The Man Who Made Roulette Into New York’s Music Lab

After that, why did you leave Manhattan?

I decided, OK, it’s time to move to Brooklyn. The critical mass of artists and people interested in this work are in Brooklyn now. And when I walked into that space, it was like when I walked into this space. It was: “This is an incredible space. This is wonderful. It feels great, if we can afford this and make it work.”

You’re still a performing artist and composer. How much of your own work were you able to do while operating Roulette?

A lot, up through Greene Street. But when we moved into the new space in Brooklyn, it really took over. I stopped doing my own concerts; I just didn’t feel like it was the right venue for what I wanted to do.

I did a couple of things with other people, and of course I played on improv things that Zorn put together. The nice thing about improv is that you work with what you have, so it’s not such a leap to jump back into it. But I haven’t been focused on projects, and now I’m rethinking what I might want to do, creatively, and whether it’s starting over or picking up from what point.

So this was the time to step away?

It’s not something I needed to do, to stop. It’s something I felt was best for the organization, for someone else to come in. I’m having less and less of a relationship or understanding of a lot of the younger artists and what they need, what they want to do, what their work is. I can see the value of it, and it has to be presented. But I don’t always feel as much of a connection with the work or the people, and it’s important that the artistic director is connected with the people.

What made Matt Mehlan the right person to take over?

I knew he was somebody who really understood. He’s a composer and a musician himself, and he understands that you give people what they need. You don’t need to hold their hands; you just make sure they have what they need to realize the work they want to do.

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