Ez: So Kurushimi this year have released two E.P.s and are now very, very soon releasing an album; What is Music?.
(The album is called What is Chaos?)
Simon: What is music?
Oh is that a question?
Ez: I mean it can be.
Simon: Yes we are!
Ez: Okay, excellent. So what’s the album called then?
Ez: (Laughter) So yeah, you’re releasing What is Music?. Is there a changed compositional approach? I mean, I know that Lachlan of Godswounds is not going to be on it.
Ez: I know it’s been conducted by Simeon.
Simon: Of SEIMS and Godswounds fame.
Ez: And about eleventy-billion other bands as well. So, obviously a different conductor. Without revealing anything about how it sounds, so to speak, how you describe this in terms of differentiation from self-titled?
Simon: (Slow exhale)… I hope you got that. The answer is slow exhale.
Um… The first one was done during a time where at least a few of the members of this group were not having the greatest year of their lives. It was very fresh so it had a very specific spark. There was a certain energy that was at those recordings.
And somehow to his credit, Lachlan being as skilled as he is with conducting live improvisational group performances, he was able to utilise that and pull us all together from wherever we were into a very streamlined and focused recording.
So he had children going “BHUOOARRRR”, and he just went “Cool, here’s what we’re gonna do today guys”, and he managed to actually make it work ’cause he’s just so skilled with getting the best out of people.
So the [first] album is pretty focused and it’s not like there was a dictatorship at all. He was really able to steer us quite safely through a pretty dark-sounding recording session, whereas with the second one, with his absence and with Simeon being there doing the conducting in his place, you have a totally different person with a totally different outlook to music and a totally different attitude and personality.
If you were to sit and talk with him it’s just constant infectious upward energy which is fantastic, but totally different to what Lachlan was doing with what we gave him to deal with on that first recording.
So Simeon brought more of an upbeat rock vibe to the group and we responded to that, and then in addition Andrew who’s the band leader spent – I believe – a fair bit of time adding various samples from other recordings and overdubbed at home, which I don’t recall there being on the first album. I think it’s what we got on the day was what we used aside from some production techniques.
With this one there’s a lot more overdubs that I don’t know much about that were done at home, so it’s a bit more hyper-produced and layered.
I don’t know how to compare them. Actually no, that’s a pretty decent comparison.
It’s still improvised, it’s still pretty loose, there’s some aggressive moments in it, but Andrew’s also pushing a lot more experimental stuff as well so there’s fretless, upright, walking bass lines and stuff, and heaps of guest spots and just crazy weird shit…
Ez: Would it be fair to try and use my words to try and say what you’re saying –
Simon: Yes (laughter).
Ez: Would it be fair to say that what you’re saying is that, one; it’s kind of a different beast, kind of turning a four-sided object and turning it around a bit?
Simon: That’s a really good way of putting it.
Ez: The first one was a lot more live and like you said, what you got was what you got, whereas this one kind of maybe is a bit more transitional?
Simon: I think it’s definitely that. I think it’s a pretty good way of showing what a group is capable of that you may not have expected and it’s definitely a prime example of showing how a group can sound so different to what you would expect when you put someone else at the helm. When someone else is conducting it, totally different vibe.
Ez: Of the two times I’ve seen you perform –
Simon: Oh, that’s right. You were at the Lazybones show.
Ez: I was at the Lazybones show. I was the other person taking photos with a crappier camera as well.
Ez: So yeah. I’ve seen you perform twice.
Simon: What was the other one?
Simon: Oh yeah, yeah. You mentioned that earlier.
Ez: So, you sit on a stool.
Simon: ’cause I’m a fucking lazy bastard, so why bother standing when I look boring?
Ez: Because you can rock out?
Simon: I’m too lazy.
Ez: Yeah but you’re not Robert Fripp, you know?
Simon: (Laughter) “What’re you sitting for? You’re not Fripp, man!”
Simon: To actually answer your question, sorry, why the stool? Why the sit? Um-
Ez: Sorry to butt in. I figured part of it would also be just it makes it a bit easier to move around on the fretboard, especially because you’re a guitar teacher so you’re probably sitting down a lot anyway and also because you play some fairly complex stuff as well.
Simon: Partly because I’m lazy. Partly because I’m very sedentary with my job. I’m teaching so much that I’m more used to having the angle of the neck and fretboard and strings under my right hand all at a certain position, and when I’m standing that changes, and given how long I’ve been teaching like this (shows position), standing just fucks with my technique so I don’t feel that I have as much control over what I’m doing.
