The Edge Interview
Starting at the beginning; what would you say was the main change in your approach to music and to the music itself when E.g Oblique Graph became Muslimgauze?
The change into Muslimgauze came about at the time of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. My interest, my discovery of the treatment the Palestinians suffer under the vile regime of Israel. Up to this point it was just music. Now politics are the main backbone behind all tracks.
In staying with musical approach; does a Muslimgauze project start out with a definite direction in mind, an overall view, or do you let the direction be dictated by the music as it develops?
Every piece of Muslimgauze music starts with a political fact, history, picture etc... From this an idea starts and the track goes it's own way.
When you first got interested in music were there any musicians or recordings that were of significant importance in your development?
At the first point was the punk explosion, which planted a seed, which later I used to make music, it's ethic/principle of just doing it.
In the early days you released the majority of your recordings through your own label, Limited Editions. Most of these have become very scarce. What size of print run was the norm for these?
Limited Editions started because I wanted to do everything, to have control, just do it. Print run was 500/1000.
Is there a chance of any of these reappearing, in one form or another (re-issues, compilations, best-ofs etc.)?
There are enough new ideas/releases for release so putting out old records is not a high profile. Also the masters don't exist.
What was the biggest factor in moving from your own label to independent ones?
The move to Staalplaat came about because the distributor at the time, Red Rhino, went bust. Taking my money/records with them. Muslimgauze were at zero. Thanks to Staalplaat putting out "Iran" saved the day. Vast help in keeping Muslimgauze alive, so blame them.
When you were doing the Limited Edition releases you must have had complete control over the project. Do you ever miss this control? Does the packaging chosen by the labels ever cause distress?
The Muslimgauze/Staalplaat/Soleilmoon pact has and is and will work well. I hope I provide good releases and I hope Staalplaat/Soleilmoon are viewed to be doing good support. I think the releases are very good, a good partnership.
Your main labels, now, are Staalplaat and Soleilmoon. How did you come to the association with these labels?
Staalplaat and Soleilmoon started as record shops; they sold Muslimgauze releases, so have helped from day one.
When you complete a project how is it decided which label will release which project? In addition, how is it decided which releases will be put out on the Staalplaat subscription series and which will receive a wider release?
At the moment a project goes to who didn't get the last one, there are so many, quite a queue is forming. The subscription series releases are decided at Staalplaat. I have enough to do with the tracks/compact discs, I leave judgment as to which compact disc gets a subscription release, or wider release.
You predominantly work on your own. Do you find it hard to work with other musicians, say in a group setting, or is it more a matter of being able to follow whichever direction you choose without worrying about compromise?
Compromise never occurs with Muslimgauze. I just do it, go in whatever direction I feel is needed.
I've read that Robin Storey (of Rapoon) didn't listen to contemporary music for a great length of time, other than his own works presumably. Is this a similar situation to you?
Other music just passed by, via radio floating by. It's of no interest to me. Working in Muslimgauze does not leave much time to listen to other people. I don't want to hear what others are doing.
If you do listen to other artists, what type of music do you generally listen to?
If I set out to hear other music it would be from Afghanistan, Iran, India etc..
You use a fair number of samples (I believe that in your case you actually use tape segments.) in recording your projects. You must spend a great deal of time locating segments you wish to use? Where do you find all of these pieces?
Muslimgauze have never touched a computer/sampler. I use old equipment in a rough way. You use the same equipment as all the other; you all sound the same. Good luck with you. I don't want to sound like all the others. I use old cassettes/reel tapes/old equipment and I hope Muslimgauze sound unique. A Muslimgauze piece of music usually takes 3 hours to record/mix. It's written before, then worked in.
Many of the segments are of voice pieces. Do you choose these pieces for their messages or statements or because of their rhythmic cadences, timbres?
The voice pieces are used for their contents, also the cadences and timbres. A piece inspired by Algeria has Algerian voices. Some tracks have a voice element others have them unused, as the final track works better without them.
Judging by the rather prolific output of work by Muslimgauze you must spend a great deal of time in the studio? Do you work in the studio on a daily basis?
Some days Muslimgauze may produce quite a few tracks, other days nothing. It varies a lot. It's down to inspiration, I do something when I feel like it, which I hope makes for good tracks.
You must have quite an array of instruments. What all are the instruments that you generally use on a recording?
The main instruments are Arabic percussion, also found objects used in a different way. (e.g. clay pots, metal things, other objects) Making rhythm loops, working over them, adding, taking things away, whatever. I hope all Muslimgauze releases are worthwhile.
Interview by The Edge
late January, 1998