what the songs are about. I am just a bass player.
QRD – A lot of families kind of look down on musicians as immature, do you find that going out with another musician has eased relationships with your parents or in-laws?
Mae – My parents have never shown any disappointment or otherwise that I am a musician. I think they are happy I have found someone to share this with.
Monte – Both of our parents are really awesome. They accept us how we are. Since I have known Mae, I have done a lot of “growing up” & I think my mom & dad would like to give her the credit for that. One time Mae’s mom & dad said I could live with them if we break up. I bet Mae would be loving that.
QRD – Which came first the musical collaboration or the relationship & do you feel that at this point that you could have one without the other?
Mae – The collaboration came first, like I said, music has always been the center of our relationship. I can’t imagine not having music in our relationship.
Monte – Music came first, but my feelings for Mae developed at almost the same time. The music felt really good right away. I hope I never have to decide if I could handle one without the other.
QRD – How do things work with band members besides the two of you to get the same level of connectivity while playing your music?
Mae – Well Rollerball is easy because we have all played together for so long we can easily connect. There never seems to be a problem when we collaborate with other people. We have had people say how connected we are when they are sitting in with us. Our friend Jesse, who sits in on drums in Moodring sometimes, said he felt like he was sitting in with James Brown or something. I think he was being nice.
Monte – Well, for Rollerball, we have had the same line up for a really long time, it sounds kind of cheesy, but we are like a little family. For Moodring we have a lot of guests to keep it fresh. Lately, we have been playing with Jesse Stevens; he fits right in with our telepathic group improv aesthetic. No problems.
QRD – Do you find music related gifts to be romantic or more like giving someone an appliance?
Mae – no they are romantic & always the best gifts. I got Monte a clarinet for his birthday not too long ago. Monte has made me several mix cd-r’s as gifts & they are my favorite cd’s I have.
Monte – Probably not romantic, but hella functional. I love the gift of music. It is the gift that can keep giving.
QRD – The musician life style has an inherent lack of financial security & healthcare. Do you find yourself thinking, “How can we start a family & continue our musical careers?”
Mae – We don’t want kids, just cats & dogs.
Monte – We don’t want kids, that makes it easier for us. Facing the world as two people instead of one is a really good thing for making art.… I don’t expect to make a living off music. That stuff is a total mind fuck for me. Security is an issue for everyone. We are lucky in that we are buying our own house. We have an extra room, so our friends have a nice place to stay when they come to town, but if one of us were to get hurt or sick, we are fucked. That is not right, no one should profit from healthcare. We have lots of friends who have started families & continued to rock. Once you make the commitment to living an underground lifestyle, you just do whatever it takes & don’t look back.
QRD – Do you ever switch off instruments to give each other ideas?
Mae – I like to play other instruments to get new ideas for songs. Then I usually transfer them to the piano.
Monte – Yeah, we have no rules, just stay inspired.
QRD – A lot of people say they feel most spiritually connected to another person is when they’re on stage & the set is working. Is this what you find & how does this energy flow into your romantic relationship?
Mae – When you play (& it isn’t always on a stage) & everything just falls into place & its effortless, that’s when you know you are giving a perfect gift to the universe so you feel complete; so to get to share this feeling with another person at the same time is wonderful.
Monte – A really good show is one of the best feelings I have had. It is not like anything else, the rush, it is a wild thing. Other things feel amazing too. I guess both things leave us thinking, “What the hell just happened?” Out of our heads.
QRD – Some couples start to get seen as a unit with one member as dominant. Do you ever want to get one of you more recognition?
Mae – No, not that I am aware of.
Monte – Mae has a really cool voice & she gives it everything she has every time we play. I would be really happy if she received more recognition. No problem as long as I get to be her bass player!
QRD – Do you feel a need to have separate projects where you just work on your own?
Mae – Not at this time.
Monte – I don’t feel that need. The stuff we do keeps me pretty busy & happy.
QRD – Musicians often run into fans with crushes, is their a secret to recognizing when something is getting inappropriate instead of being band promoting?
Mae – The secret is trust.
Monte – We just try to be honest & show people respect.
QRD – Any advice for other musician couples?
Mae – Grow, never stop.
Monte – Enjoy it, let it be whatever it wants to be, & listen.
Other QRD interviews with