Duma is a grindcore duo from Kenya made up of Martin Khanja aka Lord Spike Heart (vocals) and Sam Karuga (production, guitar). While both have been part of the country’s metal scene for years, their upcoming self-titled debut on Nyege Nyege Tapes places their music in both the metal world and the cacophonous electronic music being churned out by labels like SVBKVLT. Joshua Minsoo Kim called Duma via WhatsApp on July 24th to discuss their new album, the Kenyan metal scene, their mentors, and more.
Joshua Minsoo Kim: Hello Hello!
Martin Khanja: Hello it’s Martin here!
Sam Karugu: And I’m Sam!
I’ve been telling a ton of people about the album, it’s great, thanks so much.
Sam Karugu & Martin Khanja: Thanks for listening!
How did you both get into music?
Sam Karugu: For me, I used to go to a lot of shows—metal shows, classical music shows, whatever—just to listen to music. When I got into the metal scene I saw that anyone could do it, you just buy a guitar and start playing. I loved it and it was like, “Yo, this is something I wanna do.” The first instrument I got was a laptop, I had FruityLoops and started messing with it. Then I got some shitty ass guitar and started playing and then from there ended up in a lot of bands.
Martin Khanja: Yeah, for me the first show I ever played was when I was eight years old. My mom took me to a festival in a county in our town. I played that and we killed it. I got into art—drawing and painting—and then I went to school and thought about what I was gonna do. I decided to form a band and started playing vocals. I started researching how to do vocals and how to sing well, but I really liked this hardcore shit. As long as it’s hardcore, you feel like your emotions can explode.
So I was like, yeah, let’s do it. I formed my first band when I was 17 years old and then we made an album after two years or something. I never looked back—I was 17 and I’m 27 now, and I’m still going. I made a band with Sam, I made a band with friends in Kenya—we just love performing and being in the studio and making it happen.
Were there any mentors you had who really helped you grow as musicians?
Martin Khanja: Yeah there were, like one of my best friends, Sam Kiranga—but he died, yeah? He committed suicide. He showed me how to really record metal properly and we used to do it in his house. He used to be in Lust of a Dying Breed, Black Dog Angel, and Koinange Street Avengers. I met him and just started talking, and then we started recording and I really got into it because of the way he showed me how to do it. And that’s all I needed; he just advised me along the way. And then I met Leon Malu from Mortal Soul and started recording with him, and all these other artists and instrumentalists.
There’s a lot of people, and they’re doing all this crazy shit. Some of them were doing videos, some of them were doing art, some of them were doing guitar. I really just wanted to express myself and like, you know, bleed on the microphone—record proper shit that can get to people’s nerves. Subliminal, deep shit.
BEAR BONES, LAY LOW * CHRIS IMLER * FELIX KUBIN * FLORIS VANHOOF * FYOELK * MIKA OKI * NOVA MATERIA * OSILASI * SAGAT
Crackling down a phone line from Los Angeles, Jon Hassell apologises in advance. Now 83, the multi-instrumentalist and composer – a hero of Brian Eno, Björk, Bono, Jean-Michel Basquiat and others – fell in his recording studio earlier this year, breaking his leg. The subsequent recuperation in a convalescent hospital went on for four months. He had no visitors, due to the coronavirus pandemic, “so I only had my cell phone to maintain contact with the outside world”.
It is an experience that has had after-effects. “I’m feeling a little bird-out-of-cage-like,” he says. “I’ve just got a new apartment and I’m sitting here looking at all the things I’ve brought out of storage yesterday. The place is full of stuff and I have to dig through a lot of things now. And that kind of includes my memory,” he adds, referring to our conversation. “You might hear me searching for really polished answers. But let’s give it a try.”
He really does not need to apologise. He occasionally pauses after I ask a question – “Now, let me see …” – and occasionally returns to a subject some time after I assume we are done with it, but Hassell is a fascinating interviewee, with an astonishingly rich history and umpteen intriguing theories about music.
His most recent is what he calls “pentimento”, a term he borrowed from painting that refers to images and forms that have been painted over in a finished work. He has applied the idea to music on his latest album, Seeing Through Sound, and its 2018 predecessor, Listening to Pictures: they are dense, shifting sound collages, in which, as he puts it, “layers of corrections are used to effloresce out to something”.
