Vito Camarretta

Aug 112019
 

Formerly known by fans of drum’n’bass and breaks as Raiden, Berlin-based British producer Chris Jarman recently deployed “Dead Skin Cells,” his debut album in the guise of Kamikaze Space Programme (out on Osiris Music), after spreading some tracks on labels like WNCL Recordings, Mord and Mote-Evolver and tunes through regular sets, meeting the likes of Tresor and Berghain. On Kamikaze Space Programme, Chris managed to combine some sonorities of his DNB-driven age with contemporary techno (or post-techno) and rhythmical noise textures, but its creativity managed to give that plus to this stylistic hybridization. The release deserves to be checked out…particularly in possibly forthcoming suicidal space programs…

Chain DLK: Hi, Chris! How are you?

Chris Jarman: Hello! Good, thanks, trying to stay cool in this extreme heat, 98 degrees at the moment! I’m off work for the summer; just played at this nutty club called Berghain yesterday which is always crazy, and my new album was released on the same day. Probably going to take me a few days to get over all this excitement.

Chain DLK: A British DJ in Berlin…sounding like an American Werewolf in London? Jokes aside, even if I can imagine the reasons, as Berlin can be considered the real European capital of techno culture, music and parties, why did you move there?

Chris Jarman: Or a plastic cockney in Berlin! It’s certainly a cliche to move to here, but there’s no smoke without fire. I was once told Berlin is the graveyard of creativity by a particularly prolific artist and I can see their point; it is very easy to get distracted here, so you need some discipline. I kept visiting Berlin and being incredibly inspired, and each stay would become progressively longer until the point where I didn’t go home. I’m not so into the clubs these days. I’d rather hold court at the bar where I can sit down. I’m really enjoying the whole Audio Visual scene; there’s some utterly mind blowing events going on particularly at Kraftwerk, such as Berlin Atonal, Skalar and Deep Web. What keeps me in Berlin is my job as a university lecturer at dBs music in creative music production. I love my job and my students. There’s an incredible sense of community here. It’s a very inspirational city full amazing people from all walks of life, from every corner of the globe. But at the same time, Berlin has made me a lot more sensitive to my roots in the UK bass music culture as there’s very little of that here. Berlin could do with an extra octave of bass!

Chain DLK: A question that anyone who got in touch with your music maybe already asked…why did you name your project Kamikaze Space Programme? Just a way to describe your style or a slightly sneering statement on space programs?C

Chris Jarman: I originally took that title from a song on an album called ‘Curse of the Golden Vampire’ by Techno Animal, aka Alec Empire. It seems such a ridiculous concept; a space programme based on a promise of failure. I used this name for a Raiden EP on my Offkey label back in 2009. When it was time to make a new alias, I felt this name was too good for just an EP, not to mention it would be the largest name on any flyer, which has not yet been beaten. My next alias will consist of 2 letters or one syllable with the email to match.

Chain DLK: What’s up there beyond the clouds in your viewpoint?

Chris Jarman: Lots of empty space following the laws of physics that is hostile to life, punctuated with the odd bright, radioactive mass that is begging to be explored. Maybe a Dyson sphere.

Chain DLK: Besides bpm and drum patterns, I noticed a certain similarity of many tracks made by you as Kamikaze Space Programme to the style and the way of forging breaks by Future Sound of London… I guess you’re a fan of FSOL, aren’t you? Are there any artists that you could consider a milestone in the development of your music?

Chris Jarman: Ha! I’m a HUGE fan of the Future Sound of London, completely obsessed; is it really that obvious!? I have been listening to their music since they released Dead Cities, which is my favorite album of all time. I still buy every record they make on sight, which is a lot. I don’t know how they have such a prolific output, releasing multiple albums per year. For me, they are the greatest producers of all time, so any comparison I take as a huge compliment.

Aside from FSOL, other artists which have inspired me heavily in terms of my music production would be Mika Vainio, Dillinja, Emptyset, The Scientist, Mick Harris, Roly Porter, Matthew Herbert, Ed Rush, and Optical, lots of bands, I could go on…I’m a huge fan of many types of music, everything from Latin music such as Hector Lavoe and Les Baxter, to field recordists such as Alan Lamb’s Wire Music and Chris Watson. I just love sound.

Chain DLK: As an admirer of Renegade Hardware, I admit I knew you as Raiden before, but I pretty much ignored the project KSP. Maybe I heard some Kamikaze Space Programme, but I should have thought it was just a weird and vaguely fancy way to refer to a remix. What’s the bridge connecting Raiden and KSP?

Chris Jarman: I would say the connection between my aliases as Raiden, Dot Product and KSP have become quite blurred recently, particularly on my latest KSP album. You can hear influences from all my music projects over the years on this latest record. When KSP started, it was exclusively based around field recording, but this has opened up a bit over the last few years. For some time, I disregarded my past as a DNB producer, but these days I’m quite proud of it; it’s not easy music to make or operate in, but it has taught me a lot. I’ve recently built a studio centered around the equipment from the late 90’s, which Jungle was made with, gear I couldn’t afford at the time, merged with cutting edge equipment and homemade microphones. This clash of heritage with modern equipment makes for a power set up that links past, present and future.

