KOOLMORF WIDESEN - “I used to have auditory hallucinations”

We would navigate the city mostly at night, it'd be his peculiarity, not mine, but I did go along with it for a while, it's like I didn't really have a shape myself at the time, I was this floating ghost in a city I desperately felt mine. My existence was liquid, only colours that looked like sounds, flickers in the dark, the city lights before the dawn, the rain before it falls.

Years ago I felt suspended in that reality, waiting for the life to hit me hard, something that would obviously never happen. Then I opened Myspace and I soaked in pages and pages of unknown music, friends of friends and clicks and noise and procrastination. I stumbled upon Koolmorf Widesen's page, who ended up being an acquaintance of Black Season, who I knew really well.

I clicked “play” and the city went dark, the rain finally hit the ground and I felt reborn in that blackout. My heart missed a beat and it's been replaced by a sequence of nervous electronic flashes, my blood stream went slow and easy upon a far away melody, lost in a viscous consistency of sounds that a human being created, somebody I've never thought would be a part of my life.

Nina: How did you end up making this genre in particular? What has been your first approach to electronic music?

Koolmorf Widesen: I was messing around with keyboards, stompboxes borrowed from my older brother, microphones and cassette recorders even before I started playing guitar, I think I was 7-8 or something at the time...Then I installed the first music software on a PC later in 2002 when I was like 14 years old. I was playing guitar in a band at the time and a friend at high school gave me these CDs with Cubase SX, Vegas and Reason 2. I personally didn’t have a computer so I'd ditch school in the morning, go to my girlfriend's, have a smoke and make some music. I had no idea of what I was doing 'cause I didn’t know much of electronic music (just some rave tunes that my friends were listening to at the time and they gave me on cassettes with no titles or anything) and also cause no one taught me how to use those softwares and there were no Youtube tutorials or stuff like that. What I was doing sounded very messy, inaccurate and naïf but I was enjoying it so much that I soon quit the band. I was making tracks constantly, everyday, burn them on some CDs and give them to my friends. Then one of them told me my music reminded him of people like Fennesz, Aphex Twin, Mouse on Mars, Squarepusher etc, so I checked them out and from there I started to buy and download tons of electronic records of all kind.

 

N: How does the melody arises in your mind in between this thick combination of sounds?

KW: I think the melody can be perceived in different ways for different people and it’s not necessarily a line coming from a singer or a violin. John Cage used to say that everything is melody, even traffic noise which for most people is just noise. I don’t strictly agree with that but if you think about it, is there a strict definition of what is noise and what is melody? We have different conceptions of it based on the music and sounds we experienced in our life. Sometimes I can hear melodies when people just talk or in between some electronic music beats which don’t have a lead synthesizer; otherwise the melodies I hear are coming from different pitched percussions and I would call that “melody” while for some other people it would be just a speech or a rhythm. A nice example of what I am talking about is the central idea behind some Steve Reich's music such as “Different Trains” where the noise of the trains and speech voices start to sing melodies thanks to the string players.

 

N: How do you determine when the song is finished?

KW: It can be something difficult that I am sure a lot of electronic producers struggles with.
I suppose I am an extreme perfectionist with my music, to the point that I can spend months or even years reworking the same track over and over. But I don’t think it's something necessarily negative, I think I know very well when it’s done and when I am happy with it. Some of my friends think I am mad keeping most of my music on my hard drives for years even if it’s 90% done. The thing for me is that if I don’t make the very best I can, what’s the point of doing it at all? At the same time I try to balance this perfectionism with imposed limitations. For example I use mostly analogue instruments which, for their own nature, don’t have a memory storage. So when I recorded a take with those, that’s it. Ok, I can still change the volume, I can process the sounds with eq, fx and so on, but the sound is that and I can't go back. To me this is also the beauty of it, just how it happens in photos, handwriting... It's like a snapshot (well, to be more precise, a series of snapshots since we are talking about a series of 0 and 1 in digital audio and a series of voltages in the analogue world) that will never be the same again especially with analogue electronic circuits.

N: How do you feel when you are satisfied with a sound you created?

KW: It’s very rewarding!

 

N: Fair Enough! Do you imagine every single sound before assembling the song together or does it happen during the general writing process?

KW: It depends on the track. Sometimes I have everything in my mind, sometimes I just start to mess around with a specific instrument or a piece of gear and then the ideas build up.

Time ago I used to have these auditory hallucinations (no, I didn’t take any drugs) while I was falling asleep in my bed and I would hear this amazing music that I would make in the dream. The problem is that everytime I'd wake up I would just remember the “colours” and the feelings but not the specific timbres or melodies. It was a mind blowing experience and I hope it will happen sometime again.

 

N: Which is the biggest change in your evolution as an artist? What are the main emotional and technical differences between the really old songs and the ones you are writing now? And what's the beauty of the album you are about to release?

KW: I think there was not a specific turning point but more of a constant evolution. As I was saying, I was not technical at all at first and in the last years I've got more and more technically skilled, even though I constantly work on balancing the fresh inspired compositional flow with the more technical side. When you start something new you have this great excitement, a super fast flow of ideas which can easily overwhelm you and if you stop yourself immediately with all the more technical shit, the risk is to kill this flow and don’t even remember where you wanted to go with that.

I am about to release many albums and EPs, I have like 50 tracks ready to go which I was sitting on since a while, so now I am in the process of compiling tracklists and talking to different labels. What’s the beauty of them? I think it’s a hard question to answer since for me my last tunes are always the best, but I guess this can be something very personal. It doesn’t mean that I don’t like my older stuff, I have a lot of memories connected to it, especially the music I was writing before I started publishing it; I didn’t give a shit about the technical aspect so it was made more like a stream of consciousness that sounded quite psychotic at times.

