I only met Bryn Jones once, although we spoke many times on the telephone between 1996-1998. I discovered Muslimgauze through a random purchase of the double CD Blue Mosque, and had been deeply impressed by the originality and intensity of the work. I was used to working in completely different musical genres, but despite this the music suggested an artist with a similarly wide interest in music as myself, drawing as it did on world music, electronica, industrial and ambient. In fact during our first telephone conversation I learned that Bryn did not feel any affinity or have any interest in ANY other music, his agenda being almost entirely political. However I suspect that he was being defensive as he also told me that he had being making his music in almost entire isolation since the beginning, with virtually no interest from the media, any other musicians, or for that matter the listening public. He made music for himself and to express his political beliefs - he did not care that the whole world seemed to ignore him. The very last time I spoke to him in late 1998 I asked him if he had revised this view at all. By that time a limited edition series (the only way his record label could deal with his prolific work rate) had been a big success and his CDs were regularly reviewed/discussed. Many other musicians had asked him to remix their work or to collaborate with them and his music had inspired a fanatical following, particularly on the internet. In short there was incredible respect for him and his work, which had also led to invitations for concert performances all over the world. Yes, he admitted, he was feeling happier with his lot in life. He died a few weeks later.
The meeting took place in his home town of Swinton, Manchester a few weeks after I first contacted him to tell him how much I admired his music. We had arranged that I would drive to near his home and call him from a pay phone. We met at a nearby bar and I gave him some CDs of my own work, explaining that I did not really expect he would like them, but that I would be happy if he would listen to them anyway. In return he gave me a cassette of an album that he had just completed. I noted with some amusement that it was titled “For Staalplaat, recorded...” and then the previous day’s date. He had recorded the whole album in a single day, partly explaining how Bryn was able to produce a discography of well over 100 releases in his 15 years as a recording artist.
About four days after my meeting with Bryn I received a parcel containing two digital audio tapes. I was stunned to discover that these tapes contained two and a half hours of Muslimgauze reconstructions of the CDs I had given Bryn only a few days earlier! I had not asked Bryn to do these mixes but he had done them anyway. I later found out he felt compelled to remix anything that he was given in order to “improve it”. Some of the mixes were of NO-MAN and one in particular struck me as being very effective. I played it to my partner in NO-MAN (the singer Tim Bowness) and our record company, both of whom liked it, so we decided to include it on a forthcoming release. Bryn seemed very happy about this and when he was eventually paid for the work and sent copies of the finished CD I again received at least an hour’s worth of new mixes using other tracks from the album. It seemed that if you gave any music to Bryn he would “improve it”.
Some of the other music on the tapes was so far removed from the source material that I suggested to Bryn that I used it as the basis for a collaborative project. I would take his rhythms and build something new out of them with further overdubbing and editing. He liked the idea and several more DAT swaps and a few months later we had completed the Bass Communion v Muslimgauze album, which alas we were unable to secure a release for during Bryn’s lifetime (partly because his extreme work rate meant that there was always a backlog of Muslimgauze releases). The five pieces completed while he was alive were eventually issued in 1999 on Soleilmoon (SOL 89 CD), and later on I completed two additional pieces that had been left uncompleted at the time of Bryn’s death, and these were released as a companion EP in early 2000 (SOL 106 CD). Both releases have been out of print for some time, but I’m happy that the music is available once again on this new Bass Communion versus Muslimgauze complete edition. Steven Wilson (January 2000, revised March 2006)
Press release from Soleilmoon.
January 9, 2017