|Band photo by Julia Hensley|
By ERIC SCHELKOPF
Trey Gunn is the type of musician who is always up for a new challenge.
Gunn and Pat Mastelotto, known for their work in King Crimson, are members of the band Tu-Ner alongside touch guitarist Markus Reuter. The band will perform at 8 p.m. Aug. 26 at Reggies, 2105 S. State St., Chicago.
Sammy Boller and Greg Howe are also on the bill. Tickets range from $25 to $35, available at ticketweb.com.
Tu-Ner is touring in support of its debut double album, "T-1 Contact Information," which was released on Aug. 14 on Gunn's record label, 7D Media. I had the chance to talk to Gunn about the project and tour.
Q – “T-1 Contact Information” came out on Aug. 14, the same day the tour began. How has the tour been going?
Yeah, that's correct. We had a couple of kind of warm up gigs. We participated in this King Crimson "Three of a Perfect Pair" camp up in Woodstock the week before that.
We were up there with 120 musicians doing workshops and stuff. And then we do kind of an informal concert there and joined Adrian Belew and Tony Levin to do a big show at Bearsville two days earlier.
Q – How did that go this year?
It was great. This is my third year and it was completely sold out. There were 120 people playing and singing and doing all sorts of stuff all day and all night long.
These are all musicians and actually they spend the good part of the year rehearsing for it.
Q – This is the most recent incarnation of Tu-Ner. What do you enjoy about working with Pat and Markus?
Well, I've been playing with Pat for 30 some years now. It's just a very playful experience playing with Pat.
We're constantly teasing each other and trying to throw each other off and having fun on stage. I've known Marcus almost that long, but we haven't played together as much.
We did some duo concerts out in Seattle a couple of years ago and have done a lot of recording together.
Q – The album was recently released on 7D Media, a record label that you founded in 2006. In starting the label, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?
I've been running that label for a long time. I kind of started it with just my own releases and it has grown and grown.
It's not easy being a small label, but it works. And I'm seeing now the Tu-Ner record has been number one on the prog and experimental charts on Bandcamp for like a month now.
Q – Obviously that shows that people are interested in hearing this album. Does that make you happy that it is doing so well?
Yeah, it makes us very happy. And the record is very strange and unusual, so that makes us even more happy.
Q – So obviously there are people that want to listen to that type of music. There's a lot of artists out there that kind of copy each other, so I guess people appreciate something that's kind of different.
Yeah, this is not copying anything. It's very, very weird music.
And it's like that live too. We keep surprising each other.
Last night, we were in Buffalo. About half the show is improvised and Pat surprised us by going in a completely different direction last night.
Q – Is that kind of a thrill to go off in your own direction, so much that you're even surprising your fellow band members?
Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, that's real creative play when something happens that no one planned.
Q – I understand you first met Robert Fripp when he was teaching guitar in the 1980s. Did you ever imagine at that time that you would someday work with him?
No, no at all. I had no idea what to expect.
I was surprised when he asked me to work with him the first time and every time he's asked me to do a project with him, I've always been surprised.
Q – I'm sure there's a long list, but what kinds of things has he taught you?
Basically how to work as a musician. I'm not talking about professionally, but how to practice and how to play and how to pour your work into it.
No matter how much you prep, when you go on stage, it's completely different than practicing or prepping. It's a completely different experience.
Robert is very, very good about being open to what happens on stage.
Q – I know your primary instrument these days is a Warr guitar. What do you like about the instrument?
It's a tapped guitar, so it's completely all fingers of both hands tapping on the strings on the fretboard.
And it has five bass strings and five guitar strings. So it's kind of like playing the inside of a piano.
It lets me do pretty much anything you can do with any stringed instrument. I can do it all, so that's why I love it.
Q – Besides working with Robert Fripp, you’ve worked with many other musicians over the years, including John Paul Jones, Vernon Reid and Eric Johnson. Is it flattering to be such an in-demand musician?
Well, I guess I would say it's flattering to have been able to play with those guys. I feel like I played at their level, so that was great.
Q – Do you learn new things by playing with different musicians?
Everyone you play with is completely unique. You have to be on your toes and be ready to learn how you're going to blend with that particular musician. Every relationship is unique.
If there is a different guitar player that night, everything changes. And you have to adapt.