I-View: Geoffrey Sparks Interview 1998

I-view w Geoffrey Sparks 4/98
sparks@ac.grin.edu
the Creature–Grinnell College, Grinnell, IA.

1. With the new album coming out, why did you guys decide to release
four instrumental ep’s? Are they more along the lines of session out
takes, or was their any sort of goal in mind when you guys where
playing?

Not session outtakes, but rather more like the parallel universe we exist in, making records for a major label and also running now our own indie-label. Basically, one SY LP every year to year and a half just doesn’t seem like enough output anymore, and we wanted an avenue to release all the other sorts of avenues we tend to go down, musically, in the rehearsal room. Some of the best music we’ve made over the years has been heard by just we four, in rehearsal (“practice” to Mike Watt). Now we have the facilities to release this kind of material in high-quality sound.

Rather than outtakes, I think of it as more experimental studio practice: excerpts from free-playing sessions, electronic stuff, tape loop and manipulated pieces, collaborations (the Jim O’Rourke one being only the first of these).

2. I’ve heard that the new album is all vocal tracks, should we expect the
usual two or three track with you singing, or will there be more?

I’ve got 2 vox on the new LP, Hoarfrost and Karen Koltrane are the titles.

3. How was the recording process for the new album? Who produced
it, and how do you feel about the producers work so far?

We produced it, once again, with our friend and cohort Wharton Tiers, in our recently developed studio. A very natural process, not much studio trickery, just transcribing the sound of the band as naturalistically as possible.

4. How do you think the band developed in writing the new material for
the album?

SY is in constant evolution, and pendulum swings of mood or desire lead both towards song format on the one hand, and extended extrapolations on the other. we follow our whims, muses, etc. We’ve gotten very comfortable with what we do of late, and having our own studio has contributed to this–no more recording against the clock. This—music—is what we do, and we are relaxed into the process at this point. So the luck of being able to explore sound-forms at a leisurely pace works to our mood right now.

Inspiration? A whole host of things, old and new. It’s cool to see many younger artists turning their back on indie-song-form at the moment, digging into 20th cen works such as Xenakis, P. Schaeffer, P. Henri, Stockhausen, Cage, Bayle etc, rather than just looking back to rock music fr 20 yrs ago and recycling that.

Personal Stuff:

1. Do you still do any producing? If so, who?

A year or so ago I produced the first record to come out of our studio, for my friend Christina Rosenvinge, who is a Spanish/Danish singer-songwriter popular in Spain and Spanish speaking countries. Steve played drums on it, and Wharton engineered. It was, in a way, the ‘test drive’ of the studio before SY came in to do the Suburbia soundtrack in Jan 97.
I like producing, but there isn’t time for much at the moment. Before Christina, I did a few records with the Australian group You Am I.

2. Working outside of SY, what are your goals as an artist with your
solo work both as a writer and musician?

Mainly just to keep evolving and working on stuff. I enjoy the writing process, and continue to be active with that. Leah Singer and I are working on a more complete book of Moroccan writings and pix, to follow up the limited Moroccan Journal chapbook we did this last year about visiting the Master Musicians of Jajouka over there. There are a couple of book projects in the works, and a few CDs will probably be released this year, the most recent being my solo Amarillo Ramp, and CLOUDS, w Wm Hooker, Jim O’Rourke, and Gianni Gebbia.

It’s also been fun playing with some new people; gigs in the last year with both Christian Marclay, and DJ Spooky have been a real blast. I hope we can do more.

3. Who are you listening to these days?

Will Oldham, Xenakis, Elliot Smith, lots of Coltrane as I’m ‘studying’ him at the moment, Modulations and Transformations on the Mille Plateaux label, Spiritualized, Sleater-Kinney, all 3 records by Fuck, Charlemagne Palestine, Ali Akbar Khan, Miles acoustic quintet, etc, etc.

4. I have hear that you were once a Deadhead, Is this true, and what
turned you towards the New York scene in the late 70′s/early 80′s?

Yes, I was way into the Dead in the 70s, and still maintain that there is a similarity in their approach to musical extrapolation, and ours (not the sound, the approach). It seemed that back then I wasn’t much interested in much of the inflated 70s arena style rock, and by the time punk hit in 77 it was with an explosive power which put all the charge back into both playing and witnessing music. It wasn’t long after that I moved to NYC to see for myself…

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