For a few years I have been a fervent follower of the releases of Rota Frangitur
https://rotafrangitur.bandcamp.com/ (UK), a net label where we can find artists like Ocadium, Cooper Raines, Qualo Infinity, Abquexa, Hank Barnes ... eh? Stop! I'm not sure about it, but I suspect that behind all these names is the same person, of whom I do not know his name, of course, as it should be, considering the melancholic, surreal, enigmatic, funny, mysterious and intimate halo of the music that this label offers. With a series of questions I will try to solve the riddles that are inside my head about all these projects. If I do not solve anything, this is perfect too, the adventure continues.
With whom I have the pleasure of speaking, Qualo Infinity, Cooper Raines, Hank Barnes, ...?
Qualo is the name I've used now for about 20 years. The last name Infinity I tacked on in about 2007 when a rap band out of Chicago started getting popular using the name Qualo (they have all but disappeared now it seems). The other names are project names. I think it would be clearer if they were all like 'Ocadium' or 'Abquexa' .. Now, having said that, I hope to be publishing three novels in the next two or three years, and for those, I'm thinking about adopting a new pen name, one of my music project names, Nik Thursday. So, alternating between music and writing, I'm either Qualo or Nik... If I do that too many times during a given day, I get the bends... But, anyway, Qualo is the name I've used for myself for quite a while. It's Abquexan for 'he who jumps from building, lands on giant pigeon and gets carried into a parallel universe and dropped onto what looks like an identical building as the first but isn't'...
Then my interlocutor is Mr. Qualo. A greeting. Talking of literature, lately I've been reading some texts by Jesse Thatsright. Do you know this writer? I think he is also related to Rota Frangitur but I do not know what aspect.
Yes, that's me. The top executives at Rota Frangitur (just kidding) had been thinking about making Jesse a new musical artist that combines country & western with musique concrète, and even though that might still happen (or something similar), that's on hold at the moment. I was just using Jesse's name to put forth on social media some quickly written/not thought out too well microstories. Even though my main interest in writing is the novel, I also write short stories and microfiction on occasion. It all tends to be surreal and absurdist. I'd like to think I specialise in the ridiculous. But the microstories are really shooting from the hip and quite abstract, and I doubt many people will be that interested in them unless they have a weird sense of humour. Since I haven't been in print in the literary world lately, I'm taking the opportunity with the new stuff (mainly meaning new novels) to reinvent myself, and like I said, Nik Thursday will probably be the new pen name. It's the name of the narrator/protagonist in the newest novel.. So anyway, you might see Jesse become Nik on social media in the near future, that is if I decide to continue with the microstories.
I think that each project is created to develop a specific style ... well, I am not very sure of it. What is the motivation to create a new project, what is behind each name?
Yes, you're on the right track. Abquexa was my original solo project, and that project stylistically/genre-wise was all over the map. In 2011, I decided I'd put fiction writing aside for a while and focus primarily on music, and it was at this point that I decided it might be a good idea to develop other projects, each beginning with a particular idea or set of ideas in mind. For instance Ocadium was going to be mainly an ambient project, inspired by my ideas on the Abquexa album 'Last Night in Saozzo' which is a truly ambient album. Blow Dart was begun as a project that would only utilise bass guitar, pedal effects, and vocals. Of course by the third Blow Dart album I'd changed the rules and added electronic percussion and beats, and then I changed it back again to the original parameters on the fourth album. Jumbo Pimp was originally going to be art pop and prog rock with a little ambient thrown in...Over the years it morphed and went all over the place. In fact so many of my projects have crossed into each others' territories at this point. I just don't worry about it. Maybe one day, all 21 projects will sound exactly the same.. some unclassifiable genre that I'll just call Abquexan, but who cares? If that happens, so be it. As far as the project names
go, they all have a different story. The name Abquexa came to me in a dream ages ago. In that dream, the name came through on a mobile phone Caller ID read-out, and I laughed and said hey that'd be a great project name, and in the dream, I started rifling through drawers and cupboards looking for pen and paper to jot the name down. At some point I knew I was dreaming and that made it all the funnier (apparently I was providing colourful entertainment to a few other folks in the dream, so essentially I was egged on). When I woke up though, I immediately did grab pen and paper and jot it down so that I wouldn't forget. Some of the project name origins aren't as colourful as that one. Jumbo Pimp is simply a take off on jumbo shrimp, the American name for large prawns. Ocadium is a made up word that was twisted around from the word Ocadia which is a genus of turtles. Huso Fin is (to me) a surrealist name for a surrealist project. Huso being a fish and fin being part of a fish. I'm not sure how that is really surrealistic, but to me it is. Cooper Raines is based on John Cooper and Douglas Raines, two fictional explorers from a surrealistic literary work. Aki Tchen is a redivision of the words 'a kitchen' .. Anyway, I won't go on from there haha, but that is some of them. I should mention that my label name, Rota Frangitur, is Latin for 'broken wheel' .. My original label name was 'There's a Shark in Your Hair'. That was another name based on a dream.
