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Interview with :papercutz

img  Tobias Fischer

You're on the road more than ever. Was turning :papercutz into a live-band always the intention right from the start?
Not at all. :papercutz was initially a studio project, an outlet of some ideas I had at that time that didn't fit the band I was playing in. Things grew to a point that I had an album on my hands, "Lylac", and invitations to play live. But it didn't feel right to perform with just two members, myself and a female vocalist, both of us responsible for the album. I felt we needed someone else to play some of the  instruments with me. So I decided to come up with a proper live band. We did the first shows as a trio but we're now four musicians on stage, two classical guest musicians, myself and a new lead female vocalist, Marcela Freitas. Lately we've also got one more person to play with live visuals in some shows. We try to make the most out of the venues we play.

How satisfied are you with your current performances, then?
Our confidence has definitely increased but there's still room for improvement. In any case, however satisfied I may be about how we are right now, I feel that we've just scratched the surface regarding what we can communicate to the audience and what we're essentially about. Besides, it's been a lot of work in terms of getting the arrangements right to play the album live so the performance benefits from the musicians and their particular skills. We're always trying to perfect that. But there have definitely been some special moments when it all comes togeth

In which way do you see your stronger live presence feeding back into the composition process for :papercutz?
The live experience has been crucial to understanding were I want to go from here. It has allowed to me to scratch some excess off the songs and also give some breading space, specially to the acoustic elements. And this will feedback into the new recordings. I'll also be with working with these musicians in the studio, so it has given us some time to try out various ideas for the album. An important part has been finding Marcela's right place and vocal tone, which is fuller and lower key than our former vocalist Melissa's, on some of the older and new songs that we've already played on some shows.

You're currently busy with an extensive Remix-project. You've released a Remix-EP of „Lylac“-related material before, so what was the appeal of returning to the idea?
Actually it was the fact that the first remix project went so well that I decided to follow up on this idea that I had been nurturing for a while: having Lylac remixed in full but with a specific orientation this time, expanding or heightening all of the ambiences and textures that are tucked underneath the songs. It just seems like a perfect way to put an end to this musical and conceptual chapter of :papercutz's work that started with Lylac.

In which way was it important that the finished Remix-collection still presented a tension arch and a degree of coherency?

It's important that the album feels cohesive. In the end, I want listeners to be able to listen to it as though it's an original album. Myself and the label spent a lot of time creating a line-up and directing the artists to that purpose. That's why I love the album as an object so much cause it enables you to have a narrative and it's a shame to watch it disappear with single-tracks-only-releases taking over. More than a collection of remixes, I consider the album to be made up interpretations of the original songs while artists maintain their recognizable musical signature. If however listeners decide to dig deeper and find the original songs and appreciate them and all of the process and creativity the remixers put into it, all the better.

As I'm a Remixer for the album myself, I can tell you that the process of working with your basic tracks has made me even more curious about your techniques. Taken on their own, these samples at first do not amount to much, but something magical happens in the moment they come together ... You seem to place great importance on balancing your elements and not allowing one of them to dominate the others. Would that be a correct perception?
That would be in fact a perfect perception of Lylac. Even the vocals can either be up-front or work as textural elements. The fact that I recorded all of the instruments and being aware of my own limitations also contributed to that. I really wanted to create an image of a small group playing on the album and I think I was successful with that on some songs and maybe not on others. But attaining a balance was the key to perpetuate that illusion.
Most of my music starts either conceptually in my head or musically just by playing some lines at the piano which is the perfect tool for composing. I might try something different during the new recordings, like picking up other instruments first just so I don't get glued to a specific method.

You're one of the few musicians unafraid of using the term „pop“ in an unironic context. Is the success of „Lylac“, to you, testimony to the ongoing relevance of the song-format?
I suppose it's cool to say you're an experimental or indie artist. But the truth is, as far as :papercutz goes at least, that we're trying to work around the song-format and it's not an easy task to come up with an intelligent pop song - and I would challenge anyone who says otherwise. Pop music is not the same as commercial music so musicians should not fear that label. Seriously and for the time being, this is where I feel comfortable and where I find I have got something different to offer. If it is relevant or not I'm not sure but one of the positive aspects of the song format is that there's a common language people can relate to and if they want, dig deeper and find other details or concepts. Listeners, even those who mostly follow pop music, can be a lot smarter than most musicians, radio and press make them out to be.

Cross-over is not necessarily a new idea these days. And yet, your concept of combining traditional elements with electronica and contemporary composition sounds very fresh. How did it develop over time?

An open minded approach to music helps. Also I've always been a big fan of instrumental music and on the last years around classical music (impressionist, minimalism or postminimalism music). Film scores played a big role in this but I have also been a big fan of electronic music, stuff from the Warp catalog for instance, and classic pop songs so the fresh approach here you mention, I believe, is trying to make these musical worlds collide. As far as I can recall I've always mixed live instruments with electronic music, but I've evolved from my first electric backgrounds into a more refined sound.

I really like your version of „Forbidden Colours“ – in which way was Ryuichi Sakomoto possibly an influence on your own music?
He has influenced me as a piano player first, in the way he manages to mix classical moods with Oriental motives - which is something I also use - making his music dreamlike and exotic. In the same way that composers like Glass or Reich's work around Ostinato-like structures influenced me. I'm also very fond of Sakomoto's soundtrack work and I find him as an artist similar to David Sylvian or Björk and many others that keep pursuing new modern ways for their music. His collaboration for instance with Alva Noto is amazing and I was fortunate to see it live. I hope to evolve the same way.

How important is the use of the Portuguese language for :papercutz?
Initially it was just a way to try out something new besides the usual and universal English language. In time it has become something I'm keen to keep. We live in a globalized world and language can turn a simple song into something exotic or mysterious for those who can't understand the language. Just listen to some of Sigur Rós' work. Marcela also has an inherent Portuguese mood in her voice that I think helps to bring that extra differentiating element into the songs. Besides, she's sung some songs of our Portuguese songs live on foreign shows and people seem to enjoy the difference and in the end that's all that matters. But we do try to balance that so we don't leave listeners totally outside of what we're trying to convey lyrically or we just run the risk of being classified as world music or something like that, which is not at all what I'm looking for.

What's the latest news on the new :papercutz full-length?
After the summer shows we will start recording and hopefully it will be out by the end of the year. It will evolve from lessons learned on our live shows with a lot more focus on vocals and the acoustic instruments (like I mentioned it'll feature some guest musicians on various instruments besides myself) with the electronic sounds working more as background textural ambiences. A modern chamber ensemble working around pop songs and instrumental themes with a love for electronic music. Basically we're trying to get to the essence of our musical signature. Lyrically it will breakout from the single person introspective thoughts found on Lylac into human relations, exploring the complex nature of what makes us want to get closer or away from one another and how we all face larger than life dual feelings like love, hate or dealing with our own mortality. Feelings that make us human... in fact we're the only animal that's truly aware of its own mortality.

By Tobias Fischer

:Papercutz' Remix album „Do Outro Lado Do Espelho (Lylac Ambient Reworks)“ is out May 24th on Audiobulb Records.

Nighttime at the Playground (Test Tube) 2005
Ultravioleta Remixes (Apegenine) 2008
Lylac (Apegenine) 2008
Do Outro Lado Do Espelho - Lylac Ambient Reworks (Audiobulb) 2010


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