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The Disciplines

Interview von: Matthias Rauch mit Ken Stringfellow, am: 15.06.2009 ]

Hin und wieder bekommt man Platten auf den Schreibtisch, die dermaßen anachronistisch daherkommen, dass das ganze Gerede von Retro schon wieder albern wirkt. The Disciplines um Mastermind Ken Stringfellow, der hier drei norwegische Musiker um sich geschart hat, ist eine dieser Bands. Doch ausnahmsweise muss man sich auf dem neuen Album „Smoking Kills“ keineswegs über Ideenarmut ärgern, sondern bekommt stattdessen traditionelle Rockmusik vom Feinsten geboten. Grund genug bei Mr. Stringfellow mal genauer nachzufragen. Wir sprachen über Norwegen, R.E.M. und ProTools.

 

Musicscan: Please tell me a little bit about how "Smoking Kills" came about? What was the creative process for this album like?

The Disciplines: The writing of the album was done on the few occasions we could get together--I live in France, and the rest in Norway. So, seeing as we couldn't be together that often, we made our time together radically efficient. Typically, Bjorn has a few basic ideas, and he brings them to us, and right then and there I choose which ones appeal, and I come up with more parts. The vibe in our rehearsal place for these writing sessions was so good, we just continued to work there. We brought in a little more gear and a great engineer, Jon Marius Aareskjold. In fact, the plan to get a down and dirty sound in our rehearsal place backfired, my band is too good and they were recorded too well. So the next step was what I call "unmixing" at Jon Marius' studio, I had to deconstruct to make it sound just like I wanted. There is virtually no difference between the record and our live show, except the studio recording is not at all fatiguing to listen to. It's still sweet, but we are kind of like that.

Musicscan: How would you describe the music scene in Norway? Is there still a great deal of communication and cooperation between the various genres and scenes?

The Disciplines: Well, not really. I could name names, but I won't. I think in a small country like that, where you can be very well known very quickly--one article in the national newspaper (VG, which we've been in a bunch of times now) and you think you're king shit of fuck mountain. The music scene itself is of high quality. Players are good, and everyone is quite professional. You can decide if I mean that in a good way or not, but well, actually I do!

Musicscan: I was interested in how you guys met and particularly how the cooperation with Ken Stringfellow came about?

The Disciplines: I (Ken) met the singer of the guys' old band (Briskeby) in 2001. She was a fan of my solo work, which has been very well received in Norway. She gave me some of their records eventually, and we vowed to work together, which we finally did in 2005, when I sang a duet with her on the band's last album. It did quite well and they recognized me as a breath of fresh air in their musical lives. We went on tour together in Norway, and it was soon apparent the band was splitting up--they were as big a success as you could be in Norway, but couldn't get any success outside of there apart from some success in Germany on their first album. But that was it. And they saw it was only going to go down from there. So they went out on a good note. But the guys wanted to try something fresh and easy with me. Briskeby made very complicated, expensive pop records. The idea of writing a song in ten minutes, recording it in 5, and playing it in 2 was a relief and something that neither they nor I had much experience with.

Musicscan: Do you have certain musical or aesthetic goals for the band?

The Disciplines: You pretty much read it up there. Keep it simple, and true. Keep it sexy. Modern indie rock tends to stay very brainy, and doing something too rock is seen as uncool--you will be too heavy metal and un post post modern. However, I like my music with some sex and some danger. I like my art that way, too. So that's what I am promoting here. I say sex and danger, but not oppression. The reason it works is because I am a post post post modern artist, and I am not acting naively. But also I am trying to respond to deeper, more lasting influences than rock & roll, indie rock, etc. I am trying to give a human message--to show love, and the animal forces that rest inside us--the good ones. That we are part of nature, even as we exist in a world that is rapidly leaving nature behind.

Musicscan: What makes for the perfect song in your opinion? Have you ever achieved something like a perfect song in your opinion? How would you define a perfect song?

