You cannot go on feeling violently all the time - the human organism does not allow of it. But an idea persists; once you have persuaded yourself of its truth, an idea justifies the continuance in cold blood of actions which emotions could only have dictated in the heat of the moment. Indeed it does more than justify actions and feelings; it imposes them. (Aldous Huxley)
Muslimgauze have been active for over fifteen years. At the beginning of the early 80's, a many-layered sound-network began in the debris of the fertile Industrial ground, to assume the shape of Muslimgauze. Becoming increasingly political, Muslimgauze earned itself a name for rhythmic pattern; the pulsating, interwoven western and eastern music traditions. From industrial raga to somewhere between ambient dub and eastern ethnic percussion, it is difficult to nail down the typical Muslimgauze sound, albeit there is one. The strong and unequivocal affinities for the middle eastern topic are the most obvious about the releases, particularly in this decade. Muslimgauze embodies one of the most uncompromising pro-Arab stands, that one can think of. Something one could disagree with. When meeting Bryn Jones one expects to find an extreme, militaristic freak; armed with spray bottles and hand grenades, pulling arms for the Palestinian concerns, as his CDs suggest. This quickly disappears as Bryn Jones, a.k.a. Muslimgauze, has one of the most inconspicuous, shiest, reserved natures, that one could meet on Earth. Both his physiognomy as well as his clothing-style fall far from being extreme in any manner, closer to the category of Nerd tastelessness, that would not even cool to name. A skinny, taciturn fellow is responsible for one of the most uncompromising and richest flowing formations of the post-industrial era? Now, why not? Finally seclusion and loner-hood have brought forth some scraps about the artist, which a critic could sink their teeth into. It is good, that he is. Even if the following interview was one of the most ponderous and toughest, that we've led, because Bryn Jones is not very talkative.
Your main inspirations come from the political facts of the Middle East, as you emphasize again and again. How exactly is the connection to be pulled to the sounds there?
It is the ideas, that are behind it. Hamas, Hezbollah. They are the sparks, that bring the music to life. Without them, there would not be the music.
How is the relationship of the political conditions there to the local cultural Background?
The religion and the culture are completely distinct from ours. I can not understand it. It is a completely different part of the world. It is a true issue of force.
Have you ever lived in the Near East?
No. I have never been there. But now Israel exists virtually everywhere.
From where do you get your political information? Do you simply open the newspaper and read the articles? Do you read much?
No, it is actually only coincidence. Information scraps. You can think about something, and find out more about it. But it is not only about what happens today. It is also about the past. That is very important. So an idea comes for a piece then it comes together. A sound or a rhythm. We work the whole time. It is like an illness.
Do you believe it is absolutely necessary, to take these political aspects into account? Or can one also uncouple the politics and music from each other?
Yes, one can do that. It is music. Music with serious political facts behind it. There are no lyrics, because that would be preaching. It is music. It is up to you, to find out more. If you don't want that, it is up to you. You can listen to only the music or you can preoccupy yourself more with it.
Listening is free from imperatives therefore?
Yes, you hear simply the music. Or you go out and find more about the history. It depends on you.
Behind the music, there is always an idea, a thought, the music however doesn't stand only for itself?
There is a political thought, facts, historic events, whatever. A building, or whatever. As in the Blue Mosque. It exists, seen politically. Hebron Massacre for example is my personal reaction on it.
The single explicit hints of these contents are the titles.
Yes, exactly. The titles lead you in a way, in which you can learn more about the topic. It is up to you however.
Where do the sounds come from? Do you use samples?
I use no samples, no computers. They are all tape loops, cassettes, very simple, rudimentary things. We work with it.
What normally are the reactions to your music?
As soon as you occupy a pro-Arab position, the tabs go down. The media are so anti-Arabic. I can not conceive it, to live in a refugee-camp in your own country. I simply can not imagine that. Everything I say is: fact.
Can you formulate your musical development something?
We become better every year.
How did the things begin for you?
We started out with synthesizers and moved on to percussion from there. Up to the invasion we worked with synthesizers. Then the politics came in to reinforce it, the music has changed with them, as most everything has. And there is no contrast to Kuwait, Afghanistan, the Czech Republic, no difference, what the reaction and the results there are. (Bryn Jones refers here to his first musical project E.g Oblique graph and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon taking place during this time)
Are you influenced by other cultures besides that of the near east?
We are also influenced by the culture of India, of Pakistan. It always happens in the head, it is coincidence more or less.
Why do you continuously speak of "we", although you are the single member?
I speak of us as a band, that only consists of me however. A CD appears from Muslimgauze, the group. It is not my name. The group however is only me. We are no pop group. we have no image. What should Muslimgauze mean?
There is this image of a completely withdrawn person however, that as hard as he works he never plays live. Nobody has ever met, seen or spoken to him.
There was no interest. We have given seven interviews in the last ten years. Five live concerts and seven interviews. If there was more interest, we would appear live on occasion. Criticism influences us very much. In England for example we are ignored completely. No chance. I am considered a total idiot, because I take the Arabic point of view over the Israeli. For me it is a mere fact. Through all that has happened, one can support only one side.
Would you have more interest then, to appear in clubs?
Maybe. Maybe, yes.
There should be peace in the Near East tomorrow...
There will be no peace there.
OK, but if however, what would change in the music?
We are also influenced by other things. It would probably be less quantitatively, and then with other influences, India, Pakistan, etc.. There would be less of it however, because the Near East is simply too important now. It is about thoughts in the end. There was last months new CD's sound.
If Muslimgauze were to develop into a relatively hip band however. Would you like that?
It won't happen. That is the reality. Can you imagine Muslimgauze big?
Maybe not, but you are more popular than ten years ago. But let us talk about the music again. Is there a structure behind it? I get the impression it deals with lined up fragments.
Everything is very experimental. Everything that is done, is kept. Nothing is repeated. It is all on cassettes. A piece can be marvellous or shit.
Does everything also get published then?
Yes. It is not necessarily published, but it goes into the hands of Staalplaat. Everything.
What did the deal with Staalplaat bring? Does your work become restricted in any manner? Or may other labels put out your music?
Restrictions, that involve the music. There are none. Other labels may put out vinyl only, no CDs. Compilation tracks yes, but there were few of them until now.
Interview: Erik Bennedorf and Annibale Picicci
This interview originally appeared in Artefakt #2 (February, 1997)
phone/fax 030 621 71 66
translation from German with the use of Power Translator