Richard Pinhas, the almighty capital and the influence of radio on the musical awareness of Poles are some of the topics covered by Filip Lech in an interview with Rafał Iwański and Kuba Ziołek of the duet Kapital.
How did you come up with the name for your duo?
Kuba Ziołek: I like deceitful names. No other word can better describe the paranoid nature of our times – capital as an affirmative value. This is what controls the world, what we all crave, while at the same time, it's the cause of the worst crimes and poverty in the world. I consider myself a capitalist but I don't accept the dominant version of capitalism, monopolies and big corporations.
Rafał Iwański: On a certain day in April, we were travelling to Bydgoszcz by car, I think we might have been coming back from one of our first rehearsals as a duet and we were thinking about a name for our band. We ran through many different ideas but eventually chose Kapital. Sure, it's a cliché, but capital is a contemporary God, one of the most powerful ones. In spring 2013, I was reading bits and pieces of Hakim Bey's Temporary Autonomous Zone and I remembered what seemed like a prediction – that one day capital will eventually have to face the rage and violence it deserves.
How do you create your pieces of music? How much of it is improvised, how much composed?
RI: Most of the ideas we come up with are the result of improvisation. We prepared open form compositions for a couple of concerts. But at a recording session in Bory Tucholskie, where we were recording No New Age (brought out on CD by Bocian Records and on cassette by Sangoplasmo), we focused on defining those structures. The sound is always paramount to us. Sound made complete by rhythm and pulse.
KZ: The first album was recorded spontaneously. It required few retakes and was recorded on analogue media and it represents an improvisation, an attempt to harness a moment. The second, still unreleased album is more systematic, less intuitive. Pulses and rhythms are the starting point of almost all our pieces and we play from point to point, in a concentrated and focused way.
Are you sometimes surprised by the effects of your concerts?
KZ: I am perpetually surprised, I often have no control over what happens at concerts. I don't mean random things. I sometimes have the impression that the instruments are playing me and not the other way around. Each and every instrument has a potential, which, when it is set in motion, lives a separate life, connects with others, brings out their potential and creates surprising new relations. As a musician, I am interested in that, perhaps the listeners not so much (laughter).
RI: We are not just surprised, we are enchanted. We consciously desire to be surprised, even wowed. That's why we play concerts; a strong, conscious, partly improvised and experimental concert gives you more than months of rehearsals.
In an interview, Kuba compared himself, and the musicians and instruments that he works with, to objects that influence each other. Which "objects" (apart from Rafał Iwański and Kuba Ziołek) are indispensable to Kapital?
RI: Since I read essays by Z'EV some 10 years ago, and I had the opportunity to play with him several times, I've had personal experience of that and experienced it many times more. [Z’EV is the pseudonym of Stefan Joel Weisser, an American poet, percussionist, and sound artist who had a major influence on industrial music. His work is inspired by occultism, mysticism and percussion music from around the world. Z’EV plays concerts in Poland, and often performs with Rafał Iwański and Rafał Kołacki as part of the band HATI]. During that extraordinary moment of playing music live, everything is important! The instruments, the people, the space, the time, and even the geographical location. Of course, the acoustics of the space, the audio parameters are important, but not always crucial…
KZ: I couldn't do anything without Rafał. Also: a Godin guitar. Boss RC-50, DD-6, Space Echo, PS-2, GE-7. Line 6 M5. EHX POG2. E-Bow. A metal armchair leg stolen from a club. My notes. Tobacco and a bit of alcohol.
RI: My sources of sound are: a contact microphone integrated with a Chinese plate on which I operate with different objects and a bow, an assembly of effects: distortion, octaver, delay, pitch shifter, reverb, a small sampler. And, what's interesting – signals and noises from the analogue drum machine which makes it work more like a tone generator and is rather dependent on electrical frequency. As a result, its basic tones often change, as does its stability and pulsation. It's an interesting experience, at first it was stressful for me, currently it's a good, though not entirely predictable, element of the set. I use drum pads more and more often, and always a mixer. I couldn't do anything without notes either, because playing in this duet means constantly grappling with the settings of all these machines.
Do your musical and intellectual interests and inspirations connect or complement each other?
KZ: It's great to chat, exchange, discuss a book, listen to a record, but all of that doesn't have a greater meaning. The ultimate verification is the music itself. I prefer to play than to chat.
