On a rainy Friday night in Amsterdam, two men are building up a vast array of effect pedals and amplifiers in preparation for the 45th installment of Cinesonic. Tonight three short films by Sebastien Diaz Morales will be provided with a new, original soundtrack by guitarists Raphael Vanoli and Mark Morse, for whom this occasion also marks their first ever collaboration as a duo.
'So what do you think?' Mark asks Raphael, concerning something probably to do with one of the many cables and amplifiers scattered around the floor of one of the Goethe Institute's stately halls. 'Shoes off', he answers, removing his soaked footwear. Everybody made it to the venue through what one could call a spring shower, but this was soon forgotten after everybody settled down in a beanbag with a cold beer, ready to be taken on a trip through Insight, Oracle and The Apocalyptic Man.
After their show, we sat down with Mark and Raphael to ask them all about their Cinesonic adventure.
Mark: Most of it went really great, although great is a strong word for me, but I enjoyed it. The thing that’s hard to do in a duo situation is to have two people attuned to the same cuts, because we will interpret what's on screen differently right?
Raphael: It was good. I would have liked to sit somewhere else though, because I was feeling a bit claustrophobic, between the table in front of me, my pedals and the wall. I did like the fact that we were really next to each other though, even without looking at each other it was easy to communicate. From the corner of your eye you'd see something happening next to you and kind of know what the other was up to.
How did you prepare for tonight?
M: I probably watched the movies three times each. When I watched them I looked for cues more than anything, since I knew I wasn't going to be able to memorize all of it. In my mind I divided it into sections, and like for the first one I knew I had about four minutes here, and four minutes there, and tried to develop things over that. The first film for example ended with some imagery from the beginning, so I wanted to bring back some of the material from the beginning.
So none of the music was composed in advance?
M: I didn't actually play anything I had ever played before, but I knew what kind of feel I wanted to create in each section. With improvising to film its really easy to just start improvising without the film, I wanted to try really hard not to do that.
R: We could have written a score, but we do this only one time, so it's also a practical choice to improvise. Though the material we played was improvised, there was kind of a general feel to the films, obviously you are making sound to an image that has a certain atmosphere.
M: I knew the color and feel of what I wanted to play. I also played some things that I would never ever play, like in Oracle I played some really chordal melodic things that were too Bill Frisell-y at some point, I would never ever do that normally but it seemed like the right thing to do.
You're surrounded by all kinds of effect pedals and musical devices, could you explain something about the material you used during the set?
M: Well, I only have five effect pedals, but I do have a lot of implements to attack the guitar with. For example, I use a lot of pieces of foam to mute the strings on my guitar. And there is this metal file thing, which creates a really abrasive bowing sound, and i use this big knitting needle, because it is big enough to go through both necks. You know these Ebow things? If you just Ebow it with just the open strings it's kind of boring, but with this needle through the strings you get all these unpredictable, raspy, horrible sounds.
Though you are both guitarists, tonights show was not your average guitar-rock-show, any thoughts on this?
M: Yeah, I don't really often play with effects, so this is unusual for me. Mostly tonight there was a lot of reverb and a little tremolo, some distortion, nothing too crazy on my part. I feel like I'm playing guitar.
R: I was playing guitar all the time, actually. You're a musician, and you use instruments to make music, you should not see it as different things, its all one. All this stuff (pointing at the heaps of pedals in front of him), this is just an extension of your instrument. Of what we both did, almost everything was sourced by a guitar. It's not our business to give all this stuff a name, that’s up to you.
M: I think I played a lot of guitar sounds, thats kind of what I do. The thing that’s different when you play without effects is, you treat space differently. With effects it’s really easy to just turn up the freeze knob and have something happening when you’re not playing anything. It's just taking a millisecond of what you did and just extending it forever, and when you're playing without effects you have to think about space differently.
Thanks a lot guys, any future musical endeavors we should look out for?
M: I'm actually taking a break from music soon. After this I have one more show planned and then I plan on not making any music for a while, it's just giving me too much stress to make it all happen. So no future musical plans for me at the moment.
R: Well, there's a lot going on right now. The project that still keeps me the busiest is my duo Knalpot, we just wrote a new album, and now were looking for a new record company to release it.
And for the first time I have a band that I conceived myself, with a great singer from Senegal and a brass section. None of them play their instruments in the way you would normally play it, they use effect pedals and have some really extended techniques. It's some kind of African space dub noise music. A lot of stumbling grooves, trance elements and weird electronic sounds. It’s all about sound and melody.