Gonzo Circus

by Peter Deschamps, Nov 2006 (Brussels, Belgium)

1. In all interviews I read you explain that after ‘Violence Of Discovery …’ you finished a period of 15 years and was open for a new challenge: Space. Was there a clear moment or a person who brought this turning point.

VDCA is a collection of the most finely crafted pieces i have ever recorded. So it was clear i was reaching a high point, and there was also a sense of summation, of condensing my whole creative life in that record. As i was approaching its completion i got to think of the next steps (i like to see beyond what i’m doing). And, as i noticed that those pieces came full circle with the first ones (later released as “Early Works”), i realized that any further work would become a kind of repetition, that i would start using a well-tested and “safe” formula. I had a strong sense of completion, of having achieved something i was happy with, and finding nothing else to say. I need challenges and taking risks. I like to explore and discover. So it was a natural consequence that i decided to end that line of works. And i decided to change as radically as possible, to find completely fresh territory to explore.

1a. Does this means that the Bridge project is put on hold?
I guess i talked too much about that, i shouldn’t have ever announced it. I’ll work on it when i find nothing better to do. It’s an interesting idea, but not a priority for now.

2. In Wire you declare why you describe yourself a jazzmusician : a personal way of structuring music, a way of accessing technique. In jazz playing together and interacting is an important notice, do you feel MIMEO as a jazzcollectife

Playing together and interacting are also charachteristics of many other kinds of music that have no relation to jazz. I said i could describe myself as a jazz musician IN CERTAIN TERMS – working with certain operating principles from jazz – so please don’t de-contextualize what i said. This is a difficult and delicate issue, i can’t go out there and just say “i’m a jazz musician” – it’s really not that simple. Mimeo is an uncontrollable beast that belongs to no musical genre and certainly has nothing to do with jazz either.

2b. Many jazzmusicians are well trained musicians with or without a formation: are you interested in the technical part of the music or more the philisophy of their music.

It is physically and technologically impossible for me to have any involvement to jazz’s conventional techniques (like dealing with Western music theory, scales and chords, etc). Well, it was my decision to make it impossible. I prefer to create all the technical dimensions of my music – from the construction and interface to the sound vocabulary, performing technique and discourse structuring.
[I don’t know what you mean with “philosophy of their music”. Whose music?]

3. You work as an artist with analogue material. I read a review in which they mention that for ‘Harmonic Series 2’ you used a labtop. Is this true. If so why did you started to use a labtop.

I use computers since 1993. I tend to, and enjoy working with analog means because they are true to action. I used a computer for Harmonic Series because i would need a ton of analogue equipment to do the same, but also because i wanted to start using the computer as instrument, especially as a generator of simple sounds such as sinewaves, but controllable in complex ways. “Space Study 1” and my work with the glove controllers is all programmed in computer.

3b. What is according to you the function of the labtop in the music. Is it a real instrument are more a tool. (comment fully, please, it’s important).

A computer today is a formidable machine with huge processing power. It can be used in many ways in music. It can be used as a compositional tool, a multitrack mobile recorder, a device for automating mixes, a processing device for mastering, an interactive device for live performances and installations, a sampler, and i could go on and on. But i guess you’re asking about how the computer is made to make music, in particular the “laptop” genre of academic-style computer music. I think the computer is really not an instrument. Or, if it is, it must win the prize for the worst, most miserable and poorly designed instrumental interface in the world. It just doesn’t make any sense that such a powerful device is interfaced with a performer’s body using just two fingers. The solution laptoppers found was to erase any gesture – essential to performance – in favor of having the computer running processes on its own, therefore behaving like the machine it is. I find noodling with sample loops with one finger an activity of little value in terms of musicianship. It may be interesting music, but quite a bit removed from the core of musicianship (i describe musicianship, for this purpose, as the ability to use possible skills of the human body to make music – not mentioning intellectual skills to articulate sound). Playing sample loops (a practice widely used by laptop musicians) is just way too easy, and too far removed from real action for my taste. And lastly, computers can do so many different things, it’s hard to understand why so much laptop music sounds redundant. But please don’t take me for a luddite – it’s just that there’s a big difference between using technology and being used by it.

4. I have listened since august every week to Space but I am still trying to catch the record. How are the reactions on the record.

Quite varied. “Space” is described in different online stores as jazz, techno, experimental, synth ambient, downtempo, electronica… I’ve been said to play alto sax (!) and compared to Keith Jarret and Miles Davis (!!). Also that i’m trying to make EAI music with light saber sounds (!!!). All kinds of nonsense. But that’s good, i think… Fortunately, some people really understand what i’m doing, and then apreciate its value enthusiastically. It took me a long time to understand my own field of work, so i can’t expect everybody to understand it in a single week. Besides it will only become clearer when new records are released. It’s a “big picture”.

4a. A Dutch reviewer is complaining about the non-structure in the record. Please comment.

Well, maybe he should complain about his lack of ability to find structure. Space is very clearly structured in a clearly audible way. It has three parts, they revealed themselves naturally. I discovered that Parts “I” and “III” were like spontaneous shapes, something created by the layering of elements, as if condensed from outside-in. “Part II” was the opposite, it was composed more in detail on each instrument, as short constructed themes taking their place in the overall shape, building inside-out, and there are four of them (a, b, c, d), quite different from each other and sharply separated.

4b. I read you assembled the record from hours of materiaal. How did you decide if a piece of sounds fits in the whole.

That relates to one of the greatest difficulties in the recording of “Space”. Since performance is the central composition element in the album (and in the whole Space Program), i needed performance at its best. The choice criteria was performance at peak form. To be in peak form, playing has to be part of your life. It takes lots of rehearsals, concerts, solos, collaborations, etc. And it’s just not possible to achieve top skills on many instruments at once. So it happened that recordings were made in different circumstances and spaces and many months apart. The next goal was to create a situation in which all these recordings seem to be “listening” to each other, as if they were an orchestra playing all together in the same space.

4c. Space is part of serie who will runs 6 years, why the choice of starting a project that will last 6  years, maybe your inspiration & interest could change.

Maybe it will take 10 years, don’t take my word. The Space Program is open enough to accomodate new directions. In fact it is changing and evolving all the time, and even new guitar work will be a part of it in the future. I have no doubts about the consistency, variety and openness of this work program. Please don’t worry. I’m sure Wagner was asked the same question about his Ring cycle, or Stockhausen about the “Licht” cycle (not meaning to compare myself with those two, but the scale of the project is similar). The Space Program is actually running since 2004 and it’s at cruising speed now. There’s just no turning back.

5. How important is silence in your work, it seems to be a ‘real’ part of the music. I always think an musician needs guts to use silence as a part of his work.

Yes, silence is part of the music. It is actually “played” as part of the musical flow. Without silence, there is no space, you can’t breathe. Silence is not something to be afraid of. We NEED silence, we need it badly. Silence is everything around you, silence is your being still. Silence is an expensive item in contemporary urban life. Space and silence are are inseparable concepts for me, and they are both luxuries. Mental space, physical space, aural space, visual space. My music could be seen as a comment on the value of space and silence. Our society tries to exterminate silence systematically, but creating silence should be an activity to be encouraged. We can create silence (or space) in every little gesture everyday and children should be taught in school how to create space.