Chicago Musician Bill MacKay On Chopin, Yoko Ono And Hot Dogs
Chicago guitarist Bill MacKay likes to take in the city on foot. He also likes to put ketchup on his (veggie) hot dogs.
MacKay has been making folk, blues, and jazz music for more than two decades. His new album, Fountain Fire, comes out this month.
MacKay will play a record-release show March 29 at The Hideout, but first he answered six questions about everything from Chicago style hot dogs to the last book he read.
What do you get on your hot dog?
Bill MacKay: I've been a vegetarian for 20 years, but I do eat vegetarian hot dogs. And I get them with ketchup and mustard — and I might throw a little relish on there.
What’s the last song you listened to?
MacKay: I was listening to Mary Lattimore’s new record. She’s a harpist, and she’s making great statements with her music. She just played at the Pitchfork Midwinter fest. She uses effects with her harp. It’s compositional. There’s all kinds of great colors. And we’re going to do a show together on the West Coast soon.
Where do you go in Chicago for inspiration or to clear your head?
MacKay: My partner and I walk all over the city. Being a flat city, it’s easy to do. One thing we like to do is walk to shows. There’s something about walking in with that invigorated feeling and taking in the music. We’ve gotten pretty known for this, so people — especially if it’s a far-off venue — will say, “Please don’t tell me you walked here!” But we do. We walk from Pilsen up to Constellation. But we cab it back.
Which one of your parents’ records had an effect on you?
MacKay: My dad had one of those big, 16-record box sets of classical music. There was a side of Chopin music played by Jorge Bole, a great Cuban pianist. I’ve never heard anyone play Chopin like him. The feeling that he had was so rhapsodic, so spot on, and radiant. And I would listen to that one side of that one record over and over.
What’s the last book you read?
MacKay: Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano. It’s this epic read that takes place in one day. ... It’s about a British consul in Mexico. His wife has left him, and she’s coming back. Stunning language. Really amazing.
Who’s your musical crush? Who would you love to play with?
MacKay: Yoko Ono. She’s moved me a lot over the years. I think her work is very provocative in this very organic way. She’s not trying to shock people. But from her music to her sculpture to everything she’s done, there’s this feeling of wanting to break open your consciousness and invite in a little more light.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Press play above to hear Jenn White’s interview with Davis from WBEZ’s The Morning Shift.