At the beginning of summer we publish the stunning kraurock release “Gubernator” of the Leeds, England based artist Andrew Howes (He’s the man behind Kalistongue, too!). His psychedelic works are well known and comes out on several labels around the world! Now we’ve Andrew Howes at our interview series “13 questions to…”
kulturterrorismus: Hello from Germany! We hope all fine with you? Where are you? Please, tell us your story!
Andrew Howes: Hello from Leeds, England. As a teenager I studied classical guitar, but I suppose my story really began when I played bass guitar in two or three bands,one of which had moderate independent success. Following the demise of that group, I consolidated and collected together enough basic equipment to begin writing and recording my own instrumental music which I have managed to get released through various DIY cassette and net labels over the years.
kulturterrorismus: When did you start composing music? What or who were your early passions and influences?
Andrew Howes: I started as a teenager recording abstract music, bouncing tracks with two cassette recorders. I got into music like many people do, through hearing records played by older brothers and sisters, in my case it was things like Emerson Lake and Palmer, Kraftwerk,Led Zeppelin, The Stranglers, also the Faust Tapes was on pretty heavy rotation as I remember. I was always drawn to left field unusual music and was an avid listener to the John Peel show, absorbing all he had to offer; post punk stuff like PIL, Joy Division and This Heat, plus I loved the Eno era Talking Heads and The Slits. Which I suppose is still very evident in the music I make today.
kulturterrorismus: What are currently your main production-challenges? Give us an example! Do you work mostly alone or with other musicians?
Andrew Howes: I work alone using basic physical eqipment; Tascam 24 track, outboard effects, guitars, bits of percussion, keyboards (too much gear will muddy the water). I am interested in collaboration but I suspect other musicians may have difficulty finding a way in, my music is pretty stitched up tight and almost entierly improvised, though I would say not experimental. A big problem I find, is not repeating oneself, it is a constant challenge to come up with new ideas, structures etc.
kulturterrorismus: What do you usually start with when working on a new piece?
Andrew Howes: A sound, an idea, a title, a riff, an accident, an atmosphere, a piece of dialogue, land sea and air. My main objectives when starting a piece is to create static movment and forward momentum, with greater and lesser degrees of success.
kulturterrorismus: Do you strictly separate improvising and composing? What is better free jazz or classical style?
Andrew Howes: I don’t consciously separate them but almost all my music is improvised and mostly overdubs are done in one take, so there is not a lot of opportunity for composition. All the structures are created and edited in a post production situation, where dynamics are created by adding and subtracting instruments. I work in a fairly anti-intelectual way and consider recording to be rather like automatic writing, things accure, accidents happen, accidental synchronicity. So yes, for me the free jazz style is more appropriate.
kulturterrorismus: Is any relationship between sound and live or working day? Please tell us your opinion!
Andrew Howes: Sound is everywhere, music is everywhere, everyhing is old everything is new. One should always have their aerial up and their eyes open.
kulturterrorismus: Do you feel it important that your music spread a message? How conceptional is your music or only for hearing without thinking? What await your listeners?
Andrew Howes: If I have a message to spread, then it is important to spread it ( be that an idea, a theory, a concept, a political position, an emotion.) A lot of artists/musicians are not in any way committed, either politically or morally, such an attitude seems rather egotistical to me, but an artists aim or function is not necessarily to be politically or emotionally commited. As far as I am concerned, however, uncommited creativity holds no interest. Of course one could ignore the message and go to sleep.
kulturterrorismus: The role of an artist is always subject to change. What’s your view on the (e.g. political/social/creative) tasks of artists today and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?
Andrew Howes: The problem with working in a closed culture as I do, (ie. experimental, ambient, avant rock etc) is that to a large extent, one is preaching to the converted, I’m fairly sure I could predict the political viewpoint of most of the people I come into contact with and those who download my music. The political/social message in my work is fairly oblique and impressionistic and left leaning, and is probably most overt on the albums ‘Radioactive Family’ and ‘Revenant’ (get them NOW! at SuRRism Phonoethics). It is the job of the artist to reflect and enhance life, to offer an alternative through example. To make a more tangable change I would recommend engaging in the art of politics.
kulturterrorismus: There seem to be two fundamental tendencies in music today: On the one hand, a move towards complete virtualisation, where tracks and albums are merely released as digital files. And, on the other, an even closer union between music, artwork, packaging and physical presentation. Where do you stand between these poles?
Andrew Howes: On the one hand there has been a big democratisation of music, resting power from the big labels and independents, anyone can relase their music in a variety of ways, as we all know. But the amount of music that is available to download can be quite overwhelming. A positive aspect of this is that most netlabels offer downloads for free, so the only investment is time, the artist invests time making the music and the label invests time uplaoding and promoting, everything is done for the love of the music, money is absent from the equation. Even labels who offer cdr’s tend only to charge enough to cover the cost of materials, the profit motive has been removed. Obviously the outcome of ths is that the musician and and label manager has to find other ways of feeding themselves, maybe play gigs or design wheelbarrows. What is lost, is the relationship between great artwork and music. The physical act of owning the artifact, the beautiful gatefold, the walk to the record shop, the love of the handloom. How does that compare to a thousand titles on an ipod.
kulturterrorismus: Music-sharing sites and -blogs as well as a flood of releases in general are presenting both listeners and artists with challenging questions. What’s your view on the value of music today?
Andrew Howes: The value of music today hasn’t changed in my opinion. But the way of producing music today has, the musician can set up their own recording facility relatively cheaply and get their music heard.
The downside of this is saturation and quality control, but we must work harder to separate the wheat from the chaff.
kulturterrorismus: Do you see Facebook as blessing or shit? Is it right, that musicans can not work without Facebook, if they want near by their fans, make cooperation with other artists and so on?
Andrew Howes: Personally I think social networking sites are a focus, it is one way for artists and musicians to find an audience, but is that audience made up of other musicians and artists? and does that matter? There are countless networks and more springing up all the time, becoming part of them all can be very time consuming. I suppose we need to find as many shop windows as we can for people to see us through. Facebook is a big window, but only one of many.
kulturterrorismus: Is money the only thing to be recognized artist? Or could non-mainstream music same successfull as mainstream?
Andrew Howes: Money should never be a measure of success, unless it is to measure how successful you are at gaining money. In a lot of ways non-main stream influences have infiltrated mainstream art for decades from The Beatles to dance music and rap, where some extremely avant guarde ideas have been used and the market for these as we know is massive. Sometimes of course, genuinley challenging music hits the mainstream, ‘Oh Superman’ by Laurie Anderson is a good example. The whole idea of alternative music is bullshit anyway, if all I listen to is industrial music, then my alternative could be Gary Barlow.
kulturterrorismus: The last words are yours!
Andrew Howes: Thanks for giving me the opportunity to answer these interesting questions and pull me away from my usual state of vague unlinear thought. You’ve got a lucky face.