Kamikaze Space Programme “Dead Skin Cells” cover artwork

Chain DLK: I had the chance to listen to your recent album Dead Skin Cells! Very interesting tracks on it! First of all, what’s its conceptual framework (if there’s any)? What’s the common aspect (besides the author!) of the tracks included in this album?

Chris Jarman: Thank you! There is a strong production aesthetic to this record. I wanted to pursue a more stripped-down, bass-heavy sound and work more with space and emotion. I asked Simon Shreeve if I could make an LP for Osiris and, as someone who has supported me for almost 20 years, he was into the idea and gave me total creative freedom; he didn’t even want to hear the record until it was mastered. First I wrote about 20 tracks, but something was missing and I hadn’t quite nailed the sound I was imagining, so I scrapped every song then started again. I built an all-new hardware set up to disrupt the habitual in the box workflow I had been using for the last few years and built a new room. From a production standpoint, the concept of the album is based around the many obscure field recordings I have made over the last few years such as tesla coils, rain, crickets (they are the hardest things to record, especially Greek crickets) and background ambiances from my various travels. These would be manipulated using E-MU hardware samplers then weaved together with hardware jams using many effect pedals, with lots of dub mixing techniques using a large vintage analog mixing console. I also explored glitch/data processing, and I recorded impulse response effects of unique spaces. I wanted to make something that captured everything I have learned in the 20 years that I have been producing music in one release. This LP is my latest invention.

Chain DLK: Can Derelict (awesome track!) be considered a reference to your work as Raiden? If yes, why such a title for this ring of the chain?

Chris Jarman: Absolutely. I find long, distorted bass tones in combination with melodic pads to be highly emotional, which many Raiden tracks also had. Originally, the track didn’t have any drums and it was intended as an interlude. As for the title, I wrote this track about a feeling of being numb and emotionally derelict. Many of the tracks on the LP have a reference to decay or bad weather, which is a metaphor for a being melancholic.

Chain DLK: I heard very well-forged breaks over the whole album…do you miss jungle sonorities, by chance?

Chris Jarman: Yes, for sure, but I also wouldn’t want to make music as I did 20 years ago. I wanted to take the parts of jungle I love, leave the bits I didn’t and make something fresh. After spending the last 7 years working with rhythms that were made purely from chopped foley recordings, I started to miss using sampled breakbeats and twisting them; the vintage samplers certainly helped. Breaks have a lot of vibes baked into them as it’s the recording of a talented drummer at the peak of their creative flow. Nowadays, I have a lot more knowledge in production that I wish I knew back when I was making DNB. I adapted many techniques on the drums that I adopted from top mix engineers such as Tchad Blake. For my next record, I recently booked a studio and recorded hours of live drums played by one of my students, which I’m currently mixing and editing. Aside from the breaks, I really missed making huge sub-bass that would test even the biggest sound systems; there’s something very physical and intense about low end when it’s done right. No musical movement did this as well as Jungle/ DNB (apart from dub!) and it’s forever in my heart.

Chain DLK: Is there any track that could be somehow related to your inner world (other than possible references to outer space!)?

Chris Jarman: I would say I’m more fascinated by inner space than outer, the atom, etc. So let’s say Stratosaatti by Ø / Mika Vainio!

Chain DLK: Would you say that Offkey ceased any activity, or are you planning to push something through your imprint?

Chris Jarman: I would probably say that it is finished. But I’m constantly contradicting myself, so who knows? Maybe one day it could come back. The catalog is no longer available; I quite like the idea that it existed in one era and that’s it. I like to move forward and not dwell on past glories. For now, I don’t have much desire to run a label as I’m so busy with teaching, so what time I do have left for music I’d rather produce, and I’m more than happy with the labels I record for…

Chain DLK: I saw your name on a split release on Ohm Resistance together with the one of Mick Harris (as Fret)! Any word about this split?

Chris Jarman: Mick Harris has been a huge inspiration to me since the early 90s. His recent output as Fret has blown my mind, particularly the Overdepth LP. Kurt that runs Ohm Resistance knew this and invited me to contribute a track to the Ohm Resistance subscription series, with a bait of sharing the record with Mick as Fret. Where do I sign??? I got to meet Mick recently, which was amazing. We talked about music for all but 30 seconds and spent the rest of the evening talking about coarse fishing; he loves it as much as I do.

Chain DLK:Any collaborative work in progress?

Chris Jarman: Yes, many. For me, collaboration is purely fun, a social activity, and if a track and a cup of tea come out of it, even better. I’ve been working on new music at various stages of completion with Simon Shreeve / MØnic, Cocktail Party Effect, Appleblim, Charlton, Boris Brenecki and Second Storey.

With Adam Winchester (as Dot Product), we have an EP out soon with Japanoise legend KK Null, and collabs in progress with Renate Knapp (Singer of Amon Dull ii) and Richard Thair (drummer of Red Snapper, Sabres of Paradise, The Aloof). We have a new member called Geso who’s a talented visual artist.

Chain DLK: …And as a soloist? Any forthcoming stuff?

Chris Jarman: I’m currently working on another KSP album, also for Osiris music. It’s still in its very early stages, so hard to say what the vibe is, but so far it seems to be an extension of Dead Skin Cells, slower with much heavier low end and more emotion, but we’ll see when it’s finished. I hope to release this within the next year. For the future, I’d like to focus more on albums rather than singles/EPs. I rarely listen to EPs myself, only albums, so I thought, I should be doing this too.

