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The Chaz Interviews - July, 2003
by Chaz and the artists

It was the summer of 2003 and's active message board community was heating up as well -- with flame wars. Along came Chaz Fanaro, looking to cut through the negative noise. He began to interview many of the musical artists who pitched a tent on the popular indie music forum. Others pitched in with questions of their own. July of 2003 could have turned ugly, but thanks to the interviews blanketing the forum, it became a home for insight and mutual respect. The forums were wiped clean by Vivendi in December, 2003. The interviews live on.


Artist description
The "Sound Chronicles" are part of a continuing series of audio montages (started early 2000), using sonic what-d'ya-call-its ... kinda, say, like 'snapshots', say ... from a private collection of lo-fi field-recordings, made between the mid-1970's and now, at many times and differing places, pretty much all over the world.

Music Style
Experimental/Post Rock

Vincennes, Val de Marne - France

Chaz the Spaz
Sound tapestries are not for mass consumption. Clearly, an attitude adjustment is needed when listening to this type of music. Fill us in on the where's and why-fors of what you have gathered, "from a private collection of lo-fi field-recordings, made between the mid-1970's and now".

one blue nine
So, are these assemblages formed of layered recordings from multiple environments... On Mojo there are moments when the musical instruments almost seem to be playing if not, together, at least in a way that suggests they are aware of each other? Or is that happy accident? I notice the sax extends quite a bit beyond and actually lapses into a more conventioanl outside blues mode.
I'm listening to Pastorale and it's a bit easier to see the seams, here. The cow bells remind me of a recording I made back in the 80s with a very lo fi handheld cassette. I'd been driving on a winding mountain road through a lush, green forest in Switzerland. As I swung through the trees I kept hearing a repeating metallic noise that seemed to follow me in an eery manner. I kept looking over my shoulder for some kind of truck. Finally I pulled over and turned off the engine. After a bit I heard it: a cowbell. Of course, it couldn't have been the same cow I was hearing, but I suspect this farmer had the same pitch bell on all of his cows, who had distributed themselves through the woods. Either that or it was one fast cow.
Well... I've been listening to Pastorale for 6 minutes now and, while these are clearly some friendly folks, I think I'm gonna bail out on the trailside greetings. Plus, I'm getting tired. It's pretty steep up here.

Terry Shea
Cowbells eh? I think I'm getting an idea for a new song. Anybody up for "Killer Kow Attack"?

one blue nine

Terry Shea
Aw, c'mon TK, this could be a great collaboration! I can moo even better than I quack! Neither can match my oinking though!

I was sleeping ... ... but maybe that's a goooood thing, as one blue nine did a wonderful job introducing my tracks. [Thanx obn !]
Kind of enables me to get right down to the heart of the matter ...
obn : "So, are these assemblages formed of layered recordings from multiple environments..."
If that is a question, obn, the answer is: 'absolutely'. I'm mainly using recordings I made with a monophonic cassette walkman, which I usually carry along with me, wherever I go.
'Very lo fi', probably like the machine U used in Switzerland.
And so of course my 'Pastorale' reminded you of that recording ... you could have done it !
Putting together a 'Sound Chronicles' track - in general, there are (and notably 'Pastorale' is among these) some exceptions - for me is like 'jamming' with the sounds I've got on these cassettes.

