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Interview with Richard Chartier @ le son du grisli

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How, when and why, did you get involved with music? I was always interested in sound(s), even as a child. I loved the sound of refrigerators, air conditioners. I could often be found listening to machines, putting my ears right up to them. A strange child perhaps… The logical progression of that interest was electronic music and then experimental music in high school.
What is your first instrument? I think my first proper instrument was a Yamaha DX100 with the tiny keys. I learned to play music by ear listening to lots of synth pop hits in the 80s. There is a little solo recording of it used in the Pinkcourtesyphone track “here is something… that is nothing” on Foley Foley Folio (LINE_SEG01). A tribute to a clunky synth.
When did you begin to do the kind of music you’re doing nowadays? Who were/are your first influences as a musician? I don’t really consider myself a musician. I started working abstractly with sound in approximately 1990. You can actually here my work from that time on Untitled Tapes: 1991-1993. Big influences for me at that time were artists like Zoviet France, The Hafler Trio, Phauss, John Duncan, Throbbing Gristle, to name a few. Its when I started to listen to these more abstract experimental works that I realized I didn’t have to create “songs” or “song structured work”. It was very freeing.
If you don’t consider yourself a musician, do you consider yourself a composer? A sound artist ? What would be the difference you could do between these denominations? I have been misquoted before saying I was a ‘composer’. What I actually said was that I was a ‘composer of elements’… or better yet a ‘composer of sounds’… Composition in the broadest terms, I design and arrange sounds. (Which some would consider a description of ‘Music’) I am not trained musically, my work is certainly not academic in nature. I guess to me a musician is an artist that thinks in notes. Its all a very grey area now. All artists approach their work in a very personal, specific way.

I couldn’t explain but I feel a ‘european touch’ in your music : would ‘reductionism’ be the point? I am not sure if its particularly European. I think its “considered.” There is certainly a big minimalist tradition in the United States in composition and visual arts. I have been influenced by many forms of reductionism across history and art forms. I was the kid who liked the white crayon.
And What about Wandelweiser, are you aware of their work or of the works of german / british / french reductionism? If yes, are they inspiring? There is just too much to keep track of. I was not aware of the Wandelweiser label. I do know and enjoy the work of artists like AMM and Polwechsel (Trapist and Radian are 2 HUGE favorites of mine).

When and Why did you begin LINE? Documenting your work seems really important for you (you’re releasing compilations of your works, for example). I began LINE in 2000. In 1999 was sending around my new work “Series” to Raster-Noton and Mille Plateaux. The response from both was “its too minimal” which I found amusing and frustrating. By the time Olaf Bender wrote again and said he understood the work better now and wanted to release “Series”… LINE had already begun. LINE was started by encouragement from Taylor Deupree. “If no one wants to release this work, release it yourself, better yet… start a label that focuses on this type of work.” We ran it as a sub label of 12k. Taylor was doing all the business/inventory aspects and I was doing the design, selecting artists, etc. At the end of 2010 Taylor and I decided to separate the two entities. Since the beginning of 2011, LINE has been me doing everything. Its a one-man circus here.

How do you consider your own first releases you published on LINE? “Of Surfaces” (LINE_008) and “Two Locations” (LINE_013) are very dear to me. “Series” (LINE_001) is very abstract to me and I don’t remember the time when I created it, and its not an easy listen.

Sometimes it seems you want to archive, as an archaeologist would do, your old recordings (by publishing compilations of your works, for example) & sometimes you use these old works to record new releases… “Other Materials” (3PARTICLES02), “Further Materials” (LINE_035), and “Subsequent Materials” (LINE_066) are collections of compilation and unreleased tracks. “Retrieval” (on ERS) and “Recurrence” (LINE_059) are the only two that really reformulate and recompose older works and bear very little resemblance to the original. Those two are reinvestigations, you could say. In rock you can use the same guitar again from song to song… so why not be able to re-use.. remodify… a sound that I created. “Archival 1991” (on CROUTON) and “Untitled Tapes:1991-1993” (3PARTICLES12) are both archival materials of my earliest recordings. I think its an important exercise to be able to look back and reflect on what you have done, how it colors what you do now, and learn from it. I am not the person I was at age 20.

