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Le son du grisli
Interviewed by Guillaume Belhomme
October May 2012

http://grisli.canalblog.com/

english version

printable version french


Guillaume Belhomme:
What is your first memory of music?

Jason Kahn:
That would probably be seeing the Beatles on television playing on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 (this was a popular variety show in the U.S., which ran from 1949-1971)


Guillaume Belhomme:
Can you let us know about your first steps as a drummer ? Who were the drummers who influenced you as a young drummer?

Jason Kahn:
My first steps as a drummer was to buy a drum set and start playing with people. This was 1981. I was 21 years old. I bought my first set around my birthday in May and played my first gig a couple months later in July with some people I lived with at college. A couple months after this I moved to London for one year to continue my university studies there. In London the first thing I did was buy an old Premier gold sparkle kit from an ad in NME and find a drum teacher, John Taylor, who used to give lessons in the basement of a drum shop just off Carnaby Street. I spent the whole year studying with him, mostly just learning basic snare technique. I kept my drum kit in the cellar of the college cafeteria. The walls in the room I practiced were tiled and everything rang like crazy! During this year in London I only played publicly once, in a college production of the Sam Shepard play "The Tooth of Crime." I did go out to hear a lot of live music, though, which was like a musical education in and off itself. I wasn't really into jazz or improvised music then, more like groups such as Gang of Four, The Fall, The Clash, etc.

Aside from all the drummers in the groups I mentioned above, I guess the one drummer who really influenced me most was Ed Blackwell. Toward the end of my stay in London I started to get into hearing more jazz and improvised music through my interest in groups like Rip Rig and Panic (who I saw shortly before I went back to the U.S. in the summer of 1982). I bought an LP of Eric Dolphy's, "Live at the Five Spot Volume 1," and what really struck me about this record was the drumming -- how melodic it was, how the drums sang and how Blackwell played with such a great feel. Years later, in 1987, I had the pleasure of sitting in on a workshop Blackwell was giving at the University of Richmond. I was too in awe of his presence to do any playing, but he really impressed me with his gentle, humble character.

There have been many, many other drummers who I've felt influenced by but even all these years later when I hear Ed Blackwell I get this really good feeling and remember the time I first heard that Eric Dolphy LP, which really opened me up to a lot of other music.


Guillaume Belhomme:
These last years, you've worked on "long textures" distorted by time, but you've add elements of "drama" or noise (in Beautiful Ghosts, for example)... Can you let us know about this "evolution"?

Jason Kahn:
It seems life in the last few years, both for myself and for many many others, has become increasingly difficult, a real struggle. Of course, this has been so for as long as I've been alive, but having so many kids now, living with so little money, and trying to find a way to continue my work in the face of all this has made me conscious of a struggle -- and not in a mundane, romantic sense but in the context of day-to-day life. And I guess my work just mirrors this, the sense of struggling to find a way of saying something -- perhaps something which one doesn't entirely know how to articulate, and being frustrated at not knowing how to express these feelings. So the recent music represents this struggle, this attempt to make my way through the darkness and overcome life's daily obstacles.

In terms of "noise," I think my work has always had lots of this, though perhaps used in a less dramatic fashion as, say, on "Beautiful Ghost Wave." But if you listen to "Vanishing Point" or even "Fields" there is lots of very abrasive texture on these CD's.


Guillaume Belhomme:
Who are the musicians who influence you nowadays? What are the last records you've enjoyed listening to?

Jason Kahn:
The people who influence me most -- or perhaps it would be more accurate to say: with whom I feel a sense of camaraderie -- are the people I've enjoyed working with in recent years: Bryan Eubanks, Jon Mueller, Norbert Moeslang, Goh Lee Kwang, Adam Sussmann, Matt Earle, Hong Chulki, Ryu Hankil, Choi Joonyong, Jin Sangtae, Manfred Werder, Patrick Farmer, just to name a very few.

One record I recently really enjoyed was "Oceans Roar 1000 Drums," a group of Bryan Eubanks, Andrew Lafkas and Todd Capp.


Guillaume Belhomme:
You've toured a lot with Tetras this winter and you've worked on installations too : your work seems to follow many directions (improvised collaborations, groups, installations, field recordings...). What is the common denominator of all these way to make music?

Jason Kahn:
For me, the installations are not really music, or at least their focus is not on sound but on spaces -- how we perceive, define, navigate, construct space through sound. And sound not only as a physical entity but as a dimension of social structures.