Both of you cooperate with dozens of musicians. How did you end up playing with one another?
RI: We've been playing with one another since 2011 as part of the Innercity Ensemble collective, which is now a seven-man band and plays more frequently. It was a 2013 concert by Richard Pinhas, performed by him and his son Duncan at the If You Say So Festival in Bydgoszcz, that convinced us to do something as a duet. We weren't expecting that kind of music: pulsing walls of sound and heavenly and hellish guitar and electronic noise. I was in utter shock, because in my head I had Pinhas' first Polish concert with Jerome Schmidt and Milosh Luczynski, who was responsible for the visual arrangement at the CoCArt Music Festival in 2009. That concert was soft, ambient, with correct percussion loops, synthesiser sets and a pleasant visual layer.
KZ: In spring 2013, Wojtek Krasowski suggested I should perform at the LDZ festival in Łódź. Under my skin, I felt the potential collision of two worlds: electric guitars and electroacoustics, which was amplified by Pinhas' concert in Bydgoszcz. In passing, Richard mentioned that he would like to come to Poland, play a few concerts, that he's on the lookout for musicians, companions… Strangely enough, quite unexpectedly our ties with Rafał and Richard began to grow.
The public in Poland is not as familiar with the history of French rock and electronic music as it is with music from Germany. When you met Pinhas, what were the most inspiring moments?
KZ: I met Pinhas thanks to Rafał in 2012. French rock/avant garde/electronic music is probably unknown in Poland for the same reason that Italian, Swedish or Japanese music is unknown. The issue is the damage caused by a musical education gained from Radio Channel 3. That's an entirely different discussion.
For me, the bull's eye is the albums recorded with Merzbow, especially Keio Line and Rhizome [Masami Akita, Japanese noise music artist]. But the true value of this music comes out when it is played live. The brilliantly composed and structured crystal-clear noise created with the help of the most compromised instrument in the history of music - the electric guitar.
RI: I have to admit that I didn't hear about Pinhas until 2008, but, influenced by Darek Brzostek, we invited him to the CoCArt Music Festival (which we curate together with Rafał Kołacki from the band HATI). It was a great decision. The trio's concert was applauded and a couple of people came precisely because it was Richard's first Polish concert.
His performance wasn't an experience for me, but rather correct ambient music... It wasn't until a year later, when I listened to the album Keio Line, that I was struck. We've now been discovering more of Pinhas' albums, like a 70s album by the band Heldon. I'm not that familiar with his discography apart from a couple of his strong solo albums, an album with Merzbow, and a great but completely different album recorded as a duet with Pascal Comelade.
I don't know how to explain the fact that we got to know Richard Pinhas so late... If you just listen to his album recorded with the Japanese percussionist Yoshida Tatsuya, you can see the overwhelming talent and potential of the music.
When did you decide to work with Pinhas?
RI: Richard gave a couple of hints that he would like to play with us, while he wasn't keen on doing it from a distance. He made it clear that he wanted to play live and onstage and nothing else. Unsound is one of the few festivals in Poland which lives up to that. The festival organisers rented us a rehearsal room and a studio so we could prepare and record together for a couple days.
KZ: The song The Third Mind was created through correspondence. It uses recordings from summer 2014 which we received from Richard. But it's an exception.
Any future plans?
RI: We plan on finishing the second album by the end of the year and releasing it in the beginning of 2015. We already have a title. I can tell you that it's the second part of the trilogy, a further development of our debut. In March 2015, we are touring Poland, we already have a couple of invitations (if any other event organisers are interested, don't hesitate to contact us!). We are soon going to Norway to play at the Insoma Festival in Tromsø. And in May 2015, we'll visit a couple of cities in Germany, Belgium and maybe France.
KZ: We're touring with Innercity Ensemble in November. We'll be in Warszaw, Lodz, Wrocław and Krakow. Don't miss our concerts…
RI: We recently came back from a tour with HATI. We started to cooperate with Mazzollo in September. The first concert of the trio takes place on November 14th in Mózg in Warsaw. Appearing on the web soon is a piece from one of our sessions remixed by Kuba.
Interview by Filip Lech from October 2014, translated by MJ 16/10/2014