Darwin: Okay. This morning I have the great pleasure to talk to someone, who I actually learned most about through some press releases from Mute Records, his name is Simon Fisher Turner. And the thing that caught my attention was a collaboration that, when you hear this, will have just come out. [It's a collaboration] with the ceramicist Edmund de Waal, and I got a chance to listen to it and then I dove into his work and it's a phenomenal body of work. I was blown away. And so I reached out to the folks at Mute and they hooked me up with Simon - and so we're going to have a chance to talk to Simon Fisher Turner this morning. Hey Simon. How's it going?
Simon Fisher Turner: Good, good, good. Thank you. It's it's raining hard outside here and in London and yeah, it's been raining all day. It's pretty English, but things are going very well, thanks.
Darwin: It sounds like so very English indeed. So, as I mentioned, this collaboration that you did with Edmund de Waal really caught my attention and when I heard it (I got a chance to listen to some of the prerelease work) I was blown away because it's this beautiful mishmash of field recordings, but composed sound and... it was just gorgeous. Can you tell me a little bit about the details of that recording, how you collaborated with Edmund and what is the backbone of this recording?
Simon: Hey, well, the backbone of it, there were a few things - the sound of Edmund ceramics. He makes these very intricate vessels out of porcelain and he's a real porcelain expert. And, he's known for his writing as well as his art. And I got a phone call from a friend saying, would I be interested in working with the ceramicist for an exhibition in Los Angeles? And of course, being the sort of positive dude I am, I suppose I would! Yeah, sure. Of course. And Edmund phoned up. And then of course I'd remembered it. He's also written a rather brilliant book about his family called The Hare With Amber Eyes, which was really an extraordinary journey. It's about his relatives from the long last past. And he's very interesting. He popped around to see me in London, which was very gracious.
And he asked me if I'd like to collaborate and I said yes. And so the first thing he said to me actually was, in fact, "Would you like to come to Vienna with me for a few days and record where there's this gentleman Schindler lived?" And he just started talking and he opened up to me totally about how he was feeling about the project, about where it was going to be in Los Angeles - the Schindler house. And we got on like a house on fire already, you know, bash, bash, the idea around the top-up really as it were. And, I suppose a couple of months later we flew off to Vienna together for a night and spent a couple of days in Vienna just recording what people call them - um - field recordings, but I didn't really call them field recording, just recording the city, recording the sound. I mean, I've been to Vienna before and didn't have a very great time there actually when I was a teenager.
So it was a delight to go with Edmund who showed me all sorts of places and I have a little digital recorder with me and I just record the heck out of whatever I'm doing and my ears sort of lead me, lead me to where we're going. And Edmund had a list of where he wanted me to record and the idea was to see if I could just record it, compile a whole lot of recordings from the city, which was specific in his mind to the project and then mess around with them later. So that, that's the first thing. So I'm just, I mean, I'm a recorder or, like a kind of human tape recorder to a certain extent.
And these days with digital stuff, it's great. I mean, generally it works wonderfully. It actually did work wonderfully. And, I got very lucky. We saw what we needed to see and then we came back to London and the idea was to, well, the idea was to just see if I could make something. The great thing about Edmund was an issue that he didn't actually really expect anything and he didn't necessarily expect anything to work. It didn't matter if it didn't work. We both agreed that it was going to be nice to spend some time together. And you know, while away a couple of days in Vienna just puddling around really having nice lunch, pottering around. And so that's really what we did. And, and I came back to work in London and immediately got at it and started to delve into these recordings and see what I could get after them.
And that was the initial process; let's say that that was my instrument to start with: the city of Vienna and then the penny dropped when I was over at Edmund's studio one day. And, we are having lunch and I suddenly realized that... I know what happened now. He brought a broken vessel, which is about two and a half, three inches high, it's broken and bits of shards, and he rolled it on the table and then know if you know how if you roll something which isn't - it's imperfect, it rocks from side to side and the speed gets faster and faster and faster and it gets quieter and quieter and quieter as that happens. So
Darwin: I think I heard that in the recording - there was that one that very much jumps out as this beautiful transition point.
