Jan 092019
 

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Tapes - cover artwork

“Uprootedness is a theme I was concentrated on and was dealing a lot with in my past
exhibitions and art projects. For many years I was searching for a place which I could call home. When I returned to the piano 4 years ago after a long break since my childhood (started at 6, quit at 14) I had the feeling I was returning home. I realized
that my home is not a psychical place that I can touch rather it is an abstract such as music which has no boundaries. So this album is celebrating the discovery I found home in music”. These are the first words by which Daniela Orvin introduced her debut album ‘Home’ (recently out on Berlin-based label Seasides on Postcards)… Let’s get into her home with her own words!

Chain D.L.K.: Hi, Daniela! How are you?

Daniela Orvin: Hi! I’m good, thanks, really happy about the attention and feedback that my recent album ‘Home’ is getting. Thanks also so much for your wonderful album review.

Chain D.L.K.: Your name came out on this zine on the occasion of a chat with Yair Etziony, another Israeli expat, who mentioned a collaboration with you…could you tell us something about it? How did you meet Yair?

Daniela Orvin: I know Yair from a mutual friend who sent him some of my music just before he moved to Berlin. So, here in Berlin, we became friends. A remix I did for Yair’s track Avalon was released half a year ago, in a remix album of his music on False Industries, and yes, we are working on some collaborations…but let’s keep it as a surprise.

interview picture 1Chain D.L.K.: Compliments for your Home! Before talking about it, let’s look back a little…how did you get closer to music composition and listening? Do you remember any staggering moment (a concert, listening to something in particular or any event) related to this path?

Daniela Orvin: Thank you for the compliments again! Coming from a music-enthusiastic family, I’ve listened to music since I was born. Looking back now, understanding my process and musical development, I realized that while starting to play the piano at a young age, I also started to learn about composing music from just listening to it in a more critical way, developing my hearing, and understanding and feeling music from my guts. In my teenage years, I was also a big radio fan, and a bit later also a clubber for many years, so music was always present and there for me.

I was always dreaming or secretly wanting to write my own music, but I didn’t dare until about 4 years ago. I just love music so much and it’s such a major factor in my life that I was afraid to touch this, afraid I would not be good enough and that I would just be disappointed with my efforts. It was a combination of severe perfectionism, severe insecurity and some severe stupidity.

Chain D.L.K.: You were born in Israel, but you’re currently living in Berlin. In between, you changed other towns and cities for different reasons according to your official biography…well, is there a place you really consider as your Home?

Daniela Orvin: No, I was born in Berlin! So, originally from Berlin, I came back to Berlin hoping to find my home here after not finding it in other places including Israel, where I lived most of my life. As I have studied art I have also expressed my uprootedness in my photographs, discussing this in my solo exhibitions but eventually returning to play the piano after a very long break. Starting to write my own music made me realize that my home is Music, a non-physical place that has no boundaries. It’s where I feel the most comfortable; it’s where I feel I belong. My album Home is referring to this personal discovery and celebrates it.

Chain D.L.K.: I read you started playing piano when you were 6 yrs old. Is that recognizable composition on the first moments of the opening “Prelude (Part 1)” related to that age?

Daniela Orvin: The beginning of Prelude (Part 1) is a recording of my performance of Bach – Prelude 1. Although I didn’t learn to play this specific piece in my childhood…it was more recently…I practice/ play it a lot to myself. My intention was to open to the listener a door to my private space/ my home by starting the album with a recording of me playing this familiar piece to myself at home, which gets blended and turns into my own composition.

interview picture 2Chain D.L.K.: Those first notes of Prelude seem to gradually “expand” and float over the environment where you were maybe hitting those keys (as suggested by the field recording I can perceive)…would you describe the images in your mind that were mirrored by such a movement in that Prelude?

Daniela Orvin: Ooh, most of the album, including ‘Prelude,’ was written so fast last April, and I have a total blackout of the specific moments / thoughts/ images in my mind/ decisions/ inspiration etc. while writing it. I just remember it was magical, very pleasant and a lot of fun.

Chain D.L.K.: The second part of this incipit was titled Unexpected Coincidence…what does it refer to? Why do I have the feeling its synths are close to the ones of the soundtrack of Stranger Things (as well as some stuff by Sigur Ros, that you explicitly mentioned as sources of inspiration)? 🙂

Daniela Orvin: ‘Unexpected Coincidence’ is a direct continuation of Prelude; it shares the same notes and chords, but instead of playing it on the piano, I play it on the synth. As the album has a personal reference and my life or path is full of coincidences, including the discovery that my home is music, I decided to name this piece like that as well. Track 6 is titled Surrendering to Coincidence, so I thought Coincidences could be a nice title connection on the album, and hopefully the track is unexpected because it starts with one melody and mood but develops and ends with a completely different mood and melody.

