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interview – a minority of one

an interview with raunend i did a couple years back for a magazine that never seems to have been printed…(http://www.raunend.com/)

1.Jason, would you like to introduce A Minority Of One and its members to the readers please?

  • I began working under the name a minority of one in 2003 soon after contributing  to the ajna offensive’s  infernal proteus musical herbal compilation/book.  I had worked in and with a few bands several years back but had long since gotten rid of rooms full of instruments and recording equipment.   amo1 began with a new simpler approach using the sounds of my everyday life, improvised and homemade instruments. The house we moved into when we came to Portland just happened to be less than 2 blocks away from markus wolff’s home, being already acquainted, a fast friendship developed and in no time we were discussing possible collaborative efforts. I helped out with live waldteufel shows as the second drummer for a couple of years as Markus and I began to record sporadically. I was having such a good time playing shows with “W” I decided to put something together for amo1. soon afterward I ran into Jason oneill-butler, an old travelling companion who was just finishing up years of vocal training and asked him to lend a hand.  Arrowyn began to find her place in the mix when she had been working with chakra vocal toning exercises and I began to play singing bowls in accompaniment. This song, anahata, which followed,  proved to be soo powerful that we added it to the live set, and I think is still our best piece.  James woodhead from the “elemental crystalis” and “at the head of the woods” has joined us lately and is really a perfect fit.

2. What do the name refers to?

  • The name is taken directly from a line in George orwell’s 1984 “there is truth and there is untruth, to be in a minority of one doesn’t make you mad.” One of my favorite books and film. Beyond that tho, I have always felt like a bit of an outsider even amongst my closest friends and family members. An outcast among outcasts, truly a minority of one.

3. Looking back to your discography, you released so far three studio albums, each of them sounding quite different from the others. What’s the reason behind this according to you?

  • I really don’t have any preconception of what a minority of one recording might sound like. I attempt to have no pretention with this project. Each song or record are like paintings to me and are an expression only of what I’m going thru at the moment or in that era of my life.

4. I wonder what are your favourite listenings considering all this diversity within AMOO’s music.

  • i grew up with country music always playing on the radio in my grandfathers kitchen and i still have a deep affinity for that 60’s thru early 80’s country music era. it’s strangely soulful and heartbreaking. i am, of course, also very influenced by early noise and industrial bands like spk, tg, zoviet france, illusion of safety etc. in recent years i’ve discovered a few recording of indigenous peoples making music with the elements form their environment (water, wood, stone, voice, and body) this has been very influential on me and i have attempted to approach amo1 in a similar fashion, as an urban indigent using the elements of my everyday world to communicate with the divine.

5 And I also wonder how you create a AMOO song.

  • it usually begins with a sound. some sound event will strike me in a particular way and i will record or attempt to re create it. the song will usually unfold from there. i have been working a bit differently of late tho, it will begin with a theme or an idea to be communicated. once a theme has presented itself i begin to collect sounds related in some way to the expression of that idea. slowly the song structure emerges.

6. This said, I’m curious to ask you how you would describe your artistic expression to someone that never listened to A Minority Of One… I would say it’s like hearing the voice of the earth if only we could stop for a while and listen…

  • Yes, I agree. One of the most prominent themes for me is the idea of small spaces. If you have ever taken psycadellic mushrooms in the forest and spent hours exploring and communicating with a few square feet at the foot of a tree or some small portion at the shoreline of a river and traveled over vast landscapes you’ll know what I’m talking about. This is what creating music is like for me.

7. Looking back to your discography, I would like to start from the latest album to be released …… I refer to “Anahata”… your most “organic” album so far. It is mostly instrumental… What’s the reason for this? Maybe that you are already giving voice to something/someone so you don’t need vocals?

  • I often think that soo many words are unnecessary to communicate  our feelings and thoughts. if you have ever taken a vow of silence for a day or two you will understand. It’s like you said about slowing down and listening, only listening with your heart and guts.
  • This album was actually recorded nearly 5 years ago and I’ve tried twice to have it released but on both occasions the deal fell through… I think markus and I may start up a small label in coming months to release this and future amo1 and waldteufel recordings.

