Chain D.L.K.: Ian MacKaye (Dischord), John Zorn (Tzadik), Philippe Petit (Bip Hop/Pandemonium): is it that consequential to be a label owner and a musician at the same time? And if memory serves me well, you were label owner and you’ve become a “player” just later, weren’t you?
Strings Of Consciousness: Philippe Petit: I’m a passionate listener who tries to share his musical passions and that is the reason why I have been doing labels for the past 16 years, and animating radio shows and zines since the mid 80s. Ian and Dischord were definitely an influence when I started the label Pandemonium (www.pandemoniumrecords.com) and I feel very close to his perception of music scenes, their being a genuine independent label trying to control prices and supporting its local scene. DIY ethic was really influential as that was telling us we have to Do It, whereas Punk was preaching No Future. Everytime I had a chance to talk to Ian back in the early 90s discussions were highly instructive. I never met John Zorn but I have to say that I dislike the fact that records on Tzadik are awfully expensive because he takes for granted that they are of high quality and people have to pay for his special music. Indeed he shows some great tastes and packaging are qualitative but to me it is arrogant to say that people should pay more for what I release. What differences me from both is that I wouldn’t release music by my group on my labels, whereas they did start theirs in order to release their music.
Chain D.L.K.: Interesting, I didn’t wanted to bring you here, but I’ve noticed you were speaking about the influence of 80’s/90’s independent scene in your attitude toward music. Being an old fart myself I see among the guest of the full-length you have some alternative heroes who started getting popular right during that period (Scott McCloud, John Thirlwell/Fetus, Eugene Robinson, Barry Adamson, etc.)? Is that sort of a “trait d’union” on “Our moon is full”? Just an unconscious tribute to some of the music with which you’ve been growing or you simply wanted that specifical vocal for that specifical song?
Strings Of Consciousness: Interesting Freudian turn 🙂 indeed I have been listening to their music for a long time, even from the early 80s when it comes to Foetus and Barry Adamson (Magazine/Bad Seeds) though our idea was not to pay homage to a specific style as we ain’t passatists. We try to create a music that we want to listen to TODAY and thus it includes all our influences. Consequently when our instrumentals got completed we started hearing some voices or story-telling over them. Thus it was a logical step to solicitate some contacts I had…Or be bold and approach some that I didn’t know but had admired for years. As our name implies narration and literature are important for us.
Chain D.L.K.: Since you always speak plurally why don’t you introduce the band to those who don’t know the previous experiences of the other musicians?. I know some of them are currently involved in other project right?
Strings Of Consciousness: J. G. Thirlwell (Foetus); Scott McCloud (Girls Against Boys/New Wet Kojal) ; Eugene Robinson (Oxbow); Barry Adamson (Magazine/Bad Seeds…) ; Black Sifichi ; Pete Simonelli (Enablers)…and the players:Alison Chesley is a Chicago based cellist (Verbow, Bob Mould, the Sea and Cake, Helen Money).London based vibraphone player Stefano Tedesco ( Rhodri Davies and Joe Williamson, David Toop, Phil Durrant, Tim Hodgkinson, Elio Martusciello). Member of the Symbiosis Orchestra with Claudio Sinatti, Andrea Gabriele, Scanner, Iris Garrelfs, Diego Conti and Geoff Warren. Raphaelle Rinaudo plays the harp, she has also played in the Macé ensemble whose album “circulations” has been signed to Sub Rosa.Lenka Zupkova plays electric violin, she has been performing contemporary scenes for years and is considered a virtuose.Hugh Hopper was one of the original founding spirits behind the Canterbury school of progressive rock. He still plays with Robert Wyatt and Soft Machine, and his fuzzed-out bass sound has proved an influence for countless players.Hervé Vincenti plays a Fender Jazzmaster and Gretsch guitar, developing graceful notes, varied melodies. Herve is also a member of Foern-Set and he had played with Luc Ferrari.Andy Diagram paints soundscapes with his trumpet. Andy’s unique style has allowed him to join many bands such as Dislocation Dance, Pale Fountains, James, Honkies, Frank Black (Pixies), and permanently Spaceheads, Pere Ubu and David Thomas’ 2 Pale Boys.Pierre Fenichel constructs rhythms with his double bass thus stressing a sensual groove. His instrument purrs under the delicate caresses of the bow. He masters live performances for he has been touring on the continent for a good twenty years in French jazz or swing bands.Perceval Bellone plays saxophone, clarinet and Tibetan bowls, he has studied electroacoustic music, been active in improv spheres and managed to find a style very personal and physical.Nicolas Dick shapes sonic matter using larsens, drones even loops and many other guitar effects, he has been playing with Kill the Thrill for 16 years (a major French noise band) and has occasionally shared musical experiences with Erik M., Jim O’Rourke and David Grubbs. He is currently the sound engineer for the GRIM (Group of Reasearch in Improvised Music).Philippe Petit uses turntables to take advantage of the vinyl material to fondle released sounds… and laptop to build up electronic layers.As you have understood “collaborating” is very important and we have just finished an album of Strings Of Consciousness and Angel. On this one is also playing bass Mark Beazley, who is the founder of the mighty Rothko.Angel is Ilpo Vaisanen (from PanSonic) + Hildur Gudnadottir (from Müm playing Cello) + Schneider TM. Our work together results in an intricate and imaginative soundtrack with several layers of sound, gathering both organic and sonic elements to assemble a post-industrial sound structure. That will be released by Important Rds in June.