But I’m also very uninteresting. If I’m standing I’m just standing there playing. So it’s kind of a cop-out but, this isn’t why but this is one advantage of it:
I can be playing all this complex shit, sitting and for some reason people find that really engaging, whereas if I was just standing there [they] wouldn’t even see me, almost, and it’s become a bit of a thing after, you know, we started playing.
Simo, the bass player in Instrumental (adj.) was like “well, I see we’ve arrived at our first show, and naturally Cheggs is sitting behind the drum kit and you’ve already grabbed a seat for yourself”. (Laughter) Just out of habit I already had. I don’t even think I brought a strap. It’s not a consideration for me.
Simon: And he goes “So, yeah, fuck you, I’m not standing”. So in a sense the whole me sitting down to play all the time thing; it kind of came from him. It kind of came from those first few gigs where it just became such a focus for people. It was like “Well fuck this, I’m going to definitely enjoy it ’cause it beats the shit out of standing for ages”.
Ez: Well maybe the reason why people find it more engaging is not because you’re sitting but because the music speaks enough for itself.
Simon: Yeah, I think it does a better job. If I was standing there being boring, that’s more distracting, whereas with this, it…
You know, it’s like why Slipknot wear masks. To let the music speak for itself, right?!
Ez: Yes. So, I mean, like, well, yeah, hm. Anyway –
Simon: Good job letting that one fly by.
Ez: Examples of music speaking for itself; Roy Orbison apparently didn’t move on stage.
Simon: Very, very still.
Ez: Who knows if he even played his guitar?
Simon: I think he’s dead.
Ez: Who knows if he did once play his guitar before his untimely passing.
Simon: And Chet Atkins too. He doesn’t move around too much. He just sort of stands there and just plays this really complicated guitar shit whilst singing at the same time.
Ez: Those two examples, and um, Kaki King doesn’t move around too much, does she?
Simon: She sat when I saw her.
Ez: Yeah, she doesn’t move around too much and her music’s really engaging as well.
But then you look at, say bands like Neurosis who don’t even really talk and they’re very engaging to the crowd as well.
Do you think it has a lot to do with not just letting the music speak for itself, but in some way showing that you’re engaging [the crowd] in some manner? Do you think that also has a part to do with it? Do you think a band will put an invisible wall up [and for some people] will see it as not engaging?
Simon: Absolutely. Yeah. There’s an invisible wall for certain bands. There’s also things about communication within the band itself. You can show up and recite, and that’s fine. There’s plenty of metal bands that do that. There’s plenty of jazz bands that disappointingly do that. It’s not interesting to me, but it exists and they’re serving a different purpose. They take your money to provide you with a different service. I prefer bands that do engage the audience in some way. I prefer bands that give a shit about every gig they do being different in some small way. At least knowing that this gig tonight is different to the gig last night.
And I don’t just mean “‘Cause I’m in a better mood or I had Chinese instead of Italian for dinner before I got on stage”. I mean bringing in to the synergy of the group, bringing in the external factor which is the audience. There’s someone in the room while you’re playing. That’s gonna change how you play and that’s gonna change what that audience experiences.
I really like bands that bring in improvised stuff. There’s a danger to it. I think there’s a consideration for the audience there; that if you bring in elements that aren’t what they’d expect, they’d get something that no one else will have.
That group of twenty to forty people who see you one night will receive a performance that no other people in the world ever will actually get. It may suck, but at least it’s theirs. So yeah; I absolutely agree with you.
How it ties back to the whole sitting thing… does it? Is there a thread that’s sort of…
Ez: Well the thread was because you said that people seem to find it more interesting and we already covered that because you’re not standing and you said that if you stand people focus on it too much.
Simon: I think in our case the seated thing also… people walk in and hear something really technical and they don’t see The Dillinger Escape Plan just running up and down off walls and jumping off speaker cabs. They see dudes who are constantly looking at each other to communicate musical ideas. For some reason because we’re seated people seem to think that it’s more focused more on the music. They tend to gawk and go “What is going on down there?”, as opposed to go to the bar, which is what I generally do at a lot of those shows.
As for engaging, shit yeah, I absolutely agree with you man. There’s this barrier.
