4ZzZ FM War is Peace interview, August 10th 2011
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Sky: Your new album is Kiyomizu - is that the right pronunciation?
Greg: Yeah. It’s Japanese, obviously; it’s the name of a temple in Kyoto which I really love, Kiyomizudera, which I think just means clear water temple. It’s just one of the most inspiring places I’ve ever been… You know a lot of our album art was already sourced from there. On the couple of trips I’ve taken over I just took a couple of million photos and ended up using that on a lot of our album art. It just made sense to call it that because we’d used it so much and it had that sort of vibe through the music anyway.
Sky: Ok cool. And now whilst we have two of you in tonight, Ektoise is actually quite a large band isn’t it? You’ve got seven members now, or six..?
Greg: Ah, eight I think… See we don’t really ever play in the same configuration ever, all of our shows I think so far, every single one of them’s had a different lineup. It just depends who can make it on the night and how busy everyone is because everyone always has other projects going. I think Greta has something like five or six different bands!
Sky: Keeping the Brisbane tradition alive.
Greg: Oh yeah. Everyone’s busy. Everyone has a particular flavour that they bring, you know Greta studies Persian music so she can bring a lot of that in and Hik’s a jazz drummer. We all have our own different flavours and it’s interesting to try all the combinations out and just basically the records are like exploring all those different elements and trying to take it off in different avenues.
Sky: So when you’re recording do you get all of you in over the process?
Greg: Yeah, yeah.
Sky: Awesome. And how does the writing go, is that principally yourself or a core group or is it everyone?
Greg: I do most of the arranging I guess and making the initial structures. What I try and do generally is make something rough that has a vague sort of structure to it but mainly just providing a vibe to work from and then I get the guys in individually and just have them basically acclimatize themselves to the flavour of the track and then just improvise on it. And you know as I said everyone has a different sort of thing that they bring to it and I’ll just sift through that later on, sort through, cut out the pieces I don’t like, take the bits I do like and sort of arrange them.
So in a sense, everyone contributes to the writing because what they bring on the spot eventually becomes quite integral to some of the tracks and then I’ll end up programming around the top of that and building more on that. With this album particularly I used a lot of Jim’s stuff cause it was just a very different type of programming to what I do because I find I’m very robotic and very straight whereas Jim has more a warped sort of more IDM sort of approach, so it was something new for us.
Jim: Yeah, just jamming… He just chops me up, he’s the scientist and the precision that I could never be bothered doing, which is really good because he probably brings out a really good side of my stuff that I never do because I can’t be arsed.
Sky: Despite the heavy electronics side of this there’s also – I dunno about a rock side but there’s very much the guitar presence is very strong throughout this new album of yours, is that something you were trying to bring out?
Greg: Not necessarily. I don’t know, we don’t really ever come in with a game plan… For this record I basically just took a bunch of little pieces that I had going and tried to expand them into tracks and then just get everyone else involved and it just turned out that way I think... A lot more guitar-heavy I guess than the first record. It wasn’t something that was intentional but I really enjoyed it afterwards when I gave myself a couple of days off after I finished the record, cleared my head, went back and listened to it and I was really surprised. Like you said how rock I guess it is; track two and track six, you know they’re quite guitar heavy…
But I think we have a lot of different aspects in our sound and sometimes it’s nice to highlight certain parts of it… With a lot of avant-garde and electronic things you never really get guitar, there’s almost this unspoken sort of “yeah, screw rock guys”, you know what I mean? A sort of bad attitude.
Sky: I remember when I saw you guys at Ric’s a while ago it was a very rock vibe, or post-rock vibe compared to the album that had just come out before then. It’s interesting, it feels like that’s come through a bit more on this particular recording.
Greg: Yeah we are I guess getting a bit more live, you know with the members now, we’ve got another drummer, and having two drummers… It brings rock I guess. We always were a strange sort of beast live that could never quite get the intensity of the records and I was really trying to think “how can we do that, how can we make the live show as impressive as the records” and I thought well, we’re always going to fail trying to emulate the recordings so I figured why don’t we just take it off in a different direction, make it more of a fist in the air sort of vibe and have a louder, more powerful sort of sound so I guess having the extra drums really brings that.
Sky: I’m pretty excited about this idea of seeing you guys with two drummers cause it’s something not enough Brisbane bands do. The only band I can think of, I think Secret Birds did it for a little while maybe?
Jim: Didn’t they end up with eight drummers or something like that in the end?
Sky: Yeah something like that! It’s always awesome. Now you’ve got a gig coming up, is it September?
Greg: It is September, yeah, I think the 16th at the Beetle Bar, we’re doing a Friday night with Los Huevos. It’s going to be the first show for the year funnily enough cause we’re so busy and it’s so hard trying to deal with large lineups but I think for that particular gig we’re going to have six of us there.
Sky: Cool. Is it going to be both drummers?
Greg: Yeah, both drummers. That was cemented when I saw SWANS earlier this year. I’ve seen Cult of Luna and a lot of bands with two drummers and I was always thinking it was a good idea but then I saw Swans and that was just devastating and I was like “I have got to get another drummer!”