Simon: Exactly! You'll find these scattered through the recordings in one way or another. It may just be a simple... Anyway, that was the sort of gateway because I looked at Edmund in astonishment, ran around the studio picking up broken bits of porcelain, popping them into a little tray and then disappearing into his storeroom for about 45 minutes I came out 45 minutes later having dropped, thrown, twisted, rolled all sorts of bits of porcelain. Number two, I was a happy, happy little cat. Very, very happy. So that's instrument number two. So that, for my money, I've got all the instruments I need cause I've started processing the sounds of Vienna, then I've got Edmund and then I started processing what Edmund had done and I suddenly realized of course that that was pretty stupid processing Edmund's work, so I decided to keep Edmund's work completely pure.
And then I started getting really, really pernickity about pieces I wanted to use and I wasn't quite sure how to use the [unknown]. I mean the whole thing was going very slowly getting all this together and I was in no hurry, but I wanted it to take it's time. And so for instance, that was number two. So I knew I wanted to do that and Edmund thought that was a good idea. We quite liked the idea of me attempting to make something of these two positions now. And then basically that went on for quite some time. And the pieces of music I made from the Viennese tapes that started maybe the compilation for the first one was about five minutes long. The second one was probably about 10 or 12 minutes long. And as as I went along, I started building up a sort of symphony of the city or kind of travellogue in my mind of a sort of journey, which I thought would work. Then to then place these fragments of Edmund vessels on top of. It was getting a shape, which was beginning to make sense to me.
And I'd go back and forth to Edmund's studio and we'd go through what I was playing and making and he would then say what he liked and didn't like - already collaborating closely, which was very good. And then I realized that all the pieces had recorded with Edmund, the quality just wasn't good enough. And so I then went to a a really lovely recording studio in London here which I use, and went into a very quiet environment and suddenly started recording again. All the bits and bobs of the rolling fragments and dropping tiny pieces of white porcelain. And because they're so small, there's something about them, but I've no idea why, but I guess it's that the dust is so fine, the porcelain dust is so fine that the frequency, well the frequency is so high, it's almost impossible for me to record them at home. So that was a problem. But then it was solved by doing that. And then the third part is once we'd actually made the whole piece and were satisfied with it, we went to Los Angeles, installed the installation, but then when I was there, I started recording again. And then some of the stuff from that actually from the Schindler house went into making a sort of extra version because I was determined by then to make an album of it because I didn't really want to waste this beautiful work.
Simon: It was a good thing. And I definitely wanted to turn it into a record for Mute - particularly, specifically for Daniel.
Darwin: Yeah. We should specify ... the relationship of all these things: it was you working with Edmunds de Waal as part of an installation. It was an installation in the Schindler house in LA, right?
Darwin: And so that's how that tied all together. It's really fascinating the way that, by going to Vienna, you almost walked the history of the house, but also walking the history of the development of this installation. There's a lot of different trails you followed to get to the mouth of the river here.
Simon: This is true. It was a bit of a jigsaw puzzle to start with. And then the more we discovered and then I discovered along the way that John Cage used to live in the house. So that opened up another little avenue of possibilities. Of course, Mr. Cage, you know, could do anything really - anything is anything. So that was very good. Funnily enough, after we came back from Los Angeles and I then process sounds and popped a new version of it all together with the sounds from the Schindler house into it, then I knew it was kind of getting near to the end of what I think it was going to be for a record. And then of course the penny dropped and I went, "I've got to take my fragments of the vessels and shards that I'd used on the recordings and pop them into a piano and then play them." So it's an unprepared Cage-like piano. And that's what the pianos are in there and that's why that they're there. And that sort of tied that the whole project up with a neat little bow, really.
Darwin: Right. Well, it's interesting because in thinking in terms of your collection of all these instrument, all of what you call the instruments, I mean there is that one spot where there is this piano and rough, noisy sound all coming in at a shot. And I was wondering, how does that play into it? And it's, it's very clear now what it is.
