“Last Night” (out on the Swiss label Hallow Ground) is the first studio album in five years by zK, the bicephalous project by Mark Godwin and Gareth Ormerod. Entirely recorded in Bangkok, Godwin’s new hometown, and drawing on sampling and musique concrete techniques, “Last Night” manages to render the nervous energy of the Thai capital city after artificial lights and obscurity take over for the sun… We also talked about it with Mark.
Chain D.L.K.: Hi there! How are you?
zK: All good here, really busy with work and meeting musicians who travel this way.
Chain D.L.K.: Just curious about the name of your artistic entity, zK… a reference to Zos Kia?
zK: I’ve been asked this question a lot. Whilst I admire Austin Osman Spare’s work a great deal, zK was a cipher, mostly chosen for the way it looks, a marker point in space. Dealing with the oppositions embedded in the concept of Zos Kia might be too much for anyone 🙂
Chain D.L.K.: Mark, you were behind the curtain of the last outputs by Coil… what did you learn (under the technical but also the “human” viewpoint) from that collaboration? How do you remember John?
zK: I learned a lot from working with such material; the most interesting things for me were acquiring the notion of decision making in general when approaching sound, and being patient and slow whilst developing a signature sound. Whilst I did not know Geff directly, we crossed paths via telephone and I vaguely remember some very odd conversations about bears and hugging. I got to know Peter as a friend during the time he was here in Bangkok. It appeared to me that he was a mix of Caligula and Buddha-like presentations in his appearance and outlook, which apparently was quite a different aspect to his persona in the UK; Peter was pragmatically very encouraging and supportive of my ramblings in sound. We had many hours of nerdy conversation about gear and its use. I realize that is a little scant, but the other conversations we had were so personal I think it would be unethical to share them. However, Peter thought it was highly amusing that I enjoy metal so much, as he found it difficult to reconcile 🙂 In short, Peter was an exceptionally supportive and thoughtful individual who, whilst I knew him, was striving to shake off the darkness of his previous experiences and managed that by connecting with passing people or the landscape he found himself in.
Chain D.L.K.: A question somewhat related to the previous one… A Thai edition by Coil’s “The Remote Viewer”…why a Minimax?!?!? 🙂
zK: Not sure about this one 🙂 production costs?
Chain D.L.K.: Besides the almost logical connection with Coil (even if I won’t say zK is a clone-like project), what’s your general perspective of industrial? Do you think it was a temporary fashion? Do you notice a lack of interest by general audiences or not? Any explanation, if so?
zK: That whole genre has a shifting definition. I’m not sure where it is now; Techno?? I don’t think that it is temporary, however, its focus on mechanization is anachronistic, as the industrial world is in decline. The general audience is of no interest to me, as I have no wish to pander to the average attention span, which is painfully short. If you make music like this and you expect mass interest, might I suggest you are deluded 🙂 The music does provoke interest, as I have received some interesting responses, typically projections of the listeners self, rather than my interpretation, which is to be expected. I think this type of music is more of a deliberate selection rather than using music as a backdrop to a mundane life.
Chain D.L.K.: Before focusing on “today,” let’s have a look back to “yesterday”… zK was born in the rising British rave scene… How did the rave scene influence your sound and the desire of searching for something else?
zK: Well, to put it simply, Ecstasy 🙂 Those experiences led me back to my earliest experiences of music as a child, where singing felt like it was resonating my whole being and thereby a connection with a developing awareness of the noumenal world. Secondly, manipulating music through DJing and seeing the responses to it really fired me up to do my own stuff. The Skam lot were really encouraging and became great mates, so that helped a lot. So it’s a typical path from frustrations with the material played to producing it. The rave scene was incredibly liberating, as it connected a lot of people with the corporeal aspects of their mind, and socially it seemed to unglue the social strata for a short time.
Chain D.L.K.: Mark, can you tell us something about your recent collaboration with Martin Maischein?
zK: Yeah, we met via FB. One day I saw that Martin was in Bangkok., so atypically, I asked him if he wanted to meet for coffee, which we did, and then the track ensued. Martin is a fantastic producer and we worked at lightning speed.
Hopefully, he is coming back again for more collaboration later this year. I really appreciate the ear for detail.
Chain D.L.K.: Some reviewers describe you as ambient conceptualists (maybe they just listened to outputs like “Aethyr Jumpers”), while other ones as “restorers of old-fashioned industrial”…how would you perceive or label yourself and your style?
zK: I think that these descriptors are a little off, as I have no wish to be background washes 🙂 Yes, sometimes there is a concept, but usually they are internal recollections and episodic, but most of these will be out of sensory range to the listener. I’d like to think that zK expresses emotions and cognitions in an atypical way, i.e. not neurotypical. There is something of the autistic perceptual universe in there, as different elements are exaggerated, I think the Wire review picked this up well. This is a hard question to answer 🙂 Yes, there is noise in there, but it’s not all dystopian doom and gloom; there are explorations of being, more than comments on the world at large, so I guess it’s very personal in its way.
Chain D.L.K.: Most of your records include many interesting references to other disciplines of human (more or less unknown) knowledge, and many experimental works could be easily misunderstood… Is there any album by zK that was seriously misunderstood?
zK: I’m not sure. I haven’t had enough feedback from people I don’t know to have experienced that feeling. I guess that with such open sound, it is ripe for “misinterpretation.” The listeners’ perceptions are not necessarily mine, and as such, I’m not sure if you can misinterpret it.
Chain D.L.K.: “Last Night” was entirely recorded in Bangkok and tried to mirror the Thai capital’s nightlife…can you tell us more about the strategy you followed to catch and translate that energy/those energies into sound?
zK: We mapped out a whole evening across the capital, beginning at home as a storm brewed. We would capture sounds as we moved through the city and insert them into first thoughts and representations of sound.
However, for zK, this took a long time to complete. When recording, we improvised, recorded and then edited later. After completion, it became clear that we were noticing all the barriers to comprehension that we faced when dealing with Bangkok, and perhaps how desperate some parts of it were when compared against the strange beauty of the place.
Chain D.L.K.: Any field recordings? If so, what’s the weirdest one you grabbed?
zK: One that we didn’t use, as it was a copyrighted song delivered by a very tall ladyboy who wouldn’t leave 🙂
Chain D.L.K.: Is there a plot-like line you followed for the track order?
zK: yes: home/storm/family : outside: anxiety; self-deception; numbing the self to wake up, despair; acceptance, resolution of self and connection to the location.
Chain D.L.K.: Is there something “new” in Last Night versus your previous albums, in your own words?
zK: More external sources and new equipment, but mostly the narrative arc and the daily production routing.
Chain D.L.K.: Any work in progress?
zK: A lot; I’m always working. In the last three months, I just finished 6 or more full sequences. Due to location, lots of time to work.