Interview with Oro Molido

I recently did a lengthy interview via email with Spanish magazine Oro Molido, published in their 46th edition, all in Spanish.  I’ve reproduced my original answers in English below.

This issue also contains a Spanish translation of my article “What is (or was) Experimental Music?” (2013).

1. Your pieces are built  a minimal, spiritual concept. Does this have my relationship with the way one feels about life? 

Yes, my music has a deep relationship to both my inner life, and everyday life. Whether this is spiritual or not, I don’t know, but one of the main aims of my music is to express, or even cultivate, higher experiences. This is not necessarily overt, and is hopefully quite subtle. And when I talk about higher experiences, I don’t necessarily mean anything religious or spiritual, but rather a level of awareness and experience beyond the mundane.  

2. Natural elements form part of the general structure of your works. Regarding sound sources, what criteria do you apply in order to chose recording the locations?

I mainly like to record and perform outside of the studio and traditional venues where possible, because I find this more inspiring and interesting for myself. I also like to interact with the environment as another improvising partner – whether that be natural sounds of birds, wind, etc, or using materials at the location as sound sources (for example, playing an old house with mallets). My criteria is basically a curiosity about the sonic properties of a site, and trying to bring to life something of the history of the place through performance and interaction. 

3. What is your opinion of the exploration of sound by means of microphones? 

My use of microphones is pretty traditional. They are just tools to capture sound for me. I sometimes do have a problem with amplification using a PA in performance, in that often I think it flattens the sound of acoustic instruments, especially if it is processed electronically with effects or computer. I am much more interested in the unmediated sounds of objects themselves. 

4. You document field recordings on several works fruit of your exploration in the desert, Melbourne, Australia, and other places. From the viewpoint that you experience both as composer could you tell us what you think about the current preservation of the sound environment? 

Actually, I’m currently reading R. Murray Schafer’s The Tuning of the World, the seminal book on this subject, and I’m having some problems with the idea of soundscape conservation. My main problem is that conservation requires that a choice is made between what should be preserved, and what should not. I’m interested in all sorts of sounds, including urban and industrial sounds. Should the sound of factories be conserved as well as birdsong? Having said that, I am very lucky in Australia that we still have large areas of land that are almost completely empty of industrialisation, and even of humans, that I am very interested in; not only in regard to sound, but for artistic inspiration generally. 

5. What relationship exists between abstract and concrete aspects in your work? 

Not exactly sure what you mean by this question? There is certainly sound abstraction, but I am interested in presenting clearly the sonic properties of objects as well. 

6. There is no doubt that movement plays an important part in the development of your pieces. Sounds that suggest movement. What relationship do you set up, starting from sound, with the movement and the images? 

One of my main interests in using turntables with objects as kinetic sculptures/machines is the movement of objects on the turntable, and the sonic results of that. One piece I have been performing lately ‘Overhea[r]d’ uses a live video projection looking down at the turntable, so the audience can clearly view this movement and interaction, as well as hear the sonic results. This is something I’ve always found fascinating ever since I started placing objects other than records on turntables, and this is something I want to share with audiences as well. 

7. You are always searching for complex sounds without a definite pitch and featuring non harmonic frequencies. In the last times you development a rich configuration between the dynamics and the timbres. I’m referring, for example, to the music content in your cd’s: Station, Turntable and dawn, At the salt museum, Offering  (Undecisive God), and others. In this works the combination of acoustic with other instruments when you music reaches its maximum meditative character? 

Personally, I’m not that interested in tonal/harmonic music, and also the instruments/sound sources I use aren’t really capable of harmony; although on occasion the inclusion of a brief harmonic episode can be powerful. I think aspects of repetition and minimalism can achieve a meditative effect. My guide is how the music I am playing affects me primarily. I’m really playing music for myself; if it doesn’t affect me, how could it affect others? 

8. Your collaborations with Chung- liang Liu ( Moe Chee), Andrew Mcintosh, Zac Keiller, Scott Sinclair, Zan Hoffman,  brings forth a colour impregnated with exquisite timbres, as a consequence of recordings obtained in different places and situations. How as you classify your encounters with this artists what way have they influenced the way you treat sounds? 

