Ineterview for Tinnitus by Haiko Nahm
Tinnitus-Your new record is a real masterwork, perfect mixture of psychedelic, space rock and modern elements like trip-hop. You took your time for it, three years in the studio. Why did it take so much time?
Luis Simões-Thanks a lot, I am very glad you liked it.
It took so long to finish this record because I decided that it would only be finished when I really thought it was finished; in the previous cds I set a deadline for myself. I think you can really hear a significant and positive difference in “Muzak” and that's the result of taking as much time as necessary to perfect both production and music to its full.
T-How do you manage to get all that studio time? Is it yours, is the owner a friend of yours or are you just damn rich, haha?
LS-I have been flat broke for most of my life but, some years ago, I started my own home studio, Butterfly Sound is a very little studio, with not a lot of equipment but what I got is only good gear assembled essentially to record Saturnia.
T-How has one to imagine your way of song writing and recording the actual material? I mean, jamming with a band falls out…
LS-I don't have a method of creating, it depends... sometimes it's a word or a melody that triggers the whole process, sometimes its a rhythm, I just try to keep my antennas tuned to the vibe of whatever is going on and then translate that to music and words.The pieces develop from very simple initial ideas, a beat or a chord sequence for instance, on top of which I then jam layers of instruments that feel appropriate to the mood of the piece in pure, random, free form. So Saturnia is improvisational music in the same way that a band may be (that's why it sounds very similar to a band) but in a work context of a one-man operation.
When I get to a stage when I have sufficient sections or melodies or variations to build something out of this mass of raw material, I then start to choose tracks and bits and pieces, that will most likely end in the final song.
Sometimes I re-record everything again, it depends.
I see Saturnia from several different simultaneous angles: composer, musician and producer. As I do everything in my studio, writing, playing and producing is all one single thing to me. Usually the music comes first and the words some time after.
T-One of the things that really amaze me is the perfect mix of old music with modern elements. How is your philosophy on that matter?
LS-I am a fan of all those 60s 70s Psych-Space-Prog bands and that is really the type of music I love; however I also love other types of music on a more “modern” context; what I always tried to do with Saturnia was to bring a contemporary perspective to that type of “vintage” music, if you like.
I am not an island and am very conscious and permeable to what goes on around me musically, I don't want to live in the past but I also don't want to dismiss it as irrelevant.
Some fundamentalists think that what I am doing is a heresy, mixing classical psychedelia with modern electronica rhythms, but by thinking like that, I suppose they are only contradicting the basic principles of freedom and creativity from which this type of music emerged.
If bands like Hawkwind or Tangerine Dream had a computer with pro-tools in 1973 don't you think they would have used it? I am pretty sure they would.
T-You play a lot of instruments on the record, nearly all of them, and besides that you are a really good singer. How did you manage to learn all those things?
LS-I originally started playing classical guitar in my early teens. I had classical training for some time and then moved on to electric guitar.
From the start I was always very interested in song writing and composing techniques; in the mid nineties I got a multitrack recorder and started doing demos of my music at home, then I got a drum machine to do some beats, then I got some keyboards, then a sitar, then a gong, then a theremin and so on… During that process of experimenting, using the theoretical basis I had from guitar, I learned to play a few other instruments.
Some people get a bit confused with me playing all these instruments but that's it, I slowly evolved and discovered other objects to make music with, it is really natural for me to enjoy various musical instruments, as my real love is music itself and not a particular instrument.
Glad you like the vocals, I've worked on them a lot in “Muzak”.
T-Tell me little bit about the lyrics - what moves & inspires you to your words? Is it important to you that people are following up with them?
LS-Anything that is important in my own personal, emotional, philosophical and intellectual sphere is likely to end up in a Saturnia text.
I try to approach subjects that I can relate to on an intimate level as that will provide a much more intense musical performance, overall.
Through all Saturnia albums I dealed with themes like god, death, love, ecology, alienation, sex, freedom, magic, drugs, spirituality; nature; so although there isn't really a straight rigid lyrical orientation, there is a general thematic philosophy.
What I am trying to do with Saturnia, both musically and lyrically, is to express myself regardless of any trend, opinions, anything or anyone, but I also like to be understood.
I have to say that I don't work with that particular purpose in mind, as I assume that everyone who is a part of the culture that Saturnia is also a part of will hopefully, have the cultural background to identify and relate with what I am saying.
T-What is this sound at the beginning from Analepsis? Sounds like a tennis ball to me, haha…
LS-And it really is a tennis match that I recorded, that particular idea was inspired by a friend of mine who is a drummer but also a keen tennis player who, I think, got lost in that lonely psychotic time and space limbo that “Analepsis” is about. I ended up by applying his life experience to my own personal universe and connected it with cigarettes that pass me by, like passing strangers in the street or like tennis balls in a court. These are just ticktacks of your own intimate clock. I used the tennis ball sound as a sonic metaphor for alienation.
I love to go outside and record sounds just for fun, some of those field recordings have ended up in Saturnia songs like the birds in "A Trick of the Light" or the waves in "Lava Lamp" or the announcer in "Nipple".
T-The Artwork is really classy, how much of it was done by you? How did it work?
