Vito Camarretta

Sep 232019
 

Her recent aural appearance on Touch Records by Genera, a live recording grabbed by Mike Harding at Salon AB in Brussels on May 3, 2019, aroused our curiosity, so we posed some questions to Saudi Arabia-born sound artist Bana Haffar (currently based in Asheville, NC), whose attempt at snazzing some aged schemes in electronic music composition sounds fascinating. Check it out!

Chain DLK: Hi, Bana! How are you?

Bana Haffar:Doing well, thanks.

Chain DLK: Biographical words introduce you as a lifelong expat. Roots are important according to many people, but is the idea of a motherland strictly necessary in your opinion?

Bana Haffar: The Arab diaspora has estranged me from my motherland. I see myself as a sort of airplant, who’s learned to survive wherever conditions permit. I identify culturally as an Arab and will always carry that with me, even though I live in the West. I think the idea of a motherland can be something internal, accessed through maintaining one’s language and cultural connections wherever they are. Whether it is necessary is, of course, personal; to me, it’s a matter of self-preservation.

Chain DLK: How did you get closer to music composition during the childhood you spent in Gulf countries?

Bana Haffar: I was classically trained in piano and violin as a child in the Gulf. I wasn’t actively composing at that age, but I was internalizing international music through osmosis. I was exposed to a lot of Indian and Pakistani music, Khaliji (Gulf) music on the radio, and my parents listed to Western music at home. It was all over the place and I’m sure these early musical surroundings are embedded in my consciousness, peeking their heads through my compositions today.

Chain DLK: Mere curiosity… Is there any school in that area of the world for whoever wants to study or get closer to electronic composition as far as you know?

Bana Haffar: To my knowledge, there aren’t any dedicated electronic composition courses in the Middle East. But, I’ve been living in the US for 14 years now and wasn’t in the synth milieu when I lived there, so I could be wrong.

Chain DLK: How did you fall under the spell of modular synths?

Bana Haffar: I bought my first synthesizer during my bass-playing years, a Moog Voyager. I started tinkering with it and quickly found that the synthesis part was much more interesting to me than the keyboard bit. I told a friend about this, and he recommended I check out modular synths and alternate (non-keyboard) controllers. I started researching Buchla and Eurorack and eventually invested in a small modular system. This separation of sound design from functional harmony tied to the black and white keyboard was monumental for me. It was a chance to begin again and re-define what I wanted out of sound and music.

Chain DLK: Before studying modular synths, you studied other instruments… What’s the distinguishing element of synths that other instruments have besides the hermetic charm of walls of mysterious (for people who have no idea of what they are, of course…not my case!) wires, knobs, LED lights and controls?

Bana Haffar: Yes, I studied piano, violin, and bass before switching to the modular synthesizer. The modular synthesizer can be seen as a deconstructed synthetic sound generator and processor that is not tied to a keyboard, freeing it from sounding like anything else. There are no pre-made connections under the hood, nor are there presets. The synthesist becomes the arbiter of sound from its inception, patching anything to anything, as opposed to being bound by fixed synthesis chains pre- determined by marketing teams and engineers.

Chain DLK: Are there any electronic musicians (of the past or the present) that you consider as a sort of mythological entity for composition skills or just for charisma?

Bana Haffar: Autechre. I’m totally obsessed with Autechre. To me, they are the ultimate sound designers, ruthlessly pushing sound further with each release, crossing formats, mediums, genre, and still going strong almost 30 years later. I mean, are there any sounds left?! They’ve made them all!!

Chain DLK: I was checking your Soundcloud… It’s weird that you’ve made such amazing stuff, but most of it is unreleased… How come?

Bana Haffar: I often ask myself if Soundcloud didn’t exist, would I have spent more time working on those earlier pieces and forming them into an album? Maybe. Soundcloud makes it so easy to upload music and get immediate feedback. It’s become a sort of testing ground for new ideas. But, this is also dangerous because it can prematurely remove us from a trajectory that’s still in development, depending on whether the feedback meets our expectations and how much weight we give it. On one hand, feedback can motivate us; on the other, it can make us lazy, writing off material as “good enough” in response to instant gratification. That said, the positive feedback I got for my early Soundcloud works gave me a push of confidence in what I was doing. I’m now focusing on longer-term releases.

courtesy of Jeffrey Horton

Chain DLK: I also listened to Genera, a live recording released by Touch… really stunning! There are traces of Arabian traditional motifs mixed to old piano tunes and ghostly entities in the first of the five parts, sounding like an exorcism of cultural conditioning… Would you say so? Can you tell us something about the first 7-8 minutes of Genera?

