Bass is maternal, said Smith and Mighty. But even a drone could be likewise maternal. The sound of the hair dryer that DuChamp‘s mother used to fix her hair, a sound of care, bliss and infinite love is one of the main source of inspiration of this Italian scientist, musician and curator of Berlin-based Occultofest, whose interesting sound art focuses on drones. On the occasion of the release of her first album “Nar” on Boring Machines, we had a chat with her. Enjoy!
Chain D.L.K.: Hi Federica. First of all, how are you?
DuChamp: Hallo! Well, now that there is sun in Berlin, wonderfully!
Chain D.L.K.: I could surmise from the notes about your release the very first drone you listened in your life was your mother’s hairdryer, didn’t you?
DuChamp: Yes, I´m kinda surprised everybody likes this story so much! On the other hand, I think most people have had similar experiences. They relate sound to memory and memory to feelings. That´s the beautiful and magical thing about using field recordings.
Once I got into drone music I became completely immersed in it and then I began to ask myself where my attraction for these types of sounds came from. Somehow I remembered my mother fixing my hair with the hairdryer and how I loved that sound as a child. Obviously to me that sound is linked to an idea of care, protection and love, and this is what drone music represents for me.
Chain D.L.K.: …as a devotee to droning, what’s the best drone you ever heard?
DuChamp: There is a big second hand shop in Berlin called Humana at Frankfurter Tor: in winter 2010 the fan at the entrance was broken, and it was unusually loud. The pitch was perfect though, as well as the intensity: it was an absolutely amazing drone. I get to record it, but I have the impression it wouldn’t have been so great if I’d done it. It was only perfect to my ears.
Chain D.L.K.:You use many different instruments (bass guitar. accordion, keyboard, baritone guitar) in order to get closer to that sound. Someone could suggest you a sampler or a recorder in order to grab that sound…
DuChamp: Good point, but it´s just a matter of pleasure. I don’t think music done with computer or samplers is less real than music actually played, since when you process your sounds with guitar pedals you’re doing more or less the same. It´s just that using a computer bores me like hell, while sitting on the ground surrounded by my stuff, turning knobs etc, is pure fun to me. In general, I like the idea of using very different sound sources, or discovering how to make drones with different instruments. I started with a bass, actually, because of the resonances, then I switched to baritone guitar because of the colors of the tones…keyboards and synths are a bit bread and butter for the drone musician, it´s an obvious path!
The accordion I bought of course the day after I saw Pauline Oliveros in concert, and it´s so fascinating, because it breathes, it’s organic, it’s alive.
Two artist that I really admire, Gordon Ashworth (Concern) and Adam Thomas (Preslav Literary School) use many different sound sources, but live they use tapes. I really enjoy their shows and tapes are probably more practical to carry around than a trombone or a bouzouki, and yet they’re still as playful. But, no, I´m too disorganized to do that, and I tend to lose everything.
Chain D.L.K.: Could you introduce “Nar” in your own words?
DuChamp: Nar is my first album and it simply reflects a lot of things/situations/feelings I’ve experienced in the last year. Some events or discoveries occurred while I was recording, therefore there was a kind of evolution. At least the track-list follows that.
Moreover, “Nar” ended up to be a love spell (and worked perfectly).
Chain D.L.K.: You opened “nar” with a track called “Gemini”, just like Boards Of Canada did on their new album…is it casual? What does it refer to?
DuChamp: “Gemini” is the astrological sign of the person I wrote this song for, very simple and girlish!
Chain D.L.K.: Your hypnotic chanting on “Gemini” sounds like a multiple voice or even a chorus…how did you effect it?
DuChamp: The vocal part of “Gemini” is the result of several overdubs. This song is insanely dense. It consists of around 40 accordion overdubs and more than 15 for voice (all mine). It took us 8 hours to record all this craziness, and it was the first song Diego and I recorded. The version that’s on the record (13min) is what we call “the radio edit” as the original is 23 minutes long! When I play live I use my Boss loop-station…there would be no Duchamp without it!
