INTERVIEW: Stephen Bishop & Mariam Rezaei | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Mariam Rezaei and Stephen Bishop are both essential to the beating heart of the Tyneside underground through their music, their promotion and more. But it wasn’t until they performed a stunning improvised set for TUSK Virtual last Autumn that they’d actually worked together; that experience led Bishop to a clearer understanding of Rezaei’s turntablism and how it could be used, and in turn led to their new album, Veil.

There’s something in those movements which directly translates to the recorded sound,” he explains. “The hyper-tactile nature of turntablism is almost ur-improv as the hands are everything in this context. I wanted to try to take these movements and translate them into my sound world.”

I’d recently been experimenting and playing around with vocals on my decks,” adds Rezaei. “I’d been really pulling at them with my hands and using FX on the DJ mixer to see just how much I could get out of that particular sound source. I’m interested in finding out just how far the turntable can transform the voice. I wanted Bish to take my sounds and do whatever he wanted with them.”

Most of the album was created by Bishop using Rezaei’s hand movements and sounds to “trigger a host of samplers, synths and processes to create a sound field which I felt was reflective of our shared interests in electronics, contemporary composition and classical instruments.” says Bishop. Rezaei goes on to explain: “Bish mixed together my sounds with his modification of those sounds, along with his own new material too. He explained to me how he used my tracks as triggers for other sounds…it’s lush how something can be transformed into something so wildly different from its original source.”

The hyper-tactile nature of turntablism is almost ur-improv as the hands are everything in this context. I wanted to try to take these movements and translate them into my sound world

The exception to this process was the title track. “This uses Mariam’s recorded voice reading a Sufi poem (Rumi’s Masnavi 4), which she then plays and manipulates as a sample using Traktor. Those recordings of her playing are loaded into samplers and the playback, panning, filtering, tempo, as well as triggers for modulation of parameters within the samplers are all activated by a stereo-recording of burning wood.”

Obviously this way of working resulted from the constraints of lockdown, but both seem to have found the experience largely positive. “More than anything it was the ability to move quickly on this project as time was tight. I like to work quickly and fluently and to maintain energy and my attention on what I can be.” Explains Bishop. “I would ask Mariam to record something more ‘start/stop’ or more ‘spacious’ or with more high frequency, knowing that what I could derive from that audio would work in the overall composition. In the future I’d love to flip that so that Mariam is the ‘band-leader’ per se. That her concept of how ‘we’ can sound together can be known.”

Rezaei adds that Bishop helped her find motivation in a low period. “Bish really helped me by suggesting some simple but open thoughts, like he mentioned ‘spacious’. Giving those sounds over to Bish was incredibly liberating and equally terrifying. I didn’t know what he was gonna think of them! But then you listen to a track like Bulgar Rose, you realise just how much of a genius he is at collaborating and sculpting sounds.”

Veil by Stephen Bishop & Mariam Rezaei is released via TUSK on 2nd April


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