Loup‘s style could be roughly defined as “sonic art/jazz”, but any which way you label it is going to be an an approximation of what this Lyon-based French duo, made up of Clement Edouard (sax, electronics) and Sheik Anorak (drums, electronics), manages to squeeze out of so-called “free jazz”. Personal and unique, their style clearly exudes from their second full-length album, titled “The Opening” and released by Gaffer Records. While listening to their new release, we had a chat with Sheik Anorak about Loup‘s self-definition and their album as well. I warmly recommend you explore their fuzzy and intriguing sound, based on a demanding fusion of free jazz sketches, improvised noise and sonic textures.
Chain D.L.K.: Hi there! Congratulations on “The Opening”… it’s a very interesting metissage… could you introduce Loup to our readers in your own words?
Sheik Anorak: Hi! And thanks for the nice words about “The Opening”. So, Loup is a duo, we come from Lyon (in France) and we started to play together in June 2010 if I remember correctly. Clément (Edouard) plays sax and machines/electronics, and I (Sheik Anorak) play drums + electronics too. To make it simple, the main idea behind Loup is the “acoustic vs. electronics” opposition. Our music is then based on acoustic free jazz, to which we add electronic textures/ environment.
Chain D.L.K.: You come from quite different musical backgrounds… how do your musical paths met?
Sheik Anorak: Yes indeed we come from different musical backgrounds but luckily we live in the same city. Clément is connected to a venue in Lyon called Le Périscope and I am connected to Grrrnd Zero. We happened to “work” together and go to each other’s venue… that’s how we met. Then for a gig at Grrrnd Zero (with Rangda: Chris Corsano, Ben Chasny & Sir Richard Bishop) we were asked (among other people) to play/ improvise as a support act: that’s how Loup started. This was possible because Clément, comes from jazz but is open to noise and experimentations and I come from noise and related but I am open to the jazz aesthetics.
Chain D.L.K.: Nowadays labeling the genre of some project is sometimes difficult… do you like using the “free jazz” label for your music? Why do you or why do you not?
Sheik Anorak: Yes, it becomes harder and harder to label someone’s music as nowadays it seems like nothing “new” can be created and that turns into a music metissage for the most of it. Even if the situation is not THAT simple. Free jazz sounds ok to us, we kinda use it ourselves to describe the music of Loup. It fits our music as this is where we started with Loup, adding the electronic parts came naturally afterwards. And I do think this IS free jazz – not the historical way – but it is some kind of way to free the jazz from its own codes and rules… we just try to continue with what has been done/started years before. I don’t know if we manage to do it, but we try.
Chain D.L.K.: Some reviewers don’t agree with the conceptual basis of free jazz for a number of reasons. The majority advocates that it is an impossible operation to remove the musical past or traditions in spite of any attempt… what’s your opinion about that?
Sheik Anorak: I think this IS free jazz, but some kind of mutation of it. Maybe another word has to be added to create a more specific genre. But it is weird to me to say that those terms “free jazz” could only be used for this music made between 1960 and 1975 for example. We’re in 2012 and people still play free jazz, except that now we do it with nowadays’ sounds, textures and way of thinking. It could be as political as it was before (maybe less meaningless as the political situation is not the same as it was for musicians 50 years ago). But it still means something – and something strong. I can assure you that most free jazz musicians I know struggle (with venues, promoters, etc.) to play their music and get people to listen to it (or write about it!), regardless of the quality of the music itself.
Chain D.L.K.: What’s the worst compliment and the best criticism you received?
Sheik Anorak: Wow! That’s a tough question. Maybe the worst compliment would be when some guy after the show comes and tells you your music reminds him of this or that band – bands you don’t feel related to at all, because this is what HE knows and refers your music to. There are too many examples to be listed here… hehe. The best criticism – so far – came from our friend Sixto (who runs, with Marion, the incredible Cave 12 in Geneva, Switzerland; you should check out their amazing work). After a show in Geneva, he told us he just wanted to stop the gig before the end because of one quiet/ drone part he couldn’t stand. He clearly explained it to us, with precise and smart but very subjective ideas, and we discussed it for hours. Knowing he was kind of right, we made some changes and we then had our best performances in the days immediately following that show (we were on a 6 days tour). Thanks man!
