Cindytalk interview for D-Side Magazine (France) September/October 2009
1) "The Crackle of my Soul" is really different from everything Cindytalk has made in the past. How did you come to mutate the project in that way ?
It's definitely different in its use of computer as the main instrument but I think that Cindytalk have always explored sonic neuks and crannies.From the very early days of "Camouflage Heart" and before we were using rudimentary sampling,reversed tape hiss and crackling noise as part of our musical repertoire.This album though, does go into that territory with a microscope and linger around those corners much more than we ever have before.
Following our lengthy tour of the U.S. in 1996, I moved there to live, disbanding that particular line-up of the band, so I found myself in the rebuilding process whilst I was re-adjusting to a new country and culture.I had started a Cindytalk electronic side-project called Bambule in 1995 which eventually released two records on Praxis Records in 1996 and 2000 (Cunning meets Bambule - Praxis 19 & Vertical Invasion - Praxis 29 which featured remixes by Somatic Responses.) But at this time I wasn't computer literate enough to do it myself, so as with Cindytalk, friends were mainly responsible in the technical areas.
Whilst in the U.S. I found it very difficult to find musicians that I felt were right for Cindytalk, so I started to look in new areas to communicate.In the previous few years in London, as mentioned with Bambule, I had become involved in the underground hardcore techno/electronic scene, so I decided to connect with soundsystems and dj's and help to distribute records by various european labels : Praxis, Ambush,Zero Tolerance, Uncivilized World, etc. From that position I found myself involved with the foundation of a "breakcore" soundsystem Darkmatter, in 2001 in Los Angeles, we were throwing parties in downtown L.A. every month and bringing over dj's like Scud (Ambush), Christoph Fringeli (Praxis), Dan Hekate, Noize Creator (Suburban Trash) - eventually I wanted to be able to contribute to the parties in an actual playing sense but so I bought my first mac laptop and started to learn how to do this. I'm originally a singer who didn't really play a conventional instrument within Cindytalk (my piano work is all purely improvised) and despite directing and overseeing the experimental side of Cindytalk, I've never been technically minded.I had lots of creative people around me,Cindytalk has always been the work of everybody involved on any particular project.I'm in L.A. with an outlet to perform, so I started to create abstract NOISE POETRY as I termed it.In that same period there was an aborted Cindytalk album "FieryPlanetEyes" (1996-2001) but I never felt it worked as well as it should have so it neither got finished or got a release.I will release it one day but maybe only as a bootleg or something.From Long Beach, I then moved to Hong Kong where I continued to learn and record new pieces, including the Klanggalerie 7" release "Transgender Warrior/Guts Of London" and from there I moved to Kobe in Japan where I did the bulk of the "Crackle" recordings.
So ultimately it was out of necessity that I began computer recordings but in truth I had tired of both the orthodox musical line-up, hence my ascent into electronic music but further still I was beginning to question the breakcore and related scenes for becoming too gimmicky and lifeless as well.
2) You have already announced three albums in the year to come, and you even give their titles. Are they finished yet ?
More or less, yes."The Crackle Of My Soul" is due out on November 2nd and "Up Here In The Clouds" will be released early next year.The only one not completely finished is "Hold Everything Dear" which just needs a tidy up and it'll be ready too.When I reached Japan, my partner had a house on a mountainside, I found it very easy to work there, to find the stillness which enabled me to create what I was looking for.Almost 3 albums were recorded in 3 years.I've certainly never worked that quickly before.In the past, lack of money was often the reason Cindytalk didn't record and release more.
3) After so many years of silence, is it important for you to release so much so quickly ?
Hmmmm, not really no.If I only had "Crackle" to release I would have been just as happy.I wrote and recorded these albums because I had no other choice.I had to find new ways to communicate, I had become a bit reclusive and always with Cindytalk it was my way of speaking with people, of reaching out, of touching the untouchable.I've never been that social, so my way of connecting and more importantly my way of sharing, is to play with sounds,shapes and textures and with these new works I never really thought too much about releasing them until they were done.Although with "Crackle" I did think early on, that
one day I'd love it to be released by Mego.Cindytalk always had a sparse recording history, often due to lack of money,as mentioned above, although sometimes it was also to do with not having a full line-up available.So I've never been too concerned by the "silence".Behind that "silence" there has always been struggle and that has kept us keen & searching.