Researchers have developed a tiny wireless camera that is light enough to be carried by live beetles.
The team at the University of Washington in the US drew inspiration from the insects to create its low-powered camera system.
Its beetle-cam can stream up to five frames per second of low-resolution, black and white footage to a nearby smartphone.
The research was published in the Science Robotics journal.
The entire camera rig weighs just 250 milligrams, which is about a tenth of the weight of a playing card.
While the sensor itself is low resolution, capturing just 160 by 120 pixel images, it is mounted on a mechanical arm that can shift from side to side.
That allows the camera to look side to side and scan the environment, just like a beetle, and capture a higher-resolution panoramic image.
My next interview is with the wonderful Limpe Fuchs who is going to talk to us about Muusiccia. Limpe has been a recording artist since at least 1972, the year of the classic self-titled album by Anima Sound - and when I first got in touch with her I was temped to cover one of these older records. Yet the hyper-textural music of 'Muusiccia' which is from 1993 (still the earliest recording yet covered on Navel-Gazers) captivates me in a way which is so personal and so intense that I knew that was what we had to talk about instead. Before reading this interview - or perhaps while reading - I recommend you to put in your favourite headphones and allow Limpe's handmade percussion sounds to usher you in. 'Muusiccia' is no mere album, it's a sublime sound art gallery where surprises lurk around the corners and where music and sculpture seem to collide. Let's find out more!
AC: Not to lead off with anything too topical, but you had mentioned to me that 'Muusiccia' was recorded when you were living in Italy, which is a place that has been all over the news lately. And it sounds as though your surroundings were remarkably calm and serene then, living in a quiet house in the woods... So the timing of our discussion is quite interesting. Could you tell me how it is you found yourself in Italy at that time, and/or anything else about the environment this music originated from?
Limpe Fuchs: In 1976 we sold part of our house in Bavaria and bought 12 hectares of land and an old farmhouse in the Colline Metallifere of Upper Toscana. We wanted to expand our agricultural activities. In this area the wives of the workers in the Pyrit mines each owned a piece of land to grow a garden and some animals. When the mines were outgone, they sold the land to foreigners - Germans, Dutch, Swiss. The place was so lonely - no road, no water, no electricity - that we only got there with an off-road car at daytime. But step by step we built up what we needed and enjoyed the lovely wilderness. Only on holidays were we disturbed by lots of hunters driving through the woods with their small Fiat cars.
I think from this time on, my instruments were better-developed, and also my playing of them. One thing I would like to say about 'Muusiccia' is that at this time field recording was a practice I followed nearly every day. Especially when I had the opportunity to join the Squadra Malossi though the woods to record their chase of the wild pigs.
In this time - between my solo percussion work - I also did experimental theatre work, sponsored by the city of Munich, by taking parts of a poem and working out with my music, to a play. One was called 'Gesang Zur Nacht' with the expressionistic poetry of Georg Trakl, who lived from 1887 - 1914. For this "shooting track" I chose his poem about the battle of Grodek. He was involved as a sanitary assistant in the camps of the wounded soldiers. He was so scared that he suicided.
I am part of the first generation of Germans not involved in war in hundreds of years, and very engaged in peace. So I took the opportunity to work with this poem as a warning.
AC: Of course you're referring here to The Chase, the magnificent 17-minute piece at the centre of 'Muusiccia' where we can hear your recitation of Georg Trakl's poem. The theatrical component was unknown to me. I'm interested to know more about your experience on the wild pig chase with the squadron in the woods - we can also hear your field recordings of this throughout 'The Chase' and the effect is quite dramatic. Who were the Squadra Malossi and how did you come into contact with them? How did you come to accompany them on the chase? How did they react to your field-recording the event?
Limpe Fuchs: The members of the Squadra were our neighbours. They also had a house in the wilderness, but normally only stayed there on holidays - or for the chase. I did not tell them about my project. Perhaps they thought me to be a fan of the shooting - I really was not, I liked the peaceful surroundings.
