Intervju: Greg Malcolm – trippelgitaristen

Av Bjørn Hammershaug
Først publisert på 19.06.06

Greg Malcolm kommer fra New Zealand til Haugesund og Safe as Milk for å spille, ikke bare på én gitar, men tre stykker – samtidig. Med den ene på fanget og et par liggende på gulvet for benbruk. På den måten tryller han frem stillferdig og vakker dronemusikk som henter inspirasjon fra en rekke kilder. Hans nye plate Hung anbefales på det varmeste, så vel som en konsertopplevelse med mannen.

Han har vel fremdeles ikke den store stjernestatusen her til lands, og jeg lot Malcolm få presentere seg for det norske publikum:

– I grew up playing in Velvet Underground inspired rock bands like the rest of the New Zealand underground scene. At around 20 years old I became interested in experimental and improvised music. In the early eighties, I met a guy, John Kennedy, who introduced me to a lot of music. I was explaining to him how I was lying the guitar down on a table and preparing it and he said: “Oh that sounds like Fred Frith, Keith Rowe, blah blah blah” and he brought around a lot of records that both depressed and inspired me. He had a huge collection from free jazz through to Faust, This Heat, Conlon Nancarrow, Harry Partch and others.

Han fortsetter:

– Libraries were and are important, as I would borrow lots of music. It’s risk free, as it was a free service. So I would borrow everything that looked interesting from John Cage prepared piano to Korean folk and social music to some FMP recordings.

Such n such
Jeg vet at du har vært involvert i et barne-prosjekt. Hva dreier det det seg om?

– Jenny and I had the idea of doing a children’s show to try and get off the unemployment benefit. Although I was convinced that it would never work and kept telling Jenny it will never work but it did work!

Such n Such toured the south island for nearly two years performing in tiny (sometimes only 15 pupils) schools. We stayed in camping ground cabins in the weirdest little towns. Our show was quite off beat and could be appreciated on many levels (like the Simpsons). We don’t perform with Such n Such anymore, but it was the best years of my life!

En flyktning i Berlin
Midt på 90-tallet flyttet Greg Malcolm og hans kjære Jenny Ward til Prenzlauer Berg, i Berlin. Bakgrunnen er en ganske omfattende historie, som veldig forenklet dreier seg om følgende:

I 1995 slapp Malcolm platen Trust Only This Face. En av låtene var den mediekritiske The Ballad of Peter Plumley-Walker. En avisjournalist ved navn Edward Rooney fattet interesse for låten, og ringte til lederen av kristendemokratene på New Zealand, spilte av låten og fortalte at denne sangen hadde mottatt offentlig kunstnerisk støtte. Rooney og Sunday Star Times startet deretter en ganske voldsom kampanje mot Malcoms låt (som ironisk nok handler om nettopp media-hype). I korthet, det blåste etter hvert kraftig rundt ørene til Malcolm. Trøtt av mediekjøret svarte paret med samme mynt, og halvveis konstruerte en historie om hvordan de ble tvunget ut av New Zealand:

– I was accused of being in bad taste for a piece which was intended to highlight the sensational and dubious nature of the New Zealand news media. I was interviewed and crucified on talkback radio shows and even in New Zealand parliament. So I manufactured my own story based on actual events in the same way that a journalist created his story on me: Stating that public persecution forced me and Jenny Ward to flee New Zealand.

Ferden over var likevel kunstnerisk viktig for Greg Malcolm, han fortsetter:

– My stays in Berlin were important developmental times. When we moved to Prezlauberg in 1995 they was so many great musicians and so much innovative music around. We also had lived in Prezlauberg in 1991-92. I got to know record company executive Volker Schneemann who lived at the same squat as us. We got chatting and he was complaining about the lack of good music in Berlin at the time. I was like: “What do you mean?” as this was the only reason that I was living there. I took Volker along to a solo Evan Parker show and he loved it and got quite enthusiastic about um-unusual music. In the meantime Jenny and I returned to New Zealand for 3 years and made a living touring and performing with Such n Such and lost money on all the “adults” shows I arranged.

The Anorak
Etter tre år gikk de lei av barneshow og New Zealand, og de vendte tilbake til Berlin i 1995, der Volker Schneemann hadde startet klubbkollektivet The Anorak:

– The Anorak was kind of a center for a lot of interesting improvised/new music that was developing in Berlin at the time. Musicians such as Tony Buck, Axel Dorner, Olaf Rupp, Burkard Beins, Leonid Soybelman and Joe Williamson would perform there regularly. As well as heaps of touring acts, and it was a very social hotbed of ideas a probably the centre in Berlin for that sort of music at the time. I loved it. I was an uncooperative member of the collective, which meant I would light the oven/heater and clean the toilets in exchange for free entry and free beer. I lived just two flights of stairs above the club and was at every show I could make it too. Berlin was great I could go out 2 or 3 nights a week and see some pretty inspiring music and chat with people about their approach and methods. I was impressed by the level of commitment most of the Berlin based musicians had, and because I lived in a squat my costs were very low and I could find the time to play music nearly all day long.

Hvordan påvirket Berlin deg?

– I suppose Berlin gave me time and inspiration but the ideas that I was and am working with are essentially the same as they have always been. I am still working with tunes that I have now been playing for 15 years still kicking the floor guitars still droning on. These days another main interest/inspiration is old field recordings of ethnic music. Both for the content and the sound of the old technology like wax disc recordings.

Hvordan vil du selv si at du har utviklet deg som artist opp gjennom årene?