4) Is the fact that you signed on Editions Mego due to the new sound displayed for Cindytalk ? Do you feel at home with this label ? Was Pita aware of previous Cindytalk works ?
Yes.According to Peter (Rehberg), Mego was aware of Cindytalk's work from back in the 1980's.I had been listening to the label since the late 1990's with the early Fennesz and Pita releases and I was a huge fan of their output.There's no doubt it was an inspiration to me when I started my computer experiments.I would guess that, yes, this new area of Cindytalk exploration would be a reason for Editions Mego showing an interest in my work.Do I feel at home with EMego.... instinctively, YES, I do, and I have never felt at home with any label before - well maybe with Praxis Records but my work with them was faltering, so I was insecure.EMego was the label I most wanted to release the new Cindytalk material with, so it has been an absolute JOY to see it happen.In fact, the new album arrived today by post and I am absolutely delighted!!!
5) Even if it sometimes fits in the "abstract noise" category, "The Crackle of my Soul" is often very delicate and finely layered. Do you give a great attention to details when you work ?
Yes! I was aware that my computer prowess might be somewhat lacking but I knew from my previous work that layering and structuring sound was instinctive to me so I wanted this work to reflect that.I was looking to create a sort of "noise poetry" and as I've never been one for gadgets, or that very masculine fetishising of effects pedals to create noise, I wanted to create noise that wasn't just an assault on the senses but was more to do with nuances, feel, touch, the natural colliding rhythms and the inherent melodies that occur when you marry sounds together.We had started to do this in earnest during the In This World sessions back in the mid 1980's,so from this new position with the computer I was re-entering that territory and looking for new places to take it... Also, after a number of years (rightly) worshipping bass frequencies with electronic musics, I was becoming more and more curious about high frequencies.I wanted to play with high end sibilence and try to create melody and natural music from that.As if high end sibilence was one of the last musical taboos, most people run from it, flinch and ask you to turn it down or even turn it off all together.This is another area of sound that I think Cindytalk and Editions Mego connect on.A lot of the pieces on "Crackle" began life as vinyl turntable and cd mixer experiments... I would be d'jing at parties with Darkmatter Soundsystem and the natural extension of that would be to take some of the experiments and sculpt them into tracks using simple structures with additional flashes of electronics and sampling snippets from films ( for example Japanese furin [wind chimes] from a beautiful scene in Akira Kurosawa's "Akahige".Little flourishes like that hidden inside the abstract noise are what create the poetry.Likewise with the "Debris Of A Smile" a sample taken from Jean Luc Godard's wonderful film "Eloge de L'Amour".It was a telephone conversation between two characters where one says "Each thought should contain the Debris of a Smile"... Godard has been with Cindytalk since the start and he remains beside us.On "In This World" we used a conversation between Anna Karina and Brice Parain from Godard's "Vivre Sa Vie" where they talk about the futility of language and how we need to take a break from speaking, to think what it is we really want to say.This was the key to unlocking the whole album, shortly after that I stopped singing and started to use the piano to tap out little broken melodic signals by way of communication.I see "Crackle" in a similar way, except I think "Crackle" is set much more in the future when music has been reduced to signals from distant stars,a long way from home, isolated by time and distance, tapping out signals on a broken morse code machine.Recalling William Burroughs, "A Distant Hand Lifted".In this way it is fitting that although I was making Computer Music, it was not in any sense high tech, but rather, it is quite primitively, broken down and dilapidated in the way that the best science fiction goes far into the future to come out in the past and vice versa.
6) "Paradise City is made of noise", as you put out on your website. Do you feel that you captured the mood, the hum of the modern city in this album ?