Simon: We ran the album from the beginning and I just played through once and those are the bits I liked. I wanted to keep it pretty minimal. And I liked the way that that on the second side of the album that piano can have those two chords [unknown], I thought, "Ooh, that's quite interesting."
Darwin: Well, it had a real drama to it for sure.
Simon: Yeah, it does. A little. So then I was pleased with that. The way that sort of rounded off, I have to say. Yeah, that's why they're there. So those are the components. You know, you've got Vienna, you've got Edmund's pieces, you've got the actual sounds from the house and then you and sounds from LA as well. There's an aeroplane going overhead in LA. There's a fireplace, a big copper fireplace, which is from the house. There's the bamboo in the wind outside. Little bits and bobs recorded in the house. And then finally the Cage piano. There's like four instruments, really.
Darwin: Yeah. Well there are some things that though that sounded like almost semi-traditional synth pad type of backgrounds. Is that just more manipulated sounds that you had gathered as part of the project?
Simon: Yeah. There's no synths, no synths at all - which is fine. It's all processed stuff. The percussion-y type sounds come from, for instance, the handles outside the theater or the opera house. Great, massive, beautiful, intricate ironwork and I carried around a small wooden mallet, which I could then tap and hit things with and make rhythms with and then process those afterwards. I tend to sort of, I also have a couple of rings on my fingers and I tend to sort of hit things with my fingers or with a soft wooden mallet and that's kind of turning into it almost like, something I sort of tend to put in my breast pocket when I go traveling there.
Darwin: Sure. Well, it's interesting because that's what differentiates some of your sound collection from what people would traditionally call field recordings. Because field recording is like "Set up the microphone and then run away so that the sound of you doesn't impede on it", right?
Simon: Yeah, what I tend to do is I tend to set up the microphone and then go walking with it. My sound is generally always moving as opposed to static.
Darwin: Sure. And it also purposefully includes you in the sound, right?
Simon: Yeah. I tried to be as quiet as possible, to tell you the truth. I mean, when the horses came past, I heard that from the Spanish riding school in Vienna. For instance, the reason this horse is there is gonna be just a beautiful sound, but they were just going for a morning walk. I think exercising them again through a street. So I ran after them, but at some stages they are in-rhythm and they go out of rhythm as well. And that's exactly what happens when you set up two or three of Edmunds vessels and rock them at the same time in rhythm. Then they go out of rhythm. So we set them left right stereos and they're sort of brothers and sisters. It will all make sense to me logically.
Darwin: So, so true. Now when I started digging into your background, I was blown away because you have, first of all, a tremendous body of work - between the number of soundtracks that you've done for movies and TV and video pieces as well as your own releases. But then going back a long way, to being sort of a pop star, you have...
Simon: Sort of not one! Thank goodness it didn't really work in both cases, in both cases I'd say if they were kind of that, well, the first one was just interesting, but, was really dreadful music. The second one was much better music, but I'm glad it also failed, I have to say.
Darwin: Oh, really? Why, why do you say that?
Simon: Well, because you know, I think if I had a certain degree of great success, I probably wouldn't be alive, really. I think I would have just been too self-indulgent and gone and taken it over the top.
Darwin: Sure. But I'm curious about your background, how you got... I mean, you also have this background in the Wayback Machine of having been an actor and stuff when you were very young and it seems like an extraordinary place to come from to find yourself being this person who I would say, listening to your work, that you are obsessive about sound. You are a person who dives into the inner game of the sounds that you collect and it's just seems like a very interesting background to get to there. Can you tell me a little bit about where you're coming from? How did you first get into music? How did you first get into recording? What were the influences that drew you into that?