I am not so sure why it feels as if the synth is close to the one on the soundtrack of Stranger Things. I had to check the trailer on YouTube as I wasn’t familiar with the music or the series and I don’t have Netflix, but maybe generally it’s the same synth. I use a Minilogue, which is a polyphonic synth, and it has basically and mostly a very specific, characteristic sound.

Chain D.L.K.: I like that image on the cover artwork where a pic of sea waves replaced the score. Did you make this graphical choice?

Daniela Orvin: Thank you. I made the graphical choice and also photographed both photos: the photo which replaces the score on the piano and the cover photo of the album itself.

Chain D.L.K.: It brought to mind The Waves by Ludovico Einaudi…any reference to him? Did you like his kind of “minimalism?”

Daniela Orvin: So, now I feel really ignorant or living on another planet…I had to google him and check the music. I’m listening to it now, and to be honest, it’s OK, but not really my taste or something that might inspire me. I love minimalism, but the melodic decisions or choices are mostly not my cup of tea.

Jóhann Jóhannsson – Fordlândia or “Flight from the City” for instance, or any other piece by him – are also minimalistic and repetitive and work, which I enjoy and am very much inspired by every time I hear, although of course what I’m doing is very different from what Jóhann Jóhannsson did. It might be an inspiration point, but from there, I take it to my own place.

Chain D.L.K.: We already mentioned Sigur Ros. The style of the Icelandic band (as well as the ones by Amiina and maybe Mum…other wonderful Icelandic entities) becomes clearer on the first vocal track we meet during listening, the intense For Now… any words about this song?

Daniela Orvin: Mentioning Jóhann Jóhannsson in the answer before…I love Icelandic musicians and music. I visited Iceland in 2012 because I was so curious about the origins of those amazing musicians and their unique music. I wanted to understand their inspiration and background, and I think I did. My visit in Iceland really influenced me, and it’s also where I decided to move to Berlin and realize my dream to write my own music. In Berlin, I’ve started playing the piano again and discovered my new/ old home in music, so everything has a connection and to do with Iceland. Also, the photo I took, which is placed on the piano instead of the score on my cover artwork, is from Iceland. And thanks so much for thinking that For Now has some Icelandic style or influences; it’s a great compliment for me.

‘For Now’ is a song that I wrote a while ago, separately from the rest of the album, and it was musically the core of the album. It’s a love song, and I sing in it 3 words in Hebrew: ‘Le’et atta, Ata,’ which means, ‘for now, you.’ In Hebrew, it’s a word game, because Now and You sound the same but are written differently. The kind of electronics / percussion sounds are actually a recording of me typing on the computer keyboard, and I also use some recordings of the Mediterranean sea I asked an Israeli friend to record for me.

interview picture 3Chain D.L.K.: One of my favorite moments of the album, “Spring Came Early”… what does that refer to?

Daniela Orvin: It’s my favorite piece on the album. It just refers to the fact that spring came early at that specific time, and it felt so wonderful and refreshing after another Berlin winter. I was in such a good mood while writing it. Hopefully it’s possible to hear my joy in the music.

Chain D.L.K.: “18:00 From My Balcony”… what were you staring at that time? Which balcony? A “spiritual” one?

Daniela Orvin: It’s the only piece on the album I wrote notes first, so I wasn’t staring at anything rather struggling to learn the notes and perform it, as it was as unfamiliar to my fingers as if someone else wrote it. The balcony is my home physical balcony and the field recording accompanying the piano was taken at 18:00 from that balcony; you can hear the church bells in the background that are hinting that it’s 18:00 and the sounds from the street and the street train/ tram near my home.

Chain D.L.K.: Are you performing Home on live stage yet? If yes, have you planned some tour yet?

Daniela Orvin: I’m not performing live at all. The last time I performed in a concert was at age 13. I made a mistake on the last note of a piece which made me think I was not a good enough pianist, and therefore, I also quit playing the instrument. So, big issues and trauma for me. I never really enjoyed performing in front of an audience. I always felt it was some kind of test that I needed to prove myself and it’s very stressful for me. I prefer and enjoy composing music much more, being behind the scenes or writing music for film or video games, for instance. The music for Home is also mostly not easy to perform live, so if at any point I decide to play something from this album in front of an audience, I will need to write performance versions.

Chain D.L.K.: Besides listeners (and hopefully all those who are reading this interview and listening to your music while doing that), would you open the gates of your Home to some other musicians to remake some songs?

Daniela Orvin:  That is actually a great idea which didn’t cross my mind at all. Of course! If anyone is interested, please contact me!

Chain D.L.K.: Any work in progress?

Daniela Orvin: I’m trying to work on new material and have ideas and drafts, but life itself and some non-fun things have recently been interfering. Hopefully, this will end soon; I’m very eager to get back to concentrating full time on music. But there is also music ready and waiting to be released. There is the album “The Writings,” which is a mutual work with Sven Laux, who is also owner of Seasides on Postcards, which released the album Home. The Writings will be released on Dronarivm next year, and I’m very much looking forward for this. A new piece will be released soon in a compilation themed Sleeping Music on the British Whitelabrecs, and another mutual track with Sven which will also be released soon in a charity compilation that Dronarivm is involved in.

