2005_08_mazzswift.jpgMazz Swift has been playing the violin since age 7. She is the electric violinist and singer for the Irish-folk-rock band Trigger, and one half of the world-music fusion duo Brazz Tree.

The basics:
Age, occupation, where are you from, where do you live now?
I'm 30, violinist and singer. I'm from Queens, born and raised. (Born in Long Island City and moved to Hollis.) I live in Jersey City now. It's still hard for me to spit it out.

A few for you:
How would you describe Trigger's sound?
Definitely Irish-folk-influenced fun party music.

How did Trigger come to be?
This is the third or fourth configuration since I've been in it. There was just a guitarist and a singer when I joined. First it was a band called Raglan Road -- this is Dave's gig, he's been doing this for like 8 yeas -- then Alternatrad showed up, and that was the group I joined, maybe three years ago. Sue Windelkin, the singer, Dave Barkow on the drums, Daryl Conlan on guitar and siging, Ed Kollar on guitar, and Matt Mancuso, an amazing, amazing fiddle player. Then he got a gig with Lord of the Dance, so I came in to fill in for him.

Who are your musical inspirations?
Classical music is my first love. A lot of the Romantic composers. And then Itzhak Perlman was the first guy who made me think, "I want to be a violinist." I went to Julliard and dropped out. Socially it was very awkward and competitive. Just not my scene. But I also discovered jazz violin at that time. I didn't know there was such a thing, all the way up until Julliard, and I heard Stephan Propelli the first time. He was an inspiration. John Luponte is another. Playing Irish music, Tony DiMarco is here in New York now. Kevin Burke. Patrick Street.

Does the drum-guitar-fiddle combo ever get you comparisons to Dave Matthews Band?
I get it all the time, but I think it's more because I'm black! The sound, especially since I started playing the electric violin, I think probably reminds people of them. I kind of resent that because I don't feel like he's a good violinist at all, and I will go on the record saying this. Partially, I think he's not allowed to do very much n the band -- he's not the star. But also, I don't think he would know what to do with it if he had more freedom. I think he's terrible. I feel offended by comparisons. And the band is so great. I love the band.

What are you doing playing in Queens? Isn't the music scene somewhere between Brooklyn and Downtown Manhattan?
They pay us in Queens! This is a living for us. And that's how it started out -- we'd been musicians, we liked playing together, and it sounded good. We should make it a band! And it's been a bit of trying to balance it out between paying gigs and trying to get ourselves out there.

Where's Trigger a few years from now?
I think we have a lot of short-term goals and no long-term goals. We want to get around the country doing a college circuit.

Do you and Dave Barstow fight over who gets to sing lead vocals?
Hell no. We only fight because he wants to make me sing more.

What are some of the best new bands out there?
I don't know. I don't listen to the radio. I get turned on to it by friends. There's a great new band called The Citizens, who I played with for about a minute but it was too crazy for me – I couldn't do all these gigs and rehearsals so I had to quit. There's another band I was playing with around that same time called Solar Face, which I ended up quitting too. I haven't counted how many bands I've played in.

What's on your iPod?
I just got into the Brian Jonestown Massacre because I saw that movie Dig. And a lot of Irish fiddle.

Who's the best Irish fiddle player?
My favorites are Tony DiMarco, Kevin Burke. I've been listening to Liz Carroll a lot lately. I like her playing with John Doyle, the guitarist.

What's your take on downloadable music? Will it be the death of album sales?
I have this strange faith that it won't be, but I don't know why. Maybe.

Must a band "sell out" to commercials and soundtracks to get heard?
Definitely do a commercial. You'll make money. I didn't really think so, and then in Dig they were talking about how the Dandy Warhols did a cellphone commercial overseas and just blew up from that. Soundtracks I think are a little cooler than car commercials, but as far as money? Commercials, commercials, commercials.

Why don't more rock bands use violinists?
Violinists are always trying to be classical musicians. I discovered that they didn't have to be when I was 19 or 20. I really didn't know the violin was for anything else.

I'm also in a band called Brazz Tree. This is a project I write music for and sing--and I've got a partner, Brad Hammonds on guitar. It's all of my influences, a lot of middle eastern-sounding stuff, classical, a little bit of jazz, rock, and Celtic-influenced stuff.

How do you divide your energy and creativity for so many different bands, and so many different styles of music?
It's hard. I don't spend enough time writing music. Brazz Tree has a new CD – we just finished it, it's being pressed now. So the past six months, we've really not written anything new. Jut working on getting that together and out there, playing the music from the CD. That was why I quit all these bands I mentioned. I'm making OK money, and some of these things I'm just doing, rehearsing but not making anything, and that's fine – but I'm exhausted. So I had to quit 'em all, and go broke but be happier. But then this gig came up and I got to play with Kanye West. But I think there might be a few more of those. That's exciting.

Best gig you've played?
The best have been here, with Trigger at Maggie Mae's on Queens Boulevard. And with Brazz Tree at Rockwood Music Hall, on Allen Street, just off of Houston. The coolest, tiny little place. It's a listening room—people actually listen to you there. The vibe is always really great -- people are really into it.
I did a gig for MoveOn.org where Perry Farrell sang and Moby was there, a bunch of stars. That was really fun, playing "Idiot Rules" with Perry Farrell. All this stuff I listened to fifty times a day for years.

Who do you wish you could collaborate with?
There's a guy named Simon Jeffes. I heard this tune at the end of Napoleon Dynamite. He's a really cool pianist composer, and I think it'd be really cool to play with him.

What would you be doing if not playing music?
I'd be dead.

Favorite bar or restaurant in New York?
The Churrascaria Plataforma, on 49th Street between 8th and 9th. Meat! Meat galore. I love meat. Meat is good.

Best celebrity encounter on the streets of New York?
I was playing at this bar called the Falls in SoHo, and Russell Crowe came by, the day before he got arrested for bashing some hotel employee. My friend stared at him the whole time until he got up and left. When he beat that guy, I thought it was all that rage from being stared at by fans.

What's life like for an ex-New Yorker in Jersey?
It's a hell of a lot cheaper. It's really beautiful -- it actually reminds me of Park Slope, where I'd lived: it's tree-lined and brownstones and lots of baby carriages and lesbians. It is beautiful, I feel like it's always sunny over there. The downer? You can't get sushi after 8 in the evening. Everything closes. Sundays, forget it! You can't get anything on Sundays. I'm so used to being able to get what I want, when I want.

What advice do you have for Mayor Bloomberg?
Get a life? I have to say I'm not a politics person. All the guys up there bullshit, and their concerns are not my concerns.

Samples of Mazz's music are available at BrazzTree.com and TriggerNYC.com. Or you can come see her perform twice a month at the Listening Room at Café Vivaldi, or weekly at Maggie Mae's.