GLEN 

une minutieuse simplicité 

Interview  

A conversation with Francois Alaouret

Rock'n Force June 17, 2021

Glen: 

une minutieuse simplicité 

[Interview]











A conversation with Francois Alaouret.




- We know that Berlin is a cosmopolitan cultural capital and GLEN with its international line-up is proof of this. How did you meet and on what bases and musical influences did you decide to build your repertoire?


WILHELM: Eleni and myself are long time collaborators in music as well as film. We were involved in various music projects before and have collaborated on multiple film projects, Eleni as a director and myself as a composer, long feature films, documentaries and experimental abstract films.   Brendan Dougherty was introduced to us through a friend. Brendan besides being a drummer works in theater as a sound artist and has collaborated with Meg Stuarts Dance Ensemble “Damaged Goods” and various other Dance and Performance Groups. Maria Zastrow we know for also quite a long time. She hosted a radio show at an independent radio station in Berlin and had invited us to present our previous album CRACK. She wondered, why we didn´t ask her to play the bass? As she was once involved in another music project of us. Well so we asked her.  


We knew right from the start that we want to concentrate on instrumental music. Eleni and myself were developing music ideas, mostly improvising to discover into which sound direction we want to proceed and from some point other musician joined and became involved shaping our sound further.  


Still in this process there has always been a common ground of what music we favor. There is a strong influence of the epic narrative element of cinematographic music, the creation of new sound spaces and open structures of experimental music and on the other hand the powerful dynamic and energy of contemporary developments in noise, drone and progressive rock as well. We do not want to limit ourselves in producing music that contributes to one specific genre, there is a constant transformation. Attending a performance of Peter Brötzmann and Keiji Haino leave their mark as well as a Russian Circles or Boris concert. 


- You just released “Pull! », your second album and this time it is entirely instrumental. The choice to go without vocals was a decision you made from the start, or did it come naturally? Are the pieces self-sufficient in the end?


As I mentioned before the choice to go without vocals was a choice we had in mind from the start. A human voice always opens up the space and creates an immediate connection to the listener. Instrumental music is more of a challenge to achieve this.  


Still the first album Crack had some vocals, but was already distancing from a typical “lead vocalist” in using different vocals, spoken word and a more choral approach.  We cannot imagine ourselves as a rock band with a typical lead vocalist, but we feel free to use the human voice like an additional instrument. On PULL! we did a cover version of John Cale´s Buffalo Ballet, which is a classic song but we changed the main emphasis and center of gravity.  Listening to an album that is entirely instrumental and then close to the end you hear the sound of human voices is like adding another “breathing” instrument. But still the main “language” of GLEN is the noise of electrified instruments. 


- Although instrumental, "Pull! is presented as a concept album. Can you go into detail to explain it to us, and does depriving yourself of texts complicate things on the narrative side?


ELENI: The main title PULL! as well as each title of the tracks of the album set the stage for purposeful ambiguity. 

The track AHAB and the artwork refer to Mocha Dick, a famed aggressive whale, first mentioned in 1839 in a story published in The Knickerbocker, New-York Monthly Magazine, which was likely an inspiration for Melville’s Moby Dick. 

Mono Mythical Characters of male dominance like AHAB, unbearable endeavours like KORINTH and the Rosebud like enigma of DAVOS, surrounded by Thomas Mann´s “Magic Mountain” hosting the World Economic Forum, as well as the BUFFALO BALLET witnessing the historic battles of urbanization are open to multiple interpretations.  A LECTURE on madness, bliss, obsession, greed and tragedy of mankind enveloped in an album cover that was shot in the abandoned offices of the Athen´s Stock Exchange.

As much as each one of these titles mean to us personally, without any additional lyrics they leave enough blank space to others for multiple associations and interpretations. This is what we intended. 

- Wilhelm, you who come from film music composition, you must have been more comfortable writing these new songs, right?


