What are you trying to evoke in your compositions?
That answer changes with every one. Just like the sun hides behind clouds then suddenly beams through…My impetus or volition for writing music is always in flux.
I do find though, that trying to describe something specific with music helps to generate
interesting stuff. I remember one time I had a piece that was unfinished and I didn’t know how to complete it. I was in a hotel room and there was a beautiful rainbow over the mountains outside.
So, i decided to try to write that rainbow in music. The end result is a certain section of a tune called “Flashbacks” which came out great!
With regard to this new record “Empathy Chip”, we are trying to capture the feeling of humans being lost in an ever expanding technological world. Gian, our vocalist, plays the part of a pure human and the rest of us are droids, him bots, femme bots and robots. At times the music destroys and at times its beautiful and gives hope… So we are looking at the way technology is challenging the human condition and asking the question, will humans become like dinosaurs and will computers and robots self generate into the future?
Why is silence so important in composition? As an artist I know that spaces allow you to see the images …is it the same with space in music
Silence makes the music yes. When you have a particularly long silence it changes the sound before and the sound that continues after. It makes you rethink what you heard and what you will hear, and then… what you do hear. I love it, we have sections of complete silence in our performance and at first it is uncomfortable but then… a new feeling comes and its quite a relief.
We are all allowed to savour certain sounds more. It creates a tension and release.
Also, you get more time to ask yourself deep existential questions within the silences. That’s always fun.
This is a weird question, but why don’t we hear more space (silence) in music?
I don’t know but i might also ask , why don’t we hear more silence from certain people in certain conversations? The answer might be the same. Maybe we fear silence? Maybe it is confronting or maybe we want to get in as much as we can before we die? But you know what, my take on it is, if you fight a wave you might break your back! So just tumble with it. Cliche? Yes… but
if we stop and wait, maybe something better will come, maybe nothing will come …but that nothing could be more valuable that what we would have pounced on. Miles Davis said ” if you hear something that you know will get the most applause, dont play it, sacrifice it, and something better will come”.
Why is improvisation such a key in your work?
Well improvisation to me is just spontaneous composition. You just don’t have as much time to sculpt you know? But improvisation is a way to express all the thing that leave me dumbfounded, all the things that leave me lost and well, just everything is in there. Its a way to
describe things that are way out where the buses don’t run, I am very very grateful to have music and to be able to perfom with other musicians and create abstractions and I suppose I could even say that, improvisation keeps me alive.
What happens when you produce an album and then have to play a concert..can a piece ever be repeated?
I hope not. Because the music I am most interested in changes with;
the venue, the audience, how the musicians are feeling everything in the moment.
I mean many of the structures can remain the same as on the record but the nuance and interpretation and timing of things can change to suit how things are feeling at the concert and that’s very cool in a way. I remember hearing how Marvin Gaye wouldn’t know what he was gonna play until he peeped through the curtains, looked at the audience and then he would know for sure. That’s the best to me.
Do you use building blocks to launch your impro from?
Good question. Yes, sometimes chord structures, sometimes melodies and sometimes words or concepts. It changes but there is a string running through the whole Sylent Running performance.
We will be painting a picture of Gian Slater as Omega Woman! That is the brief we have been given for this Australian tour.
Here is a little paragraph from the liner notes:
The footage was of masses of pianos being mercilessly thrown off balconies in Europe. Thousands upon thousands of them destroyed, wounded beyond repair. Strings and shards of wood crunched asunder, the last splitting traumas of sound resonating into terrible silence as they met with the cobbled stones of obsolescence . . . to be replaced by TV . . . in this one moment 401(k)s stood to be lost, “the one eyed parent” was set to raise millions of children, and a wild west lawless technology had given birth to Microsoft, Myspace and Madoff … and was loosed upon the world . . .
What does it feel like, to be improvising in synch with your fellow musicians….
when it’s working?
It feels like a baby is born safely.
when it’s not?
Like complications. Do we go to emergency. How long do we wait. Is that its head? No its not!
then….What IS it?
Do you think your music is subversive?
I don’t think subversive but reaching maybe. We are definitely having a browsing at a new type of music, one that is created by machines. Most of the record was done by sending files through the Internet, picking up samples and sounds on the Internet, processing sounds and abstracting sounds as a way to look at what eventually might be a new type of music. We arent actually playing it, just browsing. We arent trying to mess with anyone either, unless they wear leather elbows that is.
tell me a bit about the players of Sylent Running
..how did you find them, how did you know they’d fit???
Well the very first time i heard Gian Slater sing I contacted her to ask if we could collaborate at some time. She is a true musician, can read, arrange and write music very well and comes up with stuff on the spot, very quickly, so that has been so easy. All of us have discussed at length what we wanted to manifest with”Empathy Chip” and how to go about it. Gian and Chris Hale came to New York for a month or so and we started putting down what we called “templates” in my basement studio, for the record we wanted to make. We have been working on these templates for many months and they will never be finished but, we had to stop at some point. Hale, the bassman is just an extraordinary freak and no-one plays like him. A bass melodicist. Some of this music requires the bass to play up in high registers but still be a bass. That is Hale. Dan West was introduced to me via Chris and is our resident droid. Dan will be taking what we do, processing it and throwing it back at us. He actually has a few computer chips in his right leg for real! as a result of a boating accident. This is how I knew HE would fit! Our drummer, Ben Vanderwal, is being taken through a strict training course as I write. Chris and Dan and putting him through his paces, metallic industrial sounds are literally being fed to him. Sonic blips are his brekky. He has been disassembling digital watches and various vintage Atari computer games and then reassembling them as musical apparatuses. he is learning roswell hand signs and wears only an alloy suit. Aphex Twin and Mr Oizo recordings lull him to sleep every night and have done so since the start of this year. He always sounded great but he is sounding amazing now as a result. When asked “do you like Buddy Rich” he answers “Buddy who”.
Lastly Nir Felder is a friend from New York where we both live and I have played with him in various settings. Nir is able to bring multi dimensions to the band. great sounds. He can Jonny Greenwood sure, but he can Elliot Sharp and most importantly he can Nir Felder. He is an amazing player and he brings alot of our stuff to life. Go Nir.
Jazz is such an adventurous and intellectual genre….do you think people will ever really understand???
I dont understand myself Mandy! But if i come away with something I can use I am happy. Thatshow i go to an art gallery or a poetry reading too. But dont ask me to go to the opera OK.
I think this band Sylent Running is less intellectual and more descriptive and enjoyable.
This music can be so many things to people and we hope it will resonate.What musical projects do you have planned for the future?
Right now i am thinking about retiring to Braybrook Victoria to practice for a year and study orchestral arranging, but that might change.what are you most passionate about?
Musical, human, mental. I also like dressing as a psycho clown as well. Maybe thats a type of growth too. I think its called psycho magic.
Is music/art/life a whole experience for you… how can music transcribe the day to day…
I dont interfere with that process, i wish for it , respect it and strive for it…but its a bit like a ouijaboard, its real but I let it be. i dont know how it works but its conclusive i reckon. Joni Mitchell Blue anyone? Wow.
Do you think music gives language to those feelings and thoughts were words can’t go???
Without question. As Charles Ives said :
“If a poet knows more about a horse than he does about heaven, he might better stick to the horse, and some day the horse may carry him into heaven”
thanks… Mandy Nolan