Richard Durrant and Stephen John Kalnich’s new collaboration
By Harvey Kubernik
Galactic Symphonies, a collabora-tion between guitarist Richard Durrant and poet Stephen John Kalinich, initially released in 2008 on the U.K. based LongMan record label has been picked up for distribution in the U.S. by MsMusic, Productions.
Kalinich supplies spoken word narration to instrumental tracks and sung voices from Durrant.
The Galactic Symphonies retail item contains studio sessions held at LongMan stu-dios coupled with live version audio versions housed in a DVD stereo surround sound. Adrian Shepard filmed and directed the live performance at Ropetackle Arts Centre.
Harvey Kubernik talks to both Stephen John Kalinich and Richard Durrant about their ground-breaking endeavor
Stephen John Kalinich Interview
Q. How did this project start?
Stephen: I met Richard on David Courtney’s radio show in Brighton UK. He produced Roger Daltrey and Leo Sayer albums.
Q: Tell me about working with Richard?
S. Working with Richard was exhilarating and creative, challenging and at times when we worked separately at first, tough to deal with but later I enjoyed the process. We gave each other space to create in our own unique ways and put them together. Richard is a focused worker.
Q: What about putting the music together with the poems?
S. Richard created the most lush beds and layers of music and sound imaginable. It was a joyous experience in my life we created an arc of sound and music in different tones and colors and it was sound impressionism. Inspiring touching unique in the festivals we played in. There was nothing like it. People were taken to another dimension, transformed, awed.
Q: What was it like collaborating with Richard.
S. He is like sonar. He zeros in on the target. He finds the right balance and emotional tone for the poem and bounces it off me. It felt at times if we had the company behind us
we could create these adventures indefinitely. Things are always new and Richard brought that excellence out of me and sometimes had me edit the poems or shorten them to fit his audio painting leaving as little to chance as possible.
Q: What was the process for you Stephen?
S. It was stimulating. The days I worked alone coming up with what poems fit
was different than my usual process but it was an interesting way to co-create and perform.
He allowed me a certain freedom because he is improvisational. I could come in where I wanted to live and he was right there driving me with me encouraging and moving me. Each time it was different and it was a surprise and a new birth. No two performances were exactly te same bit for the DVD and record CD we had to set a limit pick a boundary to contain
our work within. It was insane at times but exhilarating and great fun and it has a sense of aliveness I have seldom known that rivals my collaboration with Dennis Wilson.
We played many venues and the Brighton Fringe festival. We had three screens and a visual Artist Malcolm Buchanan-Dick who is a genius and added texture to the live show. It was an astonishing show.
I became to close to Richard’s family and we had many great rehearsals getting up at six a.m., taking a bus to Shoreham and being there before nine to begin. It was a lot of work but rewarding. I love Richard’s family.
I also want to thank Adrian Shephard the director of the DVD video, he came in from Berlin to Direct the video and put his gloss over everything. A truly unique and talented, inspired individual.
Q: Stephen what are your memories of performing the piece live for example, at the Brighton fringe Festival or Colourscape Lutterworth or whatever else you want to say.
S. I was transported to another dimension. It was inspiring and people really seemed to relate to it. Many people came up to me after and said they never experienced anything like it.They were moved and a few shaken and some very young people came up to me and asked questions and seemed to get into it at an intense level. I had a sense we were communicating I loved the wireless headset. It gave me range of motion and it was a blast.
The Galactic symphonies are one of my favorite projects in my whole life that rival the Beach Boys or Paul McCartney experience, or anything I have ever done. There is a spiritual nature to them. A motion a dance. They make you change, open you, kiss your soul and a sliver slides into you of some hope that mankind can be better.
Q: You had 3 back screen projections on stage. Stephen tell me about this and Malcolm and his involvement.
S. Richard explained about Malcolm he is a tremendous artist in his own right and also able to improvise as I speak and chant and sing he knows what images to use how to do it very symphonic so refreshing a work that changes every night every second and one never gets tired of doing the galactic and seeing images on the Gigantic screen, I hope American Audiences get to experience this grand adventure.
Q. Stephen any feelings, thoughts reflections on this project or anything you want to say about this unique collaboration?
S. I would love to be with Richard again and do it. I would be thrilled to see Richard and his kids and Louise. I would love to do this around the world
Q. If you want to say anything about Paul Adsett.
S. Paul Adsett and Ashley financed got it into the festivals commissioned Richard did so much without Pau it would never have come into fruition. I am extremely grateful to Paul and Ashley. He saw my dream and vision and opened it up for the world and I believe if he had the wealth to bring it to the World he would and he would set up proper financing for the Artist and partners and performers.
