Muslimgauze : biography
June 17, 1961 – January 14, 1999
Muslimgauze was a music project of Bryn Jones (17 June 1961–14 January 1999), a prolific British ethnic electronica and experimental musician, influenced by conflicts in the Muslim world with an emphasis on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With dozens of albums released under the Muslimgauze name, Jones was remarkably prolific, but his mainstream success was limited due in part to his work being issued mostly in limited editions on small record labels. Nonetheless, as critic John Bush writes, "Jones’ blend of found-sound Middle Eastern atmospheres with heavily phased drones and colliding rhythm programs were among the most startling and unique in the noise underground."
The name Muslimgauze is a play on the word muslin (a type of gauze) fee required combined with Muslim, referring to Bryn Jones’ preoccupation with conflicts throughout the Muslim world.
Later musical career
It was with the release of United States of Islam (1991) a formalized agreement was reached with Extreme Records, which helped fund professional studio recordings, designed attractive packaging, and utilized a more extensive distribution network. Though pleased at first, Jones was frustrated with Extreme’s one-release-a-year policy and in 1993 signed with then-sibling labels Soleilmoon and Staalplaat, which offered a more frequent release schedule. 1993 saw the release of Vote Hezbollah, Veiled Sisters and a re-release of Iran on Soleilmoon and Hamas Arc, Satyajit Eye and Betrayal on Staalplaat.
As someone who always had more musical supply than demand, Jones additionally released material on nearly any small label that approached him, including Parade Amoureuse, Minus Habens Records, Concrete Productions, Daft, and Jara. A drawback with releasing on so many labels was gratuitous editing by producers and, through design or circumstance, no royalties. Extreme cited betrayal by distribution networks that were unscrupulous or filed for bankruptcy and could not pay—though they also claimed to have eventually remunerated Jones. Lack of due royalties was a source of ongoing stress throughout Jones’s career.
As frequency of releases increased, Jones was able to musically respond to events in the Muslim world as they occurred. Cases in point were the 1993 Oslo Accords, which surfaced as Betrayal and 1994’s Hebron Massacre (also known as the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre) released under the same name just months after the tragedy.
Toward the end of his life, Jones involved himself in more collaborative efforts in projects like the Rootsman, Apollon, and Systemwide. Jones also made arrangements to release with other labels in addition to his mainstays (something done throughout his career, moreso toward the end) such as D.O.R., Third Eye, BSI, Klanggalerie, and DAFT. In addition, the frequency of live shows increased, some recorded such as at On Air West in Japan, Mort Aux Vaches for VPRO Dutch Radio, and aboard the ship, the Stubnitz. It seemed no combination of labels, collaborations, or live performances could exhaust his musical output. Media scrutiny increased too (albeit mostly on independent publications) with a total of eight interviews in 1998.
He always stated that he never had time to listen to other people’s music, although in a 1992 interview with Impulse Magazine, he mentioned that he enjoyed traditional music of Japan, the Middle East, and India, as well as the works of artists such as Can, Throbbing Gristle, Wire, and Faust. However, despite a few collaborations, Jones didn’t trust anyone when it came to remixing his music. Instead, he took pieces of music sent to him and remixed them to his own liking.
Jones claimed Muslimgauze was formed in response to Operation Peace of the Galilee, Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon to stem attacks from Palestinian Liberation Organization guerrillas stationed in South Lebanon. This event inspired Jones to research the conflict’s origins, which grew into a lifelong artistic focal point, and he became a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause, and often dedicated recordings to the Palestinian Liberation Organization or a free Palestine.Richard Gehr Village Voice (28 October 1994) Jones’s research further grew to encompass other conflict-ridden, predominantly Muslim countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya, Iran, and Iraq. He concluded that Western interests for natural resources and strategic-political gain were root causes for many of these conflicts and should Western meddling halt, said regions would stabilize.
References in dedications, album, and track titles demonstrate Jones had extensively researched the conflict regions in the Middle East, as well as Chechnya, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and Indonesia, among others.Richard Gehr, Village Voice (28 October 1994) Musical references also extended to other creeds and ethnicities including Hindus, Tibetan Buddhists, and Sri-Lankans. Jones acquired this knowledge through local library research, which included available books and periodicals with additional information gleaned from radio and news broadcasts.
When asked what he would do if conflicts in the Muslim world were peaceably resolved, Jones replied his music would champion other conflict regions such as China’s occupation of Tibet. He also admitted Muslimgauze music could be appreciated outside a political context as the majority of it is instrumental; politicized only by track and album titles as well as occasional newscast and ethnic music samples. It was his hope that listeners would read album and track title references and verify for themselves the meanings through independent research and thought.
Early musical career
Jones first released music in 1982 as E.g. Oblique Graph on Kinematograph, his own imprint, and the independent co-op label Recloose, run by Simon Crab. E.g. Oblique Graph came from the do-it-yourself (DIY) ethos of the time and was musically composed of electronic/experimental drone with occasional synth-melodic hooks and use of radio broadcast samples. Track titles were sometimes politicized such as "Murders linked to Gaullist Clique" on Extended Play (1982) and "Castro Regime" on Triptych (1982).
After operation Peace of the Galilee, the first Muslimgauze album, Hammer & Sickle (1983) appeared on another of Jones’s label monikers, Hessian. Under the Muslimgauze alias, music switched from emphasis on pure synthesis to percussion textures, which grew to encompass acoustic drum kits, drum machines, assorted ethnic hand percussion, and even rudimentary objects like pots and pans. Synthesis and tape loop samples were often relegated to accompaniment.