Simon: Okay, well, I'm, how old am I now? I'm 65 now, so I mean, my dad was a submariner and he came back from the Far East with a present for Christmas, which happened to be a cassette recorder; which, you know, to a... I don't know how old I was. 13 or 12, 13, 14 whatever. Definitely not 14 - 11 or 12 or 13, and this machine - you know, the fact that you could record sound and then go and sit in your bedroom and play it back, that really started to fascinate me. And also, of course, I listened to the radio - I was listened to pop stations. We had a station over here, called Radio Luxembourg, which was playing the pop hits of the day. So I did that. But I was also influenced by the fact that I was interested in the sounds between the long waves, all the Russian radio stations which would just send, you know, messages from space, everything sounded like.
And I like the noise between the sounds very much. And so that machine then led to getting a two-track machine and then that led me to getting a Revox sound-on-sound recorder and I went with technology rather crudely ever since. I mean I really am dreadful at technology. I mean if somebody calls on the phone now, I won't be able to hold on, look at the message, and carry on speaking to you - because I just don't know how to do it. But I know that my daughter and my son can do that easily, but my brain just doesn't work that way. And so I was, you know, the music and when I was growing up the late sixties and early seventies, the music was just magnificent really. And once I'd moved to London as a kid, as a teenager, I'd accidentally start again to the Marquee Club where you'd see, you know, I mean ridiculously delicious bands constantly and just buying the records.
I happen to sort of, you know, once I discovered the live music scene in England, that's very interesting. But a big breakthrough for me, funnily enough with Terry Riley's Rainbow In Curved Air, that was a big one. And then the Beaver and Krause album Gandharva, which is a beautiful, beautiful album. And I was always, once I'd heard synthesizers, they were very interesting, but I don't necessarily like them just on their own. I tend to like them as color. And so my thing really quite quickly began to be collage of one sort or another. It didn't really matter if it was music or sound, but that's what I do. I would say collage. That's my middle name.
Darwin: Well that's really interesting that you say that because I would tend to agree with you in a lot of cases, but in some cases - like with some of your film work, or in some of your test reels of things that you did for BBC ID drops or commercials - you're also in a position to have to do some really traditional, fundamental musical phrasing and stuff like that. Do you have a music background? I mean, were you...
Simon: I did actually. Yeah, I did. I mean, I went to a choir school - a boarding school with a very good choir. It wasn't just a totally music school, but we were taught traditionally and then I went to a ballet school, and I was playing the clarinet by then. But I had teachers who actually actively encouraged me to do my own music. So that was helpful. They tended to hear me playing the piano and I loved singing. And so I had a good grounding in a contemporary, classical musical education. And then I went off on my own, really trying to avoid jazz as much as possible, I believe. I don't mind, I'm happy with jazz, I'm quite happy with the music - but I didn't need the jazz, the whole thing of jazz frightens me.
Darwin: Oh really?
Simon: Yeah. I mean I've played with the musician Gilad Atzmon. He's super jazz, and there's Keith Jarrett, I would say he was delight at one stage. I don't mind jazz soloists so much, but a group of jazz people just pretending to make it up as they go along. They were loads of mistakes - hmmm, slightly suspicious and quite. Yeah, I find it different. This sounds very odd perhaps, but I still struggle with Miles Davis sometimes.
Darwin: Sure. I think a lot of people do. And I think, because I think that there are different minds coming to the game of music and sound. And I think that to a certain extent there are people who really want the composition to be part of the thing. And you know, a lot of jazz music is really oriented around a very loose structure with a lot of freedom to do whatever, you know?
Simon: Yeah. But it's all the counting that upsets me, really, I suppose that it's all the counting. But they do say, "Listen, we're improvising, but can you just play G flat minor for 14 bars, then for 23 bars I want you to go to B then to D, F and G..." and you go, "Hang on a moment, that's not improvising, because you just told me what to do." So that's why I have a problem with it more than anything else, it was actually that they do know what they're doing.
Darwin: That's a great point. You've given me a lot of questions here, but I want to actually go back and talk about some of your sound collection that you did, particularly in working with de Waal's ceramic work. I actually read this beautiful article in the New York Times, where somebody went and spent some time with him, and one of the things that I loved about the article... I remember reading it, and when I saw this (your release) I went back and I reread the article and one of the things that they talked about is that Edmund really wanted people to touch ceramics or touch the porcelain. And he was, for this writer, he was constantly like giving them pieces, you know, "Here, touch this, feel this way...", you know? Was that your experience? Was the touching a big part of the experience?
