I want to help everyone to be happy and free
Ultra Eczema releases its first reissue, Kraus’ 2004 outsider psych master piece ‘I Could Destroy You With A Single Thought’. But how does Pat Kraus himself looks back at this record?
Pat Kraus: I’m very proud of it. I think the compositions are all strong and there’s no real fat on it. The songs are quite short, the whole album is only 30 minutes long and there’s very little improvisation. At that time I was determined to make music that was focused like a lazer-beam, with obsessively repeated, simple melodic figures. Variation comes not from improvising but from the adding and subtracting of layers. Some songs have four or five guitar parts, doubling in octaves. I remember how hard I worked and how dogmatic I was about not allowing any self-indulgence. I continued working that way for several years but I would have gone insane eventually if I didn’t change. The music I do now still has a core of simplicity but it includes the embracing of mistakes and incompetence, and looser structures including improvisation. Maybe it’s a bit more human now.
Is that George Harrison on the cover of the album, or am I completely wrong here?
Yes it is George Harrison. The photo was taken by Linda McCartney during the Abbey Road sessions. I saw it in the book The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, photocopied it and used it for the cover of the original CDR release. I thought it looked real funny and suited the music on the album. For a long time people assumed that’s what I looked like, which I guess was my intention. In reality I look like a boring nerd. When Dennis (Tyfus, Ultra Eczema label head, jb) and I discussed the reissue we agreed that it would suck to get sued by the Linda McCartney estate, so Dennis mushed the image, gave it the Tyfus twist. I think it suits the oozing sounds of the record.
Dennis called ‘I Could Destoy You’ the best psychedelic record ever. That’s promo talk, of course. So what would be your favourite psychedelic record ever?
I don’t want to say one is the best but I will name some of my favourites: ‘Bamboo for Two’ by Monopoly Child Star Searchers, Inner City Guitar Perspectives by Crude, Hands On Future by Renegade Scanners, Half Machine Lip Moves by Chrome, and The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor.
What is your definition of “psychedelic” music?
A short answer would be: psychedelic music sounds freaky. When you hear it you go “Woah” and stop what you’re doing and just stare at the floor. That’s the effect that Chrome has on me. If I put on Half Machine Lip Moves and try to do anything else I just zone out and get completely lost. I get a similar effect from that Delia Derbyshire track Ziwzih Oo-oo-oo. I don’t know if my album has that effect on people but I’m happy if it does. Good, powerful psychedelic music is also exciting and fun and stimulates my brain in a particular way: it’s funny and scary and makes me feel like running around the room full of joy. It’s transcendental in that it makes me feel strong and alive and really connected to existence and other people, and revolutionary meaning it makes me want to find ways to help everyone be happy and free.
Would you say that sound of an album is as important as the actual music on it?
Yes, I think I put at least as much effort and thought into how the recordings sound as I do in composing the music. It’s very important for me to create an evocative, mysterious atmosphere, a world that you can step into and explore like it’s an actual place. I generally record in mono, partly because I find it a lot easier to mix that way, so I don’t have the left-and-right dimension to play with. This makes me pay a lot of attention to the background-to-foreground dimension, which you can manipulate by adding artificial reverb and echo, to place sound-objects at a certain distance from the listener. I’m also careful about the particular instrument sounds and how they combine. This requires a lot of trial and error to create a combination that makes an elegant and coherent whole. The trial is necessary because you can imagine sounds that work perfectly well in your head, but when you actually record them they sound bad. When I started recording in the early 2000’s I had to try a lot of combinations to see what worked. Now I have more experience and can predict what will be successful and satisfactory to me, but I still need to experiment. It would be hard to explain exactly what I’m going for. My work is a little paradoxical, in that I rarely use room ambience or real world atmosphere. I usually record instruments dry and then place them in an artificial space with effects, but this unreal dreamworld still needs to be a convincing parallel reality. I am creating a sound-film. It’s been suggested to me that my work would make good soundtrack music and I would be interested in working with film-makers in the future.
‘I Could Destroy You With A Single Thought’ is kind of an aggressive title. I don’t feel the music itself is aggressive…
The title is a quote from an old episode of Star Trek, where a beautiful alien says to Kirk: “Do you dare defy one you should be on your knees worshipping? I could destroy you with a single thought!” That struck me as a hilarious and amazing sentence. I liked the idea that this album was created by someone so arrogant and megalomaniacal that they would say such a thing. It suited the music, which to me seemed powerful, rigid and accomplished in it’s own brutal way. It was amusing to create this mythical persona of an artist who never emerges in public but thinks of himself as a superhuman overlord. This is one of the recurring themes in my titles, other examples would be the album titles The Facts and Supreme Commander.
Do you see yourself as part of a New Zealand scene?
I think my scene is international. I used to be rather isolated and only had direct support from my close New Zealand friends, but now my world is expanding and I feel connected to, and inspired by, a peer-group of like-minded artists from Australia and Europe. It’s hard to define the aesthetic of this group, but I recognise a connection with certain people right away. I’m thinking of people like Mad Nanna, Sweat Tongue, Monopoly Child Star Searchers, Avarus, Floris Vanhoof, as well as New Zealanders such as Ducklingmonster and Pumice. I think one shared characteristic is an interest in, and engagement with, both experimental and popular music traditions, tending towards the former but informed by the latter. Pumice is a great example. I see reviews of Pumice records where it’s clear the reviewer is struggling because they don’t know how to categorise the material: is it noise? Is it rock music? Folk?
© Hans Van Der Linden, Brussels 2015
Interview made by Joeri Bruyninckx/2015
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2015