The author of a witty release (“Never is Always”, the debut release by Pablo Giw, which recently came out on Ti-Records) cannot give anything but witty answers. Let’s get to know some of the topics surrounding the music made by this young Cologne-based trumpeter and performer better.
Chain D.L.K.: Morning, GIW, how are you? Granted, I’m not a machine! 🙂
GIW: Haha, I’m doing good, thanks!
Chain D.L.K.: The previous greeting/”question” was an obvious reference to the first track of your recent album. Someone could point to the contradiction that a world without a machine would have never enhanced your album, where there’s a certain presence of machine-driven filters…and, speaking in general, many contemporary artistic or musical languages wouldn’t exist… Would you have preferred a world without machines instead?
GIW: That’s a good question! Well, to begin with, I think our relationship is quite a good anecdote to start talking about the lyrics of “Morning Machine”… You and I (to this day) only know each other through words on a computer screen (which will change some day, I hope). So, somehow, there’s only a digital persona that we relate to when we communicate, and this is actually the topic that inspired me to write Morning Machine: the digital self. It was an introspection when I noticed, a few years ago, that many days started with some form of internet-related tasks – reading news or social media. Also, I observed my own doubts about things that I posted and why I chose them. I started asking myself whether there is a second version of myself, a “new ego” that I create in the digital sphere each time that I connect my brain to the “Machine”… Or maybe that we humans will get (or have already gotten) to a point when things become more “real” on the internet than they are in the physical world. People tend to pull out their cell phones instantly to record or photograph when something happens, so there’s already a new priority there. Maybe we need to send messages and post photos constantly to confirm to ourselves that we are still alive.
Chain D.L.K.: You touch on many philosophical topics in your songs…are there any that almost stuck in your mind or keep on engaging with and concerning you?
GIW: There are quite a few that keep my head busy, sometimes too busy – especially concerning our human way of life, growth and the resulting ecological consequences that are becoming more and more palpable.
Chain D.L.K.: Related to concerning things…what’s the troublesome ‘You’ you saw (referring to the third song of the album?
GIW: You know.
Chain D.L.K.: The way you make your amazing sound is what maybe interests our readers more…for instance, how did you forge ‘Hain’- maybe one of the more minimalist moments of the album, right? What does it refer to?
GIW: OK, that is a longer story. First, about the sound – it’s pure acoustic trumpet, performed without loops or overdubs. Actually, the track was one of the first solo trumpet pieces that I came up with when I started to perform alone. The instinctive idea that came to my mind when I thought about playing solo was a beat – not quite the thing that you do on a trumpet… so I kept searching for ways to create percussive sound material. I use a piezo pickup on the instrument to amplify the clicks and metal sounds of the instrument itself, the valves and tubes. The other sounds I create with my mouth and air movement, some beat box inspired techniques, all recorded with a mic partly inside the trumpet bell. I like to use all possible sound sources that I’m physically able to play at the same time, maybe to feel more like a drum-computer, or a drum-machine…
The title refers to one of the indigenous peoples of Fireland in the south of Chile/Argentina, the Selk’nam. I was on tour in Chile in 2014 and 2015 and played a solo performance at an exhibition in Santiago. There, I saw a movie that was displayed, entitled “Yikwa ni Selk’nam” by Chilean director Christian Aylwin. The movie is about the myths and rituals of the Selk’nam, including their initiation ceremony named “Hain”. What struck me were photos from the early 19th century shown in the movie, with Selk’nam in European clothes holding brass instruments, e.g. trumpets and trombones in their hands. They were brought to reservations and camps by Christian missionaries, away from their original lands, where they were taught about western culture, Christian religion and also learned to play brass instruments. That did not save them from vanishing; most of their people were killed by farmers and settlers. Their culture was destroyed and there are only remnants in the form of photos and recordings. That was really intense to see right before my first solo trumpet performance as a European guest in Chile. After further reading about the Selk’nam, I decided to give the piece the title of “Hain”.
Chain D.L.K.: Colin Stetson is one of the most listenable influences, and you honestly included him in your sources of inspiration…Besides instruments, what are the main aspects of Colin’s technique that most attracted your attention?
GIW: Colin’s album “New History Warfare Vol. II” was a really big inspiration because of his visionary way of using his instrument, the bass saxophone, not only from a technical perspective, but also considering the musicality and emotionality of the record. Having played a lot of improvised music and listening to all those amazing instrumentalists out there that create such rich sound worlds with their music, his approach was special to me because his music has forms and structures that open it to non-avant-garde listeners as well. Also, I really like that it transcends the physical aspect of his solo performance and is just beautiful music. That made me reconsider the concept of an instrument-based solo album.