It’s weird that a lot of people don’t perceive… they don’t know that the barrier is there but they perceive it, is the best way to put it. Someone can have an experience where they see a gig and they go “Yeah it was shit. I just. I don’t know, was just, it was just shit”, and someone like you could go “Well, it’s because they didn’t talk to the audience, or because they weren’t talking to each other, or ’cause they don’t give a fuck about playing this music anymore and they’re just phoning it in”. It exists, for sure.
Ez: So yes. You are a guitarist.
Simon: (Laughter) Back to question one? Is the interview going this badly, that we are resetting?
Ez: No, we’re not. But you are a guitarist. You play rock music as you know. You play technically in a lot of ways.
Ez: More complex I should say rather. Anyway…
Simon: What was the insult going to be?
Ez: I didn’t have any insult.
Ez: I ran out of question. Well I know what I want to ask, but I just was going down the wrong thing.
How important do you think it is to play technically?
Simon: Important to me, or important to the audience, or just for the greater good of music?
Ez: Let’s just say for the greater good of music.
Simon: How important is it to play technical stuff for the greater good [of music]?
Ez: Or just complex in general, ignoring the fact that styles of music have to grow and expand and progress and whatnot.
Simon: It’s probably not important then. There are many songs where you could get away with doing very little and it would actually enhance the song.
Not ignoring what you’ve just asked me to ignore, I think that it’s when you push a lot of information into something, it starts to grow. Sometimes it can sound pretty dumb and you’ll definitely fuck up a lot and there’s definitely moments where I’ve gone “Man, that was a really dumb thing to do”, and it’s too cerebral too. It removes a lot of the emotion from the music ’cause you’re cramming in so much, so many concepts – Well, preconceived ideas into a space that may or may not tolerate them. There’s a pretty good chance that you’ll fuck it up. That it shouldn’t happen.
But I think for the greater good of music, there’s enough music out there so if you’re doing something that kills the song, people will find other songs to listen to. It’s fine (laughter).
Ez: Do you think there’s a fine line what with technical and complex playing that can very easily enter into over-indulgence?
Simon: Yeah. Another thing that I find in the jazz and metal – no, in the metal and jazz scenes, there’s a lot of stuff that’s just like “Bro, two notes would be more than enough”.
Ez: They just go too overboard.
Simon: Yeah. A lot of that stuff is showy for the sake of showy. I dig the muso Olympics-type thing. In a sense Instrumental (adj.) is kind of a sport for us.
I’ve stressed out big time about some of the shows where I sort of haven’t been fit enough to play. I don’t mean overall health. Just I’m not on top of all of the technicality of it and how demanding it is physically and mentally.
I enjoy when a musician can absolutely, utterly shred and play these intimidatingly complex things. They definitely inspire me to try and gain more skill with this instrument, but I’m very aware of how… I know that there exists a very fine line between “This is great and really interesting and inspiring and exciting”, and “Shut up, this is too much. You’re killing the song; you’re suffocating it. It’s too much information”. It’s all aesthetics and no substance. Song is more important.
Ez: Well, one last question before we wrap it up.
Ez: What’s next for Instrumental (adj.)?
Simon: We have some ideas. We have some concepts. Whether they get used or not is another thing. They’ve been floating around for a long time now. It might be time to just turf them and upgrade.
But we definitely are busy. As in, we definitely are busy people, so we know that we want to get back into regular writing and rehearsals when we’re able to, but at the moment two thirds of the band are overseas again… on tour.
When they get back… we all still have commitments. Simo runs his own recording studio. Chris is a very, very busy drummer. He’s in many, many projects.
We’re kicking around some ideas. Hopefully we’ll be able to keep our shit together long enough to put out a third E.P.
Ez: Or maybe an album?
Simon: I think it would take too long. I think that the amount of effort and energy required would make it impossible to commit to completing it because I think I would get bored with it, and I think that we’d all lose motivation. Whereas doing the E.P. thing is pretty cool.
The idea, if we end up following it, is to end up doing five tracks on an E.P. in a couple of years.
It’s easier to complete. It doesn’t take so long so we don’t get sick of it. We don’t lose motivation, but also, who’s going to give a shit about this in another seven or ten years, you know?
It would be nice to follow up. Not to sort of crawl back to it.
Ez: Well, you never know.
Simon: We’ll see. We’ll see-Why, what don’t I know?