I find all collaborations I participate in to be influential to various extents to my own personal development and approach. Some collaborations have been almost revolutionary in regard to how I approach music and performance, particularly work with dancers (including Chun-liang Liu with Moe Chee) and with Ren Walters and THIS Ensemble. And even collaborations that “don’t work” are instructive for me. Especially in improvisation, collaboration stretches me to try new things, new situations, new demands. It’s not always easy, but I find it important to keep testing my own boundaries and limits, and to keep learning/growing. It’s usually a lot of fun, too! 

9. KILL is a Project formed with Mark Hodges (bass), and Jason Dutton (drums). The labour with this trio is created complex song structures and time signatures. What is your role in scene? Do you like the improvisation? 

KILL was an old band in which I played guitar/vocals in the early-mid 1990s. The band played complex rhythmic post-rock/hardcore, influenced by the likes of Shellac. We didn’t really improvise; this was before I became involved in group improvisation. 

10. How do you develop your concerts’ What are the factors that can determine that you choose direction to be develop within a temporal frame where is nothing set a priori? 

Some of my concerts and performances are improvised, but not all. Lately my solo performances have had structures or scores that may contain improvised episodes, but I would not call them improvised as a whole. Improvised performances more often happens in collaboration, and for me this is primarily about listening and exploring a developing relationship with the other improviser/s. What we play in the moment is dictated not only by what is happening now, but how we have interacted musically in the past. 

I have also explored scores (see ) for structured improvisations for large ensembles, like ‘Discretions for Ensemble’, and new scenarios for improvisations with game pieces like ‘Good Improv/Bad Improv’, and with Carmen Chan the improv ‘talent show’ Improv Idol (see ). These scores and structures are meant in part to be a way to avoid habit and cliché in group improvisation. 

11. In the last times you performing live more regularity with turntables (with up to three at a time). You documenting the series RPMs, involvement from records at the objects are introduced to the turntable as percusive rogué elements. In what particular way do you feel influenced by contemporary musics? 

My work with turntables is largely a result of directly working with the machines/objects themselves and my own curiosity. Australian sound artist Ernie Althoff has been influential in my development here with his own turntable-driven kinetic sculpture, and has been somewhat of a mentor to me as well (in fact, a lot of objects and sound sources I use have been given to me by Ernie). But beyond his work, I don’t feel I’m directly influenced by turntablism directly, even though I’m vaguely aware of the turntable work of Cage, Marclay, Eric M, etc. Probably the greatest influence from contemporary music on my practice is that of experimental process and a conceptual approach to work, governed by a primary interest in the question ‘what will happen if I do this?’, rather than ‘how can I make this sound better?’ Here I find the work of Cage and also Australian composer, Syd Clayton, to be influential. 

12. How do you live in this moment the scene of experimental music in Australia? The series Artefacts illustrated a good nivel(?) of projects relationship with the experimental music. What is your opinión? 

Australia has an interesting but largely-unappreciated history of experimental music practice, which I tried to document through the “Artefacts of Australian Experimental Music” CD series. As for the current experimental music scene, I think it is thriving in Australia, particularly in Melbourne where I live. There are a large number of practitioners across a range of ages, and increasingly including more women as well (which is well overdue). There are a good amount of opportunities to perform live, and a pleasing amount of crossover between different scenes, communities and disciplines, which I think is really important.  

13. As to the recording label Shame File Music. This record releasing house serves as a platform for spreading your Works, and other artists. What do you think about labels dealing with producing and releasing sound art, improvisation, electroacoustic music…? 

The future of labels in the 21st Century is unclear with digital music etc, but for me labels still have an important role in curating music, whether online or with physical releases. I personally still prefer physical releases to online, but both formats have a role in getting different people to hear your music. Shame File Music is approaching 100 releases and has been going for 27 years now (which I find difficult to believe!), and I still enjoy running the label. 

14. Why, in your opinión, is there more and more artists interest of emphasising the world of sound? 

If you mean why are there more people doing sound art, etc, I’m really not sure why. Maybe with the internet it is more accessible to hear this kind of music than it used to be, and so more people get interested. Certainly the growth of laptops and software in recent decades meant the tools for creating a digital-based music became more accessible, and also more possible for people who would not previously considered themselves ‘musicians’. 

15. What do you think about the encounters of sound artists which meet in a certain space to discuss experiences and give concerts of electroacoustic, sound art, new music…? To what extent do these help to make future project more concrete? 

