Interview of Mike Rivard / Club d’Elf (english)
By Nicolas Ragonneau
01. Is Electric Moroccoland your declaration of love to sintir and oud?
More or less it’s a musical love letter to Morocco, and the sintir and the oud are featured. Since those instruments are connected with North African music they are the primary mediums in which we pay tribute to the Moroccan music styles that we love, such as gnawa, Berber music, and specifically the music of the great rais Hadj Belaid (“Ambib”) & Nass El Ghiwane (“Ghir Khoudouni”).
02. Will you bring Club d’Elf to Morocco?
Inshallah! We hope to perform at the Gnaoua Festival in Essaouira next June and tour to other areas of the country as well. We have been performing a lot lately with Hassan Hakmoun and the idea is to go over with him and do some performances. I’m currently applying for a grant to travel there so we’ll see what happens!
03. Is there an european tour planned?
If we can find promoters who are adventurous enough to bring us there we would love to tour Europe. Unfortunately, with the economic climate it’s hard to get people to take a chance on a band such as ours, which is hard to categorize. I think the European audiences would really embrace the music and we hope to bring it there someday.
04 The artcover of the album is gorgeous. Who signed the art?
Doug Sirois, who also did the cover art for Now I Understand. He is an amazingly talented guy and does a lot of fantasy book illustrations. He really gets the essence of Club d’Elf and his art is the perfect complement (www.dougsirois.com).
05. Can you explain briefly the origins of the band’s name?
We have a somewhat twisted sense of humor, and if the name is pronounced a certain way, it sounds like “clubbed elf”, which is an image that appealed to us at the time. In addition, it’s a tribute to Terence McKenna whose writings were a big influence on me personally, as well as on the music itself. He wrote at length about his experiences w/ psychedelics and of these “self-transforming machine elves” he encountered while in trance. The clincher was when I ran the name by Mark Sandman and he approved, so I figured it was worth going with.
06. What was the idea behind the double disc?
There was some thought about releasing two separate discs, but we decided a double disc would better showcase the diversity of the band’s music. It made sense to have each disc linked thematically, with Electric Moroccolandrepresenting the Moroccan trance side, and So Below the more electronica/DJ/psychedelic dub side. There’s a lot of dovetailing between the two discs stylistically, but in general you can break it down to those divisions. In addition, it’s kind of insane to put out a double CD these days, and if there’s one thing Club d’Elf is, it’s insane.
07. Were the tracks with Mark Sandman demos at the beginning on which you add the rest?
Not demos, but songs that were begun and put on ice for a long time until the proper moment came to complete them. There was a lot of Mark’s energy coming into my life in the last year or so through dreams and such, as well as the documentary about him being produced, and as I delved deeper into playing the sintir, the full extent of his influence on me became more apparent. I decided to complete the tracks that we had begun with him in ‘99 as a tribute and also covered “Rope on Fire”, which is one of my favorite songs he wrote. “Sand” was written with him in mind as well.
08. Regarding Mark Sandman, have you participated to the documentary (on him?
No, I wasn’t asked to be part of it, but I saw it when it premiered in Boston and thought it was quite good. Mark lived such a complex and full life that it would be hard to capture it all in an hour and a half documentary. I was happy to contribute to the Kickstarter campaign and am glad to hear that they will be releasing it to a wider audience. More people need to know about him, and if I can inspire listeners to check his music out through his presence on the new album then that’s the least I can do in return for the huge impact he had upon on me.
09. What are your projects in a near future? Any new instrument to learn?
I plan to go deeper into my study of the sintir and hopefully get a grant to go to Morocco to work with some of the master musicians there. I’m currently working on a video about my relationship with the instrument and bringing it into places it has not normally been used, such as Peruvian shamanism. I would also love to learn to play another Moroccan instrument, the rebab, which is a one stringed instrument played with a bow. I’ve been trying to incorporate the sound of that instrument into my arco bass playing for some time now and it would be really cool to play the real thing. I play with a group called Grand Fatilla that does a lot of folk music from around the world – Bulgarian, Brazilian, Turkish, Italian, tangos from Argentina – and another band called Natraj (which also features D’Elf tabla player Jerry Leake) and look forward to more work with them as well as Club d’Elf.
10. A word on John Medeski. How would you describe his unique sound and kind of playing?
John and I first met in the late 80s when we were both in the Either/Orchestra. We became friends and would generally end up rooming together on the tours that we did. We bonded over our mutual love for the movies of John Waters, schlocky horror films and and interest in macrobiotics & Hoshino therapy. Over the years our relationship has deepened, especially with both of us becoming more involved in Shipibo shamanism. John is without a doubt one of the most amazing musicians on the planet whose sound is instantly identifiable. He is able to channel energies in his playing that borders on the wizardly, and it’s always an amazing experience to have him play with the band.
About “Cure For Pain : The Mark Sandman Story” : http://www.gatlingpictures.com/
Interview made and translated at the end of June 2011 by Nicolas Ragonneau for Paris DJs 08/21/11