VENTS – Hi Michael, welcome to VENTS!

MKL – Thank you for having me.

VENTS – How have you been?

MKL – I have been very well, if a bit overwhelmed lately (usually).  I tend to have a hard time slowing down and taking any kind of break… so, even though everything is really fine and well in my kingdom… I feel a bit overwhelmed by possibility.  I think that would be a good way to describe it.

VENTS – How has the road been treating you so far?

MKL – We got home a few days ago, and it was amazing.  I am going to be back out on the road in January, through the south and midwest of the United States with Timber Rattle.  So, I am kind of in a strange one-month gap between tours.  If it were only a week or two, I would try to just relax and recuperate my energies before heading back out.  But, as there is a little over a month in between, I am feeling compelled to work on projects… but, there is not really enough time to complete anything.  So, it has been a strange month.  Also, I have accepted my end of tour tradition of becoming ill as soon as I get home (sigh).

VENTS – Any highlights?

MKL – For me, the best part of tour is revisiting places I’ve played before and I love seeing new places as well. But, the highlight for me is seeing friends.  I’ve been touring in Europe, and especially Italy, since 2003.  So, I have developed a lot of close friendships with people I only see once every year or two.  It is wonderful to play a show in a friend’s house where I played many years before and many of the people at that first show are now long-time friends and have even become parents now so the whole thing is like visiting family for me.  To play a show and someone tells me they saw me XX years ago and it was a revelation for them and changed their life is really nice to hear too.

That is why I tour, to establish community and to find commonality with people around the world.  To communicate and share; and European audiences tend to be a little older and have more to converse and share regarding their thoughts on my performance and such…there is a lot of nice conversation that happens.

Also, this was the first major tour that I did with my best friend and tour manager, Carrie.  And her first trip overseas, so that was a lot of fun to share with her and for her to meet all my friends and favourite spots and try so many different foods and drinks.  She is the one who keeps me healthy and sane on the road.

VENTS – After being on the scene for such a long time – how has all these influence your live work?

MKL – After many hundreds of performances, I have become very fluid in my response to the evening, to the space, and to the needs of the present and its specialness.  I used to be very nervous and easily upset when I performed…it was enjoyable in one way, but also very hard for me.  But now I feel, at this point in my life, that I have become more stoic and present in my approach to performance (and life, in general) and performing is very enjoyable and personally powerful for me.  I have this set up and idea of what to play, and once I begin to perform, I listen to the moment and react to its needs instead of my needs.  And so, the performance can go anywhere it wants or needs to, and can respond to the needs of a particular context; a festival room with a huge sound system and 100 people is very different than what is needed in living room with no sound system and a dozen people, for example.

In this respect, I love both ends of the spectrum.

VENTS – Do you tend to take a different approach when collaborating with someone else rather than working on your own?

MKL – Yes and no.  Again, it is all about listening and responding to the moment.  But, in collaboration I tend to try to respond sympathetically to the other person (or people), building a movement that works towards embellishing the highlights of the whole.  Whereas, when I am reacting to my own material, I have much less of a problem climbing on top of the whole building and razing it to the ground in a catharsis of derailment, if the spirit overtakes me. Hah!

VENTS – With your work relying a lot on the cinematic and experimental approach – how does these gets to translate into your live performances?

MKL – Much of my recorded material is built up using various live recordings as a launching pad, so there is a fluid exchange between the live performance and the studio work.  And to my work in general, I have a large library of recordings that I use extensively in new and different ways over time. I create works using recordings from various sources; then I use some of these works in the live performances…which in turn may end up being used in a new work.  And so on.

I like to focus on small moments and sounds, evocations of silence, and visualized sounds that evoke filmic thought.  While performing, I am generally not aware of what is going on in the audience or venue, beyond my immediate headspace…so, while listening and responding to the work in progress, I am thinking in terms of plot, mood, and narrative similarly to the prospect of scoring an actual film.  And I love, love, love when someone comes to me after the performance and tells me stories of what they were imagining visually while listening to my set.

VENTS – Is it much riskier for you to experiment and try new things just randomly on one show or do you actually do some preparation before bringing something new to your gigs?

MKL – I take risks all the time, for sure.  My actual set up is very prepared and has not changed much in a decade, really.  So, I am very, very familiar with my gear and it frees me up to be able to perform and respond intuitively without having to give much thought to the tangible ‘turn this knob’, ‘turn down that mic’ end of things.

But, for instance on this recent tour, a few pieces of my gear began failing over the course of the tour and I was forced to compensate and rework my set up on the fly, sometime mid-show.  I loved it though, it was a forcing of the hands of chance and an opening up to new ways of exploring ideas that had become a bit too comfortable.

I have the building blocks for each work prepared beforehand, but I’d say my performances are 15%-30% composition and the rest is listening and improvisation within those compositions…although, some nights the compositions are completely discarded for 100% improvisation.

Most of my works are begun as live experiments or responses to material given to me by a collaborator.

VENTS – What are you looking forward the most?

MKL – Just seeing how this whole thing plays out…life.  It is an interesting thing to see unfold.

VENTS – What else is happening next in DREKKA’s world?

MKL – This was the third year of my doing Drekka full time, so it has been super rewarding and life affirming to be able to start another one!  2019 was a very productive year for me, with over 20 releases of some kind or another and some nice touring.  Next year should be pretty great, as well.  Less releases, but more touring!

I am also always working on many releases for my label and others.  I am currently mastering a new R.O.T. album for Morc Records, and have tapes coming up this spring by Sex Funeral, Kyle Quass, Sky Thing, and Z’ev/De Waard/Nÿland, on my Orphanology label.  Also working on a boxset by Lightning White Bison, a sister project to Timber Rattle, on my label Bluesanct.

In Drekka land, I am working on a few vinyl re-issues of out-of-print releases, and slowly working on finishing up the third LP in the “Tarwestraat” trilogy for Dais Records.

People can do a search for ‘Mkl Drekka’, and find me on the social media of their choice to stay updated on stuff.

RJ Frometa
Author: RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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