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Contemporary Soundloops

MAIN FIRST CAME TO MY ATTENTION WITH THE HYDRA-CALM CD, a compilation of their two 12" singles. I was intruiged; two ex-members of Loop, Main accentuated the experimental tendencies evident with their previous group, demonstrating affinities with Neu, Cluster, Can, Faust, yet revealing themselves to be empthatically contemporary. With the addition of G.C. Green (of Godflesh) on bass a new dimension has been added to Main's overall sound. Recently, they have performed at events in Europe (on bills with Zoviet*France and Old amongst others) and have been recording new material due to be released imminently through Situation Two.

I spoke to Robert Hampson about Main's methods of composition, about how they manage to combine ambience and menace in their music?

With Main I try not to think about the process of composition too much. It's just the way I write material, I don't really like to analyse it. I suppose Main is much looser than Loop, there isn't such a strict framework, so we are able to improvise a great deal more. The Main stuff consists of a lot of improvised material put onto tape and then certain things are subtracted from this in the studio, until the whole thing becomes really minimal. We just throw stuff onto tape and see what sticks really. As for there being a menacing edge to Main, I do music as a serious release, a way of vanquishing all my anxieties. I throw the whole of myself into it, sometimes I just totally blank out when i'm playing. With Loop, added to that was a lot of hate and aggressiveness coming from me, but I think I've pretty much got that out of my system now.

Main create such rich and varied textures, yet utilise no samplers or synths...

We just use drum machine and guitars, and we try to fuck up the sounds as much as possible. We've always experimented with guitar sounds, even in Loop. But I suppose at that time there were boundaries which we had to work within, but with Main that is no longer the case. We spend a lot of time trying to get the right sound with guitars, to get a novel, interesting original sound. But really Main is not formularised, it's very open ended. We don't tend to think about it too much, because that way the music can become very stale. We just get in the studio with some ideas and work from there.

Is there any specific reson for the non-utilisation of samplers?!

I find the use of samplers to be very lazy. The nearest we get to it is in using tape loops. But samplers I don't have any time for. Even the use of a drum machine I have reservations about. A lot of people just seem to forget that interesting sounds can be generated with the guitar. I do like people who try to create new sounds with the guitar.

Glenn Branca? Rhys Chatham?

People like Branca and Chatham I do admire a lot. In the same way as I admire somebody like Bruce Gilbert.

Bruce Gilbert of Wire is currently involved in a collaboration with you. How did this come about?

I've known him for quite a while, from early Loop days. It was suggested that we collaborate on a guitar only project. We've worked on some of it, but haven't had time to finish. When it's completed it will be released on Mute. I think it should be pretty interesting, a good collaboration.

Are there any other collaborative ventures planned?

Somebody I would really like to work with is Kleg. I think they're excellent - they may be in Branca/Sonic Youth territory to some degree, but there are a lot of other aspects to what they do, some quite jazzy, Coltrane-style elements, etc.

Getting back to the music of Main, comparisons to Krautrock have been fairly prevalent. Do you feel the comparison is justified?

Kraut Rock, Eno, etc., we have been compared to but really I feel Main exists solely in its own right. I mean, if you take somebody like Neubauten they were pretty much uncategorisable, and I would like to think it's true of Main. We've always been into stuff like Nue and Can, etc., but I don't think it's a direct influence. I would say to some extent our music is akin to what they were doing but I think we approach things in a different way. With Main I wanted to get away from Rock Music, but I still wantd guitar generated noise to be dominant.

But does Robert feel that Main is more difficult for an audience to accept than Loop, who unquestionably achieved a great deal of success. Is Main's audience more limited?

Main is certainly more experimental, more Avant-Garde than Loop. There were always traces of that in Loop, it just wasn't as pronounced, wasn't as dominant as it is with Main. I'd like to think that there will be a great deal of variety with Main releases. I'd like to avoid the obvious, avoiding catering for a specific audience, etc. Somebody might like one CD and totally hate the next. But one thing I would like to see is people being far more open-minded about what we do. A lot of people tend to respond in a fairly negative way. Sometimes I think people just don't try hard enough to appreciate what's perceived as difficult music. And without a fucking doubt contemporary tastes are incredibly conservative. In the aftermath of punk, there were so many interesting things happening, groups like Wire, early Cabs, Skidoo, etc., however, most contemporary music I find incredibly dull and bland, you know the so-called fucking "Indie-scene". I would like to think Main is challenging that without wanting to sound too antagonistic or arrogant. To me, there are too many soundalikes in the music world. With Main and earlier with Loop we always felt removed from all that, existing in our own little world.

So you see little of any worth in contemporary music?

There are obviously some interesting things going on, but they are very marginalised. I would say that the first thing about the music scene is the whole rave thing, fucking DJ's making recordings, etc. That's what I hate about samplers. I sort of like the DIY aspect of it, but it annoys me that someone with no musical talent or ideas can make a record. But Dance music, House music, I absolutely fucking hate. And all those fucking people on E - they weere fucking braindead before they took it and now they're even more vacant. Why thousands of people would want to cram into a small building and take a lot of drugs I simply can't understand. I mean I have taken drugs, but never in that contenxt. I think I would get intensely claustrophobic.


Originally appeared in MFTEQ Ghafran (book + CD), 1993
Copyright © MFTEQ Ghafran