Chain D.L.K.: I imagine you’re aware of the fact some people without having heard the record may think you’re just one of those bands trying to exploit well-known collaborators to get popular faster…
Strings Of Consciousness: Philippe: …To be honest life has taught me not to care for rumours, gossips, and what people may think. I mean that as long as I feel that my actions are done for the correct reasons, motivated by my passions and authenticity, and that I can be proud of them I’m happy. Whether people agree, disagree, are envious or jealous, pleased or not isn’t my concern. Our concern is to try to record music that will stand the test of time, that we and people want to listen to now and hopefully tomorrow. Then when it comes to “getting popular”, man…we are far from achieving that and our music isn’t commercial or composed in that purpose, or else songs would last 3:30 instead of 6 to 10 minutes… If my desire was to become popular I’d have chosen to live another life. I have been supporting leftfield musics since the early 80s, through radio shows, fanzines, reviewing in mags and doing labels, working hours everyday without being paid for those activities, so I can’t wait for someone daring to tell me that I’m exploiting musicians. Maybe it should be seen the other way, those people respecting my activities enough to stay in contact and then for our pleasure enjoying our music so much that they agreed to join in and give us their great talent. A more accurate critic comes from some narrow-minded experimentalists who think that our music is too musical, not experimental enough. Obviously Strings Of Consciousness want to sound pleasurable and enticing notwithstanding the avant-garde attitudes and procedures, let me emphasize it by repeating: “we want to compose music which can be listened to repeatedly!”. Because after so many years listening to avant/experimental music we have noticed that more and more experimentalists were expressing less and less concern for their potential listeners, forgetting to respect some structures/directions, or being so complex, in their composition and most of all lacking humanity. Even if we sculpt and craft our music with a lot of focus on detail and days and days of editing, and pay a lot of efforts to search for different sounds, in that way experimenting a lot but for us it is important to convey emotions, feelings.Hervé Vincenti: Exactly, and you know…It soon turned into a more ambitious project. I mean, it was like gathering all the best ideas, impulses; all the energy we had with our former projects and try to dig in search for new directions but by instinct in the first place and then try to build up something like a more structured frame very well settled but which allows experimentations, like freeform parts within a very structured architecture. The melodic lines have been another point we wanted to work on. The idea was to play just a few notes line with the same motto in mind, as usual, you know: “one note is always better than two if the feeling you were trying to generate playing this line has been reached”. Philippe: Less is more is always fine by me. I like when things are suggested rather than repeated over and over, think of sex where pornography works less than eroticism, to us it is the same thing with our music. Hervé: We wanted to make the record we want to listen to. A blend of all our influences. Very personal of course but also because of the huge number of influences…You know…Including books, films, buildings, moments or whatever…It was not the purpose to be avant-garde but more to be adventurous, personal and as you said “pleasurable”. It’s very important, as Philippe said, to keep that in mind. We really feel concerned for our listener since we are listeners ourselves. Even for our music I mean, you have to be critic and sometimes severe… If you have in mind this notion of pleasure, it’s easier then; to reach people’s attention and emotion, once you’ve been touched yourself. Philippe said : “to convey feelings, emotions”. It could be the definition of music for me. Like in Faulkner’s ‘Sanctuary’, at the end of the book, the last paragraph. He wrote something about the “wave of music” coming to you in the distance. And it means everything. The whole purpose of the book lies in these words.Philippe Petit: Yes to convey feelings, emotions and also to manage to create a special atmosphere, once you have understood that then you have some of the keys to compose.