Bana Haffar: The first “zone” of Genera is a microcassette collage of personal recordings. An out-of-sequence dreamscape of accumulated cultural shrapnel. The naay (Arabic flute) samples are audio examples from a book I co-wrote several years ago about Arabic music. The piano samples were of my father playing in the living room, songs he’s been playing since I was a child. There are samples of my mother bossing a cab driver around on a hot summer afternoon in Beirut, Qatari radio songs, Quranic recitation, and other jumbled field recordings. These were layered multiple times over and cut in and out of each other at different speeds on a GE 35383 Micro Cassette Recorder with a dying battery.

Chain DLK: The five parts of Genera are strongly interconnected by elements that appear in both of the adjacent parts…but besides resounding elements, what’s the glue keeping all parts together?

Bana Haffar: The glue is the system and the samples within in. I configured a relatively compact system to be able to travel around Europe with. This meant that I had to re-use the same modules and sounds in different combinations throughout the patch. The output chain was static, further connecting the sections. The samples I used were also limited and reused throughout, just played back differently and processed differently. That’s the technical explanation, at least. The esoteric connections haven’t made themselves clear to me yet.

Chain DLK: Even if you could consider traditions as a sort of cage, I have to say that you kept something of Arabian music…its hypnotic powers! The entities you forged (I was totally fascinated by the third part of Genera, for instance!) are really entrancing. Did you forge music with this feature on purpose or spontaneously?

Bana Haffar: The result was an interplay of pre-planned structures and the spontaneity of unplanned interactions with the modular synthesizer itself.

GENERA cover artwork

Chain DLK: How do you remember the moment when Genera was recorded in Brussels? Do you remember an audience reaction or some feedback of the lucky ones who took part in it?

Bana Haffar: The environment in which it was recorded was ideal. AB Salon in Brussels is a dedicated, focused listening space with an excellent quadraphonic sound system and a great pair of Genelec monitors. It also sits on the second floor, away from foot traffic and road noise. The room was intimate and the audience was quiet and focused. There was no clinking of glasses and side conversations like most live venues. It was dead silent and ready to receive. I’m very grateful to Touch and Mich Leemans for inviting me to play in that space. It felt like the ideal setting for this type of performance and listening exchange. I felt like both the audience and myself were able to immerse ourselves in what the synthesizer had to say.

Chain DLK: Any word about the fascinating audio equipment you used to forge Genera?

Bana Haffar: Genera was made using a eurorack format modular synthesizer. I used modules from different manufacturers rather than a complete pre-configured single brand system. The system I configured for Genera was centered around sampling modules with only a single oscillator.

Chain DLK:Is there any synth that you like more than others? If so, why (was it a particular gift or was it related to some specific memory)?

Bana Haffar: I’ve been using the Make Noise Morphagene module a lot these days. It enables the user to manipulate samples in highly creative ways and extract completely new sounds from existing ones. I’m a big fan of Make Noise music. They embody the experimental and speculative spirit of modular synthesis both in their hardware and aesthetics.

Chain DLK: Any work in progress?

Bana Haffar: I’m currently working on a composition for Third Coast Percussion that has been commissioned by Black Mountain College Museum here in Asheville. The piece is going to be inspired by weaving, so I’ve been spending a lot of time doing research, studying looms, and learning how to weave. There are many parallels between looms and synthesizers / cloth and composition.

Sep 232019
 

Ryoko Akama (modular synth), Werner Dafeldecker (guitar), Bruno Duplan (chimes), Sergio Merce (microtonal saxophone), Antoine Beuger (flute), Kai Fagaschinski (bass clarinet), Jessica Evelyn (spoken word), and Lavinia Blackwall (soprano) belong to the impressive collective of sound artists and musicians who collaborated with Paul Baran (electronics, chapel organ, samples, Buchla) and Gordon Kennedy (electronics, organ, Mellotron, samples, keys), aka The Cray Twins, for the birth of their second album In The Company Of Architects (mastered by Ronan Breslin and produced by Fang Bomb), a very good act of acousmatic music. Let’s get deeper into it through the words of their authors.

Chain DLK: Hi, guys! How are you?

Gordon Kennedy: Pretty good. Nice to have the album out, and even the Glasgow weather is generous at the moment.

Chain DLK: Where does your moniker come from? No relation with the Kray twins, the famous East London criminals, I guess?

