Interview: Jefre Cantu & Jim Redd (Tarentel)

September 1, 2005

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I finished the 35 page Jeff Mueller interview today. I’ll post part of it tomorrow. Today I’m just going to post a piece from Tarentel. I’ve been sick for the past two days and I’m not feeling well, so this will be brief.

JEFRE CANTU & JIM REDD (TARENTEL) ON PRACTICE/IDEOLOGY:
EL: You briefly touched on what practices are like, could you expand on that?
JC: Well, lately, we try to go in and… well, I should back up. The thing about improvisation is, I think you have to be a really good musician to do it well. I don’t mean you have to have good skills, not technical skills. You give a guitar to someone who could have never touched a guitar and who makes something interesting, worth listening to. It’s about your mindset and your approach to anything. I could play this thing (points to the recorder) for you and make something out of it. I don’t know if anyone would want to listen to it. Anyway, my point is, for a while our practices for were tending to just meander and go off.
JR: Also because we’re starting to record everything, and we were just starting to do improv so we’d basically just hit record and do two hours of improv and by the end be psychologically destroyed because it was just like, religious.
JC: Yeah, it was like, “Ok we can’t practice anymore.”
JR: Right, yeah, “Practice is done. Fuck!”
EL: Did you find at first that you were self-conscious of pressing record and going, or were you able to find that zone where…
JR: Yeah, yeah. It’s just matter of fact, you know? Hard drives are cheap, microphones can be pretty cheap and you just set something up and practice like your normally would.
JC: Well we’ve never had the intention of those things ever being released. That’s more recently, and we still don’t put that into context because, ultimately, it’s not like you’re playing on a radio station where they’re going to broadcast it. We’ll have the say so in the end. If somebody’s like, “This is the worst thing we’ve ever done,” it doesn’t matter because no one’s going to hear it. Lately, Jim and I have sort of come up with this projection of how we should try to approach things. Instead of trying to write songs, which we decided we’re not going to do anymore, we’re just going to start with simple ideas. Like, Jim is going to play a beat and we’re all going to do singing or something (only it’s way more fucked up than average singing). Or, we’re going to run Jim’s drums through all of our guitar pedals and our amps, and that’s going to be one piece, so let’s do that for ten minutes, stop, do it again to try and really get inside the idea. It’s just like, simple sketches, not like…
JR: It makes the jamming thing more productive like, reign it in a little. Instead of doing two hours of free form, do like, ten minutes a few times. We’re doing reps now. We’re working out. We do ten reps of distorted drums (laughs).
JC: It’s hopefully going to try and pull together some kind of ideology of what our band is…
EL: That’s where I was going next.
JC: Oh, well.
JR: We don’t know. We’re having an identity crisis (laughs).
JC: Yeah, we are. We really are. It’s like, what are we going for? What’s the thing that we’re trying to make this sound like?
JR: It doesn’t really make sense right now, but once all this shit we’ve just recorded comes out, people will understand what we’re talking about.
JC: But we don’t really understand it right now…
EL: Well that in and of itself is an ideology.
JC: Maybe, yeah, maybe that’s going to be it, constant questioning.
JR: I think that’s the key, because we have parallel lines of interests and we can’t just do one of them, we have to basically do everything at once, which is complicated and takes forever.
JC: That’s the thing is, we’re all interested in way too much shit and way too many… I mean, we love fucking heavy big gnarly beats. We also love microtonal, beautiful ambient sonorous shit. You would think initially that those two can’t co-exist in the same space, but I think partially we’re trying to find that space where we can indulge all of our ideas like that. And not have to make it like we’re in different bands, somehow it’s all still Tarentel.
EL: I think on the last full length and the two EP’s. I think you do get a sense of that. There are parts with immense drumming and then a moment later it’s off into some ambient soundscape.
JC: Right. So I guess it’s an amplified version of that. It’s more gross, it’s more fat. It’s maybe not as focused as the last recording. Like, I hear it and I think, “Fuck. I can’t believe we were in that space.” Because like, since then, in the last year and a half, once we started improvising it was like pandora’s box. All bets are off. Things changed so quickly. So, I think now we’re just trying to find a way to indulge all these things and also make it interesting, not like we’re just fucking around or whatever. Bands like Faust or This Heat or, um, I don’t know, even Radiohead to some extent, bands that really stretch that gamut of being able to do beautiful shit that you can play for your mom and also be like, this is a recording that’s on key. You know, or like us playing metal outside of practice space. People are totally complex. So why can’t a band sound like beautiful acoustic guitars and then full on fucking noise? I think like we said earlier, humans love consistency and once things start to change they’re scared… So it’s been like really pushing against the tide. Once all this shit gets out that’s really extreme and all over the map, people will be like, “I shouldn’t expect anything.” That’s what I would hope. “I shouldn’t expect anything from this band,” that would be the best.
JR: And I think that for most people, a band is like this idea of like, we’ll do this kind of thing, and it’s this concept and it’s like a forced little world.
JC: Like, “We’re Mogwai and we love to play five guitar parts and then blow up.”
JR: Right, it’s a concept. Whereas for us it’s more like… art is life, working, practice, method kind of thing, where it’s just “blah,” or “whatever.” We don’t know what’s going to happen next.
JC: Yeah, like in five years I couldn’t tell you what it’s going to sound like.
JR: But it makes it more interesting to play because you’re not locked into any set ideas. There isn’t something that you can’t do that doesn’t fit.
EL: In my opinion, I find that to be more genuine than most of what you hear on a daily basis. So many musicians are locked into some ideology where they’re like, it has to sound like this and this is our sound, whereas someone’s who constantly evolving is going to be able to achieve much more, and give much more of themselves.
JC: Yeah, I think it can be both ways sometimes. Take someone like Devendra [Banhart] who just sings and plays guitar, I think he could make ten records like that and it would be okay. If you are in tune with what he’s doing then it would probably sound different as the person changed. Someone might hear the first one and the last one and say they sound exactly the same. It’s like people who hear free jazz or whatever… John Coltrane versus Albert Ayler, I can be listening now and pinpoint it. When I started I couldn’t understand it. It becomes this really small listening thing. I mean, we all love pop music and listen to straight ahead pop bands. I don’t think there’s a right way or a wrong way, I just think it’s like, what’s your intention and what works for you and how you are translating the world the way you see it into something that other people are picking up on, you know?

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