Chain DLK: Do you keep on performing on live stage? Under the guise of…? DJ/producer? Raiden/KSP/Chris?

Chris Jarman: I’m very busy playing as KSP all over the world with live sets and DJ sets, although nowadays I only do shows I’m really into. I’m currently working on a live AV show with an extremely talented visual artist called Geso. I’m about to do my first 3d Ambisonics live set in London next month, which I’m really excited about, and I’d like to do more of these concert type shows as we do as Dot Product. I tend to play the odd Raiden set once per year saying this is the last time; I’ve been saying that for the last 8 years. I still perform with Dot Product, and we have our first audiovisual installation at an experimental arts festival in Spain next year. I’d like to do more sets with Cocktail Party Effect in the future too, as we have so much chemistry as well as being one of the most exciting producers of the moment.

Aug 112019
 

While revving up for Southern, the imminent drum’n’bass festival he set up in a beautiful area on the Eastern seaside of the upper Jonean coast, not far from his native town Taranto, Francesco Oliveto, better known as Promenade, is also spreading “Ballads,” his debut solo album, through his label BNC Express, which has been aptly described as “a liquid funk dream built on earthquake sub bass.” We had a quick chat with this hyperactive Prague-based DNB producer.

Chain DLK: Hi, Francesco! How are you?

Promenade:I am doing great!

Chain DLK: Well, I know a part of your path into music, but our readers may not…can you tell them something about your very first steps, which gradually brought you to the birth of Promenade and BNC?

Promenade: Music has been my mission from a really young age. I discovered DNB after moving to Milan from my hometown. In the meanwhile, I also studied jazz, because my first big dream was to be a composer and a singer.

I can clearly remember the day I discovered DNB: a Full Cycle party with Suv, Surge and MC Tali. That day, I discovered a DJ can create his music by mixing tunes from other people. I bought 2 Technics and I spent maybe 8 hours playing every day for the next few years.

Only some years later did I start producing my own music: playing vinyls was enough at that time.

Chain DLK: After years of production and DJing, you’re like a super-skilled juggler and a proper master of breaks and drum’n’bass ingredients…despite such a remarkable experience, is there anyone in the scene that you consider to be an unreachable master?

Promenade:Yes, his name is Zinc.

Chain DLK: You’re both a producer and a label manager…how does the outlook on the DNB scene change from these two different viewpoints?

Promenade: From a producer point of view, it’s really amazing the huge number of different DNB labels active all over the world: it means producers are freer in creating different sounds and not being locked in one specific sub-genre forever.

From the label manager point of view, I am in a daily fight with the social media era. To be consistent on the web, you need to invest a lot of time on Facebook, SoundCloud, YouTube, etc…counting likes is a horrible sport.

Chain DLK: When I have time, it’s a pleasure to follow the recent releases of labels like yours…can you update our readers about your recent and forthcoming releases?

Promenade: BNCexpress was born to promote upcoming artists. After seven years, we are still faithful to our mission, even though we try to alternate releases from new talents with music from producers we already know.

After the summer, we will release a true gem from a new Italian producer called Vosko (one tune from him has been released on the Technique Summer Compilation), a single from Delroy and later, an album from the Czech crew Furious Freaks, including a collaboration with A-Cray.

Promenade “Ballads” – cover artwork

Chain DLK: …And finally, let’s focus on your Ballads… Should we consider it a proper album or not?

Promenade: Yes, it is. Every single tune inside the Ballads album was written to be there.

Chain DLK: Why Ballads? Any wink to London Elektricity’s sound and his iconic Power Ballads?

Promenade: London Elektricity sound is always a big reference for me. He is a true master. But I called this album Ballads because of my jazz background.

Chain DLK: You live in Prague at the moment, but even if you maybe (smartly) consider yourself a citizen of the world, you kept the connection with Taranto, your native town, and its surrounding area… And maybe The Way Back Home, the first track of your new release refers to this, doesn’t it?

Promenade: This is a really nice overthinking! Home is where turntables are! 🙂 This is a song for my family: my wife and my dog.

Chain DLK: Unlike some of your previous releases, it seems you’re moving towards more liquid sonorities…why such a choice?

Promenade: I am obsessed with acoustic sound. In Ballads, you cannot find a sample: each and every chord is written by me. Even if I used synth and virtual instruments, I tried to recreate an acoustic mood: liquid, deep, rolling… I really don’t care in which box people need to put it after 🙂

Chain DLK: I remember you started to give lessons to teach people how to mix and make some tunes, right? Are you still doing a proper school in Prague?

Promenade: Sharing is caring! Yes, but it’s not a proper school, it’s a small studio where I introduce people to electronic music production.

Chain DLK: Apropos of your connection with Taranto and its surroundings, you recently launched a summer festival there…and I guess you are working on the forthcoming edition, right? Any word about it?

Promenade: Yes, Southern is a 3-day event taking place in a really beautiful place not far from Taranto. The 2019 edition is planned for the 7th, 8th, and 9th of August.

We will host people from Czech Republic – A-Cray, Furious Freaks, One Way, Houbass – HLZ and some amazing artists from the Italian scene.

Chain DLK: Any other work in progress?

Promenade: Of course! I’m going to produce a tune with SUV for his Playside Records and I am already working on some new stuff.

