An interview with
Lorenzo Matellán & Razl

By Beppe Colli
Feb. 11, 2014

"What a nice surprise! Here's a CD featuring creative music which sounds fresh and full of life - a combination that's quite uncommon these days -, said album coming all the way from Spain (will wonders ever cease?)."

This being the opening passage of my review of Architecture Of The Absurd, which interested readers can access right here on Clouds and Clocks, said album being discussed at great length.

Meanwhile, I was very curious to know more about the duo, so I decided to get in touch with them: Lorenzo Matellán, on keyboards, synths, and engineering; Razl, mostly on guitar and vocals.

And so, last week, I sent my Qs via e-mail.

"Mucho thanks" to Carolina Mateo, my "linguistic intermediary" for a Spanish interview... in English.

As a first topic of our conversation, I'd like you to talk about the way your new album, Architecture Of The Absurd, took shape. Since I assume that many compositional ideas were finalized in the studio, I'd like you to talk about this stage, too (which, given the complexity of the music, and the abundance of instrumental and vocal layers, must have been quite a strain in financial terms!).

We're lucky because Lorenzo Matellán owns a recording studio where we made most of the work. The composition process never followed a system. Most of the material was composed by Razl and was completed with ideas coming from studio improvisations like sketches Lorenzo came up with.

So again, we were very fortunate to have the studio available without having to think about time or external pressure. We were free to work around, for example, the vocal character and harmonies and sculpt synthesizer sounds or apply effects during mixing on drums or bass. This gave us some peace of mind and helped the music a lot (although the music can be sort of crazy sometimes).

I'd like to know how you came to choose Damian Erskine and Marco Minnemann as the featured players for your album.

The first idea was to contact Marco. At first we had our own drummer in the band, but because of musical differences he left the project and we spoke about contacting Marco almost as a joke, as he is probably one of the best drummers we could think of for a project like this. We sent him some of our demos through Bryan Beller (who had already worked on Razl's album Microscopic) and we were extremely surprised when he said he liked it and he was willing to record with us. So we set out to give the most detailed tracks we could. There was even a song that we wrote on the same week Marco began the recording.

Our next move was to contact Damian who had also previously collaborated on one of Razl's albums. He is a great musician and a great guy, and he offered to record his parts without hesitation.

The challenge for us was living up to these two great musicians. In our opinion they have actually improved our ideas, but they knew exactly what they had to do because they dominate these styles so perfectly.

I'm also curious about the practical conditions when it comes to their playing on the album: were they given written parts, and complete arrangements, in the form of digital files? Did they record their contributions at your studio? And how did you manage to integrate so successfully their contributions in your "sound"?

Once we decided the songs for Marco and Damian to be recorded, we prepared the material as perfectly as we could. You can say that our "demos" were exact copies of what you hear on the CD, but without drums or bass (just with a very detailed programmed bass and drums). All the arrangements were there; only the vocals were still in a gibberish language, but with harmonies included, as this was a very important aspect to understand the songs.

Next we wrote the parts with the harmony and mandatory elements, and let the musicians be as free as they wanted to. That's why we think the music sounds so natural, the freedom to perform the way they liked... without ties.

I seemed to detect a certain similarity of parts of your album to the music of such names as Frank Zappa, Mike Keneally, and Gentle Giant (and odd time signatures in general, as something peculiar to "Prog"). But "detecting a similarity" does not necessarily imply "finding one's influences". So, who do you regard as being an influence when it comes to the music on this album?

Our influences are very diverse, not only from "Prog", but of course Frank Zappa and Gentle Giant are examples we've heard hundreds of times and of course they show themselves in our music. Actually our only aim was to enjoy everything and create themes completely free from complexes or conditions. Over time, it seems like many musicians tend to calm down and soften, but our case is just the opposite. We enjoy ourselves more with a dirty sound, with a surprise factor, with changing atmospheres and with the unusual. We could make a long list of groups or musicians who encourage us, but we would never finish it...

I'd really like to know more about your individual musical trajectories up to now.

Lorenzo has been a tireless seeker of "no one knows what". His first bands, The Teagarden and The Flame Proof Machine were influenced by progressive psychedelic music from the late sixties and improvisation (Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd or the early Soft Machine) but over the years he has been developing different musical genres, composing, producing and recording several records of Funk, Nu-Soul or even Hip Hop, to feel somehow that he must come back to the beginning. He worked in bands like Guateque All Stars and produced artists like Ikah, along with his work as a sound engineer with the band Single (awarded in 2011 as the best live sounding band in Spain).