Visit Daniela Orvin’s website at: www.danielaorvin.com

Jan 092019
 

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Discrepant recently released (or I’d better say re-released, as it was originally released by Turkish label Wounded Wolf Press) Loopworks, a collection of tracks that Turkish audio and visual artist Koray Kantarcioğlu made by means of the process known as databending. Most of the sonic sources came from old Turkish records (mainly of the 60s or 70s) whose samples were transformed by a series of effects. This formula has been matched to the recent outputs by James Leyland Kirby as The Caretaker and its ‘haunted ballroom’ effect, but according to the introductory words attached to the record, “Kirby connects more with the idea of memory and its disappearance/transformation, Koray Kantarcioğlu explores the usage and the dynamic of these sounds as ambient music for different scenarios and the importance of a new-found life of the raw material he used to create these songs.” Let’s give voice to Koray to talk about his interesting art, then…

Chain D.L.K.: Hi, Koray! How are you?

Koray Kantarcioğlu: Happy with the recent re-release of Loopworks 🙂

Chain D.L.K.: It was a great surprise to find an artist from Atay Ilgun’s imprint Wounded Wolf Press on Discrepant. We had a talk some years ago as I found the artists, who were re-united on his label, extremely interesting…and maybe you were one of them. How did you meet Ilgun and his editorial project?

Koray Kantarcioğlu: I met him after my solo drawing exhibition in 2013. He wanted to release a monograph from WWP including my landscape drawings. We ended up adding a complimentary mixed CD with the ambient/drone material I produced. (http://www.woundedwolfpress.co.uk/portfolio/bitmap-landscapes-2/) Later I released Loopworks from WWP in 2016 as 100pcs tape.

Loopworks cover artwork

Loopworks – cover artwork

Chain D.L.K.: ‘Loopworks’ itself, the album on the likewise appreciated label Discrepant, came out on WWP before (in 2016, as far as I know). How did Discrepant meet your sound?

Koray Kantarcioğlu: Actually, I was in contact with Discrepant back in 2011 for different projects. Somehow we lost contact after some point. Last year, we found out that my emails went to their spam folder. So after a long pause, I presented some material I had to Discrepant, including Loopworks. That’s how it happened.

Chain D.L.K.: I really appreciated the whole collection of loops, so let’s dig deeper into it as you dug deeper into old Turkish records to grab some samples…first of all, would you like to introduce some of them to us?

Koray Kantarcioğlu: The whole Loopworks Lp is made from samples I took from 8 records, mostly in jazz, funk and folk genres. The titles of the tracks come from catalog numbers of the records, except a few.
I don’t want listeners to be influenced by the source material, and that’s why I keep the originals to myself.
Unlike Caretaker’s music, I tried to melt nuances of the original material.

Chain D.L.K.: Some tracks (“22 47 91 Take 1,” for instance) keep the typical hiss of vinyl, yet…any technical issues in grabbing some of the above mentioned samples due to the age of the original support?

Koray Kantarcioğlu: I used a typical turntable to rip the tracks I wanted to work on. I actually enjoy the byproducts of the mediums. So, I’m happy with the crackles and hiss. I also made poor quality mp3s of some samples I took on purpose, to insert that whistle kind of noise to the mix. You can hear that on AC RU 29 Part 2.

Chain D.L.K.: I had the impression (particularly on the tracks on side A) that there was a sort of sonic glue that joined together the tracks, sounding different but homogeneous at the same time… Could this ‘glue’ be what has been described as the ‘haunted ballroom’ effect?

Koray Kantarcioğlu: The tracks on the album were made between 2009 – 2016, and there are many unreleased ones I put aside. I selected tracks that give the feeling you mentioned. Also, the overall use of same kind of reverb, delay and granular effects also has an important part.

Chain D.L.K.: Any of your loop works that really hypnotized or hit you to the point that you had the urge to listen to it in your mind for days and days after recording?

Koray Kantarcioğlu: These are the ones: 500606, 22 47 91 Take 1, Organic Extract KP 001, AC RU 29 Part 2, AC RU 29 Loop TK2.

Chain D.L.K.: Are there any nuances that a Turkish listener will perceive better than a non-Turkish one in your opinion? If yes, any hints?

Koray Kantarcioğlu: Actually, no. For instance, there are some words you hear on ‘263 Loop,’ which is sampled from a random part of a sentence in a folk song and doesn’t make sense for a Turkish listener, either. My aim was to create abstract sound textures from material that’s familiar to me.

Chain D.L.K.: What’s the source for AC RU 29 (I guess the same for the five tracks whose title include this tag)?

Koray Kantarcioğlu: Tracks starting with AC RU are all from the same LP, which is a Turkish pop jazz record from the late 70s.