N: What pushes you to sit in front of your computer and compose? Is that you or is it your inspiration? I realised that sometimes I need to stare into the void for a while before it starts flowing, while other times I wake up at 4am with a melody in my head. What about you? Apart from you not sleeping at all before 4am...

KW: Both. Sometimes I feel very inspired, kind of in a mind rush of ideas and I look forward to be in front of the sequencer; other times I am less hectic and I just sit to do some less creative music work which I would have to do anyway. I always avoid making music when I don’t feel well, otherwise I will hate what I am doing. I also know that I have a good attention span in certain hours of the day so I try to take advantage of that. I would be more interested to read interviews to electronic music producers and composers I like if those were more about the writing process and less about the other trivial things.

 

N: Let's talk about your project with the robots! Why do you need to direct inanimate objects when you could have let's say an orchestra? Or is it just a different way to create not too distant from any other instruments? What's the whole meaning behind it to you?

KW: The whole thing started in January 2011 when I was in Gent (Belgium) to play a gig and a guy there showed me the website of this foundation called Logos, these people build robots to play acoustic instruments since twenty years and they now have the largest robot orchestra in the world and it includes over sixty musical robots: percussions, organs, wind and strings instruments and many non-traditional instruments, too.

I thought the idea was amazing and I started reading everything on their website for a long time until I decided to get in touch with them in 2014. I visited the foundation for about ten times to learn how these instruments work and then composed and recorded “Musica Automata”, a 10 minute composition (still unreleased) for nineteen robots controlled by a laptop computer. The robots are able to receive digital MIDI messages that contain precise information for their performance, which is not limited to which note to play but also the timbre itself like its attack, the decay time, how bright or dark a sound should be, different articulations such as legato, tremolo, vibrato and microtonal control, so you can imagine the infinite amount of possibilities!

I have been building a robot myself too in the last months but it’s not completely finished yet, it’s a midi controlled Santur, a very nice Persian string instrument.

N: Within a bunch of few other people, you've been my first sight on electronic music. When I met you at this random gig in Florence, ages ago, I could not believe all that universe of sounds could come from just one human being!

How do you see yourself as a musician? What would you be without music?

KW: At this point of my life I wouldn’t know what to do without music really! I don’t have a very good knowledge in any other fields. If I didn’t make music I probably would have done something creative in some other fields like directing films, painting or designing and building something.

There are so many other things I would like to learn but I feel that just this life I have is not enough to explore everything I want, so I keep music as my main focus. I really don’t understand when people say crap like “everything is already been done in music, the notes are limited and so are the chords and rhythms”. Do these people have any clue about all the possible combinations of melodies, textures, rhythmical plots that could exist? And when we talk about notes, do these people know that we have approximately 20.000 frequencies we can hear and, even in between those, there are infinite (!!) other notes? To me music is an endless territory to explore and people who think there is nothing interesting anymore are not interesting themselves, because they have no imagination. Back to what we were saying, writing music is always been also a necessity for me, an urge. If I stay more than a few days away from it I get nervous. I could never be one of those people who go to the seaside and stay there under the sun the whole day, doing nothing, just relaxing. I would get crazy after a couple of days or maybe sooner.

 

[Check out Koolmorf on Bandcamp]

Villi - “Just call me Villi”

She lives only five minutes away from mine, but I still manage to get lost on my way. It doesn't get any better when I walk in, the place is packed with so many things, I get through a tiny corridor to the kitchen for a tea, then we get back to her room and it tells me a lot about this woman. So busy, so passionate, and no matter what she is pure.

I just ask her to play, or better, I can see her craving the guitar constantly, so I just let her do whatever, in the meantime I'm making my way upon pedals, books, weird surfaces, so that I can take some pictures and impress something that comes to Villi so natural.

I always thought her shy and distant, I never understood if she liked me enough, I never understood if she liked anybody, but I never had doubts about her love for music and for bigger things out there. Now I know for sure she likes everybody and nobody, she comes and goes bringing that red warm dust all over, like the Brickfielder wind; she stays true to herself, she gets confused, she wants to do good.

I'm so happy I had the opportunity to talk to this artist, in the silence of her room with a wonderful view, her gaze lost in her memories, her smiles and her complete aperture which hit me like a storm on a quiet morning. I am inspired.

Nina: Let's talk about balance. How do you manage to play with Vyk Non in London and Smich Hyen in Ostrava at the same time? What's the percentage between stress and inspiration?

Villi: It's not stressful at all. If it were stressful I would not do it. When you do something you really really like and it inspires you constantly it is not stressful, I mean, it can be because you want to make the best of it, of course, but it doesn't make you feel anxious. Let's say it's stressful in a positive way, because you are so passionate about it that you want to make it good.

With Smich Hyen we started six years ago and it was my first real band with gigs and everything, it was really stressful actually to be on stage for the first time, but I was not alone, I was surrounded by people with whom I created something, we were in that together.

 

N: So it's not a big deal to go back and forth between London and Ostrava? Because it's what you actually enjoy...

V: Yeah, so now I live in London since almost two years, but the band there is still going, it's kinda amazing because I keep travelling back mainly for that, and of course to see my friends and family. I try to make sure that the band is still up because it's something I really want to keep doing. For me there is no such thing as holidays, it's important that I create something constantly, that's what I chose, I am not complaining, even though sometimes I would need to switch off my brain; but at the same time creating music is like a therapy for me, it's how I keep the stress out.

N: I know you previously played bass with Kulma too, but you've been replaced once you left for London. Why did they make this decision while Smich Hyen preferred to carry on with you?

V: So, Ostrava is not like London, not even like Prague, it's not even that small but the music scene is pretty limited, you can put six bands in one van basically, because everyone plays with everyone. I played with both bands, but then I left for London and Kulma got offered some gigs and as they play more for fun it's been a natural decision. Also the new bass player of Kulma is the guitarist of Smich Hyen. Anyway, Smich Hyen have been offered some gigs as well, but they didn't feel like accepting without me because I was so involved in the writing process.

