Part 1

Name: GAF & The Love Supreme Arkestra
Members: Mladen Kurajica (Synthesizers), Felipe González Cabezas (Drums), Eduardo Villalobos (Bass), César Chinarro (Guitar), Olivier Dubois (Alto & Soprano Saxophone). Ricardo Marichal (Tenor Saxophone), Alejandro Padrón (Trumpet, Herreño whistle), César Martín (Marimba)
Occupation: Composers, improvisers, instrumentalists
Recent Release: GAF & The Love Supreme Arkestra's Garden Island is out as a double vinyl set via Keroxen.

When did you first start getting interested in musical improvisation?  

MLADEN: I think my interest in improvisation began with the use of distortion pedals, which was basically the first thing I did when I started to play and experiment with the guitar. It just sounded amazing and there was no need to learn and play any chords. I had no idea how to play so the only thing there was to strum and to let it go.

Couple of years later, César Chinarro, Felipe and me started an indie noise band and we would just spend all rehearsals making noise. From time to time we had jam sessions with other bands from the rehearsal space. Eduardo played bass in one of those bands. He was into Dub and reggae. We would meet once in a month and jam all together for hours, sometimes even the whole day or night without stopping. That was like 20 years ago.

Of course, we were also all interested in literature, art, cinema and underground culture in general. I guess it was a kind of mix of many things and it all came from there. More than interest it was rather style of life. We just enjoyed and preferred jamming and improvising and it just happened naturally I guess.

ALEJANDRO: My first immersion in improvisation was when I joined GAF, some 12 years ago. Playing with them introduced me directly to different ways of understanding music and its purpose and expressing oneself without any ties to anything but the moment itself. They would simply be there with their eyes closed and improvising over the same line for hours.

It was fun at first but later became something spiritual too and essential element of our playing.

Which artists, approaches, albums or performances involving prominent use of improvisation captured your imagination in the beginning?

MLADEN: There are many styles that we are interested in.

In the beginning we were all mostly into psychedelic related music and long compositions, tunes that would blow your mind and make you transcend. For me and César Chinarro the beginnings were marked mainly by the first Pink Floyd, Can, Soft Machine and Sonic Youth. Later came Sun Ra, some of the Miles Davis albums and ambient & noise music.

Focusing on improvisation can be an incisive transition. Aside from musical considerations, there can also be personal motivations for looking for alternatives. Was this the case for you, and if so, in which way?  

FELIPE: For me improvisation is the origin of creation.

It's like starting to sketch the first strokes on a blank canvas. In my case it is a search to surprise myself on the one hand and to communicate with the rest of the band members on the other hand.

Without having a script, the most basic needs of each player are born.

How would you describe the shift of moving towards an improvisation based practise, both as a listener and a creator?

CÉSAR CHINARRO: I think that something that unites the musician and the spectator in the enjoyment of improvisation as a musical form is "letting go"; judgments and highly articulated thoughts are obstacles to entering the energy that provides the fluidity that is established in the interplay between sounds.

I admit that as a musician listening to music I many times wonder “how are they doing that” or “what instrument are they using”, but when I really enjoy improvisation is when I immerse myself in its atmosphere, I let images or visions awaken in me and the sensations dissolves and time disappears, it doesn't matter if the piece lasts 5 or 20 minutes, I just don't notice it and let it flow.

As a musician, improvisation is like meditation to me, your muscles intervene to activate the instrument, but you are not controlling it consciously, you simply let it happen, you join your improvisation partners and interact with them, as if you were a sound; when this happens it is a really fantastic feeling, you are creating as a group something that did not exist before and nobody had really thought of before. It’s unique, it’s actually never the same even if you try hard to repeat it.

What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to improvisation? Do you see yourself as part of a tradition or historic lineage?  

MLADEN: I don’t see myself or any of other members as a part of tradition. Most of us are selftaught and have developed our own way of performing and understanding music.

I would say we act and react by instict, intuition and the general mood of the session. Sometimes simply nothing special happens, sometimes there is pure magic.

Some of us have been playing together for more than 20 years and we still don’t have a clear answer to it. And maybe it’s better that way.

What was your own learning curve / creative development like when it comes to improvisation - what were challenges and breakthroughs?

EDUARDO: Before I had any serious band I spent many years playing jam sessions with a diverse group of musicians from the local scene. This was the true school of what it means to play together with a group of people and create music from scratch.

In that context it is very important to know how to listen and know what the music that is being played needs from each of us. Transcending egos because it's about communicating with music and not doing a monologue. Learning to get abstracted from the environment when improvising in front of the audience, discover that often less is more and let yourself be part of that collective creation.

Sometimes the music created is so perfect that it seems like a work that has been rehearsed many times.

Tell me about your instrument and/or tools, please. How would you describe the relationship with it? What are its most important qualities and how do they influence the musical results and your own performance?  

RICARDO: I like the acoustic sound of my instrument (tenor saxophone), without a microphone, without amplifiers, without effects, and without these to achieve my own musical language, using extended techniques: circular breathing, enharmonics, multiple sounds, quarter tones, glissands, etc.

On occasion, I use objects that I insert into the bell of the saxophone to search for new sounds, and also a hose that I combine with the mouthpiece or directly to the neck.

My instrument is like a color palette, where I always choose the technique to use, the dynamics, the effect, the phrase or the silence, as long as it means adding up and enhancing the aesthetics of the composition.

How do you feel your sense of identity influences your collaborations? Do you feel as though you are able to express yourself more fully in solo mode or, conversely, through the interaction with other musicians? Are you “gaining” or “sacrificing” something in a collaboration?  

MLADEN: It’s true that there is always some kind of sacrifice when playing in a band, but also a lot of gaining at the same time.

Playing with musicians who you share similar views, music taste and you can develop a common language with is sonically much fuller and way more enriching experience in general. You learn how to listen, interact and eventually you end up understanding the dynamics of the compositions better, which makes you more creative, confident and gives you a better perspective on what you do.

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