Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Reynols- Barbatrulos,LP,1999,Argentina

From the same country that brought you the Argentine Rugby Team comes the brand new bucket of steaming hot-fong from the globes finest heavy metal shamen. Lurid-green audio-slime that whispers your name and threatens to suck you down its own psychic plughole. The shiniest examples of everything Reynols-ish: visionary wail and murmer, cyclopean beating, and unshackled string twist. Powerful, deeply sinister, and truly beyond your wildest dreams. Edition of 500
Interview by Dan Warburton, March 12th 2003
The first reaction one might have on hearing of the escapades of the Argentinean group Reynols is one of open-mouthed incredulity. Quite apart from the mythical status that group members Alan Courtis and Roberto Conlazo have conferred on their drummer, 39 year old Miguel Tomasin, who suffers from Down's Syndrome (though, as we shall see, "suffers" is not a word Conlazo and Courtis would accept to describe Tomasin's extraordinary abilities and sense of reality), these are the guys whose first album was a "dematerialised CD" - i.e. an empty CD box - and who were nearly arrested by the local police for plugging their guitars into a pumpkin and not playing in public. After a slew of noisy lo-fi post-punk songs with incomprehensible lyrics about a parallel universe called Minecxio declaimed by Tomasin in a language of his own creation, they attracted the attention of the alt.music community with "Pauline Oliveros In The Arms of Reynols", before going on to release the "10000 Chickens Symphony" (recorded in a battery farm) and "Blank Tapes" on Bernhard Gόnter's trente oiseaux label. At the end of a hectic European tour that started in January 2003, Conlazo and Courtis (Tomasin was represented on stage by a life-size yellow and black poster / flag) played to a packed house in Les Instants Chavirιs (Paris) on Saturday March 2nd, before heading off to play six dates in the UK. Or so they thought: detained by British Immigration on suspicion of wanting to enter the UK illegally to settle (this despite Courtis showing them the pair's return air tickets from London to Madrid), they were refused permission to enter the UK and had to return to Paris the following day, more bemused than crestfallen. They took advantage of the extra days in the Paris capital to record - i.e. play as a musical instrument - the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and the gravestones of the Pθre Lachaise cemetery. On reading the following, you might be tempted to conclude that these guys are certifiable (indeed, they happily acknowledge the fact), but seemingly bizarre utterances that would seem terribly pretentious in normal circumstances become curiously thought-provoking koans that challenge received wisdom as cunningly as Reynols' music turns convention on its head.

