5 Questions: Luke Stewart

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Luke Stewart is one busy musician.

The multi-instrumentalist splits his time between a dizzying number of bands. So many, in fact, that trying to keep up with them all would prove challenging for even the most ardent Discogs contributor.

From free jazz and “punk jazz” to drone and ambient and even electronic music and indie rock, Luke’s vast discography reveals the interconnectivity between genres and sub-genres that are viewed all too often through silos.

How is it that one musician can have such a prodigious output – both from a recording and live performance standpoint — and cover so many different styles?

The answer may lie in the one thread that runs through all of Luke’s work: a creative restlessness and desire to connect through pushing sonic boundaries.

As if his music projects don’t keep him busy enough, Luke is also an events organizer, radio DJ and writer. In recent months, Luke has been the driving force behind a number of livestream performances, most recently at Rhizome.

With Luke set to play a special livestream show at WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE on Friday, June 5th, I took the opportunity to ask him a few questions via e-mail. As you can see below, our interview covers everything from what drives him creatively to his thoughts on the DC music scene’s role in fighting institutional racism and white privilege. Read on!

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1) You are a multi-instrumentalist, a radio producer, a writer and an events organizer, most recently with Rhizome. You also play in a TON of different bands. Clearly, you are someone who lives and breathes creativity. I’m curious to know – what drives you?

Luke: The motivation to explore and be in tuned with myself, my family, and those around me. The journey of exploring the history and legacies of the Music, and creating with that in mind.

2) Luke, one of the things I admire most about you is how engaged and supportive you are with the different communities that make up the larger DC music scene. As someone who is not only a person of color, but a prolific musician who is connected to so many different black and brown artists, what has this scary and uncertain time been like for you?

Luke: Yes I have been lucky to be able to interact with and support scenes all over the place. For what I do, the community is not DC confined. Its worldwide.

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3) DC’s music scene has a long history of protest, fighting for equality and combating injustice. What role do you see our local music scene having today in fighting back against institutionalized racism and Trumpism, while raising awareness about white privilege? Or maybe I should instead ask – what role would you like it to have?

Luke: Its a difficult thing for me to explain because it might be complex. DC has continuously changed since I’ve been active in music. Virtually none of the people I started out with are living in DC anymore, even playing music anymore. Very few of the people I saw on the scene even 5 or 6 years ago still live in DC or even play music.
When you ask about institutionalized racism, in the context of music, we have to think about the racism that has been institutionalized in DC’s long history of protest, fighting for equality, and combating justice. Its a microcosm in many ways of the contradictory nature of the non-profit industrial complex. THIS IS DC. Everywhere is affected by the mentality of government.  It establishes the social dynamic and how people even interact. That’s why sometimes I honestly feel discouraged at how distracted the scene can be. But I am proud of a lot of the work that has been done and hope that one day DC can be the truly radical city it needs to be.

4) It’s not just the sheer number of bands you play in that makes you an impressive musician, it’s the scope of styles. Six Six, your project with Anthony Pirog, is on the abstract ambient side, while Blacks’ Myths could be characterized as “punk jazz” for lack of a better description, then there’s your bass and saxophone work in indie rock collective Laughing Man, your electronic music with bands like Mind Over Matter, Music Over Mind, and your own solo work. And I’m just scratching the surface. How did you get so good at flitting back and forth between such disparate styles and modes of music?

Luke: Just being open. Not limiting yourself.

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5) One of the few bright spots during this frightening time are the livestream shows being hosted by musicians such as yourself. What has it been like for you to make the leap to playing virtually – and how important have these shows become to you as a source of connection?

Luke: Firstly, a Livestream is NOT a concert. I think it is useful to think of the platform as a singular thing, completely separate from the experience of going to a venue and seeing a concert. With that being said, I think there are numerous creative possibilities with livestreaming, and I feel encouraged and inspired to incorporate it into the things I do.

Listen to and purchase Luke’s music on bandcamp. Check out his solo record “Works for Upright Bass and Amplifier” here, Blacks’ Myths (his bass and drums duo with percussionist Warren Crudup) I and II, and Six Six, his ambient collaboration with Anthony Pirog, here

While you’re at it, spend some time visiting the excellent Atlantic Rhythms bandcamp page. And check out Luke’s personal website and his CapitalBop page.

And don’t miss Luke’s livestream set for WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE, which can be viewed online at: https://www.facebook.com/wftboDC/

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