Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Regal Safari interview

Following their set at Saturday's 1234 Shoreditch festival, William Hall caught up with Guy Etienne and Sean Galt (aka Regal Safari), for a chat about Classical music, 'chillwave', and toilet bowls. 

First of all, where's the name from?
Guy: Well we're called Regal Safari. It's two words - one follows the other. 
Sean: Ha ha. Basically there's a club around here, and it's décor is easily described as a 'regal safari'. The whole experience is a hilarious regal safari. 
Guy: When I was describing the décor to a good friend of mine, I said it was "kind of like a regal safari", and he was like "that's a good name for a band".
Sean: I actually thought the décor was disgusting. 
Guy: But everyone thinks we're about colonialism now.  
Sean: We have a colonialist vibe. We conquer.

I've read about, and can hear, Classical influences in your music. Is that a fair point?
Guy: Very much so!

What would you say has the heavier leaning, Classical music or House and Electronica?
Guy: Classical.

What sort of things are you into then?
Guy: I'll just come out and say, I'm completely obsessed with Debussy... Debussy is a god. I appreciate a lot of Baroque stuff, to be honest, I mean it's very straight forward: this is the music, this is what you'll hear. But yeah I'm also into some Impressionist stuff, Chopin is pretty great.
Sean: The kind of coherence in Classical music is exactly what you're finding in contemporary Electronic music. The amount of detail and the way things are woven together... there couldn't be a clearer comparison. Wagner is often brought up because he simply goes on and on and things develop and evolve. That's how we feel when we're writing.

Did you listen to Balam Acab's debut album from last year? All I could think of when listening to it was that it was like a modern suite of music. 
Sean: Yeah, we did. These are the better ways! I think if we look for the Classical ways of describing and articulating music, they work amazingly well with Electronic music. 

Where's this from then, are you classically trained? 
Guy: Yeah, I mean I just listened to Classical music for the first decade and a half of my life. I didn't listen to contemporary music, my parents listened to Classical music, and I just enjoyed it. I did hear other music of course, I was aware of Blur when I was growing up! 
Sean: Ha ha, just a little bit... I rejected all written tonality, I hated written music!
Guy: Classical music is a horrible term, it is so so wide, before Jazz it was pretty much every music ever made. People call that 'Classical music', but actual Classical music is Beethoven... and Mozart, maybe.
Sean: But we're talking about a movement, a sound... an approach.
Guy: There is so much variety, individuality, so many personalities. Like Wagner was a great personality, you know!? A lot of people probably disagree with him... But, I appreciate and respect his desire for control, he wanted everything exactly as he wanted it, and that's a great way. Megalomania: I think that's a great thing, is megalomania a bad thing? I can't see any reasons why it should be... He basically bankrupted himself by making the best ever opera house. Opera, before it developed into the modern form was just a social, people would go not to see the music, they'd have sex, gamble.
Sean: Ha ha.
Guy: Honestly! All the boxes were linked by one corridor, so prostitutes could go through them all. So what Wagner did was make it so that it was impossible for you to socialise, you'd have to watch the music, and he made it acoustically fantastic. Ha ha, sorry I went off on a bit of a tangent.

But how do you feel when contrasting all of that to what's happening now with these vague genres like 'chillwave' and 'witchhouse', stuff that really isn't going to last?
Guy: You know we've been branded both of those, and it's just ridiculous.
Sean: I look at it more positively than that. It is too easy to look at it negatively, it is too easy to say "what is this?". The point is, people know something is going on, and they want to talk about it and brand it, and they want to know what they are talking about, so they make these genres! So as much as I detest being called 'chillwave', which is what we were called for a while, and 'post-dubstep' -  that's a big question mark - it's actually a good thing because people are trying to engage with music.
Guy: In our old songs, we didn't actually put in any bass, we'd just allude to it in the production. So people comment on videos of us on Youtube saying "love the bass" and we're like... "there's no bass, only bass frequencies".

Ha ha, ok so let's play a game. You focus on manipulating sound,  so I was wondering, what are you favourite sounds? Or, for example, what are your favourite sounds of the seasons?
Guy: Cicadas. They're great: they're rhythmic, and they're ambient. They have texture and rhythm, and that's the perfect combination. So for summer, I'll say cicadas!
Sean: I recorded all these cicadas in Africa, and they make up a large part of our first EP.

How about household objects - blenders, baths and so on?
Guy: Yeah! You can strike any metal object and it will make a good sound.
Sean: As long as you record it, obviously!

I read recently that all toilet bowls are tuned to an Eb. 
Guy: I noticed that, the urinals at my primary school actually flushed on an Eb.

I was confused by that, but I like it...
Sean: Piano's are inevitably winter. A beautiful piano recorded will always sound like the winter time.  Anything made in winter will have piano in it...
Guy: But when it goes into spring, it will slowly turn into a synthesizer: and the lamb is born!

Ha ha, I would say a single violin! 
Sean: Guy loves synthesizers and violins.

So you're based in Brighton? What's your favourite place, in terms of sound, scene, people?
Sean: The west coast, and... Hastings! Hear it from me: Sean Galt says Hastings!
Guy: We had a really really great time in Manchester, I fucking love playing in Manchester.
Sean: Manchester is the best place at the moment. There are some fantastic bands coming out of there...
Guy: They don't want to call it a scene or anything, they're all doing their thing.
Sean: Great Waves are a good band, Kult Country are a good band. Great Waves are releasing a track I produced next week.

You do a lot of remixes too, don't you? 
Sean: A remix is like going to war. When we get a remix, the intention is to take the parts and write our song with them. But a better song.

Do you incorporate your own stuff in there, too, or just what you're given?
Sean: We use the materials that come across best, and if it's required then we'll put in something else.
Guy: Most of the people we've remixed for... their drums haven't been very good, so we've had to redo them completely. And we've put in extra synthesizer parts, or samples.

A lot of remixes nowadays are a song with a new dance beat under it...
Sean: The traditional notion of the remix is to take a song, and celebrate it with a shit disco beat. If you look up our Kai Fish remix, that is notably the opposite of that. We wanted to make a good song out of it. We wanted to make something vicious and violent and dark, and that's exactly what happened.

Ambience. What's the influence there - and by that, I mean as a genre, Eno, for example?
Sean: A lot can be said about Brian Eno, and I'm sure Guy has good words...
Guy: Um, I like Brian Eno, but he wasn't the initial influence. He took from people like Cluster who are a fucking great band, and Harmonia, which had Rother in it, and you know, Eno pretty much stole it all. He did a very good job of it - he did an excellent job - but he did steal.
Sean: I feel that ambience in a traditional sense is what producers successfully do now. It's about generating a space, and a mood: that is ambience.
Guy: And when you're alone, outside in the dark, and you put a big beat on it, you're called Holy Other.
Sean: Ha ha ha.
Guy: That is ambience!

Well obviously it won't be him, but what would your dream collaboration be?
Guy: We answered this question the other day, actually!
Sean: It would be RZA. RZA would be my dream collaboration.
Guy: I would like to just find someone on the street and ask them to make a song with me, and see what ideas would come!

Guy: Yeah, if I find someone who looks interesting, I'd say: "look, you look like you've got some interesting ideas"

Regal Safari have a new video out, for their song Believe


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