Chain D.L.K.: Are you going to join these Loopworks to your activity as a visual artist as well?

Koray Kantarcioğlu: I already did. The complimentary mixed audio cd of my monograph ‘Bitmap Landscapes’ includes some material from Loopworks, too. The theme of constant erosion is one of the recurring elements of my landscape drawings, and tracks in Loopworks gives me a similiar kind of feeling.

Chain D.L.K.: Any work in progress?

Koray Kantarcioğlu: I have other projects coming soon on Discrepant under different monikers. There may be a new volume of Loopworks in the future. It may be a collaborative project with local musicians.

visit Koray Kantarcioğlu on the web at: www.koraykantarcioglu.com

Nov 152018
 

A Place Both Wonderful And Strange is the Brooklyn-based duo whose name, while a reference to the cult TV series Twin Peaks, also exemplifies the dynamic of their personality and sound.  Call it “occult electronica” or “doom gaze.”  Whatever. Call it what you will; they mix electronica, goth, shoegaze, and dream-pop among other genres to create something truly unique.

The new EP is titled The City Smells Like Cat Spit and features the ultra-hypnotic and intoxicating “Kristae” as well as 3 remixed cuts. We’d like to thank them for taking a few moments out to answer a few of our questions.

 

Chain D.L.K.: The new EP, The City Smells like Cat Spit, is due out later this month…how did you come up with the title, and can you talk a bit about the album art?

Russ: The title is a lyric from the song Every Stone A Seance, off our 2017 album What I Speak I Create, presented in a refashioned form akin to how we do it live on this EP. It’s such a weird twist of phrase but it was the first thing I wrote for that song, which is the first and only love song I’ve ever written, so it seemed fitting. It’s something that, I think particularly in New York, registers as a kind of ongoing condition that you deal with, but not in a negative way.

Laura: On tour, we saw this weird little guy on top of a car in the parking lot of the Best Western in Virginia or someplace, and at first I couldn’t believe my luck! I asked Daniel (our tm) to be sure he saw it too! Who is this little guy?? We just had to get a picture, and that’s how the cover artwork came about.

 

Chain D.L.K.: There are 3 remixes on the new EP and 1 new track, Kristae. Can you talk a bit about the mixes and who Kristae is?

Russ: Kristae is a girl with a past, a little bit of history, what all of us can/could be on the proper night out. To some extent, she’s a correction of “American Psycho”.

Laura: We played a show upstate for this great party our friend throws, and it was the middle of winter. Russ and one of our friends who used to be funny started riffing on this idea of post-punk songs. Ultimately, Kristae is every lost girl who our poisonous society of terrible men pushes aside and renders meaningless and helpless within their own lives.

 

Chain D.L.K.: For the new readers, can you talk a bit about the meaning behind the band name and provide a bit of a brief history?

Russ: A place both wonderful and strange started as a solo noise project of mine and has gone through a couple of iterations–essentially processing how to make the leap from noise to a darker leaning of pop. Laura and I met at a Prince memorial party I was throwing, and we immediately decided we needed to work together, and now a couple years later, we’re here. The name is a quote from Twin Peaks, a line spoken by Special Agent Dale Cooper, that I’ve actually had as a tattoo since longer than the band’s been in existence. The love and appreciation for an intersection of beautiful and weird–or wonderful and strange–is really at the heart of this project.

Laura: Which one of us do you think is wonderful, and which one of us do you think is strange? I keep changing my mind about it.

 

Chain D.L.K.: You have some upcoming shows, including the EP release later this month and a special Halloween performance of your David Lynch commission, “Laura Palmer Deviations,” right?  What’s the difference musically and visually with this piece as opposed to your normal show?  What can people expect to be different?

Russ: Yes! The Laura Palmer Deviations performance is one that’s special, and we haven’t done this one in quite some time. It’s a massive audio/visual/movement piece that incorporates Palmer Family home movies, hidden parts of Twin Peaks, and found footage to tell the story of the tragic final hours of Laura Palmer’s life, soundtracked by Laura and I.

Laura: This party is going to be nuts. We have some surprises and some great art lined up at one of the most interesting venues in Brooklyn.

Chain D.L.K.: You recently made an appearance in pop star Robyn’s new video, “Missing U – Message to My Fans” which has now been seen over 200,000 times. How did this whole thing come about?

Russ: This is a long and crazy story that’s kinda captured really well by the film’s director, Danilo Parra, but to try to get the entirety of it: two of my other friends and I have a DJ trio called ADVENTURE[s], and we’ve been doing a Robyn tribute party for about 8 years now. Laura started helping us out with them a couple years back, because she’s a jack of all trades, and lo and behold, in May we got word that Robyn was aware of these parties and wanted to come…the rest is history.

 

Chain D.L.K.: You and your bandmate, Laura, also have other endeavors; DJing, films etc.  Talk a little bit about that.  Where might you be found elsewhere outside of the band?