 

N: How do you determine to which band give the idea you've got for a song?

V: All the bands are so different, that's why it's possible for me to keep it up. When I write music I never know in which project is gonna end in the process, when it comes it comes, but when the idea is complete I can clearly see where is gonna go. If Smich Hyen and Vyk Non were too similar, it would not have been possible. In HLMX I play bass, then I'm in another band at the moment, but all the parts I play give me something unique. What connects all the projects I am part of, is the aim, none of us want to be famous, we don't do it because of big money, we just love it.

I'll try to explain. Recently I've been offered a job as a session bassist, a paid job. I would have been required to play the exact same parts as they were written previously, and for a moment I've got tempted. I thought that I could maybe dedicate less time to my job and play more instead, but then I asked myself where was the soul of it! I've got scared that it would lose its meaning...

N: Did you refuse because it was a paid job or because you would play music you didn't write?

V: Both. I think I would really struggle... I thought that I would end up just doing that and I would lose myself in the process. I cannot do something just because I'm told to.

I used to play piano when I was really little, my dad was good with electric things so he built me a keyboard. After few months my parents decided to take me to a music school and I would spend from five to seven hours a day playing piano. My future was basically written. I wanted to go out and enjoy life, instead I would sit there and play because somebody else decided that for me. It was so hard, I knew that if I'd quit I would disappoint so many people. But I started a Summer part time job and with that money I just bought my first guitar and a pedal, I needed a really nice overdrive, to play the Nirvana songs, you know [laughs]!  I didn't even know how it would sound, I just went to the local music store and I said something like “Ok I just want this guitar, an amp, and give me a good pedal too”.

Villi's first pedal

N: I am really curious about the HLMX project. There is something slightly sharp about the sound, but it's so soft compared to your other bands. How do you feel playing this kind of music?

V: I love it! It was not my intention to start a new project, as I am so busy already, but I decided to give it a try, because it's with a friend of mine and I would play bass which sounded interesting. Then I completely fell in love with it, since the first rehearsal. The drummer is amazing and Holly, the singer, plays the guitar in a completely different way from me. We were composing in her room, I started some bass lines and she created all the grips around it, it felt like making a puzzle. Even if the music is soft, it is still kinda dark; we both come from these really noisy and loud bands, but it came out like that completely natural.

 

N: How do you feel on stage? You seem so bright and slightly shy in person, but once you are up there you look mysterious and confident.

V: Confident! Ah. Well, I can be super nervous before getting on stage, which is weird because I played many gigs in my life, but once I start and the sound is good and I am there with my friends sharing this experience I kinda forget where I am. It's like another dimension. For me, being on stage is not like really being above people, is more like sharing something with them. That's why I probably bleed all the time, I forget I'm there, I just know I'm doing something I love and I play hard. After the gig I see my guitar and I'm like “Oh my god, it's full of blood, how?”, or maybe the guitar is broken or something. It's hard to explain, but for me the more I bleed the better the gig is, it means I've been under this sort of hypnosis and I didn't feel any physical pain.

 

N: What do you need in your life right now to feel accomplished at the age of 27?

V: I am living my dream and I cannot do any more at the moment. This is the life I've always dreamed of, if I die tomorrow it would be with the guitar on my back. It took me time to get to this point, because moving to London is not easy, and I didn't intentionally come here to stay so long, I expected to remain for four months and it's gonna be two years soon. I didn't even intend to play music here, it just happened. I felt it was the right thing to do. When you first move to London you know nobody, so you end up spending a lot of time by yourself, so you grab the guitar and you start playing. I got inspired by this experience of me being alone. But it is also overwhelming how music connects people all over the world.

 

[CHECK OUT VILLI'S SOLO IDEAS]

Daniel R Ball – I just want to make a big fucking noise!

It's the day after the storm, a perfect weather, but we are still vibrating, unsure of what to do, so we do what's best, we improvise. I am deliberately capturing his tension on my camera, he is channelling it into his rough fingers that run through the paper of a perfect cigarette he just made. I wonder how can somebody who loves the mess so much be so precise about such tiny details.

That's what I noticed him doing on stage, no matter how chaotic it may get, his fingers will always hit the right chords. I wonder how this really balanced chaos can impact Sever, it feels again like the right thing to do, I feel proud.

My body recognizes him, my mind seems to remember him since a long time, just my eyes are seeing him for the very first time in this delicate and fickle perspective; I don't want to define him, I want to know him. I want to know him all over again.

Nina: It's really hard to me to start from somewhere with you, but as we are both somehow anxious people, let's get rid of the bad things first. When and why did you stop playing in your life? For how long? Can you talk about that period?

Daniel: It was after Sheen, my last band broke up. It wasn't immediately afterwards, it was a few months later that and I was playing in a wedding band, just for money basically. After a little while I realised that wasn't what I wanted to do and it kinda hit me at that point that Sheen was over. I was fairly convinced that I'd never do anything quite like that again in my life. I've lost some of the satisfaction of playing in a way, 'cause I've convinced myself that it was all down hill from there. So I stopped playing for something like two years, I sort of considered it an early retirement; when anyone asked me to join their band I would say that. I thought from then that I would enjoy music more from the spectator's perspective or as a journalistic perspective, because I was still writing some reviews.

After a year or so it wasn't enough anymore. I would still enjoy watching gigs, I would go to see local bands, or new bands on stage and initially I felt relieved that I wasn't going through that again, that I wasn't building up all that hope, because if I didn't have hopes I wouldn't have fears, and if I didn't dream it wouldn't turn into a nightmare. Then eventually I had this sort of itch that I wasn't doing what I was meant to do, what I was best at.

