Peter: Merchants of Air asked me to delve into my musical past and talk about some of the music that shaped it. So here are five songs/albums that had a profound influence on me and the stories that go along with them.
This is really the record that set all things musical in motion for me. Having been raised on classical music and besides some rock sounding songs on the radio I had not heard anything alike. The classic album cover, the ugly, long haired faces on the back, the logo of the band… I had no idea what i was getting into. And then the music. Loud, gnarly, fast and mean, vocals like sandpaper, ferocious drumming…Everything about it scared the hell out of me, but I loved it at the same time.
I heard this record the first time, I must have been 8 or 9, at my neighbours place. The three brothers who lived there were a bit older then me and listened to punk, gothic/new wave and heavy metal and introduced me to a lot of cool music. Because I was so enthusiastic about this particular record we decided tot swap it for the ABBA Greatest Hits album I had lying about in my room and which actually belonged to my mom. Years later I met one of the brothers and he was totally engulfed in Techno and House music. Must have been that ABBA influence! I sometimes wonder what my musical life would have looked like without this swapping of records.
In the early nineties, when i was playing in the band Maya, it was Conspiracy Records head honcho Joris de Buysser who put this band to my attention. Contropotere was hailing from Naples in Italy and were, as is often said afterwards, way ahead of their time when they released the`Il Seme della Devianza` album of which `Urragan` is the opening track. I had been interested in a lot of different genres of music and was always on the look out for bands that bend the boundaries of their particular genre. And when i heard this I was quite disoriented at first, a blend of furious hardcore crust rage, metal riffs and doomy, atmospheric parts mixed in with industrial, tribal percussive passages and a very interesting use of vocals in very differing timbres. I was blown away, this was aggressive and progressive at the same time, epic and melodic and absolutely dissonant and cacophonous at times too. Both reminding me of classical music as well as to how some factory plants could sound.
There was noise, theatrical/operatic sounding vocals, heavy guitars…just so much richness in sound to discover. I devoured it all and was totally hooked. A bit after buying the record, i wrote them a funny letter, thinking I was writing to the lead female vocalist called `Andrea`. Did i know much at the time that it`s actually an Italian name for a guy and I had been corresponding with their guitarist. That created some hilarious misunderstandings and apparently they put my letter up on the wall in their communal home. I had also bought their band shirt and got into trouble with that during my travels in Turkey. The t-shirt showed two hands breaking free from chains and in the middle it depicted a grey wolf on a hill. Several Turkish police and military officers halted me and inquired about my connection to the Grey Wolves, an ultra right wing political group in Turkey. I had to point out to them that this was a band`s shirt and that their ideologies were quite the opposite! After the last encounter with yet another Turkish cop i decided to leave the shirt in my backpack for the rest of the journey.
`Are you lost…` , upon hearing the first text sample of this song it immediately spoke to me. I was in a time of my life where i dealt with , heartbreak, forms of depression, negativity, drugs and all together teenage angst. Was i lost ? Yes i was, but this gave me something true to hold onto. There was no other band describing pain and despair better then Neurosis. And still, in the midst of all that desperation that they portrayed with walls of sound, somewhere some hope was distilled from this storm of heaviness, in the form of lamenting vocals and the beautiful contrast in the quiet parts. They opened up a new musical universe to me with their blend of Sludge Metal/Post-Hardcore/Tribal/Ambient/Industrial.
Years later I saw them perform live at Hellfest in France. It had been sunny all day, and while enjoying their performance, thoughts of those difficult days surfaced. I felt a lump in my throat and felt tears coming to my eyes. For a while i tried fighting those tears and the emotions that accompanied them. Being surrounded by tough looking metal heads at a festival did`t seem like the right place to shed some tears. The feeling was stronger then me and as I finally gave in to the overwhelming emotions, all of a sudden a dark cloud burst open and it started to rain heavily upon the festival goers and I could let go of my tears while no one noticed.
My musical focus has always been all over the place, classical music, jazz, blues, metal, fusion, doom, hardcore, …you name it, if there was something remotely interesting about a song or an album I would delve into it and enjoy it, no matter what style it was. Though I must say most of the music i listened to was guitar based. Until I picked up this album by Tangerine Dream.
I remember buying it on one of my vinyl hunting sprees, which back in the day, could easily take up a whole day. So I arrived home late in the evening, made myself some tea and sat in my favorite chair, those old ones, where you can pull up a compartment to put your legs on. I put on the A-side of the record and started listening. After some minutes I kind of dozed off, but not really. My mind started projecting all sorts of images and I went on, what I can say in retrospect, must have been my first shamanic journey. It had a profound effect on me and my interest for Ambient and electronic music was born. It`s only years later that I started getting interested and actively involved with shamanism and this memory surfaced again.