Geoff Farina / Karate
feb 7th 2002 - Bordeaux, FR
by SEB WOOd and Gilles Delenbaum
Karate : interview by SEB WOOd and Gilles Delenbaum
SEB WOOd : Can you introduce yourself ?
Geoff Farina : My name is Geoff farina and i sing and play guitar in the band Karate
SW: It seems that Karate started from an emocore scene to go towards sounds which can remind of jazz music, can you explain this evolution ?
GF : Yeah I think, I mean, generally we've always had a lot of different influences and the easiest thing for us to do at the beginning was to just play the kind of music that was on our first records but after a while i think we really wanted to kinda branch out and try to come to terms with other kinds of influences that didn't fit in what you call the post rock scene, we just called it indie rock at the time, and we spent a lot of time trying to branch out and do new things but at first it was easy to go on tour and kind of be a part of that scene, that's probably why we tried a little more to fit in there at the beginning.
SW : in the songs "the halo of the strange" you wrote "the spearness of monotony and ease will, over time, show us a new energy, like Miles, but satisfied" Is this a reference to Miles Davis ?? Is he part of the artists who have had a great influence on you ??
GF: yeah, it is a reference to Miles Davis and Miles Davis definitely had a huge influence on me and a lot of musicians i know, in the way that he did things, the way he tried to make other musicians kind of make new sounds, this is really an important thing.
SW: How do you make up Karate's songs ?? Do you start off from a voice/guitar basis or just the rhythmics ??
GF: Generally i usually do the vocals and guitar and have some ideas for rhythm section parts. I write it all out and then try it out and then we play together and see what it sounds like and then the guys just think of their parts and we change the song a lot when they start to learn it and maybe have some ideas... most of our songs start from basic vocal and guitar.
Gilles Delenbaum : How do you choose the songs for your solo albums and for Karate ?
GF : If I'm working on a karate record like right now we're working on new Karate material then most of what i write goes to that, so i might be working for 6 month or a year for Karate and then maybe i have some time off and i just kinda change my focus but every once in a while a song will dictate, you know, there will be a song that just won't sound good with Karate and I put it aside, I like the song but it just isn't good with the band and then later i'll pick it up again and use it for myself or for another project.
SW: could we talk about your solo efforts ? It seems like a good ground for experimentation and a way to make more intimate songs than the ones you play with Karate...
GF: I think part of what i want to do with music involves something really intimate and sometimes it's nice to be able to play songs that just don't have a whole band, the only thing that's there is the lyrical idea, the melodic idea and the guitar, it's something that i've always been interested in and it's just another part of what i'm trying to do i think, so, it's been really fulfilling.
SW : what about the house you've bought and renovated into a painting studio and music studio ?
GF: yeah me and a friend a mine who was in a band, her name's Jody and we were in a band together called the Secret Stars for a long time and we were trying to find studios in Boston for ourselves and we couldn't find, it was really expensive and we realized that a lot of our friends who are visual artists or musicians were unable to find space in the city so we found this place outside of the city and we renovated it into, instead of a house it's, about 75% of it is studio space and we decided we always wanted to have one of our friends living there working, on something that the person maybe couldn't do in the city, just to try to help our friends who are painters and musicians, it's worked out really well, it's been a big long project, we had a lot of different people in the last couple of years and it's worked out really well so far so we're excited about it
SW: Does it work like a 70s community ?
GF: it's not as organised, i think it's very informal. Jody and I own this building and we have a lot of space and every once in a while we'll just invite somebody there for 6 months or a year, usually somebody who we know or who's friend of ours, so thee's usually three or four people living there and it's very very informal, it's just something that we're trying to do to help our friends, to help people like us. We're tying to create something that we wished was there when we couldn't find space to do what we wanted to do. So it's not like a commune because it's much less organised and there's only a few people involved in it
SW : has it become a sort of gallery as well ?
GF : well, for example we had a person there who was a paper artist and we have a big big space in the main room and for a year all she did was her art and could set it up and do what she wanted we would have people come over and look at it, now we have a couple of photographers living there using the space to organize years and years of photographs, you know a book of their photographs, it's not so much a gallery, it's more of a workspace.