Chain D.L.K.: “We wanted to make the record we want to listen to” that’s probably why you’ve been compared to Tortoise (above all ideologically). What about journalists preaching post-rock is not fashionable anymore? Was it a musical style or just an idea?
Strings Of Consciousness: Philippe: Have we been compared to Tortoise?! Haven’t spotted that many reviews drawing a parallel between us and them. When it comes to stylistically labelling groups I always think that to be reductive and very often not paying homage to the genuine talent of some of the originators of those so-called movements. To keep it up with your example, Tortoise emerged with a new sound, mixture of Dub, rock and cinematic ambiences and from that one reinvented themselves with every new album, reaching the masterpiece “It’s all around you”. How could they be labelled post-anything when in truth they are so actual, so modern in essence?! I think it is insulting to label in such a restrictive manner people who express talent and that depicts the lack of talent of some journalists who are in search of cliché formulas to make their life as a writer easier. They try to find a formula which will get hyped and avoid their having to develop, delve inside the record they have to review, spend a long time to find and describe its essence. That is the drama of our modern life where everything needs to be consumed fast and very few people actually take time to fully understand or digest what they get on a daily basis. When Simon Reynolds first penned the term Post-Rock in The Wire back in the early 90s he intended to describe a genre departing from Rock instrumentations and mutating those and melting inside guitars used to create timbres, textures in opposition to classic Rock riffs. Truly that led to cinematic music and both terms are often associated, in that respect do we care if that be fashionable or not when it is so pleasurable to listen to when that is being made out of talent. Unfortunately there will always be people copying their models and trying to become the next Tortoise, or for instance when it comes to Electronica, the next Autechre/Aphex Twin, in Rock the next Stooges… etc… etc… And those are boring. About Strings Of Consciousness there was a review in an Italian magazine where the writer had written: “They manage to bring together and establish communications between some musical styles which usually just say hello one to another”. I was VERY pleased to read that one.Hervé: Yes, it’s always very frustrating when it comes to comparisons…Even when it is to be compared to a band that I really respect. I mean, it’s pointless really. If there is anything in common with them it’s in the approach of music we share. And there’s nothing to do with trying to sound like another band really or to be part of a so called “Post Something” scene. We just try to dig our own track which mean we try to express our feelings beyond any kind of boundaries or such restrictive labels. Tortoise just try to create their very own blend of sounds and melodies…Our record sounds quite different I reckon. I mean, I can understand what you mean when you say “ideologically”. But there ends the comparisons then. I just think, talking about Tortoise or SOC, that none of us is doing “Post Rock” for sure…We never believed in those words :”Post Rock” anyway. It’s like “Post Modernism” or whatever. It just doesn’t exists right? We are just not capable of finding a proper label for our music. And maybe it’s not so important at the end of the day.Philippe: most of my favorite bands defy comparisons and are travelling their own paths.