Of course it sucks when it goes wrong, it really does, when you achieve so much, but I think that was my mistake, thinking about it in these terms as if it's all building towards something. Once I let go of that attitude, I learned to love playing again.

So when I started speaking to Charles (a.n. Vyk Non's singer) about playing together, one of our first drunken conversations, I was basically vaguely shouting about how I didn't really want to have an aim to get a label or to get anywhere in particular, that if we were to start making music together it had to be on our own terms, for our own enjoyment.

 

N: Would you get back there? I mean, not playing music.

D: No, I'll never put it down again. Not playing music, after it being everything I lived for and studied for, left me sort of numb. I really didn't care about myself much when I wasn't playing... Not to say that I was unhappy during that time, or anything like that. I still enjoyed my life in many ways, but there was a really, really, really big part missing. I guess I didn't have a sense of purpose when I wasn't playing and it felt a little bit like accepting that the best of my life was already over. I noticed and I still notice that I would start sentences with the phrase “I used to” all the time, and I still do it now. I was existing for the sake of existing, nothing wrong with that, but when you've had something in your life that's so meaningful, then it just leaves you feeling a little bit empty, pointless and ultimately self-destructive. I just kinda hated myself, really, not actively, more looking in the mirror and just being disappointed.

 

N: Was it painful?

D: Sometimes. Mostly it was nothing.

 

N: Do you think it's hard to write when there is a complete absence of harsh or, according to the society, negative emotions?

D: No, not necessarily for me [rolling a cigarette, of course]. So, if I'm in a good mood and I wanna write some music my good mood is just my active emotion, but there is everything always going on at the same time; if I want to tap in to the little bit of sadness that's somewhere in the back of my mind, then I can, but if I'm writing I find the music often takes its own sort of shape, it takes on its own emotional character.

 

N: So, would you write just out of complete happiness?

D: I could do it, but I wouldn't like it. I don't know about “happy”, happy is too straight forward. There is the aspects of happiness, it could be a bright summer day and the sun is burning hot and everything feels so free and light and perfect, I think that could be just as strong as melancholy is in music.

 

N: Wouldn't that be boring?

D: Well, for someone who doesn't write lyrics... ehm, no!

N: The projects you are part of tell a lot about your multiform yet really defined personality. What did you love about Sheen? What is that you like about Vyk Non? How do you feel when you are on your own, do you ever play just for yourself?

D: To start with, Sheen is something that I'll always be really proud of. I feel really privileged to have been part of that, part of a collective of six people who contributed pretty much equally, in a band with two lyricists, two absolute poets. It felt larger than life and together on stage with the six of us was to feel unbeatable, undefeatable. There was all this pain, suffering and self-destruction that went into creating. And a lot of happiness as well, because at the end of it we were six great friends. I'm just glad that we managed to have our shit just about together long enough to create what we did and play the shows that we did. I'm not heartbroken anymore that it's over, it's been a long time and I never wonder what could have been if we carried on, because it was not an option. I think it stopped at the right time.

With Vyk Non, on the other hand, I feel so at home musically. It's a really free space in mind in a band with three other extremely inspiring musicians. I remember seeing Dressmaker, Charles's other band, during my period when I wasn't playing music, and I guess that's when I first started thinking again that maybe I wasn't as retired as I though, because I was watching Charles on stage and thinking “If I were ever in a band again, I wanna be in a band with someone like that, someone who is not limited on stage”. And to now be in a band with him is actually a really incredible and inspiring experience.

When we first started talking about the project it was and remains a very free space of ideas. This year that we've been going we developed a sound that is distinctly the four of us, but at the same time we would push each other's limits. Our philosophy is that a song is never finished.

I guess this is where my heart belongs musically, because as a performer and writer I really just want to make a big fucking noise!

 

N: I know that studying music gives a certain freedom to unsettle the rules and use them in the way that you prefer. But what happens when there is a complete absence of rules in first place? Can you try and imagine yourself in that position for a moment? I am talking about pure intuition.

D: I suppose it's hard for me to put myself in that position now, because when I write music I at least think it's intuition. What usually happens is that I get a tune in my head or a rhythm and then I translate it into an instrument that I know better than the back of my hand. What I don't know is how much of what I hear in my head is influenced by the rules that I've been taught over the years. I think in my case the intuition and musical knowledge are kind of one and the same. For instance, me and you were writing a song last night and you had a vocal melody and I didn't really think of which chords to put together underneath that, but I know the instrument well enough that once I start it becomes an automatic process.

It's true that knowing the rules does sometimes give you the way to break them, but at the same time I think it'd be a narrow minded musician to take the rule book as a gospel.

N: How do you get inspired? You just wait for the feeling to arise or you sit down and start playing until something comes out?

D: It's a lot of things. I rarely write by myself or for myself. When I do, it's kind of its own inspiration and impulse. So I might get home from work and I would think to myself “I need an instrument in my hand right now”. It's like being hungry, it comes like a need. So at that point, when I pick up an instrument, there is usually a reason for it. It could be my mood, something that I had in my head but I was not aware of. Usually it's just the only thing that I know I need to do in that moment.

The fastest root to inspiration is in collaborating, writing together with band mates or other musicians. I think I know why that is! It's because of the way I like to visualize music as a conversation between instruments. If I have some sort of a relationship with the person, writing is talking to them without words, the instruments would communicate something of our personalities.

 

N: What pushed you to say yes to be a part of Sever? It sounds like something completely different from what you feel like in your life right now...

D: When you sort of described Sever, kind of an indie-folk project, and then you showed me the songs as they were being finished, that description didn't do it justice for me. It's again that kind of experience music, it's non standard, it comes from a place of intuition and you can hear that in the music.

 

N: Because I cannot play the guitar!