Hmmm, i'm not sure that was the intention.I've already mentioned that I was up a mountainside, amongst the trees in Japan, recording most of this album - although some of it was recorded in a high rise in Hong Kong and that definately qualifies as the hum and clang of a modern dusty city.Technically, I'm more at home in cities than in the countryside, though I was born and brought up in the country, and one of my reasons for liking the urban screech of noisy electronic music is that it feels like the modern collision of city noises, of hybrid music forms, jammed together from multi-cultural positions.However,I didn't approach this with that in mind.This, as previously stated was my way of making a future music, a distant bell that had diminished over time and distance and was now in a state of decay, yet still transmitting, still trying to connect.I had begun to use my own singing voice in this way, a disembodied voice, still singing but now reduced to a series of signals that no longer contained a language.I would use it as the basis of some tracks and build from there, so I hardly "sing" on any of these new tracks yet the voice IS still there as a root and source sound throughout.Paradise City is made of noise,was taken from an old party flyer from the techno underground scene in London back in 1994.We used to go to a party (club), which was run by Praxis Records,called Dead by Dawn ( a party of noise and politics ) the full quote is "Pleasure in being, instead of having - this will make you stronger.Paradise City is made from Noise." I lived through the punk days in Scotland from 1976 to post-punk in the early 1980's but that period from 1994-1996 in London, as noise & politics infiltrated the electronic dance scene is one of the most cherished periods of my life.I was certainly a lot more openly social during that time and I definitely still draw from it in many ways.
7) And as you travelled a lot and lived abroad, which kind of city would it be ? A European one ? An Asian one ?
Hah! Or a city on a distant planet, as yet unvisited.In reality, it's most definately inspired by both European cities and Asian cities, although the field recordings that I've used are almost all from Asia - Hong Kong, Shanghai, Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo and Kobe.
8) You're now the only member in Cindytalk, do you have a new band for the concerts ? And will there be a real band approach for future Cindytalk works or do you plan to keep it as it is now ?
No, Cindytalk is definitely a full band. After finishing the three albums that will be released by Editions Mego, I returned to London and started to put together a new line-up with the intention of not just playing live but also recording a new band album.I was desperate to be on a stage again, to close my eyes and just SING!!!
So we will be playing almost all of the "Crackle" and "Clouds" tracks during our live show but we mix that with live band organics (semi improvised) and we fuse the two together to create a tension with the two different dynamics pulling in opposite directions.I won't be doing any of the electronics live onstage, we have a member dedicated to that, she plays my tracks but she also manipulates them and adds her own sounds into that mix.I wanted to concentrate on singing.
I felt it was quite important that if i was going to keep the name Cindytalk alive over the years, it shouldn't become stale and stagnant.It would need to be capable of splitting into different units approaching things in different ways.I see no conflict in releasing a record with just me doing noise-poetry and then releasing an album of pretend-songs with a full band.The future will hopefully be a mixture of these differences and some new ones we haven't yet thought of.
9) "Transgender Warrior", that appears here, was already released six years ago. Was that track a kind of basis for the album ?
Maybe in some ways, yes."Transgender Warrior" was the first completed track to be written, and certainly it was the first to be be released (along with "Guts of London.")But it wasn't quite the beginning of the process, in fact , I think that the first element of "Crackle" was "Our Shadow, Remembered".Although that was mainly written in Japan, the original fragment was recorded as far back as 2001, in California.
10) Two years ago, a massive re-release operation of all your back catalog was announced, but it stopped after the first two albums ? What happened ? Are there plans to re-publish the rest of Cindytalk work ?
This has been something of a sore point for us. We were approached by Italian distribution house Abraxas to reissue our entire back catalogue.However,once they had reissued "Camouflage Heart" and "In This World",they broke off all contact with us.They never paid us the money due from the licencing deal and they never sent us ANY copies of our own reissues!!!
We tried to speak to them through lawyers but they failed to respond.My gut feeling is that they targeted us in a rip-off but in the end we decided we'd rather spend the money, time and effort towards new projects rather than chase them and the past.It was a terrible thing that they did.We plan to reissue everything ourselves as soon as we are able and would advise people not to buy our reissues on the wheesht/abraxas imprint - we do not expect to receive a single penny from them.
11) Could you already give us some information about "Up here in the Clouds" and "Hold everything Dear" ?
