El Pricto – Escape From The Curse of Greyface, the interview

Andrzej Nowak (http://spontaneousmusictribune.blogspot.com)
Autor zdjęcia: 
Wolfgang Niederau

Just a few days ago, in the Iberian series of Multikulti Project and Spontaneous Music Tribune, Hung Mung has just released their debut album "An Offshot of A Wirlwind". The trio is co-created by the Venezuelan saxophonist, improviser, composer, conductor, editor, music theorist, graphic artist, sound engineer, independent culture’ animator, esoteric, teacher, just a real renaissance man - El Pricto. We invite you to a long, but extremely interesting interview with the boss Of Discordian Records!

Hello Pricto, your first album released in Poland, by Hung Mung trio, has been released together with your longtime friends Diego Caicedo and Vasco Trilla. Before we talk about you, your artistic path and numerous musical activities, tell us about this latest recording.

This latest recording is very dear to me in various ways, partly because these guys are very close friends of mine and we've played a lot together for several years, and curiously this is the first record that we release as a trio.

Also because it was recorded live in one of the weekly concerts I organize in Soda Acùstic, Barcelona (The concert cycle is called Nocturna Discordia and has been running non-stop since 2014, this was concert number 225).

Another interesting thing about this concert is that I feel we've peaked a new level in group cohesion after rehearsing free improvised music regularly as a trio for a while. I'd also venture to say that after doing several live recordings we have arrived at this sort of best version of us. Curiously each recording has been better every time and this is the last one we've done so far.

It's also interesting because is the first record I play synthesizers and saxophone more or less simultaneously, which adds a little edge to it.

Lastly I'd like to mention that is the first record I release outside of my own record label, and to release it in a polish label makes a lot of sense to me, since I've played in Poland more than any other country outside Spain (well, is not that I play that much outside Spain either, I'm a very homelike type of person, not very fond of traveling or publishing outside).

You were born in Venezuela. Almost 20 years ago you came to Barcelona. Why did you leave, we can guess knowing the geopolitics of our twisted world. I'm more interested in why you ended up in Barcelona?

I ended up in Barcelona more or less randomly. Basically I wanted to come to Europe because culturally Caracas was very conservative and limiting to my artistic interests, and since it was also a very dangerous town and things were not changing for the better, it was kind of easy to just leave anywhere. By that time I was working in a sports TV channel, sharing responsibilities as musical producer and sound engineer with a friend. One day, after we both decided to quit our jobs and create a music production company in Spain, he suggested that Barcelona was better than Madrid because of the weather and open-mindedness of their inhabitants (for caraqueños the weather is very important, basically because the city is near the equator line and it has a very mild weather, between 25º and 30º celsius all year long, quite literally an eternal springtime). It coincided that my grandfather fought in the civil war and lived in Barcelona for a few years before he was exiled, this gave it a kind of romantic air to it. It also opened the possibility for me to get the Spanish nationality.

Once in Barcelona, me and my colleague didn't get along very well so the plans for a shared music production company did not materialize, so we each parted our own way. On the other hand, since my mother didn't have the Spanish nationality I couldn't get it myself, so I had to survive taking all these shitty jobs, until four years later, when I was normalized thanks to some new law the government passed for civil war expatriates' grandchildren. I kind of lost those four years of my life, but I don't regret it, I think it strengthened my personality in many ways. By the way, if it weren't for my mother's economic help at the begining, I'd probably must've had a considerable uglier time.

When did you think about being a musician? Have you finished any school? How did you get the spurs of a professional musician?

I started listening to music on my own when I was seven or eight years old, playing some records that my sisters didn't like too much. I remember that my mother used to go frequently to record stores asking for the most popular records at the time, which she then brought to my sisters, who had piano lessons and liked music. So the first entire record I listened to was DEVO's "Freedom Of Choice" album, I just loved it. I remember one of my sisters entering my room one day and seeing me listening to this record, she just started laughing and exclaimed "my little brother is a rocker!". That was my first musical enlightenment, I asked myself: what the hell is a rocker? So I went off to find out what rock music was, eventually arriving to different styles of rock. From then on I started collecting records, spending all my little money on cassettes.

By the time I was twelve years old, I had like a three-hundred cassette collection, I was obsessed. Then I started buying CD's and discovered progressive rock and heavy metal. This is when I decided to play something, my golden opportunity came one day when some older guys in school were looking for a bass player for their band, and since I was so addicted to listening music, they asked me if I could play the bass guitar. I lied, and said that I could but had no instrument. They said they'll get me one. Next day I went there and they immediately saw I didn't know shit and taught me some Guns n' Roses and Led Zeppelin songs on the sixth string of a guitar, because they couldn't find a bass guitar. Then they gave me an old cheap spare acoustic guitar to take home and practice, and all of a sudden I started playing the thing everyday, learned how to read tablature, and started to buy guitar magazines to learn songs, and eventually some guitar solos.