Razl started in Prog and Rock-Funk related bands, Living Colour style. He has been combining the study of the guitar with composition for audiovisuals: cinema, animation and videogames. In 2008 he released his first solo album, Rotonova, where you can find musicians like Mike Keneally, Bryan Beller or Dan Brown, in a Jazz-Funk mood. In 2011 he released Microscopic, a power trio record more focused on Alternative Jazz Rock, with Bryan Beller on bass. Both records were exceptionally well received in specialized media.

Listening to Architecture Of The Absurd, I'm almost sure there's a "concept", somewhere. I'd like to know more about the album's "conceptual framework", the function of the lyrics, and the way they are supposed to work in tandem with the music.

It is somewhat true that the album has a thread that links it all together. What happens is that thread is quite complex because it is born out of our "sick" minds, where of course it makes perfect sense, but we don't believe the general public can understand that concept as such. The lyrics are about real life experiences most of the times, but translated into our own language. They can talk about moral and religion like in Sunny View, or about the end of the world like in Thylacine, or panic attacks issues as in Under A Black Cloud, but we try our lyrics to have a theatrical context, as a film whose images are music and characters appear to tell a story, the actors.

Both of you appear to possess good technical skills. Once upon a time, mastering one's instrument was considered a plus, and a certain number of those who listened to music and attended concerts appeared to appreciate what could be referred to as the "technical side" of music. Nowadays, audiences don't appear to be so inclined. Judging from your experience, what's your take on this?

We can't say what's the general public opinion, but sure we can talk about our perception.

There was a time when technique seemed to be everything, to the point that the technique eclipsed some of the talent distilled in some musicians (in our humble opinion).

Of course it is very important to have the best knowledge on your instrument, as it is with the music you are playing. As you learn more and acquire musical tools, you will increase your composition and interpretation skills. But technique isn't everything, attitude is a very important thing too and also the way you use your knowledge (whether it's huge or small).

In our album, for example, there are some occasions where sounds or musical ideas came directly by accident or even by chance, there's nothing about technique there. We are aware that you need good technical skills to perform some passages, but the point is to give these passages sense and emotion, not pristine performance on every note.

We are attracted to these mistakes and accidents. We are human (sort of) and if we feel the music sound "too perfect" then something's wrong for us. In fact our performances are far from perfect, we don't want to lose this essence.

As we know, yesterday's financial model is no more. So, what's in store for musicians who want to be paid for their music? What kind of compensation scheme do you foresee when it comes to your career in music, and music in general?

We've been working in the music industry for many years, for better or worse, and we have directly witnessed the changes on the music business model. In our opinion there are two ways of pursuing this: one is as a "professional" musician, trying to make a living and therefore trying to cover every style no matter what one enjoys. You have to be very good technically, work hard and be very good at public relations. It's very respectable, but it's not what we know how to do.

The other option is to make music, trying to enjoy as much as possible and to strive to keep going. But above all it's about creating something that you can be proud of. Finance this, making it known, it's a hard work too, but the few benefits that it could give you are priceless.

Of course, everyone's idea is to get as far as possible, but music must be above everything. For decades money has disrupted many things in the music world, but maybe it is not so bad to think that right now this is something more "handmade". It is very important to have an infrastructure that will help you launch your creations, but it is more important to support your creativity and not what a "hypothetical" public might expect from you.

We don't know what the future of the music industry will be, but we do have the feeling that it is still looking for something that has been lost, while lots of bands are financed by themselves or rely on minority platforms run by people who are passionate about music.

Who do you regard as doing good work right now when it comes to music? (Also... architecture, and other arts, if you wish so.)

We are usually on track of the artistic styles we're interested in. Nowadays the Internet is the perfect platform to discover all kinds of talents. People with amazing creative capabilities that keep calling our attention. Musically we find bands sometimes like the wonderful Man Man. Some other times we discover bands with some work and records behind and we ask ourselves, how come we didn't discover them before?

Lorenzo is into analog devices capable of making any kind of noises, and Razl likes to find new ecologic alternatives and ways to be self-sufficient. Life in general, with all its flaws and virtues, is our real inspiration.

The obligatory question about your projects and plans for the future.

Be millionaires, Prog Rock Superstars and travel around the Universe in general. Meet the Klingons, ask them why Darth Vader became so bad if it wasn't so (Princess Amidala was actually very good), travel in the Alien ship... well, only as long as the Alien is still just a guy in a costume. Simple things.

© Beppe Colli 2014 | Feb. 11, 2014