15 septiembre, 2007

Interview: Tarentel

Tarentel is a band based in San Francisco, California which formed in 1995. Initially, the band consisted of Danny Grody and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma. The line-up shifted over the years and has included John Hughes, Trevor Montgomery, Patricia Kavanaugh, Kenseth Thibideau, Jeffrey Rosenberg, Jim Redd, Tony Cross, Steve Dye and others.

The band's current lineup is Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, Danny Grody, Jim Redd, Tony Cross and Paul Clipson.

Tarentel began as a post-rock band, making extended, LP-side length instrumental pieces similar to those of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Mogwai. Over the course three full-length albums and a number of singles and EPs, Tarentel has gradually shifted their style to a looser, more improvisational form that incorporates genres such as noise and drone as well as having a strong psychedelic element. (Wikipedia)

The line-up of the band has been subject to continuous modifications. How have you decided who is involved in each project and who isn't?

Jim: The line-up is solid at this point: Jef, Danny, Tony, myself, and filmmaker Paul Clipson. We also work with Steve Dye (who played on We Move Through Weather and Paper White) whenever our schedules align. Any other former members have moved on to other projects.

Seeing your career in perspective, I think that three basic words might be used to describe it: repetition, exploration/experimentation and feedback. Your sound seems to be constantly changing. How would you describe this evolution? What has been the driving force behind this continuous transformation?

Jim: The band has been around for a long time... about 12 or so years, and there have been more than a couple line-up changes... so its natural that our sound has changed quite a bit. I joined in 2002. Since then, improvisation, exploration, and experimentation have been a primary focus. We don't really stick to the typical process of writing songs, rehearsing them, recording them, rehearsing them some more, and playing them live. For whatever reason that doesn't really work for us. What we enjoy most is discovering, and what we're really good at as a band is being in the moment. That's when everything comes together.

As far as feedback goes... I suppose there's a lot of literal feedback in our recordings from the last couple of years, but what's probably more interesting is the idea of feedback as it relates to the way we work. We don't really think of anything as a finished piece. So everything becomes fodder for making new music... re-interpretations of parts from other songs, the same parts but on different instruments, cassette recordings of live shows, anything really. We also tend to work on different projects at the same time... or in succession. So, we'll be working on ideas for a live show, but then we'll do some home recording, take all those ideas, and translate them to acoustic instruments. It keeps things interesting, and always moving forward... and in that way, the music is always feeding off itself.

Since We move through Weather your sound is more experimental, wider. Where are your boundaries?

Tony: I think that during the "We Move Through Weather" sessions, we really started to learn that we don't have any boundaries. We were highly focused on improvisation and experimenting more, and that continued into the next couple of years and still continues today. I think improvisation will always be a large part of what we do - the basis perhaps - but even improvisation can feel limiting after a while. We've really enjoyed the more structured work that started with Nosferatu and continues now. Instrumentally I don't think we have boundaries at all. We've all played multiple instruments in the band, some of which we have no training in whatsoever; what's important has been the sounds and if an instrument gets us where we're trying to go.

You have recently released the 4xLP series Ghetto beats under the surface of the sun. In which way does this series contribute to the evolving sound of the band?

Jim: I'm really happy with how "Ghetto Beats..." turned out. Its collage-y and varied, and is really representative of all the different types of music that we're all into. It was recorded off and on over several months, so we tried a ton of different stuff (composed, improvised, dub versions, hi-fi, lo-fi, heavily processed, acoustic, dropping the tape in and out mid-performance, etc.). Early on we actually blew the power mid-take, which led us off on this whole exploration of doing hard edits straight to 2" tape, which is how we ended up with "Stellar Envelope", "A Crystal The Size Of Our Moon In The Heart Of A Pulsating White Dwarf", "Where Time Forgot", and "You Do This. I'll Do That.".

Your last albums are based in improvisation. How do you face composition and the recording process right now?

Jim: We try to approach each project differently. The Home Ruckus stuff is all improvised, but it sounds way different than when we improvise with amps and big drums. For the Nosferatu performance, and for some shows we played last year, we mapped things out quite a bit more than we have in a while.

Do you care about success? I mean, you seem to be more focused on evolving as a band than in success as such. You seem comfortable with your actual status. Is it so?

Jim: For me success is being able to continue to do what you love on your own terms, and thankfully we've found that.

Tony: I agree that we are able to do what we want to do, and that is important above all. That we've continued working together and putting out material, as well as doing some really amazing projects, is very satisfying.

You worked with a lot of labels in the past, now you have your own label and your own studio. Could you tell me something about the pros and cons of this situation?