obn : "On MoJo there are moments when the musical instruments almost seem to be playing if not, together, at least in a way that suggests they are aware of each other? Or is that happy accident?"
They are definitely not aware of each other. I recorded the 'bluesy' basic guitar track on the Parisian subway. The saxophone player about a year later, somewhere in the streets of Paris. And then there is the climactic electric guitar & band towards the end, which I recorded on Venice Beach Market, LA, outside of a bar that had a band doing Doors covers playing inside.
All of them indeed 'go together' pretty well. Which at the same is and is not a 'happy accident' ... I mean, you hear them together playing on 'MoJo' because I "made them do it" -- if you know what I mean ...
It actually does take me a lot of time to come up with a 'Sound Chronicle' that pleases me. I'm definitely not just 'throwing together' some sounds and then that is that ...
For one that stays, there's many that end up in the bin. Simply because they lack that little bit of sonic magic.
chaz :"Sound tapestries are not for mass consumption."
Yeah. Sure. I'm aware of that. Still I do think that (most of) my tracks are very similar, at least in spirit, to pop- or rock tunes. Which is a principal reason for me to be present at this very site ; even if most would consider 'sound arty' sites to be more appropriate. (I hang out there as well, though, I have to confess ... ) And I do think they should and can be enjoyed as such ... as poptunes, I mean.
And I do think, and notice, that people's ears and minds nowadays are so much more open to what one used to classify as 'weird' and 'experimental' than, say, twenty years ago. All part of an ever increasing 'eclecticism' in creative endeavours and the ease in which nowadays it is possible to cross borders between disciplines. Things are no longer that easy to classify, and - wonderful ! - larger and larger groups of the audience no longer need them to be (classified, put in a clearly distinguishable category).
Actually, recently I even started to do this **assembling from pre-recorded cassettes** 'live' (I call it "Live Chronicles") here in Paris (pretty small scale concerts though, mind you) - and I am really excited to notice that given the appropriate context - laptop, 'noise', impro, extreme mix - this 'goes down' really well ...
Btw, for those that want to keep updated on events, read more (and eventually discuss) these and related topics, there's my SoundBlog, to which all of you are heartily invited. You can even choose to subscribe in order to receive notification of updates (which is about once or twice a week, I'd say -- except for the really busy periods [then it's either less or more, depending on which sort of 'busy' ... ha, ha ])
obn : I'm listening to Pastorale and it's a bit easier to see the seams, here.
'Pastorale' is - at the moment - the longest of the Sound Chronicles tracks [a little over 11 minutes] and different from the others in the sense that it's a far more 'consciously arty' track than the others. It's sort of a 'conceptual piece'. While hiking in the French Pyrenees last summer, I recorded all the exchanges of 'hello' with fellow hikers, during two days. (Well, one speaks French over here, so it's 'Bonjour!' that's being said ...) You hear the first day's 'bonjours' to your right, the second day's to your left, in what is approximately - as there's always exceptions - the chronological order of their uttering. It's different also because of the fact that most sounds here are - evidently - of a rural character, whereas 99% of the sounds in the other tracks have a metropolitan origin.
I'm a son of the city.
'Pastorale' was kind of a bridge to yet another project, that I've been working on recently, as 'artist in residence' at 'Dit Eiland', an art gallery on one of the tiny islands ('waddeneilanden') a bit off the northern coast of Holland.
Generally I never go out with the sole purpose to record things to use as material for the Sound Chronicles. The recording is simply something I do along whatever else I have to do. Be it travelling, working, shopping, whatever.
On the island, though, I spend one week doing just that: go out and listen, then record all that catches my ear.
The 'isle of sounds' ('Geluid Eiland' in Dutch) obviously is more of an 'art project' rather than another one of my somewhat twisted attempts at non-mainstream rock'n'roll ,
more in the tradition of 'phonography', 'soundscapes', 'pure' field recording (though, as ususal, stubbornly lo-fi), but to both my surprise and the curator's the project did get a lot of media attention. There's something about this idea of the guy ('DJ HarSman') roaming the island with a small tape machine in order to capture its sounds, bring them to the gallery and put them on a map.
For that is the first (and for the moment only) stage of the project: an interactive map of the island, where you can move around with your mouse and click for the sounds -- you can go there online (it's a Flash animation).
chaz : Fill us in on the where's and why-fors of what you have gathered, "from a private collection of lo-fi field-recordings, made between the mid-1970's and now".
Between 1977 and 1984 I was (over)active playing in bands and doing other, more losely knit, one off projects in a style that nowadays musicologists tend to categorize as 'post-punk experimental pop'.
What interested me a lot and still does in this kind of music is what I call the 'narrative' of a track, a tune (which is independent of whether or not they actually have lyrics, mind you). This was/is not 'music for music's sake'.
It's about stories. Narration. Illustration.
On the side, for a couple of years, I worked as a 'new wave rock' journalist and reviewer. Which actually was the reason that I started to carry about a walkman to record. To interview fellow artists. But sometimes I also recorded sounds here and there, usually because I'd thought about mixing them in later with more traditional recordings, either mine or others. As 'sound effects' say ...
It was while doing this type of recording, and listening back, that I 'discovered' that some isolated parts of these (random !) recordings, as by pure magic, would turn out to be amazing narratives on their own. Songs. No more nor less than the ones we put together with our electric gear on multi-track.
Rare, maybe. But it did happen.
BruxellesGC is an example. This is an unedited, some three minutes long, cassette recording made on a north bound platform of Brussels Central Station, on the morning of Christmas, 1982.
When, as of the mid-eighties music led me away from music - and journalism - for a stretch of nearly a decade and a half (which, actually, is yet another story that for now I'll leave untold ), most probably it was due to the memorable 'chances' of snippets the like of BruxellesGC, that I did continue to carry that walkman, and did continue to record whereever I went.
I did not use the recordings though, apart for a short while in the early nineties, when I got a friend's TEAC 4 track machine, on which for a couple of months I had mounted a tape that I used as a random dump for sounds of all sorts - cassettes, tv, radio, late night conversation, guitar jams, piano excercises, telephone ...
That tape was called 'Journal Sonore'.
MyCNN is an - unedited - outtake of that tape, which - again - does form an amazing sonic narrative, all by itself ...
I continued - and still continue - to collect sounds on cassette, and it was only at 'the turn of the century' that I thought it might be fun to put some of those together. At the time I was thinking about a long, a very long, collage comprising twenty years of cassette recording.
What came out, though, were shorties ...narratives of pop tune length ... kind of 'the usual suspects' ...
Thanks for listening !

Chaz the Spaz
HarS, thank you for your message. And thank you for your detailed description above, it made a very interesting read. I still have my TEAC 4-track, but it is in need of serious repair.
How did you first become interested in music?