8. Ancient tribes believed that the beat of the drum was the sound of mother earth. “Anahata” is a very percussive opus and I know you craft your drums by yourself. Can you tell us a bit about this? In ancient times, the craft of a drum had a very symbolic yet ritual meaning…

  • I love the simple trance educing  power of one simple repetitive drum beat and use this at times when I am attempting to communicate over long distances or in personal meditations. The song “woodseedstoneskin” developed directly from such an experience when I was meditating on a job I was doing building a rock wall. Working with these elementals is soo deeply gratifying. Men moving large rocks together, grappling, using only muscle, sinew and ingenuity.
  • Yes, I am fascinated by the notion of building many of the instruments I play by hand. In the works right now is an old time mountain banjo!!

9. There is a song called “Work makes free”. I’m really curious about this title. Would you share the meaning of it with us?

  • I know that many, especially in Europe, will have an issue with this title. This is an old theme in my music. Many years ago a friend and I had a project called “gulag” (very test dept. inspired), we played a few shows but never officially released an album. We used this phrase and images of camps to raise similarities between our modern work ethics and those of imprisonment and forced labor, of a population manipulated by fear and controlled by the media it consumes. Kind of cliché, I’ll admit, but it came from our genuine frustration over living in a broken age and being relatively powerless to change it.
  • I have recently found that work, real honest hard laboring is rather liberating in a way. Now, I do not mean laboring for naught, working the best hours of everyday just so you can come home and collapse with only enough cash to pay the bills and eat the most de-nuded food products available. I mean working hard at any task which feeds your family and increases their well being. Digging a well, developing garden beds, building a structure to house the family’s chickens, goats or whatever. This is what I mean to say by using this phrase. This is a joyous song and if anyone is concerned that I might harbor some silly fascistic notions they could not be more wrong. And they shouldn’t be wasting their time on such trivial shit anyway.

10. Anahata is the name of the fourth Chakra, called also the Chakra of the heart, where the Spirit is born. Are you a Yoga practisers? What’s your opinion about the so called New Age movement?

  • I am really not into the aesthetic of the new age movement and many of it’s practices I find ineffectual. However I think it is a much preferable approach to spirituality and life path than much of what’s out there.
  • I am solidly rooted in the practice of heart based perception. There is no system to it really, I simply recognize that I am communicated to by my environment and those that populate it. my heart, head and digestive system are my major perceptive centers and all are influenced to varying degrees by what’s going on around me. My task is to develop a better awareness of what each is telling me and act accordingly.

11. There’s a distinct pagan flavour in your compositions although I would rather say it’s a sort of primitive pan-spirituality  than a specific influence (Germanic, Scandinavian, Caucasian and so on).

  • Yes, I have spent time exploring several spiritual traditions. I grew up with one of those church goin grannies who did her best to cram jesus down my throat, but I choked and spit him out. I have since explored, Buddhist, native American, and most recently various pre Christian euro heathen practices. While I’ve found aspects in all of them that resonate, none of them are able to say it all for me. I have developed my own independent understandings thru life experience and rarely if ever will use or call upon commonly named energies in my times of need or questing. And yes, of course, this is all present in the art I create.

12. Let’s make a step back and talk a bit about “Bathe in fiery answer”. It’s a very experimental album. Is this the true essence of A Minority Of One?

  • Absolutely, like I said I rarely have a preconception about what this project should sound like. For instance, on bathe…toward the end of the song “breath” is a collage of vocal pieces. This came from one night when markus was here recording guest vocals for a “voxus imp” song. In processing the vocal tracks with him, I noticed that he made small unconscious sounds as he was preparing to sing a line or word. Some of them where wisps of breath, others outright vocalizations. It struck me to capture all of theses and do some small composition as a fun surprise to him. I liked it soo much that it turned up as part of the song on the cd. I am wide open to spontaneous creation!

13. The albums opens with an overwhelming version of a Veljo Tormis choral opus. The only thing I know about him is that he is an Estonian composer. Waht can you tell about him? Can you suggest a few works to start with?

  • Jason oneill-butler was part of the Portland state university choral group who performed the first ever English translations of veljo tormis’s work.  Mr. tormis personally over saw the project!!  I couldn’t resist attempting our own version of my favorite of his songs “laine vareeb – wave rolls”. Jason o-b worked it out in sheet music form and taught it to us as best he could, and while it wouldn’t pass in the pro choral world I’m very proud of it, we’re also working on a blackened metal psychedelic version of this song right now that will be released on 7” vinyl by autumn wind.  Joining us on guitar is brian booty from l’acephale and waldteufel!

