Interview conducted on 13 December 2007,
aired on the Douche Froide broadcast on 21 January 2008.
INTERVIEW WITH ALOOF PROOF
Author of three remarkable discs between 1994 and 1996, Expo One, Piano Text, and Inside the Quiet, Aloof Proof is an artist unjustly overlooked in the British "ambient" scene. On the occasion of his visit to Toulouse for a concert with composer Mathius Shadow Sky, we met this quiet and shy musician whose work is being reissued by the American label Infraction Records.
Hello Aloof Proof. Should I call you Aloof? Is that your name?
This is the name for my music but not my name!
And why did you choose this name?
I love both words, "aloof" means "slightly hidden" and I like it, that's all. It's like a group but there is only me.
You made several records in the '90s. What was your musical training when you started playing?
I studied classical guitar when I was a child, then the electric guitar. I just learned by myself and I started playing with keyboards, electronics. It evolved.
Your first CD was Expo One in 1994, which is the ambient vein. How would you describe this music?
Atmospheric. It's not strictly ambient. It's more expressive. Ambient music has more to do with the environment, there is not much change.
On this first recording, one feels a very strong influence from Brian Eno and his "loop technique". Did you learn from him?
Not really. I work with a sampler and therefore I do loops. But I knew the music of Brian Eno of course.
What are the basic sounds that you produce? Do they come from instruments?
Sometimes just manipulated sounds. All sounds that can be used with a sampler. In the second piece I use an amplifier to produce distortion.
I thought it was a guitar!
No, it's sampling with guitar distortion.
This CD was released on your own label, Carbon Base. Did you produce other things on this label?
Yes, with a friend in London, he also made one disc but we have only released four.
Were they limited editions?
Of 1000 copies, yes.
At that time it was the beginning of a new wave of ambient music, darker, you participated in compilations on a particular American label.
Yes, I made a few.
Did you feel close to other groups at the time?
Not really. I am fairly isolated. There was a group which I liked, it was Biosphere, with whom I participated on the same compilation.
Your second CD was called Piano Text.
Yes, just a classical piano recorded in a single take, improvised, I did not use a sampler, it's just piano and reverb effects, manipulations. The sound leaves the piano but the sound is different.
Yes, the sound is stretched.
Very. This is not synthetic. This is real acoustic sound but with treatment.
As you said, "atmospheric" is an adjective that fits this music. Could it be combined with a space? Have you worked for installations?
Yes, but this one is too personal. This is for listening at home, or perhaps in a movie. For installations, I would do something different. Finally, I do not really know.
This CD was reissued on an American label.
The label of Andrew Liles, Beequeen, so maybe the disc will benefit from better distribution?
I hope so.
Because in fact you stopped the music in the early 2000s?
Earlier, in the late '90s. I continue to record so I have music but it's not published. It's waiting.
You're not very interested in the commercial aspect of the recording industry?
It's very difficult. I might be interested but we will see what happens with the new CD. It's a lot of work but I could try.
You say that but yesterday one saw you on stage.
Yes, with Mathius Shadow Sky. He calls me every second year and so I said "OK, I'll come".
You already worked with Mathius Shadow Sky for the first time in 1996.
We met at Sonar in Barcelona and he invited me to come to France. We have played together a few times. I particularly like the first disc that we made.
And at Sonar, you were invited to play live?
Did you do many concerts at the time?
Just a few.
The disc from this collaboration is called "Aloof Sky and the Proof of Shadow". Then after there was another record that one can download from the site of Centre de la Bombe.
Yes, a concert that we did in Toulouse.
Was it another concept?
No, we just improvised together to see if something happened. But that was part of a longer show for Mathius. On the first disc we recorded, he re-composed and I am supposed to do my version. But I have not yet done so. Thus he awaits the other part.
So you are very late?
Yes, very late and very lazy. Now, it is ten years. I forgot of course but I should have done it.
You will do it?
Yes, because I have the original recording and it's really good.
For these recordings, you play the guitar?
You have special training with this instrument?
