We present to you an interview with Daniel Beban, one half of Imbogodom, who released their impressive debut album The Metallic Year earlier in the year. How did Imbogodom form? Alex and I had jammed together and hung out quite a lot, and he'd sometimes come down to the BBC World Service studios where I was working at night. There were heaps of beautiful Studer reel-to-reel tape machines there at the time, before they got rid of most of them, and I'd been using these for a few years, making tape pieces out of long loops, reversing things, creating delays and feedback. So Alex started working on this stuff too, which was perfect, because you'd have one person making a sound and the other manipulating that with the tape set up. So IMBOGODOM formed over a long time - it was probably 3 years before we came up with a name for our thing. How did you get the opportunity to put together an album? We just worked on stuff without having an end point in mind, mainly just for the fun of it. After about 3 years of very sporadic recording we realised that there was enough material for an album. Strangely enough, I had all the recordings on my computer which died on the way back to New Zealand and everything vanished. This was a total bummer but also I felt like oh well, maybe it was always meant to be this way, and basically forgot about it. Then about six months later Alex called up to say that he'd found a unmarked CD on his girlfriend Rhona's desk which turned out to be our recordings, and what's more, it's going to be put out on LP. That was a nice surprise for sure. Where did the inspiration come from for 'The Metallic Year'? Was there a particular sound or style you wanted to re-create? As far as I know we didn't really set out to make a particular sounding record. The sound was determined by the gear we were using and the inspiration mostly came from the fact that it was all recorded in the middle of the night in this amazing building called Bush House which is a labyrinth of deserted corridors. In particular any albums/musicians that you were inspired by? As far as tape music goes, my main inspiration is New Zealand composer Douglas Lilburn, who spent the last part of his career making exclusively electronic music - this is in the 1960s and 70s. There's a particular empty quality and stillness to some of his pieces which I really love, such as Soundscape with Lake and River, or Poem in Time of War. He was working on this stuff here in NZ, in a way totally independently and isolated from what was going on elsewhere in the world - I guess that resonates with me somehow. Also, being a radio sound technician as one of my day jobs, I feel an affinity to a tradition of radio technician/composers that includes Pierre Schaeffer, Bernard Parmegiani and of course the Radiophonic Workshop, particularly Delia Derbyshire. As a related question: Are you familiar with the Frank Zappa album Lumpy Gravy? To my mind there's some similarities between that and The Metallic Year, is this simply coincidental? Or merely because both albums are created using extensive tape-editing? Lumpy Gravy is an amazing album. It's a real masterpiece, much much more complex and highly structured than anything we've done. Not only does Zappa have all the tape editing stuff happening, on that album he's also composed totally notated pieces for large ensembles which are within the realm of the great 20th century composers such as Varese, Stravinsky, Messiaen and co . He was a totally obsessive recordist as well, so you get all these great passages of the musicians and friends talking all sorts of stuff about girls and cars and petrol stations, suddenly jumping to really intense orchestral music which then cuts to double speed rock and roll music and then to beautiful musique concrete... it's embarrassing even being mentioned on the same page as something as important as Lumpy Gravy. Did you have an idea of how you wanted the music to sound before you made it? Or was it the result of some experimenting? It was always a complete surprise as to what worked and what didn't. In general, the less we did, and the more we let the sounds breathe, the more we liked the sound. In a way, I guess this is experimentation, but it wasn't an experiment in the sense of conducting a series of experiments and choosing the one that works the best. We'd mess around for a while and then there'd be a sound or a texture of sounds on a tape loop that would make us sit back and go yeah, that's awesome. What did the recording process involve? How time consuming is tape-editing? Tape editing can be very time consuming work, depending on how complicated you want to get. The sort of thing that can take a few seconds to do on a computer might take half an hour to achieve with tapes, and you haven't got an undo button, so you learn to get it right the first time, and also to live with your mistakes. I've got the upmost respect for all the great tape composers who spent weeks and months and possibly years working on their pieces, splicing tiny bits of tape together, slowing things down, isolating small fragments of sound... The stuff we did on The Metallic Year is actually fairly light on editing. We'd usually have 3 or 4 tape machines in various formations, sometimes with a different loop on each machine, sometimes with loops going through two machines in a cross shape, sometimes a loop might go through all 4 machines. All these different set ups generate different possibilities when you link everything up through a mixing desk. You can record on one machine and playback on another so you get a very long delay, or generate feedback and manipulate it with the EQs on the desk, or cover over the erase head on a tape machine so you a seemingly endless build up of sound. So you've got all this stuff going on, and also you need a sound source. We just used what was at hand, such as the piano, our voices, the cello, banjo, dictaphone and various things that were in the studio. Was it more challenging to produce than music you've worked on in the past? In some ways it was the easiest stuff I've ever worked on. Alex and I always have a great time working together.
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There's a consistently eerie atmosphere on the album, is the tape-editing technique good for creating such an atmosphere? I agree that the music definitely has an eerie quality, which I think comes mostly from the space where we recorded. The studio where we did most of our work is deep underground, and apparently used to be a swimming pool. I'm not a particularly superstitious person by any stretch of the imagination, but there is a strange and unnerving feeling in that room that sometimes can send shivers up your spine. I reckon that this atmosphere seeped into our music. How would you re-create the music for live performances? Would that be possible? We've only done one live gig so far, but that was a promising start. It's a different thing live, because you don't have so much control over the sound, and there's all sorts of unknown factors which you can use to your advantage. The gig we did recently was outside, I was using a tape machine and as soon as we started playing it started raining, which caused the tape loop to stop going around, so I ended up playing a homemade biscuit tin guitar and Alex did most of the sound manipulation side of things on his set up. As soon as we stopped the rain went away. What are your future plans for Imbogodom? Would you like to create another album using the same techniques? We've just recorded another album. In some ways it's a lot stronger than The Metallic Year because we've developed more varied and subtle ways of using the tape machines and came up with some unusual and peculiar sound worlds which we're really happy with. We also recorded at this other subterranean space which is the bunker underneath the old light house in a place called Dungeness, near to where Alex's parents live.
You can visit the band by heading to http://www.myspace.com/523778599