Metamono1

 

Summarily sent packing from his home of the last ten years in Istanbul, now darkening our doorstep in the southern counties of England,  Sean Bw Parker poses some questions at the electronic music journeyman and ever amiable raconteur Jono Podmore.  From his Kumo via the legendary titans of Krautrock Can, through to his most recent project, Metamono, Podmore proves an entertaining subject.  Anyone who has followed the Monolith Cocktail will know that your humble editor (Dominic Valvona) has championed a myriad of Podmore guided and affiliated releases over the last couple of years; including a recent review of the Metamono debut LP, ‘With The Compliments Of Nuclear Physics’

 

Generous and always ready to give credit where it’s due, Podmore didn’t just answer Parkers queries but forwarded a bundle of links too,  elaborating on his influences and imbued reference points further, in a congruous but loose investigative style guide.  

To the uninitiated, how would you explain the difference between Kumo and Metamono? Also what do the names mean etymologically speaking?

Kumo is my personal artist name. Metamono is the name of a band that I am just 33% of (sometimes 34) so 2 very different entities. Mark Hill and Paul Conboy from Metamono would be most concerned by the question!

Kumo came in to existence when I was working with Plink Plonk records back in the early 90’s. I’d started releasing my own material and remixes and up til then I’d been using my own name as an engineer, producer, programmer and arranger on all sorts of dodgy records – effectively as a day job, although exclusively perpetrated in the dead of night. So it was time to find a pseudonym. Everyone involved with Plink Plonk had a pseudonym – Paul Rip (made up name) who managed the label kept a constant thread of paranoia and subterfuge dangling in all his dealings, so real names were out of the question. Kumo is the Japanese word for spider – arachnids were fascinating me at the time. When I looked up the word and the characters I realised it’s also the word for cloud. Much more appropriate for a pseudonym and redolent of a technique I was using a lot in my compositions. Borrowed from Gyorgi Ligeti, I loved creating continua of lots of notes at high tempi – to form a cloud of individual tiny events. It also reminded me of one of my favourite Mayakovsky poems: A Cloud in Trousers. Self-effacing crypto comedy was all the rage in them days. The final decider was the Japanese character (Kanji) for Kumo is very beautiful: the top part being the character for rain – complete with 4 raindrops. I was still in touch with my Japanese teacher who in turn put me in touch with a wonderful calligrapher who did a couple of versions of the character for me which became the logo on all the early releases.

The name metamono was the result of a long and protracted, at times even acrimonious process of “finding the name for the band”. We’d written the manifesto and done a couple of sessions together under a ludicrous comedy badge name, which was in danger of sticking. Mark blew the whistle and quite rightly demanded a serious name. Many pints were downed and the internet trawled before a shortlist of names ending in mono were drawn up. All our releases are in mono and it’s such a beautiful word when printed that we agreed on that, at least, quite unanimously. For some reason I got the casting vote and the band was christened. We now all agree it was by far the best name on the table and it looks great – particularly without capitalisation = metamono = changed mono – mono changed by the intervening decades of stereo, quad, 5.1 in to a choice rather than the only horse in town.

Metamono2

There is a significant connection to Can in what you do, particularly in Irmin Schmidt. How did you feel when their track ‘Vitamin C’ was all over the television on an advert a couple of years back? (Note from Ed: Sean is adamant but I’m yet to find evidence of this advert ever existing or of Vitamin C ever being used commercially)

Which advert do you mean? Don’t watch much telly these days… Frankly, use of Can tracks in advertising has no impact on me – especially not financially. I was shocked a few years ago when McDonald’s were after I Want More for a TV campaign. Not shocked that the McMurderers would find a use for that tune (it’s a no brainer for the super sizers) but shocked how all the old buggers in the band or management had not the slightest qualm about letting them use it and dashing down the Deutsche Bank to cash the cheque. It seems 1968 was a long time ago. As it turns out, it was the golden arches that got cold feet.

When it comes to significant connections I started working with Irmin in ‘97 – living in his house with the family to co-produce, programme and engineer his opera Gormenghast. The working relationship went on to produce 2 albums, a sound installation, endless tv and film music, gigs across europe, a marriage and my daughter. I was also then de facto engineer for Spoon records, running the remastering of the Can back catalogue (twice!), creating The Lost Tapes from a great heap of discarded old crap in the tape store and, interestingly and almost unanimously overlooked, co-producing the last ever Can track in 99: a cover of The Third Man – Der Dritte Mann.

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Whilst your work would be considered very much a studio-based sound, you play, or have played, live a lot. How do you find the transitional process there?

One of the most important lessons I learned from the Can catalogue is not how great they were but where they went wrong. The great albums were all created in their own studio, in their own time, playing live together and then editing together the results – capturing the energy and the personal interaction of the players. All that went out the window with multi-track methodology: clean, precise but ultimately soulless performances were the order of the day.