I studied classical guitar when I was young, but not to a very high level. I started just playing the guitar but I changed. I use it only for sound, I do not play it. I do not play the melody.
Yes, because if one does not see the guitar, one might say that sounds are produced with another instrument.
Yes, the sampling. It's a bit boring. I prefer to have a real sound and play with it afterwards.
What were the reactions of the public, not necessarily the concert yesterday with Mathius, but also your previous concerts in the '90s?
I do not remember. I just made a few, small ones. Sonar was in broad daylight, people were doing other things.
Because what pleases Mathius in your music is that when you play it at a reasonable volume, it's very pleasant, but if it's played loud, it can become very aggressive. Do you agree?
It's amusing because yesterday a person found that it was the hardest and most noisy moment of the performance.
Ah yes? The group played very hard, not me.
Not this person who was really disturbed. She did not know whether she should stay or leave.
I like that.
Perhaps what is difficult is that there is no point of reference with this kind of music and nothing which recalls a traditional way of making music.
Music is sound and time. There is no need for reference.
In most ambient music, the predominant feeling is one of appeasement, while your music can also bring this kind of reaction because there may be something dark or confusing in what you do.
I have really confusing pieces!
They're not out?
You said that your third and last solo album Inside the Quiet was more in a industrial vein.
Yes. People tell me so. That it's industrial, dark, not very smooth.
Is there a concept behind an album?
There is a concept but it's automatic, I do not program it.
What kind of literature?
It's not a direct influence. I read a lot and it's present. But I do not make music about the literature.
But if you must compare your music to for example a book? Which one could it be?
I would not do it, no. But on Piano Text, the titles are drawn from a book by Roland Barthes, "A Lover's Discourse: Fragments". I read this book at the same time as I composed, so I got the titles from those pieces. On Inside the Quiet, the source of inspiration was the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but not entirely. It's just a feeling.
And why this urge to do something about this bomb?
No, it works the other way around. I listen to the music and it makes me think of Hiroshima, the emotional sound, not the sound of the bomb. When I gave titles to the pieces, it was for this reason.
When you create music, the images come afterwards?
Yes, all the time. They come and I know that it's true. I do not seek, it comes to me.
You are thus like a listener with your music?
Yes, I suppose. But I haven't said this to anyone before, it's really private. I can say it today.
Yes, it was a long time ago.
Yes, I have forgotten.
Speaking of imagination, if you must compare your music to a film?
Oh, it's difficult. I need to think. The problem is that I forget everything, so I can not remember. Do you have an idea?
It's not me who is supposed to answer!
I am sure there is one, but it's better that I remind you later.
We talked about that these discs are very good, do you not feel that you would have deserved more?
Yes, of course. But after a few years, it doesn't matter. Now the interest returns. I do nothing and some people really appreciate my work and want more.
So it's just a matter of waiting?
Not waiting, but to let time pass. I think that when there is a certain quality it's not lost, it's just hidden, difficult to obtain.
Yes, and it's an ageless music.
The commercial circuit was also too much for me. Make this music and sell it, we should not do both at once. I concentrated on my music and not on this business. I can do business but not at the same time. I tried to work with people for that but it did do it.
Did yesterdays experience give you the desire to give more concerts and to be more active, to make you send women into fury as during the show?
Yes, I could do it again. I like to play.
But you're waiting ...
No, I'm not waiting, I'm just lazy. For making well, one needs a good place, good people, which is not given.
We talked about your official CD:s, but did you work on other things during these years?
Collaborations with Mathieu. I did some pieces for the theaters in Girona and Barcelona.
Was it also with guitar?
Not so much. I use the guitar for concerts. In studio, I use everything.
We will thus await other re-releases of the things you have made.
Next year, on the Infraction label, we want to make a compilation with already published pieces and different new ones.
It will be for 2008?
Yes, hopefully in late 2008. Maybe 2009. I have a lot of pieces so it may be a double CD.
Thank you very much.
Interview led by Max Lachaud and Isabelle Lartigue.
English translation by Anna-Lisa W.