Thursday, July 11, 2013

Listen to Michel Kristof

                                 Interview with Michel Kristof

by Vinnie Paternostro

Please explain the theory behing the MKF Approach to music. Is there structure within your improvisation or do you base the improvs purely on the moment?

My solo work as "MKF’s Approach" stems from an atmosphere that comes to my mind, and develops according to this mood and the story it inspires me to tell.

The execution and choice of instruments is then staged (with a particular attention to details) as to render, as faithfully as possible, the feeling of the song. Here, tape manipulations have their most important part.

I use the guitar mainly. I occasionally add sitar and esraj I have electrified; cymbals, tablas, bells, beads, even an electric counter .....

Or the hazards of a poor quality guitar!

The idea is not necessarily to provide nice and orderly landscapes: the sounds and stories heard rather follow the intentional or unintentional curves of playing the instruments. There are even pieces where success lies in the fact that the listener does not listen to the whole song!

Or a megalomaniac vision sounds of the universe!

In short, no preconceived plan: a sense of playing whose successes and accidents determine what is expressed.
Two words about my practice.

Few years of studying Indian music with my master Chunilal Pandey in Varanasi (sitar) gave me a frame and sense of the mood; and the electric guitar to get the big sound.

Then 21 years of total non-musical practice, "just" listening to the free jazz of 1960s and 70s, the electric guitars of Jimi Hendrix, Japanese noise, baroque music and contemporary European music ... all sounds that have slowly worked their ways in my Uncounscious.

In 2011 I returned to sitar at the urge of Sonny Simmons to help him shape his obsession of the East. And a return to my beloved guitar!

Hoping that the life of a salaryman does not prevent me to continue this process of expression in the near future…

How does your project Other Matter compare to the MKF Approach?

As in MKF, staging the music and telling stories are the word, rather than instrumental prowess or anything else. Sound in "Other Matter" is more sophisticated than MKF. The "tape manipulation" is carried out by Julien and his complicated softwares and methods!

Of course there is an interaction in the early moment of recording, before the sound gets heavily modified. “Other Matter”, before being a group, is a friendship we have carried on for 13 years: our mutual playing has been nurtured by listening to the same music, attending the same gigs, and the facts of life: separations, moving furniture together, etc. Life!

This is friendship realized in sound. And this is more excitement and fun than devising his own music in a corner: you have a sense of playing.

Although from the resulting dark music it doesn’t necessarily always show, OM is kind of fun to do. No pressure, no issues: it gives us complete freedom. That said, most people have noticed – and the titles and pictures that go with the music underline it – that OM has a rather somber, nihilistic approach.

For Julien and myself, returning to music playing was a conscious decision, and before we even realized we could actually play, has been an act of utter frustration at our lives as salarymen in a civilization that is seemingly going nowhere. While MKF rather tells personal, intimate stories from my trips and cultural encounters, OM deals with the global lack of meaning many people seem to experience as the XXIth Century goes onward. “Space is not the place anymore” did we write somewhere: this is a bitter comment on Sun Ra’s optimisim (not that we don’t like Sun Ra, who had voluntarily decided FOR optimism in the face of global decay). The universe is not home of the gods anymore; we were free to deal with it at last; and we did utter shit with it. Hence our fascination for the dreary, toxic aspects of astrophysics, emptiness, coldness of galaxies. Hence the chaos in our music.

We improvise everything. Nothing is written beforehand. We play without warning, doing our best to surprise each other. The mixing and mastering, afterwards, become a long process to make the obvious appear, to express hidden intentions.

How does your thoery's on music apply to your work with jazz legend Sonny Simmons?

This is reall Sonny Simmons who gave Julien and me the greenlight to be “artists”, whatever that means, as he often insists that Coltrane’s final statement was rightfully titled “EXPRESSION”. Hitherto we produced many of his albums (and Working with such a Master puts you in a position, like it or not, of a disciple. It stirred our will to go back to it. Years of desires buried under layers of routine, low self-esteem due to poor working opportunities in tie and grey suit, for bosses trying to get you to believe that you are a mere number or an initial on the corner of an official paper – MKF!

Sonny, a godfather of free jazz, has a vision that goes beyond the labels: since 2011 we have organized wild free jams with poet Bruno Grégoire, Julien, Thomas Bellier of Blaak Heat Shujaa, piling hours of material that he will eventually organize in a symphonic way: a large work that will encompass free music, rock, eastern music, comprising saxophone, English horn, percussion, poetry, sitar, doom guitars…

I also recorded live with him in Paris, our first meeting as the group Moksha Samnyasin with Thomas Bellier (Blaak Heat Shuja, Ehécatl ) on bass, Sébastien Bismuth (Abrahma) on drums and myself on sitar. The live piece is currently treated by Julien for publication. It’s a very raw act that somehow pays tribute to Arthur Doyle’s Electro-Acoustic Ensemble.

We did a proper studio session of this group, produced by Thomas Bellier – the album is ready and we are looking for an adventurous label!

Meeting with Sonny Simmons is instinctive and complete ! No compromises, no false pretenses, straight to the point! You forget everything you know and do not know, and your life and ass are on the line. His motto is “Serious as bone cancer”, sound is his life, and beware if music is not your goal when you meet him.

"MKF's Approach" and "Other Matter" would not exist without the support of Jay Reeve and Vinnie Paternostro, whose label "MUteantsoundsnetlabel" have highlighted most of our recordings first.

Thank you to Jay for trusting us and have initiated our beautiful relationship and Vinnie for asking us to give us all under their watchful eye!

links to listen our works: : Note that a new album of Other Matter  is on the road to publication!!michel-kristof-20012013/c1a20 : a track published by Seven Moons for the release of the magazine! : two albums on cd:

1 . Other Matter : "Birthplace of the massive stars"
2. MKF's Approach : "Truc concret et rouge" : An album of Other Matter will be released by the label "Mahorka" soon and then a tribute to Pink Floyd.

written by Michel Kristof with the eternal complicity of Julien Palomo

A series of collaborations between Michel Kristof, Julien Palomo, Jay Reeve, and Vinnie Paternostro will be available on MuteAnt Sounds over the course of 2013.