|Do we hide behind other people's records?|
I read two fantastic interviews this week both touching on the idea of making music within certain contexts. Specifically, how does one reckon oneself within those certain canons we all fancy ourselves as being part of, era be damned? Can contemporary bands really claim themselves within any lineage they see fit, or find flattering? Certainly it sounds odd to my ear when I hear people say they are in post punk, or shoegaze bands... What does that mean in 2014?
A safe solution as a musician is to simply avoid defining yourself in such categorical terms. Having said that, it seems clear that even the most original of us have some sort of star chart in place. Every musician has records whose sound or creation resonate with (if not guide) their own works. It's often tempting to parade one's influences about, but a laundry list of influences said out loud does not make for entrance into sacred ground.
I remind myself of these ideas for my own benefit. The added bonus being that if I don't say 'Joe Meek!' (or some such) out loud, some critic will be sure to attribute a beautiful idea to my own imagination. The thing is, more often than not those obvious personal touchstones do become your own original works once they make their way down from your brain, and out through your fingers. (This can also be attributed to mangling your aspirations, it's a mangling for the best though).
In any case, I think Trish has wonderfully characterized how to consider oneself from within such admired traditions:
"The things that inspire me most about these bands is that they have helped me to expand my thinking on what psychedelic is or can be now. I'm not interested in the bubble poster trip, 'remember Woodstock' idea of the sixties. What carries over for me is the idea of psychedelia as a door through to another way of thinking about sound and song. Not a world only reachable by hallucinogens but obtainable by questioning what we think is real and right, by challenging the conventions of form and temper. Bands like The United States Of America, White Noise, A To Austr and a recently discovered album for me, The Mesmerizing Eye, all use audio collage, clashes of sound that work more in the way the mind works, the way life works, extreme juxtapositions of memories and heavy traffic noise say, or reading emails and wasps coming through the window. But as well, I feel that in my own small way I am part of that psych band continuum, but in a make believe reality stemmed off to exist outside of the canon." - Trish Keenan (Broadcast).
Pretty much how I feel exactly, of course with respect to an ever shifting alignment of different records and artists (whom I'll prudently leave off the record for the time being)...
And is Zacht Automaat really a 'Krautrock' (I prefer Kosmiche) band?:
"What doesn't interest me so much is the construction of arbitrary false historical narratives and attempting to stamp them on yourself or others. I am most definitely not a 'krautrock' musician, have never defined myself as one. It seems so lazy and meaningless! It doesn't even make sense! The word itself is derogatory and vague. Why the shortcuts? I do feel an emotional drive to continue the work of prior generations and have explained myself in the past using words like 'prog' or 'Canterbury' or what-have-you, but these categories are destructive and limiting. A lot of great work was done all around the world in the last century, opening up new avenues of composition. You could say a lot of great work has been done in the last 10,000 years opening up new avenues of composition, even. I want to apply and synthesize ideas from this whole spectrum, as myself, whoever I am at this moment wherever I happen to be. Maybe through some incidental process I will create something that a later generation will find meaningful! 'Hallogallo' is fine, OK? What about Bach, Tommy James and the Shondells, Charles Ives, Magma, Joe Meek?? What about The Residents, Jaques Brel, Stravinsky, Debussy, Lard Free, Fad Gadget?? BATTIATTO! SOFT MACHINE! SYRINX! SCARLATTI! GAMELAN!! WASHING MACHINES! ... WIND!! What about those weird songs that come before news updates, requiems, chorales, car alarms, Art Garfunkle?? Harry Partch, EGG, Frederick Brown, William Onyeabor? The Turtles?? SUN RA!! POLYNESIAN CHRISTMAS CAROLS! GEESE!! What about 'These are a few of my favourite things,' as sung by my mother when I was a child? The sound of my own heart beating when I am afraid?? The melodies of birds, farts and a gasp of wonderment... I called Zacht Automaat a 'Fortean Band' on myspace way back, meaning, in the stodgier original Charles Fort sense, anomalous. I don't think it ought to be anomalous — I think it is perfectly natural, everything I do — but the world is a pretty strange place." - Carl Didur (Zacht Automaat).
Both these interviews are great. Read them here and here. The Broadcast one in particular sent me off on a treasure hunt. Discovering all kinds of wonderful stuff... Man do I ever miss that band.