by Anil Prasad
Copyright © 2022 Anil Prasad.
Colin Edwin has situated his bass and compositional talents within a wildly diverse set of contexts. Art rock, electronica, jazz-rock, global fusion, metal, and pop are just a few of the realms he’s explored since the beginning of his professional career in the early ‘90s.
From 1993 to 2011, he was a key member of Porcupine Tree, contributing to the majority of the band’s output. The late ‘90s and ‘00s also saw him participating in Ex-Wise Heads, a trio with multi-instrumentalist Geoff Leigh and percussionist Vincent Salzfaas that released six albums of borderless music exploring myriad worldly influences.
During the 2010s, he co-founded Metallic Taste of Blood, a mercurial group that traverses punk, metal, and dub territory, with an initial lineup featuring multi-instrumentalist and producer Eraldo Bernocchi, drummer Balazs Pandi, and keyboardist Jamie Saft. That period also saw him working with bassist Lorenzo Feliciati in the deep-groove project Twinscapes. Concurrently, he was part of Obake, a doom and drone metal-oriented act which also features Bernocchi and Feliciati, as well as guitarist Lorenzo Esposito Fornarsi, also known as LEF.
All of that collaborative work laid the groundwork for Edwin’s current focus: O.R.k., a quartet that was founded in 2015, featuring LEF, drummer Pat Mastelotto, and guitarist Carmelo Pipitone. The band has released four albums to date, including its 2022 effort Screamnasium. It was mostly conceived and recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic and is its most expansive and seeking effort to date. It continues within Edwin’s elastic framework in which genre is secondary to emotional intent.
Screamnasium is anchored in a heavy rock aesthetic, but isn’t afraid to combine that with progressive, atmospheric, and acoustic elements. And while O.R.k. previously established itself with a reputation for communicating a cynical, darker worldview, the new album offers a hopeful viewpoint as humanity emerges from the pandemic.
Edwin has also released two other recent, shared endeavors. Fractal Sextet, a group spearheaded by guitarist Stephan Thelen and keyboardist Fabio Anile, unveiled its self-titled debut album in 2022, which finds the two composers working with Edwin, guitarist Jon Durant, drummer Yogev Gabay, and percussionist Andi Pupato. Together, they’ve realized a fascinating minimalist groove recording that’s unafraid to veer into piercing rock, deep textural, and fuzzed-out funk directions.
Endless Tapes, Edwin’s intermittent duo with drummer Alessandro Pedretti, released the Third Reel EP this year, continuing a working relationship that goes back to 2013. The recording is a fluid collection of five effervescent, propulsive, and cinematic pieces.
Edwin resolutely believes music can make a positive impact on the world. Another important endeavor he’s pursued is the Humanitarian Aid Through Music campaign to benefit Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s attack on the sovereign, democratic nation. He’s created an online presence in which listeners can purchase music he’s created with Durant, Ukrainian vocalists Inna Kovtun and Yulia Malyarenko, singer-songwriter Tim Bowness, and electronica producer Gaudi.
The campaign also relates to Edwin’s other joint efforts with Durant, Kovtun, and Malyarenko. Since 2011, Edwin and Durant have worked together on Durant’s ambient cloud guitar-driven solo albums, as well as a duo called Burnt Belief that has four recordings to its credit. Burnt Belief seamlessly combines improvisation, immersive compositions, soundscapes, and art rock.
In addition, Edwin and Durant have worked with Kovtun and Malyarenko as part of Astarta Edwin. The ensemble is an extension of the singers’ core group Astarta, a Ukrainian act that integrates pop, rock, and electronic influences into traditional folk songs from the region.
During an extensive Zoom conversation, Edwin reflected on his many recent projects, as well as the philosophical underpinning that informs them all.
Describe how Screamnasium came together.
We started writing pretty quickly after we finished the last round of touring in 2019. The way it usually works is I go over to Bologna where LEF and Carmelo Pipitone live. I spend a weekend every now and again there just getting some ideas together with those guys. And then when we've got a few rough shapes, we tend to send stuff to Pat Mastelotto. And when Pat sends it back, sometimes he will have chopped things up or played on them. It's a merry-go-round like that until we consider the song done.
What was weird was we started a bunch of material in 2019 and most of it didn’t make it onto Screamnasium. There are a few tracks on there that had the genesis I speak of. But when the pandemic began, I didn’t hear from Pat, LEF, or anybody for a while. I think we were all in shock. We had our own things to deal with, individually. When we eventually kicked off the next writing session during the pandemic, a load of quite positive-sounding material came out. The ideas were different.
