Chain D.L.K. Interview
"When somebody invades a country, it's usually punished. Israel isn't. They get away with every breach of human rights there is - and it looks like it's going to continue."
This is the main thought leading the Mancunian percussionist and musician Bryn Jones, aka Muslimgauze, in making music. In particular there has been a single event, year 1982, or the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, after which he decided to use music as his means of expression to denounce the horrible crimes against the right of nationality as well as the freedom of each individual which have been committed for so many years.
His strong political persuasion is maybe the most powerful spur to create music and as a matter of fact he's an extremely prolific artist. Each of his releases is getting a bunch of Middle-East musical influences. There are huge amounts of sampled vocals and instruments overlaid on the percussive base made of both percussion instruments and electronics. Each of his releases are inspired by a particular event and all do contain strong and provocative political images and references as well as cover art works. All his compositions are mainly built on beat samples, rhythmical loops and lots of percussion, which of course do strongly contribute to the creation of Arabic-sounding atmospheres. All his releases feature a fair use of electronics and of a percussive base and therefore there aren't many differences to point out. Well, each album is different, each is unique, yet all are very similar and peculiar. ...And still all are there to remind the Western society what is happening in the Middle-East!
He has released some twenty-five records so far and his most prolific period seems to be the most recent one, as a matter of fact during 1997 he came over with five albums.
Here they are all reviewed in alphabetical order, and the first one is Farouk Enjineer (Soleilmoon/Staalplaat cd-10tx-71'). Semi-transparent project-film and a beautiful picture of a volcanic eruption. So it comes to you, the fifth and final Muslimgauze CD on Soleilmoon for 1997 (after a CDs, a MCD, a 2CD and a CD). The ultra-prolific Muslimgauze are a band refusing to +slow down for a music industry that expects no more than one album a year; and as a matter of fact the year 1997 on Soleilmoon is nothing less than their average in number of releases.
Ed. - Please see the individual pages for the reviews referred to above: Farouk Enjineer, Jaal Ab Dullah,Vampire Of Tehran, Sandtrafikar & Zuriff Moussa.
Dear Bryn, as far as I know, you musically started out as Muslimgauze in 1982, did you ever made music under different pseudonyms before? Have you been a percussionist since your introduction to music or did you also play other instruments? What is the instrument you feel most close to yourself and to your soul and why?
I started experimenting with synths and tapes before Muslimgauze. I call upon this experience now, I work in a similar way even now, all analogue, no digital. I feel percussion was always going to be important, when Muslimgauze evolved, the percussion need evolved.
Which have been your influences? I mean why did you choose just this kind of music as your mean of expression?
The only influence on Muslimgauze has been the politics of the Middle-East. I don't listen to other people's music, I hear some via the radio, the situation of occupied Palestine, Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Libya... are the main influences.
In all of your records we can listen to a strong use of both percussion as well as of electronic environments. Do you feel more comfortable with the acoustic or the technological instrumentation and music in general? Which is your relation with technology?
Muslimgauze are percussion based, acoustic and electronic. My relation to technology is minimal. I use old analogue equipment, I abuse it to the max.
What do you think about the Internet and the power of "broadcasting" world-wide news, pictures, sounds and everything else? Don't you think this could be a good mean of transmission for your political message, at least in the Eastern society?
I never touch the Internet, have never seen it, have never used a computer, don't want to, I make Muslimgauze CD's with my hands, not on a computer keyboard. I learn comment on Eastern Society, I have music which is inspired by a political event, but I don't preach, there are no bad lyrics badly sung. Telling people how to think, it's up to the listeners.
Do you like the opportunities that the sampler provided music-makers with? I think you do use lots of samplers in Muslimgauze's works, don't you? What kind of instrumentation do you use?
I have never used a sampler, I couldn't turn one on never mind use it. I use analogue reel to reels and old amplifiers, real percussion, cassettes, anything that's not modern or digital, raw, ideas. I'm pleased that Muslimgauze don't use Japanese or American samplers like 99% of all the others out there.
I've noticed a certain lo-if aspect in your music, which is of course something you actually specially make. I'm referring to the fact that often we can hear sounds temporarily disappearing (hearing them far in background) and I am also referring to the fact that it is possible to clearly hear where the starting point of a certain loop has been placed, even because you do not always respect that very starting point as it is usually done by others, if you know what I mean... Well, is this a kind of metaphor or simply your way of doing things in music?
I use so called lo-if, I hope a piece of music ends up how I envisage it. The loop you state is made by me the loop contains me, made by me, on tape looped by me not others. Muslimgauze are based on analogue reel loops, with real percussion and cassette bits of real people sounds. Sounds disappear, yes, lots of the tape noise, yes, rough, whatever I feel I need for each track.