Chain D.L.K.: What are some other sources of inspiration/influences? Besides the name of the artists, are there any specific tracks or songs that you could mention?
GIW: Well there’s James Blakes’ self-titled album, which had a huge impact on me. His compositions, voice performance and production really sound like they’re coming from another sphere, and tracks like “I Never Learnt To Share” really blew my mind. Also, Miles Davis’ “Nefertiti’ was a really important album for me, especially the track “Fall”, because of its fragile minimalism. Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly”. Many of Peter Evans’ works. “Pendulum Music” by Steve Reich. “Codex” by Mohammad Mortazavi, an amazing solo record for the Persian goblet drum Tombak.
Chain D.L.K.: ‘Gone’ was recorded in a very interesting place…can you tell us something about that? How did that place influence the sound of this track?
GIW: It was also on my tour in Chile that I played in Valdivia, in the south of the country. A place defined by huge forests and many waterways next to the huge Pacific ocean. I met with a fellow experimental trumpet player Benjamín Vergara (I recommend his trio “Nichunimu”) who had the idea to play a duo concert in the catacombs of an old brewery, right beside the river that flows through the centre. In the floor above the catacombs, there is a museum for modern art, but the catacombs were left in a raw state. There are two very long parallel tunnels with a few light bulbs, so you really play into a sort of abyss. I placed one microphone at the end of the first tunnel, another one into the parallel tunnel and one microphone next to the trumpet. I tried to record different pieces there but it turned out that “Gone” was just perfect for the acoustics down there.
Chain D.L.K.: ‘Never is Always’, the title-track you inserted at the end and maybe the moodier moment of this release, closes the album…why such a choice?
GIW: ‘Never is Always’ was the last track that I worked on, and it also was a very important one that felt like a solution, letting go and writing the lyrics. The line “my doubts are conceptions” in particular became sort of a maxim for me. During this time, I was reading the book “Straw Dogs” by John Gray and it really helped me to overcome some dark thoughts that I felt stuck in. The whole process of creating a solo record was not so easy at times, and to put that piece at the end concludes the album in kind of a harmonic way.
Chain D.L.K.: My appreciation of your album made me invert the typical “scheme” I use for interviews…so I have to ask you something about your musical past…how did you reach the point where you are?
GIW: Uff, that’s a difficult one. I don’t think that I reached a point, but it’s more a combination of circumstances, people and places that created a path. I was very lucky to grow up in a communicative family and to have parents and relatives that gave me a lot. Also, I’m grateful for the music education I had in school and, most importantly, for inspiring teachers and musicians that taught me what I’m doing today – especially Markus Stockhausen, with whom I learned the most important trumpet techniques.
Musically, I think I’ve come to this point as a consequence of a constant search for altering the trumpet’s sound possibilities. I’ve played with a lot of effects and electronics in my duo “DUS-TI”, up to the point of playing concerts without any trumpet at all. It was also with DUS-TI that I started to perform vocals. At a certain point, I started questioning myself about my role as a trumpet player and wanted to connect to my instrument again. That’s when I began to imitate electronic sounds and began to work on solo material.
Apart from that, the interplay of improvised and composed music has been a very important topic for me, that also inspired this album a lot.
Chain D.L.K.: In your viewpoint, is Berlin still the factory of contemporary music and art that it’s been for many years?
GIW: I think Berlin certainly is a very important spot on the musical landmark, especially for contemporary music. You can’t find another place in Germany that is as vibrant and constantly in movement like Berlin. But the ways of networking and scene-creation have also changed quite a lot during the past years. From my perspective, geographical distances between musicians or artists in general play a lesser role, because you can keep in contact and continue to work together by means of digital communication. Platforms like Soundcloud also do create a common playground somehow, and you can get to know other artists. So from my perspective, contemporary or experimental music scenes around the world tend to connect more and more. This means that it’s not as necessary to move to a city like Berlin to find inspiration and get in touch with fellow musicians and artists.
Chain D.L.K.: Any work in progress?
GIW: Some new solo material…but slowly. Also, I’m working intensely with dancer Kelvin Kilonzo on a performance project, “fluid states of being”. There will be some video material coming up for this project.
Apart from that – always keep moving! 🙂
visit GIW on the web at: giwmusic.com