Zeuhl Wortz Mekanïk
is kobaian for Magma
by Poul Erik Sørensen for a former danish music magazine
(Issued august /september 1977). Translated (probably back) to english by Michael Bohn 1998 (the headers are part of the original source).
The interview took place at the Silkeborg Multimusic festival in Denmark july 1977.
(See article and photos with comments regarding Magma on this festival.)
The participants were Christian Vander and Klaus Blasquiz.
Music means to live
Quite often you change the members of Magma, is it difficult to make them stay?
Vander: It is wrong to say that we shift our members. They leave the group. We would like to keep our musicians, but we cannot avoid the frequent changes. It has something to do with, that many of the musicians have other goals than Klaus and I. The music is the most important. In that moment a new member is being part of the group, he should be prepared to go in the service of the music. We are a group, not an assembly of single individuals. One is supposed to deliver a united effort. This is something the blacks understand. In the USA they understand this feeling. Booker T & the MGís understood it. They accompanied Otis Redding. They were really in the service of the music. We have the same goal in Magma. Actually Magma plays black music. Black music is devotional music. It is a spiritual music. The white peoples music, is music of the intelligens. Mostly.
Blasquiz: Some musicians play with their heart, others
with the brain. We try to play both with the heart and the brain.
Vital music. The trouble with music of today is that it isínt
vital enough. You play, and then you rest. In Africa they can
play 14 days in a row. In Europe the music has taken another direction.
Instead of being a part of life, it is kept outside life. You
play, and then you live, but play, and then you forget the music
(This part is probably misinterpreted or a bad translation
by the interwiever, I believe - MB). Music means living.
Music is present all the time. Before you started the taperecorder,
we talked about rythm - remember to get this as well: - you interrupt
the rythm in music by separating it from the rythm of life. They
have made music an artform. Nothing could be more wrong. Music
is there all the time. It cannot be excluded or isolated for particular
Coltrane was one with the music
Do you have one particular definition of what music is ?
Vander: It is difficult to define what music is. Music is life. Music contains all secrets of life. It is manís clearest way of expression. Music can contain both life and death. Music is an extension of your self, of your way of expression. Music is universal. When I listen to John Coltrane, it is not his saxophone I hear, but his voice. I perceive his music as speach. The saxophone is his organ (voice), it is him speaking. It is Coltrane. His whole life and energy passed through the saxophone. In his case, the instrument disappears, it becomes a living organ, like the voice. That is music. Just like a drummer. The drummer should not only consider his instrument as a collection of drums and sticks. The drums should be a part of himself. The instrument should become a living organ. This is also our goal. The voice is the most beautiful instrument existing.
How do you feel on stage under a concert? What do you feel?
Vander: Joy and love.
Blasquiz: The music disappears. You dont perceive the music anymore. The distance between the music and yourself disappears. You dont perceive it like you are performing music. I recognize my work on stage as a mental activity. A line of thoughts.
Before you said that music was the same as life. You can change music but not life.
Vander: You can easily change life if you want to. You can turn life in any direction you want. Just like music. Music can change life and vice versa. That is why you cannot separate life and music. Bob Dylan has changed life for many people. You can do incredible things with music. Music is as a power, invincible.
The music as revolution
Vander: You can start a revolution with music. Music as a political factor is very strong. Music is one of the most efficient agents there is. It can influence the brain, the ability to think, the conviction, and it can change life. It is like a revolution.
Blasquiz: There is no difference between life and the music .The revolution can come from many places, but with music as expression and tool, it will become the most effective. Revolution must come in daily life, little by little.
Where is the audience in this discussion?
Blasquiz: The audience does not exist. The audience, is us. Now we are getting close to the essential. We bring an audience together, we play before an audience, that at the same time is ourselves, to create a form of love and respect, through the music.
Vander: If a florist, after experiencing one of our concerts, goes home and makes his shop much more beautiful, then Magma has achieved something. We want to achieve, that every footstep people take on the street should be with joy. If we make people happy with our music, then at the same time, we try to make theese human beeings, to make others happy. Exactly as a chainreaction. There are some of the earthís races that has such a loverelation to each other, and it appears that theese races are the most musical people on erath. This is not a coincidence. It could maybe sound ridicolous...........
Blasquiz: Not at all, there is nothing ridicolous in such a music-love relationship. It is the goal we are working towards. Making people concious. Perhaps Magma has the means. We hope at least.
Vander: A politician rents a house to speak to his audience. We do the same, we just use music as the way of expression.