Ez: I don’t know.
Simon: What do you know that I don’t know?
Ez: I’m sure there’s things I know that you don’t know.
Simon: (Laughter) What? What are we saying?
Ez: What indeed.
Simon: My inability to string together a coherent answer has given me the impression that I’m a… TROGLODYTE!
Ez: I was thinking more ‘philistine’. I think that would be the word that both you and I would prefer to use in this case.
Simon: Yeah, let’s roll with it. I’m happy with anything.
Ez: Well, any parting words?
Simon: Um… Yeah. I’m sorry about how much editing you’re gonna have to do.
Ez: No, that’s fine.
I have one last question: Why should people listen to Instrumental (adj.), or Kurushimi, or any other project that you’ve been part of?
Simon: I struggle with this. I’m definitely not an outsider. It’s not like Wesley Willis or The Shaggs or anything, if you’re across any of those guys. They’re amazing, but I know we’re not them.
Ez: Well, that kind of goes without saying really.
For the record, if anybody is reading this, if you don’t understand, listen to Instrumental (adj.) and Kurushimi and then go listen to Wesley Willis or The Shaggs and you’ll understand what Mr. Dawes here means.
Simon: I love outsider music and I understand that I’m not doing that. But I also understand that I’m so far removed from normal, or in some cases palatable music, so I have to think about this a lot. It’s like “What am I actually contributing here?” Not as in what makes me a unique, special musician, but where do I fit?
I think it’s that – through working with the musicians that I’m working with in Instrumental and some of the other bands I’ve had experience working with, I’ve somehow picked up this skill to kind of make really difficult, complex things just kind of sound fun.
Chris is much more adept at that. He can take these really complicated time signatures and just make them over really well.
I guess despite the fact that I’m a lazy slob whose sitting there playing out of the way, I think I must entertain people on some level. This level of bizarre technicianship that sounds very strange, or that sounds unconventional, yet still manages to serve the song and kind of hopefully injects some real fun, and some life into it. I don’t know.
I try to be vulnerable and play openly. Whether people want to hear what I have to say is ultimately up to them.
Why should people listen to Instrumental (adj.)?
Ez: Or Kurushimi and any other thing you’ve been [part of].
Simon: Um… I’d say [Insty is] because it’s a pretty good example of synthesizing a lot of influences. Not to say we’ve done well at it, but we are competent.
And I’d say Kurushimi for…
The first album is really special to me. There’s something that happened on that first recording with all of us being the way we were, and performing how we performed. It’s a pretty interesting documentation of improvised performance that sounds so menacing and large, and any of the other stuff man.
Just listen to a guitar that doesn’t sound like a guitar and has heaps of stupid effects and dumb techniques. That’s always fun. That’s fun, right?
Ez: So what you’re saying is because it’s enjoyable.
Simon: I don’t know.
Simon: That’s the answer. I don’t know man. I don’t know. I’m shit at this. Trying to blow smoke up my own ass but not sound like I’m an arrogant fuck.
Ez: Fair enough. Well, look, we’ll leave it there –
Simon: Why do you think people should listen to Instrumental (adj.), or Kurushimi?
Ez: Oh, they shouldn’t.
Simon: That’s what I should have said.
Ez: (Laughter) Um, okay. If you’re going to put me on the spot, I’ll save face.
Well, people should listen to Kurushimi because…
People should listen to Instrumental (adj.) because it’s complex music, but it’s the sum of its parts and it is enjoyable in a sense. It’s very well balanced and enjoyable music.
Simon: Wait, is it Instrumental or Kurushimi?
Simon: Oh, sorry (laughter).
Ez: Kurushimi is a different beast altogether. It’s improvised conducted music. Some people might find it a little too jarring and chaotic and whatnot, but Instrumental (adj.)’s a lot more melodic in that sense. Definitely –
Simon: Structured, or organised.
Ez: Whereas Kurushimi’s very chaotic, but there’s still something appreciable there. Something a bit more appealing to primal nature in it, but it’s not thuggish.
Simon: Yeah. That’s definitely how I would summarise it if I had the words.
Ez: Well, you edit and I write.
Ez: You know how to change words. I just know how to use ’em.
Simon: Your words are good.
But yeah, let’s call it a…
Simon: Yeah, true. Sorry man.
Ez: Nah, all good. Thank you for your time.
Simon: Thank you. This was very flattering.