Paul Gough (aka Pimmon) is a recluse whose rare appearances are worth gold in these parts (Sydney). He lives somewhere in the suburbs where he is raising a family while working as a senior engineer for a popular radio station.
Pimmon has released a number of tracks on various labels including Meme, ERS and flash with releases due on Fat Cat and Tigerbeat. His music has been given much attention as it slides it way into the minimal/maximal/cracked media/drone/noise/looped/sequenced soundscapes. Often very hard on the ears, time is lost and found, place is raised and lowered.
The interview took place over an e-mail exchange, questions were asked and answered, then answers questioned.
caleb.k: I have seen a couple of references (very vague) to your past in some sort of 80's limited edition cassette release type outfit. Is this the case?
Pimmon: Well, yes... I've been creating experimental soundscapes since '82, when I guess Severed Heads were an early influence. I released a cassette wrapped in a cut up safety boot, wrapped in plastic... it was horrid...! bad drum machines, cut n' collage radio/TV edits, Korg Ms20 boiling along... and sped up vocals... quite ridiculous, but I had fun making it.
caleb.k: What was the name of the outfit??
Pimmon: errrr... not sure if I want to say, it really was quite awful...
caleb.k: Tell me a bit about the process of creating your music as Pimmon, the equipment, how the sounds are made. Do you think that a knowledge of the process adds to a reading of your work. That is, do you think there is a need to concern oneself with the technical side of this music?
Pimmon: I'm quite haphazard in my approach... I use a mixture of altered samples/found sounds... by that I mean sounds rendered using software, tape manipulation... computer generated sounds... and non-audio computer files. My process is to take these soundbites and layer them both manually and using software until a skeletal structure is formed, I then improvise around this framework... I do this mainly to analog tape, I guess it's a throwback to how I've always worked, some tracks however are entirely composed on the laptop.
I'm an audio addict, always wanting the next new release, I appreciate the sounds for what they are and never try to imagine process. I try to listen to the work as a whole and enjoy it for what it is... that's what I do. Others are fascinated with the process, how did you achieve this, why did you do that, what source did you use... in general I don't think it's that important... if you wish to know how specific work is achieved, I don't mind telling, but mostly I probably won't remember... I don't take notes, I go into a "frenzied state"... afterwards I often find myself wondering how the hell I got there. The W&P CD, "Moosehoch" is a prime example of this, I was like the Mad Professor cut loose. I still don't know exactly how it came about...
caleb.k: In an e-mail interview with pita he said, "good audio is always graphic."
Pimmon: I don't try and imagine the "process by which the sound is created", for me the methodology is not the important thing, rather the end result. I can in my minds eye see a series of images when I hear sounds, as a field of reference I guess.
caleb.k: I think you mean that you treat sound as sound without trying to give it meaning. Am I right in thinking this and if so do you see this as a modernist approach, as an approach that might be linked with John Cage and his all sound as music thing.
Pimmon: I think sound can have a vision or image as a result of sound itself, rather than a desire to create a certain image. To that end you may align me to a school of "sound belief". I have to say I set out to create textures and palates of sounds in a way that is pleasing to me. I've read references to Cage and Imaginary Landscapes, for me, it's a case of creating those... but with no real specific in mind. When I create I submerge into a sort of frenetic state, in some cases not even aware afterwards how I managed to do things. This is not a drug induced state. This is a sort of creative urge that takes place and carries me along, often the end result is far more chaotic than I imagined it would be.
What I'm saying is that my process is an intuitive one, often the end result has a life of its own. If people choose to see a "graphic" or vision in the work, so be it. I personally measure what I do by my ear rather than a set of codes/patterns.
caleb.k: How did you hook up with meme and the other labels who are releasing your music?
Pimmon: I have been recording electronic "soundscapes" since the 80's, other than my own cassette release, I felt no urge to release anything. I became more and more convinced that my material was either not good enough or had no relevance. I guess on reflection that was the right stance at the time. In recent years I have been happy with the output, but never had the courage to send it anywhere. It was Dylan and Nathan from the Tenement Gallery in Melbourne that gave me the impetus, having been accepted in the last 50 Turntable exhibition, I then had a crack at live performance. The positive comments after were enough to take a risk, I sent a CDR to Meme and Atsushi was writing back saying he wanted to release my CD! This was incredible. I guess Meme was a form of currency after that, labels showed interest based on that release and offered to release my material.
caleb.k: I am listening to frouuquenzen as loud as my stereo will let me, ie not very loud. The bass end is fully distorting and vibrating, sending rumbles and fear for the speakers through me. How do you see your music listened to? How would you like to see it heard? As in, on a stereo, very quiet/loud, live.