In what year did you create Rota Frangitur and what was your motivation for it? Where did you release your work before?
I created Rota Frangitur in early 2016. Really, you could say that I transformed what I very casually called There's a Shark in Your Hair to a more formal label situation at that time. The main impetus for creating the new and more formal label was the idea that I needed to create something that would very easily tie all of my projects together. This was basically prompted by friends, family, and even some supporters who felt they were having a hard time keeping up with everything that I was doing. And actually I really liked this idea a lot. My Rota Frangitur label page on Bandcamp sort of became my home base. I had started feeling a little scattered going in so many directions. So, at the time, I had about 15 Bandcamp pages for 15 projects, and Rota Frangitur became the 16th page and central hub, so to speak. It became the home for sample tracks from each project, promo EPs which were often short compilations from any given project, remixes, and occasionally something exclusive for this and that project... All of this hopefully steering any interested listener to the bulk of material from any given project.
Maybe the next question is too tedious and predictable, but this one is usually very interesting ... could you tell us about your influences, musical, visual or literary?
Influences. Tough question because there are so many I suppose. I'm a big fan of the air purifier for white noise while sleeping, and I swear sometimes in the undertones one can hear voices, not just talking occasionally, but chanting and singing too. It's all quite mysterious and very inspiring. I have quite a few albums, more in the dark ambient related genre, in which one can pick out voices in the background, however no voice whatsoever was used in their creation (in the particular pieces that I'm thinking of). Dreams are a huge inspiration for my music and my writing too. I started reading works by Haruki Murakami in 2014, and I have to say his works have been very instrumental in my returning to writing. I'd also say he's an influence musically too. Reading his works seems to unleash all sorts of great ideas. I'm very influenced by film. My favourite directors are David Lynch, Guy Maddin, and Hal Hartley, though there are so many more. It's really hard for me to pin down what musical artists have influenced me the most, as there are just so many. Of course there's Eno, The Residents, and Tuxedomoon, but also, so many more. To name a few of the others: Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, Hector Zazou, Holger Czukay, Cluster and Moebius/Roedelius solo & collab albums, Wire and all of the solo & collab spin-offs especially Graham Lewis related projects, Momus, John Cage, Nurse With Wound, and Steve Roden. But the list just goes on and on. I run across great artists every day browsing Bandcamp. It's amazing how much great music is out there. And so much of it is relatively unknown.
You make many references to places (the sea, oceans, islands, hotels, countries ...) in your work. Are the adventures, although these develop inside the mind, very important for you? Perhaps the artistic creation is already an adventure in itself, but perhaps the adventures, in a more classic sense, are a great motive for you?
I'm really quite fascinated by mysteries, mysterious places, and the unknown in general. I'm also fascinated by myths and folklore. In 2011 I created the Abquexa albums 'Descent, Core, and Integration', the trilogy that made up 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth' (now just known as one album that goes by the trilogy's title), and what I had in mind while I was recording these tracks was the book 'Etidorhpa' by John Uri Lloyd, the story of a man who travels to the Earth's core starting from a cave in Kentucky. I read this book ages ago and it definitely left an impression on me. Now the lyrics and the titles don't really follow the details of Etidorhpa per se, but I did create my own story based on that book. To me the sea, the ocean, and unexplored islands are all mysterious places. Lakes like Lake Baikal are a great source of inspiration. I'm inspired by outer space and by the idea of parallel universes. The story that accompanies Abquexa's 'Dhow' is strange, possibly supernatural, and essentially unexplained. That's just one other example. Also in regard to the sea, other countries, hotels, and travel, there is not only a sense of mystery and the unknown and the unexpected as well, but also a sense of yearning. I'm fascinated by all of these things. I'm also fascinated by everything from aliens to inner freedom and the quest for enlightenment. And yes, creating music is indeed an adventure in itself. It's a mysterious journey into the unknown without even attaching any concepts to it at all.
I especially like the name Rota Frangitur. Could you tell us about the origin of this name, its meaning, if it has one?