D: But you got Diego creating the arrangements for ideas that come from this extremely pure place! What that leads to is something unrefined in a way that at some points in the song it's almost quite hard to tell what's actually going on, it doesn't feel tied to structure, it doesn't feel tied to conventional wisdom behind playing chords. Of course when you actually start playing the music, when I started playing the songs, parts of it started to make sense to me, I was like “hold on a minute, this makes perfect musical sense, it's bizarre, but it makes sense”. Playing the songs all together as a group still had that effect, I didn't know if it would still sound that way from the recording to the rehearsal room, but it does. The way the songs are played cannot be separated from how they've been created. Pure intuition, that for me from a listening perspective as a musician got me to switch off that analytical part of my brain; it's the kind of music for me that doesn't create for me the same state as the noise music does, but it does have that transportative powers and it takes you to a different mind set. It's an enveloping experience.

Your voice has a lot to do with that... But it's like putting words to music that only music can describe.

 

N: And what do you think of love relationships in a band? Let it be a five people or a duo band... And how do you think a couple may influence the rest of the band?

D: There are so many examples through the history of music of a love relationship eather being the heart and soul of a band or completely destroying it. Or the relationship destroying itself and inspiring some of the greatest music ever.

I think it's something that when you embark upon you have to be extremely aware that if you are in a band of more components than just the two of you, you take on the responsibility not for your own relationship only. Out of professionalism and respect you need to realise that there are other people who will be effected by your personal shit. I think that when it comes to that kind of situation you should bring your dramas into the writing room and leave them outside the practice room door.

As far as duo bands go I think that's a whole different sort of animal. The band lives and dies on the relationship. That's not to say that the relationship has to be going well for the band to be going well, quite the opposite actually sometimes. In many ways I think that the relationships within bands can only amplify something that is already gonna be there, because in many ways a band is like a relationship involving more moving parts.

 

N: How do you feel about it? About being involved.

D: From my perspective I understand my responsibility, I know you understand yours. And as I said bring your drama into the writing room and leave it outside the practice room.

 

N: Oh well! Thank you for your time, Daniel!

D: My pleasure!

[Check out Vyk Non's website]

[Check out Sheen on Bandcamp]

[Check out Sever on Bandcamp]

M!R!M – Jack Milwaukee [If you know what I mean]

I get a little bit nervous on my way upstairs, I realise I don't know this man much at all. He looked so simple and cheerful during my visit to see the flat and my at the time future room; I remember him looking straight into my eyes, without any sort of seduction, because this is what he does when he talks... he looks away for few seconds, then he gets back to you and asks “Do you know what I mean?”.

I get self-conscious as I get in front of the door to his room, I know I will never be able to represent him entirely; it will take me a while to realise that nobody can, and that is one of Jack's perks, that is what keeps him pure, no matter what happens.

He usually appears so rough, I am shooting him without having a clue of what I'm doing, I just want that face in my frames, I am not familiar with his music yet, but he seems gentle. Just... the air feels thick and touchable, like something's about to explode.

I don't know it yet, but this is his sound, dense and penetrating, it doesn't leave much space for thinking and that's what I will start enjoying soon at his gigs, I will always keep my eyes closed and I will dance and let these unknown feelings devour me.

Jack is not simple at all, but no matter what is going on in his brain, he will always make you feel at ease, if he doesn't it means that you are not completely open to him. And his music now feels like that to me, something I can perceive under my skin but I can't see or define.

 

Here it is, our chat in our kitchen, with me drinking black coffee and smoking, and him eating his first ever avocado on toast that he is so excited about, pretty much like about anything new that pops up in his life, and that is the beauty that flows within M!R!M.

Nina: Your songs sound a bit confusing at first, but as the pattern of notes proceeds everything makes sense. As I got to know you a little bit, I could say it reflects your personality quite well.

Jack: Yeah, I guess my sound does reflect the way I see and I perceive things around me. Maybe I am a confusing person, I mean, when I write something is definitely what I feel, it's always very spontaneous, or maybe I am going through a confusing period of my life. I can't really tell if it's the reason, but I can say that anytime I write something I try to stay as offhanded as possible, and I guess that if people get the feeling of confusion or something, perhaps that specific song transmits that to them and it's OK with me.

 

N: So do you look inside of yourself or around you to get inspired?

J: Everything influences me... Most of the time it's the weather! I noticed that when I'm in Italy [ a.n. Where Jack's from ] and I try to write music, it always sounds really different from when I'm in London. Obviously there is still my style you can guess, a specific sound, but the overall result feels different. It really depends on where I am physically when I write music, the weather, the location, what surrounds me, anything... anything.

 

N: I really love the rough sound that goes underneath your romantic and decadent melodies and the fact that the voice is sometimes hard to distinguish. Can you talk about why the vocal line and the lyrics are fused within the whole sound so deeply?

J: I don't consider myself a songwriter, I've always said that, I think I'm better at writing sounds than words. So I like the idea that people can just imagine their own lyrics when they listen to one of my songs. That way it can be different every time. I'd say that I communicate more through the sounds and I don't really like my vocals.



N: You don't think you could say much in words?

J: Hm... So, if you think you are a songwriter, you have to be 100% sure that you are, otherwise you become lame, you know what I mean? You cannot just say “I'm a songwriter”. Sometimes I take a step back and I ask myself what I am good at and what to focus on. You can speak to people even with sounds only, you don't necessarily need words.

 

N: But still, you don't want to go just instrumental!

J: I use my voice as any other of my instruments. I still do have lyrics in my songs, but I guess 99% of the people don't really understand what I talk about anyway because everything is fused together.

N: What's the evolution of M!R!M? If we listen to “Never Trust” from 2013, and then to “Velvet Dress” from 2016, what would you say is the biggest difference? Technically and emotionally.

