Chamber doom. Sonic rape. Religious. Extremely Dark. Harrowing. Monolithic. Born in Heaven. Electrocution. The opposite of a nightmare. All these expressions have been used to describe Mohammad’s music. Mohammad produce their sound through custom made instruments and software, bringing together low frequencies, inter-modulations, dark textures, and distant folk nuances. They have recently released ‘Segondè Saleco‘, the third and final installment of a trilogy that explores the sounds of the geographical area between 34°Ν–42°Ν & 19°Ε–29°Ε. ‘Segondè Saleco’ is the final catharsis which signals a dramatic change of atmosphere in the trio’s signature sound. The first and second volumes, ‘Zo Rèl Do’ and ‘Lamnè Gastama’ were released in spring and fall 2014 respectively. We spoke to Nikos Veliotis, Coti K and Ilios about the dynamics behind Mohammad, the journey of this dexterous trilogy and the experimental music scene in the middle of the Greek crisis. To get a more intense insight into Mohammad’s world, they’ve also prepared a guest mix featuring plenty of unreleased material and other delicacies that perfectly fit into their aural atmosphere.
[IMPORTANT: Mohammad will be touring between 14-21 November 2015 and are looking for dates all over Europe. If you think you can contribute / help / organize, please contact Mohammad at mohammadsound (AT) gmail. com.]
Mohammad. One would not expect a chamber drone trio hailing from Greece… How did you pick this name?
Everything is open to interpretation. The word ‘chamber’ is both correct considering our line up and both incorrect considering the fact that we can only perform with strong amplification (the stronger, the better). As for the name we simply chose the most common name on the planet.
You started working together as Mohammad in 2009. How did the three of you meet and decide to start a group together?
Being long time friends and operating in the same music field individually for years it was inevitable to start working together. When we found ourselves living in the same city (Athens) we immediately started the project. It took quite a lot of trial and error before we could release our first album (‘Roto Vildblomma‘).
It wasn’t until ‘Som Sakrifis’ on PAN in 2013 that you’ve gained more international recognition. Why do you think that made such a significant difference?
We don’t have a clear answer to that. It surely helped that through PAN we received a bit more attention from the music press. ‘Som Sakrifis’ was also a landmark for us in the sense that it was in this album that we sort of crystallized many elements of our approach to sound. Maybe that helped too. We always aim to continuously produce music and continuously explore this special sound-space that we have found ourselves in.
Ilios is responsible for the electronics, Coti K is the master behind the double bass and Nikos is the only classically trained musician in the group. What is that continuously keeps this constellation going? You’re constantly blurring the lines between electronic and instrumental…
The main concept behind Mohammad as a whole is the approach to sound no matter what the instrumentation or the individual dexterities. During this process we had for instance to build custom instruments in order to get the sound (and visual) result we were opting at. It is a two way process however since most of the time we were stepping on unknown territory.
What could you tell us about these customized instruments? What does your setup consist of these days?
In general the setup is a loose combination of instrumental (notably strings and especially low strings) and oscillators. The key element in Mohammad is inter-modulation, both on technical and conceptual level.
You’ve recently released ‘Segondè Saleco’, the third and final installment of a trilogy that explores the sounds of the geographical area between 34°Ν – 42°Ν & 19°Ε – 29°Ε. Could you tell us a bit about this trilogy, what’s the concept behind these three albums and what binds them together?
This trilogy is a study on folk music of the said geographical area. It was a long process (we started working on it quite before ‘Som Sakrifis’ was released) The concept was to understand the music we have been listening to since we were born. By understand we mean both intellectually and emotionally. The inevitable shift of context that occurred (just by considering our instrumentation, lack of inside knowledge and our ‘urban’ background) was also a dive into the unknown that is always welcome.
(Click on the images for larger size!)
How did you get started with researching? What could you say that you’ve learnt and understood after digging deeper into these traditional sounds?
The sources were there, research was easy at least at the start of the whole project. After that we started to scratch the surface and different elements begun to emerge. The approach was tactile, like a dark room that had to be later recreated in full light. What we learned is still open and different for every Mohammad member.
‘Segondè Saleco’ is also supposed to be the final catharsis which signals a dramatic change of atmosphere in your signature sound. How should this dramatic change be perceived? What does this change consist of for you?
Catharsis refers to many levels. For one we were happy that we finished this whole experiment. On the other hand ‘Segondè Saleco’ incorporated a deliberate ‘sweetness’ injection that it is hard to find on the two previous volumes of the trilogy and truly contrasts the deeper maritime themes included. A calmness with an underlying doom. Until now it was only doom. It felt good to end the whole trilogy this way.
What could you tell us about the experimental music scene in Greece? Every time I try to introduce my Greek friends to your music, usually they are just scratching their heads…
The experimental scene is almost entirely DIY and vibrant over here. The so called crisis triggered a lot of actions in social (and artistic) level. Perhaps (and hopefully) we are now going through a period that will give space for new art to emerge in Greece in the future as society will be deeply changed by then.
Could you tell us a bit more about this DIY scene? What would you say has changed before and after the economical crisis?
Perhaps the biggest change was the point of view. For some reason there is more need for expression during a hard time than during the ‘prosperity bubble’ that we experienced before the crisis. This need leads to more action. When operating in the experimental field, and especially in a country where state funded experimental art sounds like a joke, there is always a ‘nothing to loose factor’ and during the crisis this factor was diffused in larger parts of society. This was perhaps a trigger for the scene to flourish.
Do you work as full-time musicians? What are the biggest challenges when it comes to making a living out of it?
We are full-time musicians no matter what other job we might have in order to survive.
What are you working on currently, what are your next plans?
Mohammad just finished a new piece for the theatrical performance of ‘Orestis’ by Euripides which is staged by Horos Theatre Company and will be presented in the ancient theatre of Epidaurus in late August. After the completion of the ‘coordinates’ trilogy Mohammad will start working on the next long time project so we look forward to new trials and most importantly new errors.
GUEST MIX by MOHAMMAD
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