When did you start?
Alan Courtis: There are two versions of that. Miguel's version is that he founded the band in 1967 when he was three years old - he started playing at the age of three, pots and pans in the kitchen - but we weren't born then. I was born in 1972 and Roberto in 1969. The other version is that is started in 1993 when we met Miguel. We teach music to special people - we don't use the word "disabled" - and the big problem with special people is that when they finish school they don't have anything to do. They sit around watching TV all day. Miguel came for drums lessons.
Roberto Conlazo: When we met, he said: "Hello, I'm the world's most famous drummer."
When you heard him play, what impressed you about his playing?
AC: We didn't need to explain anything. Miguel has a natural approach. We play improvised music, and Miguel improvises all the time. We just started to play, one two three, and there was a kind of telepathic link.
RC: We always play with sunglasses, because we close our eyes, because it's better to hear the sounds.
What were you listening to before you met Miguel?
AC: That was a job, to get hold of the right records. For many years it was difficult to get new stuff, and now it's impossible. Today a disc costs about $80. Compared to a monthly income of $500.. To explain the Argentinean situation to the Europeans, it's like science fiction.
RC: It's a bit like France with the standard of living of Ethiopia.
(The interviewer goes to the kitchen to serve tea.)
AC: At this stage in the interview we'd like to say that everything we said previously was a lie.
RC: You can make a picture disc with the face of Al Jolson.
(Returning) Was it true the group's name was chosen by a dog?
RC: My chihuahua. The chihuahua made a record too. "The Bible of Canine Minimalism". He's like Lassie, he's very intelligent. I always say he's the Buddha. Sometimes I dream of a big Buddha head with his head.
How does he get on with Miguel?
AC: Very well. Miguel has a very natural relationship with animals.
RC: Very good tea. That's a title for the interview. Very good tea. Very good E.T.
When did you record "Pauline Oliveros in the arms of Reynols"?
AC: The first edition of that was in 1999 and the second in 2001, but the original recordings date from 1994. Pauline was only in Buenos Aires once and we did a workshop with her, but we kept in contact and talked about doing something. It took about five years to grow, like a seed. The CD reissue has a bonus track. The original was a spray-painted CD which came with a tape and a little bag of sand from a beach in the United States.
RC: The Reynols idea is if you buy 500 CDs you can make your own beach in your house.
You're very site-specific. You've recorded the Eiffel Tower, and..
AC: The Arc de Triomphe. And the Cabaret Voltaire [in Zόrich] and the Atomium [in Brussels]. That sounds great, with all that metal. In Amsterdam we recorded a very strange heater that made lots of overtones. Your washing machine sounds great too. Actually we have another project, which I don't know if we should talk about. Maybe it's a secret, but we'll tell you anyway. The Pθre Lachaise cemetery.
RC: The great music hall of Minecxio..
This is a continuation of the idea you had to play the stones on Jorge Luis Borges' grave?
AC: Yes, but I think it will be different. It will be like a combination of, for example, Oscar Wilde on the right channel, Maria Callas in the middle and Chopin on the left..
RC: And there's Edith Piaf, Michel Petrucciani, Stιphane Grappelli, Max Ernst, and Jim Morrison, of course!
AC: Jim Morrison, yes. We played the graves of those artists, recorded sounds from the graves.
RC: Very nice sounds. They're all very different. For example the Oscar Wilde statue sounds incredible. We played it with roses. We use different things to play each grave.
AC: I think we have the raw stuff and now we have to go into the studio with it.
Will Miguel be part of this?
RC: We are Miguel and Miguel is us. We've learned many things from Miguel. Mix Maria Callas with Peron, and Jim Morrison and Chopin.
AC: Peron isn't in the Pθre Lachaise, but will appear as a guest artist.
RC: For Miguel everything is possible.
Tell me about his texts.
AC: They're difficult to translate because he's invented his own language. There are some sentences that mean something in Spanish. We don't know exactly why he called the new album "Mica Hermas Madana". Mica is a mineral, of course.
RC: To explain Miguel's way of thinking, he once drew a square with two circles and a small rectangle inside it and when we asked him what it was, he said: "A city, with two trees and an apartment, and cars." "Where are the cars?" we asked, and he said, "They were there.." For a "normal" person it looks like a face.
AC: He's superimposing perspectives, like cubism.
RC: He works in another dimension. One day we were playing very loud and he was just tapping very lightly on the floor with a tiny little stick. We said, "Miguel, what were you playing?" he said "The Earth."
