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Doubt

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Michel Delville of Doubt from 2013
MSJ:

Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music?

I have been involved in many musical projects since my early teens – my first studio recordings date back to the early 1990s, but it was largely thanks to Moonjune Records that my music started to get some continuing exposure at an international level. That was in 2005, after Leonardo Pavkovic released the “Elton Dean & The Wrong Object” CD. 2012 marked The Wrong Object’s 10th anniversary, and the band will release their new studio album in March. Most of my most recent musicalventures and projects bear the mark of the Canterbury scene: I have been able to perform and record with many Canterbury-affiliated musicians such as Annie Whitehead, Chris Cutler, Alex Maguire, Richard Sinclair and Harry Beckett. Other recent bands include the explosive avant power trio douBt (founded in 2010 with Alex Maguire and Tony Bianco) and Comicoperando, a tribute to the music of Robert Wyatt. The next planned release is the second album of Machine Mass (a duet comprising Bianco and yours truly) featuring Dave Liebman - the music is being pre-mixed at the moment of this writing.
MSJ: If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
Probably what I’m doing in this here life alongside my musical activities: writing books, teaching, being a dad … with more sleep hours!
MSJ: How did the name of the groups Doubt and Machine Mass Trio originate?
Alex Maguire came up with the name douBt and its idiosyncratic spelling. As for the mysteriously connoted Machine Mass, it was suggested by Tony Bianco.
MSJ: How do the various projects with which you are involved vary?
Some of them, like The Wrong Object, are more centered on written compositions, whereas others are more collective and improv-based endeavors.
MSJ: How are they the same?
To some extent, they all share a predisposition towards non-traditional ways of using the various - and rather unorthodox - traditions they draw upon.
MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences?
Stravinsky, Sonic Youth, Zappa, Rypdal, Mingus, Radiohead, Coltrane (Alice and John), The Soft Machine…
MSJ: What's ahead for you?
Right now, I’m very excited about the new Machine Mass installment guest-starring the amazing Dave Liebman – but I’m also looking forward to playing Mario Kart Wii with my son and to my daughter’s piano lesson later today.
MSJ: I know artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?
Neo-spiritual-electro-rock-jazz. I would never use the word “fusion” because (1) the term smells funny and refers to a particular sound and an historically-specific way of blending different genres and modes; (2) The earth is filled with musicians who are trying to blend diverse generic and cultural influences in the hope of creating something fresh and new. Call me a late modernist rather than a postmodern, but I am more interested hearing the results of a creative opposition between the openness of improvisation and the constraints of written composition, the sense of abandon of modal jazz and the more Apollonian models afforded by my classical (and proggie) background ... or the confrontation between a heavy rock rhythm section and a bunch of open-minded jazz cats! 
MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?
Sure – but I’ve got plenty on my plate already and cannot think of anyone in particular, at least until the end of next year.
MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians? And, in a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?
For 99,9% of musicians (and most record companies), there is simply no way you can make money on records. This would seem to mean that - legal aspects aside - whatever gets circulated is a good thing for musicians as long as the quality is good ... This being said: (1) small record labels need to sell records in order to survive and ensure the visibility of new talents; (2) I do feel strongly about “fans” who record and disseminate bootlegs without asking for the band’s permission or advice – this practice can be highly detrimental to many musical projects in their early stages, especially when the stuff was so badly recorded that it doesn’t do the music any justice and the clip becomes available on Youtube a year or two before the official recording appears.
MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
If I were a superhero I would probably stop playing music and try to save the world instead. At any rate, I wouldn’t bother to pick up a fight with musicians.
MSJ: If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?
A collaboration between Hendrix and Coltrane – need I say why?
MSJ: If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?
If I were appointed curator of a festival I would book Henry Threadgill, Squarepusher, Dave Douglas, Terje Rypdal, Amon Tobin, Hawkwind, David Sylvian, Blonde Redhead, Bobby Hutcherson, in no particular order or hierarchy. I would also commission tributes to Olivier Messiaen (I would approach Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood), John Coltrane (by the Paul Dunmall/Tony Bianco duet), Elton Dean (an all-star band featuring all the musicians who were lucky enough to play with him) and Melvin Pontiac (line-up to be announced).
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
Esperanzah Spalding’s Radio Music Society has just arrived. She’s fantastic and deserves every word of praise she gets and more.
MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
I know it’ll sound a whiff condescending but I’m reading mostly 19th century fiction by Dostoevsky, Balzac, Melville and Huysmans. You can’t beat the classics.  Most readers discover them too early in their life and never go back to them, which is a shame.
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
An Ethiopian jazz combo named “Ukandanz” - their new album, Yetchalal, is highly recommended!
MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
I like to secretly listen to Jacques Brel’s “Les Flamingants” on my IPod – it makes me feel (deviously) patriotic.
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
Trying to play in front of an audience while fighting off clouds of angry mosquitoes at a Summer festival in Prague – a true nightmare.
MSJ: If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?
Jesus Christ, Vittore Carpaccio and John Coltrane
MSJ: What would be on the menu?
Spaghetti alle vongole.
MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
Nothing I just said should be taken seriously – peace and a Happy New Year to you and yours!
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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