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15 Questions to Pie Are Squared

img  Tobias Fischer
article image

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
I’m doing great, thank you very much. I’m currently at work doing almost nothing… well except for this interview of course.


What’s on your schedule right now?

Musically speaking, I’ve been pretty busy recently; one of the bands I play in (Headcase) is going to start recording the first EP so that’s really exciting. Also, I’m working on the follow up to Pie Are Squared’s self titled EP, titled This Life Changing Decision Will Change Your Life, which I’m hoping to release by September, so I’ve got my hands full right now. On the personal side, I’m getting engaged by the end of the month, which maybe the reason why the album will sound significantly less gloomy than the EP.


How would you describe and rate the music scene of the country you are currently living in?
The Egyptian music scene definitely needs a huge amount of changes, especially when it comes to the way “musicians” and audiences perceive or approach music. People are still stuck in that same mindset where covers are the main attraction, a band that plays Megadeth or Iron Maiden and nails the solos is considered brilliant, or a guitarist who shreds at umpteen notes per millisecond is a golden god… it’s ridiculous really. It’s all about the show I guess. Don’t get me wrong, there are bands/artists that are making some seriously good music like Scarab, Simplexity, and Kravin, but the vast majority is playing it safe. The simplest way to put it is that if you like cover bands that occasionally play verse/chorus/verse/chorus three chord originals, then you’d love the Cairene music scene.


Do you see yourself as part of a certain tradition or as part of a movement?

No, I don’t think so; I’m just doing something that I truly love.


In terms of composition, what do you consider your main challenges?
I would have to say that the biggest challenge would be trying to compose a decent string section; it is simply something that I find very hard to achieve. But I guess that’s natural since I am more guitar and synth oriented. Also, mixing is extremely hard since I don’t have monitors, so I just make a few alterations to the sounds and levels, render to audio, listen, and repeat until I achieve the sound that I want which gets a bit frustrating at points, but definitely getting there is extremely gratifying.


How would you describe your method of composing?
I don’t think I have a “method” per se, some songs start by just one sound that I stumble on and fall in love with, so I just build up from there, or I might have a certain idea for a beat or a riff. But on most occasions I just want to translate a certain emotion or reflect on a particular occasion, so I just plug in my guitar and see where it takes me. I try to steer as far away as possible from approaching my music with a certain formula or fixed method because that will end up making things much less exciting for me.


In which way, would you say, is your cultural background reflected in your work?
I think the effect my culture has on my music is pretty subtle since it shows only in how chaotic everything turns into at certain points. Cairo is a beautiful city, truly unique in different ways, but that splendour is always ruined at some point due to the insane crowdedness of the streets, the huge noise we’re exposed to here, the general dissatisfaction on people’s faces, or any other factor. That beauty and its eventual disruption and transformation into something that’s the exact opposite is reflected in the music I guess. I am a big fan of Middle Eastern percussion as well, so I try to incorporate that in my tracks at times when I see fit.


How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?

Would there be composition without sound? Composition is the arrangement of sound, so I don’t think it’s possible to separate them. But if you mean sound as in drones and soundscapes, I guess people view them differently. Someone might listen to William Basinski or Tim Hecker and say “that’s not music, that’s sound”, but I guess it is safe to say that’s only an initial reaction to something new. Ambient or drone music takes as much composition as any other genre. The manipulation of sound coming from various sources is as much a composition tool as a guitar or piano is.


How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
When I’m making a new song, the line between improvisation and composition becomes very blurry. Like I might be just dabbling with some synths or something while the main tracks are playing and record everything I’m doing, so that later on I mix and match to see what fits best. The composition is the backbone to what I do, while improvisation adds some flavour when needed.


What does the term „new“ mean to you in connection with music?

I mentioned once in a review I wrote for the Silent Ballet that it is becoming almost impossible to find something that is a 100% percent new in music. Something that’s never been heard before, so I guess nowadays “new” would be like a new angle for something that has been done before. Off the top of my head, I could think of one album that has successfully done that this year, and that’s Year of No Light’s Ausserwelt. It combines elements of post-metal, shoegaze, drone, and even death metal and makes them into something truly outstanding without sounding the least bit derivative. That can’t be said about many albums these days.


Do you personally enjoy multimedia as an enrichment or do you feel that it is leading away from the essence of what you want to achieve?
When music and visuals connect, it is an awesome experience. Even in its simplest form, like when the album art is related to the music or adds to it, it makes for a richer understanding of the music. It engages more senses. The same goes for videos, if the video makes for a more complete grasping of the music played then that video has done its job and vice versa. I hope that one day I would be able to collaborate with a visual artist or to learn animation to complement my music.


What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
Did you watch Porcupine Tree’s “ Anesthetize” DVD? That is, in my point of view, what constitutes a near perfect live performance. The sound is huge, the visuals fit the music perfectly, they’re dynamic on stage, and there isn’t any drop between the sound on the albums and what’s being produced on stage. Some songs even sound better in the live version! As for Pie Are Squared, I don’t think I’m capable of performing my material live at this point in time. I wouldn’t like performing on my own with a laptop. If you’ve heard the EP, you’d notice that there are lots and lots of layers playing simultaneously without looping, like each guitar or synth line takes a different trajectory at some point, so that would be very hard for me to recreate and maintain the dynamics. Plus I would really love to play my music with a live drummer, guitarists and bassist. That allows room for the members to play off each other, improvise a bit and produce a bigger sound and in turn giving the audience their money’s worth.


How, would you say, could non-mainstream forms of music reach wider audiences without sacrificing their soul?
It seems like soundtracks have done a lot of underground artists some good in the past. Sigur Rós and Explosions in the Sky are the first to come to mind, but I guess that’s a good way to get some exposure. The Internet right now is a very strong tool for self promotion, websites like MySpace, Facebook, Last.fm, and Bandcamp have proven quite efficient. There are lots of really good net labels around that could help artists get their music to a more listeners. But if anyone knows a better way, please let me know, since I’m not that good at promoting my music anyway.


You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
It’s something I’ve always dreamt of doing actually, curating a festival! It will be a three day festival, with each of my holy trinity of bands: Porcupine Tree, Oceansize and Sigur Ros headlining one of the days. Then there’d be bands and artists that play all kinds of music like: Tool, Anathema, Nadja, 65daysofstatic, Year of No Light,  Mogwai, Ben Frost, Tim Hecker, Blueneck, King Crimson, Eluvium, Placebo, KoRn, Interpol, Air, Kayo Dot, The Mercury Program, Opeth, Meshuggah and M83. And if they would allow me to play, then I definitely would love to.  There could also be like screening of short movies or documentaries in the middle, lots of nice food and drinks.


Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?
I’ve never really thought of a “magnum opus”. I give every song I make everything I can, and hope it comes out in the best form possible. But if I make an album with the intent that it’s going to be my best ever, I am pretty sure that a couple of months later I’d listen to it and find a huge amount of faults in it. Everyone’s tastes change over time, and what I might perceive as my best work at one point will definitely change as well. Plus I don’t think it’s good for an artist to look back at an album they made and think that it’s their best work, because if that is the case they’ll probably keep on trying to replicate it and eventually become really boring. A “magnum opus” in my opinion, is something for the listeners to decide and fight about in music forums.

Pie Are Squared Discography:
Pie Are Squared EP (2010)
Covered in Pie (2010)

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Pie Are Squared