Queen Elephantine Interview

ARTIST: Queen Elephantine.
WEB: Queen Elephantine Web.
MYSPACE: Queen Elephantine MySpace.
LASTFM: Queen Elephantine LastFM.
REVIEW IN GDZ: Queen Elephantine – Surya Review in Spanish.
BUY QUEEN ELEPHANTINE CD: Buy Queen Elephantine CDs.

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GDZ: First, What’s the history behind the name of the band “Queen Elephantine”, sounds like a Indian divinity or similar?
QE:There’s actually not much of a story here. Danny Quinn and I had almost always been in bands together, and we thought, Let’s try and for once get a standard band name… The Adjective Nouns format. Of course we failed. Sadly, Queen Elephantine was the most normal name we could conceive. Later on thanks to Google we found out about Satis, the Queen of Elephantine, as in the Elephantine Islands off the Nile, and that whole myth. At the same time, Adrian Dexter had painted our split with Elder with a ‘Queen Elephantine’ character coming out of the Nile. So we like that connection, but it’s just coincidence.

GDZ: In Internet Queen Elephantine come from different countries like Hong Kong – China … New York – USA … or Bangladesh – India… Where you really come from?
QE:That’s a very difficult question. The band was formed in Hong Kong, where all the original members grew up. The self titled disc, the splits with Elder and Sons of Otis, and Surya were all recorded in Hong Kong. Then I moved to America for studies. Danny, the other founder of the band, trusted me to carry the spirit of the band on, and the group reformed with all different members in the new country. I met Raj, who composes the music with me now, in New York. The two of us recorded Yatra and the yet-unreleased split with Aluna with Chris Dialogue on drums and Brett Zweiman on bass. For our next full length, Kailash, we really have no idea who we’re going to record it with. Then I’m moving to Rhode Island in January, so we shall see what happens then.

GDZ: Now, it’s time to talking about your music… Can you describe me in few words the essence of your music.
QE:Someone described Surya as early Grateful Dead that heard everything that happened with rock and metal since. I liked that. Or maybe as Danny Quinn puts it, “Heavy Hippie Music.” It’s spiritual music. Relaxing, lethargic, downer music.

GDZ: If you need to label your music… What genre is more accomplish to Queen Elephantine`s music… f.e: Sludge. Stoner. Psychedelic. Experimental. Post-blablabla.
QE:I think Psychedelic is an easy cop-out, so that. Because what does psychedelic really mean? It can mean stoner, space, acid, and all of that, it can mean doom, ambient, drone stuff, it can even mean trance music. It can mean Velvet Underground, it can mean Kyuss, it can mean Pink Floyd, it can mean YOB, it can mean something like Gnaw Their Tongues. So it’s a good, safe label if we have to pick one.

GDZ: What’s your favourite track from all the releases of Queen Elephantine and why?
QE:Ramesses the Second, I’d say. Because of Danny Quinn’s bass line. We recorded the Ramesses suite, as in the split with Elder, completely improvised, and the bass line that Danny came in with on the guitar riff right then gave me an incredible feeling of elation. It sounds like a massive elephant marching to a war he’s not going to wage.

GDZ: I really like your covers, Who painted the Surya and Yatra covers?
QE:Surya was done by Adrian Dexter, who’s in my opinion one of the most fantastic music artists today. He’s just on the rise – some twenty years of age, so hopefully the world will see a lot more from him. He also did the art for our splits with Elder and Sons of Otis. Adrian is almost a member of the band who doesn’t play in it. Yatra was done by Aurora Cremer, who also did a beautiful poster for our shows in Delaware and Virginia last November.

GDZ: In Surya tracks, I can hear into background a very hypnotic meditation bells or something similar… This is a sound sampler or an ethnic instrument?
QE:For the first four tracks of Surya, you’re hearing an electronic tanpura, which we use live as well. In Indian classical music, it is used as a sort of tonal anchor, since much of the music is modal and improvised, like ours.

GDZ: Recently you published a free EP “Yatra”… tell me about the musical diferences between Surya and Yatra releases.
QE:Like I said above, it’s a completely different band. Also, Surya was jammed out from beginning to end with one mindset, except for Bison which we had recorded a little earlier. Yatra is a grouping of two tracks we did at different times with different sounds. That’s why it’s an EP and not a full album for us. It’s a collection.

