INTERVIEW: Fides Krucker + Tim Motzer

Pic by Avraham Bank

Hi Fides and Tim, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

FIDES: It has been amazing to have a few weeks off over the winter break to recover from all the time spent teaching voice on Zoom this past fall. I almost feel recalibrated and ready to go for 2021.

TIM: I am doing well, and grateful for the good things. I made it through 2020, and am looking forward to better days ahead in 2021.

Can you talk to us more about your song “Density”?

FIDES: We recorded in August 2017; what a long year it had been since Donald Trump’s election! I switched from listening to the news on the radio to reading it online so as to avoid the sound of his voice. “Density” erupted in the studio after a particularly bleak conversation that Tim and I had about Trump’s presidency and the state of the world more generally. Fear and despair were gnawing at us both. The darkness in this piece feels more a prognostication than a rendering of the moment…

TIM: For me, I think the name “Density” reflects the sound-world that the song inhabits. Fides’s beautiful, lamenting vocals are juxtaposed with my acoustic-electro guitar, textural looping, and electronics. There’s a sense of deep brooding; the song has a weight and a sense of loss. I find that there’s a lapping, wave-like texture to it – an ebb and flow. As we said in the liner notes, it’s about ‘the worlds we’ve lost’… but ultimately, I’d rather the listener use their own imagination as to what this work is about.

FIDES: Yes… it felt like a lament…

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

TIM: I think the album as a whole is talking about loss, and what we are losing in our world, with “Density” being part of that body of work. I should add that this record was composed before the pandemic, so we were more so thinking about climate change, extinction, and other realms of disappearance.

FIDES: Tim and I are the same age — at that moment we were both 57 — raised on opposite sides of our almost 9,000 km Canadian/American border. When we got together in the 1k recording studio we really didn’t know each other but through the week we discovered that we shared art and life values and that we were affected by similar cultural and natural losses. So, not a specific event but a sense of the erosion or decay of human values, of a culture we had believed in, of the most precious things vanishing… icebergs calving at an astonishing rate…

Are there any plans for a video adaptation?

FIDES: We’d love to adapt the entire album! A different filmmaker for each track. Actually we have done a little sleuthing on this front with regards to who we’d like to work with and it’s time we raised some money to make this happen. We would also like to invite choreographers to work with the musical material live.

TIM: Personally, I’d love for the entire album to be video adapted. A part of the focus of our collaboration was to create music for film. We’re looking for a film that can work with this music, or that this music can help a filmmaker express the inexpressible.

“Density” comes off your new album Vanishing – what’s the story behind the album’s title?

FIDES: The title took a fair bit of thought-volleying while drinking tea around Tim’s kitchen island. We toyed with phrases like “The End of the World” because of this sense of goodness being pushed to the fringes of human culture. Eventually “Vanishing” popped up. The word has enough breath to encompass each track.

How was the recording and writing process?

TIM: We improvised and recorded for a week in my studio in Philadelphia. As we continued to work, this music materialized from our improvisations — as spontaneous compositions. As we improvised, the music opened to us more and more. So, most of the album is us improvising live as a duo. I also engineered and mixed the record, with meaningful input each step of the way from Fides. It was a deep process. On a few pieces, including “Density”, Fides responded to the work with multiple vocal overdubs. Percussionist Jeremy Carlstedt provided additional rhythmic shadings on “Density” as well as the title song “Vanishing”.

FIDES: It was quite buoyant despite the weightiness of some of the material. Tim and I have naturally different circadian rhythms. He is the owl and I am the rooster. But still, we managed roughly 2 sessions a day over 5 days. I get up early and walk hard for about an hour. We’d have a late breakfast and then descend into the studio together and get going. We’d talk about our lives, politics, art and then start improvising. My interest was in listening – to how my voice felt in my body, how it blew back within the headset. I find it especially easy to listen to Tim’s sonic choices — textures and melodies and harmonic fields. His work makes sense to me kinaesthetically and emotionally. I was recovering from a tiny, torn strap muscle in my neck that year. My cords were fine, but the coordination of my neck and the kissing of one cord to the other was a bit like an estranged couple wanting to reconcile — tender, chaotic, unpredictable and at times jam packed with sorrow. The way I needed to let the rediscovery of this relationship lead and reveal is part of the emotional gloss of this album. For decades, I have been trying to get out of my own way (neuroses and persona) so as to allow the human animal in me to do the work of conveying what we share as a species. This album allowed me to grow within that desire.