It sounds counterintuitive given this came together during a quite depressing time. But the music came out sounding a bit joyful and optimistic. I think we felt we needed to express hope. So, most of the music came out of this pandemic period, with a couple of tracks that were resurrected from where we left off, initially.
I feel everything sounds really strong and I'm really happy with the album. It feels like a really good representation of the band, not just musically, but personality-wise as well. Despite the fact that there have been some quite dark songs and subject matter in the band's repertoire, as people, it's a fun band to be in. Everyone’s a joyful individual.
What led to an optimistic worldview emerging for you during the pandemic?
It was much easier for me than my wife, because she's a nurse. So, she's going to work every day and facing God knows what. She's one of the people that carried on all the way through the pandemic. I was fairly insulated from it. I was at home. My kids were at home, and I was getting involved in a lot more domestic stuff. I didn't feel physically at risk in the same way as she was.
One song that particularly stuck in my mind was the song “Hope for the Ordinary.” When we were doing the lyrics, it had this hopeful vibe to it. What usually happens is LEF has a rough idea for what he wants to sing, in terms of phrasing, and I’ll put words to it, and think about the music. The song started to focus on how we’d feel when things started getting better and when eventually everything would be all right. I don’t know if we’re there yet, but it helps to think like that.
Also, one of the things I remember from the pandemic was the complete silence. There were no airplanes, traffic, and very few trains. When they all started again when things began getting better, it felt like normality again, but ordinary. I think we all realized that things being ordinary again was great, right?
During the earliest stage of the pandemic, we thought this was going to be very temporary. I remember a lot of musicians saying, “It's so great to be at home for a few weeks or months.” Obviously, seven or eight months later it was, “Hang on, this is a problem now.” But during the first part, so many musicians seemed happy.
One of the massive frustrations I had during the height of the pandemic was the cancellation of the gigs we had. We were due to do a load of support slots for System of a Down which would have been fantastic. We were going to play to big audiences around Europe. It’s a game-changing situation when you’re a support for a major act. It can really turn things around for you. I was really looking forward to that. So, that was all cancelled and I found that news very hard. In general, I’ve always had something to look forward to with music. There’s always a trip abroad coming up to play with somebody on a tour or at a festival. And then suddenly, there was nothing. The diary was empty. People weren’t contacting me either, even for online things, at first. Everyone was in the same situation, not knowing what to do. It was like a big hole opening up for all of us.
A positive thing I did do as a solo artist during the pandemic was create the Points of Origin series of pieces I made available online. I decided “I can’t concentrate, so I’ll go back to making drones." So, these pieces are just a drone and a pulse. I narrowed the music down to those two elements, and there was a good reaction to them.
You’ve said Screamnasium more closely reflects the band’s musical intent than any of its previous recordings. How does it do that?
Even though it wasn’t all done live, it sounds live. It sounds like we're all in the same room together, so that's great, because I always associate the four of us as being together and playing. It's a band that's always excited me. It always feels good to play with those guys. So, the record feels good. It's got a sort of live atmosphere, in a way. It feels like a true representation of how I felt the band should sound. And I think the other guys feel the same way.
You could take it apart and look at each of us individually and talk about what everybody does, but we always used to say there's a fifth member in the room. Brion Gysin and William S. Burroughs talked about the concept of “The Third Mind.” And actually, I think, it's true. With a successful collaboration, there's something bigger than you. It's akin to more than the sum of your parts. It's another entity. The entity, in this case, has something very playful about it and quite spontaneous. That’s definitely the case for our live performances and I think maybe we’ve got more of it on this record than the others. Sometimes, I've described the band as sort of like an affectionate slap. [laughs]
You’ve engaged in a great deal of collaborations over the years. What makes O.R.k. particularly special for you?
Perhaps it's got more of me in it. It's got a lot of emotion in it, too. Maybe now that I'm older and have been doing this for a long time, I must be more articulate. I must be better at what I'm doing now, because otherwise that means I haven't learned anything. So, my judgment about how to play is better and my judgment about how to fit in with other people has also improved. There's also more communication than there has been before with this band.
There isn’t a single explanation anywhere of what O.R.k. means. What are the origins of the name?
We've never let on what it means or if it even means anything. Band names often seem ridiculous. When you're sitting around trying to think of a band name, whatever you come up with always feels a bit forced, ridiculous, or contrived, but once you've got a sort of identity, it doesn't matter.