GDZ: Queen Elephantine self-released Surya… Why you chose this kind of release?
QE:For a full length, we want to make sure that it is going to a label we know and respect so as to make sure we’re on the same page and have the same vision. Within that group, we couldn’t find any label that wanted to release it. So we self-released it digitally and on CDR to try and raise funds to release it on CD, which is happening now.

GDZ: Nobody signs Queen Elephantine? Do you have any contacts with music labels for future releases?
QE:Well, that’s the situation with Surya, but we are always into doing splits and collaborations and EPs for other labels. Catacomb Records from the UK is about to release a 7” split with Aluna soon. We have a few collaboration albums that we are working on and an EP release in France, but I don’t want to speak to soon about them.

GDZ: Tell me about the experience of self-release an album, jammin`… production… mixing…
QE:It’s the best, as long as you’ve got the equipment you need to do it. In Hong Kong, we had our own studio. We are weird people with a weird taste in sound. Many people complain about the production of Surya, but we really love it and want it to sound exactly like that. When we recorded in New York, I found it very difficult to communicate exactly what I wanted out of a recording to an engineer. I will probably mix things myself, until we find the right engineer with the same vision as us.

GDZ: When I make an interview always repeat the same question about Internet Downloads, because I’m so interested in artist’s opinion. What’s your opinion about music business? Do illegal downloads benefit the artists, because much people have access to our music, or simply rip your work?
QE:I can’t speak for big bands who are making a living off their music, but we primarily want people to hear our music. I’ve grown up with the internet and freedom of information and I was something like ten or eleven when Napster first came out, so for most of my life I have been able to download music. I personally believe that music should be free. Today, illegal or not, that’s the reality, and people are listening to more music of a greater diversity than ever before. You can download most of the music you want for free. But then the real music lovers will go out and buy the CD or the LP to cherish a hard copy collectible of the album, and support the band. They’ll go to concerts, and buy t-shirts. This way, there’s a lot less money in the industry, yes, but it’s a lot more dedicated and a lot purer.

Today’s situation primarily injures those involved in manufacturing music who rely not on exposing quality music, but on packaging and selling an image by flooding the mass-media. Many of the fans of this kind of music are also therefore fickle and have little loyalty or respect for the musicians. If this sector of the music sphere is getting choked out, then good. The best thing about doom music is that all the bands are in it first for the music. No one is going to say, “I know, a good way to get rich is to start a doom band.”

How about for a band struggling to get off its feet? People probably won’t pay ten dollars or whatever for their CD without ever having heard of them before anyway. If someone downloads their album and likes it, then he might tell five other people about the band, and so on, and the exposure will lead to some good press and some good shows and they’ll reap their monetary reward in time, and probably quicker.

GDZ: Finally, can you reveal me some plans for the band future…
QE:We are doing a few collaborations, like I said, but until they’re done I don’t want ot talk about them, because a lot of times these plans change or fall through. Our focus in the next few months, before I move out of New York in December, is going to be Kailash. This may or may not be our last album, even though it’s only our second full length. It all depends what happens in Rhode Island and what we feel is right for the band. It’s going to be very different from Surya in some ways, but we always try and preserve the spirit of the band throughout, so I am sure by the time it is done, it will also sound very similar in some ways.

We have recently been very disillusioned with shows in clubs – a lot of bands like us aren’t best felt in a club. I went to an Earth concert in May and I really wanted the show to leave the Knitting Factory and go out to an old warehouse or an abandoned Long Island wharf. Raj had just sat down in the middle of the crowd. That’s the space we are in right now. We want to play in our own element, which is nature. We want to go out and be inspired by nature and gather our ideas from there, write songs outdoors. I was watching a river thawing from winter in Maine, and it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen, but more than that, it reminded me why I needed to play music. I could heard the rumbling bass and the soft guitars flowing with the heavy crush of the river.

We also want to play whatever we feel is right, and not be limited by instrumentation and what we can do live. Whereas Surya was a completely live thing, this one will probably be done with more premeditation. Rather than, “Let’s just play and see what happens,” we might start with “This is the image we are following and this is the end we are hunting, let’s now see how we play it.” We already recorded some demos for Kailash, before our mindset totally flipped, so we have a nice 7” worth of material, but as usual, I don’t know if we’ll find anyone who wants to release it. I am also hoping that someone will be interested in releasing Surya on vinyl, but no one has approached us about it yet.

GDZ: That’s all!
QE:Thanks so much. Good luck with the zine.

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