I've always been interested in music, Chaz. Ran in the family, say, or at least in half of it.
One of my granddads was a professional (classical, symphony orchestra) musician. The other one was a blacksmith.
[ ... come to think of it, the mix might go a long way in explaining the peculiar sounds their grandson insists on telling us is music ... ]
Pretty decisive also: the first time I heard Frank Zappa's Hot Rats album, at a (high school) friend's place.
That must've been one of the moments that shaped my life.

Chaz the Spaz
My first Zappa album,
I heard "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" on a college radio station, and couldn't believe my ears!
What are your goals and what do you have planned for your music?

I actually discovered, recently and much to my own surprise, that it is great fun to do the Sound Chronicles live. So I'll be concentrating on that the coming months. (Next event: this sunday, in 'la gaité lyrique' here Paris, as part of the 72 hours 'final placard', ending the sixth 'international headphone festival' Placard#6 -- everybody's welcome, if you tell me you read about it here, I'll even buy you a drink )
And then there's the CD ----
I'm pretty happy with it already in its "DAM" version -- [ even though the ten copies I ordered and send, apparently, more than SIX weeks ago (standard shipping) still have not arrived here ...
These were meant for 'promotional purposes', but as I did not get them, I lost 50 dollars and still got nothing to promote with ... ] -- but plan a 'regular redbook version' ... (The quality will be a lot better and it might even be cheaper ... !)
Stay tuned, boyz and girlz, and learn more in due time !

Chaz the Spaz
Your unique style of composition makes me wonder, do you pracitce music in any way?

You mean, like playing an instrument? Oh I do! [ Or I did? ] I guess I was, and still am, a maybe somewhat onorthodox, but kind of imaginative and pretty experienced electric guitar player. Same characterization, minus the experienced maybe, for the piano, on which I enjoy doing free improvisations - also in public actually (small scale impro/jazz evenings ) (with quite a number of years of classical training on both instruments - guitar first, piano later) ...

What I do clearly is the sort of stuff that will function pretty well as part of larger 'multimedia'/'art' projects, and I'm very much interested in such 'participations'.
A recent example: the 'Project > Soundwave' of the San Francisco based Me'd1.ate, to which I contributed the track Les Années Pop, a short montage, based upon the announcement of the murder of John Kennedy ('années pop' !) by the radio announcer Matthey Doret, 11.23.1963, on Swiss national radio.
What fascinated me in Doret's announcement was the tension caused by the efforts necessary to control his emotions, emotions that were clearly audible in between the words. That's why I removed all the words from this announcement, and kept only the vocal noises, lips smacking, breathings, in between, as basic material to work with. "Les Années Pop" is one of the selected contributions to the project's CD used in 'Start>Transmission', a promotional CD sampler that is offered for free to all supporters of the project. It also appeared earlier this year on the first volume of While the World Waited, a series of compilations of 'experimental' tracks released by Cory Thrall on his Samsa Records label ...
I guess it all adds up. At least, I hope so ...
Reminder:If you happen to be in Paris this weekend, do not forget to visit the final 72 hours event of Placard#6,
starting this friday around 13h00 (GMT +2), in 'Gaité Lyrique', an empty amusement park - entrance: 66, rue Reaumur; cost: 2 euros/day; subway: Reaumur-Sebastopol ... !! Live Chronicles: sunday at lunchtime ...
Yours, that is : HarS

Chaz the Spaz
What equipment do you use?

At sunday's Placard event i used a small, cheap mixing console - Phonic MM100 - enabling me to use 6 distinct monophonic sound sources; 2 of the channels have some primitive means of high/low equalization, the others nothing but level and panorama.
Hey, what more would I need?
The sounds came from three main sources: (i) a monophonic Sony cassette walkman TCM-S68V [yeah, that's the one that's on my artist's picture], (ii) a stereophonic Sony cassette/radio walkman WM-F46 (output taken with a mono-mini-jack from the headphone out; it's in pretty bad shape, actually, this little machine - does not record any longer, nor does it rewind or wind forward; it still plays back, though) and (iii) a Philips portable cassette recorder (not a walkman) - I think it is monophonic, but I'm not really sure - type D6280/00.
The TCM-S68V and the Philips were plugged into the channels with equalization, the WM-F46 in one of the remaining channels. For the performance I used six cassettes from my collection, and the AM radio function of the WM-F46 for random radio and noises.
Oh, I also used every now and then a little electronic beepy thingy device - producing some seven different electronic sounds, in a fixed order, upon making contact - that I broke out of one of MacDonald's Happy Meal toys ...
As to the Sound Chronicles: most of these have been assembled in ProTools (16 bits sessions). I use a Digi001 system on a Macintosh G4 at home; the free version of ProTools on a laptop G4 when I'm 'out in the fields'. Except for the mp3-encoder I do not use any plug-ins or plug-ons ... "Straight, no chaser" ...

Chaz the Spaz
Thanks for participating HarS, you have influenced me to return to some of my earliest recordings. Natural sounds and radio experiments from 30 years ago. I plan on editing and remixing them, make something out of them.

That's great, Chaz! Will be interesting and fun to do, and to listen to...! Keep me informed!


  -- Rick Munarriz

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