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Can Am Des Puig "Book Of Am" interview

Can Am Des Puig formed back in early 70's and released a very interesting album, which they recorded on an island in Spain. Now Juan Arkotxa, Leslie McKenzie and Carmeta Mansilla have joined forces with Will Z (Cosmic Trip Machine) to finish project The Book Of Am. A few years ago Wah Wah released the book including the only LP that was originally released back in the seventies (Part I) plus adding an extra LP (Part II) which had been recorded in the same era while the book was written, but as the book itself hasn't been previously released. Now, thanks to the help of Will Z, original Can AM des Puig (the name of the house which recorded The Book of Am) residents Leslie and Juan, plus original contributor Carmeta have joined forces again to finish what was left unfinished. More in the following interview with original members and Will from Cosmic Trip Machine.

Can AM Des Puig formed back in early 70s in Scotland and then moved to Spain to an island where you recorded "The Book of Am" LP, which was released by Celluloid Records in probably very small quantity.

Juan / Leslie : Can AM des Puig was the name of our house in Ibiza and we decided to use the same name for the group that made the recording of the LP in 1977 because the house where we lived and recorded the music was in the top of the hill (Puig in catalan) in Deia (Mallorca).

Would you like to tell us the story behind making your LP?

Juan / Leslie : During our two years of travel through India our music and art grew strong. We were able to keep developing this in Ibiza, by playing every day. We developed an improvisational style based around the words of what was to be the Book of AM. At first we never recorded anything since we did not have any electricity, not even batteries, except for torches.  The move to Deia and the contact with professional musicians, the acquisition of recording equipment and the access to electricity made it possible to add more instruments, refine techniques and put the material onto tape. 
In Deia we started recording on a two Track Uher with up to 7½ i/s speed and simple effects like reverb and echo.  Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth encouraged us and Daevid sold us his old 4-track TEAC. We used tunes we had already evolved for some of the songs and improvised new ones on the basis of the words and our raw musical ideas. 

What influenced you?

Juan / Leslie : Buddhism was the unifier – it was like the awakener into the Void and the Mind. No other religion gives such a clear study of the mind and its tricks.
From Islam we loved the music – Kabir and Persian miniatures and skies.
Christianity had the most overlays for us – all that suffering and blood – but underneath we found the forty days in the desert – the mystic and ascetic core, the alchemists and the transmutations.  And what came before it in Europe?  We had to be interested in that – with our Scottish and Basque roots. Robert Graves firmly opened that door – and it keeps on opening.
In India we were deeply impressed by the Indian Saddhus – because theirs’ is a living tradition – anyone can join them on the road and the Indian territory is covered with spiritual places for them to stay in and follow the eternal cycle of the Naad (Sound) from beginning to end.
The ancient Egyptians had power over the cosmology of Time; they were ready for it and lived their lives accordingly.
Then we loved the Northern Icelandic poetry since it was such an opener into the land of dreams and ice and wit and violence and magic.
We did not become religious practitioners as such – no one religion could grab us enough. We did not want to be followers; we wanted to be at the creative centre of our own world. That was why we created the Book of AM.

Tell us about the time spent in Spain and if there is any original concept to the LP?

Juan / Leslie : That time was quite a follow up to our travelling years since we managed to keep our life style very simple, almost like when travelling: no electricity, no news and very few belongings. That is the original basic concept of the LP, a very close relationship with nature and the life basics in all its universal values.

A few years ago Wah Wah released the book including the only LP that was originally released back in the seventies (Part I) plus adding an extra LP (Part II) which had been recorded in the same era. While the book was written before it hadn't been previously released as the book itself. Now, thanks to the help of Will Z (of Cosmic Trip Machine), original Can Am des Puig residents Leslie and Juan, plus original contributor Carmeta who all joined forces again to finish the great project ''The Book Of Am''. Will, how did the idea come to realization?

Will : For me, this fantastic adventure began when I listened to the original "Book of AM" albums and discovered the book. It was a shock: the discovery of a new world. I decided to work on the same kind of concept when I composed Cosmic Trip Machine third album, The Curse of Lord Space Devil. When I collected material for the opus, I found a forgotten demo of a track I wrote ten years ago called "Hear the Voice of the Bard" inspired by William Blake poetry (same words than the Book of AM song). That's how I realized I was connected with the book… even when I didn’t know it. I changed the lyrics and my track became "Hear the Voice of the AM" because Juan and Leslie were my “new” bards and their influences on my vision of the music were strong. I sent to Leslie and Juan (I found them on the net) a copy of the finished album. They loved the result and they asked me to help them to finish the unreleased Parts 3 and 4. It was a great honor to be a part of this incredible project.

What's left to be finished?

Juan / Leslie : We have recorded the whole book in four parts/LPs: Dawn, Morning, Afternoon and Evening. It could be a final part, Night, which is not even included in the book itself but it seems like it is waiting for it to be done. In the other hand we are at the moment recording, along with Will Z and his group, Cosmic Trip Machine, two LPs: “My Immortality” and “Moon Goddess Magic” which are the core of the Book of Intxixu that we wrote in 1978.

The main body of Parts III & IV is formed by those songs written back in 1970's Ibiza and Mallorca that never reached the recording stage. You have also written part of the music, and have helped with all arrangements. What can you tell me about that? Was it hard to respect the musical feel of the original sound?

Will : Juan and Leslie sent me the demos recorded in Deia during the 70’s. I began to record new demos and then basic tracks on guitar acoustic, working on the demos structures, trying to be as close as possible to the original albums and using the same kind of arrangements. It was funny because Juan and Leslie were less obsessed than me by the respect of the original sound. For example, they asked me to add bass on every track, like we used to do on Cosmic Trip Machine albums. They told me they wanted to have bass on the original Book of AM project but it was impossible at that time, due to the limits of the four tracks machine they used. The main idea was to follow our intuition and awareness.

How did you actually get together and got an idea to record?

Juan / Leslie : We did the Book of AM in the years 1975/76 and we used to sing the songs from the book accompanying them with our music. Once we finished the whole book with all its engravings and watercolours we decided to move to Deia (Mallorca) to record the songs.  There we did quite a few sessions with local musicians: Pat Meadows, Stephanie Shepard, Phil Shepherd and Lally Murray plus, later, the appearance of Jerry Hart with whom we did most of the arrangements, the catalan singer Carmeta Mansilla and finally Jean Paul Vivini with his synthesizer completed the recording group.

When will the album come out and what can we expect from it?

Juan / Leslie : The double Album Part III and IV will come out for spring, March 2013, released by Wah-Wah Records (Barcelona) and it will have same singers as in 1977, Carmeta and us, with the addition of Will Z, as singer and musician. I think that by having the four of us singing, the sound is more harmonious and compact than in the parts I and II from 1977. Also we have added bass and violin plus several percussions. 

Is there any chance you will hit the road and play a couple of concerts?

Juan / Leslie : Will Z and the Cosmic Trip Machine are young and they do quite a few concerts so, who knows?

Interview made by Klemen Breznikar/2013
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