Travellin’ Light

Chad Taylor
Answers 20 Questions About Life on the Road

Chad Taylor
Chad Taylor                                                                        Courtesy of Chad Taylor

Chad Taylor is a New York-based percussionist and composer who spent his early years in Chicago. In the 90s, Taylor co-founded the Chicago Underground ensembles, began his current tenure with the Fred Anderson Trio, and recorded and performed with indie-rock bands. Currently, Taylor performs with guitarist Marc Ribot, co-leads Digital Primitives with multi-instrumentalist Cooper-Moore and saxophonist Assif Tsahar, and leads Circle Down, a trio with pianist Angelica Sanchez and bassist Chris Lightcap (their debut album is reviewed in this issue’s Moment’s Notice). 2010 promises to be a busy year for Taylor. Boca Negra, a new Chicago Underground Duo album will be released in January on Thrill Jockey; Taylor and CU trumpeter Rob Mazurek will tour the West Coast in February and the East Coast in September. Digital Primitives will be touring and recording in March. Taylor will be touring Europe twice with Ribot; first with bassist Henry Grimes in April, and then with guitarist Mary Halvorson and bassist Jason Ajemian in October. For more information, visit:

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

El Al.  One time I made it all the way to the gate when I was stopped and asked about my mbira. I explained that it was a musical instrument, but I was told that it looked like a weapon and that it must be checked.  They told me that the only way I could bring the instrument on board is if I was traveling first class.  I calmly asked if I could talk to a supervisor.  By the time the supervisor came everybody was on board the plane except me.  The supervisor carefully examined my instrument and said it was a weapon and walked away, so I handed it over to security who put it in a plastic bag and then put it beneath the plane with the other bags.  By the time I walked on the plane I was told that there were no more seats available so they would have to bump me up to first class.

Which airline has the worst economy seating and food?

It's a tie between American and United.

Which airport is craziest for making connecting flights?


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

Money.  One time I was going to Istanbul.  We were told by the promoters that once we got off the plane we could purchase a visa for 25 dollars. They  forgot to mention that for Americans there was a special visa price of 100 dollars, and they don't take credit cards and the only ATM is located past passport control.

What is your worst lost baggage story?

 One time I was asked to DJ at the Oslo jazz festival.  It was very exciting because it was my first and only DJ gig.  I took about 50 records.  And I am not talking about any records. I am talking about the cream of the crop (People in Sorrow; Cosmic Music; The Max Roach Trio, Featuring the Legendary Hassan. ... etc;  all original pressings). Before the Oslo gig I had a gig in Portugal playing with the Chicago Underground Quartet.  So I had to fly NewYork to Portugal, Portugal to Oslo and then Oslo back home to New York. I was flying Air France.  A day before my flight  Air France decided to go on strike. First my cymbals got lost going to Portugal. Luckily they arrived right before the hit. Then when I got to Oslo my clothes bag got lost. It arrived right before I had to leave to go back to New York. When I got to New York I was told that my records were lost.  Three days later I got a call from Air France telling me that they could not find my DJ case, It was lost for good, and that I needed to fill out some paper work if I wanted to be reinbursed the maximum amount of money which was 500 dollars. I was completely devastated.  Miraculously  two months later I got a knock on my door at 3 in the morning. It was a messenger from  Air France, and he had my case.

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

Unfortunately I am an quite an expert on this. I  would say the USA and then Italy, Austria, Turkey, all of Eastern Europe, Israel and Canada. One time when I was crossing the border between Croatia and Italy, a passport officer told me my passport was fake, he pulled me off the train, cut my passport up, and locked me up in jail.  There is also a Chad Taylor born on my birthday who is on the no-fly list, so needless to say I have been hassled coming back to America quite often.

Which city has the worst cab drivers?


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

I quite like the Congress in Tucson, Arizona because the venue is part of the hotel.

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

I travel with a laptop. I check my email whenever I can.

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

Yes, my iPhone.

Do you do your own laundry on the road?


What is your most nightmarish sound check to date?

I once had a sound check that turned into a 5 hour rehearsal.

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

I try not to eat before I play.

What are your three favorite venues?

 Kset in Zagreb,  The Ryman Auditorium, and the old Velvet Lounge in Chicago.

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

Sydney, Chicago, Florence, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, Berlin.

Which cities have the best after-hours sessions?


What is the best city that closes down too early?


What is the best locale to have a day off?

When I am on the road I usually don't go sight seeing so any location is the best  location to have a day off.

What is your cure for jet lag?


What is your best tip for the novice?

Always remain calm.

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