The joy of the music
Vander: At the same time we must not forget that you should feel joy about music. The joy about being together, the joy about listening together. The musician is not only musician, and those that listens also do other things than listening. And you can listen in many different ways.
Blasquiz: You can play a chord. One person perceive that chord as love, another perceive it as hate. Magma tries to find the ideal universal music. This is our work. To that point Magma has not reached yet, but we are getting closer. Vi try to create a completely new universal music, a new way of expression.
Have you been able to unite rythm and intelligens?
Blasquiz: The music of Magma is based on pulsation. On rythm. Everything is rythm.
Canít your complex form of music create problems for the new musicicians?
Vander: Not if the musician masters his instrument well enough. The problems for the new musicians is rather a spiritual problem. There are musicians that are more Magma than others. Some has the technique but not the conviction, some has the conviction but not the technique. What we need in Magma, are musicians that are not blocket. To be admitted in Magma you have to know the classical music, rock music, Tamla-Motown music, and be able to use the tecnique from theese musicforms.
Now there are 2 drummers in the group........ (Clement Bailly - MB)
Vander: I have allways wanted an extra drummer in Magma. It gives the oportunity to play the keyboards and sing.
At a concert in Paris you accompagnied your drumsolo with vocals.
Vander: To many drummers, a drumsolo is only a demonstration of the drumkit and nothing else. The drumsolo has to be a piece of music. A drumsolo should be constructed in a sensible way. I share my drumsoloes in 3 parts. In the first part I define a level. I prepare the audience for what comes after. A drumsolo has to contain an emotion. sadness, melancoly, etc. When I accompany my drumsolo with song, it is because I have composed a piece of music for drums that has to be accompanied by song. This canít be any other way.
The kobaian language
You have constructed your own language. Is it not important to understand what is being sung?
Blasquiz: Yes, it is very important, but in many cases the text is considered much to important, so that the music itself is ignored. It is then reduced to background music. The song is important but not as deep as the music.The kobaian language has emerged at the same time as the music. It is logical. It is a physiological language, a ritual, a form of universal esperanto. It is a musical language. It is easy to sing, and at the same time it shall prevent that people start to think about what we mean with this text or that line. It is a form of music without semantics. It does not exclude, that we one day will try something else. We have invented a phonetic language made by elemnts of the slavonic and germanic languages to be able to express some things musically. The language has of course a content, but not word by word. The language has a united content, and that is what is important.
Magmaís records has allways been concept-albums with a continued story. Your newest is different...... (Inedíts - MB)
Vander: It is actually a piratrecord (bootleg).
It is a record made with a cassette-recorder and the music is
practising-pieces, radiorecordings and so on. The record is a
kind of status for us. There are pieces that we have never recorded
before. There are pices with musicians that is not in Magma anymore.
And it was about time a Magma record came out, because it is a
long time since the last came out. Besides, we have changed our
recordcompany and we needed to get a record out on that company,
and that became "Inedíts" . The recordings
are primitive, but we put a sticker on the cover to warn people
that the recordingquality is not the best. It is a kind of documentary.
If the music is good enough, then the technique does not matter.
Magma and the audience
Do you have any impression of the danish audience?
Blasquiz: Vi have not played here long enough to make us an impression, but the reactions are not different from other places. Vi played at a festival last year, were we got some fantastic reactions (The Roskilde Festival).
Vander: It was one of our best concerts. On the other hand, it was my impression after the concert yesterday, that people in this town were a bit hesitating towards our music. Maybe it was caused by the strange band support. What was their name ? (Blasquiz tells him that the name was Totalpetroleum - and the translater of this text (MB) can add, that it is a humorous band that combines Residents-samples / rockmusic and standup comedy with political satire of the danish radio and the establishment) . Maybe the audience was not quite well prepared to our kind of music. We like to mystify he group a bit. We are dressed in black, sometimes with white as contrast, it makes the group more mystical. We like to do something for the stageshow. We might connect a theater to us one day...
How much is routine, and how much happens on the spot during your concerts ? aparently there is not much room for improvisations.....
Blasquiz: You should not think when you play. You should play ! The moment you start thinking about whether the guitarist is going to play this or that, then it is too late. Then you think and you are automaticly out of the music. You are outside.
If you think, you listen
Blasquiz: You should create a sound. The moment you think, you listen and then you are not a part of the sound. Every musician should not create his own sound, he should be a part of the group sound. Everything should go on in a natural way. Fingers should move automaticly, every strophe should be sung automaticly. There must not be time for thoughts.
