Klimperei, The Russian Interview
Due to several reasons many Russian music lovers are isolated from the world of contemporary independent music. Only few names got known in the last years. Klimperei should be next! Please tell us in brief: how old are you, where are you born, how long is your artistic career, what is background of the band?
Françoise: I am 44, born in Lyon, where I always live, I learned to play the piano when I was a child, I had lessons with a particular teacher. I learned only classical music: Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, Bach, Chopin, etc. At home, I hear only classical: Tchaikowski, Chopin, Liszt, Beethoven, Mozart, etc. I do not hear pop music except Gentle Giant and Leonard Cohen. I know it since I had known Christophe: Mike Oldfield, The Residents, and so on. Christophe is 40, he is born in Lille (North of France) ; he learned to play a bit piano next he was ten (but he used to play crazy jazz-trumpet sounds with his mouth before to sleep when he was 8 & "really" began to play music, as a drummer, at 16, in 1975.
Christophe: At this time we had a band playing kind of 70's German music (think of Ash Ra Tempel, Can, Amon Düül II if you know these bands)... at 19 I formed, almost alone, "Los Paranos" which was a kind on minimal country electro-pop music; I listened to The Residents, Tuxedo Moon, Pere Ubu, that kind of stuff. At 21 I meet Françoise (who in fact is not my sister) an after a few time, as she knows how to play the piano but was not interested in Los Paranos stuff, we decide to change our style : we sold the synthesiser, the drum-machine & the electric guitar to buy a piano. And began to write & play short pieces in the mind of Satie especially. Quickly we add some small toy-instruments a friend gave us. And as some guys heard this new style of music we played & were interested, they asked for stuff to make cassettes & later CDs on their labels, & we went on... Later, as we had a little more money, we bought some more instruments, but a lot is loaned by friends (2 acoustic guitars, one electric guitar, one bass guitar...).
Are you husband and wife or brother and sister?
We are wife & husband since 20 years!!!
What are your instruments? How are your roles in playing? What is a compositional process for your albums like?
Keyboards: a piano, a digital synthesiser (sequencer) & a small analogic monophonic synthesiser. F&C both play keyboards. Guitars: 2 acoustic, one electric, one bass guitar. C only plays guitars. "Wind" instruments: flutes (C), ocarina (F&C), mélodica (F&C). Percussive: all kind of stuff metal or wood pieces, from small bells to cymbals, tambourine, xylophone, metalophone and so, so on... (F&C). Voices, noises & toys (F&C).
We do not have "a compositional process for an album" (except on the "Alice in Wonderland" project) but have the need/desire to play music together. Most of the time C begin the main structure of the piece, working it on piano, sequencer or guitar. We write kind of scores (sometimes drawings for me), F adds her own view, we work, work, work and record (and must mention, as other "instruments", the use of some effects machines as echo, phasing, & so on) and mix the track and then F baptise the piece because she has a very good imagination for titles!!! For "Alice" we must be closed to the book structure, characters, story, recursive themes and so on. In another hand, on this project, we tried to work with a friend, Dominique Cardon, who wrote for us a Basic program in the intention of choosing by "random" (it was a complicated calculation on the title of each chapter) the instruments for each track. But it didn't work all the time, constraints were too strong. Another friend, Dominique Quélen, wrote for us the translation from English into French of some songs we planned... But, I must say that usually we have no plan, on week-end or holidays if it rains or else, we just sit & play, & see what it does... Other "albums" are "just" compilations of different tracks that were not thought in the idea of some concept album as we were used to say in the 70's... with some bands like Yes, Genesis, Emerson Lake & Palmer (that I like too)...
What made you want to be a musician in the first place? How, when and why did you start to compose music?
Françoise: I don't know. Like that, making music with Chistophe, who recorded some K7 and sent them to friends. As we had a little success we continue, we were solicited to make pieces of music in cassette compilations, then complete cassettes, since the day when it was proposed to us to make a CD (on AYAA). A few years ago, I wrote in zines some poetry, and wrote a booklet which name was "the fil" in French (the sewing thread), live of a girl in a psychiatric hospital.. Music is also a leisure for me.
Christophe: I don't know. I tried to paint for 10 years, somewhere between surrealistic and abstraction. But it was bad. I write too, something like poetic texts. In this style I really do like Boris Pastern you probably know: VOZDOUCHNYE POUTI ("Les voies aériennes" in French). But in several points of view, music is stronger than words, I think. For example you never could meet with us only about my texts. Probably they will never be translated into Russian. Music doesn't need translation. As I said before, my first pieces are about 1978... But I don't know WHY? May be not to fall mad, something like that you understand? I feel that that kind of activities only are "worthy" human activities. I hate to work. We have no children as we feel life is not nice enough to get the responsibility of "making" new human persons... But if what we do can give some joy or fun or I don't know what else to people right there, we have not lost our time. But it is difficult to express that kind of ideas in a language I do not speak easily.