– Hopefully I have created and refined a more distinguished voice/sound that is my own. Solo multiple guitar performances seem to be my main thing at the moment so I am destined to carry 3 guitars and a suitcase to every concert for the next few years at least.

Ja, det må du nesten fortelle litt om. Tre gitar på en gang, det er noe spesielt. Hvordan går du frem når du spiller på disse?

– I had an acoustic guitar which I taped pickups to different parts of its body. ie, by the tuning pegs, on the neck etc. This enabled me to turn up sounds that are generally avoided such as guitar body noise. The sound of the string vibrating towards the nut, scrapes etc. The acoustic guitar was the prototype type for my adapted electric guitar. I collaborated with a friend of mine; Lyttelton based Luthier Peter Stephen, who built me a guitar after discussions about the requirements and possibilities. It was 2 years in the making.

– I have been using the floor guitar for many years. It started when I modified the first guitar that I had brought at the age of 16, and made a complete mess of it until all it was good for was to lie on the floor and kick. I started by giving it the occasional kick to cover any mistakes I was making. Then I realized I could sit down and play simple rhythms on the floor guitar and tambourine. Later I added another floor guitar for drones and extra noise. I found I could operate the whammy bar with my foot almost playing simple tunes and or a real racket.

Og dette er også slik du fremfører konserter?

– Generally I perform solo with this set up. It is quite versatile and enables me to get a lush sound with lots of varied timbre. I also like the idea that every sound comes from a movement and I enjoy the unstable nature of the set up. Sometimes I think that the improvisational elements in my music come more from the unstable nature of my set up than any conscious decision to reinvent the tunes on each passing. It’s kinda of like driving a truck on ice where the goal is fixed but the path may vary. It keeps it interesting for me and makes for a few brutal accidents along the way.

Du er aktuell med den meget vakre platen Hung. Hva kan du fortelle om denne?

– Hung is basically live recordings where I set up stereo mics and record direct to dat trying to get a good versions of the various tunes without having to edit or cut pieces. Most of the work is done long before the recording in experimenting with the pieces and finding the way I most like to play them. Hung also contains several improvisations where I go fishing for something I like. I sent about one hour and 30 minutes of material to to Campbell Kneale (som groove-lesere vil kjenne fra selskapet Celebrate Psi Phenomenon, journ.anm.), and lazily told him to edit and compile it. I think he did a nice job. It also made it fresh for me to hear someone elses picks and sense of flow.

Surfin USSR
Du er også involvert i et prosjekt som kaller seg Surfin USSR, som etter sigende driver med “surf-klezmer”. Dette må du fortelle litt om.

– Surf klezmer and anything else we feel like dealing to. The idea came about sort of by accident: I often practice by playing along with tapes. I started playing around with lot of eastern European/klezmer stuff when I had all that free time in Berlin. Mainly to improve my ear and because I would rather play tunes than exercises. About 3 years later I went back to them and tried playing one of the klezmer tunes in a surf style. It just fell under my fingers so naturally and sounded so right that I thought it would be a good thing to do to combine surf music and klezmer. I had also just arrived back in New Zealand and had played a few shows of my more experimental music, which no one seemed to like. So I thought fuck it, I will form a bar band that can pay in pubs and when people ask what sort of music we play I can answer them for once, “Oh we play surf/klezmer” and they will be none the wiser.

– It is a great band that has over the past 6 years of playing developed it own personality. It was meant to be my big sell out but we still get billed as avant garde. Another example of why I should never try to guess people’s taste. I am bound to get it wrong by making some interesting music along the way. Surfing USSR Kings of the toe tapping avant garde.

Det virker ikke som du har altfor mye dødtid, har du andre ting på gang?

– Occasionally I do music for theater shows or dance. I am working on a solo program of Steve Lacy tunes hopefully done in my own way; a mixture of melody and noise called leather and lacy. I also have a release coming up which is duo performances with Tetuzi Akiyama recorded in a week long residency at Extrapool as part of Project Bronbrom. Jenny and I also sing old country songs under the name Stranger and I play with friends and acquaintances in Christchurch.

Ser frem til å komme tilbake hit

Og nå er du snart på vei hit til Norge, for andre gang. Opprettet du kontakt med noen norske artister da du spilte på Dans for Voksne?

– I played a short duo with Per Gisle (Galåen, journ.anm) in Oslo last time I was there and also got a lot of great records/CDs. I’m looking forward to working with people on this trip to Norway. I have plenty of time for mucking around and meeting people?

Hva kan festivalpublikummet på Safe as Milk forvente av din opptreden der?

– Hypnotic evolving melodies built upon layered drones. All sounds are created live and organically by string manipulation techniques on three simultaneously played guitars.

Det høres rett og slett brillefint ut! Til slutt, Malcolm, hva ruller på platespilleren din for tiden?

Joseph Spence: Folkways Recordings 1958
Charlemeagne Palestine: Stumming Music
Music! 1900 2000 Berlin Phonogram-archiv
Conlon Nancarrow: Studies for Player Piano
John La Barbara: Voice is the Original Instrument
Musique de le Grece Antique: Atrium Musicae
Mans early musical instruments: Ethnic Folkways edited by Curt Sachs
Harry Partch: Delusion of Fury
Joelle Leadre: Urban Bass
Elizabeth Cotton: Freight Train and Other North Carolina Folk Songs

Greg Malcolm spiller under årets Safe as Milk festival i Haugesund.

Intervjuet er utført på bestilling fra Safe As Milk-festivalen i Haugesund i 2006 som en del av deres artistpresentasjoner.

One thought on “Intervju: Greg Malcolm – trippelgitaristen

  1. Pingback: Wrong Side Of The Woods | The Big Beast

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