I'm not sure what the common denominator could be with projects like Tetras, my solo work or other collaborations. I would hope that when people hear these different projects they discern a common sensibility shared by all of them and defined by my participation in these different contexts.


Guillaume Belhomme:
With Tetras, you've came back to a rhythmic way of drumming...

Jason Kahn:
Actually, I don't think this is correct. When I was just playing amplified cymbals on snare and bass drums, this was also very rhythmic. In Tetras the drumming is more "overtly" rhythmic, though I think one could argue that on many levels this drumming is also very textural.


Guillaume Belhomme:
Did your way to think rhythmic drumming is the same than yesterday?

Jason Kahn:
Of course, in many ways I am approaching drumming as I did many years ago. I am still me. But perhaps now I am now more interested in a general sense of propulsion, as opposed to delineated rhythms.


Guillaume Belhomme:
Why did you chose to live in Switzerland ? What did that change for you as a musician ?

Jason Kahn:
I didn't really ever "decide" to live in Switzerland, it was more a set of circumstances, culminating in the birth of my first daughter, which led me to set down roots here. I only actually moved to Switzerland (at first Geneva) because I had friends living in a squat with a room free for me to stay in. I had been living in Berlin for almost nine years and was pretty much fed up with the road that city was going down. Moving to Switzerland was more just a convenient way out of Berlin than anything else.


Guillaume Belhomme:
In 2000's, critics wrote about a "swiss scholl" to explain your work and GŁnter Muller's, Thomas Korber's... Your common work is less intense nowadays : what happened ? Personals interests, musical context, critics themselves ?

Jason Kahn:
I don't know anything about a so-called "Swiss School." I really have no idea what this is.

It is quite natural to work with certain people, or a group of people, for a while. And then people's interests tend to change, they look for something new, some stop... I still play quite a lot with Christian Weber and on occasion with Guenter Mueller, Norbert Moeslang, and many other people in Switzerland who you might never have even heard of and who don't belong to any "school" or fit in some convenient box for music journalists to file them away in. And critics would never influence who I work with. I pay attention to what people write about my work, but this would never determine how I work, who I work with.


Guillaume Belhomme:
What is the influence of collaborations on the evolution of your musical language?

Jason Kahn:
Collaboration is very important for me. The best collaborations lead me to question what I am doing, and this leads me to moving beyond my standard way of doing things -- perhaps not in terms of doing something "new," but in at least having another look at what I'm doing, not taking too much for granted.


Guillaume Belhomme:
You've published a lot of records these last years, on many record labels. But you've decided (like you've done by the past with Cut) to create a new record label. What are the aim of Editions?

Jason Kahn:
Editions is basically just a labor of love. I enjoy the work of producing a record: designing the cover, cutting the paper, stamping the record labels, etc. I want to make some beautiful objects, both for myself and, hopefully, for others. Editions is not meant to be something "professional," just a way for me to publish some of my work the way I would like it to be published.


Guillaume Belhomme:
Do Editions will get out releases of other musicians ? Are Editions a way to "document" your practice ?

Jason Kahn:
For now, I'm just planning on publishing my own work which, of course, is a way of documenting my practice. Nothing more, nothing less.


Guillaume Belhomme:
What is your idea of music as an art contained on a support ? Do you make a difference between live music and record music ?

Jason Kahn:
I feel live music is always different than recorded music. A recording of an improvised concert and the actual concert are two very different things. And for this reason, I feel both -- the recording and the actual event -- are valid and important. For me, though, experiencing a live performance is still my preferred way of hearing music.


Guillaume Belhomme:
LPs, taps, CD, CD-R, radio, downloads : do you make a difference between these different way to spread music?

Jason Kahn:
I don't make a difference but, unfortunately, many journalists, blogs, magazines, etc. seem to: for example, CDR's and online releases rarely ever get reviewed. Although I appreciate the beauty of an LP made from heavy vinyl with a hand-painted cover, this is not a medium for everyone. There are so many people in many parts of the world who could never afford a CD (in Switzerland a CD costs nearly 25 euros!), not to mention an LP. And for this reason, an online release will not only reach more people but also more people outside of Europe, North America, Australia, Japan, China, etc. who might be interested in hearing this kind of music but who lack the money to buy an expensive CD or LP.


Guillaume Belhomme:
Do you know yet the "things" that could be able to help your musical art to evolve ?

Jason Kahn:
I just need time. Having enough time to work, to develop, to think about what I'm doing is my biggest challenge.

 

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