Jun 022019
 

The name, or I should say his name-in-art of Timothy Lewis, better known as Thighpaulsandra, is commonly matched to that of Coil; when he joined the band after meeting John Balance, he managed to enliven the creative fire of the band and to persuade the formerly hermetic group to get out of the darkness and perform on live stages. Tim also kept on honoring his partners in art in Coil after they passed away by compiling and editing the first photographic art book of Coil co-founder Peter Christopherson as well as a book of John Balance’s little known sketches and drawings, titled ‘Bright Lights and Cats With No Mouth’ (published by Timeless in 2014). His solo project to spread his own music was strongly encouraged by both Christopherson and Balance, and thanks to their support and to that piece of advice, we can appreciate absolutely amazing outputs by Thighpaulsandra today. After I was delighted by the tracks on his last one “Practical Electronics with Thighpaulsandra” (released in March 2019 by Editions Mego), I managed to deliver some questions to the author. Check out his interesting answers down below.

‘Practical Electronics with…’ cover artwork

Chain DLK: Hi, Tim! How are you?

Thighpaulsandra: Very well, thank you.

Chain DLK: You don’t really need introductions in my opinion, particularly to all those who more or less deeply know Coil. Some of your former Coil mates persuaded you to spread some stuff as a solo artist, didn’t they? Your debut as Thighpaulsandra came out on Eskaton (why not on Threshold House?) as well… Did any particular member of Coil interfere in your creative process?

Thighpaulsandra: John Balance and Sleazy were both very supportive of my solo material. I would not say that they interfered in any way but were keen to help if they could, and both of them chose to contribute to my solo albums by both performing and contributing to the album artwork. The first three releases were on Eskaton because I don’t think Threshold House existed at that point.

Chain DLK: Your first appearance on a Coil album was on the occasion of “Musick To Play In The Dark”… How do you remember the work on that wonderful output?

Thighpaulsandra: No, my first appearance on a Coil record was the Prescription Records original vinyl release of Astral Disaster, which was recorded in 1998 but released in 1999. “Musick To Play In The Dark” was my second appearance later the same year. It was the beginning of an exceptionally creative period which I enjoyed immensely. I remember spending many weeks working on the album with John and Sleazy at their studio in Weston Super Mare. It was close to the sea, so the quality of the light was a great inspiration. We drank lots of tea and ate cakes. Although we hadn’t known each other very long at this point, we all felt a very strong bond immediately and the thrill of mutual musical discovery was very potent.

Chain DLK: Is there any Coil album where your musical veins and ideas influenced the sound more than other ones, in your opinion?

Thighpaulsandra: “Music To Play In The Dark 1&2,” “Constant Shallowness Leads To Evil” (which is probably my favorite) and “Queens Of The Circulating Library.”

Chain DLK: Both some lyrics of your recent outputs (in particular, the ones of Brown Pillows) and your biography surmised a pretty well-known Coil song to me, “The Last Amethyst Deceiver”… Do you pay respect to vultures?

Thighpaulsandra: Vultures are a constant problem, and we seem to be surrounded by them. If your question is really about whether or not Coil influenced my work, then the answer is undoubtedly yes. It was impossible to work with such wonderful people and not be influenced by them.

Chain DLK: You recorded your previous album The Golden Communion in a secluded place in Western Wales (Golliwog Farm in Pontypridd, right?), didn’t you? Which location did you choose for Practical Electronics With…? Is the cover a clue of the location?

Thighpaulsandra: The Golden Communion was recorded partly at Golliwog Farm but also at my current studio Aeriel in West Wales. “Practical Electronics” was recorded entirely at Aeriel Studios. The cover photograph was taken in my secret laboratory where I perform electronic experiments on young men.

Chain DLK: A question on some of your old entries… That awesome trance-inducing ambient suite turned into a bizarre psycho-abstract hybridization of electronic whirls, progressive kraut a la Can and industrial noises titled Michel Publicity Window… Do you remember the source of inspiration?

Thighpaulsandra: No, I don’t remember exactly, but at that time I had been listening to Faust IV and other Krautrock albums a lot so I suspect they had some influence. The drone sections were probably inspired by Tony Conrad and La Monte Young.

Chain DLK: “He is a wonderful bright Pagan STAR in his own rite and I are very happy he accepted my invitation. Now we are 5 sided.” These were the words by which John Balance talked about you and your joining to Coil… How do you feel when you read his introduction today?

Thighpaulsandra:I feel very sad that John is not still here and we are not still making wonderful music with Sleazy. I miss them both very much. They were both great teachers on many levels and a source of inspiration to me. I will be eternally grateful to them for letting me be part of their world.

Chain DLK: Besides its bizarre cover (can you tell us something about that as well?), your Chamber Music orbits around stuff that someone might label as New Music / Free Improv today. What would you label as really new in contemporary music?

Thighpaulsandra:I don’t really listen to other people’s music very much these days, so that question would be difficult to answer. I don’t deliberately try to mould my music to any genre, I just do what comes naturally.

Chain DLK: One of your recent projects I really appreciate is Uruk, the one with Zu’s bass player Massimo Pupillo… Any forthcoming issue after Mysterium Coniunctionis?

Thighpaulsandra: Yes, we have a new live album, “The Descent Of Innana” recorded at Cave 12, Geneva available from www.thighpaulsandra.co.uk. We have started work on a new Uruk album which will probably be released next year.