Chain D.L.K.: I guess comparisons are unavoidable when speaking about and trying to describe something “unidentified” or hopefully new to a third person, that’s why Duchamp was associated with cubism and Pasolini with neorealism you can also see it all as a necessary evil. That brings to the next questions maybe, to me it’s quite evident you probably look for a specific sound for the album, I imagine it shouldn’t have been that easy to be so heterogeneous, and at the same time to make it all sound like belong to a specific band with a specific identity right?. How have you behaved for the production and since I imagine you considerably different live, can you tell us something about your live metamorphosis (for example without all of these guest vocals or you have them)?
Strings Of Consciousness: Philippe: It is funny that you mention Duchamp as I really like the “ready made” principles he once developed and I believe that “everything can be music” when it comes to a modern sound design whether it be “cubic” or triangular, perpendicular or parallel…Do you remember the Dadaist way to write poetry consisting of selecting some words, placing them in a hat and then pick them up haphazardly? Do you remember that more recent contemporary way of composing called “Generative”, when minimalists chose some sounds and let their software arrange them? Both schools are based on a very strong selection, your choices have to be coherent if you want that hazard, chance could create something interesting. All the people involved on the album have many things in common, we know very well their work and respect their creativity, their aesthetics. Both Hervé and I agreed they all had some talent and that their abilities would definitely make every song richer. Which is why they were invited and besides we gave them basis, directions so it wasn’t that complicated to keep “Our Moon Is Full” homogenic. Hervé: It’s a question of idea and time then. With a lot of time you can build what you want, you know. It’s like sculpting or crafting anything. You need time to achieve what you have in mind but the interaction has been brilliant and easy.Philippe: We have tried various formulas onstage so depending on budget we can adapt. Though at the moment our favourite is in trio. We are far more energetic than the album is, as for us a gig is to be physical, a strong experience that you live on the moment and then go back home and keep in memory, but it won’t be done again in the same way. Whereas recording are done to be listened to repeatedly so they need to be much more detailed, richer involving more instruments, ambiences or else you get bored.
Chain D.L.K.: Going back to something pointed out before by Hervé since he was speaking about cinematic music, I think the “cinematic” adjective is really pertinent to describe your music: have you been offered to work on a soundtrack or anything like that? (reading your answers I’ve had the impression you approach your music in a really “visual way” if you get what I mean)
Strings Of Consciousness: Hervé: It’s certainly important to us, yes. Our approach of music is definitely visual. I actually did work on soundtracks a few times and I like it a lot. Even the structure of the tracks is build like a script, in a narrative way. Even before we add the vocals, it’s a matter of fact. It’s not just writing verses and bridges and choruses etc…but rather telling something to the listener. It’s like drawing or describing a landscape, something like a geography made of sound in fact. So, your impression is just right. Each track is a bit like a short story or a short movie or something like that.Philippe: Indeed I love deviant cinema, the bizarre, the ugly, horrific, the one that thrills me on…even in my DJ set I have always tried to develop an atmosphere, tell a story to the listeners, that is of the utmost importance.
Chain D.L.K.: Here and there you’re really close to sound almost “poppy”, from the few commonplaces and things I’ve read, France is a bit more supportive than many other nations (sure more then the shithole where I was born) toward his own artists. Have you ever considered the real potentiality to become huge (maybe not just in your own country)?