Simon: That's quite funny. Well, because I suppose if you went to the Schindler house, there were some pieces you could have touched, but the others, which were any glass-front and -back latrine, so you actually couldn't touch them. But no, to me they're very tactile and I think that it's very interesting how he thinks about his own work. I'm gonna have to say - I didn't read that interview - but he's a tactile person. As a person. He's not a stranger to giving you a good hug, and a hand on your shoulder, that's already good even in this day and age of Coronavirus. Which is sounds like you might have been coming up with yourself!
Darwin: Yeah. I'm sorry about that man. I have a horrible cold...
Simon: I believe in touch more than staying away. I, something I've always done and I've obviously been told off, a lot of artists don't even think about it. I think if they do think about it, they certainly don't talk about it. You tend to be encouraged not to touch, you know, you have the signs saying "do not touch" - well, okay. But if it's, you know, a five ton, huge, great big piece of, you know, iron cast in an extraordinary abstract shape and it's possibly hollow. I mean, why wouldn't you touch it and bang it? I just don't understand why you couldn't be a bit more childlike and sort of have some fun with it.
Darwin: Yeah. It's like - what could you do to it? Right?
Simon: Yeah. What am I going to do? Am I going to, am I going to bruise your 6-ton piece of steel? But I'm always looking to, obviously, the sound, because I do go around and am constantly banging things and scraping things and running my fingers over things and it's just, yeah. Tactility - if there's such a word - certainly is one of my trademarks. I definitely like doing it. I mean, I just love the sound. I mean the sound of dragging one tiny piece of porcelain over another rough piece of Chinese porcelain, these little scrapes... I became obsessed with the tiniest of sounds with Edmund, I have to say. But he's a cool guy. You know, he reminds me so much of Derek Jarman, he's very much in Derek's vein. He's totally open, I mean, we did a performance last night to read an extract from Blue, the Tate Britain with Tilda Swinton and Spencer Lee and Edmund reading. And as a trio, they were just magnificent. They just bowled through this poetry and Tinla and Spencer and I sort of just surprised Edmund with it and he was just so up for it. It was great. He's open, he's got a great brain and he moves with a tremendous amount of sort of unashamed agility for life, which is just tremendous to be with. Very, very Jarmin-ish.
Darwin: Well, that sounds like the kind of panache that's enjoyable to be around. Are you saying that he was doing the readings and what - were you like performing sounds and stuff or...?
Simon: I was telling stories, and I found some outtakes from Blue and I found a tape of a demo we did with Matt Dillon's heartbeat, for instance, and Derek doing all the enumeration. So that was a surprise to everybody in the room. But it was funny to tell the story of it, you know, the stories of a fun and then Derek and Tilda and Spencer did the readings and I just listened. It was good fun.
Darwin: That sounds like that was amazing. So if you're performing something like that and I don't know, do you, do you perform much in general?
Simon: Not really. I mean, I do, we're going to do something at Edmund's studio in a few weeks, but I try to, but not too often; I get worried setting up doing it because they tend to be based on the dreaded improvisation word. And so they can kind of, I tend to set things up on the Mac and then if I've got a piano nearby that's handy, if I've got one other musician to play along with it, it's really good. Generally one more musician is probably about my maximum or maybe two, super maximum. But otherwise you just tend to eat up your own space. You tend to play on top of each other. And I'm not really a fan of just people just piddling about and just playing for the sake of playing. Now I just far prefer to play with people and be just much more specific about where one's playing as opposed to what one's playing I think.
But I do like to do it, I like to do it with all sorts of people. But strangely unrepresentative when it comes to life work, because people say, what do you do? And I say, well, what do you want? You know? And that confuses them immediately. What kind of music? You know, when I say, "Well I have to know what you want...", but you have to give me some sort of guideline. It may be financial guideline or it may be... you know, yeah, it tends to be a budget guideline and they can say, well for that I can give you there. So if you want to 10 piece band that's going to cost more because I want to pay people properly. This has to do with all sorts of things that are quite complicated and as probably I probably put my foot in it half the time anyway and cut myself despite my nose, really.