What led you two to team up and do a collaborative record?

TIM: That’s a great story. I regularly collaborate with dancers and choreographers, and in 2017 I was invited to Toronto by choreographer/dancer Peggy Baker to create the soundscape for her solo dance piece at the Theatre Centre. In the planning stages, Peggy said, “Tim, I was thinking, since you are only playing on this single piece, maybe it would be interesting for you to improvise with a different Toronto musician each night after the performance?” Of course, this was a brilliant idea that led to amazing meetings with Toronto musicians and fantastic improvisations each night. The final night I met Fides, and we improvised together for the first time and had immediate musical chemistry. I suggested we should make a record.

FIDES: I have nothing to add, except that I almost chickened out of flying down to Philadelphia, but Tim kindly pointed out that I had set aside one week of my summer for this project and that we should just do it! I am so grateful for his prodding.

How did you guys go balancing each of your influences?

TIM: We simply begin with a sound and a voice and let it develop. It flows like water. I have a deep reservoir of experience collaborating with musicians across many genres, and I always go into each one with a sense of possibility and wonder.

FIDES: Tim is so generous in his appreciation of other musicians, and I think that supports all sorts of freedoms. I am a classical singer by training who found early on that an extended vocal palette and electroacoustic music expressed more of my lived experience. I love muscularity and emotion in music. I am a big fan of discomfort and beauty living side by side. With Tim I never feel like I need to question impulse while creating. He is a vast musical thinker, really available to all sorts of texture. We influence each other quite fluidly without knocking the other off their track… I find it pretty special.

What role does Canada play in your music?

FIDES: I am a Canadian artist who cut her musical teeth in Berkeley, California with the Paul Dresher Ensemble and in Europe with Luciano Berio during the mid to late 80s. However, I chose to come back to Canada in 1990 to see what we were up to as a nation building culture. I was a teenager in the 70s — the time of the great Canadian identity crisis, “Who, and what, are we?” All that political discourse about the two solitudes of French and English Canada. We are finally looking at the genocidal relationship we have had with the Indigenous Peoples of this land, coming to grips with the importance and significance of reconciliation. So… being Canadian? A little wishy washiness (which I don’t mind) married to a perpetual search for identity, even more so as our dominant inherited WASP culture uncomfortably (and necessarily) takes the back seat, making room (I hope) for equality and justice.

TIM: Over the years I’ve toured Canada with Kurt Rosenwinkel Bandit65, Jazzheads with Ari Hoenig, Les Nubians, Ursula Rucker with Questlove, King Britt Sylk130, and Fractal Ark. I’ve always loved the vibe and cultural aesthetic of Canada, in general, having played in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, and Quebec City over the years. I feel like Canadians have a true thirst and respect for the arts. Canada is so close to the United States, yet so completely different. I mean that as a compliment. When Fides and I played over two sold-out nights at the Burdock, I really appreciated the listening audience there. I could feel everyone giving the music full attention. It’s really a special memory. I have many great friends in Canada now, and am always looking forward to coming back.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and “lyrics”?

TIM: I think for this album, like many recordings I do — Orion Tango, or Bandit65, or even my solo work— it is quite often about improvisation; walking on stage or into the studio without any prepared music, or even expectation. It’s about allowing the music to unfold in that moment, and diving into the abyss of possibilities. The idea of the unknown is exciting, and challenging. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to collaborate with adventurous, exceptional artists such as Fides; each time it yields such a unique result. I think it is about the chemistry of the musicians and the moment in time that it was created.

FIDES: There are two pieces on the album that appear to have words. “Ruins” came about after a nap one afternoon. In that post sleep haze I wondered if I could simply tell a story with my voice – pretend I was talking about an event, “Here it is, this is what happened, can you believe it…” More conversational than sung, even while singing. The whole album was an attempt to not ‘oversing’ anything. How normal and immediate could I allow my voice to be. Could a nascent language emerge from a musical landscape. During that improv, just as the story was getting a little more intense, a drumstick fell in the studio… so… I followed that offer of calamity. As soon as we finished the take I asked Tim, “Can you play that back. I think there could be a second track of storytelling.” I sang moving around in the space – up the staircase and back down. Looking for the stuff that happened one street over, to a different family… gossip, cries from afar, subterranean whispers…

What else is happening next in your world?

