Thursday, February 15, 2018

Rare Noise from London: Eraldo Bernocchi, FM Einheit and Jo Quail Talk "Rosebud"

Left to right: FM Einheit, Eraldo Bernocchi and Jo Quail (photo source:

As previously discussed on this site, London’s RareNoiseRecords has been responsible for releasing some of the most adventurous music of the past decade. One of the label’s most recent titles (and easily one of the most exhilarating albums of 2017), Rosebud, finds guitarist and RareNoise co-founder Eraldo Bernocchi joining forces with cellist Jo Quail and groundbreaking experimental percussionist FM Einheit.

Acquaintances since the ’80s, Bernocchi and Einheit first collaborated on music together on the Black Engine project with the Italian group Zu. Quail first came to the guitarist’s attention when he saw her perform on stage with Sol Invictus at a festival. In November 2016, the three artists gathered in London to create the six-song Rosebud.

“FM Einheit is one of the reasons why I am doing music,” Bernocchi says. “His work with Einst├╝rzende Neubauten deeply influenced me when I began to experiment with sound in the ’80s. Jo is an English classically trained cello player who is immensely talented. She shifts her gears from orchestra work, composing for strings and devastating eardrums with a large use of distortion pedals and whatnot. Plus, Jo and myself share a love for quite a few Metal bands. Both of them brought a wide sound palette to this trio and were chosen for their ability in shape-shifting from one moment to the other.

I greatly admire Eraldo’s capacity for continuous musical creation; each project has a distinct and individual feel, and each one is of the highest caliber,” offers Quail. “I have had the pleasure of working with Eraldo previously in a live setting and subsequent recordings, too. I was obviously very familiar with FM’s iconic work, though having never met him before I can confess now to feeling a little nervous beforehand! Working with FM is to work with the most powerful, expressive and dynamic musician; it was a joy to make Rosebud with these two incredible artists.”

The union resulted in an album that alternates between intense (sometimes even harrowing) moods and serene shades. Bernocchi credits the end result of each piece to the willingness of all three participants to work without a set musical path in place.  

 “We gave each other no direction whatsoever. Nothing. This is the way to go for me. Each one of us came up with ideas, and we combined them. On certain tracks, all is improvised; I had to edit and work on the sessions to reduce the length and create a stream or something that had structure. On other tracks, we created the arrangement in-studio, as we kept a little bit of spare time each day to do it.”

Musical experimentation is nothing new for Einheit, who developed “an open mind and a passion to explore the unknown” during his decade-plus stint with Neubauten. Naturally, the Rosebud experience fit him like a glove.

Rosebud is the documentation’ of our first-ever [time] making music together,” he says. With open ears, we were listening to each other constructing the pieces. Who would start the initial mood of a track changed from piece to piece.“

There were moments when one of us would take a clear lead or create the ‘mood’ that resulted in the next hour or so’s material, and then times when we would sit back and respond to what we heard,” adds Quail. “In any form of collaborative composing, there should be a steady tide of direction and reaction, and this was certainly the case making Rosebud. I think we all brought our singular sounds and playing to the record, and the result is what you hear now.”

Although Quail was no stranger to exploring sonic esoterica, the recording of Rosebud took her in new directions.

I’ve never made a record with someone playing springs and power tools before… and indeed making them so musically eloquent! On the face of it, Eraldo, FM and I appear to come from very different backgrounds musically speaking, yet we all reach across genres in what we do as individuals. A collaboration that offers you the opportunity to work with musicians from different spheres, as with Rosebud, is both exciting and inspirational. I have learned a great deal listening to both these musicians record. Eraldo and FM have great musical sensitivity and choose what they play, when and how they play it with great skill and grace.”

Both the album’s title and the Industrial Metal-tinged track “Xanadu” are references to Orson Welles’ classic 1941 film Citizen Kane. In the movie, the powerful and corrupt newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane utters on his deathbed the name he gave to a beloved sled he remembered from his youth (“Rosebud”). In Bernocchi’s mind, incorporating Welles’ narrative into the Rosebud project made perfect sense in light of current world events.

