BLAK were interviewed by German publication Betreutes Proggen late last year. Carsten Agthe spoke to Eloi Roca, Eloi Casellas and Carles P.D. in the lead-up to the vinyl release of “Between Darkness And Light” and now here is a full English transcript of the interview. The original German interview can be found here. Our thanks to Carsten Agthe and Klaus Reckert. Photos taken at AMFest by Sergi Vila.
You come from Roda de Ter, Catalonia. Is there a kind of ‚scene‘ there for your kind of special music or do we have to look for it in neighboring Barcelona?
C: Roda de Ter is part of an area called Osona, which is known to be a place where there are a lot of bands. I like to think of it as a kind of Umeå, in Sweden, the place where Cult of Luna, Refused and Meshuggah are from, but in a non-famous format. Each town has its characteristics the combination of which create the “Escena osonenca”. This situation is interesting because you get to know musicians of all kinds of styles and most shows combine emo bands with pop, punk hardcore, stoner, indie, folk and whatever else. This is our local scene. Nowadays there isn’t another post rock band here, but anyway I feel like part of this scene, as I did with my previous bands.
E.C: We definitely don’t have a post-rock / instrumental scene around Roda de Ter but now, more than ever, music like almost everything is global, so influences can come from anywhere. I’ve always been surrounded by musicians of all kinds so… having friends coming from all sorts of styles has also helped me to end up doing what i do now.
What does BLAK mean? Is it a special spelling for Black?
E.C: Black colour has always interested me and I saw it written like BLAK for the first time in an extract from “The story of black” from John Harvey. I was listening to music and closing my eyes, trying to focus on some details and i started thinking about the power of this concept. I realised that sometimes by disabling a sense we are somehow boosting the other ones… and usually its sight that we disable first to try to FEEL better some sensations. We go black and then our imagination starts to flow.
Was „Vostok“ the first song, you ever recorded? How did you meet the film crew?
E.C: I worked on Vostok, a short film doing sound design and music composition. The song Vostok was at a very early stage and I thought it would be cool to use it to score the whole film. I was building BLAK at the same time with Carles and Eloi Roca so recording Vostok after the score seemed like a really good idea.
How long did the writing/recording process for your debut take?
E.C: The very first idea was to write and record a song at a time. We didn’t want to write 5 or 6 songs, go to the recording studio and release an album. The idea was to capture the growing process of this project in the songs. Vostok was the first but i already had a bunch of riffs, parts and stuff … Things changed when we got an Email from Peter Pires from Elusive Sound a month after Vostok was released, asking if we would be up to release an album with them. This was a breaking point for us. The Elusive guys are amazing and they really helped to make this band possible. 6 months later we were already recording “Between darkness and light”
E.R: Peter’s mail shook everything up! We all had had other bands before BLAK but we had never received a proposal of this kind… and with only one single song published. We had planned for all the band’s processes to be unhurried before this, taking our time to work song to song and step by step but suddenly we had to rethink everything about the project and get to work harder ! We were working long-distance from our homes. Putting pieces together from fragments and riffs. Each of us was taking the songs to their own ground and six months later we had “Between darkness and light” almost ready to be recorded.
Your video for „Overwhelming“ is very special. Is there a full version and was the dancer Frauke’s performance just for your song?
E.C: No, the Japanese filmmaker Mile Nagaoka did this short film/documentary about the dancer Frauke and when I saw the trailer I just thought I had to contact him because i couldn’t stop imagining Overwhelming dancing together with Frauke. Mile was totally open to collaborate and we did a new edit blending his amazing footage with our song.
Your tracks come with a double-title. Why is that and why the only-instrumental-concept?
C: When I write, I like to reduce what I say to the minimum possible expression. It is a kind of figure of speech, as it could be a synecdoche. In the case of these songs, the word alone is the center: the place from where everything comes and everything goes. In fact, I do the same with drum rhythms and for that reason in each song you can find a simple rhythm that summarizes everything else.
E.C: Why “only-instrumental”? Oh, this is a difficult one, I guess that instrumental music fills a kind of need to step back from everything. I love music with vocals but when there isn’t anyone singing to me, the notes become a blank canvas for my mind and all kind of images and emotions start to appear. To me, there is nothing quite as emotional as instrumental music can be.
Are you thinking about a physical release of „Between Darkness And Light“, on Vinyl or CD?
E.C: Yeah, Elusive Sound are preparing an amazing vinyl release of Between Darkness and light to be out in a few weeks ! We’re super excited about it because they will look fantastic and they’ve managed to capture the essence and idea of the whole album concept.
In the present we know Catalonia for its quest for independence from Spain. What is your opinion in this difficult situation for all sides? Is it really better to break with Europe?
E.C: Well, a big majority of Catalans have always said that they wanted to vote on this issue in a referendum. And that’s the key to everythin. People must have the right to vote and decide on as many issues as possible. I think that when you forbid asking questions, it is because you fear the answers. I was with my dad in front of our polling place on October 1st. We were all watching the terrible images coming from other cities and next to me i had people who didn’t even know what to vote for but, for all of us, defending our right to express ourselves was way more important than the direction of the vote. I’m not sure I can answer you about Europe but sometimes when I see the reaction of “Europe” and certain things like all the refugee matters, I ask myself if it isn’t actually them who have already broken with the people they should represent…
With bands like Toundra, Astralia, Mardemarmo, AtletA, 12Twelve, OdeOnDreams…., Spain (and especially Catalonia) has a lot of post-rock-bands. Are you perhaps in contact with this scene?
C: As I’ve said before, I feel part of a local musical movement, which has little to do with Barcelona, and instead has taught me a lot. For example, a little festival called St. Feliu Fest, where I discovered Cult of Luna, The Ocean, Celeste and Planes Mistaken for Stars; I still find it as the most avant-garde festival ever made in Catalonia, and it took place in a little coastal town full of tourists in the summer. Tourists who didn’t know the bands who were playing, even though they were probably from their own countries.
There have also been beautiful experiences with self organized venues following the idea of DIY like “L’Eclèctic”, where we could see all kinds of styles from around the world in a garage rented out by friends of ours. Actually, last November I visited Berlin and I went to Cassiopeia, and it reminded me of L’Eclèctic, but in our area it is difficult to maintain a place like this because of the laws, which aren’t music-friendly.
The most important part for me is the people I talk to day-to-day, people that influence me in the way I understand music, or the way I conceive drums, sharpened and even sacrificing part of the precision, a way I discovered with my emo-punk-rock friends. Also other things I appreciate when I attend small format shows and I listen to drums with no amplification. And of course the screamo masters and legends in our area, Based on a lie.
E.C: I personally know Exxasens very well because we shared the stage together a long time ago with previous bands and since BLAK’s release I got the chance to start talking to the guys from Astralia which are super nice as well as a few other bands. As Carles said, i feel like the most important thing here is if it transcends the scene because it’s about the people. This is a community of people that eat, sleep and breathe music and you can feel and see it whenever you point your finger. Music is like the bridge but people from the bands, organizations, labels and the audience are making possible something that in other genres is hard to imagine.
What’s next for BLAK? Will there be a live presentation and touring? Are there any plans for gigs in Germany?
E.C: We don’t really know what’s coming next but this is actually kind of exciting. Things are happening quite fast and we try to take it step by step. Next thing is definitely Elusive’s vinyl release. The guys from the label, DSORDER and us have been working so much on this vinyl release and we really hope it will please. There will be more live shows and there will be more music but as I said… step by step.