Travellin’ Light

Josh Sinton
Answers 20 Questions About Life on the Road

Josh Sinton                                                                                                  ©2014 Johannes Worsoe Berg

Josh Sinton is a Brooklyn-based saxophonist and composer best known for leading Ideal Bread, a quartet with Kirk Knuffke and Tomas Fujiwarara dedicated to interpreting the music of Steve Lacy. Their third album – the 2-CD Beating the Teens, which revisits Lacy’s collection of classic Saravah albums, Scratching the Seventies – will be released on Cuneiform in May, followed by performances at the Moers Festival and de Singel in Antwerp. Sinton’s ongoing projects include Holus-Polus, a quintet that includes Jon Irbagon and Mike Pride, and Blivton, an electro-acoustic trio with Dan Blake and Yoni Niv. Additionally, Sinton is a member of Nate Wooley’s Quintet, with whom he will be touring Europe in March, and Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society. Sinton will also participate in the Tricentric Foundation’s April festival at Roulette, as both a soloist in Anthony Braxton’s new opera, Trillium J (The Non-Unconfessionables), and in ensembles performing Braxton’s “Composition No.46” and a new work by James Fei.

For more information about Josh Sinton, visit:

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What is the most difficult airline to deal with in terms of instruments and equipment?

The one whose employees give me the stink-eye as I’m about board the airplane and then affix the evil pink card to the side of the leather satchel containing my saxophone. This is the pink card that signifies to the next gatekeeper that my instrument should be checked/abused. The airlines take turns employing these orcs. Two years ago it was American, last year it was Jet Blue, two weeks ago it was United. It’s the evilest game of duck-duck-goose you can imagine.


Which airline has the worst economy seating and food?

Eh, all the economy seating’s chintzy. That’s why I’m happy (happy I tell you!) to get the seat next to the emergency exit. No one wants to sit there and I get some leg room. The food is purely functional. It’s function is to prevent me from chewing my arm off. It performs this function adequately.


Which airport is craziest for making connecting flights?

Toronto might win this one currently. I was on my way back from Canada to NYC with a layover in Toronto. I figured two hours was more than enough time. Travellers be forewarned: the Candian-U.S. governments have decided (in their infinite wisdom) to place the passport check in Toronto for U.S.-bound flights. My family and I literally raced onto our connecting flight as they were about to shut the plane door.


What is the most important thing you ever forgot to pack?

Underwear. And reeds. They were both really important. Forgetting one of them made things really gross. Can’t remember which one that was…


What is your worst lost baggage story?

I’m nervous to answer this one because I don’t really have one. And by admitting that, I feel like I might jinx myself and now I’m dooming myself to certain instrument destruction. If I just make up a story, will that prevent this from transpiring?


What country hassles musicians the most at customs and passport checks?

Hmm, I have to say the U.S., but to their credit, they’re an equal-opportunity hassler. They really don’t’ care what you do for a living. If the TSA agent or Customs agent wants to make your trip, your day miserable, they’ll jump at the first opportunity regardless of what you’re carrying or doing with your life. I’ve seen ‘em make grown mothers cry. Kind of awful really.


Which city has the worst cab drivers?

Boston. Hands-down. They’ll let anyone drive a cab there. You could have arrived from Timbuktu the day before and they’ll give you a medallion to drive a cab there. And that is not a city you should be driving in without a photographic memory. Delhi’s pretty close. I never got used to the fact that the car horn is used as a means of greeting fellow drivers there. Drove me a bit batty.


What is the best hotel that a presenter has provided for you?

There was a show at the Teatro Manzoni in Milan that was pretty fun. The theater itself was a strange, underground Art Deco cave. And they put each of us up in a very nice, rather fancy room. Then there was that giant hall in Detroit in late winter where I slept in my sleeping bag under two blankets. Like camping, but with wall-to-wall carpet.


Do you travel with a laptop or a PDA? If so, how many times a day do you check your e-mail?

I used to always travel with my laptop, but lately I try to do it with just the phone if it’s going to be a 2-4 day trip. E-mail gets checked 2-12 times a day while on tour. Depends on how many upcoming shows I need to be tracking and if I’ve got things coming up when I get home and if I can get phone service.


Do you listen to music on the road? If so, what device do you use?

Again, the phone. Longer trips I bring the laptop and use that. I also bring 2-4 books as well as staff paper and a blank notebook. I’m mortally afraid of becoming bored. I did invest in a nice pair of headphones (KNS-8400’s from KRK) though so I could do more serious listening.


Do you do your own laundry on the road?

Only if I’m out for more than 5 days. Or if I forget underwear (see above).


What is your most nightmarish sound check to date?

That’s a tie: there was the one where the band played essentially an entire set’s worth of music without stopping (a solid hour) and then we had to go and do it again (“for real”) an hour later. Then there was the soundcheck in Albequerque in mid-summer where there was no protection from the sun and I was convinced my weird, old mouthpiece made of vulcanized rubber was going to melt. It started to smell like a melting tire.


What is the scariest food that has been laid out for you backstage?

I’ll eat just about anything, so not too much scares me. But little snack bowls filled with salted nuts and potato chips make no kind of sense to me. Not sure why I’d like to coat my mouth in salt just before I huff a bunch of air.


What are your three favorite venues?

The old Velvet Lounge in Chicago (RIP), the Moers festival, Barbes in Brooklyn.


Which cities have the best restaurants for late after-gig meals?

New York and Chicago. But you need guides for both of these places. I’ve heard Montreal has excellent after-gig options, but I need to find out for myself.


Which cities have the best after-hours sessions?

Chicago has some good ones. Dunno if the New Apartment Lounge is still going, but I’m pretty sure the Sabretooth quartet is still at the Green Mill on Saturdays. Honestly, most places seem to have ditched the after-hours session. I think it’s kind of a NiMBY thing, but I also think it’s because most everyone is required to work stupid, crazy hours to pay for rent. It’s been a while since I’ve been to a place with a serious late-night culture.


What is the best city that closes down too early?

Paris. And I don’t know if it’s the “best,” but Boston really does shut down obscenely early. I swear to god, there’s something wrong with that city.


What is the best locale to have a day off?

Anywhere with a good art museum. So yes, Houston, Texas is actually a great place to have a day off. I went to the Rothko cathedral and the Menil collection and it was one of the best afternoons of my life.


What is your cure for jet lag?

Patience. And coffee. A little bit of nicotine never hurts either.


What is your best tip for the novice?

When it comes to travelling, learn to become the most self-contained, self-sufficient person possible. If you can carry all of your needs inside of yourself, then you’ll rarely be disappointed in the places you go to. Bored maybe, but not disappointed.

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