Look at what’s happening everywhere - the media role, Trump, Erdogan, Brexit. The memories we more and more treasure as they slip from our fingers, the power abuse, the rise of populism… It’s all happening now! Media are ruling everything and reprocess fake news selling lies for truth. Liars are becoming prophets once again, just like the early 20th century. ‘Content’ is a domination word, and ‘content creators’ are buying our privacy and life in exchange for constant connections and feeds. It’s nothingness becoming power, and it gets worse day by day. Now that the record is out, I feel like John Carpenter’s They Live would be even better to describe what’s happening! The Citizen Kane [influence] came up at a later stage; FM put it on the table, and Jo and myself were super happy to join. He came up with most of the titles, and we thought they were perfect.”

And what level of difficulty –  if any – did Einheit have in naming the compositions?

"It was a piece of cake,“ he replies. “Strange, mysterious music plus Orson Welles equals Rosebud.

Bernocchi’s involvement in Rosebud is the latest in a string of recent recordings. One of his most notable projects, Metallic Taste Of Blood with celebrated bassist Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree/O.R.k.), utilized the services of veteran drummer Ted Parsons (Swans/Prong/Foetus/Killing Joke/Godflesh) for 2015’s Doctoring The Dead. What began as an out-of-the-blue invitation from Bernocchi quickly became one of the most enjoyable experience in Parsons’ career.

It was kind of a project where you go in and have no clue what it’s going to be like, but you know that there’s two talented guys,” he recalls. “We just jammed. With a bass player like Colin, you can’t really go wrong as a drummer. Eraldo’s such a nice guy and a gentleman. I call him the Bill Laswell of Italy! (laughs) He works with a lot of people.”

Parsons especially enjoyed Bernocchi’s guitar playing and inventive use of effects.

I think he really likes to create an atmosphere while he’s writing the song. He’s not like a chugga-chugga player; he starts thinking about atmospheres. After you lay down a track, he’ll instantly lay down something with the e-bow or something atmospheric. I like that about Eraldo; he’s thinking about the whole sound of the song.”

Best of all, Parsons walked away from the Doctoring The Dead experience with two new lasting friendships.

What I took from that whole session was just dealing with some really professional guys who liked to have fun doing it. It was good to play with people who didn’t have egos. It was really comfortable to be with those guys. I felt like I had known them for a long time. They’re both sort of in my circle of brothers that I’ve collected over the years. They’re like family.”

Bernocchi is quick to praise Parsons’ contributions to Metallic Taste Of Blood’s most recent chapter.

Metallic Taste of Blood is becoming a two-sided world. There’s one side that lingers in heaviness, and another one that conjures melancholy and sweetness. It’s something that was already there in the first album, but with [Doctoring The Dead], it went further thanks to Ted’s drumming. He’s a more linear drummer than [previous drummer] Balazs [P├índi]. Where Balazs paints with strokes, Ted blows you away with his killing grooves and powerful hits. I’d like to have them both on stage one day; I love working with Colin and Ted, but adding Balazs to the picture could also be interesting.”

Since his mid ’90s departure from Neubauten, Einheit has kept busy working with a slew of artists including Gry, En Esch (KMFDM/Slick Idiot/Pigface) and Mona Mur. In addition to unleashing captivating sounds with these projects, Einheit’s penchant for musical exploration also had a major impact on the 1998 incarnation of the incendiary musical pirate ship known as Pigface. Two decades later, Einheit’s presence on tour with the group (documented on the live album Eat Shit You Fucking Redneck) elicits fond – and unsurprisingly intense – memories from bandleader Martin Atkins. 

If it is true that simply having an English accent lends an air of credibility and assumed education to someone, then it is certainly true that just being German lends weight and credibility to anyone from there experimenting with the confines of Industrial music. So then, FM Einheit ends up on [my label] Invisible, as so many of us did - and here’s ‘Mufti’ [as we called him] hitting a coiled spring with a metal bar. Of course, attention is paid to the exact circumference of the thing, but man does it look good in photographs. Mufti has a, I would say, Bukowski look about him: Smart suit but rumpled, an older face – similarly rumpled – and a cigarette. It was delightful when he furnished a film to be shown right before Sheep On Drugs performed during the ‘New High In Low’ tour…I gave the Sheep their cue for the tour: ‘When the terrorist goes in to blow up the McDonald’s, you have five minutes.’ I think on that tour he used his leverage to bring over Gry - amazing performers. Just a few days into the tour, he sustained a pretty horrible Achilles tendon tear [onstage at the Fillmore West], but he just put on an inflatable for the thing and persevered through the tour. In Toronto, after an outbreak of spinal meningitis decimated bands and crew alike, I was his drummer. Later, he handed me water when my tech was in hospital.

