Travellin’ Light

Dave Rempis
Answers 20 Questions About Life on the Road

Dave Rempis + Pandelis Karayorgis                                                                        Courtesy of Dave Rempis

Saxophonist Dave Rempis is a leading light of the current Chicago jazz scene; he was catapulted into the international spotlight in 1998 at 22, when he was invited to replace veteran saxophonist Mars Williams in The Vandermark Five. Since then, Rempis has gone on to form a number of his own bands, including The Rempis Percussion Quartet, The Rempis/Daisy Duo, and The Rempis/Rosaly Duo, as well as cooperative units like Ballister, The Engines, and Wheelhouse. His previous working groups include Triage and the Dave Rempis Quartet, with most of his early efforts documented on labels like 482 Music, Not Two, and Okkadisk. Rempis also continues to tour with Ken Vandermark’s Resonance Ensemble and Territory Band, and The Ingebrigt Håker-Flaten Quintet/Sextet. His past collaborators include a wide variety of creative improvised music legends, ranging from Peter Brötzmann and John Tchicai to Joe McPhee and Roscoe Mitchell.

Rempis also works diligently as a presenter in the greater Chicago area. He has served as a curator for the Elastic Arts Foundation’s weekly concert series, helped establish the Umbrella Music collective and its annual music festival, worked as lead organizer of the Downtown Sound Gallery concert series at Gallery 37, and is also a key organizer of the yearly Pitchfork Music Festival.

In 2013 Rempis started Aerophonic Records, a 100% artist-run label designed to document his own efforts and those of his peers. The imprint’s current releases include Cash And Carry, by The Rempis Percussion Quartet, with Rempis joined by Ingebrigt Håker-Flaten, Tim Daisy and Frank Rosaly, and Western Automatic, by the Chicago Reed Quartet, featuring Rempis, Nick Mazzarella, Mars Williams and Ken Vandermark.

For further information on Dave Rempis, visit:

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

Any and all, unless you’re Scandinavian and have a gold card on Scandinavian airlines, then you’re set.


Which airline has the worst economy seating and food?

Generally any U.S. carrier.


Which airport is craziest for making connecting flights?

Charles De Gaulle. Frankfurt isn’t far behind.


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

A second bottle of bourbon.


What is your worst lost baggage story?

Thankfully, nothing really that bad. Although there was one time soon after 9/11 when they lost my bag for a few days on the way back from Europe. When they found it, an Italian guy wearing a track suit, gold chains, and driving a huge sedan came and dropped it off, sort of acting like I owed him a favor. Not sure where United was getting their couriers at that time.


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

The U.S of course. Land of the free.


Which city has the worst cab drivers?



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

Tops of the list were the Iron Horse in Milwaukee when it had first opened around 2010, all the little fancy boutique places we stayed on a British Council sponsored tour of England in 2001, and all the weird great guesthouse/ski resorts I’ve stayed at in Austria over the years.


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

Yes, and constantly. Have to stay in touch with life, day job, other upcoming tours, booking gigs, etc.


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

Not as much as I’d like to. I’m often trying to sleep while travelling, unless I’m driving the van. When I do I have an iPod from about 2003.


Do you do your own laundry on the road?

Hell yeah! That’s the first thing I look at when I see a tour itinerary – where are the days off so that I can I do laundry? I know my favorite laundromats from Krakow to Vienna to London, as well as the handful of clubs that actually have their own washing machine (thanks Manufaktur in Schorndorf, Germany!)


What is your most nightmarish sound check to date?

There are so many, but most recently a four-hour sound check for Serbian national radio and television where 25 or so techs were running around the entire time smoking and screaming at each in Serbian while we tried to figure out what the hell was going on.


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

I played a venue called “Speak In Tongues” in Cleveland on my first tour ever in 1998.  It’s still a legendary spot among those who were unlucky enough to have played there – basically a storefront with a bunch of punk kids squatting there and doing concerts. At one point I walked into the “kitchen” with Kent Kessler to find two kids sitting on the floor with a bag of Wonder Bread between them, eating defensively, as if they were rats who just found a head of lettuce behind a dumpster. But they were nice enough to look up at Kent when we walked in and offer him some. He declined.


What are your three favorite venues?

Hmmn ... historically, The Velvet Lounge in Chicago, Casa Del Popolo in Montreal, and Alchemia in Krakow.  Currently – Casa Del Popolo, Pardon Tu To in Warsaw, and Blue Tomato in Vienna.


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

Barcelona and Berlin.


Which cities have the best after-hours sessions?

I don’t really go to many “sessions” to sit in, but Chicago has some good ones.


What is the best city that closes down too early?

Good cities stay open late.


What is the best locale to have a day off?

I always try to build a day off in Montreal and Vienna into any tour. New Orleans is also at the top of the list!


What is your cure for jet lag?

Don’t sleep too much when you first get in, stay up till at least a normal bed time, and drink plenty to make sure you don’t wake up after 3 hours.


What is your best tip for the novice?

Sleep when you’re dead. Stay up all night and enjoy the crazy people and places you find along the way. Most people don’t get to travel the way we do, and being a tourist just isn’t the same.

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