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15 Questions to Marcos Fernandes

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
I'm well, thanks. I'm in san diego. I'm at home in my office sitting in
front of my computer.

What¹s on your schedule right now?
I'm finishing up a few cd projects that  have been in the works for quite
some time now.  Some are mastered, some are mixed and some have just been
recorded. I have a lot of listening I have to do and I'm also doing the
graphics for a couple of the releases. They are all collaborative projects -
group improvisations - that were recorded over the last year or two.  I had
been working mainly with phonography and electronics these past few years
but I play mostly percussion on these recordings. It's something i've slowly
come back to over the last couple of years.  That said, I do have a soundart
piece which i'm putting together for an mp3 label. And I also just got
invited to do a sound installation piece.

I'm also planning a little east coast tour in the fall and a japan tour
after that. I'm hoping to go to Korea as well.

What does music mean to you?

It means a lot of things to me. Whether I'm just listening to a band or
improvising with some people or making a field recording, it's all music to
me. Music means the world of sounds. Or the sounds of the world. Lately,
I've found the term 'music' a little limiting because of all the historical
baggage it carries. I guess I want to redefine what music means to people.

On a personal level, it's a very, special place where I can go and be by
myself or be myself. When I play I feel a connection to something much more
powerful than me. And if there are other musicians or an audience then it
also becomes a place where I can commune with them.

In which way, would you say, is your personality reflected in your music,
what makes it different from that of other artists?

I think your whole life experience becomes your music and in that sense no
two people are exactly alike. If you are honest and let the music play you,
then it tells your story for you. But when that happens there's a lot more
information in us than we are aware of. I believe in 'ancient memories.'
It's in our genes. It allows you to tap into something bigger than just your
conscious self. Of course, I'm talking mostly about when I'm improvising
here. Composing is also a narrative process but you have a lot more control
over where you want it to go.

A question closely related to the former: What or who was your biggest
influence as an artist? Do you see yourself as part of a certain tradition
or as part of a movement?

I had my heroes when I was growing up but as you get older you realize
everybody and everything is influencing you! I learn something just about
any time I hear someone play. There are a handful of people like Robert
Wyatt, Terry Riley and Neil Young who have continued to blow me away over
the years. But people like Buckminster Fuller and William Burroughs have
influenced me as well. My fondest childhood memories are those of our family
gatherings where there were guitars and ukuleles playing and everyone's
singing and dancing, drinking and eating and just having a great time.  I'll
always remember those special moments.

As for a tradition or movement, i started out playing rock and have played a
lot of different things ever since. I know The Ventures made me want to pick
up the drums and I remember being drawn to the background music of the
television series "Combat" which had a Webern-esque orchestral score. I like
to think of myself as globally informed.

How would you describe or characterise your composing process?
As I mentioned earlier, composing is a narrative process for me. I like to
tell a story about a certain place or place in time whether imagined or
real. And if you successfully get to that place then it gives a certain
feeling. Like sometimes a smell can trigger a whole set of sensations or
emotions. Composing can be very visceral when things are falling into place
real fast and you can see the piece developing or it could be a very
introspective and reflective experience. It's a lonely experience sometimes
because you don't get any immediate feedback.

How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?
Sounds exist and you can arrange them in any way you want to form a
composition. Whether i'm using field recordings or instruments or samples,
the sounds are the building blocks. And a great composition can be a
well-crafted song or the sounds of your neighborhood. Sometimes I'll put on
a cd and listen or i'll go sit on my front porch and just listen.

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What's your
approach to performing on stage?

A good live performance is when the players and the audience are present in
the moment and make a discovery or a connection. Especially when you're
improvising, you can tell if you're all on the same wavelength. The dialogue
gets intense. It's an exhilirating ride. I often find the best performances
also cause the most discomfort because you're not sure where you're going
but you just plough ahead until you land safely. I'd say the discomfort
level is directly proportional to the level of success! So my approach to
performing is to have no expectations and just try to be present and honest
and let the music unfold.

Imagine a situation in which there¹d be no such thing as copyright and
everybody were free to use musical material as a basis for their own
compositions  would that be an improvement to the current situation?

Most definitely. I know a lot of people who already operate that way.

What's your view on the music scene at present? Is there a crisis?
The music scene is pretty amazing. There is so much music coming out now.
Technology has, to a certain extent, leveled the playing field.  The only
crisis is for people who are operating on outdated models of music
production and distribution. The 'dinosaurs' as they were labeled in the
'70's are dying a very slow death and the more they kick and scream the
harder it is for the rest of us. That's the crisis. I hope a more equitable
need based model emerges soon.