But I also had trouble with the pigs, because we did not have large fields. The harvesters from the Maremma, where the flat big fields were, always came very late up the hills and in the meantime the pigs were eating the grain - also the grain from the neighbours! But I followed a different more creative strategy. From an organic farm in Germany I got two plants of a variety of wheat with kemp on the grains. I planted two rows in my garden, then 10 m2 in the field, and in three years we could harvest our grain without loss!
I was very influenced by soundscape artists. I do not separate noises and music: all of what comes to my ears is interesting and influences my thinking. Especially for this project, I worked it into the title: MUU is mooh (in German pronounced muuh!) for the song with our cow and my bowing of the pendulum string instrument. MuSIc is in the word and CaCCIA (pronounced katscha), the Italian word for chase. My compositions revolve around these terms. After the dramatic chase track, the water sound soothes-down and opens the ears for different sounds, and the end is very light with the dance track.
READ THE WHOLE INTERVIEW HERE
Shirley Collins is a folk singer from Sussex, UK. In the 1960s and ’70s, she and her sister Dolly—along with groups like Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span—reinvigorated British folk music by staging the ageless songs in modern and elaborate arrangements. Collins is one of folk music’s most enduring voices, and after a period of over 30 years where she did not record or sing publicly, she released the album Lodestar in 2016. Her follow up, Heart’s Ease, is out July 24th. Jonathan Williger called Collins on July 1st to discuss life during quarantine, her new album, how she’s feeling more comfortable with herself, Boris Johnson, and more.
Jonathan Williger: How are you doing?
Shirley Collins: Alright, still locked down of course—because of the virus—but I don’t know. I’m sort of fine, really, and there’s plenty going on. So it’s good, how are you?
I’m doing okay. Do you live with anyone right now?
No, I live alone, but I’ve lived alone for a great many years, so I’m sort of used to it. So I’m okay, you know?
What have you been doing to keep yourself occupied?
Well, I’ve got a garden at the back of my cottage, so I do a bit of gardening. I’m finding I’m doing lots of reading—sort of consuming books in piles, really, more than I’m listening to music, which is funny, and a bit odd. I walk up and down my little street and garden, and that’s about it.
What have you read? Do you find yourself gravitating towards novels or nonfiction?
I love Anne Tyler—I read all her books over and over. I’ve been reading the Pat Barker book, the Regeneration trilogy. And I read an English writer called Kate Atkinson. People just put books through the letterbox and I read them. And I re-read whatever I can pick up. But it’s good, I'm sort of enjoying that, because I love reading anyway. I’m busy at the moment, too.
Do you feel like you’ve been able to keep a sense of community? It seems like people are dropping by to give you books… have you been able to keep in touch with a lot of people?
There’s a good feeling in the streets because there’s lots of families with little children, and they’re playing outside most of the time. And the trouble with this lockdown thing is that you can only really see your friends. I’ve seen my musicians as well. Ian Kearey, who does all the arranging, he lives close by and he comes and visits once a week and we sit and talk about things.
Yeah, it is interesting that acquaintances have become somewhat of a thing of the past.
True! Not that it’s their fault, you know. I don’t blame anyone. You know, as people keep away, they sort of drop away as well.
Yeah, I think that’s true. What music have you been listening to? At least personally, I’ve gravitated towards certain music that I have loved for a long time. I find that certain music, at least for me, has been harder to engage with than other types, and I’m wondering if you have felt the same way.
Well, I listen to a lot of early music, which I love. I like Italian Renaissance music, the music of Monteverdi and the music of Thomas Tallis. I’ve always loved the sound of that because when it’s somber it’s wonderfully somber, and when it’s merry then it’s very happy music, very lively. I’ve been listening recently to a group, an Irish group—I don’t know if you’ve heard of them—called Lankum. They have a singer called Radie Peat who has just got the most incredible voice. She reminds me of one of the old Irish Tinker women that Alan Lomax recorded in the 1950s. She’s got that same deep, powerful voice that she just throws at you. It’s really remarkable.
Have you been able to see them live?
Yes, I have. They were on locally last year, and I wish I’d gone up to say hello to them but I didn’t. Because there were so many people there, and you always feel a bit reluctant to sort of wander up and say “Hello, I’m Shirley Collins.” (laughter).