Chain D.L.K.: Do you think Lyon or France in general is a fertile ground for your kind of experiments or do you think there are better places to be understood and appreciated on our planet?
Sheik Anorak: Of course there are better places than Lyon for this music today – I guess. But the nice thing about Lyon is that it is POSSIBLE to do something here, I mean to develop this music, make more people to come to shows or get interested. The situation changed already. For example, let’s say 5/6 years ago there were only a few (or almost no) free jazz/expé/ improvised music gigs… and only a few venues to welcome this music. Today in Lyon there’s at least 2 festivals dedicated to it (Gaffer Fest and Experience(s)) plus some local promoters who opened themselves to this music and include it in their regular schedule when it’s possible. We just have to educate people’s ears. Like we were educated earlier.
Chain D.L.K.: “No pain, no gain”… I remember Jane Fonda used to repeat those words in order to persuade lazy people to make exhausting exercises and reach the illusive dream of a perfect body… why did you choose such a title for that fuzzytronic jazzy freak sound of yours?
Sheik Anorak: We don’t have a “global vision” of our own music. We know it can be tough for some people to listen to and/or like it. So the idea behind it – sometimes – is “c’mon people give it a try, you may like it after all”. “No pain, no gain” is typically this kind of reaction to our own work. Just not knowing if it sucks or not.
Chain D.L.K.: Which elements have you crumbled in “Elements”?
Sheik Anorak: I’d say none. This is just some state of mind inspired by this track. It is hard to put words on something you’ve just pictured… feels like it’s unexplainable. Sorry!
Chain D.L.K.: …and which detonating elements have you used for the explosions in “Boom!”?
Sheik Anorak: This is some really short guitar power chords I ran into a ring modulator and distortion(s). Quite simple but effective. This is just a basis for this improvised track, which is our regular way of working so far. But we now try different other leads.
Chain D.L.K.: Any forthcoming tour or recording?
Sheik Anorak: Yes indeed. We’ll record a new full length in late 2012 or early 2013, plus another “concept” record. We’ll provide more info about that a bit later, as the project is not really defined yet. And regarding tours, we’ll play some gigs in France between September and November. We plan to go back on tour in January and April/May. We’ll visit Scandinavia, UK, Netherlands and Eastern Europe again. More info are available on our website.
Chain D.L.K.: Imagine someone from another planet landed nearby your studio or concert while you were playing… what would you answer them if they asked “what are you doing?”?
Sheik Anorak: Haha! Damn! I guess we would answer something like: “We’re playing MUSIC. Music is entertainment to us, humans. And to us, this particular music is the best compromise we found between fun, sensibility and thinking. Have a seat and Enjoy!”.
Chain D.L.K.: The funniest facial expression you remember from audience during one of your live performance?
Sheik Anorak: I guess the usual “2 fingers plugged in the ears” type. Unbeatable!
Chain D.L.K.: Is it possible to follow some programmatic content even when recording a “free-jazz” record in your opinion? How could you recognize something which is not so totally “improvisational”?
Sheik Anorak: I guess it is hard to recognize something which is not totally improvised without having the chance to listen to the same musicians playing together several times in a row. I mean, sometimes you can feel like it is “written” because something happens between the musicians. But it’s not, they just found a tacit way to communicate through the music and it is working at that very moment. Maybe not the following evening. On the other hand, some written music can feel “improvised” because it has been cleverly written. The point is, it is very hard to determine if the music is totally improvised or not.
And regarding the first part of the question, if by programmatic content you mean a main idea that runs through the whole song, then yes it’s mainly what free jazz is about I guess. This is what I like about this “free jazz” genre. It concerns “regular” free jazz (the roots of it) as well as free improvised music, non-idiomatic improvisation (as Derek Bailey called it), jazz experimentations, etc.
Improvisation is a tough subject and I don’t have a whole fucking theory about it (loads of musicians have one though). I just play, we just play. And that’s way enough for us. Too much thinking could just kill the natural process.
visit Loup on the web at: www.loupduo.fr