“Much like dancing”
Manchester based sculptor and musician Pascal Nichols plays reduced and extended drums at the same time. His influences go from free jazz to black metal, although he doesn’t see himself as an archetypical drummer, more as a jack of all trades, accepting and enjoying the fact that he can obsess over many pursuits and ultimately never fully master any of them.
You play on a reduced version of a drum kit set-up…
I didn’t have a car when I started out playing gigs so I would continually be trying to build and adapt my drumset to make it portable, as I rarely played in venues that would provide a back-line. I’d look for drum sizes that could slot into each other and super-lightweight stands from cheap kids drum kits, which inevitably influenced my playing style as I had to keep reassembling my shitty kit during live sets when it was falling apart. Also, most places I would jam and play gigs in were pretty small (house shows, basements, back rooms of pubs) so a small kit fit right in.
On the other hand, you extend your playing by using a lot of different objects.
When I first moved to Manchester in 2005, I saw Konk Pack play. Drummer Roger Turner had an arsenal of scrap metal, home made beaters, and found junk. Through his playing he transformed the drumkit into a shifting palette of textures, sounds and punctuations. This was a turning point for me, and completely changed my idea of what is possible as a drummer! I started to hunt for sounds inside and outside the drumkit; and incorporate materials and objects into a dynamic form of playing. Two other important factors in getting into drum preparations were my discovery of friction (introduced to me by ace percussionist and friend Patrick Farmer crushing violin bow rosin onto my snare drum), and contact mics.
When you play live, you have a lot of these objects lying around you but you don’t always use all of them.
Sometimes I have no idea what I will do (beyond playing drumset) and I’ll throw a bunch of stuff in my bag and maybe even use none of it, other times I’ll have a few ideas or themes based around some patterns/sounds I’ve been working on, so I’ll have a specific set of objects and preparations I will work through and explore live. I avoid sticking to a strict plan; if you’re not feeling it just move on and try something else.
Why did you choose drums as your instrument?
I played pots and pans on the kitchen floor as a kid, and took some lessons in high school. Drums are primal, and playing them can be a catharsis, if you have a bad day you can smash the shit out of them, and make loud noise no matter what your level of skill. They also involve the use of all your limbs working together or against each other, making drumming a physically involving activity, much like dancing. I’m shit at dancing but drumming in this sense really appeals to me.
I watched your clip on ‘Peak Signal to Noise’. This feels like a perfect concert even though it’s just ten minutes long.
For ‘Peak Signal to Noise’, I played a couple of instant compositions. I don’t think it was edited down much if at all. I was having a bad day and hadn’t planned or prepared, and playing for my TV crew buddies cheered me up a lot!
Do you come from a noise background where ten minute concerts are not unusual?
Some of the best noise shows I’ve seen have been less than ten minutes long (Prurient, Lovely Honkey, Kevin Shields), the idea of a ten minute set really appeals to me but I don’t have the focus or intensity to pull it off myself!
As what kind of a drummer do you see yourself: a free improvisational drummer or rather a sound artist who uses the drum as his instrument?
When I’m playing drums I’m a drummer: the drums are not a means to an end for me. I do other stuff without drumset, using sampler, tape,microphones but drums and percussion play a role in this too such as using percussion as a sound source for tape manipulations or playing a sound in a percussive/rhythmic way. I hesitate to call myself a ‘free-improv’ drummer as I often make music that operates within a conceptual framework rather than a purely spontaneous and reflective one, and I collaborate with people who don’t see themselves as free-improv dudes.
Is your playing influenced by Han Bennink, Paul Lovens or Sunny Murray?
Ok, I’m just gonna drop a bunch of my favourite drummers that readers at home should know about: Roger Turner, Ed Blackwell, Jeff Hartford, Tony Marsh, Chris Corsano, Zach Hill, Rogier Smal, Patrick Farmer, Fenriz, Phil Marks, Morten J Olsen, Bill Ward, Alan White, Elvin Jones.
Do you feel related to drummers like Eli Kezler, Will Guthrie, Erik Heestermans or Julian Sartorius?
I feel related to artists and musicians who share a particular aesthetic and/or political values with me rather than those who specifically play the same instrument. I’m so grateful to be part of a self-sustaining community of like-minded people who make music, put on shows, do labels, and write about music,although I do love to talk drums with other drum nerds when the stars align.
Your website is not just about your music but also about your sculptures, drawings and ceramics. Are all these things connected for you?
All these things add up to make me a jack of all trades, master of none. I have grown to grudgingly accept and eventually enjoy the fact that I can obsess over many pursuits and ultimately never fully master any of them. This approach leaves me ample room to take risks, take a break, and never really plateau in my creative output.
Interview made by Joeri Bruyninckx/2016
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