¨Feels almost like a travelogue with a beginning and end more cinematic I guess¨
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Sam Prekop, one of the most important figures of Chicago’s experimental music scene, released his fourth solo record, The Republic through Thrill Jockey in February. The Republic is Prekop’s second album based on modular synthesizers. Offering listeners sonic sound experiments, it's easy to get lost in the record with a mood reminiscent of Prekop’s early solo works and his records with The Sea And Cake.
We had a chance to speak with the creator of this record, Sam Prekop.
This is the second Sam Prekop album based on modular synthesizers. Since it’s a What has changed in your approach to modular synthesizers over the last four years?
Writing and working on Old Punch Card was a real breakthrough of sorts for me, it really opened up numerous possibilities I never thought would have existed in my music, so a real exciting time for me. The Republic I feel is a distillation of some of the ideas I arrived at on Old Punch Card but also a jumping off point, also working directly with David Hartt's film was cause for a different approach. My synth has expanded a bit , so I had some new tools that inspired some different strategies as well.
The first nine songs of the album are called ‘’The Republic’’, with numbers at the end. What’s the thing that keeps these nine songs apart from the other songs in the album?
The first side of the record is a soundtrack actually and I wanted to keep the score intact so I think of it as one piece really, a suite perhaps, nine movements.
Somehow The Republic sounds a little darker than Old Punch Card. What are the differences that you observe when you compare your last two albums, Old Punch Card and The Republic?
For me Old Punch Card is more abstract in essence, but I guess less "dark", more playful in a way. A big difference for me was letting more rhythmic centric ideas rise to the fore with less of a cut and paste approach on The Republic. With Old Punch Card, I felt I was deliberately disrupting the flow whenever possible, looking for improbable juxtapositions, going for an almost free improvised feel. The Republic, I think evolves more organically and feels almost like a travelogue with a beginning and end more cinematic I guess.
Sound-wise ‘’Weather Vane’’ stands in the center of the album. Can you tell us about the creation of The Republic? How did these songs and sounds emerge?
The record began as a soundtrack project, but feeling that work was strong I felt it was a good idea to see if i could pull off a full record. So when I finished the soundtrack I just kept going, from beginning to end I probably spent about four months or so. My process involves a lot of improvising just trying things out generating a lot of raw material, and then seeing what comes of it, in certain situations a piece will arrive mostly complete it seems, almost by accident and automatically. ¨Weather Vane¨ would have been one of these sorts of pieces.
When I listened to The Republic for the first time, I noticed some traces in songwriting that reminds me of some ideas from your first two solo albums. The idea of re-arranging some of the early songs from your discography with this approach excites me a lot as a listener.
Haven't thought of that, could be interesting, but will admit I'm not really the type that looks back to rework material, I almost never listen to my older material. Always looking forward to the next record.
How did you start to have interest in electronics this deeply? Do you remember the first time you play modular synthesizer?
John McEntire is a long time synth obsessive so through him I was hooked, he has an amazing collection of synths and The Sea And Cake records are riddled with modulars, it's maybe not immediately obvious but we've always been real modular synth enthusiasts.
What about the mixture of your electronic approach and your vocals. Have you ever tried to sing on these songs?
A lot of the recent Sea And Cake material began as modular synth ideas actually, that we would have then expanded upon, a good example is "Inn Keeping" from the Moonlight Butterfly record, the core of the song is a sequencer line everything else works around it and expands from it including the vocals.
You seem to enjoy experimenting with new sounds. Do you think that you’ll make new albums with guitars and vocals in the near future?
Yes I am really into this "new" pallet, but I don't feel it has to be absolutely separate from the more song oriented material, they absolutely influence each other, there are pieces on The Republic that could have been the basis for a Sea And Cake song. I will admit that not singing on a piece is has been somewhat liberating as of late, but singing poses specific challenges that I don't feel I'll ever tire of.
The photo in the album cover creates a great contradiction with the sound of The Republic. What’s the story behind the cover?
The cover photo is by David Hartt and the image accompanied his film, that was part of his installation piece, I think the cat photo was taken in Athens out on the street,
You’re one of the most important figures of experimental music scene in Chicago. Do you follow the new bands from Chicago? When you compare today’s scene to 15-20 years ago, what kind of similarities do you see?
I have to admit I don't feel terribly active in the "scene" as of late. I've got two little kids, so spend a lot of time at home with them! There has been somewhat of a modular scene developing in Chicago, I suppose every where now, but there are some people doing good stuff in that realm lately, also I'm a big fan of Dead Rider who have been playing quite a bit lately.
You’re about to start a two-months tour at the end of April. And as far as I know Archer Prewitt will join you on live shows. Can you give us some clues about your recent live shows? Do you play songs from older albums as well?
Yes Archer's playing with me on this tour, what happens is we'll do a long modular based piece where Archer will play along in a supportive role, mainly guitar drone and texture sorts of things, we've also come up some new guitar instrumental pieces and we'll be playing very stripped down versions of stuff from my first two solo records as well as some Sea And Cake material.
Finally, is there a European tour in the near future?
Hopefully in the fall.