J: Definitely the sound. For the new stuff I decided to give up the guitar and play bass instead, I just felt that I wanted to play a different instrument. Then I added lots of keyboards. Before, it was more post punk, dark; now it's still got that kind of flair, but it's more dreamy, I think there is also more hope in the new songs. That's what I feel.

 

N: It's interesting, as I get the opposite feeling, like there was more hope before. I mean, that's how I perceive the melody.

J: It could be. I always believe that everyone is different. Even when we take drugs, it doesn't mean that we get the same sort of perceptions; I could smoke a joint and enjoy it, but maybe my friend gets a panic attack! For the music is the same, there is no wrong or right, we are both right.

So, to get back to the evolution of M!R!M, I would definitely say that the style is slightly different and that I couldn't be able to play the old songs anymore, because that music represents myself as I was in that period of my life, it would feel fake. Maybe I should play them on stage, maybe at some point I will, but it would feel like playing someone else's music, very distant from me. So now I am really focused on the new stuff and I am happy to play it.

 

N: What happens when you write an album and the creative process takes a long time, as much as the whole label timing, then you finally release it but you don't find much of yourself in the songs anymore? How do you deal with that?

J: Ah! You don't really deal with it. For example, when “Matilde” was released, a year has past since I wrote it... So I don't mean that I didn't feel it anymore, but obviously I was working on new things already and was more into them. It's just the label has its time, the whole music business works like that, because of the promotion, the press, all these things. Unless you self-release your music. I believe that all the musicians go through this feeling. When you want to release something properly it obviously takes a long time, because of all the business bullshit that you need to go through if you want to share your music on a larger scale. It's part of the game.

 

N: If for some reason you couldn't make music anymore, how else would you channel your energies?

J: Hm, well, definitely... You mean not even sound engineering? [ a.n. Jack's other job ]

 

N: No music at all. Something creative that would involve only you.

J: It's a hard question... I think gardening.

 

N: Gardening?!

J: Yeah. I'd love to do that. If I couldn't make music anymore, I would go for something far from that. You know, I'm black or white. So yeah, gardening, I like gardening.

 

N: Where?

J: I like good weather, so I would definitely go to a hot place, in the sun.

 

N: So you would leave London?

J: Yeah! Definitely! If I would not do music, fuck yeah! Why would I be here? [laughing] It's the only reason I'm here. There is nothing but my profession to keep me here to be honest.

 

N: So you moved here for music? Where are you going as a person and a musician?

J: When I first moved to London I knew what I was here for... for the music of course. I was trying to make a step forward in my career. Can I say career? Sounds stupid, too much, but yeah.
Where am I going? I don't really know where I'm going. I'm going with the flow, you know. Whatever comes I get it. If I think too much of what I want to do with my music it just makes me believe that I am not going anywhere. So I try not to think of what could happen and just do things, and eventually it all becomes clear, you know what I mean? I am just trying to be serene in my life. So if I have to pick up an aim in my life, it would just be the inner peace. You know, serenity, not happiness, I don't think happiness exists, it's just a glimpse, just a moment. I believe in serenity.

 

N: You need to make some sort of a t-shirt for M!R!M: I believe in serenity!

J: Yeah! [laughing]. It was a hard question though. I do not program my future because the perception changes year by year. For example, when I was fourteen, I wanted to be a football player and I really believed that, for me football was everything. Or when I was really small, I wanted to become an astronaut. Now I want to make music, but maybe in ten years I'll just have my garden! Or I don't know, I'll be selling socks! If that's what's gonna make me happy. Life is a bit like that sometimes.

N: What is one of your last singles about? Who is “Matilde”? What are you trying to express with that song?

J: Matilde, I guess, is a girl [smiling]. It's a story, an idea of a story, a girl that creates illusions around you and then vanishes. It's not necessarily something that happened, even though it could have, because I can relate that situation to my life at some point, but I didn't write it specifically about someone. Although, even if I did write about anyone in particular, I wouldn't tell anybody, it would make me feel exposed. I think this kind of things has to be private. I just like how the name “Matilde” sounds, so I picked it up. Like “Milwaukee”, I like the sound of it.

 

N: This may sound as a trivial question, but why do you make music on your own? Do you consider collaborations? What are you looking for in the people who may play with you? I'm not talking about bringing the project on stage only, but especially during the creative process.

J: I just found myself on my own. I never really wanted to do it, I just naturally found myself there. I used to play with other people before. Then I though “I can do this by myself, let's try”, it's an experience, it's more intimate and very interesting. I tried it and I kept it like that. I like to play with others, but at the moment, for this project I like the idea of doing everything by myself, because it really reflects who I am. I catch myself observing and being like “This sound is me! It came from me”. M!R!M just naturally went towards that direction, and I'm still discovering it, I still feel like a beginner. And it's therapeutic as well, because I can actually see myself.

 

N: And how does it feel to share it with other people on stage? I know you collaborate with Francesco Perini at the moment, you guys play live together for now.

J: It's good! And I used to have other people playing with me before. It's always nice to have someone who can help you live, but especially it's great to share the thoughts upon music and to go on tour together. It's more like a personal feeling and the experience itself than just the technical part. I would never go on tour on my own, I need to share my emotions with someone else and understand how to recreate on stage what I composed in my room. It's amazing, I like it!

 

N: So do the musicians you collaborate with change the arrangements sometimes?

J: It could be, yeah. Especially live certain things could sound a little bit different and improved. I am open to that, unless the song still remains untouched at the base, it has to be that song. I don't know, maybe you should ask Francesco!

 

N: I will conclude this here, the rest will flow, and I like to preserve that piece of privacy I get as your flatmate, because I have the pleasure to discover your music every day.

J: Thank you...

