For more than 12 years today, the enigmatic outfit Muslimgauze, based in Manchester and led by Bryn Jones, have been drawing their inspiration from the history and the political facts of the Middle-East. The passionate music of Muslimgauze, a skillful union of western and eastern cultures, expresses itself through rhythm. Whether the albums are energetic and repetitive with "Iran", electronic and dramatizing with "Vote Hezbollah", marvellously oneiric with "Zul'm" (where Arab and Indian percussionists are brought in), synthetic and hypnotic with "Veiled Sisters", bordering on Russolian precepts with "Hebron Massacre" or more recently "ethno-tribal" with "Al-Zulfiquar Shaheed", each of them, composed by Bryn Jones, is an instant sound exploration marked by the blood of the fighting peoples.
You have told us that Muslimgauze did not express the "Muslim ideology", why do you use the name "Muslimgauze" then?
The name "Muslimgauze" is used because it conveys the interest I have in the Middle-East political facts. I am not an Arab or a Muslim, so I didn't "speak" for any set of people. Muslimgauze do not aim to be accepted by Islamic people. The music is open to all. People are killed all over the world for their opinions, they always will.
How would you describe the evolution of your music, from your first LPs to today?
I believe the output of Muslimgauze gets better virtually everyday. The early records are valid, the music produced now is different, taken several stages onwards but is based on ideas founded back then. Every Muslimgauze release has it own sound and identity, if you compares the CDs "Blue Mosque" to "Zul'm" and "Vote Hezbollah" to "Betrayal" you will hear that each CD is different, if you aren't deaf, or used to hearing the crap released and bought.
I still find the vile regime of Israel to be a referent today as I did when they invaded Lebanon. The music/output of Muslimgauze will continue to be influenced by political facts.
What do you want to express the names of your albums, for example "Salaam Alekum, Bastard", "Iran" or "Al-Zulfiquar Shaheed"? Are they the reflection of a moment in the history of the Arab world?
The title "Salaam Alekum, Bastard" came about from reports of Israeli checkpoints in Palestine, the greetings of one who is occupied to the occupier, talking for now, but later it will turn into action to free land by any means.
The "Iran" CD shows Muslimgauze interest and support for Iran, at the time Iraq attempted to invade Iran with world backing. Later the world changed against Iraq, but during the 1980s the world gave arms to Iraq to defeat Iran. If the world sees it fit for America to have nuclear and chemical weapons for defence, then it should be acceptable for Iran to have them. I know who I would prefer to have them: who are the more stable, America or Iran?
The words "Al-Zulfiquar Shaheed" mean Sword of Martyrs, people who have died or been killed for being Muslim e.g. in Palestine and in India.
All your last works were recorded in Manchester, in the Abraham Mosque...
I now work only in Manchester, a far more creative place than London. The Abraham Mosque is not a full religious centre as such. It's a community centre with theatre and recording areas for teaching. Muslimgauze use it in between the lessons.
How does Muslimgauze's music arise and grow?
All Muslimgauze music originates in my head, from this vacant lot. It travels down and out through my hands, using modern technology and old acoustic instruments, everyday recorded life, odd sounds, old recording machines, in fact quite a lot of different mediums are forged together to produce that quality that is Muslimgauze. My previous band was an experiment with tapes/sound. It stopped prior to Muslimgauze. The original way of working is still used today, only much better, using random sound with written ideas.
Some tracks are recorded live un-mixed, some are put to audio-tape, analogue and digital, some are very raw ideas, some are worked on, it varies quite a lot, it depends on the idea, what it requires. I use cassettes more than samplers though, and I never use other's ideas, I have more than enough. The two traditional musicians credited in "Zul'm" CD were associated with the studio I recorded it. I don't plan to work with other people.
Are you inspired by traditional music?
I am a Mancunian who is influenced by political facts, I am not influenced in any way by other musics. Muslimgauze don't seek out other music, working on tracks is taking up all the time. The music I do hear is snatches of radio. I try to make Muslimgauze music. Muslimgauze are separate from all other groups, sound original, are impossible to pigeonhole and don't fit any category of music and if anybody finds that too difficult to grasp, good, stick to easy listening, and keep your closed mind to yourself.
Why are you so fascinated by the Middle-East?
The Middle-East is the axis of the world, a zenith of culture, arts and human achievement. Oil that turns the world, politics that effect the world, maybe not totally, but in the future the political events will effect and change the outlook of the rest of the world, this is why I am so interested in the Middle-East, at some point everybody will be effected, be it war or direct action then by a group of people driven to it by occupation or revenge.
When you compare the ancient Middle-East to ancient Europe/America, there is no comparison, the Taj Mahal, pyramids, Babylon, Persia, etc... There really is no buildings which Europe can set against, a clear case of a people far in advancement in thought and deeds.
What do you think about the current situation in Algeria ?
Radical Islamism grows from poverty. Algerians want to change. It's up to them, outside interests have no say in their country. The people of Algeria deserve the leaders they want/vote for, be it fundamentalist or other. Europeans and Americans with free lands and free votes cannot cast judgement on other continents with different problems.
interview by Nicolas Prevel
NHZ Magazine (April, 1995)