Farida Amadou is a Liège, Belgium based bass player, most well known for being part of the punk band Cocaine Piss and for her free improv sets with Steve Noble.
“Isn’t it all about revendications, fucking the system and love?”
You started out as a singer and a guitar player. Why did you decide to switch to bass?
It wasn’t a proper decision! At the time, I was living with a classical guitar teacher, and one day a friend of hers left her bass in our flat for a few weeks. I tried it and never left it since 2011.
Can you remember what initially attracted you to the bass? Was it the instrument? Or bass players? Or certain records?
I really liked and still like the ‘touch’. The feeling of touching the strings and feeling the low notes in my body! So it was more the instrument at first. And then, I started to listen to jazz and became a fan of John Zorn, Masada, Medeski Martin and Wood and Thelonious Monk. Discovered the great Trevor Dunn, even if he was not what initially attracted me.
Why did you decide to study jazz? To take it on a more “serious” level?
Why not? I was just following my friend again and I passed an exam without knowing how to play and I learned by heart the chords of two jazz standards. So, when I knew I was in the school, it was a shock of good news because I was playing bass for only 3 months. I took the opportunity to learn more. And after three years I quit the school, because I wanted to play more freely! And then I discovered free improvisation, started to play hip-hop grooves at the same time with my little jazz background. After that, I learned the instrument mostly by myself by playing 5 hours a day, 5 days a week for 2 years.
You started with hip hop and jazz, but later on turned more in the direction of free improvisation and punk.
Again, why not? I just want to learn from people and play as much as I can before I die. And you know Liège is such a small city with a lot of collectives and a big community in the music scene, so you know everyone very quickly and jam with everyone and start bands easily!
When I began to jam in Liège, I was hired by a blues cafe to play there once a month with poets/writers and slammers. Then I met a drummer, Tom Malmendier who was at one of these evenings and told me about his music. I was/still part of a free improvisation collective. We started to get to know each other and found out we had friends in common who were trying to start a hip hop band, another collective! So we played a lot of hip hop and while we were trying to get the grooves of our hip hop song at rehearsal, we started to improvise freely in a natural way. Then our improvised bass/drum duo Nystagmus was born.
I think punk music and free improvisation are not that different in terms of energy. Yes, punk musicians are maybe more expressive on stage, MAYBE. But for global energy, the purpose is the same from my point of view. It’s just the world and music that seems different. But isn’t it all about revendications, fucking the system and love?
Tell us about being part of the Liège music scene?
Yes, I organize a lot of improv and noise concerts with l’Oeil Kollectif, my friends, the guys who I started to play improv with: Tom Malmendier (drums), Marius Morsomme (drums), Louis Frères (bass), Henri Charlier (bass), Clément Dechambre (Saxophone).
Like I said before, Liège is a big village/community! It’s becoming more and more difficult for me to be part of the Liège scene because I play a lot outside of Belgium. But if I’m here, I want to play at home! It feels so good!
In January I’m inviting Chris Pitsiokos and Paul Lytton for a concert. It feels good to invite such great musicians I’ve met on the road. Because Liège is such a beautiful city but very unknown for its music scene, it’s a shame.
With all the collectives born in the 20 last years, you can listen to good hip hop, jazz, free jazz and punk, electronic music shows in Liège, every week!
How did you become the bass player of Cocaine Piss?
They asked me and I said yes! I was planning to meet them to say no to their proposition, because I was already busy with the improv scene and my work as a speech therapist. And I couldn’t resist saying yes the next day. I knew the rest of the band just by seeing them at shows they were organizing with their collective et vice-versa for me. But we didn’t really know each other. I just knew I liked their music and when I sat down to talk with them at Mathias’ (guitar player) place for 5 or 6 hours, I felt so good and so on the same page for political ideas, different point of views about music and life goals. So, the next day I said yes! Now, I have a new family. New people to share with what I love the most in life.
You regularly collaborate with Steve Noble.
I met Steve at a festival in Belgium. The Summer Bummer festival 2017. We were both playing in different bands. We had a great discussion together and laughed a lot that evening. The day after, I got an email from him, asking me if I wanted to play in the UK. He was looking for an electric bass player for 20 years.
We get along very well musically and also spiritually. It’s very important for me, because my point of view about ‘free’ music is that when you play this kind of music, you cannot hate the person or the band you play with. It’s a lot about feelings and how you transform them into music. There are other things, but for me it’s the main thing.
Steve is an amazing drummer and person. I feel lucky to play with such an experienced musician with more than 40 years of career as a turntablist, drummer, and composer for a dance company! In 6 months, we’ve recorded 5 CD’s. They will be out in 2019. For this new project with Steve, I had the chance to collaborate with Chris Pitstiokos, Alex Ward and Thurston Moore and more good musicians to come. Stay tuned for the release.
Farida Amadou Official Website