In tandem with presenting Zulya’s album at this year’s Tat Cult Fest in Kazan, I was asked to do a presentation on my productional approach in the prestigious new studio ‘Audio Kazan’. There were some 15 musicians and producers who with big smiles listened to me and my translator explain how I create beats with kitchen materials and such things. I hope it inspired some of them into creating their own sounds rather than relying on ready samples.
This year’s Tat Kult Fest in Tatarstan invited Zulya Kamalova to come and present her album Six Days Loving as one of the headlining acts. She asked me to join on my ClaudeViol and two other great musicians, Gennady Lavrentiev on Guitar and Violin, and Marat Taturas on Synths. Poet Yolduz Minnulina joined us on two songs on the stage and delivered some poetry over the music. We had about 4 days to prepare while staying in Kazan, rehearsed every day, and had a great time. Most likely not the last time we worked together with this group of people. The audience loved it, the place (inside the Kazan Kremlin, see the Mosque in the background) was packed while we played, much less so before and after even though there were good bands playing. Clearly Zulya still pulls a crowd.
Snowapple has been doing lots of live shows in Europe and Mexico, and their upcoming tour in Oktober will be together with a Mexican Brass band who play Balkan music! Well that’s right up my alley .. So Laurien asked me to make some arrangements slightly balkan style for the brass section, for a few pieces. Amoung them is a sparse arrangment for the song La Llorona which was also the song in the animation that recently won the Mexican Animation Competition. I’m looking forward to hear how the band will sound with these brass fellows!
Zulya Kamalova’s CD ‘Six Days Loving’ is out and can be heard at bandcamp! Production by Pindos Music, in close collaboration with Zulya through the wonders of the internet. The album contains 9 new songs written by Zulya, arranged by myself and Zulya, with additions of a couple of great musicians from Canada, Russia and Australia. We spent a lot of time looking for a general productional approach to the album, and then within that concept, lending each song a unique sonic identity in order to support the beautiful poetry by Yoldyz Minnullina. My instruments are featured a lot on this album, as I played most of the parts – the Claude Viol for instance saw some heavy use and doubled as a kind of rudimentary bass-guitar, while also being used in it’s usual distorted cello – like presentation. We decided not to use a lot of traditional percussion but instead went with a collection of pots, pans and various random objects, plus one of my basses which with a certain mic technique works fairly well as a kick – snare kind of instrument – which I then mangled with effects and doubled with some electronic sounds. Zulya recorded her vocals at her home in Australia, which meant she could really take her time to get the best possible takes of each track. This approach in my opinion translates into very focused and intense vocals, free of the stress which can easily creep in during studio sessions under time pressure.
All in all it was a fantastic musical adventure, and one I hope we can follow up in the future with another project.
For more info on this album, and Zulya as an artist in general, check out her site.
Producer Zlaya from LOUD asked me to join him on the new project ‘Project Lucy’ of Snow Apple. Snow Apple is the band around singer / songwriter Laurien Schreuder from Amsterdam. The core of the band used to be three girls, but by now Laurien is the only one left (and she was the first one). During her travels, she got involved with a talented and very sympathetic bunch of Mexican musicians. For this session, the band was joined by two excellent Italian session musicians, the quite unique and amazing Alan ‘Gunga’ Purves on squeaky stuff and whatever else makes some noise, and myself lending a hand on the Claude Viol or acoustic guitars wherever there was a need for some extra acoustic string violence.
My role consisted mainly of helping to get the music into some direction, as well as thinking along about the way how to record each song. We were lucky to record this project during 7 days in the La Fabrique Studio’s in the French Provence, which is definitely one of the most special residential studio’s left in Europe. The various spaces available provide some fantastic possibilities in terms of acoustics, and the place is just very beautiful, relaxed and inspiring to work in. A big bonus is the house engineer Daniel, who was assisting and basically running Pro Tools and all the connections throughout the sessions, allowing us to focus on the music.
Learn more about Snow Apple on their site
This summer, I am doing live sound for a couple of shows by the Greek band Lalitades. They are one of the most succesfull Greek traditional wedding and party bands, playing songs in ‘the old way’ from all over Greece but clearly specialising in the music from Epirus – which is where their roots are. Lined up with Clarinet, Violin, Laouto and voices (some handpercussion too), they get crowds going like no other, and often play for more than 6 hours non-stop. In many cases simply untill the last dancing people drop down, which is all to often around dawn. Resulting in us arriving back home some time in the morning.
Although it is only a very small part of their repertoire, I have to say I have a weak spot for their renderings of traditional Epirotic Polyphonic songs, of which you can hear a nice example here.
By producer Waylon van der Heijden (NL), Goldfinger Productions, I was asked to play guitar on a number of tracks he is producing for several well known Dutch singers, including Django Wagner and Rene Schuurmans.
I got to use my little vintage Bruno parlour guitar a lot on these tracks, as it has a very characterful sound for fingerpicking and strumming, without nasty brightness or too pumping basses, very easy to mix. I’m trying to find out more about this guitar, it was resold by the New York based Bruno and Sons shop who were not making but reselling instruments by a number of makers, starting 1834. This guitar is more likely from around 1900. Someone I know recognised a carving on the neck as being typical for a certain banjo maker of that time, if I found out more I will post an update. And of course when the tracks of Django and Rene are released.
After our previous collaboration on ‘Kaida Son Sin’, singer-songwriter Zulya Kamalova has proposed to record an EP with new songs, a cycle of poems in the Tatar language, and I will be co-producing and mixing. Plan is to start working in November on this project, more info soon! In order to finance the whole project, Zulya ran a crowdfunding campain on the Russian platform www.planeta.ru. Since many people from the west ran into trouble due to the language, Zulya has started a campaign on pozible.com, in English. Donations are still welcome and needed, as the amount collected so far does not cover the cost of the project. Check it out here
I’ve been looking for some time into the various music production platforms that exist online, and the one that stands out through their clarity and high quality is www.soundbetter.com. Basically an online production marketplace, Sound Better has made it very easy for musicians and singers to find and hire producers, and thus for producers to find work among musicians. Their policies are very straightforward, focused on professionalism and high quality music and production services. Their payment system provides security to both musicians and producers. I have made an account on the soundbetter site and intend to do all my online work through them from now on.
Composer and Ud player Kamal Hors approached me to help composing and mixing music for the documentary Maalem wa Dilal which portrays cultural heritage in a number of Moroccan cities. I wrote and recorded music for the city of Tangiers, which needed different music for each district (Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, English, Dutch, Belgian).
Kamal wrote the titletrack, music for the other cities and provided some beautiful solo improvisations. I helped in finalizing arrangements and mixed everything.
The first episode has been broadcast, a link will follow and the music will soon be posted on soundcloud.