Interview with Craig Leon



Craig Leon will be gracing LPR with his presence on April 30th to celebrate the Anthology of Interplanetary Folk Music Vol. 1: Nommos / Visiting, set to release at the end of June. He has been deemed as a “studio wizard” of sorts and has had a hand in the production of releases from Suicide, Blondie, and the Ramones…just to name a few! Leon took some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions regarding the release, his upcoming performance with ACME, and more. Check it out below:

Q: How will ACME play a part in the live performance of Nommos? Will strings be replacing certain electronic elements from the album or will it be adding a new element/layer all together?
A: All of the above. ACME will be providing some rhythmic additions, some doubling or replacement of original synthesizer lines and some new melodic elements.
Q: While recording Nommos you utilized the most current synth technology at the time. In this present day and age, with so much more available in the electronic music world, will you still be utilizing these now vintage synthesizers? How do you incorporate current technology into this live set up, if at all?
A: I’m using the best of both worlds. I was very involved with the development of early digital recording and electronic music sequencing and have followed up with it all through the years. A lot of the patches on the original Nommos and Visiting were monophonic on instruments with variable pitch characteristics (literally). This makes the original instruments a bit unreliable for live performance and synching to the rather complex visuals that are part of the performance.
So I’m using a very simple modern system with digital i/os to recreate the original analogue patches digitally as well as using some pre recorded sequences and portions of the original score.

Q: The word Nommos refers to extraterrestrial life, believed to have existed by a certain Malain tribe. What is your connection with said beliefs?
A: Nommos is a work of speculative fiction which is a genre that I have always been a big fan of. Having said that who is to say whether the Dogon are correct or incorrect in their beliefs? We certainly have a number of beliefs in our society ( in fact in all societies) that are equally speculative if not more so.
Q: How do these beliefs translate in Nommos and Visiting. It has been said that these albums are how you would perceive certain alien communication/music to be. How did you arrive at this sound?
A: I assumed that if the Nommos had music it would have a different frequency response to ours but still perceptible to us. Perhaps a bit more “metallic” than ours since they are amphibious and could hear through some kind of liquid environment.. If like the Dogon profess, the Nommos brought various bits of early civilization to them then I assumed that to create what they listened to i would work backwards from early rhythmic repetitive patterns like those found in their earliest forms in Northern Africa though not identical to the “real” ethnic ones. Also the same for a simple melodic and harmonic structure that was similar but not identical to the earliest melodic music that we know of. It would use a minimum of notes in the scale and limited polyphonic structure
Q: Why was it important to you to re-issue these releases as an anthology now? Since Visiting is an extension of Nommos, should we expect a further continuation in the near future of this “series”?
A: One reason is that I wanted people to be able to have a copy of the pieces in a digital format and in remastered vinyl form. Another is that I noticed that “Nommos” had been bootlegged badly and that an unauthorized “authentic” reissue that I was not a participant in had come out with improper mastering and sequencing. Since I had re created Nommos for another project in 2009 and I had these recordings and the originals of “Visiting” available I worked on those with some new additions and edits and am now issuing the two pieces again in a format that features the correlations between them and thanks to digital technology I now have the ability to weave them into one continuous work as I had always intended.
I’ve been doing quite a bit of work in the past 10 years or so reshaping folk and “early” music into concert hall settings and recordings. These have been performed and issued primarily in Europe where I live. So in fact this disc is a prequel to this other work. I have several newer pieces in the writing stage at the moment that combine electronics and acoustic instrumentation. I plan to issue one later this year or early 2015 after initial performance in London in fall 2014, a much larger scale choral and electronics work after that and others beyond that.

Q: Is there anything special we should expect for this specific performance of Nommos at (le) poisson rouge?
A: In addition to the audio there are visuals that we put together with Russian video artist Yuri Elik that will be projected during the performance.The original Nommos was inspired by an exhibition of Dogon art and the visual element is quite important to me.
Join us for what is sure to be a special evening of visuals/electronics with Craig Leon, ACME, and Bill Kouligas on April 30th. Click here for more details.

interviewed & posted by M.B.D.