Darwin: Sure. Well with the kind of music that you make though, what is doing a live performance? You say you, you have a Mac and maybe a piano. Are you just firing off sounds? Do you have something like Ableton Live or something like that?
Simon: Yeah, I use Live and I load it up, but nothing's...
Darwin: Nothing is set up like a song, right?
Simon: No, absolutely. I wouldn't know where to begin with that.
My preferred way is, I tend to set things up so that I can start anywhere, go anywhere, forwards, backwards, upside down, process as I go along. Obviously only one thing at a time. But I hate using - well I've never used them - these things you can put stuff into and trigger it and everything. I'm not into any of that so I don't sequence anything. So everything is, it tends to be organic performance as opposed to a mechanized performance where you know completely that you can drop in beats and everything like that. I don't really drop at all. And so yeah, they tend to be pieces, which in my mind tend to have long shape and so, I tend to know the how the performance is going to start and I don't really care about the middle so much, but I do need to sort of know about the end.
Darwin: Well, it's interesting you say the thing about long shapes because one of the things I was going to say about listening, you know - preparing for this interview, listening to a variety of music that you've done. It is often the thing that provides the backbone or the structure for a piece might be some things that are the way that you capture them. It'll be something that has an organic rhythm to it when it loops and and then you'll play those off of each other. But there's also, over that, like an overarching shape to it as well that you must just do with volume controller or something. But it seems like that's something that you play with a lot.
Simon: Yeah. I mean I'm getting slightly nervous now. You're saying that I'm getting to be rather predictable.
Darwin: No it's not. I'm just saying the opposite - it's gorgeous. It's beautiful.
Simon: Oh that's very kind. I do make things which I think are going to work and I have got into something. For instance: this sounds a bit odd at the moment, but last week I was in Moscow and I did a concert with a musician I'd never met before. The night before I was meeting this musician, I'd gone out with some friends into the street and I'd started hitting stuff, as normal, and recording stuff. And then back in the hotel I made rhythms out of little extracts, which I knew you would go together and then the next day I put them with a sound which is coming through from the rehearsal studio next door, which I was complaining about all the time because you could hear the bass coming through. But what happened was actually the little piece I extracted had this bass in it and when we came to play it live, I really pushed it and bought out it and re-EQ'd it as it went along. And it was like suddenly it was like I'm in some sort of deep house club. It was very beautiful. And that had come out of this accident of something I thought might not work because the bass coming through and I thought, well, we're recording everything so I might as well pop it in to see if it works. And it worked better than I thought it did. So that was quite pleasant. Accidents. I like a good accident.
Darwin: Yeah. Well, I was going to say that one of the things that you say "Oh dear, I hope I'm not getting predictable." I mean that's the nature of that stuff is the unpredictability of capturing things and then playing with them until you their let their organic nature come through. Right?
Simon: Yeah. I mean, I do like that. I have to say the album with Edmund - A Quiet Corner In Time - is an extremely specific piece of work. Probably more than anything I think I've ever done. I think everything is so where we thought about, and we've spent a lot of time doing really lengthy fades and trying to get everything right. I mean, it's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it's our best efforts, I have to say. But I'm looking forward to restructuring it, remixing it. I've done it once and then I'm going to do it with Edmund again nowin a couple of weeks time where I'd take bits and bobs and sort of, it's not really mixing, it's just repositioning bits and bobs and having a go at just shuffling things around in a more abstract way, live. And then we're going to break things, which I'm looking forward to immensely with Edmund. Can you imagine Edmund de Waal dropping something? It's going to be fabulous.
Darwin: There is a gallery owner somewhere going "No, don't do it! Don't do it!"