FIDES: I am adapting the cancelled remount of a live show into 4 short dance films. The songs are four Canadian pop songs that I recorded in 2017 with three amazing musicians – Tania Gill, Rob Clutton and Germaine Liu. The show had three dancers, each of whom has adapted their choreography for the screen. These movement artists are Canadian treasures — Heidi Strauss, Laurence Lemieux and Peggy Baker. Director Jeremy Mimnagh shot each film up north – one per season. They will be enhanced during editing with a little digital moshing (Magdalena Sokoloski) and environmental sound (Shelley Craig).

I am also un-covering five Dave Matthews songs for a women’s festival in February, and weaving them together with some of my writing on gender, emotion and voice. Oh, yes, and I’m reviving a 700 year old mermaid for an online read-through of a hybrid sonic-theatre piece, DIVE, by my favourite Canadian poet, Richard Sanger.

TIM: I’m currently working on a number of new recordings projects including my first solo vocal album of new songs. I’m quite excited about this. I sing and play all the instruments on the album. It came together pre-pandemic, and the mixes are just now being finalized. That will be coming out on 1k Recordings, so stay tuned for that.

FIDES: I can’t wait to hear you sing your songs, Tim!


Fides Krucker + Tim Motzer’s album Vanishing is available now through 1krecordings.bandcamp.com

FIDES KRUCKER (fideskrucker.com) is an innovative interpreter and creator of vocal music in Canada and abroad. She founded the interdisciplinary ensemble URGE; their final work was published by Playwrights Canada. Her company, Good Hair Day Productions created and produced the groundbreaking lyric-theatre pieces: Girl With No Door On Her Mouth (Bartley/Carson); CP Salon, an r n’ b love and disability show with Kazumi Tsuruoka, now an NFB film; Julie Sits Waiting (Dufort/Walmsley), a sexual catastrophe, electroacoustic opera nominated for five Doras; and In This Body, an emotional landscape of Canadian pop songs, danced by Peggy Baker, Laurence Lemieux, and Heidi Strauss. It is available on CD with musicians Rob Clutton, Tania Gill, and Germaine Liu. Fides has created vocalography for renowned choreographer Peggy Baker’s company, receiving composition nominations and a Dora win. Her recording of Berio’s Folk Songs on the European label Orlando was noted for its “blazing theatricality and playful brilliance.” Fides teaches voice at Humber College, and facilitates a wide range of Toronto dance and theatre artists as well as Chicago’s Walkabout Theater. Her book, Good Girls Don’t Sing: Women and Voice was researched with the assistance of a Chalmers’ Arts Fellowship.

After 20 years of world touring, five solo albums, and stunning collaborations including over 80 albums of credits, TIM MOTZER (timmotzer.com) continues to “traverse manifold territories in music (Guitar Player Magazine).” Tim is widely known for his distinct textural acoustic-electro guitar voice utilizing looping, bowing, electronics, and prepared techniques. From 2016-18, Tim toured the world playing prestigious venues and jazz festivals with Bandit65, an improvising trio he co-leads with guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel and drummer Gintas Janusonis. He has collaborated with musical luminaries David Sylvian, Burnt Friedman, Jaki Liebezeit, King Britt, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Vernon Reid, David Torn, Markus Reuter, Pat Mastelotto, and poet Ursula Rucker. Tim’s work has appeared in the HBO series True Blood as well as films by Michael Mann. As an in-demand, solo live composer/improviser in the world of modern dance, Tim most recently played to sold-out houses in Tokyo, Japan; Seoul, South Korea; Oujda, Morocco; Philadelphia, PA; and Toronto, Canada. He serves as a live accompanist for master choreographers at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Tim brings his dynamic, eclectic array of musical projects together under his own 1k Recordings imprint, which has over 40 releases.

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.

Check Also

INTERVIEW: Tony Tyrrell

Hi Tony, welcome to VENTS! How have you been? Hi and thanks for featuring me …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.