Chain DLK: Can you introduce “Practical Electronics with…” in your own words?

Thighpaulsandra: Practical Electronics grew from the requirement to play shows without my group. Many promoters do not want to invest in a four-piece group playing challenging material of minority interest. It occurred to me that I should write some music that I could perform solo, and so that is how those songs came about. There will probably be more songs in this style, but I’m still writing and recording group and instrumental based material too.

Chain DLK: The title evokes the ones used for DIY or IT handbooks…Any “didactic” intent behind it?

Thighpaulsandra: Certainly not. The title and cover art is a parody of the popular UK DIY electronics magazines of the 1960s and 70s. The covers often featured serious-looking amateurs prodding around with a soldering iron. I thought I would combine this idea with one of my usual homoerotic covers in rather a tongue-in-cheek style. My humor was obviously lost on the editor of The Quietus, as he found the cover offensive and refused to review it.

Chain DLK: In Brown Pillows, I noticed a certain relation between the words of the lyrics and sounds that seem to translate them… What can you say about this relation between word and sound in “Practical Electronics with…?”

Thighpaulsandra: I always try to complement my lyrics with appropriate tonal colors. The sounds and the lyrics often seed each other in unexpected ways which, of course, I revel in. Incongruity is often the key.

Chain DLK:Any work in progress?

Thighpaulsandra: Yes, I’m constantly writing and working on new things. I spend almost every day in the studio, sometimes writing, sometimes experimenting, but always recording. I also have a few new collaborations planned although, for now, they must remain secret. I have also been mixing a series of Coil live recordings from tours around 2002. The first of these was released last month on my Retractor label.

Jun 022019
 

Vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, composer and performance artist Stephanie Pan described herself as a lover of chaos, mess and human imperfection. Both her list of loved entities and her skills are mirrored in “Have Robot Dog, Will Travel” (recently released by Arteksounds), described as “a song cycle for the technological age and an ode to abstraction, to ambiguity, to words unsaid.” We focused on it with Stephanie. Check out her words below (as well as her sounds)!

Stephanie Pan “Have Robot Dog, Will Travel”
cover artwork

Chain DLK: Hi, Stephanie! How are you?

Stephanie Pan: Hello! I’m very well, thanks, currently traveling around the world after a very cool collaborative project in Brisbane, Australia!

Chain DLK: Before focusing on your interesting debut album, can you tell us something about your first steps on the path that brought to your current art?

Stephanie Pan: Formally, I grew up in classical music (piano, violin and choirs), and began to get serious about singing when I started studying at UC Berkeley, where I received a BA in Applied Mathematics and Music. I moved to The Hague, the Netherlands in 2001 to study Baroque singing and later bel canto at The Royal Conservatory in The Hague, but ultimately focused on contemporary classical music. By the time I finished the Conservatory in The Hague, my specialties were live improvisation and extended vocal techniques. Furthermore, I really grew up as a performer, in more recent years having worked a lot in physical and political theater and performance art. In my personal life, I really came of age listening to electronic music (particularly new wave, dancehall, drum n bass, and tekno) and alternative music. So I guess I’ve always had a pretty broad spectrum of influences. I’ve spent quite some time negotiating this pretty fractured identity, first and foremost for myself.

Chain DLK: The oldest entry on your path in your website is the nicely titled Our Lady of Late, a solo for voice and wineglass, inspired by the same-named piece by Meredith Monk… I knew the remake of the same release by Nick Hallett, a vocal performer you maybe know… Do you remember how you ideally related to Monk’s album for that project?

Stephanie Pan: Yes, absolutely. This piece has been really important to me and has been with me for more than a decade! Meredith Monk has certainly been a huge influence, and this project began before I started writing my own music. As a singer, I wanted to learn Monk’s Our Lady of Late. I couldn’t find a published score for it and started transcribing the pieces for myself, developing my own notation for what she was doing and how I understood each of the pieces, so the very first iterations of this were my interpretations of Meredith Monk’s piece. Over time, as I revisited the work and opened up my understanding of how I interpreted it, I started to replace her movements with my own improvisations or songs and slowly, over time, it became my own version of pieces for voice and wineglass.

Chain DLK:Wineglasses are also part of Implied Manifesto, together with other tools that maybe you keep on using… Someone could ask the reason for such an almost constant presence!

Stephanie Pan: Yes, it’s true, sometimes I have to laugh at myself for being the wineglass lady! I just love the way the female voice and wineglass interact; it’s such a delicate but rich environment for making sound. I also love the absurdity of a highly cultivated sound with crappy toy synths, and cheap keyboards and effects, which are definitely also recurring in my work. In a way, I don’t find it at all odd. If you think about bands with their fixed instrumentation, or electronic musicians with computers, my setup just happens to contain a rather odd (and growing) collection of toys and instruments which I continue to work with and develop ideas with.

Chain DLK: How did you work on your voice and its performative possibilities over the years? Did such work imply a technical effort only, or is it somehow related to spirituality?

