The Director’s Cut, a collection of cover versions of famous soundtracks, followed in 2001. Delirium Cordia was recorded earlier this year with Grammy winning producer / engineer Husky Hoskulds. It is as distinct from the first two albums as each of them was from the other. It also stands out for three different reasons. It consists of only one track. That one track is, relatively speaking, on the quiet side. And it is the first half of two records with distinctly different moods that were recorded with Hoskulds. The next will come out in the first half of 2004, apparently.
Of the 74-minute singularity of it all, Mike explains that “it’s actually several pieces that are weaved together to form one composition. We did that because I wanted it to be like one sentence, with the fluidity that a sentence can have, but also the coherence, or lack thereof.” It works. Possibly “the soundtrack to a very dark, fever-induced nightmare”, or a season of Buffy, it ranges from evil monkish chaos to virtual chill-out session, all the while remaining quite sonically subdued. Half the time it’s barely even music.
“I wanted to do something challenging,” he said, “and I thought that to do something more restrained and less all-out-rock would be a challenge for me. Something like background, or elevator music. There’s just so much background music in the world, and most of it probably wasn’t designed to be background music, so I thought it would be an interesting challenge to actually set out to emulate that, to make elevator music.”
So, Delirium Cordia is elevator music?
Music that is riddled with contradictions, impossibilities. And that is the shit that can defy gravity.
“Maybe,” he laughs. “It’s my version of ambient music. There’s still a lot of grating stuff but it’s not like the band is attacking you with a chainsaw. If I was listening to it at home I would have it on in the background, maybe while I did the dishes or the ironing or something. It’s just very subdued.”
This isn’t so much a new direction for Mike as it is just another facet of his ever-evolving musical experimentation. He is almost as well know these days for his many and varied collaborations as he is for Fantômas, Tomahawk (both of which could be considered collaborations in a way), Bungle or even Faith No More.
“Collaboration is vital,” Mike says. “It’s what keeps music alive.” In an article for John Zorn’s Arcana: Musicians on Music, he writes, “Young and old players should be seeking each other out and using each other. They should develop a healthy exchange of smut. In this kind of environment, incredible things can happen. Music can emerge that is athletic and personal. Music that is riddled with contradictions, impossibilities. And that is the shit that can defy gravity.”
Just don’t expect a Desert Sessions – with which he is involved via Ipecac – collaboration any time soon, however. “Josh [Homme, QOTSA and general convener of said Sessions] asked me if I would, and I thought about it for a bit, but ultimately I decided that I didn’t really want to sit in a room in the desert watching a bunch of guys get stoned!”
It seems he’s more interested in foraying into hip-hop, including work with folk such as Dan The Automator, X-ecutioners and most recently, Rahzel. “They were fun,” he says of the live solo improvised shows he did with Rahzel. “It was good to just get up on stage and lose control for a bit.”
This is an intriguing comment, because a recent interview with Bar McKinnon from Mr Bungle gave the impression that Mike was a bit of a control freak!
“Ahh, well, people say a lot of things,” he laughs. “But yes, within a band context, everything I do is always very scripted – particularly for Fantômas, where every tiny little detail is written out for live performances. The way it is on the record, the same order, everything, that’s the way we play it live, note for note. It’s like a memory exercise. So in that sense there is a lot of control. And that works for me, but it was definitely a nice change to do something that lacked that scripting. It was awesome that it worked between Rahzel and me, because often it can be really frustrating – for an audience – to watch solo improvisations. Often you can just end up farting on stage and it gets really boring.”
With that in mind, and given the intricacies of the Delirium Cordia track, what exactly is being planned for the upcoming Geek show tour? “Some of it is better left in the studio,” he suggests. “I don’t want to drag a wind machine around on tour. We we’re hoping to get Chopper to MC,” he laughingly adds. “But I don’t think that’s going to happen. He would be cool though.”
As you may be aware, the release of Delirium Cordia was postponed, due to “the extra special fancy packaging”. Mike is adamant that the wait will be worth it. “It’s not just about the music; the whole product is just as important. I’ve always thought that,” he says, mentioning the importance of the artwork in the first Fantômas record. “I’m one of those people who wants to be able to touch, smell, bite, and experience a piece of music with all my senses. That’s why we’re putting so much effort into the packaging of Delirium Cordia. We’ve got to get this fancy paper, and all the illustrations, and photographs just right. It’s taking a little longer than we planned and that’s frustrating, but it’s really about the whole package.”
Listen to a slice of Delirium Cordia here.
— Mel Sheridan