James Beacham: Occasionally we force ourselves out of our meeting mode and try to explain what we do to the regular person so that we don't lose sight of why it is we're doing what we do.And what is that, again?
Beacham: CERN is an international research facility and that is dedicated to fundamental particle physics, and the main project here is called the Large Hadron Collider. What this really is is 27-kilometer-round tunnel that is that is dug underneath the border of France and Switzerland here near Geneva, and inside this tunnel are the superconducting magnets that we use to send the beam of protons up to almost the speed of light, and then we slam them into each other. We do this because we're looking for new stuff, new physics that humans have never seen before.
So you wanted to explain this to others through music?
"A band like Deerhoof, they are doing what they do because they can't help themselves."
Beacham: It's really a way to get people's attention, so they can see the equipment that we have here and maybe they'll hear a little bit more about the science and then they'll get a little more curious and they will seek us out.This one is a bit strange because the form of it, because it's not just an explicit explanatory thing. It's more like John Cage art/Matthew Barney art film trick to try to get people to pay attention to our research. That was why it was really unique, because I don't think CERN has really ever produced something like this.How did you get Deerhoof involved?
Beacham: The best parts in their live shows are the points at which they push beyond the melodic and beyond the understandable, into the unknown, into the musical nether regions. But they do it from a basis. That was sort of what I noticed at their show and noticed that I had subconsciously understood the whole time—that a band like Deerhoof, they are doing what they do because they can't help themselves. They want to start from a basis of well-known musical ideas and then want to push beyond that because they're curious and they're just pushing forward.
Satomi Matsuzaki: I had no idea what was gonna happen before Deerhoof arrived. Accelerator? Dark matter? Making a black hole? Something crazy must be going on at CERN; that was my impression. After we got there, we totally tuned in to CERN's open-minded high energy. Deerhoof is the same too. We super collided to each other and tried to break the barrier between music and science. It doesn't matter how your creative fields are categorized. We are same people who like to adventure. I felt welcomed and at home almost immediately.James, did you give them any parameters for the performance?
Beacham: I wanted to give them some kind of structure so they had some kind of framework that they could grasp upon, but I made that somewhat physical. So we showed them like, this is your spot—for instance, [guitarist] John [Dieterich] in the upper left hand corner spot [of the video], we put him on top of this scaffolding. I thought it would be a cool visual thing, and also, it was intriguing for me to see what would happen because there was no way we could get his amps up there too. So basically it would be just him with his pedals, whereas his amps and his speakers were down below, so he really couldn't control the levels.It was really fantastic to see the way that the band members collectively responded to each one of them individually being asked to understand and inhabit a space and then improvise within that space.How did you feel about the end result?
Matsuzaki: It was such a surreal activity to be in the most cutting edge science facility and play our music. I was surprised that our music was harmonious to CERN's creative atmosphere and noises that their machines made there. I felt a spark hearing echoes of my bass distortion sound in a large high ceiling room with bunch of metal pipes that changed the world.Beacham: I hope that we inspired them by both the urge to understand and explore like what we do here and how that might feel similar to what they do as artists. In the end, that's what we're trying to do: we're trying to get people that might think CERN is only a completely cerebral thing, when in fact a lot of what we do is coming from a very basic urge to better understand the world and explore beyond what you see. That's really why we do what we do.