You sometimes sounds “abstract”, and sometimes not. Is it, here and there, a choice you make? What is the difference between the music of Richard Chartier and the music of Pinkcourtesyphone? I hate trying to describe my work, but there is a big difference with the Pinkcourtesyphone project. The work under my own name is very formalist, minimal, and quiet. Its focused on listening and spatiality. Sensation rather than emotion. Pinkcourtesyphone is a project that extends into more musical and dense territories, beats, vocals, lush emotions, and fuzzy nostalgia. It has subject matter, narrative, emotional content, sexuality and lots of coded language in its titles, references, and samples. Pinkcourtesyphone material is very freeing for me to create. It can even get noisy. The upcoming album “Description of Problem” (LINE_SEG03) is about obsession & revenge and features vocals by my friends William Basinski, AGF, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Kid Congo Powers, and Evelina Domnitch.

Is it easy to express yourself as a musician (or composer of sounds) with discrete sounds? Can music, like drawing, be an art of fading-out? I started working with sound when I was still actively painting. I would go from painting to sound to painting to sound, back and forth. I saw them both influencing my palette and composition. Eventually I realized I couldn’t really create the spatiality on 2d surface that I was seeking. Painting became a language that wasn’t suited for me anymore. I love a good erasure.

richard chartier solo   richard chartier william basinski

I’ve learn about the works of some musicians thanks to some of your collaborations (Curgenven, for example). How do you decide to start collaboration with such partners? In almost all cases I need to know the other artist as a person before I will work with them. The only exceptions are Nosei Sakata (who I never met… and still the two CDs as 0/r still baffle me) and my in the works collaboration with Justin K Broadrick (Godflesh, Final, Jesu) with Pinkcourtesyphone. The best collaborations are when you cannot tell who is doing what. Often I take on a different artistic voice when working alongside another artist. In the end, I always learn much from these interactions and different perspectives.

And what about the musicians you produce on LINE (Roden, Lopez, Novak, Whetham, Cluett)? Do their music need to have a common point with yours to be released on LINE? Some of them work in different fields (noise, field recordings…). I think the releases on LINE are all very different and each artist has a distinctive “voice” and process. Overall there is a broad range of works. Mark Fell or Frank Bretschneider are rhythmic, AGF deals with voice, Doublends Vert is purely acoustic, Scott Cortez and Lovesliescrushing is all guitar. Chessmachine is insane and noisy. Certainly they don’t have to be related to my work but there has to be a care to their work, it has to stand out and be something that absorbs me (and I hope, listeners as well).

What about field recordings? On these days, it seems any “ambient” musician has to deal with it… I like field recordings incorporated into work when it enhances the texture and space of piece. I do feel they can be overused / abused. Straight single field recordings on their own, no layering, no editing, can be very dull. France Jobin’s work has always been made with field recordings, and what she does is quite beautiful and abstracted. Robert Curgenven has taken field recordings and really pushed them with his use of dub plates and room resonances. When I hear field recording pieces I not only want to feel transported.. I want to feel lost. I have my own basic rules about field recordings… no wind chimes, no whale songs, no basic bird songs (of course broke my bird rule once before)… there was one other, but i seem to have forgotten it… haha.

Novak is managing his own label too. Which are the record labels you’re following? What are the last records you’ve listen to and loved? I absolutely love what Opal Tapes and PAN are doing. They both have very singular visions yet the works are so pan-genre. I love things that are hard to categorize. I always appreciate Touch and MEGO historically. I also love 100% Silk. A few of my current favorites: “Andøya” by Eric Holm, “Psychic 9-5 Club” by HTRK, “Sirene” by Robert Curgenven, “Warehouses” by Kane Ikin, “Ett” by Klara Lewis, “Tulpa” by Perfume Advert, “LA Spark” by Wrangler, “Ill Fares The Land” by Koenraad Ecker. And for dinnertime “Mi Senti” by Roisin Murphy.

Can you introduce me ‘Subsequent Materials’? What is “the aim” of such a release? 'Subsequent Materials' is merely a collection of pieces that appeared on compilations, bonus tracks, unreleased works or versions from 2006-2012. Its 3 hours of sound works, not recommended in a single serving.

Richard Chartier, propos recueillis en juin 2014.
Pierre Cécile © Le son du grisli

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