Chain D.L.K.: What’s the desire or the will you need to be protected from?
DuChamp: I don’t have a clear answer. I think the main idea is the fulfill of expectations. Sometimes when you really want something to happen and it occurs in reality, you might end up feeling uninterested or disappointed. Or maybe you end up thinking that you deserve it simply because all along you were pursuing this particular thing. Lately, I’m really starting to enjoy people or events in my life that happen suddenly and totally unexpected, like falling stars, but fit perfectly for some mysterious reason, to my present situation.
Chain D.L.K.: I enjoyed the obscure low frequencies of “A way to grasp joy immediately”, even if it didn’t sound really joyous as it communicated a sense of vagarious and gathered bliss to me. What did you mean by means of that title?
DuChamp: The title is a quote from Wolfi Landstreicher, nome de plume of a contemporary anarchist philosopher. He wrote a very beautiful critique of primitivism, pointing out how most of those “back to the land” movements (and I add also environmentalism) lack a social revolutionary perspective, and somehow they end up to render meaningless all struggles we should pursue for making a better world and society. I adore the passionate way he said: “If, instead of hoping for a paradise, we grasp life, joy and wonder now, we will be living a truly anarchic critique of civilization that has nothing to do with any image of the “primitive”, but rather with our immediate need to no longer be domesticated, with our need to be unique, not tamed, controlled, defined identities”.
I had those words in my mind while I was recording (and that´s the last song), so I gave it this title. Since my music is mainly instrumental, if I want to communicate something I do it through song titles. For instance “Seisachtzeia” is rather explicit!
Chain D.L.K.: Diego Ferri mixed and recorded “Nar” and I’ve read he’s collaborating on your forthcoming album as well. Could you tell us more about this collaboration?
DuChamp: Diego Ferri is a very good friend of mine. He is talented, skilled, and possesses a good ear. Combined with the fact that he is very smart, funny and always in a good mood, he has one of the most enjoyable characters one could ask for. When I decided to record he was the most obvious choice, and, although the recordings were very long and at times difficult (there was even flood in my practice space!) it was a pleasure spending time together, and I’m happy with his work!
Chain D.L.K.: There’s an accentuated ritual and somehow mystical feeling in your droning. You’re also co-curator of Occultofest. This notes could let listener surmise you deal with esoteric knowledge. How did you balance any possible “unexplainable” matter with your activity as a scientist?
DuChamp: The name of Occultofest comes from “Occulto magazine” Alice Cannava´s publication about science, art and pseudoscience. It´s very easy, when it came to certain subjects, to be cheesy, ironic, or pedantic, but she seems able to avoid all of these problems by just treating subjects with intelligence and good taste. I collaborate with Occulto magazine and Alice and me we curate together Occultofest.
Myself, I´m interested in devotion and rituals, in the sense of the residual of the sacred that every human has inside, no matter what you believe to. I don’t believe in God at all and I’m one of those atheists extremely unhappy to not believe, so I’m a bit obsessed by religion and by the idea of God. Esoterica, magic, wicca or similar stuff seems to me a silly shortcut to what I would aim to (believe), so are completely uninteresting to me, I want the hard way! This is why I find some very merciless religions, like Islam or Hebraism very interesting mentally.
As regarding science, it’s a bit commonplace to think that good science only comes out of rationality. Intuition and creativity play a very big role. I don’t think any smart scientist would ever think that everything is explainable. Things are just extremely complex and so far all we’ve done is create models and simplifications that allow us to investigate. Maybe we are so used to it that we tend to forgot how artificial they are (for instance, all this ecosystem theory, is a model, it is not reality!).
Also, it’s very common that processes that seem more related to poetry/art, like analogy or intuition, play such an important role in understanding phenomena.
Chain D.L.K.: A propos of it, I’ve read you’re working on NMR biosensors. Could you say something about your researches?
