I step into the mind of Core of the Coalman via the following email interview. Listen to Core of the Coalman below.
s.o.t.r.- Can you name some of your musical influences?
C.C.-I would probably prefer not to. That only seems to contribute to creating an easy architecture to fit music into, and since in this case we are talking about my music it is particularly a…well, its just that its more personal than that for me, and since my music is often concerned with getting beyond my immediate, and often habitual, intentions, or out of whatever constraints I happen to be involved with at given moment, be they physical, psychological, musical or something else it seems counterproductive to add more ingredients to the mortar with which I or others can strengthen these walls. Actually though, I wouldn’t say its always about going beyond that in the sense of escape but rather trying to define the borders or the frame of the situation in order to figure out what to do with that, though in most cases this does have to do with getting around, under or over them.
Still, it would not be fair not to try to answer. I am influenced by the things around me, which I deal with in different ways. A lot of my music takes its structure or mode of operation from things I am interested in. This means the world, be it the natural world, as I am a huge natural history fanatic, or maybe the social world, or the more immediate personal world of music.
Its hard to say what a person is influenced by and what they have been impressed with. I very much enjoy the music of Thomas Bonvalet. His solo project is great and he used to be in a band called Cheval de Frise which is amazing and very unique. Still, I don’t think I sound like them, at least not very often. Same goes for Arthur Russel, the cellist from New York. What spirit in that music.
I would say I am more influenced by my friend and their ideas, some of whom I collaborate with. Like Che Chen (HMS Beagle, True Primes) from New York, who is an incredible artist working in sound and image and probably would call it something else entirely, Paul Baker, a video artist from Texas, and other people I meet who are doing really interesting things and have unique, creative and productive approaches, Per Gisle from Norway or Jon Collin (Whole Voyald) from the Manchester/Liverpool pool. The magic drummer Chad Popple who lives in Hamburg. When I hear these people play it says to me “what are you going to do all day, son? get up and play something!” ha ha. But really, sometimes I need to be reminded. Otherwise I could just stay in bed.
s.o.t.r. I like what you do with the violin and looper, can you tell me more about your creative process and instruments you use?
C.C.-My solo project has ended up becoming a “main thing” for me, mostly because a solo project has a way of following one around, wherever they go. I grew up playing in orchestras as well as punk rock bands and stuff, and I have always loved the big sound that both have to offer. Many people naturally assume that an orchestra has a more “refined” sound than a rock band, but actually the natural sound producing properties of those instruments are extremely interesting, and in an immediately audible sense. Those instruments, drums, bass instruments, violas (I play the viola, rather than the violin, though the violin is equally if not more characteristic of this than the viola) these instruments are NOISY. I have seen “punk” bands, especially lately, who, given that they can afford it, purchase a golden tone through the use of high quality sound equipment and engineers that follow them around on tour. So it is arguable which grouping is in fact raw-er.
In any case, I am very interested in the ways that which we group things, consciously or otherwise, on levels of culture and individual. As my music had become to be about starting over from a basic sort of knowledge, then I started with the basis of metaphor making, dealing with groupings. Since with only a solo viola it is difficult to get the masses of shifting sound I was looking for I originally worked with large groups of variable delays. This led naturally to looping, and these digital loop pedals are portable and hold up better on tour than a computer might, though they are quite limited.
The other thing is that this type of pedal is tied directly to the idea of feedback and I like to work with feedback in nearly every sense of the idea that I have discovered. Time delays too. Something strange, that.
It is quite possible to achieve patterns that operate on many levels at the same time. That can really take you places, if you let it and sometimes you have no choice! But still I think it isn’t about the gear but the work, the ideas and for me, doing it, because when I “did it” with a sampler, it wasn’t as satisfying.
I am not very enthusiastic about the use of loops in most music I hear, I think usually it is quite sterile and lazy, contributing to a dead sort of texture, but I am trying to build up something unpredictable out of something seemingly predictable, and it seems to be going pretty well. I would like to get back to using digital technology, because there are things I would like to do with regard to time that these pedals don’t allow me to do easily, still, I have to see what happens, if the gear can hold up live, and if I have money for it.
s.o.t.r.You have a few upcoming releases tell me about them?
well, yeah, so recently I had a new tape come out on Two Thousand Tapes in Northern California. Its a long piece, consisting of two parts, one on each side. I think it is both static, and moving, and I think, I hope that each time its played it will sound different. I am pretty sure it does sound different in different environments, but a lot of people ignore this factor anyway. I also want it to just “sound” different, and I tried to do this by working with perception. It seems like it is on a big scale but it isn’t that I want to be monumental, rather I just want memory to run out and time to change speeds, which is something I value very much in music.