Honestly, I wish there was more of a story there. I really just needed a name to replace There's a Shark in Your Hair. That name has more of a story actually, and really, I could have just continued to use that, but for some reason, at the time, in early 2016, I was determined to change it. I think for me it signified a change of attitude toward the whole label thing. Anyway, Rota Frangitur is Latin for Broken Wheel. For whatever reasons, I liked the image, and I liked the way the name looked and sounded in Latin as well. And the idea of a broken wheel without any other information is, to me, poetic and uncertain.
Another tedious question, maybe. What is your instrumentation, your favorite team to create your music? Conventional instruments (synthesizers, guitar, drum machines ...) or do you not reject the use of software?
I'm a big fan of using actual instruments and voice and try to use a computer as little as possible. I know a lot of people probably consider their laptop a musical instrument, and that's fine for them. I just can't imagine having much fun making music with a computer. My favourite instruments to work with are keyboards, bass guitar, and voice, though I do like electric guitar too, and I love percussion. At one time I considered myself a drummer, but I haven't had an actual acoustic kit in ages. Who knows.. Maybe I'll get one again one of these days. Most of my 'band' experience though has consisted of keyboards and vocals. I did play bass guitar for about a year in one band that was almost 'pop'. I didn't sing in that band and didn't write any of the songs (except for one), and so the whole experience seemed a bit odd. But I haven't done the band thing or even collaborated for that matter in quite a while. All 21 of my current projects are only me. I am open to collaboration but would prefer to do that 'in person', as collaborating over the internet is not something that I'm really interested in.
What language do you usually use in the songs?
Some of my lyrics are in English, and some of them are actually no real language at all. A sort of improvised phonetics which, lately, I've been calling Abquexan. I got the idea ages ago when I found myself listening to more and more European and Japanese works whose lyrics were in their respective native languages and used words that I didn't understand at all. I found that just listening to the sounds of the words and not knowing what the words were or what the lyrics were about didn't hamper me from liking the music. In fact, I often thought it better to not know these things. In those cases, I was just listening to the vocals as an instrument, as a part of the music, and appreciated it quite a lot just in this way. Whenever there are lyrics, you are being told some story or some concept. In instrumental music or music with non-words, there is not a concept involved. Just music. It could be argued that since these tracks have titles that are actually words, that the idea is somewhat shot down, but I don't worry about that. A title is just a title. Vocals, whether containing word lyrics or non-word lyrics, are a part of the music. Vocals as an instrument is nothing new, but I'd say it's not really something that is embraced all that much. I've even had friends from my past, from the days in which I used to do this in bands and in the early solo recordings, tell me that these non-word vocalisations are in fact not really singing at all. Well, that is fine if that is their opinion.. I just happen to not agree with it. Now, having said all this, I do occasionally enjoy creating and sometimes listening to songs that do have 'real-word' lyrics. Just not all the time. But, as a listener, I'm really picky about what lyrics I really like. I love the lyrics of Brian Eno from the '70s.. and I like Talking Heads' lyrics. Sparklehorse, Momus, Wire, Graham Lewis, and Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 are great. David Byrne's 'Music from the Knee Plays' has some great lyrics.
How do you see the future of Rota Frangitur and all your projects? Are you going to continue with these, are you going to create new ones to develop other ideas or styles?
That's a very good question. Honestly, I'm not really sure. I was thinking about starting a project that's sort of a big band meets punk meets gospel sort of thing, but really, it's been done over and over, so I don't know what the point would be. Um.. No, but I'm really uncertain as to what I want to do next. I've been working really hard in music for the past ten years, maybe it's time for a break. 2019 is, so far, to me, more of a year for writing fiction. However, having said that, I wrote quite a lot in 2015 and 2016 and still put out quite a lot of music as well. But I never slept. In fact, I haven't slept much since the mid 90's. I dream of getting caught up on sleep. Literally. Anyway, here is my guess: I see 2019 as more of a writing year with the creation of a little music here and there. I don't want to look too far into the future, but I'd like to do at least one more album for each project in the next few years, and yes, I might start yet another project if I think something new doesn't quite fit in with the existing catalogues of current projects.. or maybe just for no reason at all.
continuation of the first Mail Art Interview with Olbrich
I think that, at the same time that you started doing Mail Art, you also started your activities within the field of Copy Art and Performance. Do you think there is a link between these three artistic "disciplines" or did you want to explore several artistic fields?
I have noticed that several of the Mail Artists that started their activities in the 70's were also involved in Performance Art. Do you think there is an explanation for this?
Yes, when I shared Copy Art, Performance, etc. around 1974 there were common ideas behind it all: Direct contacts, immediate expression, new media + expansion of artistic limits + social interaction.
Some critic called it “Expanded Performance” what I did.