Strings Of Consciousness: Philippe: To me our songs are quite dark and certainly far from any traditional pop atmospheres. Though as we said melodies are very important for us and we feel it is crucial to bring some pleasure to potential listeners. In that sense one could say that our music is accessible but we are far from commercial or hype so I do not see any potentiality to become huge. France is indeed supportive when bands sound French or are proud to be French, but I have to say that whether with my labels Pandemonium or BiP_HOp and now through Strings Of Consciousness I have always developed an international attitude and never showed more interest for France, than Italy or any other part of Europe. I dislike any form of nationalism or chauvinism, and feel like a “citizen of the world”. This said so far Italy seems to be the most reactive and appreciative part of the world for Strings Of Consciousness, there we have had amazing reviews and feedback from listeners.Hervé: Yes exactly. I don’t know if some kind of “pop” elements can be found in our music but I know for sure that we are not making a kind of music that can be taken as commercial enough to be part of any hype or anything like that. And consequently I don’t think we have any chance to become “huge”. But I mean, we don’t need to become “huge” in any manner to reach a decent level of satisfaction. We never planned anything like this anyway and you know what? It’s not our dream to become “huge” and play crowded stadiums or whatever…It could be just fucking great to sell enough records and tour enough to make our living out of SOC. And that ‘s something really hard to reach already so…Philippe: Indeed I’d rather live a quiet life being able to get up in the morning and do what I want than to become a star.
Chain D.L.K.: I remember once France and Marseille was an epicenter too was a good cradle for noise, post punk post industrial bands (be it X-Rated-X, Deity Guns, Kill the thrill, Double Nelson or whatever). Considering your age and your experiences (and the fact one of you used to run Pandemonium) you think there’s some “trait d’union” between you and that scene that goes beyond the fact you were involved in it? (take it with a grain of salt but I think in small percentage you’ve some really micro-finitures coming from there)
Strings Of Consciousness: Philippe: Wah you remember X-Rated-X !?! A shame so few people remember that group, I was so proud of our releases with them on Pandemonium and even more their last track ever on the split w/ Zeni Geva for our Erase -yer- Head series. Indeed we grew that scene up altogether with some friends: Condense, Deity Guns/Bästard, Kill The Thrill, Hint, Drive Blind/Tantrum or Portobello Bones (before they ripped us off but let’s forget bad memories) and that was a nice period, very creative and engaged. In retrospect what I’m proudest of is that we managed to export that sound into other countries, which at the beginning had a very bad image of French music due to that “Alterno” movement: Berurier Noir, Ludwig Von 88 and tons of other stupid ska-punk doing playful music sung in French. I was also very happy to get the respect from many international acts like Jesus Lizard, Alice Donut, Cows, Headcleaner, Melt Banana, Ruins, Unsane, Patton, A Minor Forest, Neurosis, Zeni Geva, Kepone, Alboth!, and lots of others which are now famous or cult. Not sure if Marseille was ever an epicenter but at least we tried our best to prove that France was a good cradle for noisy music.
Chain D.L.K.: Funny how things happen by coincidence…the last week in the cheapos of a record shop I’ve bought a copy of “as happy as” by Les Thugs. I think that record more or less belongs to the period, I think at the time they’ve become quite well-known in France as they gained some popularity in other country as well. Can String of Consciousness become the “next big thing” from France? Ok, I know you don’t’ care about popularity at every cost, etc…but at the end of the day what I consider interesting is the fact that despite the refined melodies/arrangements I think it takes more listenings to fully appreciate you work (as it happened with late Lambchop for example). What kind of crowd could you attract in your home country and abroad.
Strings Of Consciousness: Philippe: It is true that bigger magazines and press from France started to really pay attention to Les Thugs when they signed to Alternative Tentacles. They were proud that a French band got some bigger recognition abroad, on an established label, a very nationalistic/chauvinistic attitude which I dislike. Indeed we have been releasing our records on some labels from abroad but most of us are not French so I do not consider Strings Of Consciousness to be a French band. It is very flattering that you keep insisting on the fact that we should get some popularity, thank you.But, honestly, I’d sound awfully pretentious if I were agreeing that we could be “the next big thing” from anywhere, wouldn’t I ?! I’m happy as we are gaining some very positive reactions and they come from everywhere so it isn’t a French-thing at all…As you said yourself people who appreciate us are the ones who understand that qualitative music often needs repeated listenings to fully reveal itself. The more you give to Strings Of Consciousness the more we’ll give back to you
Visit Strings Of Consciousness on the web at:
[interviewed by Anrea Ferraris] [proofreading by Philippe Petit]