Talking about music, sound art and art practice in general I think is really important and neglected in Australia. A few years ago, I co-curated a series of events called More Talk, Less Action that aimed to address this – see . Equally important is the social aspect of music scenes and the informal conversations that happen there; whether it be organising collaborations or events, or just talking about music and practice. 

16. Could you, please, speak me over the next projects? 

My most exciting future event is later in 2017 I am taking 5 months off my day job to concentrate on music full time. During this period, I hope to establish a permanent studio space where I can further develop work like kinetic sound sculpture. I will also be an artist-in-residence at a gallery in a remote mountain area of Tasmania, Australia, for two weeks in October, where I’m hoping to work on site specific pieces in the wilderness. 

My duo with Chun-liang Liu, Moe Chee, has two album releases coming up later this year as well; a cassette in collaboration with Jen Callaway on Albert’s Basement, and a CD/digital album on Shame File Music. I also have release due out in future in collaboration with Ernie Althoff on Iceage Productions.

17. “At the salt museum” is the new work released by Shame File Music in relationship with the collaboration of other two artists like Ren Walters and Michael McNab, whose work shows certain common elements as to the construction of the tracks, supported strongly by the use of sticks over diverse elements and ready made objects. What is your opinion about this way of collaboration starting from the use of the sonic sources of another artist resulting in a original piece? 

This is something I’ve been doing with Ren and Michael for a couple of years now; going to places and ‘sounding’ them. Playing the place with objects at hand. Sometimes this can take a long time, hours even. It’s a way of getting to know a place sonically, and sometimes performative aspects arise, but mostly it is something else. A sonic investigation of place, a ritualistic sonic awakening. The recordings on “At the Salt Museum” are very raw and pretty much unadulterated. In some ways, we think of that album as an audio documentary of that place, and our investigation of it.

18. What do you think about the above mentioned artists? How do you see the evolution of their collective work? 

Working with Ren and Michael is very important to me, even though we don’t play together that often specifically as a trio. More often we play as part of a bigger group (THIS Ensemble). As a trio we play together a few times a year, and rarely in public. Mostly these are private ‘performances’, although I hesitate to even call them performances. We just get together and play, often in remote locations where we sometimes camp. Sometimes these occasions have other personal significance for one or more of us as well. 

19. Since the beginning Shame File Music was formed you usually present your works distributing among yourselves the different artistic activities. You are the responsable of create the design, texts, photography of the releases.  How do you realize the selection critera? 

How I have decided what Shame File Music will release has changed over the years. Yes, mostly it’s been releasing works related to me, but at different times I’ve also tried to release the work of others, and I’ve also developed an interest in releasing Australian experimental works of historical significance. But really, it has changed many times throughout the label’s long history, and I’m fine with that. My most basic criteria is to release something that I think should be heard, that for whatever reason isn’t being released elsewhere. 

20. Artefacts of Australian Experimental vols. 1 & 2, uncovering for the first time in several instances previously lost recordings of early Australian experimental music. In your label Shame File Music you have also released and reissued historical works by artists relationship with the Australian experimental music. Have do you think making news compilations in the future? 

There are no immediate plans to release another volume in the Artefacts series. Another one may happen one day, if enough material of interest emerges to justify one. I toyed for a while with the idea of making it a completely chronological series, with a volume 3 following on from 1983 onwards, but it feels too much like the modern era for me, and that probably needs to be documented by someone with more distance from that era, as that’s getting into a time where I know some of the people involved. I’m much more interested in pre-1970s work, as that is the more obscure stuff for Australia. On a similar historical bent, I’ve been issuing online remasters of some of Rik Rue’s cassette releases from the 1980s. So far I’ve issued two, and hope to do more in the next year or so. 

21. How do you feel the Australian experimental scene in this moment? 

I feel it is very healthy and vibrant. There seems to be lots of opportunities for performance and getting your music heard, and a very interesting younger generation getting involved, alongside older practitioners, some of whom are doing their best work. There are problems, of course, with lack of money and resources, which aren’t different from most other places in the world, I think. A visiting artist said to me recently that a unique thing about the Melbourne scene is that there is lots of crossover between different scenes/communities; where the death metal drummer who is versed in 20th century avant garde music will play with classically trained string players. This happens a lot in Melbourne, especially in the past ten years or so, and the scene is better for it.

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