Stephanie Pan: I would definitely qualify my vocal work as a search for communication, from a very primal perspective. My work in theatre and performance art has certainly also influenced the way I think about the voice as an instrument/device and how I approach creating work. I did have to work very hard to develop my technique as a singer, as I was not naturally a good technical singer, but I definitely always had something to say. My work as a vocalist in this respect has really been about refining my technique in order to be able to express or share my thoughts or ideas more effectively. Whether or not I would call that spiritual, I don’t know; it’s such a loaded word. I definitely have a need in any case to connect with my public, to share a kind of universal loneliness and need for each other.

Chain DLK: One of the initiatives you organized with was Modern Body Festival…can you tell us something about that? I read on your websites of two editions. No other editions after those, or is it an ongoing project?

Stephanie Pan: Oh, no! Then my website is out of date! There have been 3 biennial editions, in 2014, 2016 and 2018. Modern Body Festival is an initiative I founded with my partner, Stelios Manousakis, in 2014. We call it an ‘intermedia’ festival and platform which operates in the nebulous zone between disciplines/genres/media, and consider it an extension of our own practice. It really started with one of our projects, Center no Distractor, a duo for taiko and live electronics (in a way our take on hardcore tekno), when we had the opportunity to organize a performance for the project. To us, the duo is equal parts music, dance and performance, and we were fantasizing about other artists/projects we thought would help create the right context for the project. 3 hours later, we had an entire festival program on our hands and we thought, oh my god, we have to do this!

The festival always has a particular theme around the notion of the ‘modern’ body, and we re-imagine the format every edition. As it’s an extension of our own practices, it’s never made sense to find some formula and stick to it; it’s a fun (but definitely stressful) challenge to keep reinventing the platform. At the moment, we’re planning to continue the laboratory series we started in 2017 under the same Modern Body moniker and further concentrate on the idea that as a foundation, we’re becoming our own production house. That means moving away from the biennial format for the time being, but definitely continuing to grow and develop, and continuing to balance our own creative work and our work as producers/curators/facilitators/initiators.

Chain DLK: Let’s try to extensively talk about your impressive debut album… There are many true facts related to the stage of civilization (to call it so) living (and maybe dead also) human beings experience through the lyrics… How do you feel about this?

Stephanie Pan: I feel the core of the human condition is eternal and our fear of loneliness, isolation, loss of love are omnipresent, ultimately connecting us all. At the heart of my work is a kind of nagging loneliness which is something I feel we all deeply understand and can therefore be moved by, and which I feel we need to embrace and accept instead of running away from it. It’s the thing that makes us cling to things for safety. Something I’m really interested in is the ambiguity of life, of how much in between there is if you try to embrace this loneliness. What I’m really interested in talking about in my songs is a kind of amorphous zone, this kind of grey area of nothingness. The big emotions – rapture, desperation, misery, euphoria – are less interesting to me to talk about; they don’t have enough space in a way, as they’re so full of themselves. In those moments, I don’t make good work. These weird, ambiguous and everyday moments that take up a huge part of our lives are so revealing and rich. To me, they’re full of a certain melancholy, freedom, space, self-reflection, longing, etc., all of these sensations that are somehow so in balance with each other they sort of cancel each other out and we’re left with a kind of nothing, and this fullness and simultaneous emptiness is really at the heart of this album.

I’m really proud of how the album developed and became what it is now. It is my ode to ambiguity. I wanted to balance all these many influences in my work, to create something that is enjoyable and approachable but keeps you off balance; something appealingly ambiguous. I’m really thankful to the producer, Henry Vega, for inviting me to make an album for ARTEkSounds, and how he really encouraged me to reset my mindset and allow the album to become a work of its own (being a performer at heart, I had always conceived of work with the ‘live’ perspective in mind). He really helped me pick it apart and fill in the gaps while giving me the space I needed to develop each piece.

Chain DLK: Some moments made me think of writings by Philip K. Dick… Are some lyrics inspired by sci-fi or other branches of literature?

Stephanie Pan: I’m definitely interested in an abstract language and searching for a way to talk about things without being too concrete but not becoming so obtuse that it’s all meaningless. And I suppose talking about intimate thoughts from a sort of philosophical approach lends itself to a kind of detachment in the language. The lyrics for ‘Beast’ are definitely a kind of contemporary sci-fi, as they were made, together with artist Tivon Rice, with a Machine-Learning (aka Artificial Intelligence) software trained on the complete writings of Italo Calvino. All the texts were generated by the software which Tivon trained; the software produced ‘hallucinations’ based on images I had chosen which were meant to ‘represent’ each of the texts from all the other songs on the album. We ran a couple of versions for each song, and finally I cherry-picked the phrases or sections which I felt captured some sense of the other works on the album, and edited them together to create a kind of whole. I think of it as an epic meta-meta interpretation about nothingness…!

Chain DLK:Why did you put a pretty “difficult” track like “On Handstands” as a preface/beginning (supposing the one I have is the definitive track list)?

Stephanie Pan: In my understanding of true communication, it is an exchange, one that requires input from both sides. As a performer, I have always felt this as an essential element of my work. I am not interested in ‘entertaining’ people; I’m definitely searching for accessibility on my own terms. I will work very hard for you, and I will give you everything I have to give, but I think it requires investment from the audience or the listener. In this respect, I suppose I see it as a challenge – are you coming with me? Because frankly, if ‘On Handstands’ is too ‘difficult’ for someone, I don’t suppose they will enjoy the rest of the album much more.