Led Zeppelin is a ridiculous name, isn't it? In jazz, you can call a band The Miles Davis Quintet, but with rock bands, you have to have a name. If you’re going to pull it out of me, I will say the name came from the Italian word for killer whale, which is orca. LEF and Carmelo, in the throes of some drunken discussion, decided they’d use the word orca. I said “That’s silly, because there’s a film called Orca: The Killer Whale. Everyone’s just going to think about that movie and killer whales, and say we’re coming from Hobbit land or something.” [laughs] So, I said “Let’s not have any association with anything even vaguely wizard-related.”
LEF was really insistent about calling the band Orcas and said “Well, why don’t we see if it works? It’s really good because a killer whale is a beautiful creature. It lives in the sea. It’s really sleek. It’s also a little bit dangerous.” He thought that was a good analogy for the music. We definitely want to have spontaneity, and the ability to move around quickly. So, in the end LEF insisted on O.R.k. as an acronym, but the etymology of the killer whale is in there somewhere.
What’s it like for you to work with Mastelotto as a rhythm section?
He’s a fantastic drummer and that goes without saying. He has a marvelous history. I had met him a few times before O.R.k., because Stick Men had opened up for Porcupine Tree, previously. I assumed Pat was this kind of super-technical, algorithmic musician. I didn’t expect him to actually be a laid-back Californian who’s really creative and fun to be around. He always comes up with wild and crazy ideas.
Touring with O.R.k. is pretty hardcore. It’s all of us in a van without much space, but we’ve managed to survive quite well in rough conditions. Part of that is because Pat’s quite happy to party. So, it’s fun as well. On a musical level, he’s got spontaneity and is happy to dive into inventive ideas. He’s always providing ideas one doesn’t expect, but they always fit the recordings well.
Sometimes, LEF has a very definite drum idea, and then Pat completely changes it, but always for the better. I realize people usually associate Pat with King Crimson, but he’s done so many other things like The Rembrandts and XTC. He has a lot he draws from when he plays. He has a real passion for drumming, and a lot of enthusiasm and energy.
When we perform, Pat is coming over from America. And he’s not shy about getting out here to Britain and Europe and doing it. We’re all taking a risk every time we go on tour, but he’s always happy to jump in and play with us at this sort of lower level than the gigs with King Crimson. It takes a lot, once you’ve toured at that level, to work at a lower level, sometimes. He didn’t have to do O.R.k., rather he does it because he enjoys the music and wants to do it.
O.R.k.’s debut 2015 album Inflamed Rides was just remastered and reissued. How do you look back at that recording?
I just listened back to it for the first time in ages, and it was much better than I remembered. So, that’s a good sign. There are a couple of crazy tracks on there, like “Bed of Stones.” They are also quite playful, and a little bit psychedelic. There is also more electronica going on than there is now with the band. I’m very happy it’s getting an expanded release, because it was originally put out on my own label Hard World and didn’t go very far. We crowdfunded it, manufactured it, and hired the publicity people.
Inevitably, a label like Kscope, who put out Screamnasium and the Inflamed Rides reissue, is able to really push the music to places I could never get to on my own. So, it’s great that O.R.k. is now reaching new sets of ears worldwide.
The new edition of Inflamed Rides includes a cover of David Bowie’s “I’m Afraid of Americans.” Tell me about adapting that song for the group.
It was originally a one-off single we did. We all felt disgusted by Donald Trump and wanted to express that together. We slightly changed the lyric to “I’m Afraid for Americans.” It’s such a marvelous song. We all like David Bowie. Who doesn’t?
The song came together really quickly, and I’m really pleased with the interpretation, because it doesn’t sound too close to the original. That’s really hard to do with a cover. You want to re-interpret it, or provide a different angle on it, rather than just slavishly playing it in the same manner.
This version has Carmelo’s very stylistic guitar picking on it. I’m doing a totally different bass line. It’s both a tribute to Bowie and a middle finger to Trump and the whole attitude of his followers.
You’re four albums and seven years into the band. What are your further ambitions for O.R.k.?
I think we keep getting better with each release, but I don’t feel we’ve had a fair crack of the whip with touring. I’m looking forward to doing more gigs. Touring is also the best way to develop the music. We’re lucky we’ve been able to do a couple of European tours and one of South America. But we want to significantly build on that with a lot more shows. O.R.k. is definitely something with a future and a lot more activity ahead.
How did you got involved with with Fractal Sextet?
