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OTHER SIDE OF THE TRACKS with Jamie Thompson

  • Interviews / Q&As

"...the process itself is instinctual, always open to sudden shifts in tone and approach, always responsive (sometimes in the most radical ways) to collaborators’ interpretations and contributions."

The invention of Belfast composer and musician, and IMC 30/30 artist Jamie Thompson, Adjunct Ensemble quarries the cleft where graphic and traditional notation meet. It combines open form, spoken word, electronics, deep groove, experimental music production, and creative improvised music, into a brew that snarls and swings from the get-go.

Ahead of their performance at The Cooler on Saturday 11th November, we spoke with Jamie about Adjunct Ensemble's music, what audiences get at the live performance, and how he approaches the creative process.

Q. You’ve had some incredibly positive media reviews for Sovereign Bodies / Ritual Taxonomy. What has been the reaction from other artists, audiences, in the street?

A. Certainly a majority of the most positive reception has been from people in and from mainland Europe, which is heartening in a way considering it is a record that is based on intensely critical readings of the EU’s migration policies. It seems to have been a tougher sell here at home. But it’s always really thrilling to receive acclaim from artists who you have admired from afar, (John Zorn said he enjoyed it), so that’s been a bit of a boost, and in fact in one instance has led to the start of the development of some new work in Berlin, which I’m excited about because they are real open-eared sonic freaks.

Q. What can audiences expect from the live experience?

A. A mainly improvised show, but based around spoken texts written by Felispeaks and me. I’ve tried to avoid prewritten musical material as much as possible for this. I felt like I had two options in terms of how I could go about it – complete control freakery, where we aim to restage the recording in some manner, or giving the musicians as much agency as possible, and letting the album, as this kind of monstrous, kaleidoscopic, multi-textual thing, haunt the music. But there are physical artefacts from the compositional process that will kind of intrude – I’ll be improvising with a series of dubplates pressed with bits of the album.

Sovereign Bodies / Ritual Taxonomy is a thing in itself, and it’s not something I’m particularly interested trying to recreate. I really love the process of making a record and making something as far as possible from a documentation of a live performance - I love the vernacular of cuts and splices and edits and collage; this whole compositional, conceptual world that can only ever exist as a recording. When I was making it, I didn’t think at all about how it might be performed, I didn’t care. So for the shows it feels quite a relief not to have to translate that into a live setting, and instead let different aspects of it permeate how we approach our improvisations.

Q. Collaborating across artforms seems to be a strong part of your practice and creative mindset. What have been the most rewarding/ interesting/ challenging collaborations or encounters of this kind for you in recent years?

A. In my own practice I don’t tend to acknowledge the boundaries between artforms. They’re always cohabiting in some form or other. I’m not really sure I’m a musician, though that seems to be the main form my art takes, but visual art and text are especially important when I’m working on something, and I’ll frequently spend more time making collages or doodles, or writing various kinds of texts, than making music. But I think the most rewarding cross-artform collaboration recently for me has been with Felispeaks, as there’s a genuine trust there in each other’s intentions which allows us to work quite independently, and then when we need to come together to record or perform, we’re pretty confident in the process of making something distinctive and fresh happen.

Q. Tell us briefly about your creative process when composing,or beginning a new project. Do you have routines or rituals, or is it more spontaneous or serendipitous?

A. It’s a hellscape of distractions. I’m so undisciplined. The more I try to set up routines the less interested I become in doing anything at all. So it becomes a matter of trying to manage all of these overlapping impulses and being open and patient enough to let things work themselves through (or not – more often not). I think though that there is always a particular type of sound/racket that I’m working towards, even if I can’t articulate what it is at the time. For Sovereign Bodies / Ritual Taxonomy I certainly had a broad idea of how it should sound in the end, and how I would treat a lot of the material in order to get there, but the process itself is instinctual, always open to sudden shifts in tone and approach, always responsive (sometimes in the most radical ways) to collaborators’ interpretations and contributions. Crucially the scaffolding that holds everything together and keeps the momentum going through a project’s lifetime is reading – for this last record it was Saidiya Hartman’s Lose Your Mother, Matthieu Aikins’ The Naked Don’t Fear The Water, and Sally Hayden’s My Fourth Time, We Drowned, among others. If I didn’t do that, then everything else would fall apart, so I guess there’s a ritual of sorts in there somewhere…

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