Ahead of their upcoming Islam Chipsy and EEK headline gig at Arnolfini, Sam Francis talks to Bristol promoters Qu Junktions about the event and with local artist Kit Wilmans Fegradoe about his work and debut album Issa which he will be performing live.
S.F: There are three rather different acts on the bill for this event, can you tell me a bit about the selection and what audiences can expect from the gig overall?
Qu: We've always enjoyed curating cross-genre line-ups at Arnolfini and this one, while representing more of a mound or hillock of acts than a mountain, should be one of the most special yet, featuring as it does two of the most revelatory live performers you could hope to see and a vital dash of new blood.
S.F: It seems that Islam Chipsy and EEK are pretty high octane live act, do you expect some dancing to be going on?
Qu: Yes, one could compile a reasonable dossier of evidence to suggest that things could get frisky here. This is what happened last time.
S.F: How would you describe a Richard Dawson performance to the uninitiated?
Qu: Hard to boil Richard down to soundbites, but it's quite literally like an initiation into a life-cult in which Vic Reeves, Shirley Collins and Derek Bailey are your demi-gods.
S.F: And finally, can you talk a bit about what Kit Wilmans Fegradoe and DJ Dave Howell will be bringing to the event?
Qu: Kit is a new one on us, a young composer who has been developing his own strand of devotional drone-based composition here in Bristol. He released an album this year on Important, a great US label who release James Blackshaw, William Basinski and many others, and he's already aiming higher and wider than most of his years. We should count ourselves lucky to have unfettered new music voyagers such as Kit and John Bence in our Bristolian midst.
Dave Howell is a long-term trusted Qu ally who signed Animal Collective to FatCat Records for their classic early releases. He makes a virtue of the dusty dancefloor curveball, and will help navigate us safely off any standard musical map between acts.
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Kit Wilmans Fegradoe
S.F: Your debut album ‘Issa’ features strong religious and spiritual narratives. Could you talk a bit about this influence and your processes of manifesting such ideas through sound?
K.W.F: Oh, that’s a big one. I’m going to split that question in half so it’s easier to digest. I was influenced by theories on the lost years of Jesus Christ, that is the gap that exists in the Gospels between the ages of 13 - 29. I was fascinated that the years that form the person you will likely be for the rest of your life were missing, why? After reading a few different theories, I found the idea the he travelled east and studied with various Hindu and Buddhist Masters to be really inspiring. The narrative allowed space for me to understand these cultures through research and to let those ideas seep into the music. My intention was to tell the lesser known story, to show him as person who journeyed like all of us do and bring the listener into that world just for a moment. My partner made a good point to me that I was unaware of at first - she said that one of the most important aspects of the album is the process of humanising such a giant spiritual figure.
How does this manifest through sound? I believe drone to be a big part of this. Textures allow me as a composer to create a landscape for people to listen into as well as a space to explore. The whole album was recorded so that the sounds are all very close, so it’s less about witnessing and more about participating. If I can create a space for people to reside in, it means they can connect to the space and feel a part of it. If I can do this, then I have an audience who are a part of the narrative, who are a part of his journey, and his a part of ours.
S.F: You seemingly immersed yourself in an intense period of research to create the album, how important is this for your creative process?
K.W.F: Understanding the narrative I was attempting to sonify was incredibly important. Know the story, know the religions, know the ideas, know the man. I have barely scratched the surface of religious philosophy as it has infinite depth. The reading of texts, visiting of sacred grounds, listening to sacred music and speaking with spiritual figures was as close as I could get given my own place as a narrator, so it was a wonderful necessity. In the future I plan to do a sonic pilgrimage of the journey I mapped out for the album, I would have loved to have done this in preparation for Issa, but I was happily bound to my studies at university.
S.F: Issa has textural and ethereal qualities that capture the imagination reminiscent of a film score – is this something you are interested in?
K.W.F: Absolutely! When I was younger I desired to be a filmmaker/scriptwriter and that passion for filmmaking has definitely left its mark in my interest in narrative. I’d love to score films in the future. My work has always been very narrative driven and I can only see that becoming more defined and honed as I create more work.
S.F: Who did you work with on the album and what does collaboration bring to your work?
K.W.F: I worked with two wonderful musicians, Brigitte Hart and Joshua Tristan Churchill. I’m friends with them both and I knew early on that I wanted them to be involved somehow. The sessions were unorthodox, I would talk to them about the narrative, ask them to feel towards an area that resonated with them and then play with it. This might have been 4 hours of improvisations, or just a small phrase. I would then take the material home and re-construct the recordings, adding parts when I felt it worked with the narrative. Their openness to work this way and being directed by me is what made it work so well. I’m very grateful.
S.F: How have your formative experiences of sound and music influenced and shaped the work you make currently?
K.W.F: I think perhaps because I am a mostly self-taught musician, there’s always a great sense of freedom in my approach to sound. My first instrument is drums, I play guitar and use my voice when I feel it’s right. Even though it’s easy for me to get cerebral about exploring instruments, when I get right down to it I see it as a form of play. Years of listening very deeply to music of all textures and shapes and exploring these sonic worlds through meditations have really formed my ear. It allows me to listen to what is really going on, but also to what is missing. It’s made me more sensitive to the sonic reality of our world, and more impassioned to influence a deep sense of listening in others.
S.F: What other projects are you currently working on and when can we expect your next release?
K.W.F: I just finished writing a score for an audiobook that is coming out very soon, I won’t say what it is or who it’s for, but it’s been a really wonderful project. It’s allowed me to confine my ideas into smaller moments - I’m not used to making pieces shorter than 5 minutes! I’m also the sound designer for an upcoming short film by Joel Chima which should be very fascinating. In terms of another release, something is brewing, but I’ll let it be until I feel really ready and compelled to start writing.
S.F: What can we expect from your debut live performance at Arnolfini?
K.W.F: I’ve been eager to form live performances since acquiring a new instrument and a rising desire to play drones really loud to an audience, I think it’s going to be quite intense! I will be improvising on an Indian harp instrument and singing bowls as well as manipulating the album live to create a mixture of deep drones and dense textures. Expect lots of dynamics, spontaneity and me with my eyes shut listening intensely. I’m really looking forward to it!
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