A lot of people came to your European concerts expecting to see Miguel, I imagine.
AC: Well, he is on tour with us. We are Miguel. We are three Miguels. We always say we have Downs syndrome too. We are Downs. We're all Downs, we're all British, we're all Turkish, we're all a big oneness but sometimes we only recognise part of it.
RC: We're all human beings and we live on the same Earth, the oxygen is the same, we all have arms, whether we're Egyptian or Chinese.
AC: We're also happier with Downs Syndrome. We teach music in Argentina, mostly for special people, people with disabilities. It's a kind of music therapy, but we treat them as artists. We have a connection with them that is beyond language. So from that point of view we have Downs too and we've found a point where it's a pleasure, an honour to be Downs. We're all crazy and we're all insane and we are also quite sane. At the same time.
Tell me about the recording you made with the chickens..
AC: One day we were eating fried chicken sandwiches and Miguel said: "We can make a symphony of chicken sounds". One of Miguel's favourite phrases is "Porqué non?" Why not? He says it all the time. It was an idea and one day we found this chicken coop run by friends of Roberto's girlfriend.
RC: We put a lot of microphones under the earth, inside the feeding troughs. This is the only record in the world where all the participants were killed and eaten afterwards. Imagine 10,000 Miles Davises, 10,000 trumpeters all dead. And eaten.
How did you choose the blank tapes you used for the trente oiseaux album "Blank Tapes"?
AC: We made a selection of very expensive and very cheap tapes. Miguel gave us some from his collection.
RC: The cheap tapes sound better than the expensive ones. TTK tapes from Singapore. Maxwell tapes (not Maxell!) from Taiwan. We used a lot of Argentinian brands, very strange brands. Specially the cheapest, most hissy. The idea was to use all the possibilities, a lot of different frequencies.
How did you get in touch with the different labels that have released your music?
AC: At some stage we realised that our music wasn't working in Argentina, so we started writing off to people. Our first release was in England, a cassette on Matching Head.
Are you surprised at the success you've had?
RC: Miguel always said he was the greatest drummer in the world.
AC: What is success? Reynols hasn't started yet. We haven't done anything yet.
When are you going to start?
AC: I don't know what the answer is to that.
You did release a "dematerialised" CD, i.e. an empty CD box..
AC: Yes, that was our first album.
RC: One of the greatest records of the universe. That CD is everything, everywhere.
AC: You see, everybody has that record, even people who haven't been born yet. Napoleon has that record, Plato has the record, Jim Morrison has the record.
RC: Sun Ra, Liberace, Maurice Chevalier..!
AC: Tony Blair, Laurel & Hardy, Mahatma Gandhi..!
You should be making a fortune out of royalties, then.
RC: We had some problems with that. (laughs) We tried to copyright the idea of nothing but they wouldn't let us.
Now lads, you know a lot of people would say that this is just bullshit..
RC: Well, there are two or three ways of looking at it. It's bullshit if you want it to be, it's a very deep record if you want it to be. People say we are a bizarre band, but why? Because our drummer has Downs Syndrome?
AC: We are a very normal band by our standards.
Would you like some more tea?
AC: E.T. Very good tea. While we're waiting, we'd like to say that all that we said before is now true.
RC: We are not Reynols.
AC: We are the Rolling Stones.
RC: No, we are the Rolling Tones. No, the Rolling Overtones.
What music do you listen to for your own pleasure?
RC: John Lee Hooker, Roy Orbison, Robert Wyatt..
AC: Jimi Hendrix, Indian music, music from all over the world. A lot of people. The only condition for us is that it has spirituality. We're open to any style if it's played with spirit. The role of music in many cultures is related to the idea of spirituality.
You once played in a public square with your guitars plugged into pumpkins. How did that come about?
AC: In Argentina, if you're a band you're supposed to play this club and then that club, and then you're supposed to grow up, play this way and that way.. And they make you sell tickets, and if you don't bring fifty people along to your gigs you end up having to pay to play. We refused to do that. We decided to find another place to play.
RC: So we played gigs for plants, rocks, animals, and dry ice instead.
AC: The only record we've released in our country is the dematerialized one. [Sonic Youth's] Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo came to Argentina only once and went looking for all the Reynols records and the people said: "We know of Reynols but we don't have any of their records."
Except, presumably, the dematerialised one.
RC: The police hate our music.
But when they stopped your performance with the pumpkins you weren't actually making any sound..