Quail’s activities in recent years include recording with the considerably less chaotic (but no less fascinating) supergroup Satellite Paradiso. Led by former Psychedelic Furs guitarist John Ashton, the group released a crowdfunded self-titled album in 2014 (reissued in 2016 by Mi5/Universal).

John and I have a mutual friend who put us in touch, and John kindly invited me to play some cello,” she explains. “We collaborated online as I’m in the UK, and it was a really great experience. John allows people to do ‘their thing’ and then will guide if needs be after that, so it’s a very enriching experience working with him. I think the record is fantastic; it’s triumphant and stadium-sized, and I’d love the opportunity to play some shows with the band sometime!”

Blown away by Quail’s work on the album, veteran musician/visual artist and Satellite Paradiso drummer Frank Coleman (Bentmen/Jayne County) welcomed her on board for his project Secret Agent, which also features original Furs member Duncan Kilburn and former ’Til Tuesday guitarist Robert Holmes.

She’s a sweetheart and obviously incredibly talented,” Coleman says. “She was touring Australia, and I had sent over this piece to Duncan to do sax on; on his own volition, he went and corralled her and got her to come by the house one weekend and play cello stuff on top of it. It’s awesome!”

In Coleman’s mind, one of Quail’s greatest strengths is her ability to create fascinating sounds by running the “raw cortex of a cello-type sound” through a battery of guitar pedals.

It’s a bit like the next step beyond Jimmy Page playing the Les Paul with the violin bow. It’s different from a guitar in that the attack and articulation is unique because it’s bowed; it’s a wider harmonic spectrum. It’s deeper than guitar work naturally and physically because the length of the strings, and then she takes that and processes it in a very unique stew of stuff.”

As the Rosebud album continues to awe and inspire listeners the world over, its three contributors have individually set themselves up for an active 2018. In addition to a sizable tour schedule that will include various stops in the UK, Europe and Australia, Quail is slated to record her fourth solo album next month for an autumn release. A recent email from Einheit teased his work on the “radio drama” Symphony Of Sirens, while Bernocchi recently appeared on the Solitary Universe project on Aagoo Records and had a staggering array of sonic adventures mapped when we touched base in December.

I just finished mixing a new Sigillum S album with Paolo Bandera, the original founder together with me and Bruno Dorella from OvO - now a permanent member. It’s coming out in the spring. There will also be a new album for Glacial Movements with Toshinori Kondo. It’s a no-beats/groove album entirely based on deep sea recording provided by the Palaoa Research Station. I’m using these recording to create pads, strings, sub basses and whatnot, but I’m only using these sound sources and Kondo trumpet. There’s a new Equations of Eternity [release] with Bill Laswell coming up later this year. This time, we are exploring the darkness of Aghori rituals from India. I went [in 2016] to record at the biggest religious festival there, and it was really interesting – really intense. Then there’s Supervoid, a new quartet with Xabier Iriondo on guitar, me on baritone guitar, Jacopo Pierazzuoli [Obake/Morkobot] on drums and a mysterious fourth member who we’ll announce at the right moment. It’s a strange, heavy instrumental combo with a Ry Cooder-ish/David Lynch vibe going on. It ranges from super heavy to ambient bluesy cinematic tracks. There will be a new Blackwood split vinyl and the first album of Rotor, a duo with a Leon Switch from Kryptic Minds. And then... I’m looking forward to meeting with Gareth Davis, a real clarinet wonder, and conjuring a couple of projects we are discussing - movie soundtracks, advert music and much more. Not everything will happen this year; it’ll take time, but this is what I’m working on at the moment.”

While the man’s plate is certainly full, he hasn’t closed the door on future adventures with Quail and Einheit.

I really hope we will end up on stage. I cannot wait to blast this music live, as we think it is really powerful. I would love to continue this trio; we could explore more and more now that we know better how to interact.”

Rosebud at RareNoiseRecords


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