Releases at the time were occasionally on cassette, more often vinyl EPs and LPs; the longest running of Jones’ label monikers, Limited Editions, started with Hunting Out with an Aerial Eye (1984) followed by Buddhist on Fire, put out by Recloose the same year. Since then, Jones roughly released an album a year, given scarce financial resources until 1988, when he began making inroads with then-emerging labels Staalplaat, Soleilmoon, and Extreme Records. In 1988, Staalplaat released the first Muslimgauze CD, Iran, the subsequent catalog migrated to mostly that format.
By the late 1980s, Jones ran out of funding to self release, and other labels that did put out Muslimgauze releases such as Recloose and Permis De Construire (which put out Coup D’État) did not pay promised royalties. Recloose head Simon Crab cited lack of sales and damaged records from fire bombing as his reason.
At this time distributors Soleilmoon, Staalplaat, and Extreme Records transitioned to a label proper with the advent of the compact disc format, which became less expensive to produce and ship than vinyl over time and gradually took on the Muslimgauze catalog. After a positive experience with the release of Intifaxa (1990) with Extreme, Jones remained with the label until his final release with it, Citadel, in 1994.
Muslimgauze music is often difficult to describe as sheer volume, content diversity and often singular stylings make for a confounding task. Nor did Jones produce any hit albums or songs, rather he made music both as audio aesthetic exploration and to express outrage over perceived injustices in and against predominantly Muslim countries. Muslimgauze did incorporate elements from a variety of genres including ambient, techno, house, traditional-ethnic-percussion, experimental-electro-acoustic and Jamaican dub, among a myriad of other styles that he fashioned into his own. Commonalties are often samples and loops of ethnic music from the places such as the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia; field recordings of said regions; and as the recurrent use of percussion. Another defining trait was the mongrelization of disparate ethnic and urban music stylings. On occasion, Jones eschewed stylings he was known for—namely ethno-percussion, to create beatless pure electronic textures or 4/4 dance-oriented material. Muslimgauze music also features more abstract content such as noise and drone on selections from No Human Rights for Arabs in Israel (1995) as well as The Remix (2005), Izlamaphobia (1995), and pure electro-acoustic on Azzazin (1996). Add to that, collaborative efforts with projects such as Apollon, the Rootsman, Bass Communion, Systemwide, and Suns of Arqa—artists who influenced Muslimgauze directly or indirectly and added further breadth to the oeuvre.
Jones produced music with the use of synthesis; drum machines (sometimes used as a sample trigger); sound modules; tape, Digital Audio Tape (DAT) and CD samples and loops; and a wide array of percussion and chimes. Many Muslimgauze albums were recorded in professional studios with the aid of sound engineers to add depth and further audio singularities. Computers were sometimes used in the editing process. In his last few years, Jones had personal access to increasingly sophisticated synthesis and recording equipment but never owned a personal computer.
Since Bryn Jones’s death in 1999 at the age of 37, Muslimgauze music continues to be released; this is planned to continue until his catalog is fully available for sale to the public. He often inundated labels and collaborators with music; consequently, the latter had to be selective of what was finally put out. Because of demand for unreleased music, labels continue to air material previously unreleased. New material is often stylistic variations of previously released albums. In fact, Jones made large numbers of studio variations of nearly all his music.
Bryn Jones is survived by his nephew Gareth Jones, who reportedly is in charge of the Muslimgauze estate, which includes rights-of-ownership and royalties.
On Wednesday, 30 December 1998, Bryn was rushed to the hospital in Manchester with a rare fungal infection in his bloodstream, for which he had to be heavily sedated. His body eventually shut down, and he died on 14 January 1999.
During the early phase of his career, Jones was known to have performed only one live show in 1986 at the W2 in s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands. At the behest of Bourbonese Qualk, mainstays of the Recloose label, Jones performed a half hour set. The show consisted of Jones singing to a backing track while Simon Crab then members of Bourbonese Qualk, added instrumental accompaniment. By all accounts the show went reasonably, but Jones was traumatized by the experience enough to swear off live performance until the 1990s.
Jones resumed live performance in 1995 at the behest of record store owner and DJ Simon Scott. Part of Jones’s apprehension with live performance was in trying to figure out how to present the music. He concluded the best way was refrain from vocals with lyrics and instead play live percussion atop a backing track. He also did DJ sets that consisted of exclusively his own material. Contrary to his 1986 experience, Jones did enjoy doing live shows and frequently did them in his last years in diverse places such as the UK, throughout mainland Europe, and even Japan.
Date City Venue Event Release status 6 July 1993 Manchester, UK Turkish Baths Arabbox 3 September 1995 Edinburgh, UK Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh School of Art Color Climax organised by Blue Room (Edinburgh) & Sonora (Glasgow) 8 October 1995 Leeds, UK Cafe Mex Sunday Service 18 February 1996 Leeds, UK The Duchess Sunday Service 26 May 1996 Leeds, UK The Duchess Sunday Service 24 October 1996 Berlin, Germany Staalplaat Sonderangebot Festival 17 October 1996 Leeds, UK Le Phono Brainticket 22 June 1997 Rostock, Germany MS Stubnitz/Rostock Harbor ?? July 1997 Spain 4 am in a Spanish bull ring 1 November 1997 Leeds, UK The Duchess Tandoori Space 27 January 1998 Shibuya, Japan Club Shibuya on Air West 13 June 1998 Stockholm, Sweden MS Stubnitz Nursery Injection Festival ?? September 1998 Normandy, France The Monastery of Sound 28 October 1998 Leeds, UK The Cockpit Tandoori Space 2? November 1998 Berlin, Germany Volksbühne Ballroom International
article by FAMpeople (May 17, 2019)