Chain DLK: I maybe recognized the stroking of a wineglass’s borders on the beginning of Song For Being Alone #1… Is my ear working well? Jokes aside, that’s a lovely song. Do you remember the moment when you wrote it?

Stephanie Pan: Actually, this time it is not! It’s a Tibetan singing bowl, which can make a crunchier set of sounds next to its beautiful penetrating drone. It’s present more or less the entire piece, a relentless, slightly de-tuned underbelly of sound that refuses to let the song totally relax into itself. I believe I was on my way to Spain to perform under the moniker Pills to Purge Melancholy, in one of those ambiguous melancholy moods and mucking about with my Omnichord (which is the arpeggiating instrument in the song, another of my recurring instruments). At that point, I’d had in my head for some time to write an entire series of songs for being alone, and I guess this was the first one. It’s had in any case multiple versions with various instruments, some more lonely than others. There’s a beautiful version on YouTube with Rosa Ensemble, a group I’ve worked with for many years, with trombone, double bass, percussion, a Moog synth and my toys. It’s been my anthem in a way, the one song that really shares melancholy in a really open and emotional way.

Chain DLK: Another great piece of vocal art is the following Songs For Word Unsaid… Any word missing in the wise babbling you performed on it? Why did you insert that hypnotic music box as a background for this song?

Stephanie Pan: Ha! The music box is…Wait for it… My wineglass bells! After years of collecting wineglasses in an array of pitches, one day I finally brought them all together, and using some piano hammers Stelios had brought to me from a dissected piano, made a kind of hammered wineglass instrument. Song for Words Unsaid is about those wonderfully ambiguous relationships with certain people where there’s an unspoken understanding of space left unexplored. It’s delicate and fragile; it never wants to be named but is always present, always swirling and circling, just like the background sound.

Chain DLK: After I listened to its entrancing lyrics (I admit I said wow on some of your piercing high tones) and sound set, I wondered what the source for inspiration of Beast could be…

Stephanie Pan: Ah, so I’ve talked about this above already, definitely steals a page (actually, technically speaking, all the pages!) from Italo Calvino, one of my favorite writers. The musical structure sort of shadows one of his short stories, Implosion, with one of his favorite characters qwfwq, but uses a text ‘hallucinated’ by a computer software in the ghost voice of Calvino. As input for the hallucinations, I provided images that in my eye vaguely represented the thoughts or themes of each of the other songs on my own album, a kind of meta-compilation medley. What I really enjoyed about this piece was creating a kind of epic, explosive journey, where you feel like you’ve traveled through something enormous but, looking back, it remains just out of reach, filled in by our own imagination. I really like these kinds of juxtapositions, of feeling off balance.

Chain DLK:Any words about the title track?

Stephanie Pan: I’ve come to think of it as my version of the beginning of the universe. It’s like standing on a knife edge of a mountaintop surrounded by chaos, waiting to fall down one side or the other.

Actually, the title has very little to do with the content on this one, unlike the rest of the album. This song has gone through a couple different manifestations, and the framework for it was created during the first phase of a performance I was developing, which literally involves 20 little radio receiving toy robot dogs. The vocal line was more an improvisation with a crappy radio transmitter, receiver and feedback back then, and worked as it was in certain contexts. I decided to revisit the work for the album and really wanted to develop the vocal part in a more concrete way. This knife-edge mountaintop of feelings was something I felt worked really well with the sort of wall-of-sound foundation of this track.

Chain DLK: Your voice even orbits around almost (deceitfully?) seducing tones on Bitter Dust… What do you say about this song?

Stephanie Pan: Actually, both the title track and Bitter Dust are about an internal battle between extremes; about something that draws you in completely but simultaneously totally repulses you, about a glassy veneer that encases an explosion of anger. I suppose in Bitter Dust, on the surface, it’s this very controlled little song with a kind of heaviness and power in the bass which presents the outside perspective, the glassy veneer with its underbelly of lava.

Chain DLK: Those regular signs on the skin of your face look like pillow creases…as if to say you woke up in a world whose scary order can change your skin?

Stephanie Pan: In fact, they are imprints of a 3D wire-frame of my head! I really love the cover art of the album, which was an idea from artist Chaja Hertog, who created the images. Using sections of a 3D wire-frame bust that Tivon had created of me, Chaja laser-cut rubber sheets that we used to press into my skin to create out-prints on my skin. Shooting the cover was loads of fun. Together with Chaja and her duo partner Nir Nadler, we had to press each rubber cutout as hard as possible against my skin. I’d be sitting on the ground with my head on a chair, pressing the cutout to my face with one of them sitting on my head to add pressure. Or lying on my back with one of them laying on my chest. We’d do that for as long as I could stand, and then we’d remove the cutout, and they had about 2 minutes to fix the light, adjust the camera and shoot the image before the out-print would fade. Then we’d try it again somewhere else on my body. We’re very close friends, so we had a good laugh! So it was very physical and real, this changing of my skin.

This process really echoes my sound in a way, which I often refer to as analog digital; it’s about a certain mirroring of digital aesthetics and integrating them in an organic environment. I love the wonkiness of relentless drones or loops that aren’t quite perfect, that evolve unpredictably, that move out of sync with each other, as if each layer is a little animal going along its own separate path. It is fascinating to me how much our aesthetics have changed with the digital age, and how it liberated the way I compose music. I think the cover art is a really beautiful visual manifestation of these ideas.