I’ve always played live since the earliest days putting together gigs and happenings in Liverpool in the early 80’s, and now I’m really trying more and more to bring the improvised one-take ethos of the stage into the studio. Some of the tracks of mine that you may be referring to as having a studio based sound could well have been produced on the fly, possibly in front of an audience, albeit with plenty post-production and editing. Working in Dub reggae as an engineer in the 90s taught me about performance in the studio context – something that I took into the techno, house and drum n bass I was working on. That a direct link to live performance and I developed a set up for that then which is still at the heart of my live electronic work.

Looking back over your discography, which of your albums are you most and least proud of, and why?

I’m still hugely proud of the metamono album With the Compliments of Nuclear Physics from last year. It’s the most conceptually complete album I’ve done with the clearest vision. Also because we did everything ourselves and were present at every step of the creation and funded it ourselves it’s uniquely ours in a way lots of releases aren’t and could never have been. Watered down by record companies and management; even distribution can stick its oar in and you can end up with a product you don’t even recognize as your own. As regards least proud of, I’ve been employed over the years to work on some hideous shite in one capacity or another – the structure and finance of the music business in the 90’s meant that you could be a small but talented cog in a vast machine veering dangerously into the anodyne chasms of utter tastelessness. I won’t mention any names but we all know where discogs is.

From someone very close to the heart of the subject, what did you think about David Stubbs’ recent book ‘Future Days: Krautrock and the Building of Modern Germany’?

Well I actually went the whole hog and wrote a full response to the book for Peter Guy’s excellent, Liverpool based blog Get Into This

I think it’s a great book and David is a friend whose voice I hear cheerfully booming out of every page. I helped him out with introductions and research for the book and the payback is on page 292, where the writing truly peaks….

Metamono is an analogue electronic project with a ‘manifesto’. Could you expand on that?

The manifesto was written before we recorded a single note. We felt we needed rules to prevent us bottling out and retreating into our digital comfort zones. Paul and I have a long history of love for analogue synths and audio technology and we were both worn down by the expediency of working “in the box”. That being said we were both surprised how creative the restriction of a manifesto was when we got to work. Every idea that was out of bounds had to be replaced, or an elegant workaround had to be found, driving our creativity ever further than the daily pixel jockeying in the everything box. We knew how superior analogue sound is to digital but we had no idea how wonderful exclusively analogue sound could be – especially live. Also, as I mentioned before about bringing the live ethos into the studio, that too is enshrined in the manifesto – hence the sheer vivacity in the metamono sound. Many of our tracks took as long to create as they do to listen to.

How do you see the rest of the recording industry in relation to what you do? Has the gradual collapse of it affected you much, or at all?

Well it’s certainly affected my income! One of the reasons I accepted the post of Professor of the Practice of Popular Music in Cologne in 2004 was that the studio skills and methods I learned over the years working with top engineers, producers and programmers from all over the world were going to be taken to the grave with me. As studios closed and people started working at home, the channels for passing on knowledge dried up. Also the gear everyone was working on and the listening environments they were sitting in all plummeted in quality. My biggest job with my students these days is getting them to hear the difference in quality. You can be an ace with Ableton, logic and all that shite and be as deaf as a bloody post. The kitsch charm of wonkiness currently in its second decade is actually often a cover for being unable to get it right. Once there isn’t a decision in why something sounds the way it is then you’re losing sight of the art. But like vinyl, proper recording studios, analogue or otherwise, will persist in small but significant numbers – if only in educational establishments set up by people like me… and I know I’m not alone.

What are you working on at the moment?

As usual, a couple of things.There’s the on-going Secrets of Nature project with metamono which has been a huge success so far and we’re planning further screenings/performances in the autumn.

I’m also developing a 100% analogue live looping project with the vocalist and composer Georgina Brett. We did an improvised show at Tuesday’s Post, an itinerant night she runs in London earlier in the summer and we’re on the bill for this year’s London Analogue Festival.

Since the spring I’ve been piecing together a live spoken voice and electronics project with German poet Swantje Lichtenstein. We’ll be putting our great heap of ideas about the relation between music, sound, speech and content together for workshops and performance at the Montepulciano summer school in September. If it’s sufficiently bonkers/arcane/incomprehensible we’ll be bringing it to a railway arch near you.

Add to that the professoring, the odd string arrangement, bits of live sound and Djing and that’s what’s going on.

 

Anything else by others you would recommend us to listen to?

I’m fascinated by this track at the moment: Gloria Ann Taylor’s ‘What’s Your World’.

I’m also a quite fascinated by the person who recommended it to me.

Not sure I can work out why it sounds the way it does…

Can I get you a drink?

Large Dalwhinney with a drop of water please. It’s good for me hearing…

Thanks, Jono

Do itasshimashite!

spotify:user:dominicvalvona:playlist:0ASWyicQaPzYQK9F992HIE

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