LS-Glad you liked it! When the songs where taking a defined direction, I then started working out ideas and brainstorming concepts for the artwork with Eduardo Vasconcelos, who is also a photographer. I already knew I wanted it to be simpler and cleaner than the previous covers to reflect the straightforwardness of the music itself. I already had some ideas like the breast, the Moebius strip and the ashtray.
He then transformed all this into photographs that I worked digitally and assembled into the form that is the Muzak cover. That's more or less what we did in "The glitter Odd" and "Hydrophonic Gardening".
I believe in bettering myself by learning different and interesting things, in music and outside of music, so I also work with image and video. I would like the next Saturnia release to have music and video, to be more multimedia if you like.
T-Why did you decided to go this “one man way”?
LS-My original idea for Saturnia was to have a collective of people, then it revealed unfeasible and I moved to the idea of having a more or less regular band, then it settled into a duo concept, which seemed perfect, and then it became just me. It just sort of happened.
I am a loner that doesn't like making other people wait for me but I also don't like and will not wait long, for other people to do their thing.
I played with people in bands before and in Saturnia's beginning, and I really enjoy the vibe of a well-oiled ensemble, it is just that I gradually started to loose patience and started to do more and more things on my own.
The thing with “Muzak” is that I decided to come clean and assume publicly the entirety of my credits, that's all.
T-How did you get in contact with the two prominent guests, David Allen and Nik Turner?
LS-I got to them through the web, I approached their webmasters and some time later I got e-mails from them. I told them what I had in mind, they said ok and did it. They were both very open to everything and did a marvellous job.
I wanted some spoken word for Syrian and didn't wanted to do it myself as I am more a singer then a poetry reader, meanwhile I was listening to “False teacher” by University of Errors and realized that what Daevid was doing on that piece would suit “Syrian” perfectly, so I gave it a try and it worked. Daevid's takes were all incredible and it really was difficult for me to pick.
Nik was great too, unfortunately he was very busy at that particular time, so I only got his flutes when the song was at a very advanced stage so his weight on Organza was not as much as Daevid's on Syrian, but I loved his trippy touch.
T-Will there be live Shows with the new Material (who will share the stage with you)?
LS-I have no plans to play live at the moment but I would love to play some new stuff onstage, perhaps later this year. If that happens I think Francisco Rebelo will be there with me as usual.
T-What can you tell me about the scene for psychedelic music in Portugal? Are there any other good bands? Is there a strong following?
LS-There is no Psychedelic scene that I know of in Portugal. There are some psychedelic space projects, like Saturnia or Mahamudra (I play guitar and bass on their "one time one space" cd), but not really a scene.
Portugal is small old European country with a twisted, unreal sense of what music is, that is why none of Saturnia's four cds were ever released in Portugal. It's an arid desert for music with an oasis here and there.
T-How did the whole Project Saturnia start? It was about more then just music, I read, (or is it still?)…
LS-Yes, the original idea was to do a multi-art form "communal" group with music, poetry, painting, video, photography and performance; perhaps a bit too ambitious and utopic for something that needs so many people...
I became disillusioned with that concept, as it revealed impossible to get it off the ground so I started cutting down on the superfluous and ended up in a purely musical concept, which is my natural territory.
The multimedia thing isn't what Saturnia is about, which is pure music, but I would still like Saturnia to do something in that area as the music is so visual.
T-How did you get in contact with Elektrohasch Records?
LS-I got to Elektrohasch through the web, that's how I met Stefan, he liked Muzak and that was it. I think he has been doing a very good job with the album.
T-You are also part of Blasted Mechanism, which are very successful in your country. What can you tell me about them?
LS-Well, Blasted Mechanism is a gold album top charting type of band over here. I first saw them in 1994, in a gig I played up in the north, with a band I was back then. A bit later on we shared manager and rehearsal place, so we drifted towards each other. I briefly joined in 1998 and remixed them in 2000 and was persecuted until I joined in 2003.
Blasted Mechanism is a band that mixes an enormous variety of styles like electronica, ethnic music, rock, psychedelia, pop and experimental progressive music and uses strange outfits all bathed in a powerful light show. That's the simplest way I can define it.
T-Do you have any other musical projects in mind, maybe something in other directions?
LS-I always have plans to do different types of music but, to do something good and coherent always takes time and you have to work to your strengths; so, presently, no other projects.
T-Can you make a living from your music or do you have to work besides from it?
LS-I can make a very humble living out of music. It's a hard life but it's the road I chose a long time ago. I had lots of shitty jobs and worked as a roadie and road manager for years.
T-Are Drugs an important part for the creation of your music? How is your opinion on Drugs generally?
LS-I'd rather not get into that, but I can tell that they were a part of my early adulthood and contributed for my understanding of the universe, of music and of my own self.
Drugs are a very serious thing so they should be treated in a serious, conscious and respectful way.
I don't like people that say that drugs are hell more than those who say that they are heaven.
T-Do you already have new ideas for a new record in mind? How long will it take this time, haha?
LS-I have quite a few, very rough, pieces as I am always recording new ideas.
I am planning to have a new Saturnia cd ready in late 2007, early 2008, but only time will tell…
T-Luis, thanks for this little interview, hope to see you some time on a stage ;) Cheers…
LS-Cheers to you also Haiko and thank you for your good vibe.
Tinnitus 04/2007 Haiko Nahm