Since the early 90's, Belgian duo Silk Saw has pioneered nearly unclassifiable electronic music. Gabriel Severin (Babils, Rob(u)rang) and Marc Medea have produced 11 albums together and countless other side projects. Their sound is progressive, daring and mix elements of electro-acoustic, modern composition and contemporary music. They are often credited as the forefathers of rhythmic noise and just listening to any of their records gives you an idea of just how complex and layered their sound is.
Last year saw the release of Imaginary Landscapes, the pair's first release after nine years of silence on Russian imprint Kotä. The record reminds us all of the importance of Silk Saw and just how influential they have become for the next generation of experimental electronic artists. This year, the duo will perform live at the Bozar Electronic Arts Festival in Brussels and we had the privilege of speaking to Severin and Medea about their history, influence and live performance. Please find our Q&A below.
The Brvtalist: Last year saw the release of new Silk Saw material after being dormant for 9 years. How does it feel to be back with a new release and playing shows again? Did you both take time off of music or are you always working on something?
Silk Saw: Well, you never know what life will bring you and time is running fast. Marc and I (Gabriel), have had a lot of different musical projects in the past and sometimes one is taking over the others. At least it happened like this for me: some of my projects where taking more time and energy (like Babils and Rob(u)rang) and on the other side Marc had less time to spend in his musical activities. Two years ago Kotä Records (a really nice Russian label for which I'm doing some mastering jobs) asked us if we had something for them. That was a good reason to finish an album that Marc and I had in mind for years! This means that these new tracks are in a way quite old (it is in fact a mix of old and new stuff, the new material being integrated in old structures). As a result, we decided to work on completely new material for the live set –it took 9 months to be achieved- is really different from the album. We need to fill the gap soon with a new album, probably on Kotä again.
TB: You both have been at the forefront of experimental and avant garde electronic music since the early 90’s. How would you describe some of the genre’s evolution? While always popular in many circles, we’ve certainly seen a lot of new artists popping up in recent years. Do you like the influx of new artists and material?
SS: I would say that, although maybe there's less expectations from the public for experimental and avant garde electronic music, there's much more interesting releases than back in the day. Of course there are a lot of micro-labels releasing it with a little amount of copies so if you want to get one you have to be quick. For sure, a lot of these musicians are copying and or mixing what was already done in the past and this is already interesting but some artists (look at the club scene for example: people like Da GobliNN, The Maghreban, Casio Royale, Randomer, Ansome, Ancient Methods, Perc, Daphni, Ekoplekz, Paranoid London, etc., but it's the same for other scenes) are really personal and exciting when they're pushing the limits and crossing the borders without complex.
TB: Let’s discuss your upcoming performance at Bozar Electronic Arts Festival. What do you have planned and talk about your approach to creating the live show.
SS: As I said, our performance will be very different from what we made before. It's like a new period for us. It took a lot of work but we're happy with it. Maybe the great lines are the same but the colour palette is completely new (also because we're using new instruments). In a way we are more harsh than before but also more musical and there's maybe a bigger focus on details. As always, we'll use a lot of machines (drumboxes, samplers, keyboards, effects), most of it linked in MIDI, plus some percussions and my voice feeding a headset microphone. This means that even if we're playing the same set at an other venue, it will be quite different.
TB: Do you enjoy playing festivals? What are some differences between festivals and more intimate venues, especially as it relates to your type of music.
SS: Of course playing in more intimate venue fits better to our music. We can take our time and the public should be there to see us, right? On the other side, playing in festivals is great too as a lot of people do not necessary know you. When the program is well done, like Bozar, we're happy but when you're like a fly in the ointment, like it already happened to us, too bad for you!
TB: Both members of Silk Saw have been involved with many other projects, together and separately. Where do you both place Silk Saw in your artistic oeuvre? Would you say it’s your favorite project?
SS: It is clear that when we are together, Silk Saw is the most important project, although indeed we participated to a lot of releases in the past. We have worked together for nearly 30 years. Maybe it's my favorite project but as said before I'm involved in other musical directions that are also really important for me...
TB: What’s next for Silk Saw?
SS: We hope that we'll do more live dates (the next one is at Café Central, Brussels in November). We also made a live recording for Radio Panik recently (still available in podcast). But we're very excited to work together again in a few weeks to record and mix all this new material for a new CD and/or LP to come. For sure, we won't wait nine years for a new record!
Thank you to Marc and Gabriel for taking the time out to speak with us. Silk Saw is a true pioneering act and it is great to see the duo is continuing to push their sound forward. Be sure to catch them live at the Bozar Electronic Arts Festival in Brussels on September 24th at 22:30. For more information, please visit the festival's website.