DuChamp: I work in a project that could be described as the development of a “smart” contrast agent for a new (and exotic) type of MRI, Xe-based MRI, which is a very powerful diagnostic technique. I work in a multi-disciplinary group where I´m one of the chemists.
Chain D.L.K.: Is your scientific activity somehow related with the cover artwork by Lara Schilling?
DuChamp: Actually no. Lara Schilling and I share some common aesthetic interests, like Armenian and Middle East art. One day we were speaking about this beautiful movie, “Sayat Nova-The colour of the pomegranate”, and she came up with this idea for the cover. I like pomegranates for their the color, patterns, and also the meaning. I find it very fascinating that the pomegranate is present in so many different cultures and traditions and for most of them it has the same meaning of fertility and knowledge. I think it´s a very beautiful symbol and Lara did a great job, since the cover looks a lot like something on 4AD!
Chain D.L.K.:What about listener’s reaction after you gigs?
DuChamp: I’ve no idea. I think most people enjoy it. I met Lara after a show, actually. She told me she wanted to become friends, so we did. That was the best thing that ever happened after a show!
Chain D.L.K.: You collaborated with other artists as well. Is there any particular “lesson” from previous collaborators that marked your actual artistic “vision”?
DuChamp: I think I’m old enough to have my own ideas about music, and also, as Steve Albini said, have the right amount of respect for other musicians, but not more than this…we are all human here!
I think a lot of my musical ideas were already in my head for a long time, but they came out as soon as I moved here in Berlin. It seems like people sitting on the ground producing noises with a long train of pedals is the most normal thing here, so at least you don’t feel weird or out of place at all. And there is an audience for it!
The first person I met here was Will Gresson, now my band-mate in Fausto Maijstral. I think I was definitely influenced by his music, especially for improvisation and the idea of sound memories through field recordings, which is the core of the music project we have together.
Then I was influenced by the first album of Bemydelay, because of loops + psychedelia…also because her personality as well.
Then of course there is Brian Pyle (Ensemble Economique, Starving Weirdos) who sings on “A worship” and mastered “Nar”. Other than his music, he really showed me how important it is to be supportive and create a community all around the globe.
What I keep thinking is great about the experimental scene is that since it is so moneyless, it is mainly based on human factors, friendship, sister/brotherhood or some sort of soul/mental affinity.
It would be too long to name them all, but speaking about who I met and influenced me, randomly, Gordon Ashworth (Concern), Biblo and Ekin Fil, Felicia Atkinsons, Adam Thomas (Preslav Literary School), all the guys that do Eternal Zio, Nicholas Humbert, Miguel Negrão, Aidan Baker, Tatsumi Ryusui, Felipe Dias De and so many more…
I feel I’ve also learned much (and sometimes especially) from people who are not musicians, like my friend Annalisa Deligia, a contemporary dancer, with whom I always have deep conversations about the body and music and with whom I hope to collaborate with in the near future.
Chain D.L.K.:You’re Italian, but you moved to Berlin. Is your relocation related to personal, professional or artistic causes?
DuChamp: I would say all three. I´m very happy with my choice, for all the three reasons.
Chain D.L.K.: Besides your album, are you working on any other project?
DuChamp: Hell yes. As DuChamp, I’m going to release a split tape with my very talented friend Felicia Atkinsons (Je suis le petit chevalier) from the Belgian label Idiosyncratics. I think it´s going to be out in October. Then, the first full length of my band Fausto Maijstral it´s going to be released in October from a very rad French label, La Station Radar. I’m also part of a girl band my friends Susanna Trotta and Saiko Ryusui called Brabrabra, we make a very unique type of pop music. We just finished recording our first tape and it will be released in August on the tape label I’ve started with Andrew Kemp, of which we’ve yet to decide on a name! On the same label Andrew and me we are also planning a split release for the end of the year.
And then, what else…making great science and finishing my PhD, organizing the fourth Occultofest with Alice, growing my olive tree and my pomegranates, world revolution, stuff like that.
visit DuChamp on the web at: duchampdrone.tumblr.com