Sky: Well speaking of different projects you both also have another gig coming up Wednesday week, so today week, which is James’ other project Subsea, you’re launching an album I believe?
Jim: Yeah, and I’ve got to write and press it in the next seven days!
Sky: It’s good you’ve given yourself a lot of time!
Jim: Yeah I kind of need to set dates to get my ass into gear..
Greg: I’m the same, yeah…
Jim: I obviously didn’t set myself enough time with this one cause you know, Masterchef was on recently…. Grand Designs is always on every now and then so it’s just made it really difficult…
Sky: I’ve been hearing that’s been destroying the Brisbane music community outside, “we were going to have an album but Mastechef was on”…
Jim: Kevin McLeod has a lot to answer for!
Sky: And Greg you’re playing as well, support that night as a solo vibe…
Greg: Yeah more techno, more techno cause you know everything with Ektoise is so stupidly complicated cause that’s what we do, it’s all about detail and big overwhelming sort of soundscapes but with my own stuff I just take it a lot more easy and it’s just more fun for me because it’s less stress, less to worry about and it’s more of a dance sort of vibe for that.
Sky: And James I think Greg was telling me a while ago that when you perform live you often just go up there with a rough idea and create on the spot?
Jim: Yeah it’s awful, I need to sort that out cause I’m sick of stressing out about it!
Sky: Is that the plan with this gig?
Jim: Nah I wanna have, I wanna write this album and then break it down into parts I can jam on and not have to program beats on the spot, and have loops that and have a bit more structure and a bit more orderly instead of chopping and changing all the time and kind of wandering on one loop for too long trying to get it right and then give up and move on to the next thing.
Sky: Are you going to have the new album available on the night - fingers crossed - or..?
Jim: Yeah I think I found a place that did printing, twenty-four hour turnaround for CDs somewhere…
Sky: Awesome so bring some money along to make sure you can pick up…
Jim: …or a USB stick, it’ll be on my laptop at least.
Sky: Keeping it high tech!
Greg: Innovators, of course!
Sky: So is it just you guys on the night or are there other people playing?
Jim: There’s another band called Gentlemen that Ric’s put on, Micah who books the night put them on and I honestly have only heard them online, they seem pretty cool and we’re looking forward to it.
Sky: Well what’s next for Ektoise, Greg you were saying you almost have a full albums worth of material that was not used on this new one, but obviously you’re already too busy…
Greg: Nah I’m just going to take a break for a little while, probably a month and half or two months if I can allow it… It depends how anxious I get doing nothing. I’m just going to do solo stuff and some art, drawings and stuff…
Sky: And a couple of gigs…
Greg: Well I haven’t had time to do that stuff while I was making this album because it got really high pressure in the end, because I set myself a deadline that was too soon and I couldn’t really meet it. So I ended up working overtime after the deadline was already gone but that’s the only way I can ever really get things done is to go “ok, have it done by this day even if you don’t make it”. That just gets the wheels turning. But the next thing we’re going to do? We have a lot of material to choose from but what I’m leaning towards is the next thing will be a remix record to go with this one, we’ve already got a lot of very interesting people arranged for that but…
Sky: You have some pretty big names on the first one, The Black Dog and…
Greg: Yeah, that was a real joy to behold for me personally because it was the first time we’d really tried to involve people were already established and who we really respected and with this record we’re going to try and do the same and just get people we really admire rather than people we think would just get more people listening and then yeah I think after the remix album the next album of ours is just going to be vocal.
Sky: Yeah right, cause I was going to say your last single Remember Well was a vocal track, well not purely vocal but had you actually singing on it, so you’re looking forward to doing that again?
Greg: Yeah, it’s going to be really different to Remember Well though because that’s really upfront vocals whereas this record is going to be more… I guess a more shadowy or more artsy approach but at the same time every track is going to have singing because I mean we’ve done two instrumental records now… Remember Well was a very deliberate single because I didn’t want people to get to comfortable with the notion that we’re just instrumental. I sort of wanted to go you know, we do want to have more of a rock vibe sometimes and have more overt structures. So this record really has a lot of strange stuff and I love that shit but I mean it’s just one thing that we do and I think this next record’s going to take us in a very different direction.
Sky: Now, if people want to get this record they can go to your Bandcamp and check it out, it’s E K T O I S E, the album is Kiyomizu and there’s a few options, there’s a digital download, there’s a normal CD and there’s also a special art CD, and that features your own artwork?
Greg: Yeah, that’s something that I really neglected over
the years, the visual art side of things because music can just take so much of
your time but I’ve been getting back into it recently doing the drawings and
the paintings and things and I just left myself a bit more time. The normal
edition’s out now and you can obviously download the album for free now but the
art edition I’ve said “ok, that’ll come out in September” and I’m going to do
some paintings for that, I’m going to keep doing them over and over until I’ve
got really nice ones to put with these disks, and they’re going to come in tin
cases and it’ll be once only… Once they sell out they’re gone.