 

N: I hear bits and pieces of melodies coming from upstairs, wondering what else you'll be able to reveal and how hard you must have fallen to reach that specific sound. I don't want to define you, because it would feel like shaping the water...
Would you like to tell me what's the favourite song you put out there so far?

J: To be honest I wrote one recently, but it hasn't been released yet! The new stuff I'm writing in general, it's definitely more mature than what I made in the past. “Matilde” gives you the idea of where I'm going with my sound, it's the little taste of what I like right now. What I play live at the moment gives you that vibe, but some songs don't even have a title yet, I just see how people react to them. All of the songs I wrote are important, they all meant something at the moment I wrote them, but I always prefer the newer pieces because they represent myself in the present.

Sometimes these questions seem easy to answer, but they are not.

I enjoyed the interview with avocado by the way!

 

[Check out M!R!M on Bandcamp!]

Perdurabo - Berlin is the place to be

The sky looks like it's about to rain, I only know because I cannot see the stars. You can actually see them most of the time, because Berlin has no lights, which concerns me as a photographer, because I have to shoot Perdurabo at night. It has to be night. It has to be dark. It has to be analogue.
We meet outside, we browse a little bit, we talk, eventually it starts raining and we head back to Arianna's place, a woman who in the future will connect me more to “Miss You More” than I imagine.
In fact, I don't have much light to use, it's a dark place and my film is not sensitive enough. I decide to risk, because this is what we do, this is what Perdurabo is about, too.

I just want him to go through all of that again and I want to feel it too, I want to channel my confusion into his determination, I want all this to go through my lens and hit the viewer in the middle of the night, when despair leaves no space for second thoughts. It's when we less expect it, it's when we think we healed. That's why I ask Arianna to be in the frames, but lightly, vanishing from our lives on the silver salts of my 35mm.

This is what these pictures are about, the rest is in Perdurabo's answers to my true deep curiosity.

 

Nina: It is really weird for me to be here in front of you, perfectly knowing who you are and where you've been, without having the possibility to reveal your identity to the readers. Tell me, why so much secrecy? Why don't you want to show your face, or your past?

Perdurabo: Well, there are two main reasons behind my hidden identity. The first is that I don’t want the listeners to be influenced by what I did in the past; nothing I have to be ashamed of, rather I should be proud of it, but I want people to approach Perdurabo in a totally free perception and to be able to listen to my music with a fresh perspective and not comparing it to anything else I did before.

Secondly is that - considering that today we are being bombarded with so much information, and we know everything about everyone (or we have the illusion to know everything) - I like the idea of some mystery, in this way the listener can let the imagination flow in a different way and shape a personal dimension. There is something sensual in the pleasure of discovery.

 

N: So you think that our past determines where we are going? Who would you be without your past and the triggering element that started the idea of Perdurabo?

P: I actually believe that the deepest part of each personality is being formed during the three first years of life, and our direction is the sum of our experiences. But we can modify this direction, we can embrace our experience to gain more consciousness and to understand better where we are going - this is exactly what my first album will talk about. Not for everyone is this way smooth since the beginning. I have no idea who I would be without my past, this is not known, but what I know for sure is that creating sounds has always been my main way to express creativity, even if not the only one, and Perdurabo sort of brings all these elements together: music, aesthetic, inner feelings.

N: The name “Perdurabo” is defined by nature as something that lasts. What is that you want to last in your life and in your music?

P: Perdurabo is a powerful word, a Latin motto that was perfectly representing my idea at the moment I started making music on my own. My vision was to give birth to something that, no matter what, will last till the end. The end is seen as death, and what thrills me is that what you create has the power to go beyond your life and to start its own life; so while as human beings we are born with a finite nature, art can move this limit over. I don’t desire something material to last but I rather consider the possibility to let people think over, understand and amplify their emotions.

 

N: Do you think you would have started something as intense without the same elements in your life? Like love, pain, broken trust... How do you think your music would sound without those emotions?

P: Perdurabo starts as a reaction to something, a kickback to pain and broken trust and it transforms the energy of those gained and lost-again elements. Since I was a child I preferred to go deeper into my emotions, even when they were so painful, rather than hiding myself behind a fake positive facade; music has always been my way to understand those emotions, to bring everything out and make it clear in front of my eyes. Not all of the music I produced has been composed with this kind of process, but often these strong feelings are the catalyst and main generator for a different level of the creative process, some of my most powerful compositions were born as a reaction to something so extreme, no matter if joy or pain.

 

N: And why do you make music all by yourself? Except for the collaborations, of course. It's like a strong base defined by your own style, but every song presents something fresh through different singers and producers. Why do you work this way instead of having solid elements involved?

P: I’ve been writing music on my own since the early beginning, but there’s a time for everything - only with Perdurabo I felt I was able to start something completely by myself. I was used to play in bands my whole life and there you get a specific role, there’s a different energy, a chemical made by the encounter of different minds, but this time I had to express something extremely personal and to be alone was the only way. I also know how difficult it is to form a band, to find the right equilibrium, to come toward the different needs and opinions and that’s why I love to collaborate with artists I respect, still keeping my own view on the production side though.

By the way I find it extremely vital to play with other musicians, to make the music alive, and that’s why I keep collaborating with a close bunch of talented people around me.

 

N: How does it feel to bring a song to life and then see it transforming through the musicians you collaborate with? Don't you ever get the fear that somebody may change the direction too much?

P: This is exactly why I love to play with other musicians, to break the wall that you can build so easily working all by yourself; I want to gain other perspectives, even if with Perdurabo I can still have the possibility to shape it and, if the direction is not right in my point of view, I can always take the last decision. It’s not about power, but more about having a straight idea on the path to take. When you are a multi-instrumentalist as I am, you feel like you can do everything by yourself, but it can be very interesting to see how other people can influence and enrich your own music. I am actually collaborating with Jörg Wähner, producer as well and drummer of Apparat, and I feel he can give a lot to my music. After playing live together a few times, we decided to work on this first album together, I’m honestly excited about it.