Some feel there is no need to record albums any more, that there is no such
thing as genuinely "new" music. What do you tell them? Is "new" an important
aspect of what you want your pieces to be?

I guess I'll answer the second question first. I love to improvise because
it probably has the highest potential of being fresh and 'new' every time
you play. I'm still discovering new things when i play. It's not necessarily
a new note or riff but a new perspective on the interaction or about
yourself. You find yourself doing things in a new way. That's what human
creativity is about. And when i say be honest, I mean you are open to all
possibilities and not playing by habit. So to answer the first question, if
I feel like I came up with a new and exciting way to solve a particular
problem or negotiate a sonic situation then yes, i would hope it was
documented and i get to share it with others. Now whether it should be a
physical cd or a downloadable file, that is the more interesting question.

Do you feel an artist has a certain duty towards anyone but himself? Or to
put it differently: Should art have a poltical/social or any other aspect
apart from a personal sensation?

As long as I am a member of a community, everything I do including music has
to have socio-political ramifications. As I said earlier, I am trying to
live creatively and come up with new ways to resolve conflicts and solve
problems and offeralternatives to out-dated models of thoughts and practices
that no longer seem to be working. Art is a living thing. It questions our
existence or the modes of our existence. It can also be entertaining. It's a
matter of balance and I think it's an artists' responsibility to make people
stop and think about the way they live their daily lives.

You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be
on your program?

Everything. I thought the All Tomorrow's Parties in LA a couple years back
was a good model. I'd have them all: folk singers, funk bands, noise
artists, what have you. And from all corners of the planet.

A lot of people feel that some of the radical experiments of modern
compositions can no longer be qualified as ³music². Would you draw a border
and if so, where?

Well, I think I answered this earlier when I said I found the definition of
music a bit limiting. Sound and music are becoming more and more synonymous
for me every day. I think we need to experiment and break down borders. They
may not all be successful but that's how you learn and move forward. I've
always found the process to be more exciting than the product. Because when
it's done, it's done. And it's time to start something new again. I think
there's too much marketing and not enough experimenting.

Many artists dream of a "magnum opus". Do you have a vision of what yours
would sound like?

No, i don't but it will probably be close to the sound of a thunderstorm
breaking out over the Western Plains.

As performer/producer:
Marcos Fernandes "Hybrid Vigor" ('02)
Radulovich/Fernandes "The Whisper Chipper" ('00)
Wormhole Effect "The Bastard Musicians of Mesmer" ('98)
Various Artists "Trummerflora 2" ('98)
Wormhole Effect "Wormhole Effect" ('97)
Burning Bridges "Feast of Fools" ('96)
Various Artists "Trummerflora" ('95)
Marcelo Radulovich "Marcelo Radulovich" ('94)
Burning Bridges "From Benny's Tiki Room And Ammo Dump" ('92)
Burning Bridges "Burning Bridges" ('89)
Burning Bridges "Brand New Vision/Yayo" ('86)
Laws of Motion "Living In Real Time" (World Records, '84)

As performer:

Emily Hay "Like Minds" (Pfmentum '05)
Various Artists " 6" (pho/6 '04)
Trummerflora Collective "Rubble 1" ('04)
Locations Volume Two (Ribosome Music '04)
Various Artists "Frontier Life: Banda Sonora" ('03)
Nathan Hubbard "Skeleton Key Orchestra" (Circumvention Music '03)
Various Artists "Field Recordings and Manipulations" (Bake Records/Staalplat '03)
Marcelo Radulovich "Hello" ('02)
Various Artists "Track Whore Volume 2 & 3" (Pan Handler '02)
Various Artists " 1, 2 & 3" ( '01/02)
Trummerflora Collective "No Stars Please" ('01)
Radulovich/Fernandes "The Whisper Chipper" ('00)
Hans Fjellestad "Red Sauce Baby" ('00)
Marcelo Radulovich "2 Brains" ('99)
Various Artists "...and the reindeer you rode in on..." ('99)
Mark Hunton "The Towering Sky" (Spotted Pecary, '99)
Formula "Jolk" (Distort-o-Records, '99)
Z.O Voider "Travelogue" (Accretions/Martian Consulate '97)
Marcelo Radulovich "To Lilliput & Back vol. one" ('96)
A Rope of Feathers "A Rope of Feathers" (Dream Chair '93)
Guam Caucus "Guam Caucus" ('85)
Various Artists "Local Heroes" (91X, '85)

Marcos Fernandes

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