Your music is very lyrical. But are there the connection with your own common sense of life and how exactly the music can describe your person?
Christophe: in France our music is often described as childish, a kind of music that could fit with cartoons, and I think we never heard about "lyric" but I think I can understand what you mean & I think I reflects feelings that we have when we play music, something simple, not intellectual, something like children playing together a game they just invent & (may be) no one else could understand... but it seems other people can understand... & that's nice.
Why have you chosen such strange name for the band? How it refers your personal attitudes?
Christophe: Klimperei means "strumming on piano". It is a German name as, for reasons I forgot since, we didn't wanted to have a French name, but something sounding "European", and - not the least - nor English or American. This word pleased us as, for French ears at least, it sounds like the music we play I mean something like "kling-klong". To answer to the second question, I think we are may be rather unsociable... In another hand, all the time we spend playing music is not, you can imagine, " social time " spent with friends or family...
Françoise: It's my choice, Klimperei means to play the piano just a little in German, not professional, it was by modesty, and I like also a lot German language, so " Klimperei " and I did not want our name of band was in French and no more in English.
Do you play live or on the radio? What about live in Moscow?
Christophe: We do not play live. For several reasons. First we are only two persons, except when we play (but it is by mail) with some guy like Pierre Bastien... Second, I do not like to play several times the same thing & really do prefer making something new... Before a piece is " finished " it gives me another idea or wish for another piece, it is endless... So... & at last, as I had some live experiences with an industrial repetitive-rock band called Totentanz (another German name : "Death Dance"), I must say that I really do not like the feeling one's have being on stage & the power of possible (how avoid it?) manipulation on people... And all the stuff with attitudes, physical presence... playing loud... I really don't like that. I am too much shy to play in live, we record on multiplay several instruments, it would not be possible to play all that in one time.
What are some of your influences? What the music you are listen to? What are your favourite books? Do you write something else than music?
Christophe: influences are not often conscious. As music, I listen mainly to classical found, Françoise helped me to discover. But I like always the same old bands of the 70's 80's with an especial taste for bizarre, strange, odd things. And some friends let me discover some new stuff. But I'm not a Rap or Techno listener... And we trade with other " underground " musicians all over the world. Very interesting links... We also borrow CDs at a " media-center" near our home (Lyon is a big town, may be second or third in France). As a reader I do like Michaux, Kafka, Gombrowicz, Klima, Fuentes, Cortazar, Borges... (and many others). And in movies Fellini, Wenders, Casavetes and a lot of other things but may be it can help you to have an idea of my " background culture ". If you can find someone able to translate difficult text from French to Russian, I can send you some short ones...
Françoise: I think it is Satie, Debussy, Ravel, Bartok and Poulenc, and Comelade , French music, and unconsciously other things, and my deep temper (But we discovered Comelade after we began Klimperei).
Can you give a dry and strong statement for your music?
Not easily. It's a too deep & difficult question. Exactly the same as you could ask to me "who are you?"... I prefer you try to describe what you feel, or you take extracts from chronicles we put in our pressbook.
It seems to me that your music has a paradoxically authentic attitude - unique in common, but so many links to other artists in details. How full is your awareness and how deep are your feelings about this fact? Or this is not correct?
How could we do else? We do not covet being totally new, different, or I don't know what. I think the difference is that we often play like children, we play music, but we play it like an indoor game too. So it seems normal that all influences can come, why not? We are not genius. I feel music like cooking: it's always the same ingredients (12 notes I mean) and it's never the same. Never. Sometimes it's good (& you know as a cooker I'm very hard to please - when I cook) sometimes not. When " it works " we don't know why. Don't forget the first pleasure is that we play music, we make something together, Françoise & I. Of course sometimes we say "oh why not doing something sounding like X or Y?". But it never works. It always sounds different. We are not very good musicians you know. May be it can explain that situation!!! : In another hand I must admit that, talking of guitar playing or guitar sounds, I really do feel the influence of Steve Hillage, Robert Fripp or Mike Oldfield... But at my very small level...
I saw your photos. There was a surprising strange images like suburban teachers. This is a simulation or (much wonder) not?