You do often refer to Muslimgauze as a band and not to a one-man band (which actually is yourself and nobody else). Why do you?
Muslimgauze are put forward as a group, I don't want it put forward as a one-man band, it is of course, but I find a group name is better, it conveys my influences and a pointer towards the music.
Do you feel the absence of other members in the Muslimgauze project live too? How often do you perform? Would you like to have even more involving live shows with the help of other musicians on the stage?
In a live situation I use to have other people play along, now I do it alone. Muslimgauze don't do that many live things, so far this year Muslimgauze have played 2 Tokyo, 2 London. Planned are 1 in Berlin, 1 in Stockholm. It's rare to be asked.
Your pseudonym, Muslimgauze, has a specific meaning. It is the combination of two distinct words, isn't it? Could you please explain this to us?
The name came about because of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, I became interested and needed a name, first Muslin, which is a type of Gauze, so Muslimgauze evolved out of this.
Can you tell us why exactly you decided to create music with such a strong attitude?
The occupation of Palestine by Zionist terrorists is a strong influence. All the trouble in the Middle-East is down to Israel. My music has a political backbone, which I hope is different from all the other releases out there.
Well, so your strong political persuasion and interest into the Middle-East cultures and societies is the main reason you are doing music. Is there something else besides the wish of denouncing the atrocities which have been committed for so many years?
Muslimgauze have many influences, India, Pakistan, are just two, I can pick an aspect of any country and produce an idea for a track.
Have you ever been in the places you are referring to? Do you take your sounds from those very places or from some other source?
I would never go to an occupied land, others shouldn't. Zionists living off Arab land and water is not a tourist attraction. To have been in a place is not important. So you can't be against apartheid unless you have been in South Africa? You cannot be against the Serbs killing Muslims in Bosnia unless you have been there? I think not. I use sounds recorded in Arab lands, I use sounds recorded in other places also, anything.
There are many so called field-recordings artists also among your label-mates (Staalplaat's artist Justin Bennett for example). Do you feel somewhat inspired by those ways of doing music and how much would you like to make use of it, given you could?
I used so called field-recordings, mainly from cassettes, as background sound to main ideas.
I don't feel very comfortable speaking about all this stuff (i.e. Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Islam etc) with such an informed person, so would you please supply us with a summary of what's happening over there and then your point of view about the overall question?
I am not that informed, I work from the heart. What I feel, the political facts, history etc... What is happening is, Palestine is an occupied country, any direct action is justified to free an occupied people. freedom for the Palestinian people is the goal.
What is your approach to mass-media? I mean all the news coming from the Middle-East are going through the TV and the radio channels which are obviously filtered and controlled by the governments (whoever they are and wherever they are from) and also the journalists and the information services are not so truly reliable when it comes to telling the truth, with no compromise and no interests. What is your position?
Israel controls media outlook with a heavy hand, it has support and censorship from it's friends. The west is anti-Arab pro-Zionist. You have to cut through the crap fed to you, and remember that Palestine is occupied by Zionist terror via American dollars.
It says that all wars are driven by interests/business... What do you think about this in the context we are referring to?
Wars seem to be about religion first, land second and business third. So many religions lie for top spot, people die.
What is your point of view about the use of military forces and of militarism in general?
Countries need defence, be it for ethnic/religious reasons. Russia killed Afghans, Serbs killed Muslims, China kills Tibetans, it goes on so defence is needed.
Why didn't you choose another medium to spread your ideas and your support to this injustices? For example why not writing about it? Why not showing to the world (for example through the Internet) photos of what's going on? A photo is maybe the most direct and shocking way to induce people thinking...You are most likely making music because you believe in music as a mean of expression... So I'm really wondering why you aren't using lyrics to reinforce the pictures of political situations which you describe? Don't you think that direct, strongly and politically-conscious words would strengthen your message to the people? Don't you think that too much is left to people's interpretation? If not singing/reciting, why don't you include pictures and writings about the political situation along with your amazing CD packages?
Lyrics preach, so do photos to a point. I make music because I'm interested in it, I'm influenced by the politics of the Middle-East, not Mexico or Ireland. It's up to the listeners to find out more or just listen.
Since you are making music for the solely reasons that we are actually talking about, what would happen to Muslimgauze if all these oppressions and conflicts did stop? Let's say, tomorrow all fighting will be over and the state of Palestine will get its capital as Jerusalem: would you still play music or would you take it as a triumph and stop?
A free Palestine would be great, for them. As for me, who knows.
Interview: Marc Urselli-Schaerer
This interview originally appeared in Chain D.L.K. Issue #5