N: I know you travel between Italy and Germany, Berlin seems to you like the place to be. I found it fundamental to shoot you in that city, to bring out what it really means to you. I think the pictures talk for themselves, but I want you to express your feelings about it, especially connected to your music.

P: Moving to Berlin has been one of the main decisions of my whole life. It's like I've found something more personal there. When you leave your comfort zone you need to deal with your limits, you are forced to think and to act in a different way, this makes your brain work in an unusual mode, opening yourself to new scenery. Berlin represents my awareness about those limits and a big push to overtake them. It’s the place to be since it can be the place where your dreams come true, where you can meet extremely interesting artists and open minded people, where you can be yourself and experience new tendencies, but at the same time is the place that can easily highlight your fears. When I need to think about something I often take a lonely walk, exploring unknown corners, or I just sit in the Ringbahn taking the whole round and see the city passing in front of my eyes. Berlin is full of contrasts, a city with an uncommon past, but also with a unique strong inspiring energy, something that you can’t see, but you can nearly touch.

I had to face some intense experiences over the last few years, both connected to my first two singles “Leads Me Outside” and “Miss You More”, and while shooting with you in Berlin I had the feeling you have been able to capture some intimate deep parts of them. I am sure without Berlin, without its people and architecture, today my music wouldn’t be the same.

 

N: What is your perfect moment to compose? What atmosphere do you need? Do you fantasize or you need to get inspired by your actual life only?

P: Let’s say it’s a mix in between the two aspects. When you are in the studio you don’t have a marvelous panorama in front of you and year after year rooms just get similar one to the other, so in that case I let my imagination flow. A powerful image that comes often back to my mind is a beach in front of an ocean, I love water, it gives me a powerful imaginative strength. But the bigger part of my inspiration comes from what I am emotively living at that moment and in some cases the vibes of a place. Since a few years I work in some studios at Funkhaus, former radio broadcasting organization for the German Democratic Republic (GDR). The atmosphere is creepy, you can physically feel the energy there, history, people, music that have passed through it and it’s like a huge hollow from where you can take ideas and inspiration. You feel out of time, it’s so far one of the best places I have been working in. In autumn you can see the fog over the Spree with those amazing red walls and white old windows, and during the night there’s a surreal silence along the long dark corridors.

N: Let's get into something more tangible. Who did you collaborate with so far and how did it feel? How did you get in contact with these people? What made you think “this is the right artist to conclude a song”?

P: My main collaboration at the moment is with Jörg and this is also the reason why I moved to Berlin in the beginning. I met him while he was touring with Apparat and we were spontaneously joking about our similar haircuts, it was fun. One year later we both had some free time out of our bands and we decided to create some music together. Without knowing anything of Berlin, the first room I rented was exactly above his hairstylist - that for me was a sign like “oh man, you are in the right place”. It was March, I still remember, late evening in Kreuzberg, temperature below zero, nobody on the street and me and Jörg astonished because of the hairstylist fact that we discovered after him getting me there from the airport.

Some months later I was with Giovanni Nicoletta in his studio in Neukölln producing my first single and one of the owners of that studio happened to be Cherie, the singer of Warren Suicide, but I still didn’t know anyone there. One day we were just searching for the right voice to sing on that track and we both had the impression she could be the right one. When I proposed her to collaborate on my song, she told me that she was kinda hoping for me to ask that since the first moment she heard the song out of the studio, because she got the melody in her mind.

Then I met Roman, the leader of the British band Breton, in similar circumstances. I was looking for a new flat and due to an unreal series of connections, I arrived to know by a common friend, since they were staying in front of my new apartment, that they were recording their new album. I didn’t know them, but listening to some of their songs I suddenly loved his approach to music and his vocals. We met after one of their sessions for War Room Stories, in the middle of the night in Funkhaus, out of Berlin in the deep East, there was some magic there.

The same happened meeting Jochen Arbeit of Einstürzende Neubauten or Chloe Charles, in such a natural way, and I can say we are good friends now; they recorded a few full session days at Funkhaus K1, some guitars and vocals for the new album. It’s all about energy.

 

N: The kind of music you make has a really specific sound in the studio, but once brought on stage it could be really boring or way too different from the original idea. How do you manage your arrangements? I'm thinking of “Miss You More”, that has different versions, but they all sound epic, there is a connecting sound in all of them, but the overall effect is different. Let's talk about it.

P: I’m excited you noticed it, because that’s the heart of Miss You More. The connecting sound you can hear all over the three versions is a Op-1 sequence that is the first element I recorded that night, when I needed to express my feelings. I was just improvising, it was not meant to be released, just something for me as a pure emotional moment. Months later when I was in London to work with Roman on other music, I don’t know how, this sketch jumped out of my hard disk and he was so surprised by this track and its story, that he wrote down the lyrics and recorded them for me as a gift in a few minutes. I felt then that it was something to release, so I just kept the original version as it was, I produced the song and I did a rework of it. That's how it goes.

 

N: And what is the single “Miss You More” about? And why “more”?

P: “Miss You More” is a talk to someone you've lost, but you can’t suffer to have lost. It was the clearest way to figure out the pain in front of myself. There are a few images inside, a bunch of questions standing there with no answer and a piano crying on a mess of sounds - quite simple but strong enough. “More” because “Miss You” was not sufficient, but it’s also a wordplay, I read “More” but I pronounce “Mohr”, the name of the girl this music talks to and about. Something personal that became something universal.

 

N: Thank you for your time and your honesty, at least as far as I know you would rather stay silent than say bullshit, unless you're drunk. When are you going to delight us with the first album?

P: [Sits in silence]

 

Check out Perdurabo on Bandcamp