Gordon Kennedy: No relation. At least, not genetically.

Paul Baran: The name derives from Seymour Cray, the supercomputer pioneer and mathematician. We were fascinated by his engineering approach and I guess we see ourselves as engineers of sonic systems in the sense that we take time over each sound and how it relates to the composition.

Gordon Kennedy: The Cray-1 is what computers ought to look like, in our opinion.

Chain DLK: Before focusing on your last output, can you tell us something about the way you started getting interested in and approached sound art?

Paul Baran: My own background was in poetry, but sound art was already in the cards. My mother would play me wonderful music like Throbbing Gristle, Ryuichi Sakamoto and David Sylvian.

Then, I got turned on to Stockhausen after a visit to a local shop. That was pivotal, as I realized it was time to make my own work, without falling into that trap of copying other people’s styles.

Gordon Kennedy: I’m told I started pressuring my parents for a piano shortly before my second birthday, so I’ve had an interest in sound since long before I can even remember.

As far as working together goes, we were friends for years before the Cray Twins were born. I think we both have quite strong intuitive and intellectual aspects to how we work, so neither of us gets funneled into being the practical one, while the other one has to be the unhinged poet. We flip quite well between roles, which helps keep it fresh.

“In The Company Of Architects” cover artwork

Chain DLK: Your debut as The Cray Twins came out on Fang Bomb as well, didn’t it? Any words about “The Pier”?

Gordon Kennedy: Yes, the Pier came out on Fang Bomb in 2016. It was based on field recordings of various coastal locations. Mostly in the UK, but also from Chile at the time of the Nazca Plate earthquake, the tsunami.

Paul Baran: The Pier was a metaphor for the entry into the Liminal through the subconscious. I believe that the pieces on the album mapped out interior mindscapes, which are precarious in the context of environmental decay and damage. This is a narrative that is best exemplified by pieces such as ‘Harbour’ and the ‘Duao’ trilogy of works.

Gordon Kennedy: We wanted to examine the furthest reaches of human extent. And the physical expression of that: remote dwellings and outposts; disasters at sea; us as humans, pushing ourselves further out into the wild face of nature.

Chain DLK: You grouped many renowned sound artists (such as Lucio Capece, BJ Nielsen, Andrea Belfi, and so on) for that release. How did you manage to involve them?

Paul Baran: Many of them are personal friends. People will work with you if they know that you are sincere with regards to the material. A lot of the performers have a background within the Wandelweiser movement, and that exploration of silence is something I’m increasingly drawn to in future projects.

Gordon Kennedy: In general, we just waited till we heard people were due in the UK, playing at festivals or whatever, and then bombarded them with requests. “Come to Glasgow. Come on, it’ll be really good.” BJ Nielsen was an exception: we got in touch with him after the album was recorded, to remix the Duao track. So he did his work remotely.

Chain DLK: Someone described your style as dark-ambient…do you agree with such a way of labeling your sound?

Paul Baran: Such a label doesn’t really describe or represent what we do. It seems casual to describe the work in this way, especially as it doesn’t take into account the complex processes involved and the harmonic shading of improvisers. For me, Ambient music is just a fractional element of the overall sounds.

Gordon Kennedy: It’s ambient in the sense that we use ambient sound, i.e. environmental recordings, extensively as raw material.

But ambient perhaps suggests an air of relaxation that the listener wouldn’t necessarily find in our work. Like the sea, it often resists attempts to settle into it. It repels the colonizing ear. Also, it’s probably more composed and directional, I mean structurally, than a lot of ambient music. A lot of attention to foregrounded small-scale noise.

It is sometimes dark; more by accident than design. Electronically processing field recordings of wind and waves often create a kind of sonic Uncanny Valley effect. We know these sounds in our blood. But something’s not quite right.

Chain DLK: In The Company of Architects doesn’t feature external collaborations besides performers, right? Or maybe ones by some architect? A reference to Freemasonry or their god(s)?

Paul Baran: The Architects signifies the craft of improvisation. How to build up a work from interactions from a molecular level to achieve the endgame of a new structure; the edification of which is helped along with the method of sculpting in the studio, without too much processing and intervention.

Gordon Kennedy: Well, the basic idea behind the album was to take the methodology we used on The Pier, and instead of applying it to landscape recordings, apply it to instrumental performances. In other words, to treat the instruments like found sound. Obviously that’s a direct inversion of traditional orchestral composition where the composer writes the score and then the musicians play it. Here the players were recorded first, and then the composition process started.

