Can Am Des Puig “Book Of Am” interview

February 21, 2013

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
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
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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