Bradford Reed is the inventor and probably the only player of the pencilina, an instrument that he describes as "an electric ten-stringed collision of the hammer dulcimer, slide guitar, koto and fretless bass with six pickups of varied types" and looks something like a surf board caught up in a fishing net. He has played with King Missile, the Blue Man Group band and has composed for film and animation. He has appeared on MTV, Sound FX and the Tonight Show, as well as on the streets of New York.
To learn more, visit pencilina.com.
Tell us about the pencilina. How did you come to create it?
My friend's parents were building a fence in their back yard. I strung a spare fence post with old electric guitar parts. Eventually I added more sophisticated pickups and another neck.
Are you still making revisions on it?
Sort of. The last pencilina was built about six years ago. Most of my revisions now have to deal with tuning and filtering.
And where did the name come from?
I used to play it with pencils. In college I had a class with the amazing composer Wadada Leo Smith and he came up with the name.
Did you play other instruments (or do you still) before inventing it?
Yes, drums and piano.
How often do you play on the streets?
Not much recently because I've had a lot of work in my studio. I used to play every weekend.
What were some of the best (or worst) experiences you've had playing on the street?
-Dropping the pencilina on the sidewalk and cracking it in three places.
-There was a rent-a-cop who had it in for me for a summer and would call the police (f*&king cock). Eventually I got a ticket that was laughed out of court when the judge asked me what instrument played.
-Meeting lots of amazing people.
-Having James Earl Jones call me a ragamuffin and chase me away from playing in from of his Soho pad.
-Good days when I sold a lot of CDs.
Where is your favorite spot to play?
It was near Astor Wines on Astor Place
What have you been up to recently?
Making recordings and doing mostly freelance composing and producing. I had a Sundance Fellowship a few years ago that opened up some scoring work. Currently, I'm finishing up the music for last of 10 Golden Age episodes with Augenblick Studios for Comedy Central. There are a few up for free download on iTunes and on Comedy Centrals site. I'm in the middle of a new CD and working on a suite of interconnected pieces for the pencilina, string quartet and percussion.
Are you still working with King Missile?
How long have you been in New York?
My whole life.
What part of town do you live in?
It's a secret.
Where are you from originally?
What's your favorite spot for breakfast?
Dim sum in Brooklyn Chinatown (Jade Plaza, 61st and 8th).