Around this time, I decided that I needed an electric guitar, and after bothering my parents exhaustively for two or three years, they finally gave it to me when I was fourteen years old, it was a good guitar, an Ibanez RG540 and a little 30w Crate amplifier that my mother bought for me. I played everyday, discovered more music, death metal and guitar shreds like Steve Vai and Joe Satriani. By the time I was fifteen, I played the guitar fairly well, so a friend who was studying at the conservatory Juan José Landaeta in Caracas, suggested I should enter and study solfeig and theory there, since they were changing the system and offered entrance to older kids like me for free. I took the tests and entered, but once in there I could not stand it more than a year, I just wanted to rock, I guess. I remember that by this time my room was all covered with rock posters (mostly Iron Maiden), I had long hair and was playing and singing in school bands. I kept learning by myself, and buying more records, and suddenly my second enlightenment came in a record store, when I saw this guy with a mustache that I never bought records from, and decided to give it a try. So I bought a Frank Zappa bootleg called "Unmitigated Audacity".

When I heard this record I remember that I felt something very odd, it was like a deja-vu or something similar, a very weird sensation, kind of transcendent, it happened in a song called "Lets Make The Water Turn Black". So I started to buy all his records, searching for that thing that I didn't know what it was, when I eventually stumbled into the list of influences in the inner sleeve of the Freak Out! record. There was something in his melodies, something that no other rock music I've heard before had, so I set up to listen to every musician on that list.

At the time I was also becoming very interested in jazz, particularly free jazz and jazz-rock after a friend lend me some early Mahavishnu records and a jazz history book of Joaquim Berendt, which I read avidly. So suddenly I got very much into listening to Ornette, Dolphy and Coltrane on one hand and Miles Davis, Mahavishnu, Larry Coryell, Carla Bley, Mike Mantler, The Breckers, Return To Forever, etc. on the other. But the Zappa worm was still looking for something, and that was contemporary music. I bought the complete works of Edgar Varese, Stravinsky's Rite Of Spring, Bartok's Music For String Percussion And Celesta, and The Miraculous Mandarin, the complete works of Webern, and a whole bunch more. At the beginning I couldn't even hear these records, I remember forcing myself to listen to them, until by mere force I started to appreciate them, which led me to study music theory, and to get all the books I could find related to composition. This is when I understood Varese's famous quote "The modern day composer refuses to die", I understood that one could still be a composer. Until that moment I thought it was something from the past, a dead art, Bach, Mozart, Schubert and all that kind of elitist silly shit to impress royalty and other fancies.

By the time I was 17 I had to decide between art (because I was fairly good at drawing in school) and music, this is when I decided to become a musician. My parents were completely horrified by this, so they didn't let me study music, they could only afford paying me one career that helped me earn money. I couldn't accept anything that wasn't music, it was a problem. Luckily a friend of mine told me he went to study in a new sound engineering school in Caracas called "Taller de Arte Sonoro", it was a serious school approved by the AES and I managed to convince my parents that this was a profitable career. Thank goodness they fell for it, the word "engineer" appealed to them, although it was not the kind of "engineer" they imagined.

So after getting my three-year degree in Sound Engineering (and musical production) I immediately found work in a TV channel, thanks to a friend of my father that worked there and told him they needed a guy who had studied. Basically because all technicians in TV channels at that time, were self taught and barely knew how to operate the machines. So I was very lucky, I was only 20 and got this big job and could spend my free time studying music. But after a few months, I realized that working eight hours a day and spending one more on the subway, going to work and coming back home, did not leave me enough energy me to do anything else. And also since I was in charge of the whole audio department, everyday there was something I had to take care of, even in the weekends. It was frustrating.

I was starting to plan my escape when suddenly I saw another opportunity. One day my boss told me they needed to build a sound studio in an area in the post-production section, because they wanted to save money from the narration of promotions which were being recorded outside in some other studio. So an idea came to my mind, I proposed to them that I could build a studio where they could record the narrations and also make the music for the promotions 'in-house', saving money from outside music production also. And of course, I offered myself for the job, but without leaving my responsibilities of sound engineer of the whole TV channel, I proposed to to this by sharing work with another technician-musician friend. I would come in the mornings and my friend would come in the evenings and we'll both take care of everything. They fell for it, and it worked, they saved money, my friend got a nice job and I got free time to study music everyday.

Four years went by and we where still there, I learned to play the piano, the clarinet and the saxophone, learned to read and write music, and composed a lot of shitty commercial music of very different styles, from sports rock ESPN type of chunks, to tangos for Argentinian football, salsa and latin jazz for certain fitness spots, techno music, chinese music for the karate show, triumphing marches of all sorts, classical excerpts for golf, you name it. The guys from the post-production area got very creative with us, and asked us for anything that crossed their heads, and we were young and restless, eager to try everything. We also managed to pull out some music for short films in our spare time at work. By that time we had some top notch equipment that the TV channel bought, a Kurzweill K2500 with sampling option, two big power macs, a digital Yamaha x03 mixing board, Protools, etc. We worked there from 1997 to 2001, when we decided to quit our jobs, and go and try our luck in Barcelona.

