Next weekend will see the sixth edition of the Rock The South festival kick off, once again offering a fantastic line-up of local and foreign bands. Of the latter, one name rings particularly familiar. Back for their third visit to Malta, Italian rock duo Sdang! will this time be joined by Colin Edwin, of Porcupine Tree fame, although one must not fail to also mention he is involved in countless other music projects. MikeBugeja.com caught up with the prolific musician ahead of Sdang!'s Malta performance, incidentally the first date of their spring/summer tour.
Your musical activity has always veered away from the mainstream, and often focused on instrumental music. What is it that attracts you to the experimental end of the musical spectrum, and particularly music without vocals?
I consider myself lucky that I have a diverse set of musical interactions going on at any one time, but the truth is really that I just follow my instincts and also usually that one thing leads to another. I never really plan to work in any particular area, or actively seek people to work with, it's a natural flow from meeting people and one thing leading to the next.
More often than not, I am working with other instrumentalists and it's usually the case that we end up feeling that the music is complete and wouldn't really benefit from having vocals...like with Metallic Taste of Blood for instance, or Burnt Belief which is really about my interaction with Jon Durant's sonics and guitar playing.
More recently though, I have developed an interest in the power of the human voice, mainly through working with Ukrainian female vocal duo Astarta, their natural style of singing was immediately fascinating and also very compelling to me. My ongoing work with Lef (Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari) in both Obake and O.R.k., has also made me aware of what great singer can bring to the table, he's a fantastic vocalist and never fails to surprise me as well.
Given the various projects you're involved in, you evidently love working with different people. What do these different encounters/experiences give you that being in just one band doesn't?
For a long time my motto has been "Have Bass Will Travel" and although I spent years and years in one band, Porcupine Tree, I was always involved in different things when the touring schedule allowed, even though some of these were just odd gigs or recording projects, so I always craved a bit more variety. Touring the same material for months on end, it can be very challenging to keep it feeling "alive" night to night.
My primary musical interest, playing bass, is something that I don't find interesting enough to do on my own, at least not for long, so I have always been open to working with different people and in various set-ups. I've also always enjoyed variety and I like to get outside of my comfort zone, so, given the possibilities for travel, music offers a great way to have variety in both a physical, geographic way and in an artistic sense too. The bonus is that I can sometimes really surprise myself with what I end up doing and the contexts I find myself playing in.
Apart from working with different musicians, you've also got a wide-angled perspective in your choice of genres. How much do you feel do the different musical elements you've explored separately infiltrate/influence the other projects you have on the go?
Ultimately the idea is to try to make the musical process as intuitive, expressive and unconscious as possible, and I feel confidence really does come from experience. Even though various projects and bands might seem poles apart musically, I am totally sure it's all helped me refine not just my playing, but my overall musical judgement and ability to make good creative, artistic and sonic decisions, whatever I am involved in.
You'll be touring with Sdang! soon. How did your paths cross, what led to this new collaboration to add to your portfolio and will it lead to releases together too?
A few years back, Petrol (Sdang! drummer) initially contacted me through Soundcloud with some undeveloped ideas and asked me if I'd like to collaborate. It's something that happens quite frequently, but usually I am either too busy to get involved or maybe the ideas presented to me don't appeal.
In this case though, I thought he had some great material to start on and I also had an available window of time, so we ended up collaborating fully and making an EP and a full length album together under the name "Endless Tapes".
When the time came to play live, Nicola Panteghini joined us on guitar. We've kept in touch since, as I am in Italy quite regularly, so I knew the Sdang! material. It was an unexpected and surprising offer from them to join in, but if the rehearsal is anything to go by it should work very well. We haven't discussed working on any future new Sdang! material together, but I guess that's a possibility.
This will be your first time performing in Malta, though I suspect Sdang! have told you much about it from their previous experiences here.. any expectations?
Always good to go somewhere new, I gather it's a great place, I am expecting sunshine and blue skies!
Sdang! with Colin Edwin will be performing on Saturday, April 22 at the 2017 edition of the Rock The South Festival. The festival kicks off the night before and ends on Sunday, April 23. For more information or to buy your ticket, visit rockthesouthmalta.com.