The Cray Twins – courtesy of Martin Lynagh

Chain DLK: Any words about the involved performers? How much time did you need to assemble the ensemble? Would you consider it an ensemble?

Paul Baran: Yes, that is an astute point. The performers were guided by listening to the material, before committing themselves to the recording. So I guess we created an ensemble through file sharing, and in extended time. Some composers have this annoying habit of over-egging the production pudding when it comes to file sharing. We aimed to avoid that and maintained the integrity of each contribution.

Gordon Kennedy: I guess it was a kind of distributed ensemble – a dislocated ensemble, even. Our methodology meant everything could be done at distance, inviting musicians in various countries to record themselves performing, in the location of their choice. Sometimes we would accentuate the locatedness of the performances – amplifying and processing the background noise, foregrounding unintentional sounds which had made their way onto the recording. But as far as performance went, we gave the players free rein to do as they saw fit.

Chain DLK: Can you tell us something about the composition strategy and approach? How did you “brief” your collaborators?

Paul Baran: We composed it like a chain. Bruno Duplant and Werner offered their contributions first, which were in the same key and gelled really well and through layering, we offered our own contributions to reinforce the structure of the composition. This included voices from a sample of a film I really like, the Colour of Pomegranates, and the voice of Armenian composer Komitas.

Gordon Kennedy: Not all of them were given access to what the others were doing. Some were given selective access – perhaps one other person’s recording to synchronize to. Others were given the entire piece to date, and yet others were given nothing.

We were deliberately releasing a lot of the control that’s normally associated with the process of composition. And we found, repeatedly, that the universe would reward this. It became an active collaborator in the process; things just seemed to fall in place. Musicians who hadn’t heard what each other were doing would be magically in tune. The timelines of the various contributions would come together at key moments, little sparks of miracle dust. That’s not to disguise the fact there was an extensive compositing and editing process, sometimes with individual musicians layered and re-layered with earlier or later parts of their own performance.

But happenstance was key. There were a number of occasions throughout the process where we just found ourselves looking at each other. “It’s happening again, isn’t it?”

Chain DLK: How would you “brief” the listener in order to make him appreciate your release more?

Gordon Kennedy: It’s hard to say. With ‘The Pier,’ we took a certain delight in subterfuge. Our basic method was to process and filter the landscape recordings to sound like ensemble instruments. We’d sometimes invert that, processing the instrumental performances to sound like landscapes. But sometimes it’s interesting for the listener to know a little about what’s actually going on, to see a bit of the wiring under the board. For example, on In the Company of Architects there’s considerable use of the Indesit WD12X washing machine – a fine instrument, much underused.

Paul Baran: Approach our work with an open mind and above all, listen to it actively, not passively.

Chain DLK: What are the main troubles in rendering a release like In The Company Of Architects on live stage?

Gordon Kennedy: Heh… That’s a question we’ve not had to answer yet. I guess if we were to do a stage version, we would start from the same basic premise as with the album, that the instruments are landscapes and our Materia Prima is the field recordings of those landscapes. So rather than use live instruments in performance, I’d imagine we’d double down on the concept and emphasise the recorded or found-sound aspect in some way.

If cost was no object, I’d quite like to put sections of the individual performances on analogue tape loops, and string them round the venue on capstans and rollers; turn the entire performance area into a tape echo machine, concert hall as Copicat. Mirror the process in the space.

Paul Baran: The logistics in getting the ensemble involved might be problematic, as they are scattered from Argentina to Berlin.

Chain DLK: How do you test your music by your ear? I mean… When do you say that a recording of yours is ok?

Gordon Kennedy: It’s a fairly intuitive process. For instance, if something in the studio starts to overload or feed back, we’ll often treat that as part of the work and foreground it. Or if something is buzzing, if there’s wind noise on a microphone, our instinct is to integrate it into the composition. That approach sets the stage for a more relaxed attitude to completion.

Of the two of us, I’m the one who tends most to perfectionism. And since I’m more hands-on with the production side, a track is usually finished when I’ve wrestled myself into submission. Chokehold, it’s done.

Paul Baran: We are both perfectionists and would only release something with mutual agreement. Gordon will add and I subtract to any given piece.

Chain DLK: Any work in progress?

Gordon Kennedy: Not as The Cray Twins, but we’ve done a lot of work on Paul’s next album. Which he can elucidate.

Paul Baran: Well, I’m working on a solo album which I will release on Fang Bomb next year. It will be more rhythmically charged than my previous work.

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.