WILHELM: I came to film music first by being a fan of film music. I like the narrative aspects of film compositions and the sound scapes of composers like Ennio Morricone, Pierre Jansen,  Georges Delerue, Jerry Fielding, Michael Small, just to name a few. I like the images film music creates even without watching the film. Working as a film composer myself, is on one side a dream come true, but on the other side, you are a hired composer and you have to serve the images of the director, good or bad. Working on music without these limitations, I can serve and orchestrate my own personal images. Beyond that, working as a composer can be a lonely business. I enjoy to collaborate in a band context and give the music the breeze of different individuals.


- The fact that the new songs are long enough should also facilitate the installation of musical atmospheres thanks to greater freedom, especially for a concept album, right?


WILHELM: You are absolutely right. Some effects music creates need time to develop and rise. For instance the repetitive beat of CAN´s “Yoo Doo Right” creates a hypnotic vortex, which lasts 20 minutes. CAN create this atmosphere in a way that reminds the trance of tribal drumming.  Sunn O))) create a sacred transcendental environment with their massive volume, feedback noise drones. For these compositions, time is an essential part of the music.  It is a completely different concept than a 3 min Pop Song.   




- Musically, GLEN's universe is quite large, even if you can be defined as a Post-Rock band. Is that a way of blurring the lines, of not restricting yourself to one style?


ELENI: As Wilhelm mentioned before, we do not want to contribute music to a specific genre. We never think about that. The label “Post-Rock” contains so many different music styles, that we feel quite comfortable that we are defined as a Post-Rock band, even if we would not label ourselves that way, as we do not like to label ourselves at all in anyway. 


- Surprisingly, “Pull!” is a very technical album musically and yet it is very approachable and does not present any apparent complexity when listening to it. Is it important for you to be as "readable" as possible?


WILHELM: Music is for meabove allan emotional expressionand notarepresentationof virtuosity and techniques. It isanotherform of communication, with a sender and areciever. It is wonderfulwhen thisemotionalcommunicationhappens. Soto be “readable”is

probably intendedby any musician, but we would never change a composition or a track to make it more“readable”or consumable.Listening to ourprevious record a friend wassurprised that hecouldevendance toourmusic. ...I said, well dance!On the otherhand MORRICONE,evenwithhismostexperimentalcompositions forfilm andwith the Avant-garde Composers Collective GRUPPO DI IMPROVVISAZIONE NUOVA CONSONANZAorTHE GROUPalwayssucceeded somehowto create“Hits”,at least for me.


- A final word also on your work with the great Reinhold Mack, who mixed the album. How was your collaboration and how did the contact take place?


WILHELM: To make a long story short, we grew up in the same hometown,  a small village in the deep south of Germany, …not exactly at the same time.  Our families where neighbours. His family had a piano shop next to my parent’s house. While I was a young kid he was already successful in the music biz. In the piano shop his parents had displayed a collection of his golden records and I was standing in front of the window as a young boy, thinking there is some kind of way out of here…

I just remember maybe seeing him once with my father when I was maybe 3 or so on the street wearing a long coat and long hair with another guy in the same style and I was pointing at them saying “Deatels” which was supposed to mean “Beatles”.

Many years later I got a surprising email from him. He just returned from a visit to our hometown to his home in Los Angeles, turned on the TV and watched a german movie discovering my name in the credits for the music… Calculating one plus one, …we once were neighbours… We then had sporadic contact, holiday greetings and so. 

When we worked on PULL! he contacted me with a question about an issue of our common social heritage. We talked a bit about music and the business and I told him about GLEN and that we work on a new record. 


Back in the studio Eleni and I were stuck somehow with one track by doing probably too much to the track. With the telephone call of him in mind I said to her “What would Mack have done?”, thinking of the perfect reduction of “Another One Bites the Dust”. We listened to the song and were flashed about his great production. I wrote him this and he answered “If you have a `problem child´, send it.” That’s how the collaboration began, which was a great experience and really a big pleasure! In the end he did the mixing of the entire album and we are very grateful for this! The funny thing is, we never met in person till now, except of the incident when I was a little boy, …maybe. 


Rock’n Force June 17, 2021

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