After two decades without news of A.R. Kane, in 2015 they returned under a new group format. The excuse was ideal to interview Rudy Tambala, one of the creators of “69” and “i”, two of the most innovative and avant-garde LPs that the end of the eighties gave us.
One of the most distinctive things in your music is that, in comparison with the typical indie cannon, is more abstract than conventional. Like if the experience was the goal before the conception of a song. It is?
RT. When we started out, the term ‘Indie’ was not a genre or a positioning or a style – it was simply bands that were on independent record labels. Indie labels grew out of rough trade and the post punk DIY thing, and as such they were less commercially-minded, free to experiment. The standard 80’s indie band in the UK had a 60’s mop top retro thing going on –The Byrds, The Monkeys, that kinda vibe – else kind of post Josef K, Velvets aspiration – they were about jangly, perfect pop songs, occasionally shambolic. Young, fresh, and edgy, but ultimately quite conservative. We were not of that ilk, we had an instinctive dislike of practiced, perfect pop. Our influences were wider, more experimental – I think the dance, dub, baroque classical and free jazz elements mixed in with a different, maybe more working class, black set of aesthetics, created more and different possibilities. Bringing these flavours to guitar music was a different approach – natural for us, but I think quite rare at the time. Immediate antecedents and influencers include ACR, PiL, Adrian Sherwood, David Bowie, Eno, the whole flavor of John Peel, etc. etc. But getting back to you question, we had a very visual approach, and a spatial sensibility- atmosphere, texture – these things were as important as any other, standard musical element – say lyric, rhythm, melody, harmony. I guess it is the sonic element that we expanded, principally.
In the past, you said that “A lot of the time we’re trying to transform dream imagery into sounds, which is hard to do!” For me, you get this feeling in “Up Home” and “69”. How it was the process to try make real this goal?
RT. Echoes are like memories, artificially extreme reverberant spaces are dream space, where the rules of nature are broken – Like a Dali desert scene, and they can intoxicate, like a drug, amplifying their effect. The deep bass is like that first, root deep pulse of your very first orgasm, the one that took you by surprise, that can never be bettered, that changed your life and corrupted your soul. The studio can be a means to an end, but for us it was a tool, a musical space, an extended moment in time – a kind of longer, suspended time, where anything was possible. The studio is the dream space. We built a studio in a dark, damp basement, and recorded 69 as we learned to use the machines – we were naïve, we made mistakes, we kept the mistakes. We saw the beauty in the faulted object, and we came to love that – like children … boys … playing with insects and magnifying glass – sometimes the sun beam focuses, sometimes it brings clarity, sometimes crackle … smoke … death.
How it worked the composition process between Alex and you? ¿Did you and Alex have a different role in the process of writing lyrics and composing the music or was something more telepathic?
RT. It varied. Initially we were one person, telepathic – A.R.Kane – sometimes Kane was more A, sometimes more R, sometimes he was a she, or an it. You know how love is, it is difficult to define the start and the end, where two people merge, during the creative act – the beast with two backs … the musical partnership. Later, on some of ‘I’ and then after, there was less ‘telepathy’ – it had its time, it left. That’s what happens, cats lose their whiskers. Technically I leaned towards musical arrangement and worked the sequencers and samplers, Alex took the lead vocal role. We both loved sonic experimentation on guitar, taking our cue from the likes of Robin, sonic youth, velvet underground, and long drawn out notes of Miles Davis, Steve Hackett Always, and so on. I loved the way I’d play something on guitar, and Alex would sing something so unexpected- sometimes atonal, but always beautiful. Or I’d sing a tune, some words, and he’d unleash some insane guitar, always minimal melodically, but like his voice, sonically unconventional.
Throughout the records, you have worked with different musicians, engineers. What influence did it have in the evolution of your music? Like you have said, Your first bass player, Russell, introduced you to Swans, Buttholes, Nick Cave and your second bassist Colin introduced us to certain classical ideas and progressive, intellectual stuff.”
RT. Exactly as you say, we were like sponges – we listened, absorbed, took the bits that made sense to our own aesthetic, incorporated them into our sound, our attitude, our belief system. We were hungry for new sounds and new ideas – not just as A.R.Kane, but as individuals – this was true from when we first met, aged 8 – we were freaky to other kids, they thought us weird, always reading, discussing, arguing, exploring, expounding. Like there was something to be found, something just outside of the visual field – something important. We stole books from shops, swapped them, discussed them. Stole music too. We had no money and few principals – just an insatiable need to know, to understand. Our peers stole sweets and clothing. I think they still do, in a different way.
You always cited Cocteau Twins like one of your most important influences. How was work with Robin Guthrie? ¿Did he have some direct influence in Lolita’s songs?
RT. It was seeing The Cocteau’s on TV that inspired us to make a band – we were a total clique of two; seeing them there with a reel to reel tape deck replacing the drummer, was ‘wow, beautiful – we can do that!’. Working with Robin was never easy – he is a real perfectionist with a vision, and a lot of attitude. We occasionally clashed, but overall there was mutual respect, that became friendship. On Lollita, we knew exactly what we wanted, sonically – Robin brought all of his immense skill to bear on that, and took it to a higher level, production-wise. I remember Robin making me play the chorus over and over – I was almost in tears, and then suddenly it clicked, and he smiled and said ‘I told you!’. He brought out something in me I had no idea was there. He’s a clever fucker. It is one of the best things we ever did. It was – for us- literally a dream come true; I had dreamt of meeting them when I was still just a fan living in a squat in London, I saw us having tea and cake with them – and it happened. Dreams were a very real part of our lives then. When we started the band we went to Denmark street – the music area of London, and we just plugged in every pedal we could, to try and get the Garlands guitar sound- distortion, delay, chorus, flanger – we bought them all. And a wee 606 drum machine. We were set, but not just to imitate – you know that saying …Imitation, then Improvisation, then Innovation. You need to be inspired, but you need to find your own god.
A.R. Kane was always impossible to categorize. Noise-pop, shoegaze, dream pop. I think that “dream-pop” is the only of these three tags that represents you. But not in the form, but in the same dreamlike essence, like a gate to penetrate in subconscious. Is if like you say: ‘if is a dream it has to be the most intangible’. Like in the dreamiest moments of the Miles Davis’ concerts of the seventies. It is?
RT. Shoegaze is not accurate at all. Noise pop, maybe. But Dream pop was our own descriptor, and I think it fits well. It is not the same as the current genre, that is a bit like the jangly pop of the 80’s, in the sense that it took part of the form of the 60’s scene, but kinda missed the spirit. I guess I’m saying, just because you use a lot of reverb, echo and dreamy vocals, doesn’t make it dream pop. And not just Miles, there are many artists that have a dream pop flavor or spirit – take ‘coming back to me’ by Jefferson Airplane, for instance. Genre, tags, labels – all a bit silly really, but our minds tend to do that, I guess they to put things in boxes, to contain, then forget and stop listening, to experience via the proxy of memory. This is how we age, this is how we die, whilst alive, a slow burial.