I arrived in Barcelona with my girlfriend Joanna Miramontes, by that time I was twenty-four and she was twenty-one, we came together from Venezuela. Joanna had classical piano training, and she helped me a lot with the piano and with sight reading. She also took me to a composer to get some formal education, it was after an ad in a bulletin board of a conservatory by a composer offering himself for private lessons, his name is Joan Carles Sender. I remember one night we went to his apartment, it was this Quevedo looking type of guy around 35 years old. He rolled cigarettes every 15 minutes or less, he had big tables to write music. He was a real composer, I thought, it was fascinating. So he asked me to show him my compositions, then he told me to write an authentic cadence in four parts, which I did. He corrected my voicings, looked at me with disgust and said, "ok, you can come next week, but buy these books". They were the typical classical harmony books from the conservatory written by Zamacois, and a counterpoint treatise by García Gago, which he said was his teacher for eight years.

So I started to study with the guy, harmony and counterpoint, also some orchestration in the old fashioned way. I got to know him better quite quickly, we became friends, we started going out to bars after the classes, it was fun and very educational. The guy was an erudite and a real strange freak, for example, he only composed symphonies, he had like nine and burned like four others. None of them had been performed, but he didn't care. He obviously didn't need too much money, he was a reclusive guy, studying all day, a master in counterpoint in all styles from medieval to romantic, as well as in harmony and orchestration. He could write a sonatina for piano and cello in an impeccable Brahmsian style, in a bar with a pen and a beer. I saw this with my very own eyes. But he was kind of crazy, anyway he taught me a lot of stuff, and in a surprisingly systematic way. After three months of lessons with him I told him that I ran out of money and could not pay him anymore, I was very poor at the time and he offered to continue with my education without paying. The only condition was that some of the classes were going to be at the bar. I agreed and studied with him for a period of three years approximately.

After that, I became obsessed with theory, I stopped composing and only theorized, I started to fill big notebooks with theory, went to the Bruc conservatory to get information from books and sheet music. Mr. Sender also transfered to me his love for the classical masters from the first Viennese school, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. I became in love particularly with Haydn, and to this day I still am. I also still theorize, but by that time I was trying to discover things, like explaining harmonic functionalism with geometry. One day I went to him with a theory that explained numerically the gravitational tendencies of any group of notes to another, he liked it and took me to the register office, it was filed as a scientific paper instead of a musical one. I had so much energy for theorizing on those days, I truly believed I could explain stuff in different ways than before. But I kept it to myself, and with time I've become more practical, and my theories have been created mostly for practical compositional purposes.

After three years, Mr. Sender and me stopped getting along so well, I was criticizing him too much I think, and Sender sent me to hell. And that was it. I'm truly grateful for all the training and knowledge that he gave me, but it's frustrating knowing that the world will never know his music. And I think he also transferred some of his frustration to me, which I'm still fighting against. Extreme self criticism by theorizing too much.

I met Vasco Trilla around 2004, when Joanna, Ralph Lopinski and me decided to create a band. By that time I was playing with Lopinski as a duo on the streets, I played the clarinet and the soprano saxophone and Lopinski played doublebass. We composed some things together, he would make a seven or five beat groove and I would write melodies on top. Then Joanna hopped in and we decided that we needed a drummer. We found Vasco in an internet ad offering himself to play in what he considered interesting projects. He also loved Zappa, and progressive rock and had a wonderful name, it was unmistakable. We just had to play with this guy, it was perfect. The band was called Kandanga!, it was a weird mixture between latin jazz and progressive rock. Non of it survives, thankfully.

Then with time things started to change, Don Malfon came in as a saxophonist, we also met through an ad in some instrument store. He called me one day and said "Look man, I like all the influences that you metion in the ad, so I'm your man! We have to play!!" It was a turning point, we all became very good friends, these were happy times. And although the band dissolved, we kept on playing and partying together, until 2008 when the production company Arco y Flecha proposed to us the Zappa project. By this time Vasco was having some success with his progressive rock band Planeta Imaginario, he managed to send a recording to Cuneiform Records and they liked it, and decided to release their record. By this time they were the only catalan group to release a record in this important label, so Arco y Flecha took notice of them, and made a proposition to do a Zappa tribute repertoire and manage it, but the leader and main composer/arranger of the band, Marc Capell refused to do it.

This is when Vasco thought of me, and asked me if I'd like to do it, and form a new band with some of the members of Planeta Imaginario. I could not be more happy to do it. It was a dream come true for me to play and arrange Zappa's music, I even loved the idea of transcribing it, which I had to do because by that time it was almost impossible to find any transcriptions of his music. So I set up to work, because the head of Arco y Flecha, Sergio Merino, told us that he could program us for a well paid gig in a very nice festival in Sigüenza, but we had to work fast because it was in six months. So I worked eight or more hours a day and made all the transcriptions and arrangements of selected instrumental works of Zappa, to complete the repertory in three months so we could have three more months only for rehearsals. The band was called Filthy Habits Ensemble, after the name of a song by Frank Zappa.