I was a fan of Stephan Thelen's band Sonar for several years. Stephan was working with Jon Durant, and he suggested me for some tracks they were putting together. I was really happy to do it. I think Stephan also said some really nice stuff about one of my albums called Allusions, which is a solo bass project. On Allusions, I’m making tape loops on cassette tapes and destroying them in the process. He liked the atmosphere and perhaps was hoping for a bit of that spirit from me.
Over a period of a few months, we worked on a lot of different tracks. With Stephan’s music, he tends to focus on really specific elements of music, and with me, it’s usually a rhythmic aspect he’s exploring. The music has lots of odd polyrhythmic things and unusual rhythms. It’s really atmospheric and hypnotic.
Stephan’s music is fun and fascinating to play, as well as listen to. It also forces me to focus on really specific elements as deeply as I can.
How did the creative process for Fractal Sextet work?
Stephan would usually send me one of his compositions or one by Fabio Anile. They would often have one or two bass lines in a long track. I would listen to each segment of the track and try to work out what was changing. There might have been a keyboard or guitar solo to consider. I would try and react differently throughout, because even though everything is intentionally repetitive and minimal, I wanted to help contribute to the flow.
Intriguingly, the drums came last. Yogev Gabay played to what I’d done, out of necessity, because it was made through long-distance collaboration. He’s fantastic. He has a great sound and feel. It’s interesting how all of the elements came together and how the flow of the pieces was established. I learned that changing a really small element in a bass line, like just playing a short note instead of a long note, really influenced the feel of a certain area of the song. So, it was a good exercise in creative judgement and contributing to the whole.
In a way, there’s no right or wrong with Fractal Sextet. The music is more or less harmonically static a lot of the time. It’s one scale all the way through, or it has one drone reference throughout. So, it was about being sympathetic to that.
Also, one of the great things on the debut album is Jon’s really bringing it out with his solos. He’s being a forceful lead player in places. So, I’m trying to underpin him and not take too much of the focus away, in the same way I wouldn’t with a singer. So, I wanted to keep things really solid and interesting, but ensure I was interacting intuitively with Jon, even though we weren’t in the same room.
I should also mention that Stephan has been really generous with his praise for everyone involved. He’s made a point of saying “Fractal Sextet isn’t just me. I composed some of the music, but the other musicians made big contributions.” It’s nice that he does that, because not everyone does. It’s fair to say Stephan is the key composer, together with Fabio. But the music was a framework that each of us could mess around with and have freedom within.
Provide some insight into your interest in minimalist music.
One of the things I've always enjoyed about music is the state of mind you get into when you're really concentrating and distilling things down to the bare minimum. It’s just as expansive as playing something that’s complex in a different way. It’s taking a microscope to an aspect of something and realizing there are lots of different colors, shades, and elements within a seemingly fixed thing that you can explore.
I really like the work of minimalist composers like Nik Bärtsch and Don Li. Li’s album Out of Body Experience with the drummer Fabian Kuratli is something we played before every O.R.k. gig. It’s an incredible album. It was all recorded live, but it doesn't sound like it, because it goes in and out of time signatures at many tempos.
You’re working on a forthcoming album with guitarist Robert Jürjendal. What can you tell me about the collaboration and the recording?
I first met Robert through Tim Bowness. Robert played on the Slow Electric album from 2011 that Tim led. Tim was going to do another Slow Electric album, but Peter Chilvers got too busy working for Brian Eno. We had a few sketches I had originally sent to Robert with a view to Tim working on them. So, we decided to carry on working on the material ourselves.
Robert is very fast. When I send him something, within a day or two, he’s played something in response. We then go back and forth quite quickly. He lives outside Tallinn in Estonia in a farmhouse. He’s a fascinating guitar player, because he’s another minimalist.
I really like what Robert does. It’s very understated. It’s more of a dialog than the previous record. It’s quite sparse music. It isn’t rock. It’s more in the spirit of ECM. With Robert, I can play very deep, slow, dubby bass lines and it always fits with what he does. It’s a connection that works well. It’s a natural, and elemental type of music.
Endless Tapes has reemerged after six years with the Third Reel EP. Discuss the rekindling of that working relationship and what the new recording explores.
I was quite pleased with Endless Tapes as a project. My working relationship with Alessandro Pedretti was very productive and we found common ground easily. I thought both the Brilliant Waves album and self-titled EP were strong releases and that we'd found something unique to ourselves. We managed to do an enjoyable short run of gigs which was a good road test of the material and worked really well. Unfortunately, despite our positive feelings, the music proved to be a hard sell, although curiously, we sold quite a lot of t-shirts relative to the number of CDs. The project didn't really get enough traction to grow any further and we both moved on to other things, but we kept in touch from time to time, and also collaborated on some installation music to accompany a sculpture trail in Northern Italy a few years ago.
