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Of Montreal

Interview von: Matthias Rauch mit Kevin Barnes, am: 08.10.2010 ]

Seit über 13 Jahren veröffentlicht Kevin Barnes aus dem beschaulichen College-Städtchen Athens in US-Bundesstaat Georgia fast jedes Jahr ein Album. Wiederholt hat er sich in dieser Zeit erstaunlicherweise noch nie. Vielmehr erfindet er sich auf jeder Platte wieder neu. Die einzige Konstante scheint eine bunte Exzentrizität zu sein, welche die disparaten Ästhetiken Of Montreals eine gewisse Kontinuität verleihen. Wir sprachen mit Kevin Barnes über das amerikanische Prinzip der Neuerfindung, das MP3 Format und die Zukunft des Albums sowie Janelle Monáe.

 

Musicscan: Kevin, Of Montreal has always been about transgressing boundaries and genre restrictions, but “False Priest” accomplishes this task more convincingly than any of your previous efforts. What were some of the things that inspired this record?

Of Montreal: I was listening to a lot of soul/funk music and reading a lot of Sci-fi novels. I imagine “False Priest” to be a combination of Philip K. Dick and Sly and the Family Stone. Also, I couldn't have made the album without the support and inspiration I received from the Wondaland Arts Society. They played a large role in the direction of the album.

Musicscan: You have mentioned that the album title alludes to overcoming your own false limitations. How do you manage to overcome your inhibitions, both personal and artistic?

Of Montreal: Dedication and will power I suppose, if one wants to change something about oneself, one has to really commit to it. I don't have much trouble overcoming inhibitions, though. 

Musicscan: What impact did Jon Brion have on the record? What led you to work with him?

Of Montreal: He was great. He helped me realize a much fuller audio production than I would have been able to, working on my own. He is very interested in the mechanics of audio recording and mixing. He approaches it a little like a mad scientist, he's very happy to experiment with new ideas and his greatest thrills come from creating something unexpected and powerful. He actually offered to help me finish the album and I jumped at the opportunity.

Musicscan: Do you think the world is ready for another “epic” approach that you or someone like Janelle Monáe, who is also on the album, are working on?

Of Montreal: Definitely, not everyone, but a lot of people are ready for it. Some people want disposable and easily accessible music, but true lovers of music as an art form are always on the lookout for complex and interesting albums, the denser and more ambivalent the better. 

Musicscan: What do you think of the tremendous success of Monáe’s album? What was it like working with her?

Of Montreal: I'm so happy for her, she is one of my favorite living humans. She's an amazing artist and performer as well. It's rare to meet someone like her and rarer still to get the opportunity to work with someone of her musical caliber. I feel very honored and blessed to be her friend and collaborator. 

Musicscan: How important is the whole visual presentation in terms of the album artwork and the live presentation? How do you music and visuals intersect in Of Montreal?

Of Montreal: It is very important. Sometimes the music only tells half the story, sometimes you need the help of a visual art form to fully convey the vision. I am very lucky to have two amazing illustrators in the family. My brother David and my wife Nina create all of the album art and live visuals. They are so gifted. I never have to give them direction or motivation. They just "get it". 

Musicscan: What do you hope people to take away from an Of Montreal show?

Of Montreal: Hopefully people walk away from our show with a head full of ideas and strange memories. We want our performance to have the same effect as a very compelling film, we want to over-stimulate people's imaginations. We also want people to be emotionally and physically moved. We want to create an exceptional evening for people, an evening that stands out from the rest of the week as something wild and unpredictable.

Musicscan: What is the difference between art and entertainment in your opinion?

Of Montreal: They are definitely very closely related. I think art is the part of the experience that moves you emotionally and entertainment is the part that makes you laugh and want to dance.

Musicscan: What is the source of your tremendous productivity? What keeps you excited and motivated creatively?

Of Montreal: Just the thrill of creating something new, I love the process of creating music. I love being in the studio all alone piecing these songs together one instrument at a time and watching it evolve into something unexpected. I love the challenge of trying to create something fresh and funky. It's pretty much what I live for.

Musicscan: How would you describe your relationship with Polyvinyl?

Of Montreal: Wonderful. They are by far the best label iIve ever worked with. Extremely artist friendly and open minded. They are also very motivated to try out alternative album packaging concepts and they are not afraid to take chances. I feel very lucky to have met them actually.

Musicscan: Did you have certain aesthetic goals when you started with Of Montreal? If yes, in how far have they changed over the years and in how far has your relationship to music changed as well?

Of Montreal: Things haven't changed very much. The general creative process is basically the same and the spirit that drives the project is the same. I feel the same way now about creating music as I did when I was still living in my parent's house and making albums on a cassette four track for my high school friends. The only rule I have for myself is that I must always try to continue to grow and never get too comfortable with any specific style or sound. I would like to create a body of work that feels very fragmented and schizophrenic. It is hard to defy yourself artistically, but I do try to create things that don't feel natural or comfortable. I don't want there to be any continuity between my albums. I don't want to repeat myself. I don't feel that I have been very successful in that pursuit, but I continue to try. I guess the big thing is I don't ever want to feel satisfied with anything I've created. I always want to feel like I can do better. I always want to feel that my best work is in front of me and not behind me.

Musicscan: “False Priests” is really an album that should be listened to on a good stereo in order to fully appreciate all the details and subtleties. Do you think music is ultimately suffering due to the digitalization and compression of music in terms of the MP3 format? Do you think the concept of the album will survive or will people solely download single tracks in the future?

Of Montreal: Absolutely, it is very depressing that the most popular format is the MP3. It's really terrible actually. The whole IPod shuffle method of listening to music is definitely a threat to the album. I personally still love albums. I am more of a novel person than a short story person. I love being swept up in an epic artistic journey. Hopefully there will always be people like me who appreciate a fuller and more profound listening experience.

Musicscan: What can we expect from you in the near future?

Of Montreal: Right now, having just completed an album and an EP, I'm sort of in a transitional period. I'm trying to figure out where to go next. I'm feeling very inspired by modern classical composers like Charles Ives and Krzysztof Penderecki. I think I'd like to create something in the spirit of those two.

 
 Links:
  Of Montreal
  Polyvinyl Records
 
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