Veljo Tormis – Kolm laulu eeposest, liivlaste pärandus, jaanilaulud (1975-LP)

also- casting a spell, litany to thunder and estonian wedding songs are excellent!

14. Next in the tracklist is another stunning piece called “Cambry”, probably the most powerful track ever released by A Minority Of One. It’s final crescendo has a very industrial touch: it’s a strong contrast if we compare it with some “Anahata” quite pieces. Two faces of the same coin?

  • After a show last year this fellow came up to me as we were loading out our gear and introduced himself as a film maker working on the screenplay for a movie version of the russel hoban novel “riddley walker”.  He gave me a copy of the book to check out and said that he thought we might be just the right group to do the soundtrack! The book quickly became one of my all time favorites and I satrted working right away on putting music to it. The project is taking a very long time to develop, so who knows when or if it’ll happen. The book is written in a post apocalyptic English dialect that has yet to be spoken. I had to read it out load at first just to try and figure out what the hell was being said! Let alone what was happening in the narrative. Each time I read it I discover new and various subtleties. A brilliant visual read! Find yourself a copy.

15. This album was released in its longer version by the American label Autumn Wind but has been already released in Cassette format by the French Tavernkeben. It is a very un-commercial choice to release in such editions… Are you a cassette feticist?

  • No, but I do love small limited releases, they become more special as there are so few available. I also enjoy the analogue experience. The first time I heard it on tape I was blown away with how much richer and how warm the recording felt. There is a clear difference. anahata  has also been released in cassette form.

16. Back to square one, we find “prime” your first and yet again, experimental album. This time more aggressive if compared to what came after… It has a distinct primitive force inside. What’s your opinion about it now?

  • I still love it and listen to it now and again. I was working with a lot of primitive and primal themes on that one. Coursing is from a vision I had of early hunters in what is now Australia running with the almost tame herds of mega fauna, killing them in mass. Wiping them out as a matter of fact. prime was just re released in 12” lp vinyl format by autumn wind 300 copies!!

17. The first track called simply “A Minority Of One” features some synth percussions while on “Anahata” you used real percussions… Was “AMOO” simply an attempt to do what you succeeded with “Anahata”?

  • Yes, I am rather put off when I see many projects with a similar sound as mine who rely on laptops and a few pedals, or worse yet are the bands (if you can call them that) who just pop in a cd and pretend to make art in front of an audience. What happened to real music made by real people for other real people? I always feel cheated, so it has been my mission to actually make living art on stage and now in recording for releases as well. I do not use digital synthesizers at all.

18. You released also a 2CD live document. How do you re-create the atmospheres on stage? I’ve seen some very interesting shots of Markus working with stones and wood while the music was played…

  • We have simply built or acquired a vast arrangement of instruments and we enjoy making music with just about anything, from chopping wood on stage to glass percussion, motorized spinning cymbols, rocks, homemade primitive instruments, stomped rhythms, large kettles of water etc… etc…

19. What can we expect in the future from A Minority Of One? A new direction?

  • I am currently learning to sing as many of my favorite songs as possible accapella, and could imagine doing a record of unaccompanied songs something like what Andrew king does. I’m also working with a local primitive living skills school here in Portland (www.trackersteams.com) and am hoping to do a workshop on primitive instrument building where we will forage for and build instruments, create and record  songs which could at some point be used on an amo1 record.

20. Other musical project you’re involved in?

  • We’ve been playing lots of waldteufel shows and have been so inspired by what we’re doing that we have plans to record new material in coming months!! and we’ve come up with tons of great recordings from the live shows which may filter out there eventually as well…

21. Beside music you’re also busy with Hex Magazine. What’s the purpose of it? I love the fact that you can find also simple life stories inside and not only difficult articles about this or that.

  • Arrowyn and markus are the driving forces behind hex magazine. Officially I don’t have any responsibly but I do contribute articles for the magazine and newsletter from time to time. Yeah, art is not only about deeper mysteries but everyday good living and right relation. this is what hex is all about for me, blending the spiritual, physical and emotional with the beautiful.