So we made it to the festival and it was a success, and Arco y Flecha got us many more gigs, nice ones and we had a really good time, it was very fun. We played in jazz festivals and Zappa specialized festivals like Zappamundo and Zappanale. But with time things started to erode between Arco y Flecha and me for reasons that I think I'm not able to explain properly. So by 2011 the band was on decline, no gigs derived in no rehearsals and at the end, no band. But still we managed to release two more records apart from the Zappa record. Both released on Discordian Records, one is an arrangement I made of Stravinsky's “Soldier's Tale”, which I thought It was coherent after the Zappa repertoire, but it was even more difficult to play and required more rehearsal time. And the other is a record with my compositions, at a time when I started experimenting with ways of writing for improvisors, it's called “Gruesome Routines”. By this time I was very influenced by post-minimalism, so various pieces of the record seem repetitive but changing gradually and constantly without loosing their characteristics.

All in all, after I stopped receiving instruction from Mr. Sender all my education has been self inflicted. I just love to study music, and I will always keep on studying. I consider myself mostly self taught.

So we reached 2011 and the beginning of Discordian Records. Tell me where you got the idea to use the philosophy of Discordian anti-religion in the context of music, especially improvised music.

The idea came in a moment in my life when I was in a personal crisis, I felt I needed to change everything that I was not OK with in my life. But I felt it was so ingrained in my personality, that I needed some kind of psychological technique to "reprogram" myself.

At this moment various things were not going well for me, my 13-year relationship with my girlfriend and music partner Joanna Miramontes was not working, the progressive new wave band we had called "The Oddvisers" was not working either (basically because it just didn't get us enough gigs and because I couldn't keep on composing or creating this type of music anymore), the Zappa band (Filthy Habits Ensemble) was in decline and our manager was not getting us many gigs because he didn't like the Stravinsky turn, and I really needed to create or compose music that would actually resonate with my true musical inclinations.

So at the time I was very much into counter-cultural esoteric literature, particularly into chaos magic. I was totally immersed in it, reading many times all that I could find of Peter J. Carroll, Ray Sherwin, William Burroughs, Phil Hine, Jan Fries and of course, one of my heroes and a founding figure of Discordianism, Robert Anton Wilson. In fact, his book “Prometheus Rising” helped me a lot in overcoming my crisis and developing tools for self change.

On the other hand, I've always felt that improvised music and the neo-avantgarde was in many ways akin to this type of counter-cultural underground movements. Its "Do it yourself" approach, where each individual develops its own psycho-spiritual system to deal with reality was quite similar to what happens in improvised music and avantgarde in general, where artists devise new systems to create and perceive art in their own terms. Discordianism was just around the corner, I was reading the “Principia Discordia” and the “Illuminati Trilogy” when the idea came to my mind, it was just very coherent (a unifying ideal I try to achieve as much as possible). An anti-religion that mocks at all fixed beliefs, and at the same time, promotes enlightenment through accepting chaos in equal terms as order, was perfect for free improvisation. Discordianism is idealistically heroic, funny (is the only religion that considers that laughing IS or at least it brings you in direct contact with Goddess), and promotes the non-moral conception of the chaos/order dichotomy. The idea that if humanity stops seeing chaos as negative and order as positive, it will start to overcome all of its problems. You see, chaos can be creative and positive as well as destructive and negative, the same could be said about order. When you don't see this conceptual fallacy, you're trapped in what Discordians call: The curse of Greyface. For me all this is very similar to how the majority of people perceive improvised music, as horror music, or disruptive music, or as not music at all! In a musical and philosophical sense, they are cursed by Greyface. Hail Eris! Hail Discordia!

Did you assume from the beginning that Discordian would be only an online publication?

Yes. CD technology is on decline, basically because CD players are made of very delicate and precise mechanisms that don't last too much, computers abound and as I predicted, have stopped including CD reading devices. Digital format is the new and probably the definitive format for music reproduction. And well, my initial idea was not to sell records, but to promote the local musicians doing marginal high quality music.

Today we will not discuss the entire Discordian catalog, numbering 116 items, but I would like to pay special attention to a few musical themes. Let's start with my favorite band Sin Anestesia!

