Interview with Sean Baxter (Pateras/Baxter/Brown)


I did this email interview with Sean Baxter last weekend for the street press. They’re launching their new trio album Gauticle (on Synaesthesia) with Francis Plagne and Walls/Fusinato/Ambarchi at the Spanish Club in Melbourne this Sunday night. It’s the last show they’ll be doing for at least 6 months as Pateras is off overseas If you’re in Melb it will be well worth checking out, if not here’s a bit of context for the album:

Bob: You’ve played together a lot more since you recorded the 1st album. Has this live experience altered much in the way you approached your second album?

SB: Our second album was recorded on tour in Europe late in 2004. The first session was at the BBC and coincided with the start of the tour. At that stage, we had played intently in Melbourne, and the recordings from that session reflect, in many ways, some of the stuff we were doing then. Also, we were provided with some killer equipment, including and awesome Premier 24 inch kickdrum with an amazingly deep resonance. So the London sessions are a combination of stuff we were trying at home before the tour and explorations contingent on the equipment we were supplied and the acoustics of the studio we recorded in. The fact that the studio we recorded in was the same one used by Napalm Death for their Peel Session back in the late 80s early 90s was not lost on us by the way. The sessions recorded in Vienna, were more the result of what we had been exploring musically on the road in Europe. This session was recorded at Christoph Amann’ studio in Vienna about 2 weeks after the BBC session. By this stage, we’d played about 12 gigs in various countries throughout Europe on some vastly different equipment (great pianos and shit pianos, great bass drums and shit bass drums, etc, but all with unique properties). During the Vienna recording session, we were very aware that the quality of the instrument was not as important as the approach to preparing that instrument or applying varied extended techniques to it. So, we approached this session very much from a purely sonic level—how could the available sounds be integrated with one another, and how could we still create a coherent and musically identifiable Trio sound-world given the continuous variations in equipment? Similarly, we were excited to play on strange equipment because this allowed, or more precisely, forced us to explore new sounds and how they could be integrated into our group. I think it was this aspect, more than any other, which differentiates the second album from the first.

Bob: In fact has this or anything else altered what your original intention was for the project?

SB: Our original intention has not altered since we began. We’ve always been interested in exploring a shared sound world through extended technique. The idea being that that these three very familiar acoustic instruments, each with traditionally unique sonic identities, have been approached by us in ways where their sounds become very unfamiliar. All this to the point where it is often difficult to tell even which performer is producing which sound. Being forced to use unfamiliar tools has only compounded this desire and strengthened the original intent.

Bob: Do you talk much before you play? Is there a set list of songs these days or is it still very much improvised? If it is how do you communicate any sense of parameters before you play?

SB: It is all still freely improvised on the spot. Occasionally, we will impose some parameters such as duration or structure. For example, in one set we might play three 15 minute improvisations all of which feature a solo at the end by each of us. So, one song will end with a piano solo, the next with a guitar solo, and the final song of the set with a drum solo, for instance. Apart from fairly general limitations like that, we strive to develop the pieces themselves, in the moment, through intense concentration and reactive listening.

Bob: The last few times I’ve seen you guys play I’ve been vaguely reminded of gamelan orchestras. Do you draw upon any references in the way in which you approach playing with the trio?

SB: Our sonic references are more abstruse than that, as are our individual and collective influences. We knew from the beginning that there would be this echo or reminiscence of the Gamelan because of the nature of preparing stringed instruments in the way that we do—namely in a very percussive manner where all sorts of microtonically pitched sounds were possible. Speaking for myself, I think that, in terms of timbre, we reference extreme forms of electronic, noise and classical music and are viscerally influenced by extreme metal including grind and doom. I think you can extract sonic references to these areas in any one of our performances,

Bob: How does the notion of improvisation apply to the trio? I remember certain gestures that you have repeated over the last few times I’ve seen you guys play, the dropping of the sticks, tearing the bowl apart etc.

SB: Dropping the sticks and ripping the enamel bowls are just extra sounds in my palette. They are extra-percussive approaches I use to complement and echo sounds that both Anthony and Dave produce through preparations applied to their own instruments.

Bob: Is this the last show in Melbourne for a long time? How have you reconciled Pateras’ relocation?

SB: Yes, this will be the last Trio gig for at least 6 months. Pateras is in Berlin until October, and the Trio will tour Europe again in November/December. We will definitely try and play in the short window between him returning to Melbourne and us embarking on the next Euro tour. In the meantime, we just recorded a new record at the ABC with Chris Lawson on the weekend. So, musically, we’ve got plenty to keep us busy in the meantime.


About Author

Bob is the features editor of Cyclic Defrost. He is also evil. You should not trust the opinions of evil people.

1 Comment

  1. yolanda biplane on

    call me naive .. but how does Synaesthesia keep releasing records when they owe so much money to small labels that are struggling to survive ? Rather ironic ..