We love it Sun Ra extraterrestrial around here. In fact, there’s nothing more gratifying then getting a release that feels both foreign and intriguing. On the one hand, you know that you’ll have to work hard to really “get it”, on the other hand, you are compelled to do just that, because you know that this will pay off with a beautiful shift in perception. Our latest “space oddity” sighting / hearing is the record cryptically entitled “III” by a trio called UFO ( Michael Anklin, Lukas Huber and Robert Torche). The record is so layered and so multifaceted that describing it really doesn’t make sense. Like how the hell do you describe an acid trip to someone who’s never been experienced? Before we dive into our back and forth with one of the key members, the composer and media artist Lukas Huber, it’s worth mentioning that the trio had some very interesting input during the production process. The record features Fred Frith (guitar), Robert Torche (electronic instr.), Jannik Giger (electronics, grand piano), Raphael Rossé (trombone, sheng), Martin Wyss (upright bass), Adrien Guerne (saxophone, electronics) and more. Also, the very final version of the record was edited and produced by Dimitri Grimm aka Dimlite.
How long did it take you guys to complete this record? It seems like it went through several production cycles before you guys wrapped it up.
Lukas Huber: I guess we started with the planning in early 2015, so two years ago. We then recorded the improvisation sessions, which are the origin of all further steps, between June and September of 2015.
How many people, in total, were involved in making "III"?
Lukas Huber: After taking a look at the artwork – I don‘t know that by heart –, I‘d say that there were at least 14 people involved with working on the artistic content.
Was this a concept or did it just happen to pan out like that?
Lukas Huber: It was a concept. Since free improv is probably the purest performance-genre in music and thus it is somehow a contradiction to record free improv. So we had to find a way to capture what we‘re doing and by letting the recordings pass through several, independent processes, we hoped to come to different solutions on how to deal with this contradiction. Lots of independent processes means lots of people are involved.
When you’re making an improvisation based record, does the final result matter? With most music the aim is to please the listener in some way, but that wasn’t the point here, or was it?
Lukas Huber: The final result matters a lot. We take the medium very seriously, so making a record is something different than playing live for us. And as I said before: It was not the intention to just capture some free improv sessions, it was our intention to make a good record using what we‘re doing as a basis. And since we gave a lot of responsibility to other artists involved in the process it was certainly an aim to please the listener, because somehow we‘re listeners ourselves. But, of course, it’s also about pleasing „outside“ listeners. We didn‘t want to create something elitist.
The final version was put together by Dimlite, right?
Lukas Huber: Yes, he created two tracks himself – based on an improv recording – found a suitable order for the tracks he received, and also found a coherent sound for the whole record.
And why him?
Lukas Huber: Because we all like his music very much, and because his music seemed to be rather far away from what we‘re doing and also because we didn‘t know him personally before. So all preconditions led to a result, that we didn‘t expect.
Did he have full creative reign, like say a remixer would, or was there still a creative exchange between you guys going on till the very end?
Lukas Huber: Like all artists involved he could basically do whatever he wanted, under the condition that he takes the original material seriously. So we asked all artists to start a dialog with the music. With Dim there were of course some long emails and phone calls towards the end of the process, until we all felt, that something interesting finally resulted.
What was it like to hear the finished record?
Lukas Huber: Quite a surprise, in a positive way!
Will you keep this way of working for future releases?
Lukas Huber: No idea, it depends on what we‘re going to do next. We‘re an openly structured band and we‘re constantly looking for new contexts to play music in. The experiences we’ve had on „III“ were quite satisfying, which probably means that we have to move on in order not to get too comfortable.
How do you play this live?
Lukas Huber: It was never the purpose to play this live. The record stands for itself! Of course, the sound colours are often very close to what we‘re doing live, but as I said before, free improv is quite a pure performance-genre. On the other hand, it could be interesting to see what happens, if we try to transform something into a live-version, which originated from a live-event, but then took a completely different shape. We’ll think about it!
So what’s next for UFO?
Lukas Huber: Maybe we‘re going to find a way the play „III“ live!? Besides that, I guess there‘s probably a change of direction coming. We‘d like to see how we can use the knowledge we gained from this in different contexts – after all this was one of the main reasons why we founded UFO in the first place.