Vander: Music should be in your spine. If I start to listen to the bassplayer or guitarist, my plaing will be hesitating, and that can be felt by the other musicians and vice versa. You have to deliver a firm structure in the music, everything has to be based on security and routine. This does not mean that the details gets lost in the entirety. Remember, a composition that is well considered, well rehearsed and founded upon conviction, very well can contain details or shades, but theese details the different musicians should create.
Could you not just as well put up a machine on the stage ?
Blasquiz: You can play like a machine, but your heart will automaticly be in the music and that is the difference. The music will never be like a machine. It is the heart that controlles the machine. A machine is deaf, man is not. Man should concentrate, and a group of musicians can easily concentrate together. We play with the heart, but still we dont think, we concentrate, and in this is the difference between a machine and Magma.
Vander: The "professional" musicians think of other things than music. They think whether if they got enough money for the job, if they have success, but not at the music. They think about whether they are dressed up smart enough, about the future etc. We dress in black, it is mystical I admit but, at the same time discrete . We sing a phonetic language, that is mystical but the content cannot divert from the total sound.
Blasquiz: We play the same compositions time after time. We use the same words but everytime the experience is new. We will never get a "professional" relation to Magma.
Vander: This is essential ! Take for instance Mekanik Kommandoh . It is the same rythm every time. (Vander picks up two drumssticks and plays the rythm on the tablecloth on the table) Same rythm every time, but the content is never the same. For me this composition will never consist of a drumrythm, but something much more pulsating. One time we played this composition, I found myself, in the middle of the concert, in a courtroom as the prosecutor. A courtroom with witnesses and the whole thing. In that moment the drums are the real instrument. That is the goal. Suddenly music meant something to me: I was the music. The sound of the drums disappeared totally in my soundscape. It was a fantastic experience, and this repeats time after time. Every time new experiences. Every time the hi-hat gets new roles, every time the cymbals gets new sounds. That is music. And that is what Magma endavours to in fellowship. The group should not consist of a line of individuals, but of one only: Magma !
The improvisations are conducted
Can you take the desire to improvise away from the musician ?
Vander: No, you canít, but you can control and conduct it. I will point out John Coltrane again. He understood how to conduct his soli, he never fell for the temptation to just play ahead or get carried away. He had the perfect control over his music, but he improvised still. He never played a casual note. Sometimes he got carried away, and that happens for us too, but he had the ability allways to remain in control.
Dont you ever improvise your drumssolo?
Vander: I allways know where I am. I never think what to do next, or when I should go to the cymbals. I allways know beforehand, how I am going to play. If I am not going to use the cymbals, I know it before. I can feel it.
Blasquiz: I will call this a global thought. Sometimes when I enter the stage, I suddenly know how everything will progress. From beginning to the end. It has happend that I was wrong, but this is very rare, and then it is material things that has influenced.
Vander: I had the problem yesterday that it was very
warm in the concerthall. So warm that my palms were very humid.
I had difficulties in holding the drumsticks, and I made some
mistakes as we proceeded. There are some things that should be
played very strong and loud, and I could not do that. I had to
skip certain passages and in some cases play in a different way.
In that moment you think?
Vander: No, I skip certain passages.
Blasquiz: There is a difference between to think and to concider. You can think when music goes on, but while you play, the thought comes like a lightning from a clear sky. Perhaps it is rather a sensation or a feeling.. But the moment you start to concider, what should I do next, then you are as Christian said, shut out of from the music. Maybe this better explains Christians opinion.
Vander: Our music is built up as a natural and continuous movement, and sometimes it happens that I get stuck in the same sequence. (Christian Vander again takes the drumsticks and repeats the same figure on the tablecloth) I play the same sequence over and over. I wait, but plays the same sequence again, untill I logically and automaticly proceed. I do not think: "How should I continue now", I just play until I automaticly proceed.
We have only talked about the concertsituation. How do you achieve the same authentic music in the studio?
Blasquiz: This is difficult, because you have to repeat the music
over and over. You are forced to repeatedly start from the beginning, until you
reach that point, where you know: Now it is there. Now the music is present, the
Vander: I dont think it is so difficult to achieve the authentic music in a recordingstudio. I am motivated to play, whether it is only for 3 people or for a large concert hall, the number of the audience does not mean anything to me. My hearts share in the music is allways the same. In a studio there is a soundtechnician and 2 persons i the controlroom, meaning: I am playing for those 3 people. My commitment is the same. You should never feel yourself unworthy to play. It is not the person that matters, but the music.
End of interview.
See article and photos with comments regarding Magma on this festival.
Adapted and arranged by Michael Bohn 1998.
Do not forget to visit:
JťrŰme Schmidt and Jeremy Huylebroeck's Magma pages