Interview

FIS

FIS

By Martyn Pepperell

Wednesday 4th December, 2013 10:19AM

With the international release of his Preparations EP on Tri-Angle Records, Wellington based producer/DJ FIS (birth name: Olly Peryman) displays compelling and virtually singular skill as an artist of sound. Taking to the sonic like a master sculptor approaches marble, he's carved out four idiosyncratic and immersive soundworlds deserving of close and sustained listening attention.

As a byproduct of the statement that is Preparations, Peryman's work, in earlier times embossed with motifs drawn from the UK Hardcore Continuum of club music genres (jungle, drum and bass, garage, two-step, grime, dubstep), now feels underscored by an energy related to the exploratory and sometimes creatively opaque impulses evident throughout the output of seminal New Zealand noise, drone and art musicians such as The Dead C, Campbell Kneale, Alastair Galbraith and Antony Milton.

In the weeks leading up to the release of Preparations Peryman found time outside of a schedule which includes a day job at Victoria University in Wellington’s Te Kura Māori school, an evening/weekend job at a bottle store, and ten hours of submerged music making a week to trade a series of in-depth emails with me. We discussed the relationship between meditation and music making, immersive textures, interpretation of art, written language, Taonga pūoro, and how he ended up signing with Tri-Angle Records.

You practice meditation, and you've publically stated "Lately most of my rhythms are drawn from what I hear and see from my body during meditation." Can you walk us through the relationship between meditation and your music?

Yeah for sure, it's not always a case of capturing and reproducing exact likenesses of those rhythms. Sometimes it is, but other times it's less literal. I might just pursue a rhythm or a sound that reminds me of meditative experiences. A tune could show a kindred spirit, which I'll notice by the way it makes me feel, as in it might bring out similar visualisations or familiar feelings in certain parts of my body.

The biggest thing about meditation for my music is the way it quietens down the internal monologue and theoretical thinking, making way for a sound and rhythm oriented experience. So as it relates to [song]writing, meditation is mainly about bringing myself out of the text and language-centered worlds of my day and night jobs and "coming back home" to sound and rhythm. I guess making music is a way of prolonging the stay and enjoying the affordances of sound as a medium.

I've gotta say the story behind my first contact with meditative practice is kinda personal man, maybe we can share it another time when the internet isn't watching!

This makes sense to me, because your music has always seemed very immersive and environmental to me. It comes across as very textural, like bathing inside of sound, and the juxtaposition of sounds and ideas. Do you place any importance on this?

Yeah! It's really important. It's interesting you say bathing inside the sounds, it's cool to hear someone pick up on that. It tells me you're spending time inside the content, letting the sound be itself and alone with you. You could say that's consistent with how I've been writing lately, putting rhythm and sound first and leaving the rest to one side. Like you say, immersing one's self solely in the medium and its affordances.

On that note, lately I've been experimenting with being the work while it's being me (this goes back to what I was saying about embodiment) but also living inside the piece and steering it's invention from there. A couple of bits on this Tri-Angle Records EP came from this place. When it comes to texture - sometimes I find it's an anatomical thing...about endowing sound with a specific surface or physicality to change a sound body, which of course then feeds back to the experience of inhabitive listening. All this feels like a pretty crude account of the writing though. It kinda feels like I'm spreading butter with a toothpick right now... using words to reach for the recesses of vibration...and finding it equally difficult describing an artist subjectivity that's attempting residence in those recesses - especially as that subjectivity inheres wordlessness!

This is interesting, from my perspective it seems like you've done an amazing job of setting up the right circumstances to let yourself create in a manner I'd describe as free, true and singular to yourself. As a result of this, music writers (myself included) tend to get pretty colourful when they describe your music. What are your thoughts on the ways in which your art is being interpreted and described?

I used to consciously aspire to this 'free, true and singular' creative space, and even articulated some principles around it (e.g the backcronyms like forever in search). Part of all that was a deliberate numbness for other people's interpretations. Lately that philosophy seems to have given way to this pursuit of a meditative, vibration-only artist subjectivity. I guess this means I'm even further away from caring about interpretations and descriptions. I know what you mean about this colourful response, but in the eyes of a praxis indifferent to language, those responses only commemorate their own distance.

All that said, I do still care and form thoughts when seriously problematic language comes around...terms like 'dark' (positions lightness as angelic and heavenly) and 'tribal' (fraught with exoticism) seem kinda racially charged and violent to me. The 'future' branding is also questionable, it comes across as imperial behaviour in the context of time. The music writers I know are pretty good around these matters though, it's more the descriptions elsewhere.