“Sin Anestesia” was a project initially created by Barcelona music critic and enthusiast Germán Lázaro. He saw that there were just too many free saxophone players in town and had the wonderful idea of interviewing each one of them for his blog, then he came up with the idea of organizing a gig for all to play together. He called the event “Sin Anestesia”, and consisted of aleatoric combinations of different saxophonists, this was achieved by putting the names of all the musicians inside a hat and someone from the audience would take them out. It was an idea reminiscent of Tzara's “Exquisite Corpses”, and it worked wonderfully. That night we also performed a piece I did for 9 saxophones called “Three Pizzas For The Marx Brothers”. In that concert, I offered to record in my studio for Discordian, and they all agreed. Then I composed a pair of pieces and conducted some collective improvisations for that initial recording called “Intervención Mecánica”, and kept managing the group as much as I could. This resulted in a few more gigs and three more records.

The second album was recorded live at the LEM Festival in Barcelona. For this concert I composed a forty minute piece and had to struggle with the organizers to play it, because they wanted to set us in different places of the cultural center we were programmed to play. They wanted something more like a performance with some purposeless extreme polifocality. My piece was designed for the ensemble to play in one place in "V" formation, with the bass saxophone in the middle, then in symmetrical bifurcation two baritones, two tenors, two altos and two sopranos, with the audience in the center. So after standing on our ground we managed to stay in the cafeteria and record there. It was a very rainy day, but anyway some people came, and the cafeteria seemed not to be working as such for a while, as if for some bureaucratic unknown reason, so the title for the piece came to be “Esto ya no es una cafetería y está lloviendo” (This is not a cafeteria anymore and its raining). Which very casually may portray, in a programmatic manner, some kind of watery beginning and end, with the "real" concert in the middle. It came out pretty good considering the conditions, since I had little time to explain the piece, and could rehearse just some short parts right before the concert, so it was basically a first take. I took the idea for the texture of the beginning and end from listening to post-minimal music, but curiously before hearing Michael Gordon's “Timber” which uses a similar texture. The difference is that in our case, this wavy kind of stroboscopic texture was achieved through polimetric improvisation, not through precise rhythmic notation.

In the third record entitled “H+”, I expanded on the concept of machines from the first one, but this time in their fusion with humans. It was inspired by the ideas of Kurzweill's Transhumanism. For this recording I composed more pieces, and called Vasco Trilla to play drums in some of the pieces.

“The Transdimensional Seduction Handbook” is the name of the fourth and last album of Sin Anestesia, and it has a more collective character similar to what I did (and still do) with Discordian Community Ensemble. In this case the concept of added percussion was expanded to two percussionists playing all these different instruments, which was possible because we recorded in the big percussion room of the conservatory (ESMUC). Also the composition responsibilities were shared between Owen Kilfeather, Pablo Rega and me. It was probably the most ambitious work with this group and we really tried to make it special. It was wonderfully recorded, mixed and mastered by Ralph Lopinski, and we have to thank Núria Andorrà for getting us there without anyone knowing about it. The concept of this record is also very Discordian, merging Lovecraftian mythos with pick-up artistry resulted in a very funny combination of bizarre narratives, like sketches from the “Twilight Zone” transliterated into music. It was a time when Owen and me were sharing a very small flat and having a fairly bohemian type of life, night after night all these strange ideas kept coming out, some of them got materialized and so many just got lost.
With time the project diluted for many reasons, some members went to live somewhere else, others stopped playing free improvisation or playing in general, some just got tired of playing with so many saxophones, etc. A shame because it was definitely one of the best projects I've had the opportunity to promote and produce, definitely “la créme de la créme” of local far out free saxophonism.

Well, let's get to the formation, whose name suggests that it is the most important for Discordian Records. I mean ... Discordian Community Ensemble. If I perceive this musical concept well, I hear many references to classical music or contemporary music in its broad sense. More, the idea of degenerate music, which we hear on the latest, bootleg DCE disc, even preys on the classics.

The idea behind Discordian Community Ensemble came, first of all, from personal needs to try and develop my compositional ideas with improvising musicians in a collective setting. Throughout these 8 years, I've been able to try many ways of composing using improvisation as a compositional element, a task which has made me develop different musical languages for composition.
Since the beginning, the concept has been one of a mutable ensemble, basically getting improvisers that are around at the time for concerts or recordings. So there have always been different formations, with different musicians, and the music has always been written specially for them (I mean, for them to appreciate and enjoy apart from myself). Conceptually the idea of not having a fixed formation is also very coherent with the name, something like a 'Discordian Community' it's just impossible, since discordians tend to stick apart. It's an oxymoron. Discordians, as well as most improvisers, just can't accept homogeneity, dogmas, rules, etc. they are the opposite of what is expected from classical musicians in an orchestra, which works almost like a military organization. In this ensemble they are all unique (a bunch of freaks, like myself) and my goal is to compose or conduct using their individuality in interesting ways, following my own criteria.