AC: No. The police came and said we were setting a bad example for the tourists, that we were a negative reflection of our country. They caused a scene but they didn't arrest us.
Why pumpkins?
AC: They're easier to plug guitars into.
RC: There were ten of us, with a pumpkin in the middle.
AC: We would like to say now that nothing recorded on this tape has actually been said by us. There are only magnetic failures on the tape. We haven't said anything.
RC: We are Al Jolson.
AC: Actually, we have recorded a tribute to Al Jolson. It will be a picture disc - one side wa recorded live at NASA. We recorded NASA, using the sound on the video camera. Al Jolson is on the other side.
RC: We played a table that John F. Kennedy delivered a famous speech from. Maybe we can mix the Borges grave with the Kennedy table.
Specific objects are very important to you.. it's not just a question of recording any table.
AC: You are that chair. That chair has your vibrations whether you like it or not; your heat is part of that chair. What is music? What is not music? What instruments are allowed?
RC: If we record the sound of this machine and put it on a record, it's music.
AC: Music is even that which can't be recorded on tape, the frequencies that can't be heard. We have no problem with any objects. When you are exposed to the creativity of someone like Miguel, you have many projects: there's Reynols, No Reynols, No No Reynols, No No No No Reynols..
RC: We have the No (to the power infinity) Wave.
What do you want to do with this tape then when we finish recording on it?
AC: We can do a lot of things. You can put it in the washing machine and see how it sounds.
RC: Or we can take three Polaroids of the cassette and play the Polaroids, and you record that again. One concept leads to ten million other concepts!
AC: That's what working with Miguel is like.
RC: We asked Miguel once to pick a colour, and he said: "Laser"..
AC: We asked him which came first, the chicken or the egg, and he replied: "That's easy: the rooster." That's a very good answer. Nobody expects the third answer.
What are you going to do with the Pere Lachaise project?
AC: Finish the record first. Some projects can take years, others happen very quickly.
RC: We are Reynols and we don't understand Reynols. How can anyone understand Reynols if we don't understand Reynols?
AC: We understand that we don't understand, and that's a way of understanding.
Have you asked Miguel what Reynols is?
AC: He says Reynols does not exist.
RC: You show him his photograph on one of our records and say "this is you", he says "that is not Miguel, I am Miguel."
Did he like the full size poster / flag you made of him for your tour?
AC: I think he's happy with it.
RC: That flag is very complex, because it explains the idea of Minecxio. If you look at Miguel's sunglasses, they are the front and the back at the same time, and Minecxio is in between.
The concept of Minecxio comes from Miguel.
RC: It's a parallel universe.
AC: The name comes from Miguel. Anything you can say about Minecxio is right and wrong. You cannot explain it. To explain what this cup is you have to explain what it isn't - you have to separate the cup from the rest of the universe. So you cannot talk about Minecxio because you cannot separate it from.. that ring on your finger.
What other projects are you working on?
AC: We made some recordings of snow in Norway with Lasse Marhaug. Snow recordings, walking in the snow. That project's called "Snowise" [pronounced to rhyme with "noise"]. We can use our British passports [with the official stamp refusing them right of entry into Britain]. Maybe we will play the passports.
You didn't tell the Immigration Officer you came from a parallel universe, did you? British Customs Officers don't tend to understand these things.
AC: Well, we tried, but I don't think he understood. Maybe he was really afraid that Reynols could radically change the economy of the United Kingdom.
You consider yourselves to be a legitimate political risk to the stability of the country.
RC: A spiritual risk, maybe.
Do you see Miguel every week?
AC: Two or three times a week, sometimes every day. He's still with his parents. We gave a big interview last year to a big gossip magazine. They were happy. After all, they only want their son to be happy.
Thanks Tomas for this!
...and yes mr.Anonymous that commented today on my Objectivity post....if i could make such great music,i suffer from Down's Syndrome!
get it here


Anonymous said...

Thanx for the interview
and much thanx for your brilliant blog.

Is there any chance to get "Pauline Oliveros In The Arms of Reynols"?

dipmong said...

hello mutant sounds
i have posted DDAA's
nouveaux bouinages sonore ,dans la periode 1992
in honour of your exposure of this and other great musics
thank you for your mammoth efforts
you will find it here
(you probably have it !!)
take care
all the best

Mister B. said...

There's a track from that record here :


Anonymous said...

thanx for the link, Mister B.

one track is better than nothing - I lost my original some time ago