Showcase: Elyas Khan
Published on September 27th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
We loved Elyas Khan’s recent “Bells” single, awarding it four quails in a recent singles round-up and describing it in the following terms:
Lovely shuffly rhythm section propping this one up, lovely laid-back drawl to the vocal, lovely subtle melodic progression, psychedelic shower at its conclusion…that’s four counts of lovely, each of which merits its very own quail.
We likey. Who is this chap? We intend to find out.
We did good by our word. JDs and lentil men, Mr Elyas Khan…
How would you describe your music, if pushed?
“Click, Click Blam!!!” Or, said to the person doing the pushing: “It’s an antidote for people like your lame ass who keep pushing other people!” I try to be calm in most situations but I cannot abide with anyone pushing me, especially when it comes to music: it’s my only real refuge. Pushing in any other realm I just accept as normal.
Ok, I got that out. My apologies. Grew up in London. I was just obsessing on the “pushed” aspect. I would say: Ecstatic Music For Savage Souls.
Where are you based, and what do you use to record with?
I live in Berlin after working for over twenty years in New York. I use whatever I can to record with. First my brain, my memory. I listen and record the best I can. I try to purposefully account for what it is I have heard that day.
I then may pull out my little camera and get the sound and image down, or use my portable four-track, sampler, cassette recorder or what have you to get different qualities and textures… Then it’s pretty much the same as everyone who has a computer. Mostly Pro Tools for me and whatever plug-ins there are.
I like processing signals with hardware as opposed to software because I like clunky, twiddly, heavier and more tactile approaches. I play a variety of instruments so one day it could be piano or an old Indian folk single string banjo or guitar, bass or whatever. I start a lot on percussion and drums also.
Are you signed to a label? If so, how did you come to their attention?
Yes. I work with two label partners. Vicious Circle from Bordeaux, France; I knew them because 3Ctour, my Booker of eight years now, is also based there. I was signed to Naive in Paris with my NYC based crew called Nervous Cabaret and so I got to see and play in a lot of France and Europe.
After I left the band behind in NYC I had to go solo and so I just kept recording and doing the rounds until something clicked. It’s the same thing with BBE from London. I met the owners of that label in Berlin but it was not until one of them heard my demo of “Bells” in Casablanca on holiday that serious negotiations started.
I like it because they are small, frugal and have been running for a long time. I can relate to them and learn at a more comfortable pace than previously. Although it’s a business and not the most lucrative either, with seemingly endless investments on my part with very little financial payoff, so it’s not always all that comfortable. You’ve got to love it for sure.
Is there a full album in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it? (Feel free to be as abstract as you like…)
Yes: “Brawl In Paradise” is its title. It should be out in late September. It took three years to make. I holed up on top the old East German Radio Station Headquarters in Berlin and went to work. Unlike in New York where I had been since my early twenties, this space was full of light and the view was of the whole city. I set up all my gear along the windows looking out and went to work.
The album in part reflects that view but also an inner gaze and then again a much more expansive outer vision. I was studying, channeling, meditating. It was time to not have any inhibitions and just go for what fascinates me most: sound, vision, imagination, study, discipline, steady creation etc…
Where can we hear your music online?
Start at www.elyaskhan.com – I’m actually starting to enjoy having it since I can now program it and drive everyone to a central place from which they can, and will, wander off.
In GB one can also go directly to the label site.
Which have been your most exciting gigs and/or overall moments so far?
I like playing generally. In NYC Nervous Cabaret we would gig 170 times a year just in the city. We played anywhere, everywhere. Some of the early gigs in a cellar taco joint run by a crooked cop in Brooklyn were my favs. Hookers, dealers, hungry locals, radical lesbians, corporate artists, coked-up Wall street types and us… You couldn’t beat it.
That and the Louvre Museum in Paris where we were invited to headline the Jardin des Tuileries. My parents came all the way from Minneapolis which is where they now live. It was a lovely moment.
Got any more coming up? (Gigs, that is…) Yes, we play fairly steadily now.
Check www.elyaskhan.com/tour/ for the latest. I also compose for a play at the Ballhaus Naunyn Strasse in Berlin and a gangster feature film from Paris called Eden. I’m constantly recording so there will be plenty of singles, B-side material and limited EPs coming up…
Are there any obscure and/or up-and-coming acts that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?
Not sure how obscure these are but I started an event I called “Elyas Khan’s Memory Selektor”.
In any given city I invite some fav musicians to a record store I am fond of and we pull out records and get to the DNA of “music that made us” by focusing on sections and repeating them or just talking about them or slowing them down, sampling, reversing and really digging in.
Apart from that, all time favs include Sxip Shirey, Deerhoof; French band Shunatao and Feloche, my homegirl from Brooklyn who sings on my last track, Saudia Young, Modeselektor and Siriusmo from Berlin who just kill it on the IDM tip. Jackson and His Computer Band. I could go on… and on ;)
Finally, if you were forced to spend the rest of your days in solitary confinement, but were allowed to bring the entire works of five different artists along to tide you over, whose would you choose?
Moondog, Robert Wyatt, Sabri Brothers, Arvo Pärt, Bach, Tom Waits. You said six right? ;)
Elyas Khan, thank you.