Another trend in the way I work with this ensemble (not a dogma, but a catma!), is that normally there is not too much time for rehearsals, so the music has to be written with this limitation in mind. The reasons behind this tendency are many, but the most prominent are lack of money, lack of space-time, and indiscipline. Of course, these last two tendencies could be cured with enough money, but since I tend to be very idealistic, it's difficult to get money in a way that I consider as appropriate (sorry guys, but I just believe that our glory someday, if there's a future, will gloom out of this, and if it doesn't at least we had fun doing it). For example, I generally don't like money coming from banks, political institutions or for political ends, religious institutions (just to make it clear, discordianism and curiously many improvisers could never be in an institution of any sort, we just can't agree on anything!), brands, idiotic people, and just about anything that is not directly related to the music itself. But anyway, and here's the catch, if no one wants to give us money, not even fans, we will still do it, as we have done it until now, and enjoy it, and fuck everything else! We live for this shit! Anyway the little-rehearsal limitation is cool, is like an Oulipo rule or something similar.

Another catma in the Discordian Community Ensemble, is my own compositional exclusiveness, I tend to be at it always, but I also like to share the experience and responsibilities of composing with other like-minded musicians. This enriches the experience considerably and it makes it more “communitary”, at least for a couple of hours.

And yes, we do sound more or less like contemporary music in a broad sense, basically because we are living now and being sincere with what we want to do. As Maciej Lewenstein has said in some of his reviews, we could be labeled as post-avantgarde, since we are just developing the spirit, ideas and techniques of many sixties avangardists. I know this term is difficult to use now a days, but at least in Spain we fill many of the requirements to be called that way. In a sense, because we are not doing music in a conventional manner, and although we could be seen as repeating some music from the past in this issue, I think we are actually developing something that just stayed as underdeveloped novelties in its time. Another justification for the use of the “avangarde” label is that we still do create an impact and rejection on people. You see, here in Spain, blame it on poor education or whatever, but the fact is, that a lot of people just can't accept what we do as music. I've seen a lot of audience getting mad in concerts and leaving, even musicians. So the neo-avantgarde label kind of fits us pretty well, because we create music through non-conventional means and we still cause rejection from audience, at least in Spain. I would even venture to say that the avantgarde in the sixties was just a race for novelty and that now we can actually try to develop some of its more interesting discoveries in relation to our times. For example, there is a more or less recent resurgence of graphic notation, and it's very logical that this has been happening because we're finding out that there are more possibilities of expression by devising more ways of writing (or doing, as what happens with extended techniques, new technology and self-made instruments). Is the same with thinking, our language conditions our thinking, so if our language is limited in some sense our thinking might also be limited in the same sense. For example, I love Haydn, Stravinsky or Zappa (to name a few) and when I think of notes in a five-line staff, it's very difficult for me not to think and hear in my head their music. But when I write for this ensemble, I have to think in those guys I'm writing for, because they generate or degenerate a great deal of the music, they are improvisers. So it's very logical and practical to use invented notations to work with them, generally to manipulate their minds instead of their fingers...
And here I'll connect with the concept of “Degenerative Music”, which is exemplified (in a way) in the record by the same name. The idea for this concert/recording was to get a famous classical score, and transform it on the spot, into hand signals for improvisation. The group was an eleven piece ensemble, but the original pieces chosen were for string quartet, so I had to do an improvised orchestration also.

I'll explain a little bit my ideas, I depart from an ambiguous concept made famous by Brian Eno called “Generative Music”, which in his case, roughly speaking, is a music that is generated automatically by a computer after giving some initial guidelines or algorithms. So, when I work with improvisers I achieve something very similar, but since improvisers are human (and very particular humans indeed), they generate music in their own idiosyncratic way, no matter how precise you try to be with your rules. You can see this as an advantage, of course. In my case, I believe that something that free improvisation has brought to the evolution of music in general, is the idea of error as an expressive and structural device. From the beginnings of western written music, there has been a tendency to avoid dissonance, which culminated in the beginnings of the XX century with its emancipation and the advent of atonal music. Then the problem became figuring out which sounds should be considered “musical” and which should not, this culminated with noise as a musical genre in the late XX century. I think that now the tension is to figure out what should be considered as an 'error', and what should be considered as 'intentional'. This is a tricky idea, since error could always be seen as intentional, if after what it's done immediately after it happens gives it an integrating meaning. But the same happened at the beginning with dissonance, if it was resolved properly in a consonance immediately after it happened, it was considered as an expressive device, not as an error. So viewed in this light, an error is equal to an unresolved dissonance, and now we are in a time when error, which is more like a cognitive dissonance, should be emancipated! I should tell this to all the musicians that tell me that they made a mistake at some point while playing in one of my compositions... Although this seems very dangerous, because it could bring mayhem and chaos (and of course, discord), we should have in mind that an error has to have a context to exist as such. Miles Davis once said: there are no errors, I would like to expand on this idea and say that there are always errors, but now a days you just have to resolve them properly afterwards or go straight to the crux, and emancipate error by just accepting it and trying to transform it into something useful, this is what I think Miles Davis was referring to when he uttered that phrase. So for everyone out there: Emancipate error! Let creative chaos reign!