Pimmon: Yes, the bass in that is pretty scary... I like that, there is a distortion there that some may frown at, but it is an important part of the work... as far as how I see it listened to by others, I have no great concern. I either like it loud or on headphones, definitely as background material. Live is always fun, because there are little things I often forget about that come back, that's when I smile...
caleb.k: Can it be background music... often I have had it on while trying to do other things but it made it very hard to work... except when writing about it... there are only a few musics which do this ie Fennesz, pita etc. So what do you mean by definitely background?
Pimmon: I fear you may be taking what I say too literally! I was merely saying that I don't mind at which level people choose to listen. Obviously, the more effort put in will yield a greater depth... I like to layer what I do, there are some tracks that appear to be something, but closer listening reveals hidden levels... I'm finding more recently an obvious repetitive layer that below has a different set of operating criteria...this isn't necessarily a conscious choice, more a level at which I work.
caleb.k: You have a very low profile in Sydney but I have heard you have quite a following in Europe, do you see yourself playing live more often or are you happy to release your sounds on albums.
Pimmon: Do I have a profile in Europe? Good ! Hope I can use it as collateral one day... the home town scenario is a reflection on my own shyness when it comes to my work, I have improved a lot in the last year, but basically it's a kind of fear. I played once in Sydney and it was quite nerve racking... but yes, I do enjoy live performance. There are a few issues for me to deal with. Firstly, the venues are few and far between... not really into performing in pubs, venues where the audience are actually interested in listening... more "casual, loungeroom" settings... Secondly, the visual aspect of the "performance" seems uninteresting. I read once about a laptop performer, the audience thought he was reading his email...!
caleb.k: Often even this sort of music is treated as background entertainment. Like at the sigma eds release most people ignored the music, treating it much as you would a dj... they were much more interested in catching up... this is fine and it showed that there aren't enough things on here which bring these people together... but at the same time how hard is it to sit still for 3 40min slots and listen, think etc and not talk... the soundparticle (http://www.laudanum.net/soundparticle/) events were more along the lines of what I would like to see... people where silent during both size and minit... very silent as in if someone spoke they got evil looks...
Pimmon: I guess I've performed very few times, the times I have and enjoyed it were not pub experiences. Obviously they expect more rock gesticulation in that setting and the sense of theatrics are expected more... I wouldn't rule out a pub gig, but I guess I wouldn't expect much response...
So I like the concept of "listening venues", perhaps the time scales need to be changed, several shorter slots over the course of the evening... to allow time to reflect, interact... etc.... I enjoyed the Minit soundparticle event, it seemed like the ideal scenario, I guess there needs to be an area where people can go and unwind should the level of concentrating be too great.
caleb.k: There has been talk lately of the aesthetics of the glitch. That is, the way the use of cracked/broken media has come to be a bit of a genre of sorts... thinking of course of Mego especially. Your music seems to cross into this genre while keeping a toe hold in the drone/looped sounds thing. We have the constant tones underneath over which the clips/cracks/snaps playout. So your music seems not too distant from the likes of the sigma editions crowd while also coming close to the noise/glitch sound of Mego. What are your thoughts on all this?
Pimmon: In all my efforts I'm firstly pleasing my own ear, and both the Sigma and Mego camps are ones I enjoy. I don't set out to emulate any given sound "scene", which is reflected in the diversity of my work. Recent discussions on the Microsound e-list speak of "glitch artists" aiming at more short works... I have no agenda towards length of work, neither do I deliberately minimise sound. I love a lot of improvised music, non electronic drones, as well as "the sound of Mego", so this will also come through in my work.
The track "Depended On [Off]" is a case where after recording a track on a multitrack machine, at a given point, the VU metre started oscillating wildly... some kind of error pulse had been generated [not sure how, I'm not technically minded] I immediately hit record and had a genuine unintentional rhythm with which to work. From there it was a case of letting loose and improvising around this "found sound".
I like elements of microsound or lowercase music, but I can't honestly put myself in that camp. I feel my sounds are more a zoom in perspective of what appear to be smaller sounds, once in this space there is much micro activity, which is busier than it first appears.
Pimmon can be contacted at: email@example.com
caleb.k is a doctoral candidate at The University of Technology, Sydney, writing on contemporary electronic(a) music and sound/noise/music. He is also curator of l'audible, a real audio archive of contemporary Australian and New Zealand audio, and writes an irregular electronic column, pfe
caleb.k can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org