The Canyon Observer interview (04/2023)
|With:||Nik Franko, Matic Babiè, Gašper Letonja|
|Conducted by:||RaduP (e-mail)|
With the weekly onslaught of new releases that are hard to keep up with in themselves, it's even harder for stuff to stick to memory, especially when most of it stays in familiar territories. The Canyon Observer were never too conventional, but it was only with their latest album that they really took a leap, arranging their music alongside a free jazz chamber orchestra and making an avant-garde piece that blends post-metal, contemporary classical, free jazz, and noise. Obviously I wanted to know a bit more about what lead to it and what's next for the band. They were kind enough to answer my questions.
Radu: Your work was pretty unconventional by post-metal standards even before Figura. Could you give us some detail about how you consciously changed your songwriting approach from Chapter I all the way to NØLL?
Nik: Thank you. I think that this change of songwriting kinda happened naturally? With every new release we tried to find some new stuff that we can do with our music and push us out of our comfort zone. OK, to be honest, I think that this “getting out of our comfort zone” happened when we were working on NØLL and then with the other two “singles” that we released, "Urn" in 2019 and "Come Home" and "Break My Bones" in 2021, which were quite different then our previous music endeavors. Gašper and I have always been musically restless, we are both drown to so many different genres, so this also plays a big role in us (TCO) not having albums that feel or sound the same.
Radu: Speaking about your first three releases, they all have a human somewhere on the cover art. The one for Chapter I is specifically famous around here for also being the profile picture of one of our longest-serving staff members (also a Slovenian). Could you tell us who the models on each of those albums were and how you’d interpret the significance of each of those cover arts?
Matic: Those albums were made so long ago now, that I don't even know if I can talk about them in the same way as back then when they were created. The lyrics were mostly filled with lust, psychedelics and exploring your mind and body and that translated itself to the album covers and I don't believe revealing the identities of the models would reveal anything, they were meant to be open to the viewers interpretation, for the viewer to insert their own idea into the image. It's interesting that they probably mean a different thing to me now that it did back than. Thinking about it, it mostly makes me feel old.
Radu: What served as the inspiration for Figura and how did that take shape from an idea into a finalized album?
Gašper: The idea process for the Figura was strongly influenced by corona years and its impact on mutual relations and the resulting polarization, which passed into all spheres of social fields. By combining different musical practices, we tried to raise the question of solidarity and integration of different social spaces through the metaphor of the human anatomical body.
Radu: What was the most difficult part in composing Figura?
Gašper: The most difficult part was the inclusion of new instruments in the already formed band, since we had to foresee a place for them in the arrangements from the very beginning. We also redefined our work process, as we encountered sheet music for the first time, which was simply necessary due to the complexity and length of some rhythmic parts.
Radu: How “tourable” is the material on Figura? What would it take for us to see it on stage?
Gašper: It is definitely our desire to present Figura's music to a wider audience, but we are aware of the logistical problems, for us and for the organizers, that arise with such a large number of musicians.
Nik: Well if there will be an opportunity we will try and make it happen.
Radu: How many of the extra musicians involved in Figura have never played on a metal record before?
Nik: The only first timers in metal were Katarina (cello) and Jasna (baritone sax).
Radu: Seeing the video from the Kamnik Recording Session with the two drummers I’m somehow immediately reminded of King Crimson. Is that something you tried to replicate or am I looking too much into it?
Gašper: The idea, in our case, comes more from sludge and similar genres, as there were quite a few projects that used two drummers, such as Melvins, Kylesa, The Body & Thou, Fantômas Big Band ...
Radu: Are there any other blends of metal and jazz that you’d like to shoutout?
Gašper: Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Fantômas, Mr. Bungle, Zu, Imperial Triumphant, Neptunian Maximalism, …
Nik: Ashenspire, Tantric Bile (Seminal Baptism album is just awesomeness on fire), Ex Eye, Child Abuse, Keiji Haino & Sumac, ...
Radu: Taking a look at the amount of Rate Your Music ratings, it seems like Figura is at least ten times more popular than any of your other albums. Is that something that is reflected as well in other statistics?
Nik: The ratings and the appreciation of Figura on RYM surprised us all. For a brief moment Figura was in eighth place on Top albums of 2023, which was quite amazing. And yes, since we released this album we are having like 1500 of monthly listeners on Spotify/Apple Music, which I know is not much really, but before Figura we had 200 max. To be honest we didn’t really expect that to happen with this album.
Radu: What’s next for The Canyon Observer? Are ambitious albums like this the norm now or will there be a return to a more straight-forward post-metal sound? Will we ever see a Chapter III EP? Will we see an even larger orchestra playing with you? Will you add a third drummer?
Nik: We’re currently “working” on a very short and (musically speaking) straightforward EP, we don’t have a name for it yet, but Chapter III actually sounds nice, so thank you for the idea! We will definitely do a Figura 2.0, the whole process of making this kind of album really sparked joy (hehe) for us, and we think there is still a lot of room for improvement, and yes, maybe it will feature even more musicians, maybe a choir, the idea of a third drummer sounds awesome and intimidating at the same time, but we don’t really have any ideas at the moment, we’ll start working on this at the beginning of 2024 and hopefully release it the same year (probably won’t happen, but one can dream, right?).
Radu: I must admit that my knowledge of Slovenian music is pretty limited, mostly encompassing Laibach, Devil Doll, and Neurotech. Are there any acts, whether contemporary or classics, that we should definitely check out?
Gašper: Vlaknasta, Koromač, Širom, Svojat, 2227, ...
Nik: It's everyone else, Britof, Nikki Louder, Agregat, Smedja in Smetke, Penitenziagite, U$IŁ, Lynch, Jolted, Eruption, Srd, Mart, Reach A.D., Haiku Garden, ... there's really a lot of great bands.
Radu: Anything else you’d like to add to our readers?
Nik: Just a thank you for taking your time to read this and for taking interest in our music.
||Posted on 11.04.2023 by|
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