When I work with improvisers I normally work with processes, but not only long transformative processes, also very small processes, in fact I mash-up processes of all kinds. Some of them just generate variations on a specific musical material, but others transform or develop materials in a significant way over different periods of time. For this I've created different languages, to be able to write processes using intelligent mammals as generative instruments. The idea for “Degenerative Music”, comes from my curiosity of wanting to listen how classics, like Beethoven or Ligeti, would sound if they were transformed into an improvised generative language, like for example, hand signals for improvisers. It was a very rewarding experience, and I could rightly affirm that we've degenerated these works, and there are their scores to prove it, you can actually follow their scores (particularly Beethoven's) while listening to our performance. I also have some other unreleased recording from another concert where we degenerated Mozart and Haydn.

As we have already mentioned, Discordian Records catalog is very extensive, although it is only eight years of operation as a label. Which from the albums it contains, particularly those without your participation, do you especially appreciate?

In general I really like the vast majority of them, otherwise I wouldn't have released them. But is difficult to find one were I haven't been involved in some way, be it as a producer, graphic designer, concept creator, improviser or composer. But all in all I really like, Vasco Trilla's and Diego Caicedo's solo records (no wonder I play with them so much), Ferran Besalduch has this “Dr. Jekill and Mr. Hyde” record that I love, Clara Lai and Marcel·lí Bayer have a couple of very beautiful records, Albert Cirera has wonderful collection of four duo records, with a fifth featuring all the musicians from the previous duos. And of course, there are the superstar records of Agustí Fernández with Mats Gustafsson and Ken Vandermark, which are tremendous. Free Art Ensemble and Memoria Uno also have some fantastic records, Marc Egea also..., I just could extend a lot on this issue. You see, I tend to release only things that I really like.

So, it’s just like me …. Well, you provoked my next question yourself. Discordian Records’ covers, band names, album titles and individual songs ... As far as I know, most of them are your work, even for discs in which you did not participate as a musician or composer. Is it true?

Yes, it is true. I call it "erotizing" the music with a concept. Probably derived from John Zorn's pop avantgarde strategies and my own experience with rock music and market oriented jazz acts (I remember listening to records while repeatedly watching their covers, reading every single detail in them, I just needed more information than just the music). But my interest for doing this is not marketing or selling, I've done it basically to give personality or individuality to each project so they are more easy to remember, otherwise they end up being just a bunch of recordings. I happen to be an overall artistic producer, I love to create and relate concepts with images and sounds as well as with other concepts, it really amuses me. So it was quite natural for me to do this, and I think it helps a lot when it comes to public visibility for musicians and musical projects.
In many senses I consider myself a maximalist, because for me "more is more". I have this tendency of overloading stuff with information, I love all kinds of information. From scientific to esoteric, I like to relate everything. Maybe because I was born Aquarius at mid-day with the Moon, and planets Mercury and Mars in the same sign/constellation, and in an information age also considered to be in Aquarius. Although I have my preferences, for me all information is welcome and usable for organizing people and developing new ideas (coincidentally or not, also the essence of Aquarius).

Already during the creation of this interview, it was decided that your improvised duo with double bassist Alex Reviriego will be released in Poland in the spring. With this musician you have also recently recorded an excellent album, exclusively with strings, called “Incerto For Doublebass And Strings”. Tell us about both recordings.

Alex is an amazing musician, I've been working with and around him for quite a few years now and he has never ceased to amaze me. He is also very open minded and I think we have many things in common. This can be heard in the recording we did as a duo. It was the first time that we improvised in this format, and it corroborates our kinship.

He is one of those musicians that I consider of utmost value in the local improvising scene, when possible, I ask for his advice in many areas of music organization and creation. I'm always interested in his opinion.

The idea for the 'Doublebass Incerto', came after organizing concerts for an improvising string ensemble, and immediately the idea popped to my mind. Alex has so many sound resources and sensibility, that you can give him complete freedom in a conducted ensemble, and he will always do interesting stuff, and also be connected with everything that is happening. He really has an outstanding concentration. For the “Incerto” I just let him be, I didn't even explain my ideas of how I was going to organize the music around him, it was completely uncertain for him. I didn't even have to tell him when to stop or start most of the time, it was very intuitively. Sometimes he would pick up what was happening and do something with it, at other times I would get something from him and try to make something with the ensemble that worked with it, the “Incerto” as a concept, implies a very symbiotic way of creating music (unlike its rigid nemesis). I think this recording portrays a wonderful idea to work with other performers, the idea of creating concertos for free improvisers. I will probably go for more of these in the near future.

The idea for the cover came also through Alex, we share the same kind of humor. One day he came to me, and said that it would be really funny and cool to have a record with one of these cheesy photographs that classical musicians tend to put on their records, I immediately loved the idea. And well, it's a very risky thing, but we went for it (almost) all the way. The classical musician classic photograph and classic record labeling, it was just perfect for the concept. I'm very proud of this record, is one of the best projects I've been involved with, its innovative, original, disruptive, funny, who knows maybe even sexy! We have to do another one.