The new release came about because we received an offer from a German media company to make some new music. They gave us total artistic freedom, but hinted they had a preference for certain moments from the Brilliant Waves album.
This created a sort of brief in our minds and focused us into creating much shorter tracks with a more succinct compositional flow. We also limited ourselves in certain ways, so there's no soloistic passages, no long ambient atmospheric build ups, and also a greater emphasis on our rhythmic interplay. I've previously worked in a similar but opposite way, when Ex-Wise Heads were invited to make a vinyl release for Tonefloat some years back titled Celestial Disclosure. We decided to make two long pieces which each filled one side of vinyl, giving Geoff Leigh and I more time to fully explore the slow building ambient side of Ex-Wise Heads.
It's probably Alessandro's approach to rhythm that gives Endless Tapes a lot of its character. He has a minimalistic, cyclic, pattern-based concept going on with the drums and he carries that on to the other instruments he plays and his electronics.
Alessandro and I have very similar taste in sounds and timbres, and it's been interesting to explore our shared territory again after such a long break. I think of the new EP as a more concentrated, distilled version of what we've done before. All of the recognizable elements are there, but everything is leaner and the pieces all get to the point faster. I don't think anything feels rushed, despite the brevity.
In 2021, you released a series of recordings under the title Hebdomadal. The original idea involved a track appearing weekly and then disappearing forever. Explore the concept you pursued.
The word hebdomadal is derived from Greek and refers to the calendar week. The pieces were all half-finished ideas that I forced myself to finish during the pandemic. It was an interesting experiment to put them out according to a schedule with deadlines, even if they were self-imposed. All of that forced me to finish the ideas.
Some of those ideas had been knocking around for a while. Some were things I'd saved for a collaboration, and for whatever reason, the other party didn't pick up on it, or maybe I never played it to them in the end because we ended up doing something else.
It's a good exercise for me as a bass player to finish things on my own. Most of the time when you're playing the bass, you're part of an ensemble. So, you typically get to the point where you finish your bass line and then somebody does the vocals and other parts. So, for me, it was an exercise in creativity. It feels good to finish things and let them go out to the world. There was no point in just leaving them on the hard drive and forgetting about them.
Also, I’ve discovered these digital platforms require regularity of output. If you’re not suited to that or want to take a break from it, you’ll find you kind of can’t, because that’s not how they operate. So, I had a bit of success with it, having people following the project and coming back to it. I was really happy with the response.
The original idea was to have the tracks be temporarily available, but inevitably, people said, “Oh, I missed last week’s track. I wanted it but I was away.” So, I brought it back as a complete collection in the end.
When I was younger, things would come and go. You wouldn’t hear things from even five years ago, because that was too old to be current or interesting for people, unless it was a real favorite. But now, things are more permanent. You can go to YouTube and find obscure TV shows from your childhood quite easily. If there’s a band you half-remember when you were a kid, you can almost always find it. So, the past is in the present in a way it never used to be. And it informs what people are doing now.
You’ve been fundraising for Ukraine by offering music you’ve worked on with Astarta and others. Talk about your connection to the region and how you’ve been supporting the struggle it faces since being invaded by Russia.
It was a real eye-opener for me to first go to Ukraine in 2011 to perform with Ex-Wise Heads and Slow Electric. Eduard Pristupa, a well-known Ukranian musician, approached me after a gig I did there and sent me a load of tracks with Inna Kovtun and Yulia Malyarenko singing. Nothing else. Just the vocals. And there was a moment, which I'll never forget, which was opening the email and playing the first file he sent me. It was just these amazing harmonies and vocal performances. These women could sing incredibly well, but I had no understanding of what they were saying. It reminded me of Bulgarian choir music, because the harmonies are similar. It pulled me in and made me want to respond musically as a creativity experiment.
I started writing music around the two tracks I was sent. The response I got from them was really positive. In the past, they had always worked with people that understood the singing, but I didn’t. So, I was just listening to the vocal phrasing and playing a bass note that fit with it and then tried to build up from there. So, it was really stripping everything right back. Inevitably, the results were really quite different to anything they'd done, and for me it was a completely different world. It was a real challenge to work with them, initially, because they didn't speak any English. But over time I worked with Inna again, and we actually managed to perform live, which was amazing.
I really love what Inna does. She's fantastic. She's a force of nature and an elemental voice. It's very moving and profound. The music has really deep roots for them. It's their folk music and part of their identity.