Russ: Well, I’m a DJ with ADVENTURE[s]–we do parties monthly at Brooklyn Bowl (in, of course, Brooklyn)–and I work in fitness. Then, with my wife Vanessa (who has her own band, knifsex, and under that name she’s worked on music with APBWAS for quite some time here and there) I co-run the New Jack Witch site (newjackwitch.com), that’s essentially magical workings for the oncoming apocalypse. I started working on a non-fiction book, so we’ll see how this goes.

Laura: Oh, I’m always knocking around the tabloids in one way or another.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Other than the EP release show this month and the Halloween shows, what other plans do you have for live shows?  I heard a rumor about a mini-tour in November.

Russ: Hometown shows–we’re performing at one of our fave local spots, The Footlight, Sept 6, with a bunch of really great bands: www.facebook.com/events/1512717505499832 . On the whole, though, we’re working on new music–it’s a change of pace for us to be in a situation where we start writing, try a song out live, then take it back to the studio to tinker, and then take it back out.

 

Chain D.L.K.: How do you think that the new material differs from your previous work?

Russ: See above–it’s all cohering together in a really cool way. If you’re looking towards our way forward, Kristae was definitely a song that as we hammered on it was like, “more like this”.

Laura: I get to go hog wild on a guitar!

 

Chain D.L.K.: This summer you did your first real mini-tour of the US. How was that experience? Any noteworthy shows or spinal tap events?

Russ: Actually, our second–the first was in 2017, for the What I Speak I Create tour–this time was with the covers EP under our belts and the desire to try new things live, where it feels more electric. Let’s see, we stole a tambourine…I don’t think I can talk about that…

 

Chain D.L.K.: What other plans do you have for the rest of the year and next year? A full-length release, perhaps?

Russ: The rest of this year is writing, performing, writing, performing, rinse and repeat. Ultimately I think we’d like to get something that’s cohesive together for next year, then tour en force behind it.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Many many years down the road, a very distant relative locates a box in the attic of an old home.  In that box, they locate some of your recordings and something to play them on. What would you like this person to know about your legacy simply from listening to your music?

Russ: That this band was more than the sum of its parts. We scoop a lot of genres into our bands, then smear them on the wall, and what comes out is uniquely this sound.

Laura: That this is best friend music and that idea is massive.

 

visit A Place Both Wonderful And Strange on the web at:
www.aplaceboth.com

www.facebook.com/aplaceboth

Nov 152018
 

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Tapes - cover artwork

It seems that CACs, MCs or simply tapes are living a (more or less welcomed) new golden age in the independent music market and there are even many sound artists who re-release stuff on this magnetic support, but the operation that Disasters By Choice made with a bunch of some old tapes by Sicilian producer Salvo Pinzone aka Skrima followed the opposite direction. His wonderful native Italian region left traces on his memories, his moniker (check the explanation below), his interest in volcanoes and as well as on the sleeves of this collection, titled “Tapes”, (printed on 200 white vinyls), handmade by @Kolatadesign – moniker of Salvo’s partner Daniela Cavasin -, which also used epoxy resin and volcanic lapilli. Have a check!

 

Chain D.L.K.: Hi Salvo! How are you?

Skrima: Very well!!!

 

Chain D.L.K.: First of all, what’s the meaning or the origin of the meaning of the name Skrima? Something related to hairstyle or volcanoes?

Skrima: Scrima in Sicilian is the hair line, for me Skrima is a thin line of demarcation ….

 

interview picture 1Chain D.L.K.: As you maybe guessed the reference of the previous question came after the bizarre idea for the material you used for the cover artwork… can you describe how such an idea came up to your mind?

Skrima: My partner Daniela is a designer @Kolatadesign and works the epoxy resin, together we had the idea to insert the volcanic lapilli after the resin casting on the cardboard of the cover, I thought about the lapillo to feel near to Stromboli and then the idea of excrescences on cover made me think of something that scratches that leaves a mark for better or for worse.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Is there any connection between the way you forged the cover artwork and what our readers could expect by listening to Tapes?

Skrima: More than a connection is the application of the handmade method, which is inherent both in the treatment of the tapes and the manual use of the effects, and in the processing of the resin that my partner Daniela applies in its creation.

 

Chain D.L.K.: A title like Tapes is less misunderstandable… it’s pretty amazing the way the sound of those tapes got preserved…or did you use some tricks during the mastering?

Skrima yes, the title Tapes was natural … yes, I was lucky, the tapes were well-preserved along with my old four tracks, everything was done in an analogical way, the post-production work in 2017 was done to reduce the tapes noise and bring the sound of each track to the same level

 

interview picture 2Chain D.L.K.: The medium isn’t the only “vintage” element of this release, as I read the sound source of a part of those tapes were old synths like the well-known Casio, weren’t they?

Skrima: Yes I used old Casio keyboards, which had faulty keys that released a beautiful delay…

 

Chain D.L.K.: Besides the medium and the source, is there any listening that acted as a source for inspiration?