Simon: Exactly, like "Oh my God, I thought that was worth..." Oh fabulous. Have you seen, there's a wonderful video of somebody in a gallery actually, which is beautiful, which I recorded last year? Some gallery, I think it's in New York and there are all these beautiful mirrored pictures on the walls. Massive mirrors and he just goes around smashing them with a huge hammer. He just destroys these pictures and that's his performance, and that's his art. And it's actually really extraordinary. I don't think we'll get quite that far with Edmund, but we're going to attempt to break some things, I'm sure.
Darwin: Yeah. So now, Edmund was involved in collecting the sounds and putting together the stuff that was going to be used in the installation. Was he also involved in putting together the album release as well?
Simon: Well, I introduced him to Mute Records. I told him what was going on all the time because he's a pretty busy guy. And so he's busier than Daniel [Miller] and Daniel's busy - that's Danny Miller. And so really at the beginning when I went to see Daniel and just talked about the project, I had a meeting and he said it sounded interesting and I couldn't play him anything at that stage. And then as the months went on, I was able to give Daniel lots of bits, a couple of little bits I was playing around with, which I was sharing with Edmund, to show to Daniel. And then when I had a meeting with Daniel, I mean I have no idea what the Daniel ever listens to anything I give him. I never ask, you know - there's no point. But then at one meeting he said, "Look, actually, you know, what do you want?"
And I said, "What I'd love for you to put out this because I think it's going to be really beautiful. I think we can really make something." And we took it from there and then I took Edmund the Mute book, the artwork book, right? And he loves all the photography and all the artwork with everybody who designed, Paul Taylor included, the artwork sort of came together with, funnily enough, with Edmund and I. It turns out that in fact I took the pictures on the front cover totally by accident. But it definitely would be a collaboration, but we haven't necessarily been meeting in person to do it. But he'd been in... I mean, I wouldn't do anything without his total approval. And that goes down to the videos we're putting out and everything. You know, he's behind everything. And, absolutely as close of a collaborator as he could be, you know, and he understands because he actually has a great knowledge of modern classical music.
He knows far more about John Cage than I do; I mean he's a top-dollar really super bright person like Mr. Jarmin, but doesn't boast and doesn't show off about it. He'd just casually knows that whole world and all that's in it, you know, as opposed to - I sort of dance around the edge fitting, picking up things rather lightly. So he's a cool guy to hang out with. For instance, one of the things last night is I just wanted to put Edmund and Tilda together, just because I thought it would be like, you know, smoked salmon and cream cheese or whatever and they would just go on like a house on fire. And that's what I like to do. I like to do that. Another thing about A Quiet Corner In Time, actually I just wanted to make a complete piece without scaring people to death because I could've made it really, really, really scary. Scary sounds tend to be easier than not scary sounds, I think. So I was determined to keep - apart from the first piano crash, it's a pretty tame piece for me. And I'm still trying to figure it out. I mean, I still... I've talked to Edmund about it last night. I mean, I still don't really... I'm still calling it a thing, because I didn't really, really know what it is and I think he could probably tell me what it is better than I can tell myself.
Darwin: You, you talk about it being easier to do scary stuff. Do you think that some of that is because maybe the nature of dimensionality, you know, when you're taking small sounds and making them really large, is that scary just because of the nature of it or when you're taking things out of their normal context? You know, because you did a recording on the street banging on a handle or something. When you take them out of their context, do you think that that's just disturbing to people in general or do you think you have a particular bent in combining things in a scary way?
Simon: I really like messing things up. It has to be said. It has to be said. I love a bit of noise. I really do, but you have to be careful. I don't like a lot of noise constantly. Like I don't need to listen to 45 minutes of wailing feedback and then some modular synths going completely crazy dicking around everywhere. Like just like nobody's thinking. I like things to be sparingly terrifying, I suppose, within a landscape which is possibly not coming from that at all. Equally, of course, when it comes to film music I just love silence, you know? I love when it drops away and you've got virtually nothing there and then maybe something comes in and appears to be nothing. But actually it is something I love all that gray area of sound where: "What is that? Is that, is that, is that actually there? Is it, what is it?" And then it becomes, well, what is that? Is it sound or is it music or... so you know, working on film you all have the thing about sound editors and sound designers and composers and you know it's very difficult to fit into any of that, which is why I don't do films very often for some reason. I'm my own worst enemy, sadly.