The Disciplines: I am the wrong person to ask. It's the imperfections that I love. I think anything that transports you to some place outside yourself, for a few minutes, is the thing that we all want to make. Music to me has always been an invitation for a few minutes at a time to live in another world. I think I have made some creations that really take *me* to another world, and I hope that effect is there for others to enjoy.

Musicscan: What is the difference between art and entertainment in your opinion?

The Disciplines: Well, they overlap, to be sure. There is no art that doesn't entertain, in a broad definition of that word. But there are things made to try and second guess the nature of art by trying to create popular art, based on models of what has been popular before, or what the art marketplace might support. So you can imagine how I feel about that. Well, the fact is, I feel nothing, because this kind of thing doesn't make me feel emotions.

Musicscan: What was it like opening up for R.E.M. or Snow Patrol? What can you learn from performing with these bands?

The Disciplines: Not only did we open for them, but I worked on albums and tours for both of those bands too. I learned a lot from working with REM. They changed my whole way of working and introduced the concept of very spontaneous creation in the studio etc. even when the stakes were high, they didn't over think. Opening for Snow Patrol was our 5th show. We weren't really ready, but we did a fine job. Opening for REM a year later showed us that we were capable of capturing an audience of any size. People loved us.

Musicscan: What do you hope people to take away from a The Discplines show?

The Disciplines: I hope they have an atmosphere to let go and forget about things, and go into the kind of moments I have on stage--spontaneous, un self conscious, free and loving. I try and impart those very things every time. You can say it's my mission.

Musicscan: Do you think modern information technology will inevitably change not only the way music is listened to but also how it is written? Do you think it is reasonable to assume that the concept of an album will soon be a thing of the past and people will solely listen to certain songs? Will the songwriting and the music change as well because of that?

The Disciplines: Songwriting has been changing with technology as long as there has been music. I don't think that the concept of songs related will disappear. It depends on how strongly the artist wants to you to listen to everything. Ideas survive, that's the thing. But music itself is a reflection of human feeling and society so it's always changing. Now people have this control over the music they consume, like never before. I am sure that we will have more collaboration between artist and audience...I have been wanting to give the ProTools sessions of my albums away, I haven't found a way to do it yet but I will.

Musicscan: What is most important to you in your life?

The Disciplines: If I could limit it to one thing, that wouldn't be much of a life, would it? I like variety, challenge and change.

Musicscan: What are your three current favourite books, records and movies respectively?

The Disciplines: I am reading: The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World, by Lews Hyde. It's a fascinating and inspiring exploration on the nature of art and its value to society. The last record I listened to was a record by a Spanish songwriter calling himself The Guinea Pig. He is part of series of 'handmade' records being put out by Spanish producer Paco Loco, I was just working in his studio and he gave me some of what he's been working on. I recently watched 'Abel Raises Cain' which is a documentary about Alan Abel, who is a prankster and media hoaxster. I had never heard of him before, even though some of his pranks are infamous in the American media. Starting in the 1960s, and continuing now (he is almost 80) he has been fabricating fictional organizations that espouse insane goals such as putting clothes on animals for the sake of public decency; making breast feeding illegal; etc. etc. and manages to get major news organizations to believe him and run the stories...then they find out it's all a joke and they've been fooled. He's done so many, and done them so well, you really have to watch the movie to get the full scope of his career.

Musicscan: What can we expect from The Disciplines in the near future?

The Disciplines: Now that the record is out we will come to play in Germany, a lot I think. We played the Bang Bang Club in 2007, but now we are so much better as a live band, I think people are going to be blown away.

Musicscan: Anything you would like to add?

The Disciplines: Give pizza a chance. No, seriously, I hope to play a lot in Germany, it's a great country for playing live shows, and I haven't played much there since I did a solo tour with the band Subterfuge in 2007. So it is definitely time to get back there.

 
 Links:
  The Disciplines
  The Disciplines @ Myspace
 
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