Skrima: I grew up in Sicily with many friends who were very technical musicians, they were the years of the seventies prog, I had chosen a different kind of music, I loved Brian Eno, punk, reggae, post-punk, the wave, the electronic. When I was young, at night I locked myself in the basement of my friends and freed my desire to torture the sounds with the effects, I recorded everything and then manipulated them again to make the initial sound unrecognizable, I love my bass semi acoustic Hofner.

 

Chain D.L.K.: How did you begin to forge, record and deform sounds?

Skrima: I begin recording this material in the early eighties with poor equipment, recorders and microphones of low quality but with a nice set of effects and a four tracks, later I treated some parts recorded on tape with a cotton swab covered in light sandpaper that helped me to transfigure the original sounds,

 

Chain D.L.K.: Is there any sonic elements in Tapes belonging to your roots?

Skrima: Surely nature in Sicily is an essential element that somehow always resurfaces. From the musical point of view the street where I lived was an industrial street full of mechanical workshops of various kinds, from home, at certain hours you could hear so many different noises that fascinated me to the point of recording them.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Besides the reference in the title “Eetnaa”, what’s the relation between that track and the notorious Sicilian volcano?

Skrima: It is a track dedicated to Etna.

 

interview picture 3Chain D.L.K.: I remember a release by Geir Jenssen (better known as Biosphere), related to Stromboli, based on field recordings grabbed nearby the crater’s edge… I know you also dedicated a track to Stromboli… did you include any field recordings?

Skrima: Yes there are field recordings but sinus drones have been treated and transformed.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Why did you focus on volcanoes?

Skrima: In Sicily there are two active volcanoes Etna and Stromboli, which is my favorite, the islanders with devotion call Iddu, when I can go to find it, I love the natural sounds that emanates and its slow castings of fire that fry when they touch the water of the sea, I think that the men pass, The volcanoes in this land have always lived ….

 

Chain D.L.K.: Can you tell us something about your imprint Disasters By Choice and its upcoming and past outputs?

Skrima: I always chose the music that emotionally sent me something, in the catalog you find many expressions but all lead to my mood, an unforgettable moment was with the compilation 13 Elements, in the post-rock period with many names become important, sold out in two days. I state that I love all my releases, but I want to mention three small jewels, which did not have much luck, certainly due to the bad distribution and the moment of the CD decline, Echoes of The Whales and Me: mo (Beijing musician) and then the 10 “Hiss, post-punk duo loosened after a short European tour. For the future I’m looking for a young band that wants to play really, maybe with conceptual hints close to the Broadcast that I love.

 

visit Skrima on bandcamp at: skrima.bandcamp.com

Nov 152018
 

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Following the review of “Tropical Gothic” (out on Discrepant and featuring a great collage cover artwork by Evan Crankshaw), his new awesome record, we had an interesting conversation with the British influential guitarist, polyhedral artist and authentic musical globetrotter Mike Cooper, who – unlike many musicians who get banal and predictable after two or three releases – keeps on surprising listeners with witty and brilliant stylistic freaks. Long life to Mike!

 

Tropical Gothic - cover artwork

Chain D.L.K.: Hi, Mike! I’m very happy you accepted to reply to some questions… considering your impressive flair and the supposedly unquenchable fire of your creativity, I guess you’re OK, but I have to ask…how are you? 🙂

Mike Cooper: I’m very well, thank you…

 

Chain D.L.K.: You’re English, but you’ve lived in Rome for ages…how do you explain such a decision? After so many years, even if your music (full of many kinds of exotic influences) lets your listeners know you’re more a citizen of the whole world, do you feel more Italian or English?

Mike Cooper: I can’t say that I feel either English or Italian, really. I have lived in many places since I was 10 years old, and I travel a lot. I feel comfortable, more or less, in most places. Or maybe I should say I usually find a way to feel comfortable in most places. I’m not addicted to either English or Italian food, for example. I like warm places and I like beaches, and so England doesn’t come into that equation at that point.

 

Chain D.L.K.: I keep on following your amazing sonic path, as it’s never predictable and banal…and that’s a truth that no fan of your musical career and sound can refute yet…it might take a lot of space to trace it back, but I’d like to ask you how this long-lasting exploration into sound started.

Mike Cooper: I grew up listening to the radio, where there was a lot of different music, obviously. It never occurred to me that you were expected to dedicate yourself to one genre of music, because I heard it all as one thing. In terms of experimenting within music, I came at it through listening to jazz and trying to play it. I know nothing about western classical music or harmony (I don’t read or write music), and I realized after a while that it takes a lifetime and dedication to become a ‘jazz musician’ – whatever that is – and I was, and still am, drawn towards folk music of all kinds, especially when I realized that improvisation is the basis of both those musics and improvisation was what I wanted to investigate. There was the political element involved as well; folk music is the music of ‘the folk,’ not the ruling classes.