GD : Did the mix between graphic arts and music gave something special to you, do you influence each other ?
GF: yeah, definitely, I've been really influenced by visual arts and i come from a family of visual artists, my sister and my mother and my grandfather, all my aunts and uncles are visual artists, a lot of them do different things, my grandfather was a well known painter where i grew up, it's always been something that really influenced me, i wish i could have pursued it but i just pursued music and i didn't have enough energy to put into it, but it really influences my music, i mean i think of my music in a lot of ways, it has a lot of visual elements, it's really important to me i think. A lot of times i wanna be inspired and instead of listening to music i'll look at one of my favourite painters or read about one of my favourite painters, just to get some kind of inspiration, so it's really important to me.
SW: Could you tell us something about Ted Leo ?? Is he a relative of Chris Leo ??
GF: yeah, he's Chris' brother and he's a great guy, what do you wanna know about him ? He's a good guy he's got a great band and he just made a really good record and he's Jody's boyfriend, that's one of the reasons that we know him so well. I spend a lot of time with him and he's just a wonderful person.
SW: have you heard of Chris Leo's new band ?
GF: The Lapse ?
SW: No, it's called Sparrow now.
SW : What are you listening to right now ?
GF : I'm listening to a lot of different things, there's a couple of guitar players I'm interested in, one of them is (?) I don't know if you've ever heard of him, he's from Los Angeles and he plays with a lot of different people and put out a lot of records on his own and the other one his name is Joe Morris and he's from Boston they're both much more abstract than Karate, they're really influential to me, when I heard Joe Morris a couple of years ago, it was a revelation, I had never heard anybody ever play guitar like that, he's one of my favourites right now. I don't know, I'm listening to a lot of jazz, the first (?) record, a little bit of Keith Rose, guitar player from England, I listened to Fugazi's new record the other day and i really like it and I listen to the second (?) record and a lot of crazy jazz stuff, like, progressive jazz from the 70s.
GD : Albert Ayler ?
GF: yeah actually "Love Cry" is the record i've been really into lately most of it because of Milford Graves, the drummer, i love his drumming, he's an amazing drummer, he's one of my favourites. I guess i wish my music was more like that, I kinda wish i was going into that direction.
GD: more improvisations ?
GF: yeah, like, abstraction, the idea of instead of having solid harmonic and melodic structures having very loose harmonic and melodic structures having a song that refers to harmony instead of, as harmony that happens at the exact same time. I think that it's something that I'd really want to pursue. I love Albert Ayler nobody sounded like he did. I mean, John Coltrane was amazing and everybody know that he was but Albert Ayler is really underrated, i mean, to come after John Coltrane and have that kind of identity, i think he's really remakable, you know, to come at that period in time.
GD: do you like any French artists ?
GF: do you know Pierre Bastien ? He's a trumpet player and he does a lot like sampling things... I only have a few songs of him but he will put together a series of samples and play trumpet on top of it and it's really cool cause the samples are like grainy, scratchy samples and it sounds like very old almost like cabaret music. It sounds like a lot of the french jazz has a fascination with the first half of the century jazz in America, the kind of cafe-style jazz and his music reminds me of that in a lot of ways.
GD: it's Jazz and concrete music ?
GF: It's jazz over... It's not so much... you mean, what do you call a music concrete ?
GD: Pierre Henry...
GF: yeah.. who's the guy who discovered music concrete ? i can't remember his name
SW: Pierre Schaeffer
GF: yeah, i think so. He would have called it "music" and not "sound." I would say that this guy Pierre Bastien would be called a musician by... I see him reviewed in the magazine "The Wire" from London.
GD: a very few people know him in France i think.
GF: I think he might be more of like a solo kind of guy, I know he plays trumpet over samples...
SW: it's more like (old) jazz
GF: kind of yeah, i think so. I saw The Thugs play are they still a band ?
SW: they split up
GF: I saw them play, they opened for the Melvins and it was a great show. I don't know any other french bands apart from stuff like Air you know, very popular stuff...
SW: do you want to say something else ?
GF: no, thanks for the interview, thanks for listening to the music