Photo by Jonnie Craig
Jazz can be scary. Unless you are some child prodigy in a Richard Powers novel, it’s unlikely you will experience that much jazz in your quotidian existence. In general you evolve through the elementary pre-pubescent guitar music phase, through the ensuing weed-induced dalliances with hip-hop, the ecstasy and cocaine-fuelled love affair with dance music and then end up in some big post-20s mess of all that stuff rolled together and soaked in booze while you try to have as much fun as you did when you were younger and then failing and getting depressed about it all week as your body struggles to bounce back and recover like it once did. All of these things kind of prod jazz into a corner where it gets forgotten about. Maybe someone somewhere along the line gave you a copy of Kind of Blue or A Love Supreme but when they’re racked up on the shelf next to Peep Show you are, let’s face it, going to go for Captain Corrigan every time. All of this waylaying and forestalling builds jazz up to be a strange, unknown mass of complex, unintelligible music involving guys wailing in darkened basements and collapsing from exhaustion and heroin abuse. This is a shame because there is plenty of jazz around that is a million miles from the basement boogaloos and the yawnathon catalogue nerds in roll necks, sipping brandy on Radio 3. There’s classics like Sun Ra, Albert Ayler or Ornette Coleman or there’s new guys like Talibam! who are basically jazz musicians playing rock music that sounds like really loud unhinged jazz. Or maybe they are nothing like that at all. Either way, it makes you feel like you’re in the eye of a storm that you could happily stand in forever.
Vice: Listening to your music makes me feel like I am attached to the blades of a really loud helicopter that is going super fast until it goes through a sonic boom. And then it carries on going while I’m still spinning endlessly up above. How would you describe it?
Matt Mottel (synths): It is not so much a sound rather more an adherence to a principle of the harmoniacal.
It sounds like you just made that up.
Kevin Shea (drums): We did.
Matt: It is a combination of harmelodics and the maniacal. We just have little snippets, little moments, and crazed epiphanies. All of these are malleable and could go this way or that. We have never played the same set twice. Elements of it may be the same but no two shows are alike.
Kevin: This doesn’t mean we totally improvise, though. It isn’t total chaos. We have songs and even the elements that are improvised have parameters within which we operate to an extent.
Matt: It is not a giant game of search and seek.
Erm, okay. Are you staunchly anti-Al Qaeda?
Matt: The name was just the headline of the New York Post the day they began bombing Afghanistan.
Kevin: We just look for good environments, compassionate people, good wine and enjoy questioning why people might make a statement or choose not to make a statement, why one thing represents three and the other represents four—just a questioning of cliché and recycled phrase.
Talibam! have released something like seven records in the last 12 months. You’re best going to their MySpace page. Take a wild guess what the address is.