Marc Cantlin II
interview by 5-T
"Real emotion is lumpy and ugly, even the happy stuff."
Guitarist Marc Cantlin II has been musically active in the rural northeastern United States for the past fifteen years, more sporadically at some times than at others. Notable projects have included the barroom boogie band with the 3/2 female-to-male ratio Pocket Full Of Hips, Meters tribute The Funky Miracle, groove-psych trios Slight Return and Delic, Meggan Cantlin's Fallen With Grace, and the notorious Bruce.
Anyone who has followed Cantlin's work will be glad to hear that he has finished and released a solo album. It's called Spleek Speaker Speaks, and it is credited to Spleek-O-Matic. Even better, it's free - conscience willing. Spleek is available only as a download-with-optional-donation (conceived before Radiohead did the same), through marccantlin.com.
Of these, Bruce is probably the clearest antecedent to the contents of Spleek. Both present music that aims to raise your consciousness through funky grooves and avant weirdness. But Bruce had a rock-n-roll template and a barband context. Spleek-O-Matic does not share these qualities.
For purposes of the Spleek sessions, Marc played every instrument himself: drums, bass guitar, guitars and horns. That is not unheard-of in the rock idiom, but for this more abstract form it is slightly unusual. What is more unusual is that it doesn't sound at all like a pile of overdubs. Spleek sounds much more like a very free, very raw and very eclectic jamband (West coast style, East coast attitude) with all the players improvising and playing off each other in real time. The tones are largely clean and dry and un-effected and very specific. The music is chaotic, but not for the most part dissonant. Spleek is very rhythmic and percussive, although there is not always a beat. Jazzy-funky bass and drums groove intermittently behind dual-guitar abstract chaos, in and out of ambient space.
Spleek Speaks can be very intense, but it is also nearly always playful. "Flight of the Caveman" is a schizofunk triceratops groove. "Hot On Your Tail" is an uptempo, streamlined but somewhat dark chase scene that to my mind has to take place in mid-air. This would be a great movie, very exciting, with lots of swooping and diving and near misses and crashes. It's about a flock of gov't-trained fighter birds (sure it is).
There are also some slower, freer, occasionally lovely pieces, including "Ixint" for solo electric guitar and also "Last," which is reminiscent in mood of a stoned "Sleepwalk".
Since the music itself is on the dense and impenetrable side - though frequently melodic and groovin at the same time - we thought we'd ask Marc a few questions about how and why Spleek came to be, where it came from and what it all means, to give you potential listeners the beginnings of a way in.
PSF: You have said that "real emotion is lumpy and ugly." Spleek is definitely lumpy. Did you set out to express specific emotions, or were you after something more general?
MC2: That quote sounds super familiar. It's something I still think about and feel. I was aiming for emotional expression. Nothing specific. Except for "Flight Of The Caveman," where I was looking for that triceratops sort of vibe. Real primordial. When I listened back to Spleek about a month ago from start to finish, I felt as though it was roughly the last year of my life or so in about 40 minutes.
PSF: Were there particular influences who affected Spleek Speaks?
MC2: Everything is an influence. In this case, mostly Marc Ribot. But I should qualify that. He is the one who freed me from thinking that it all had to be contained in a easily digestible form. Music in general, I mean. There is a place for that and all, but there is also another story. Naturally, all of the usual suspects have considerable influence in there as well. Coltrane. Ayler. Coleman. Hendrix. Monk. Bigtime Monk. Fela. Funkadelic. And possibly some other things.
PSF: Spleek doesn't sound like a one-man-studio-band. It's very organic. Do you plan to do more of this type of recording?
MC2: It doesn't sound like that to me either which is odd, being the one guy who did it. And as far as a follow up, definitely, but I won't play everything on it. It is a lot of work, and the way my life is moving at the moment doesn't look like I will be in the proper sort of space physically and mentally to do it. I won't rule it out entirely cause you never know which way the universe is going to point you at any given moment. The next disc is way more accessible, blues and R&B sorts of sounds which I don't think will be entirely myself either.
PSF: Would you ever try to play any of the songs from Spleek live or with a band?
MC2: I might try to play them out, one or two of them, but I am unsure I could. A, not remembering them at all. B, trusting other people to pull it off. And C, not sure I would really want to
PSF: Did you compose this music on the guitar, or did it come out of the air first, or out of your head?
MC2: It definitely varied. I would need some time to think back to then and disseminate each piece. Usually, I think I recorded the guitar or bass first, then I went back and did drums, then other stuff.
PSF: How does Spleek Speaks relate to other things you've done, or would want to do?
MC2: Since it was very spur of the moment, I don't think that it does much. Except that I did it, which must be some sort of conceptual continuity. I can't seem to help myself making stupid noises and calling it art. As much as I try to move away from the form, I always come back cause basically, it speaks to me the most. The other stuff wears out. This sort of thing stands true. I could listen to (John Coltrane's) Ascension, for example, for the rest of my life and never get sick of it. I can't even say that about (Jimi Hendix') Axis: Bold As Love. Except for maybe the first track, but the box weighs in after a while, if you know what I mean.
PSF: What if any effect do you intend to have on your audience? Were you taking into account as you recorded Spleek that people would hear and react to the music, or was it more for the sake of making it?
MC2: Well, the first track was for the sake of making it but it electrified me to do more. I am not sure that I ever think about music as something someone else listens to as I am making it. I just sort of trust that I am connected to the correct channels for the moment, and then trust that the people out there who would dig the same or similar channels will eventually find it on their own.
PSF: How did you decide on the free-download-with-optional-donation distribution format?
MC2: I would like to say that it was because I gave it lots of thought (actually, I did think a lot) and arrived at that conclusion because it was how I wanted to see the industry actually do things, but I think it is more likely cause I am a lazy bastard and don't want to print things off, get things duped, and what not. At least I did it before Radiohead. Also unlike Radiohead, I have released full bitrate CD files as well as MP3 so that the consumer, if you can call them that, can choose their poison.
PSF: Someone asked Julian Cope about the idea of releasing music in a purely digital internet manner. His response was this: "I think that first we'd have to break the human desire to own things, and since the capitalist way is to fuel that desire from an early age, with TV adverts and billboards around the streets, the end of the desire to own a CD is a long way off."
MC2: Yeah, that is true. Also, there is the issue of perceived value
PSF: I like that Spleek has an album cover, despite being solely a digital release. It makes it an experience, not just information.
MC2: That was key, actually. It needed to have something. If you download the mp3's, it is embedded in them. I think.
PSF: Is there anything you'd like to say to anyone listening to Spleak Speaker Speaks?
MC2: Hmm. I would only wonder what they thought, and if I could... I might tell them the real emotions quote, being lumpy and all. And if I could choose, I would have them listen to it in its entirety once, wait a couple of days, listen again, then ask em what they thought. More importantly, how they felt. That is probably what matters to me more. I mean, I am not really concerned with whether or not they think I am a good musician, for example. That just doesn't factor. The technical ability is not what I want anyone to notice. The Channel, the Stream, the Beam, that is where I am trying to put the listener, always.
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