I know, mainly from our mutual friends from Barcelona, that you are extremely busy every day, that you are working on a thousand projects at the same time. Tell us about your other musical and non-musical activities.

I'll answer this by a short exposition of how days develop in my life. I normally earn my living working as a sound technician at the venues that I usually play (Soda or Sinestesia), this goes from thursday to sunday at night. The rest is music and of course, spending time with my girlfriend and friends (which all of them also happen to be musicians), and also do house chores when needed.

Generally, the time spent on music is most of the day. I normally wake up early and start to think about music, I like to theorize and have this tendency to write down theories of different things related to music. So I keep filling these thick notebooks with notes of bizarre theories, geometry and symmetry studies, music cognition inquiries, rhetoric, philosophy, esoterism, etc. To this date I'm in my fifth two-hundred page notebook of this mash-up of information. I also love to invent musical systems for composition, at the moment I'm kind of divided in this sense, since I have systems that are created for composing with improvisation and systems created for pre-determined music composition, which are inspired and derived from the practices of total serialism (particularly from Milton Babbitt and Luigi Nono) and its also deterministic antagonist: spectralism (Gerard Grisey, Tristan Murail, Fausto Romitelli, etc.). So as you might imagine, I spend some time reading books and articles related to musical analysis, music cognition and perception, and theory in general.

I also spend time mixing sound recordings, I tend to record a lot, and not any type of recording, I normally do multi-track recordings with fairly decent sound quality. So I have to spend some time classifying all the recordings I keep accumulating, this is a bit nightmerish sometimes. I also program improvised music, as you already know. So some time goes to choosing musicians, deciding some concept (if possible) and doing the posters and promotion for the gigs, which I also attend as audience or as performer, and many times as technician.
Teaching is something I also like to do, I have the privilege to be able to give two subjects at Barcelona's ESEM (Escuela Superior de Estudios Musicales) that keep me busy also as a pedagogue. One is called "From Free Jazz to Free Improvisation", which is basically a survey in the history and practice of these musics, the other is a subject I created after they asked me if I wanted to teach something else, I called it "Improvisation as a Compositional Element". It consists basically on teaching and searching along with my students for different ways to work with improvisation on a compositional context, using different devices like graphic scores, scripts, and original musical languages. It's very creative and enriching, I'm very happy to be able to teach and explore along my students this aspect of music.

I also have a passion for esoteric writings, I love to read magical grimmoires, theories about magic, astrology and religion in the present and throughout history. This is an area of much interest to me, but I also like to read books and essays on certain controversial subjects, and enjoy reading papers on scientific research related to cosmology, psychology and the nature of reality.

The last question in each interview must be about the future. So, Dear Pricto, what music are you currently working on, what are you going to release as part of Discordian Records in the near future, and since you are publishing albums in Poland, when will you come to us for concerts?

At the moment I'm working on a composition to be performed at the Mixtur Festival in Barcelona on April of 2020, it will be my homage to the first noise artist, the great Luigi Russolo. My plan at the moment is to create a 45 minute work, divided in 5 movements, each of which will probably be related to one of his paintings. My idea for this work is to create only with noise, generated by the use of extended techniques on conventional instruments, avoiding pure tones as much as possible and using improvisation to articulate noise in an expressive and exploratory manner.
The work will be performed by Discordian Community Ensemble, which on this date will feature Vasco Trilla (percussion), Diego Caicedo (electric guitar), Àlex Reviriego (doublebass), Tom Chant (saxophones), Pablo Selnik (flute), Amaiur González (tuba) and Pablo Volt (trumpet). Everything will be electronically amplified and I'll conduct it with a stop watch and maybe playing some synthesizer.

On the other hand, the next Discordian release will be a record of a group created by cellist Joao Braz, is a set of compositions with improvisation. The name of the record is "Who?" and will feature the appearance of violinist Sarah Claman, drummer Nicholas Dobson, Diego Caicedo and myself. After that I'll probably release a duo of guitarist Sebastián Vidal and saxophonist Ivan Edwards, both active improvisers from the local scene, appearing regularly with Claman and Braz at the Girafa concerts at Sinestesia. I also have another Discordian Community Ensemble record ready to pull out, and a Discordian Wind Quartet. Both playing some infamous graphic scores from my collection of antistandards from "The Unreal Book", a compendium of 555 graphic scores which I'll release in a physical book (and probably on PDF format) hopefully sometime at the end of 2020.

In relation to my traveling to Poland, I'm not very fond of travelling since it breaks up my working routines (I have a steady job and steady local projects), but occasionally if it's something special, I love to go out and perform. I've been in Krakow three times, playing at Alchemia and other venues. I'd really like to go to other places in Poland that I haven't been yet, and I like the country and its people, so there is a high probability for me to fly there again after the release of the Hung Mung record on Spontaneous Music Tribune Series. So I hope to see you soon!