Interview by and with Morgan Sully
Interview by Morgan Sully: Ghaliz Filkhair Haris and Sabrina Eka Felisiana
Photo by Ariel Orah
This week – as part of our ongoing interview series for our zine – we thought we’d try a new format where we have artists interview each other. I mean, why not?
A few issues ago, Sabrina had said she’d be interested in interviewing another Indonesian artist who’d moved to Berlin to understand a bit more what it’s like here. At the same time, we were thinking through our roster of artists we wanted to feature in an upcoming issue, and immediately thought of Ghaliz.
Ghaliz is humble, curious and driven with his work. He’s got an album out with Ariel on LKW and is also a mad collaborator. Checkout his haunting live session with Tommy Herseta or his recent collab with Kei Watanabe. He also has given generous support for many of our Soy&Synth and Empathy Supper gigs <3<3<3
Anyway, after writing with them both, I threw together a Google Doc with some starter questions to get the minds of these two artists sharing – eventually the three of us started interviewing each other✨. Ghaliz went first and then Sabrina threw in some questions for both myself and Ghaliz.
Read on for some insight into our conversation about living, creating and performing between the cities of Samarinda, Kalimantan and Berlin, Germany.
MS: What is it like where you are right now?
GH: From May 3rd the government allowed schools, museums, salons, and lot of other shops to open. But people have to cover their nose and mouth while entering the shops and public transportation which is also new, because before May 3rd we are still able to go anywhere without using a mask. It is starting to get normal I guess, but universities are still closed and we still have online classes.
MS: What does your studio or workspace look like? Where do you produce your work?
GH: I work mostly in lkw studio, so lkw is an artist collective in Berlin. But more than half of us are Indonesian. The studio is quite small for five people who share the place, but it is really fun to work there. Because everyone is sharing their gear here so we have a lot of possibilities to experiment.
MS: How did you get into music and sound? What was the inspiration? Did you have a mentor or any influences? What were they?
GH:I started playing guitar when I was 12, I went to music school for around 2 years to learn classical guitar and started my first band with my friends from junior high school around 2011. We played brutal death metal, the band was called Afterlife of God. I was active in the local underground scene ever since. It was around 2015 when i set foot into noise music. I watched “Bising” a documentary about Jogja noise scene when i was in Wimar, and started to experiment with noise feedback from my fx pedals.
MS: You work a lot with small, modular guitar pedals. Tell me about your creative process. What’s that like?
GH: Actually just messing around with the pedal orders, and i have some pedals with more than one in/out. So i kind of mess around with it. For example, I connect the fx send of one pedal to the output of the other pedal. Or connect the exp pedal input from my delay to the input of my fuzz. And stacking delays! I use at least 3 different delays in all of my sets.
MS: What are you most excited about in music, noise and sound? Are there any types of projects you want to do or are looking forward to?
GH: The freedom, i can do whatever i want. It is always satisfying to see how different objects I find around me can make really interesting sounds. Combined with time-based guitar pedals i can make a unique sound that I’ve never heard before. And the collaboration and improvisation with other artists is second to none. I’m currently working on an AV installation for the deaf and the project should be finished this summer -it is part of my uni project.
MS: Sabrina, it looks like you have something to add?
SF: yeah, the magic of process. the experimentation with sound. it can be morphed from anything to anything. and then arranged into anything. I want to perform my music live in a jungle. haha
MS: We’ll save that for our next tour to indo;) 🥰🐻🐵🦇🐊🦥🦧🌴🌱🐸🥰
MS: Tell me what you think of Berlin/Samarinda.
GH: Samarinda is more or less like my hometown makassar, it is not so hectic like other capital cities but there is always something to do. And the communities know each other well. And of course delicious food 🙂
SF: in berlin. people don’t judge and criticize by looks. they mind their own business. more freedom of expression. from the few places that i’ve been within Berlin, the place is well designed. it’s easier to get musical equipment. baskers there are different. saw this guy juggling fire like in the circus; at the traffic light. Haha. About performing in CTM Festival Berlin, we were very well treated by the CTM staff. It’s a festival and it’s jam-packed during our set even though there’s 2 separate stages at different venues. I got quite nervous. haha. our merch sold out fast too. In Samarinda, the experimental scene is a small circle. Most of us know each other. The crowd isn’t that big but I still get nervous performing. haha.
MS: Who should we interview next? What would you like to learn?
GH: Logic Lost (Dylan Almiro), how he always does amazing and complex live performances with only a small midi controller and Ableton live.
SF: Animistic Beliefs from rotterdam. their chemistry during live performances.
MS: Sabrina, it looks like you have some questions for us now? !
SF: yeah, hey Ghaliz and Morgan, I have some questions for both of you. First one: How is the response to your live performances in Indonesia and berlin?