Christophe: Oh, we are ordinary people I fear. Françoise does not work & I'm working in office that makes research on handicap & disabilities... Almost statistics...
Françoise: we apart at the middle class, we are not marginal people, and we don't run about artistic or cultural circle in Lyon.
How popular is your band? In Russia there is hard to obtain your releases. And why do you prefer cassette tape against the other media?
Really I'm not sure. Here, in small West Europe (France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Italy), Klimperei seems to be rather well know in the underground space. To have an idea, a CD is sold here in France about 2000 samples. The same in Japan. With England & USA relations are different. We have some good friends & labels here & there but not - it seems - a big audience. But nothing sure. We do not prefer cassette, but cassette is easy to make & send, cheap & so on. Small & not rich labels (ordinary labels) of the network of home-tapers not often make a CD because of the cost. But with new ways of making CDs, one by one, I think things will change... Let people know that we can send a copy of unreleased works if they send a blank tape & IMO... I am always happy to do that.
What do you think really about the sense of creation? What man must to create something for?
It is normal. I think, when you do not create, you're dead. Never mind WHAT you create, not only things or music, you can create links between peoples, you can cook good food, you can have the art of making your friends feel good, you can create a family, anything. But I think it's a deep need.
Françoise: it's to realise myself in life in another way than being parents with children, or in a professional way.
Where do you see experimental music fitting in the context of music as an art form? It is on the level with classic/academic or popular/mass-media music? What is the social functions and social quality of your releases? In brief : who are your purchasers and listeners?
First thing: I really don't know what "art" is. Is it a thing that we can see in museums? Thinking about our music I cannot think "art". I can think "music" or, for ourselves "pleasure activity". You know? Ordinary thing, it could be. Second : experimental is a word that bored me, as, at least here, in France, it is the label on very boring thinks, the thing of some few people, "intellectuals" who speak & write a lot about things other people just do. Do you know about "art brut". It is what I mean. A "brut-artist" do not think and speak for hours about "his art". He simply does things. He tries to resolve some own problems in a way that it can be used by other people, maybe in a different way, it's called "sublimation" in French. A psychological concept. Here, classical music (which is not always academic, think of the last string quartets of Beethoven, of Bartok music... which for me are really modern musics) is not very known except by people who had a "good education" and in this case it is normal to listen that kind of music. Usually these persons do no like rock'n'roll you know... In another hand, some very well know tracks are often, used for popular exhibitions or advertisements (think of Boléro de Ravel). The popular mass-media music, I think I don't really know what it is, we call that "variétés" here. But I think the best way (for my taste, my point of view) is not intellectual avant-garde or experimental, it's something growing in the land of what we call "rock", what we called before "pop-music", and it is all that free way of searching, trying, even for twisted love songs or I don't know what else... Think of last Tom Waits albums, of Nick Cave, of Pere Ubu, of Chrome... all very individual, special sounds, which are not "intellectual research", just music. And when this personal research meets the listeners it needs, it's OK. Anyway, for that kind of individuals, it's not selling records that count, it's playing music. If some records are sold, it's better, it gives a signal that say "hey, there are guys interested in the mood you play". For us, I imagine our listeners are found of something childish and intimate, fragile and somewhere between sadness and joy... But, why using the word "social" in your question (social functions and social quality)?
Do you hear something from Russian underground culture, music? Have contacts with Russian people, musicians, journalists? What do you think about Russia, in political and cultural aspects?
I must admit that, until now, I've never hear from Russian underground culture except what we call "dissident writers" even if it's a kind of a "cliché". And it is the first time we have contact with a Russian zine for an interview and echoes of our work in this country... What we think is not very important, we are no more clever as ordinary people: we are ordinary people. I can't imagine what really was Russian life, " before ", and now. As the world is still so complex that I avoid have opinions as I know they are based on partial (in the two senses of the word) representations of the world. All I can say is that I hope you will not suffer of knowing too soon too hard the bad side of "liberal market"... It's a question we could try to answer deeper if you wish but I really fear being ridiculous with my small point of view. For example: how do you imagine France, life in France? In political and cultural aspects? But I must add that Russian, and all countries around, that we could call East Europe, was, and probably is still, very rich in the point of view of literature, music. It's a large part of our cultural background, here, in France, & I really feel it as European culture...
Welcome to Moscow. It's a very beautiful place. We are looking forward to meet you here!
It's very nice, I'm sure Moscow is great. May be one day we will go there, as ordinary "tourists"...? But, as you read this interview, not to play music!!! Thanks a lot & all the best to you & your readers - have a good life...