Chain DLK:Any work in progress following or related to Have Robot Dog, Will Travel?

Stephanie Pan: I hope so! I would love to get around to finally making the performance of the same title with my little toy dogs, but at the moment, from a more purely musical perspective I’m currently fascinated with the idea of epic storytelling in a contemporary context. I’m in the last leg of an amazing round-the-world trip, and visiting museums and seeing and learning about the folk traditions of different cultures all around the world is both alienating and inspiring. There is so much context needed around any such tradition, and the notion of storytelling as an essential function in art is something that I’d like to attempt to rediscover for myself in our contemporary technological age.

Visit Stephanie Pan’s website on www.stephaniepan.com

May 142019
 

Shohei Amimori started his career as a composer and arranger of both classical and contemporary music when he was still a student. His orchestral graduation work was so appreciated that Tokyo University of Arts decided to purchase it and preserve it permanently at the university’s art museum. After his initial stylistic fields, his interest gradually moved to different forms of sound art and pop music, and he also began to produce music for commercials and television programs. His output on Noble Records (released at the end of November 2018) partially mirrors this path, but also embraced the bizarre concept of pataphysics that French writer Alfred Jarry defined as “the science of that which is super induced upon metaphysics, whether within or beyond the latter’s limitations, extending as far beyond metaphysics as the latter extends beyond physics.” It’s a sort of parody (quoted by many musicians in the past including the Beatles, Soft Machine and the awesome Japanese band Acid Mothers Temple) that Shohei tried to apply to his music generation according to a derivative process and the bold hypothesis that “music does not yet exist ≈ imaginary music ≈ PATA MUSIC.” We had a quick chat with Shohei about this concept that we invite you to explore by checking out his nice album.

Shohei Amimori “PATA Music” cover artwork

Chain DLK: Hi, Shoei! How are you?

Shoei Amimori: I’m good.

Chain DLK: What is PataMusic in your own explanatory words?

Shoei Amimori: For me, ”PataMusic” is an issue for the existence of music by using pop music.

Chain DLK: Any conceptual connection with the notorious Jarry’s Pataphysics? Do you feel like a Dr. Faustroll for music? 🙂

Shoei Amimori: Of course I was inspired by the Pataphysics that Jari advocated. However, rather than using it as a concept, the issue I was thinking about at the beginning was Pataphysics.

Chain DLK: How many possible approaches do you take into consideration to inject abstractness into music? What’s your favourite one?

Shoei Amimori: Today, I think that with the way of listening to music, the power of the album package has been disabled. So, I did something to highlight the contradiction of the package form itself. For example, if you move on to the next song, the previous song will be seriously ruined. I set up such an element. Bringing abstraction into music, making it stand out and sharing it, is always a big goal for me. But that’s very difficult.

Chain DLK: Can you provide some commentary on the tracks of PataMusic? Any hidden story behind it that you want to share with our readers?

Shoei Amimori: Anyway, there were many kinds of songs and it was difficult. I’m not a singer but there are some songs where I’m singing, some songs like “Climb Downhill 1” that require elaborate post production on a computer, and so on. I made full use of the right and left brain poles. However, in order to raise the above-mentioned issue, there had to be many kinds of songs.

courtesy of Arata Mino

Chain DLK: You have a relevant academic background…is there any composer you studied that paved the way to PataMusic? If so, how?

Shoei Amimori: I have always given respect to and credited some critical aspects to John Cage. Cage had valued the ‘‘sound’’ and ‘‘listening.’’ I would like to draw out the power of such elements without making them mysterious.

Chain DLK: Some tracks sounds like mirroring TV commercials…any jingle that became like a recurring nightmare during composition or over your career?

Shoei Amimori: For me, the most interesting element of music is melody. The reason is that it is difficult to create or listen from a quantitative point of view like harmony or rhythm. Nevertheless, it can be addictive to listeners. That may be why it sounds like TVCM.

Chain DLK: Many moments of PataMusic resemble the amazing experiments by other great Japanese composers, who became famous out of national boundaries, like Haruomi Hosono or Nobukazu Takemura…do you feel closer to some of them, by chance?

Shoei Amimori: As you say, my work may resemble their works in some ways. I’m intending to look over the music all over the world in the same way as them, but that may be just “Japanese.”

courtesy of Arata Mino

Chain DLK:  Are there any connections of PataMusic with your previous outputs? Can you talk about your more or less recent past releases?

Shoei Amimori: Last year, we presented an orchestral piece of contemporary music under the commission of NHK (State-owned broadcasting stations of Japan). Since the premiere on the radio was released, I added a part just before the broadcast occured in the piece to be interesting when listening on the radio. For example, using a very long silence. This attempt is similar to the challenge for the form of the album that was made in “Pata Music.”

Chain DLK: Did you plan any touring to spread PataMusic out of Japan as well?

Shoei Amimori: Regarding the live performance related to my solo works, I’ve only done them in Tokyo. So I want to do it all over the world. I will make plans in the near future.

Chain DLK:Any other work in progress?

Shoei Amimori: This year, I am planning some productions. These are an exhibition of sound installation, a production of other artists, and so on. Now I’m enjoying some collaboration works. I want to start making my own work next year.

Shoei Amimori website URL: www.shoheiamimori.com