That tape is also an answer to two recordings I made right before I moved over here to Czech Republic a few years ago. One was another tape, called Carnasie, which released by Custodian Color Zoo Containers, and was a very very beautiful object thanks to Chris from cczc.
The other recent release was a self-release cd-r called Affinity Groups. The title refers to the type of grouping structures I was talking about earlier, but has other meanings. In another context this name is often given to spontaneous group of people assembling for a given purpose but without a central authority, like a group of people waiting for a store to open for a special sale, or more pointedly the black blocs you find in protests. I am pretty interested in the natural world and similar structures (though here the idea of purpose changes) are found in rock formations and groves of trees of similar type, each a variant on the others, yet each sharing several key characteristics in a mass. Darwin uses it a lot in Origin of Species too, to try and explain classification by decent.
I tried finding someone to release this but to no avail which seems odd to me because of all my new recordings it is the one I liked best, thus I have happily released it myself. This, and the next one represents what I have been playing live on the last few tours.
Box of the Last Help was more lucky, and is being released on the Zum label in Oakland, California. It is both similar and not similar to Affinity Groups. In some ways it is more clinical or something. Basically it is four pieces two for viola and two for guitar. Lattice pattern music, things fall into place eventually, through rotation. There is self-similarity everywhere.
I have other things being released soon too, a new noise record that I like very much called Aggregate and Crackle, on Chocolate Monk from Brighton, England, which is sort of the noise release from all these patterns. Also a tape of long music coming out in Hull, England, on Poot Records, which includes remasters of some older sustained (drone) music pieces that have never been heard on this side of the ocean. Also, and very exciting is a new pop record with songs. singing and everything, as well as some music I did for theatre and fashion shows. It was recorded over the past couple of years coming out here in Prague on KlangundKrach. Its called “You’ll Need a Katapult”. My best musical friends here in Prague are putting that out and it makes me very happy.
s.o.t.r.What are you listening to as of recent?
Ha. A car going by, some kid screaming at his dog. No, you mean MUSIC again I guess..
I just re-listened to Pauline Oliveros being interviewed by Robert Ashley for Music with Roots in The Aether. I heard the opera by The Knife recently and was really impressed with that. Liz Albee vs. Theseus on Recipiscent is great, as is her record with George Cremeschi No Sugar. But I have mostly been going to live shows and listening there. I went to live shows all last week and heard Datashock from Germany doing amazing things, also Peking Lights..friends from California were great, also some great Czech noise bands like No Pavorotti.
I have a huge stack of things to listen to…I should do it more. Its great.
I listen to a lot of things from Ubuweb. I couldnt bring my collection of recordings out here with me so I listen to a lot of things I get on tour (like the amazing band Muscletusk from Scotland) and things from the web. I listen to the french composer Gerhard Grisey a lot. and I listen to Marianne Amacher a lot. and pretty much every noise project I can. and Mississippi John Hurt.
s.o.t.r.So you live in the Czech Republic…foreign countries always interest me, tell me about surviving as an artist there.
I think surviving as an artist is difficult anywhere but I guess that depends on what people mean by survive and artist. In the states I worked all kinds of jobs anyway so I was prepared to do that anywhere. In fact, to some extent I liked the things I learned through some of my jobs, very few though because at most I learn very little, there just isn’t much of an exchange in that way most times. When I was first out here I thought I would be running sound a lot but that sort of fell through and I started teaching english because I was stubborn and didn’t want to leave yet. I did that for a long time but haven’t had good experiences with that, largely because the schools here rip off the teachers in various ways and it is hard to live in a country with a very difficult language that you are struggling with. My speaking has improved a little, though just a little, and I am teaching now, in english ha ha, in a small college that is part of a university in Britain. It is called Prague College and at the moment I am the entirety of the sound department, in the Interactive Media program under the art school. We have limited resources but the students are energetic and it is growing. One of the graphic design teachers and I are trying to build out one small space into a recording/post-production studio here. I would also like to try to build a rudimentary version of a wave-field synthesis system like they have in IRCAM or in Leiden, Netherlands. Something to be able to work with really precise specialization of sound and lots of speakers. That would be exciting, and would work nicely with the technological innovations the rest of the people who teach there are dealing with, in terms of animation and 3d environments. Still I am most interested in perception, time and environments. I am a simple man.