I began recording "Up Here In The Clouds" immediately after finishing "Crackle" although for the most part I attempted to use different methods to reach the sounds this time.I was much quicker - my aim was to be more spontaneous, to capture simple snapshot ideas rather than building a whole fabric of layered sound as I had done with "Crackle".I'm particularly fond of the opening track on the album,"The Eighth Sea", which features a beautiful siren-like vocal sample from Meredith Monk.
With "Hold Everything Dear", I tried to change the approach again, basing much of the album on field recordings from my travels in Asia.Kite flyers from Fuxing Park in Shanghai on "Fly Away Over Here" ; my daily walk (complete with shuffling movement of bag hitting thigh) to Okamoto village (Kobe) on "From the Mountain".I also changed this project by introducing a played musical element with Matt Kinnison's trumpet marine and yaili tambur experiments.Matt was dying from cancer by this point but he worked for as long as he could to send me his pieces, they were possibly his last ever recordings.The album title comes from a wonderful book by British writer and long term resident of France, John Berger.
12) Cindytalk is now 27 years old... What do you plan for the future ?
We endeavour to move forward with each step we take... it's our intention, if possible, to splinter into as many workable parts as we can.To play as a full live band, as we're doing now in France / Switzerland or to do the noise-poetry computer only performances.As a band we went into the studio at the beginning of the year to record three days of improvisations, which I then started to cut-up and pre-mix, the first fruit of these sessions is a nearly 10 minute piece called "Five Mountains Of Fire" which we are hoping to release early next year on Editions Mego as a split vinyl 10 inch alongside a beautifully desolate Robert Hampson track called "Antarctica Ends Here".Both tracks work very well together in an elemental way, even though they are very different from each other.We'd like to record and release the new material that we're playing live on this tour.Beyond that, more concerts in new places coupled with new music in strange territories , always... a distant hand lifted.
The magazine includes a sampler featuring Cindytalk's "Debris of a Smile".
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
The Quietus, a new rock music and pop culture website,features a Jonny Mugwump review of Crackle that includes an exclusive Cindytalk laptop set, A Distant Hand Lifted, recorded in May 2006 at Otoya Club in Kobe, Japan.
"Cindytalk have been in existence as a band since 1982 with transgendered Gordon Sharp as its one constant. Beginning with a heavily European-influenced post-punk sound, Sharp appeared on some of the early records by the 4AD ethereal umbrella project This Mortal Coil. They moved quickly and quietly towards a more fractured ‘ambi-dustrial’ feeling and over the last two decades have released sound sporadically as well as becoming involved in sound-system culture. To be honest, I had lost track of their movements until The Crackle of My Soul landed on my doorstep last month, so I had no idea what to expect barring the unlikelihood of this being a commercial endeavour giving the album’s release on Editions Mego. And what an astoundingly shocking and beautiful band they have become. Crackle sounds like pop music at the absolute extremes of the sonic margins. ‘Signalling Through the Flames’ encroaches slowly around you - something like a glitching bell hovers for a minute before fragmented static eerily creeps into view. Further unidentifiable layers of sound slowly join this ritualistic loop until it dawns that somehow this is still pop music. As you adjust to the strangeness of its unfolding, every layer becomes a refrain, becomes a hook. For all its abstractness though the record is never less than... human. Cindytalk are a band though and repeated listens give an indication of this although it’s impossible to discern the physicality of the sound sources - it feels both played AND sculpted. Closing track ‘Debris of a Smile’ reveals the most: just rain and cracked piano for several minutes before things take a turn for the strange with whispered tweaked voices, shards of ungraspable sound, and digital detritus. The absolute highlight though is ‘Our Shadow, Remembered’ which is one of the most downright eerie things I’ve heard in a long long time. What feels like an internal exotica - abrasive with strange electricity, Sharp’s genderless voice begins to materialise out of nowhere seductively (and destructively) serenading “come here” over and over. The Crackle of My Soul is just that - the inner landscape of the soul breathing through weird electricity."
Cinder photo by Stuart Arentzen,taken during the fieryplaneteyes/after the flood 2 sessions,1996.
Posted by Spaewaif at 7:01 pm