I started by playing an imitation of Afro-American acoustic blues. It spoke to me. I followed its sonic path through jazz and onto the more experimental free jazz – it was, and still is, all one music to my ears. At a certain point, I wanted to know what the European equivalent of the sonic experiments of free jazz was, and I discovered ‘contemporary classical’ music and then European ‘free improvisation’. Free improvisation seemed to go further down the same sonic path that contemporary music headed but with less restriction imposed by the score or the director. It seemed more democratic to me and, eventually, more interesting, in fact. I have sat beside a few contemporary music composers and watched them become disappointed as performers try and interpret their pieces. I involved myself with the free improvisation scene in Europe for 25 years, mostly playing in a trio called The Recedents with saxophonist Lol Coxhill and drummer Roger Turner.

 

Mike CooperChain D.L.K.: Related to the word ‘exotica’ by which most of your releases are labeled, would you consider yourself as a sort of Les Baxter of experimental music?

Mike Cooper: I am quite happy to be called the Les Baxter of experimental music, but it is only quite recently that people have started to listen to the ‘ambient/electronic/exotica’ elements of my music. It’s not true to say that most of my records are labeled exotica. I have made over 50 solo records and about 25 with other people. I began to make ‘exotica’ in 1999 when I started my Hipshot CDr label; the first release was Kiribati, and then Globe Notes in 2001, which was the fourth record on Hipshot, but no one took much notice of my exotica until I made Rayon Hula in 2004. David Toop gave it a half-page review in Wire magazine, which drew attention to it, and it was re-released as a double ten-inch vinyl record by Cabin Records in the same year. Kiribati was re-released on vinyl by Discrepant and Globe Notes on NO=FI records in Italy. Lawrence English commissioned three more exotica releases for Room40 records in Australia, starting with White Shadows In The South Seas as a CD in2013, followed by Fratello Mare in 2015 and Raft in 2017. So, there are only six records of mine which I would call Ambient/Electronic/Exotica. There are several recent releases of other kinds of music. Blue Guitar on vinyl from Idea Records, for instance, is solo guitar with vocals. Part of my ’Spirit Songs’ project, using cut-up lyrics from Thomas Pynchon novels to make songs, and Reluctant Swimmer/Virtual Surfer, also on Discrepant, is a live performance recorded in Rome some years ago which seems to cover a lot of different musical territory, viewed in retrospect. It’s a favorite record of mine, again initially released as a CDr on Hipshot and re-released by Discrepant.

 

Chain D.L.K.: According to The Wire, you were “forging connections between folk and experimental musics long before America got New or Weird…” …Do you agree or disagree with such feedback?

Mike Cooper: Well, that’s true. My 1970s records for the Dawn label (Trout Steel and Places I Know) were all about connecting the dots between folk and experimental musics.

I wanted to use jazz musicians on my sessions so that I didn’t go down the path of ‘experimental rock’. The Machine Gun Company record on the same label was trying to bring some elements of free improvised music into a rock music song format without it dropping into extended guitar solos or long instrumental passages as well. Machine Gun Company was a band, not session musicians, and so I had a working relationship with them where we rehearsed and played live. Recently, I have been thinking about a new genre – Brit-Folk-Futurism – which I might pursue soon. Some people have touched on it before, but they always get beaten back by the ‘folk mafia’ that exists, and they always seem to hold back and not explore the sonic possibilities for fear of alienating the audience for folk music, if one exists still? Martyn Bates and Max Eastley explored this area some years ago.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Are there any missing connections to be forged?

Mike Cooper: The live performance element these days, which is always different. I don’t play the exotica records live because that would be too easy – just to become a live d.j. In fact, other people do that with my records, I am happy to say. My live performances include elements of the exotica. From time to time in performance, I use my field recordings as another instrument in the overall pallet of sound-making devices that I use. I also sing for practically all my concerts. I have been singing my ’Spirit Songs’ for a long time now.

I started my musical life as a singer, not a guitarist, and it is my first instrument. Even the blues period was a vocal one. Blues is first and foremost a vocal genre. When I was playing free improvised music, for instance in The Recedents trio with Lol Coxhill and Roger Turner, I never sang. I was too aware of performers like Phil Minton and Maggie Nichols and their contribution to the genre. It was so huge and amazing that I felt I had nothing to contribute, and so I didn’t go anywhere near it. The Recedents lasted for 23 years and stopped with the death Lol Coxhill. There is a five-CD box set of live recordings which sums up our musical journey through those 23 years. When that period finished, I wanted to start singing, but I wanted to have a repertoire of lyrics that could be sung over a backing that would be different and freely improvised in every performance. That is what I do, mostly, live these days. There are other events when I do something completely different, of course. I think I have reached the point where an audience comes expecting me to do something completely unexpected, which is great.

 

Mike CooperChain D.L.K.: ‘Tropical Gothic’ is a sort of self-explanatory title of the impressive style you explored in your last (awesome) output… What’s your own definition of the two adjectives before and after their union in this title and in the style you unrolled? Just a meeting of something Northern and something Southern?

