Collage artwork Ellipse cover

Ellipse Interview

At what age did you start to compose your own music? What are the groups which had influence on you at the time?

Age, not sure, it's more the type of music, the usual 70's German groups, punk, industrial and all the time Arabic/Indian music. Now I just concentrate on Muslimgauze music.

How was born Muslimgauze? What was your aim at the beginning? Has it changed during the years?

Muslimgauze started when Israel invaded Lebanon. Up until this point it was just music, this invasion started me off, finding out more about this vile Zionist occupation of Palestine. Changed, no I am still interested because it's most important area of the world.

Which hardware and instruments do you work with? Where does this desire for working with these instruments come from?

I have never touched a computer / sampler, I use old analogue equipment, old reels, amps anything. I hope Muslimgauze sound unique, separate, belonging to no set formula of music. To use computers just doesn't appeal to me, I like rough analogue results.

You use many voices in your pieces. Where do you record them and how do you choose them?

I use everyday Arab sounds / voices, usually from cassette, whatever I feel.

How do you create a track? Where does your inspiration come from? How do you work precisely?

I start with a political fact / event / history etc. From this an idea begins, from my head, with my hands I create the track. I leave out quite a few sounds, try to have the final track basic, raw keeping the track as much a rough idea as possible. I always work on reel to reel machines adding sounds, bounce to DAT, back again, adding trying things out.

Are there any music that currently inspire you? Do you listen to some traditional ethnic music?

I don't listen to other peoples music, I catch bits on the radio, I work on ideas, listen to new tracks, old tracks, put CDs together, re-mix, so time is limited. Odd bits of Indian music I do hear. What passes my ears does seem to be crap, a lot of crap is brought out there.

Whereas many people reproach you for repeating yourself over and over, I find on the contrary that your music is extremely varied, rubbing with various styles (ambient, electro, hip-hop...) even if the result doesn't convince every listener. Where does this desire for browsing new kinds come from? Are you afraid of repeating yourself?

Muslimgauze CDs contain vastly different tracks, the thoughts of many people mean nothing to me. A CD is made long before an opinion is passed on it. For Muslimgauze to cover a vast range of styles is as strong as ever. I feel Muslimgauze have issued some worthwhile CDs, the future releases are even better.

Even if you have a plethoric discography, your main labels are Soleilmoon and Staalplaat, and in the past Extreme. How did you come into contact with the Australian label and why did you leave?

Extreme asked to release a CD, Muslimgauze left due to Extreme not releasing enough CDs when I wanted CDs released. Muslimgauze are not a usual group, releasing 1 or 2 CDs a year, bending over backwards for the press. If it feels right to release 9 CDs a year I will.

Your discography goes from the 7'' to the quadruple LP, the CD single to the triple CD, while passing by the DAT, the double CD single... Only video misses. Doesn't that interest you? More seriously, who decides for the dividing of the tracks, the format of the releases?

Video doesn't interest me, it also takes large amounts of money to do properly. The labels are not majors, so money is not available to do it. Staalplaat choose the limited releases.

Who had the idea for the Staalplaat limited editions series? Who decides what goes to that series?

The Staalplaat limited series is down to Staalplaat, any praise or complaints, is down to them.

Concurrently to Staalplaat / Soleilmoon, you leave some productions for other labels (T4, Athanor and Daft for instance). Are you always satisfied with these specific collaborations and do you accept all that is proposed to you?

There's not all that much interest in Muslimgauze. It's now limited as to what other labels can put out. Staalplaat / Soleilmoon have first option, they have supported Muslimgauze from day one. So far, things have gone well with other releases, Staalplaat / Soleilmoon have done very well, it's difficult trying to sell one Muslimgauze CD, most people do not own a Muslimgauze CD.

I guess you're not involved in the artwork production. Are you always satisfied with the result?

I can't do all the sleeves as well as the contents, it's too much. Overall the sleeves / covers have been great.

For some time, Muslimgauze seems less closed to the world than before since you give concerts and collaborate with other people. What caused this opening? What do these new experiments bring to you?

In the past I was never asked to do live things, as I've said, interest has been very limited. There have been a few live things, Berlin, Spanish festival, etc. Not a vast amount, just enough.

How are your concerts? Are there any visuals? People who assist you?

Visuals, no, I find it too contrived to have film / slides, it's like telling people which image you should have in your head, it's down to each individual to have thoughts about a track. Response is quite low, we don't have a great reaction to a live thing or a DJ set.

You've played in Japan with Paul Schütze and Andrew Hulme. How was this?

The 2 live events in Tokyo were great. The sound was good, audience small, a totally different world, sounds, etc. It was a great trip. It was recorded, so a Muslimgauze live in Japan CD will escape soon.

Staalplaat released a double CD of remixes "Occupied Territories". What did you think of the result? Were you consulted on this project for the choice of the contributors?

The double CD of remixes was Staalplaat's idea, I had no input. It's a separate thing, using acts from a different area working on old Muslimgauze tracks.

On "Narcotic", three pieces are entitled "Narcotic". Do you start to miss inspiration to find titles? More seriously, can you inform us a little on some of them? "Hebron Massacre", "Iran" or "United Stated of Islam" are explicit, but some others are more mysterious ("Tandoori Dog", "Farouk Enjineer" or "Vampire of Tehran" for example). How do you choose the titles?

Titles are never a problem to me, I could have given "Narcotic" 3 parts, I just preferred to go another way. Titles come out of the track / original political fact / event. Just like the music, a title is formed in my head, in most cases along side the track as I make it, but also before and after. The "Vampire of Tehran" was a guy who killed in Iran, he was hung from a crane.

Do you listen to your old pieces? Are you satisfied with all your productions? If you were to retain only five of them, which ones would you choose?

Yes I listen to old CDs, quite a few times, satisfied, well you always have ideas later, but overall, yes. Retain only 5, that is far too difficult, but "Narcotic", "Jaal Ab Dullah", "Farouk Enjineer" I would need. There are well over 40, so only 5 would need a lot of thought.

Most of your productions are available only in -sometimes very- limited editions. Do you plan to re-issue certain old things or very limited editions?

There is a limited series because otherwise the tracks would remain unreleased. Some of the tracks on the limited series will be put together in a CD form, the first was "Beyond the Blue Mosque" which contains tracks from the first 8 limited's, a CD will be released later of limited 9-10-11-12-13.

Staalplaat choose which master tape is to be used as a limited edition or a standard release, a second view is useful on a master.

Tell us about your "Mort Aux Vaches" CD. How did this collaboration with Ryan Moore and Werner Durand happen?

While I was on main land Europe for the last German dates, Staalplaat organised a live radio set with Ryan and Werner. It was improvised and sounds good.

I heard that you've composed a kind of anthem for the Iranian federation of table tennis. Is this true? How did this arrive?

The track came from an article I read, it's nothing to do with Iran, they wouldn't ask me to do anything like this. The fact of the Olympic table tennis team, female in vast black clothing, etc. Just my interpretation of this.

What are your projects, not discographic ones because I know they are always very numerous, but rather concerts or collaborations?

There are only a couple of Berlin dates and Stockholm in June planned. I've just done a couple of DJ sets in London, may do more, who knows.

Final question : if you had the opportunity of meeting Yasser Arafat, what would you tell him?

I would listen to his story, his view on the vile regime Israel is.

interview by Jean-Marc Boucher
This interview originally appeared in Ellipse No. 2 (July 22, 1998).

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