Q. How did this project start?
Richard: I was doing a radio interview in the UK and there was this crazy looking guy hanging around for the next interview. We started chatting and instantly felt a friendship and a chemistry.
Q. Tell me about working with Stephen?
S. I remember feeling good that Stevie talked about “real stuff” without any of the reserve that the English often have. We’re both artists with our own specialties and we discussed the meaning of the words and the meaning of the music. Any-body eavesdropping on our conversations would have heard two people totally engrossed in tiny yet elaborate details.
Q: What about putting the music together with the poems ? It was like writing to picture. I could create soundscapes for Stevie to wander about in.
Richard Durant Interview
Q: What was it like collaborating with Stephen.
R: In the studio we made de-cisions, parted in order to work on our own parts, and then came together again to assemble the whole. We were pragmatic, as we’ve both travelled a few miles in the business, but always creative.
Q: What was the process for you?
R: It was an exciting commission that started from a totally blank sheet. That’s always a challenge. I’m also a real loner. My day job is touring my solo guitar show (I’m actually typing this in Paraguay where I have just arrived via Buenos Aires for a guitar concerto), so suddenly being in an intense collaboration was a pretty crazy feeling.
“After we finished writing, Stevie and I gigged the Galactics along with my pal the digital/visual artist Malcolm Buchanan-Dick who made some great digi landscapes for the shows. It was pretty trippy stuff – certainly different to playing the Aranjuez with the RPO! I remember after one gig we all celebrated Stevie’s birthday and he ended up staying at Malcolm’s house. Leaving Stevie at Malc’s, slightly bewildered, an American poet thousands of miles from home, standing on the doorstep in the freezing English wind with Malc’s parrot on his shoulder is a moment I will never forget! When Stevie went back to the States it felt really sad indeed. The family and I miss having him around. So does the parrot…
Q: Richard what are your memories of performing the piece live for example, at the Brighton fringe Festival or Colourscape Lutterworth or whatever else you want to say.
R: It was a real, left field improv show. There was a lot of trust involved: Stevie had to feel where to come in, I’d respond to that, sometimes sitting back and waiting and sometimes trying to urge him onwards. And then Malc the artist was also improvising — but this time with his huge bank of images and films. His control interfaces and hard drives had all been put inside an old harmonium with various metal arms attached to keep the triggers within easy reach. His bit of the rig was like something out of Captain Nemo. God only knows what the crowd made of it! There were certainly some very beautiful moments, moments of intensity, moments of chaos. It wasn’t your average poetry reading or guitar concert.
Q: You had 3 back screen projections on stage. Richard tell me about this and Malcolm and his involvement.
R: My solo show uses a lot of projection work (see my YouTube channel) and I’d worked with Malc for years on this. I ran a music club for many years with Malc were I would introduce and then sit in and play with the various guests whilst Malc felt the direction of the music and let rip with his bank of images. I particularly remember a sequence where Malc was switching between some large, hard and violent steam engine close ups and a sequence of little suckling pigs. It was mind blowing.
Q: Richard talk about the new technology in creating the work. CD one side DVD and the process.
R: I wanted to capture the improv aspect from both of us so I created beds of music to play live against. I spent some time prerecording the beds and then we took the whole show down to my local arts centre and improvised the whole of the Galactics twice in front of a rather shocked, invited audience. My set up used three acoustic guitars and electric bass going through my standard array of loop stations, a Yamaha 01V, two Kaoss Pads and a bunch of volume pedals. Stevie strutted around with a headset mic so he could do the Kalinich dance moves.
Q: Richard What happens when you and Stephen perform a poem on stage.
R: When you choose and create the music to the words poems how do you do this? I prepare by listening to Stevie. Then I create something we both agree sort of works. Then we play it live and Stevie is able to respond to the music because it originally came from his words. That was the plan anyway!
Q: Now that you and Stephen have obtained U.S. distribution for the DVD CD how will you take it to the next level?
R: I’m a creative artist keen to move forward. If we do it again live then it will be as different as any show we’ve done. For better of for worse there is no artistic compromise and Stevie will feel the same.
Q: Richard any feelings Thoughts reflections on this project or anything you want to say about this unique collaboration?
R: I’d love to see Stevie. As I said it was a crazy time we spent together.
Q. How about Paul Adsett?
R: The commission originally came from Paul Adsett — a wonderful guy who lives in Brighton. Paul was the catalyst for this project and should receive credit for boldly going where most would turn and run in terror! Good on you Paul — this would never have happened without you.