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I started playing clarinet when I was 8 or 9, then went on to saxophone for a few years. I don’t think I got that serious about trying to be a musician until I picked up the guitar one summer holiday out of boredom and curiosity when I was 16. It had been in the house for years but I’d only ever looked at it and thought it looked too complicated for me. But as soon as I started I pretty much never put it down for years. It seemed like the perfect solution to a lot of things, like not being that interested in going out much, and getting lost in imaginary worlds.
Why did you want to release the Kyvu Tapes Vol. I today?
I’d had this feeling bugging me for years that there might be something good somewhere amongst all these tapes I’d kept in a box for ages. I didn’t really expect anything to be fit for release, I was more curious to see what I had been up to and how deluded I was at that time. I know that I took it very seriously and put a lot of time into recording and experimenting, but in my mind it was just preparation for going into a proper studio which never happened! I also sent out quite a lot of demo tapes but couldn’t get any interest so I became quite disheartened with what I was trying to do. Obviously I didn’t totally give up music but I left that period behind, and if I did look back it was with quite a lot of embarrassment at myself because I’d formed a negative opinion about who I was back then. Like I say, I just needed to confront that.
I was pretty surprised that some of it was more coherent than I remembered and after mixing about 15 tracks I sent them to two labels I trust (Cardinal Fuzz and Hands In The Dark), just to get some opinions and then we ended up talking about putting it out. I had this worry that they were just being polite so I kept asking if they were sure they wanted to put it out. It’s been quite amazing to see it come into existence as a real record after all that time sitting in a box.
The songs were recorded over a period of 8 years, how did you select them?
I bought a second hand 4-track on eBay a couple of years ago to go through it all. It was pretty easy to select the tracks really. If they weren’t totally shit then I marked them as « good », and if they were shit then they got marked as « do not ever listen to again or let anyone hear them ». Apart from the terrible music it was also easy to discard the ideas that were either incomplete, not that interesting either way or recorded really badly (about 80% of it).
The biography mentions a lot of experimentations while playing the guitar, could you describe some of them? Did you try to mimic sounds you heard or was it pure scientific research?
I was always trying to find some way to getting more interesting sounds out of a guitar. I remember that I had some kind of mission at some point to prove that you could make a guitar sound like a keyboard, or anything for that matter, I think it became a bit of an obsession. Things like bouncing a fork on the strings to mimic a santoor or bowing the strings with a metal pipe to get weird harmonics. Nothing new I guess, but to me at the time, it was really exciting.
What instruments did you play on the tapes?
Mainly guitar, bass, a drum machine and a bit of percussion. Some clarinet, recorder or keyboard occasionally…
The influences are pretty obvious (late 60s-early 70s to 90s shoegaze) but there’s also some « indian vibe » to some tracks (Lizard Raga for instance). Were you interested in indian music otherwise than through the psych scene?
I was listening to a lot of indian music back then and spent quite a lot of time playing guitar along to Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan, trying to emulate the scales and sitar technique not that I got very close but you have to try! I really loved the santoor too. I was listening to quite a lot of Tangerine Dream but hadn’t really heard about stuff like Popol Vuh at the time. Another thing I got into was the idea of playing in certain keys because of the effect it might have on different chakras. I got into the idea of making some kind of modern healing music that would appeal to a different audience other than the kind of « new age » kind of scene.
Were you only recording instrumental music at that time?
I was doing a mixture of instrumental music and some heavier stuff that had vocals, a bit like The God Machine, Spacemen 3 and Loop (surprise). There’s a couple of those tracks that were ok, but most of it was pretty bad in retrospect and I’m not just saying that, I now know for sure! I also went through a phase of a lot of acoustic guitar stuff, most of which is kind of unlistenable apart from some instrumental tracks. It’s not that they were all just plain bad, it’s more that it took me a lot of time to find what my voice fitted and how to sing in a way that was tolerable and I didn’t really accomplish that then.
Will you play these songs live?
Yes, I’m planning to play live – but not until later in the year. Originally I thought I didn’t want to, but I’d regret not to try it out.
Since the title mentions Vol. I, can we expect a sequel?
Well, I really hope that there will be a sequel. I’ve been very happy to get some nice reviews as I didn’t’ know how it would be received. I was quite prepared for the worst to be honest. I think there is enough for two more albums from that period, but I’ll have to be objective. To get to Kyvu Tapes Vol. 3 would be great if it makes it that far! After that I would like to start to introduce some newer ambient tracks that I have done more recently. In fact the Dead Cell Memory CD album that came with Veils was in the same vein I guess.