CD-Rom, The Future & A Spot Of Tea

from: 1996/11/04, Jam! Showbiz, By Rory Lindsay

JAM: On The Edges Of Twilight and Alhambra, as you mentioned, there is an extensive use of exotic instruments such as the sarod, santur and hurdy gurdy. What artists do you cite as inspirations for the use of these?

JEFF: Really it depends on what instrument. With the sarod, it would be Ali Akbar Khan. He’s the master of the sarod and I very much enjoy his music. With the hurdy gurdy, there’s many players. I’ve got these compilation records of French hurdy gurdy music that spans about 60 years. I think we were also very influenced on The Edges Of Twilight by Dead Can Dance, but it’s pretty much our own territory, with that whole Middle Eastern aspect of what we do. It’s something that I’ve been pursuing since I was about 12 years old when I first heard George Harrison’s Within You Without You on Sgt. Pepper’s. Ever since then, that became a passion of mine. That’s more or less what goes as far as influences.

JAM: With the release of Alhambra, as well as the upcoming record, are there any plans for starting up a new web site?

JEFF: Yeah, actually our new web site is under construction right now. It will be finished hopefully soon, within a couple of months or so.

JAM: Alhambra has a dominant Sister Awake theme as far as the visuals go. Is there anything behind that?

JEFF: We’ve always viewed Sister Awake as the matrix for The Edges Of Twilight. Everything kind of came out of that song. The video, as well, we feel to date is our most artistic statement in terms of representing the band. So there were a lot of strong images that we felt tied in with what we were trying to achieve with the CD-ROM aspect. That’s why we used all the imagery.

CANOE: In regards to the Shadows On The Mountainside video, was it ever released to be played on Much Music, etc.?

JEFF: No, it’s strictly for the CD-ROM. It was meant to be released in Australia, but it never got off the ground.

CANOE: Tell us about your Alhambra tour.

JEFF: We’re doing an acoustic tour. Well, I call it an acoustic tour but it’s not really. We’re utilizing a lot of the instruments that we’ve collected over the last four years. In the show we’re playing something like 25 instruments. But it’s a hybrid of electronic music and acoustic music in that Stuart Chatwood, our keyboardist, is doing a lot of keyboard work. We’re using a lot of samples that are played, nothing programmed or no backing tapes. Also, Jeff Burrows has incorporated some pads and some triggers into his drum kit, so it is a really interesting mix of sounds and mediums. It’s very cool. I’ve never seen anything like it before.

JAM: Regarding the upcoming record, is there any planned release date? You mentioned either February or March.

JEFF: Yeah, in a perfect world, my friend. But you know how these things are.

JAM: The Sister Awake remix is sort of a blend of the sound of Edges and a more electronic feel. Does the remix foreshadow the sound of the next album?

JEFF: Exactly. It does foreshadow it. But whereas the Sister Awake remix I find is very ethereal, the new material — we’ve completed 80% of the new record, so I can tell you — is much more aggressive sonically than anything we’ve done in the past. The Sister Awake remix is very foreshadowing in the electronic element in it and whatnot, but it’s not really representative of the mood of the next record. The mood of the next record is very dark.

JAM: What artists do you cite as inspirations for the electronic feel of the next record? Stuart has mentioned the trip-hop sound coming from England.

JEFF: We’re all big fans of that. I overplayed that Tricky record. Massive Attack and Portishead, that whole movement was very interesting to us. I like what Richard James has done with Aphex Twin and I like a lot of the industrial stuff, like what Rhys Fulber is doing with Frontline Assembly. We’re kind of taking elements from all the things I just mentioned and pulling them into the Middle Eastern motif of the type of music that we do. When it comes out it’s going to be new music like no one has ever heard, which is very exciting for us. In the past, we’ve unfortunately been labelled as derivative. Now I think with this new record we’ll squash that.

JAM: What’s the story behind your Montreal demos for the new record becoming the real CD?

JEFF: The place I live in in Montreal is very old and the ambience of it seems to lend itself to really creative spurts with this band, so when we all got together we assumed that it was just going to be for demoing. But the recording gear we have now is very good. The sound capabilities of the building I live in are excellent. It just turned out that the performances were so inspired that there was no possible way that we could call these demos. It would just be like we would go into a studio and repeat ourselves, and there might not be that spontaneity or that urgency there anymore. So that’s kind of where we’re at.

JAM: With The Edges Of Twilight, the novel Fire In The Head played a major role in the lyrical content. Is there any literature that you have read lately that will play a role in the theme of the next album?

JEFF: Yeah, the Russian author Yevgeny Zamyatin who was the precursor to George Orwell and Aldous Huxley — 1984 and Brave New World. Zamyatin wrote this book called We, which was the first novel of these utopian ideals. That novel has played a big part in my writing for the lyrical content of the next record. I mean, poetically it’s going to be an album about the duality of the human condition right now — the modern world that were living in and the depravity of the human condition that seems to be parading there.

JAM: On every album so far, a blues essence is present in at least one or two songs. Should we expect any more of this on the next CD?

JEFF: That’s actually not found on the next record. The blues element has kind of just gone more subterranean. It’s the intensity now, the passion that’s in the music that’s still tied to the blues. You don’t get rid of that. It’s too inbred in all music, you know, anything to do with rock ‘n’ roll. You’re not going to find anything in terms of the landscape of the songs that will seem anything like blues.

JAM: Did you pick up any new instruments while touring for The Edges Of Twilight?

JEFF: Yeah, for instance, for The Bazaar, when we do it tonight, I play a saz, which is the lute of Turkey that is commonly found in their folk music. It was cool because it lent itself so perfectly to this acoustic interpretation of The Bazaar, as the Bazaar’s melody is actually very reminiscent to that part of the world. So it was just really great to add the authentic instrumentation to it. I got an ude that was a gift from the leader of the Egyptian Pharaohs who played with Page and Plant. I got a really beautiful ude from him. I also picked up a tar from Iran, which is the lute of Iran, which is very cool because we’re using that in a reinterpretation of The River.

JAM: Is there going be a world tour for the next record?

JEFF: Yeah, that will probably start in April. This is just the calm before the storm.