GH: It is quite the same, most of the time i hear positive feedback. But the venue is quite different, in berlin i always played in a bar or venue that normally organizes experimental music. So the visitors already know what to expect. But in indonesia, i played in a lot of different places for example music studios, coffee shop, bombing on the street, and i also organized a harsh noise event in my bedroom once (my mother had to sleep at her sister’s house because of the noise we made hahaha) and normally the people who attend the shows are also part of the scene. So to summarize it, in Berlin it always feels like playing in a ‘proper’ show but, in indonesia it was more avant garde hahahaha.
MS: hmm, well the contexts were quite different (small packed Berlin hipster bar where you can’t play too loud vs. massive sculpture park in Bandung vs. cosy place like Rumah Rawa <3) To be honest, I actually haven’t played out much in Berlin – most of my ‘performance’ oriented career was back in the US in warehouses, deserts, Burning Man and a cool thing called Brokenbeat in San Diego. I’ve been making/performing music about 20+ years and have been lucky enough to play in all sorts of weird and wonderful place – Samarinda at Rumah Rawa has actually been a huge highlight of my musical path to be honest. Simply playing with local performers and also the conversations I got to have with the elders of the house (who’d been running a performance troupe for a number of years). That said, the thing I did notice here in Berlin is that people really like to face “the artist” and watch them – a performer does not just necessarily ‘blend in’ with the environment. There was definitely still some of this in Indonesia Jakarta/Bandung/Bali, but it somehow felt a little more ‘free’. But I don’t know maybe that’s just part of ‘performing’ – you have the freedom to express but with that, the responsibility to say something meaningful.
F: What is your dream musical instrument that has not been invented yet?
GH: this is a tough one, i guess an acoustic vocal processor.
MS: I’ve actually been ideating on a one for a while that allows multiple jammers with MIDI-enabled instruments to sync their clocks and jam together. The way it would work is that you have a small, pretty device that sits in the middle of a table and up to 8 instruments connect their clock inputs to it. Someone then presses the ‘start’ button on this device and all of the devices start at the same time in sync. There would be a knob on it that you can turn to adjust tempo and maybe another knob to adjust swing. This device would be called Clocktopus. The idea is that it would make it easy for musicians to jam together.
SF: What is your ultimate tech rider when performing live?
GH: A table where i can put my stuff, i’ve been to a gig where there isn’t any table and can’t even play on the floor either because the stage was too small and i was collaborating with a band, so i ended up only playing with my little micro modular synth. And PA system
MS: Ooh ‘ultimate tech rider’! That sounds so ostentatious😅 Well, I think i’d generally have most of my own gear with me. I like Ghaliz suggestion as it is actually quite practical. That said, I’ve played some really shitty shows where the sound was pretty bad so a requirement for me I guess would be someone onsite who’s dedicated to getting me to sound the best I can (so i don’t have to do this and can focus on performing – I’m probably already nervous enough!). A good sound person can make a huge difference and give artists that extra boost right before a show.
SF: What makes you different from other experimental musicians?
GH: I can’t answer that, but i can tell you what’s the difference between me and the other experimental musicians i’ve been working with. I am so flexible for collaboration, i always change my music style to be able to jam properly, so I don’t really have my own “style”.
MS: I’m not sure how to answer this question, but I can say I’m trying not to limit myself to any one art form. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how music isn’t really a ‘thing’ but an ‘activity’. I haven’t read it yet, but this guy named Christopher Small came up with a term called ‘musicking’. I guess I’ve always been enamored in how ‘social’ sound and music can be in bringing people together – I think that’s part of what makes these lockdowns particularly painful for a lot of people, listeners and creators alike.
SF: Reverb or delay? If you can choose only one, which do you prefer and why?
GH: Delay for sure, we just have to mess around with feedback and delay time, and from just one sound we can make a dynamic composition.
MS: GAAAH. This is a very, very difficult question. Love them both. A delay was actually the first effect box I got! If I have to go with one though, it’d probably be reverb. It’s an understated effect I think, but is what will give any performance/recording you hear ‘space’ so it doesn’t sound like it’s ‘just coming from the speakers’.
SF: Acoustic or electronic instruments; Which do you prefer and why?
GH: Acoustic, so i can play it anywhere without having to think about electrical sources.
MS: Electro-acoustic 😜. Maybe Ghaliz has some questions now too?
GH: Yeah, I have some for Sabrina. How does it feel to be a woman in this scene in Indonesia?
SF: normal. nothing special. it’s about the work that i create. haha
GH: Correct me if i’m wrong, but as far as i know sarana is the first known experimental group from Samarinda. And you guys were also the only one that did a tour in europe. What did you do differently from other musicians in Samarinda?
SF: i don’t know about that. haha. Sarana was invited by Nusasonic to join a program with Sonic Wilderness in Jogja in 2018 which includes a workshop and a performance. Then in 2019, CTM Festival in berlin worked together with Nusasonic to bring a few artists from indonesia. I think the difference is just the composition style, equipment and influences.