When you say "in the eyes of a praxis indifferent to language, those responses only commemorate their own distance" I find that interesting. From what I've observed, your music does tends to be reasonably wordless, or minimal with its use of words. However, when it comes to communication you seem like you have your head pretty well wrapped around language, in particular written language. What is going on here? Do you have an interest in language and writing, and are they ever part of the FIS equation?

Do you reckon!? I don't really feel wrapped around it!! I suppose I do appreciate language, reading and writing especially, but I've been learning and thinking about times and places for language lately.

Speaking really generally for a second here, but would you say the two of us - and others of similar experiences - move about in a lot of visually-centered and language-centered contexts? The internet's gotta be an obvious one? Maybe that starts to shape what people take to be experientially possible or meaningful...like, are these contexts encroaching so far that most people cannot imagine something existing meaningfully and substantially without text, numerical information, theoretical attachments, discourse and so on?

That's most likely a stock critique of this shit...and I'm probably full of contradictions here...but sometimes I do wonder if that's happening with music generally though, including mine, where works are only given flesh in so far as they express ready-made (often language-based) constructs. Maybe there's like a theoretical and descriptive imperative going on, that commands music and audition to need those platforms.

I guess this is why I clicked with Steve Goodman's book Sonic Warfare, especially where he cites Kodwo Eshun on the scenario where thought always "rescues" sound. Writing music is a way for me to put sound first, affirm its legitimacy and sufficiency as a world of its own. Writing in that way is also about living out a subjectivity that feels most natural for me.

Like I said earlier, "coming home to sound" (as corny as that is)... There's a paradox in all this too I guess... Privileging sound before linguistic or theoretical framings is still an articulatable, theoretical decision.

Anyway, there must be others who treat this more clearly than me, but yeah I guess language and writing are deliberately made secondary in the equation man. Ultimately, for all the (overly) serious explanations, all it boils down to is a love for sound, rhythm and concentrated, immersive audition.

Let's talk about Richard Nunns. You have a tribute song to Nunns on Preparations Could you run us through your relationship with Richard Nunns, his music, and I guess Taonga pūoro in general?

I first came across Richard Nunns through Salmonella Dub back in the Tiki Taane days. There was one track in particular where they remixed him and Hirini Melbourne. I rinsed that one big time during fourth and fifth form, and a few years ago I picked up Te Ku Te Whe and the full Te Whaiao album from Slowboat in Wellington. I'm still coming back to them from time to time. I've also gone on to enjoy more of his other releases on Rattle.

Anyway, a few months back I had this project underway, and it kept asking for a windy, airy sound to fill out the space and maybe bring the track to a finish. I used a little plastic recorder/flute thing, jamming with it off the cuff, and the sounds it was making reminded me of Nunns' style. The connection was such that it felt right to acknowledge him in that moment and name the track after him.

I want be clear about some details of that process though, and I guess this goes for my association Taonga pūoro generally, I've heard Nunns' music and these treasures through the ears of a Tauiwi/Pakeha man, so for me 'Magister Nunns' is by no means an assertion of mastery or ancestral connection with the sound. In terms of my positionality as a writer, if we were to draw a connection to Taonga pūoro, it might be more accurate to see this in a similar vein to the remixes by fellow Pakeha artists on Te Whaiao. I named and finished 'Magister Nunns' in deference, reverence, respect and aroha, based on some research into Te Ku Te Whe and knowing about Te Whaiao as a precedent for Tauiwi involvement with the waiata.

Okay, wrapping things up, Preparations is being released through Tri-Angle Records, who I understand will also be releasing an album for you next year. For some of us, your connection with Tri-Angle Records is very exciting news. Could you run as through how this happened, and talk about your relationship with the label?

Okay cool, it was a bit of a chance meeting. Robin from Tri-Angle Records has this mate, called Brent, who manufactures Raccoon Tranquilizer in NYC. I was doing business with Brent, exporting some of their raw materials to them, most often sap from pine trees. One time we got talking and he found out I made music and said he had this mate called Robin who might wanna hear it, so I chucked a record in with their next sap order.

Next thing I hear, Brent's like, "Hey, your batch arrived but one of sap capsules has burst and it leaked all over your record, should I just show Robin your soundcloud?" Brent must have passed on some links cause then Robin got in touch and said "Sap bro, my friend Brent just passed me some beats etc etc" and it continued from there. Ever since it's been all good. There's a balance of being supported and pushed while having license to be.

 Preparations is out now via Tri-Angle Records - here is 'DMT Usher' from it and read Martyn's review over here.




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