It became quite meaningful to me that I'd managed to make a really solid connection with these people I couldn't even converse with. The common bond is music. It was an important thing for me. It really gave me hope. If I can communicate with people through music, we can get on. We've got such different backgrounds, yet we can enjoy being together. That's great. That's a hopeful message.
What happened in February 2022 with Vladimir Putin invading Ukraine was shocking. I felt absolute anger and disgust that this was happening in Europe. It’s something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. It’s like something out of the 1940s. But it’s repeating right in front of our eyes.
The war on Ukraine is also a cultural war. They’re not just destroying the cities and infrastructure, but also its cultural monuments. When the Russians take over a part of Ukraine, they deny the language. Everything has to be in Russian. I couldn’t imagine having my life turned around like they have. Ukrainians went from living their lives peacefully to being drafted into the army. It’s a total catastrophe.
I thought “What can I do? I can just send money to the Red Cross, but I’m a musician and I should pursue support that relates to that.” I thought it was important to use recordings to raise money and awareness in some small way that alleviates somebody’s suffering in Ukraine. So, I made the decision to make music available to download for free, and people can pay what they want for it as a donation. I think it was a morale booster for Inna and others. You’ll find recordings from Astarta Edwin, Jon Durant, Inna, and Tim Bowness there.
The new version of “Brightest Blue” with Tim Bowness from the Ukraine appeal campaign originates from the 1994 duo album Flame he released with Richard Barbieri. Explore how the revisitation came together, which now include Kovtun on vocals.
I knew the original version, and I believe I played it with Tim when we performed live. Tim and one of his main collaborators, Brian Hulse, worked with him on this, initially. Tim got in touch to say, “I’ve got this new version of ‘Brightest Blue.’ It’s a song about wartime, originally written during the Yugoslav Wars. I’m quite happy to donate the song.” So, of course, I said yes, and Jon Durant, Inna, and myself all perform on it. It became a collaborative thing. It was very cool and got us some attention as well. So, I’m really grateful to Tim and Brian.
Your work appeared as part of the Ukraine I Miss You exhibit, which was initially on display in the Lake District area of Britain. Describe your contribution to it.
Jon, Inna, and I put music to a spoken word war diary, which was written by a Kyiv resident and street photographer named Lisa Bukreyeva. It documents her thoughts and feelings during the first 130 days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We contributed atmospheric sound design for it.
Ukraine I Miss You was put together by someone I knew in my distant past named Stuart Roy Clarke. He’s known as a documentary photographer. I saw an advert for the exhibition, which features 12 Ukrainian photographers who offer their view of the war through their images. It’s a combination of photojournalism and art. I decided to get in touch with Stuart and see if he wanted any music for the exhibition.
We were very happy to be part of something so important. But I admit it was quite hard to create music for sometimes, because it involves someone describing these awful experiences. Sometimes Lisa talks about the hatred she feels for the Russians. It can be quite dark. But it’s a very important document and people need to understand what is going on.
There are future plans for the exhibition to travel to other parts of the UK and possibly the US.
What has living through the pandemic taught you about the value of music?
I really missed interacting with musicians on a physical level, but I was able to work in my own space and collaborate with people online. God knows what the pandemic would have been like without the Internet. It would have been impossible. We would have all gone mad. So, the pandemic reaffirmed the value of live interaction. Live performance is what drew me to music in the first place. There’s a sort of magic there.
Throughout the pandemic, I was grateful I could continue collaborating with people online. We got the O.R.k. album done while were stuck in all sorts of places. It was the only thing I had to look forward to, without any gigs or trips planned.
While music has been devalued over the years and become ubiquitous, it remains a conduit. We bond with people over music. It’s something to discuss and move forward with. It brings everything back to a really basic social function in a way. That holds true for a lot of music, especially the Ukrainian stuff. Their folk music is a fundamental part of their lives. Some of it’s for weddings and harvests. Inna once sang me a spring song. It has to be sung in a high pitch to bring on spring so the crops will grow. Music has a life function there. It makes you think about the whole fabric of life. It’s something I’ve reflected on while I’ve been trapped during the pandemic.
Overall, I feel quite good now. I’m really proud of the new work with O.R.k. and Fractal Sextet. It feels as good to me as anything I’ve done. They reflect two very different parts of my musical expression. It’s quite difficult for me to be bigging myself up, but I don’t feel like I’ve peaked. I feel I can justify carrying on artistically, because the music remains worthwhile.