Darwin: I would say that that sort of a tenant of your music is that it's very focused. So you don't have this scenario where you have 19 things making sound all at once. It seems like every piece is very intentionally in its place.
Simon: Yeah. I hate it. Can't stand it. I mean I think I probably used to love it when I was younger. I listened back to some of my early recordings with horror, really, and think, "Oh my God, did I really put on in 94 guitars?" You know, and I really suffer so I don't really go their aonically anymore at all. You know, one of the things I have learned, I suppose, as I got older to a certain extent is less is more, and just try and restrain myself. But if somebody else wants to try something and have a go at something, I'm all in for that, but I'm just not going to go there myself. I quite like to be part of a group of people who do stuff, you know, I mean I'm playing within the group of musicians next week, I think next Tuesday.
And I know one of them, I know one of the musicians, maybe one or two of them, but I've got no idea what that we're going to play. And one of them said, "Oh, can you bring the backing tracks? The freezes - we could all play along again like, you know, last year." And I went, "I have no idea what you, I mean I remember, I remember making them for you. I don't know where they are, what they're called or anything like that." I know they've got them, but I don't, I'm going to go along with sounds from Moscow, I think, from my end.
Darwin: Sure. Well, unfortunately our time is just about up, but before I let you go, what's coming up for you? We have this release that just came out and, I hope that people go over to Mute and check it out. It was stunning enough for me to immediately get in touch with those folks in and help get this interview because I found it an amazing piece of work. What else do you have, in addition to these live performances? What other things do you have on the workbench that that might be coming up?
Simon: Well then, I know the next thing coming up properly is, I suppose it's a record I've made over the years with my children; the album is actually called Savage Songs Of Brutality And Food. And we've called ourselves the Extreme Angels Of Parody and it's a sort of compilation of songs, which now I don't know how many there are. There must be about 15 songs in it, but it ranges from the being, you know, squealing yelps like rather that, rather pained children, to sort of beautiful children's singing in Latin, doing bits and bobs. And basically I've just taken advantage of my children's vocal cords over the years, over the past 15 years, and done music with them because they're very vocal children. And I just thought it would be nice to pop them onto an album and an American record labels is kind enough to let me do that, which is really sweet, called Soleilmoon Recordings. And that's a nice little label who concentrate on, actually funny enough, on rereleases of music by bands like Coil and people like that. But, so Soleilmoon are doing that. Yeah. Savage Songs Of Brutality And Food. That's one thing.
Darwin: Well it sounds like it's the opportunity for your children to have to go to therapy. Yikes!
Simon: I think they will. Yeah. I'm not quite sure if they are embarassed or pleased. But that's the main thing. And then every two weeks, of course, I have my own regular sort of podcast, which is called Gorilla Audio through Touch Recordings who are not a record label but put out all sorts of fine recordings. And that keeps me on my toes.
Darwin: Well that sounds fantastic. I'll make sure that I put links to these things in the show notes so that people that want to check it out, will be able to go in and dig more into your work. Well, Simon, I had a blast. This was a wonderful talk. I really enjoyed getting to know more about you and more about your process. It's actually inspired me to want to chuck the rest of the day and just start playing with sound. You're very inspirational in that way.
Simon: That's very kind of you. That's so sweet. Well, it's been a pleasure. It really has. It's been nice to have cat, where are you based, by the way?
Darwin: I'm just outside of Minneapolis in the U.S. so - you're getting a lot of rain. We're still getting a little bit of snow here, but it's a wonderful place to be as well.
Simon: Fantastic. Brilliant.
Darwin: All right, well with that I'm gonna let you go. Thank you so much.
Simon: That's a pleasure. Lovely to speak to you. Lots of love from Portobello Road.
Copyright 2020 by Darwin Grosse. All right reserved.