Jim: Thankfully, the labels we work with are for the most part open to us doing whatever we want... within reason. Jef starting Root Strata has been really nice as well, though. Its allowed us to put out more releases more quickly.

Tarentel is not only a music band, but also your artworks and projections. It seems that you care a lot for the whole concept. Could you tell me something about your albums’ artworks and your collaboration with Paul Clipson?

Jim: Our album art is very important to us. We try to make it as representative of the music as possible. I've definitely bought records just because they look good, and hestitated to buy others that I know I'll like just because they look bad. As far as the live shows go, we turn off all the lights and make the projections as big as we can get them. The idea is to make it one big multi-sensory, semi-surreal, one-time only, vivid, unique experience.

Paul: I began screening films with Tarentel in 2003, after meeting Jefre at a job. My involvement came out of many conversations first with Jefre and then with the rest of the band regarding film and music. From the first performance involving film images with Tarentel's music, a steady spoken and unspoken collaboration has been going on.

How would you describe the current music scene? In your opinion, what has been the impact that the internet and home recordings have had on it?

Tony: I'm not sure about the music scene on the whole, but home recording has been a central part of our work for the last few years. We are constantly recording, in fact I can't remember the last time we had a practice without recording it. Home Ruckus all came out of home based recordings, as did large parts of Ghetto Beats.

What about the San Francisco scene? How difficult has been for you to find time to work in your side projects?

Jim: We all have a lot of different stuff going on outside the band... other bands, jobs... just life stuff. We do our best to make time for the band, and take advantage of the time when we have it. Its kind of the way we work anyways, in creative fits and starts. We all also just like to stay busy and enjoy making music... so when The Drift goes on tour, Jef and I do Holy See recordings, et cetera.

You have recently composed the live soundtrack to Nosferatu's of F.W. Murnau. What could you tell me about this experience? To what extent has cinema been an influence for the band?

Jim: At the beginning of the year the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art held a Werner Herzog retrospective. We performed a live soundtrack to F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu as part of a double feature that also included Herzog's Nosferatu. It was a very intense experience. It was our first time performing for 90 minutes straight. It was the most composing/song-writing we'd done in a while, the first time it was crucial that we hit specific moods/songs at specific times/scenes, and on top of all that Herzog was there! We watched the Murnau film about a hundred times in the months leading up to the show, which was very strange for me personally. On the first couple viewings I was not emotionally involved in the film at all. If anything it seemed funny to me. But in watching it over and over, and in discussing at length with the rest of the band how best to capture very specific moods for very specific scenes, the film slowly crept into my subconscious. In the week leading up to the show, I dreampt about the film every night. It sounds silly, but I was walking around all day tranced out, feeling (very intensely) the existential tragedy and beauty at the heart of the story.

Although you don't tour a lot, what do you think people can expect from your shows? Are you planning to visit Europe soon? Have you ever played in Spain?

Jim: Its becoming harder and harder for us to tour, but we try to do it as much as we can. We made it down to Los Angeles in May for Digitalis' Bottling Smoke festival, and we'll be playing at this year's Tanned Tin festival in Castellon, Spain (October 31 to November 4). For the last 4 or so years our live shows have included live super-8 projections by Paul Clipson. We don't score Paul's films, and Paul doesn't film for our music. Instead, we work in parallel. Our working methods are very similar (improvisation, in-camera editing and layering, and treating everything as a work in progress). Its been extremely positive and has done wonders for both our music and Paul's films.

What are your plans for the near future? New releases, side projects, tours...

Jim: We recently released a 7" on Type Records called "Home Ruckus: Double-Sided Air" and had a CDR in the Digitalis Industries "Bottled Smoke" subscription series. "Ghetto Beats On The Surface Of The Sun" was just released on CD by Temporary Residence, and we've got another "Live Edits" CD in the works (from our 2005 tour of Italy and Switzerland). We recorded the Noseratu performance at the SFMOMA and several of the rehearsals leading up to it, so there may be a release somewhere in there. Aside from the Tanned Tin festival, we'll probably spend most of the rest of the year recording. Jef and I's project, The Holy See, has a new CDR out on Digitalis, another on Music Your Mind Will Love You, and yet another coming soon.

Paul: We've had some ideas to do shows in atypical environments, where the band and possibly multiple film images could be incorporated in different ways, thinking of the film/multimedia shows of Bruce Conner and Glenn McKay. Also, a DVD or DVDs of Tarentel films and live footage is in the works.

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Thanks to Maria D. You're awesome.

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