Qua – Interview
September 7, 2008 § Leave a comment
Published: The Vine, September 5, 2008.
Qua – Interview
Melbourne-based composer, instrumentalist and laptop extraordinaire Cornel Wilczek is genuinely one of a kind. Better known as Qua, his densely fragmented, hyper-melodic sound worlds – which he renders via laptop, guitar and various electronics – whir and buzz and glimmer with a beautiful sense of contradiction. Over two brilliant record – 2002’s fragile Forgetabout debut and 2004’s wondrous Painting Monsters on Clouds – Wilczek has forged his own unique musical language.
New mini-album Silver Red – the first of two Qua records to be released this year – is equally ambitious. Over four extended tracks – each of which feature master-percussionist Laurence Pike of Pivot fame – it sees Qua expand his sound to flow into stunningly loose, melodic, pop-drenched instrumentals.
We chatted to Wilczek about Silver Red, his strange methodologies, visuality in music and car crashes in slow motion.
Silver Red has a real looseness to it compared to Forgetabout and Painting Monsters on Clouds. How do you feel it had changed?
Well, it was improvised and I think that was the biggest change. The other albums in the past were so structured and formulated, which really worked, but I think the biggest difference for me was making a conscious decision to separate Qua into two projects.
It was kind of like I’d sat between these two worlds of the sound art, improv scene and then this slightly pop scene for so long. So I thought it would be really great to just really, really have fun and concentrate on the two areas as individual projects. Silver Red was a chance to completely work on an improvised project, which was based very heavily, I guess, around a lot of technology to help do that. It was just a chance to really have some fun without an outcome in mind.
It’s interesting that you talk about this as a really experimental record as a creator, because I found it perhaps even more accessible, aesthetically, than the first two…
Everybody has said that and I can understand that now. I didn’t at the time, I think because of the process. The way it was created was so formulaic and conceptual that I assumed it would sound a lot more experimental and abstract, but I guess the whole melodic aspect of my nature eventually prevailed and it was like, ‘Oh, that’s not so experimental at all!’
Or I should say, it really is in terms of how it was made and the motivations behind it, but the outcome is far more melodic than I thought. I was actually quite shocked listening to it later.
I kind of felt like there were some conscious decisions to make it more complex than what it actually sounds like… It’s kind of a goal of mine to make accessible these heavily experimental methods that have generally always been resulted in music that is pretty hard to listen to.
In what context did the whole Qua thing start?
The Qua project started when I moved to Melbourne. I studied classical guitar as a kid and took that quite seriously for quite a while, then when I left school I played in a lot of bands in Adelaide and made a living as a session guitarist, but I really missed the compositional side.
I’d never had a computer until I was 23 and then bought a computer and was just blown away. I just started really, really thinking about myself as a composer, what I wanted to do and what I could do that no one else did, and it was at that point that I found these old four-track sets that I’d had when I was 13 or 14. So I started listening to them and I was kind of blown away with how articulate some of these were and how I hadn’t heard anything quite like it and then used that as a starting point for the first album.
So I had my Mac Classic Plus, my guitar, my sampler and my Nord Mini Modular and I started creating all this stuff. It was based around recording performances and then cutting them up and restructuring them, then using synthesis to tie it all together. That’s what morphed into those other albums and then it’s interesting that Silver Red is based around those same principles more than ever.
It’s really about performance cut up and abstracted and turned into something else.
Where did the idea for Silver Red come from?
It basically came from this method in which I was trying to record performances and apply this looping technique. It was basically just an exercise in trying to find how to do something that I’d been trying to do for a while. It was never even meant to be recorded, but you know, exercise just became bigger and bigger and bigger.
It wasn’t until Laurence Pike heard it and said, ‘Oh, I want to play drums on that!’ that it happened. It was just like ‘Hey, maybe this is something more than just an experiment’.
So Laurence English commissioned it for Someone Good and I just recorded it really, really quickly. Laurence Pike was here, so we just thought ‘F— It, let’s record some drums’ and then I processed the drums the same way I’d done everything else, and then that was it.
There’s a real visuality to the record…
Well, someone described Silver Red as a car crash in slow motion, and I could kind of see that. For me it became this very ugly thing that when seen in slow motion becomes really beautiful and romantic. You just imagine this glass shattering slowly, blood pouring out and aesthetically it being just this really interesting thing.
I just wanted to create a sensation, kind of like with a David Lynch film. No one can really say what’s happening in a David Lynch film; if someone knows what’s going on then good luck to them. It’s just about feeling and letting go and that’s what’s really important to me.
Even though it makes sense to me, I’d much rather create something that listeners can apply their own meanings and narratives to.
Silver Red is out now through Someone Good