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24

Michel Delville: Guitar, Improv & Electro

Jean-Pierre Goffin By

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AAJ: The collaboration with MoonJune has continued ...

MD: Following the release of Elton Dean & the Wrong Object Leo said he wanted to release a studio recording. We got some money from the Communauté Française de Belgique which covered all the expenses, and Stories From The Shed was released in 2008 to critical acclaim and modest box office success. The album got us on the road for 2 years, and we played in more than fifteen different countries with the band's Shed line-up, which comprised Laurent Delchambre, Jean-Paul Estiévenart, Fred Delplancq and Damien Polard. Leo has continued to support my musical efforts and I became a kind of artist-in-residence at MoonJune, with eight albums released in the space of eight years. Leo and I have a relationship based on trust and he always gives me complete freedom to do the job.

AAJ: You have founded and co-founded several other bands over the last few years.

MD: doubt was Leo's idea—at the time, he wanted me and Alex Maguire to team up with a drummer to create a power trio along the lines of the Tony Williams Lifetime. Tony Bianco proved the perfect partner to complete the lineup. After our first album was released, we toured Japan and Europe in the company of Richard Sinclair (ex-Camel, Caravan, Hatfield and the North). The Wrong Object also played and recorded with Harry Beckett and Annie Whitehead, both of whom had also worked with Elton Dean and Robert Wyatt. We actually got to meet Robert for the first time during a UK tour—we didn't know he was coming to the gig, but there he was, right in front of the stage at the Lincoln Theatre. We were so impressed that we must have missed the first bars of the opener! We met after the gig and talked a lot and started to write to each other on a regular basis. A couple of years later, Alberto Lofoco, Anthony Braxton's manager, called me from Bologna to ask me to join and coordinate a new project around Robert's music. I suggested that we call the band Comicoperando after Robert's album Comicopera, which seemed appropriate since the world premiere was to take place in Italy in 2010. The band's first lineup included Richard Sinclair, Dagmar Krause, Alex Maguire, Chris Cutler, John Edwards, Gilad Atzmon and Cristiano Calcagnile. At first I thought it was a joke, as most of these guys were my Beatles, but it did happen. The group played as a sextet in Europe and Canada in 2011—Karen Mantler had joined the band in the meantime—and is waiting to be revived.

AAJ: There is also Machine Mass which played the Liège Jazz festival in May, 2013.

MD: Machine Mass was originally a duet Tony Bianco and I created in 2010. Our first album came out in 2011 and marked a new turn in my development as a musician, as computers and electronics have become an integral part of the writing process. Our current repertoire has an electro-jazz-groove flavor but we are also using more "ethnic" instruments such as the bouzouki, the tempura, and the wooden flute. We use computer-generated loops and samples which we control and manipulate live. If I had to describe the music of Machine Mass (or my other bands for that matter), I wouldn't use the word "fusion"—which smells increasingly funny. Of course, we like to combine composition and improvisation, jazz and "world music," but we also incorporate elements of jazz, punk, psychedelia and very long loops, which is very unusual in the world of electronic music, where the loop is essentially used for a short segment, reinforcing the beat. Some people have also connected it with Miles Davis' modal period, but I would also hesitate to call it "modal" because the harmonic textures of the pieces change all the time—maybe that's what Ornette Coleman meant by "pantonal." The cycles built by the loops are so long that their ends and beginnings are sometimes difficult to identify.

AAJ: The new Machine Mass album, which you've recorded with Dave Liebman and Tony Bianco, is about to be released by MoonJune. How did it come about?

MD: For Tony, it is the continuation of an electro-jazz band he started with Dave years ago and which was called Monkey Dance—they had an album released by FMR in 2006. Machine Mass revived that project, and Tony asked Dave (who had heard the first Machine Mass CD) if he'd like to do a recording with us as a trio. We went into the studio in the fall of 2012 and recorded the album in one day. Prior to that we exchanged charts and ideas for structures—the rest happened in the studio, where playing with Dave and Tony proved extremely enriching and inspiring. It really became a collective endeavor as Dave was involved in the different stages of the mix and co-authored some of the tracks. To me it's a very different album, full of different colors, strange drones and deeper, spiritual textures.

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