Mike Cooper: Tropical Gothic is a musical exploration of the darker side of paradise. I am also making some video to go with the music. The history of the physical colonization by Europeans with European ideas of the rest of the world is still an ongoing thing. It hasn’t stopped. The ‘north’ versus the ‘south’ both in action and thought. Europe is experiencing some results of this at the moment with the arrival of people from far away places wanting a share in this ’treasure island’ called Europe, which has been mostly funded by the stolen wealth and labor and even ideas and inventions from these places.

I realized when I came to do a live performance in London at Cafe Oto of Tropical Gothic recently with Clive Bell and Sylvia Hallet, that – as an idea – Tropical Gothic is a ‘work in progress’ for me. Much more has been discovered since beginning and will no doubt continue into the future.

 

Chain D.L.K.: I enjoyed the almost ‘ethnographic’ quote of something ‘Tropical Gothic’ you did on the B side, where you quote the Gamelan driven dance Legong. Can you tell us something about this suite? Anything you want to teach about this traditional dance?

Mike Cooper: My Tropical Gothic record revolves around a couple of films and directors, but the live performance also includes references to books and writers that I like, and they all involve tragedy. History is full of tragedy and tragic events, of course, and I chose to focus on the ‘bad ending’ as an antidote to the often false idea that ‘everything is ok’. It’s not and never has been unless you were the power in control, and even then, it’s still not ok because it’s a lie they are telling themselves.

Onibaba is a film by the Japanese director Kaneto Shindo. He was a very committed socialist. His film Onibaba was shot in a field of very tall Susuki grass (Bull Rushes), and these tall swaying reeds Kaneto said symbolized the world in which common people try (or should try) to live hiding away from the eyes of rulers or authority. Onibaba is a film about class struggle told through a Buddhist story that Kaneto Shindo heard from his mother. The story is called The Mask of Flesh.

Legong and Gods Of Bali are both shot in Indonesia. Gods of Bali is a documentary film about everyday life and ritual in Balinese society, while Legong is a fictional story about male and social manipulation in the same society. It was the last color silent film ever made.

My ‘gamelan’ is in fact not gamelan at all. I found a website which sold metal wind chimes and there were short samples of several of them. They were mostly pentatonic scales in different keys, and I managed to download them from the site and make loops which I superimposed on top of each other and treated them digitally to make the Legong ‘gamelan’ composition. Onibaba is mostly played by using a self-made instrument I call a La’ap. It is a short piece of wood about 40cms long with five strings and a pick up. I use various delay and pitch-shifting devices to sample the La’ap and build up these very slow unfolding soundscapes.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Let’s switch to the A side… I can’t hide that you made me laugh with “Running Naked”…. a parenthesis of joy and levity after you explored very different moods…

Mike Cooper: Maybe you don’t know, but I perform live music/screenings with both of these films? That piece was made to illustrate a scene in the film where two of the actors are running naked through the reeds after having sex. It’s played on one of my electric lap steel guitars over a sampled drum piece from an Indonesian Sunda record.

 

Mike CooperChain D.L.K.: The sequence of the tracks Samurai and Shindo’s Blues doesn’t seem accidental, as I guess you referred to Korean Shamanism in the title of the latter for that viscerally muffled blues… Or, is it a reference to Katani Shindo, the maker of the movie Onibaba, you quoted in the title of the last track?

Mike Cooper: Yes, well, Onibaba was made by Kaneto Shindo, as I explained above. Nothing to do with Korean Shamanism at all.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Why did you focus on references to that geographical area for Tropical Gothic?

Mike Cooper: As I explained before ,only this LP focuses on those two particular films and two places – Japan and Bali and the project performed live has a much wider field of reference across all of South East Asia, including Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tahiti, Pitcairn Island, Australia as well as Japan, Indonesia and other Pacific Islands. The tropical parts of the world. The darker side of paradise was the point.

 

Chain D.L.K.: What’s the connection between Tropical Gothic and your recent outputs (if there are any)?

Mike Cooper: As well as being part of my Ambient /Electronic/Exotica series of works, this LP connects to other past work in my video output, as well as some more recent video which I use in the live performance of Tropical Gothic. Some links to those are below.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Are you going to perform live this year?

Mike Cooper: I hope so.

 

Chain D.L.K.: Any other work in progress?

Mike Cooper: Always.

 

Some relevant links

Discography – http://www.cooparia.com/discography/

Silent Films – http://www.cooparia.com/projects/silent-movies/

White Shadows – http://www.cooparia.com/white-shadows-in-the-south-seas-the-c-d/

Mike Cooper – Ko Lanta – https://youtu.be/4EXtncJ_MVQ

Mike Cooper – Walking In Ubin – https://youtu.be/5loRWYiLzs4

Mike Cooper – Walking In Lamma – https://youtu.be/AwPXLs0PIZE