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Interview: Bola

A little while ago, I asked Bola (Darrel Fitton) if he would kindly answer a text interview. He said he would, and another little while later, the following text file arrived. My questions are in italics, his answers follow. At the time of posting, he has a new album on the way, D.E.G! See his artist page at Skam Records here: Skam Records

On a personal note, I am so thrilled to have the honor of posting this. Bola is one of my favorite artists, and I am terribly grateful that he took the time to give us this interesting insight into his work.

How did you get started in music?
I've played piano from about the age of 7 and that's probably why I still have classical leanings, but I would say my first introduction to something resembling contemporary music would have been through my skateboarding buddies at about 14 years old. Those guys were all a bit more clued up in most things than me back then.. and I guess being part of that crew led me to being introduced to all sorts of COOL music, Tangerine Dream, Neu, Mike Oldfield, Gong, King Crimson etc. I remember thinking what are all these amazing sounds on this stuff and of course this led me to the discovery of synthesisers, and the rest I guess is history.

What would you say are your major influences?
Although not probably immediately apparent most of my major influences would probably be more jazz and classical based things really, these tend to influence my composition more than sound, so people like Holdsworth, Metheny, Monk, Coltrane, Villa Lobos, Ravel, Debussy, Morricone etc, have really had a lasting impact on my idea of harmony and melody. But beyond that I also find myself influenced sonically by artists, where the tonal pallette is key and these would range from Tomita, T D, Jarre, Glass, and right up to some of the more current things like Ae [Autechre], FSOL [Future Sound of London] and Takemura.

Do you ever play any of the music you've written years later?
Not much to be honest.. I kind of like the process of making music more than the end result more often than not, so other than the preparation for gigs where I often have to plunder the back catalogue for the live set, I rarely listen to any of the old tracks.

While this interview covers only the material released under the Bola name, could you tell us a little about some of the other names you've used?
I've released stuff for a long time really under quite a few names, the electronic stuff as Bola, Jell-O and Darrell Fitton, however prior to that I released music with D'Breez, F.O.K, North Equator 9, H-Force and Astonished Mutations.

Effaninor and Pfane 1 are the only tracks with straight 4/4 beats in them. How did that come about?
Not sure, maybe by accident :)

Could you tell us about how you name your tracks? Does WIK actually stand for something?
I usually name stuff twice.. Firstly in the process of composition and usually with an easy to remember nickname and then secondly when finished, I come up with something more suitable for it according to my weird brain patterns that day. W.I.K actually stands for "Would it Kill" it was named after discovering a scary and unidentifiable insect in the studio.
The new album D.E.G follows a similar principle, and even though these names have a meaning to me, I like to leave it to the listener's imagination to find a suitable meaning :)

Could you tell us how Shapes came to be?
Basically they're all outtakes from the Soup period, tracks that I personally thought were a bit on the rubbish side and if I'm being completely honest I never wanted to release. Skam however were acting all desperate after Mauver and basically convinced me to put them out as 12"s, and because I didnt want my name associated with them I had the idea of making them anonymous and untitled, which is where the shapes thing came from.

You've done some production work with other artists. What aspects of production do you prefer over writing and vice versa?
I've done loads of mastering which is more the final touches rather than production, production is involvement in the actual recording process, which I've done some of, but not loads. I tend nowadays to not do so much mastering either, it's incredibly time consuming and without being rude can be really hard work if you don't particularly like the music.

The area of music you work in, taken as a genre, tends to be almost exclusively written with 4/4 time signatures. Shapes stands out as having several tracks written in different time signatures. Could you comment on this?
There was a period of my writing that was all about experimentation with time signatures and using polyrhythms, I guess it was sometime around the mid 90s,and in that period I was writting in anything other than 4/4, it was kind of an unwritten rule in the scene of the time and to be honest it was useful because it opened me up to something more interesting rhythmically. However if I'm being completely honest the rhythmic side will always be secondary to me, I just naturally tend to focus on the melodic stuff more.

Each Bola album has its own sound. Of all of them, in my opinion, Gnayse sounds the most different from the others. Could you comment on that?
Gnayze sounds different I guess because of the personal situation I found myself in at the time of its writing, my 5 month old daughter was found to have a major heart defect and had to undergo open heart surgery and to say it made me a bit more introspective at the time would be an understatement, I suppose that bunch of feelings around then directly defined the sound of that record making it more melancholic and inward looking.

The final tracks of your albums really fit well as closers. Are these started with the notion that they will be closers?
No I just write tracks naturally according to mood, inspiration or a concept I may have and try to fit them together later. In fact I rarely do the final album layouts anyway, I tend to leave that to Andy Maddocks at Skam. He always seems to come up with a better layout than me so I just let him do it.

Though they are all excellent, is there one of the albums you feel turned out especially well?
"Fyuti". I think I kind of found a more solid sound for Bola with that album, "Soup" had its moments, but because it was written over a very long period, "Glink" and "Whoblo"for instance were written in 1993,  it sounds much more like a compilation to my ears. "Fyuti" on the other hand was written in one go over a period of about 8 months and as a result sounds much more consistent and more like the complete Bola record.

What time signature is Clockjerk (Trapezoid) written in? I think its 5/4, but I can never be sure!
It's polyrhythmic 5/8 and 4/4. Well probably it's been a while.....

Could we reprint the Zoft Broiled Ed lyrics? They're pretty mysterious!
That's a crazy recipe I made up and read out through the vocoder.. and honestly I think I threw the recipe in the bin upon its completion. Some of it still rings a bell when I hear it played back and usually has me laughing at the weirdness of it, however off the top of my head I really can't remember the full thing..sorry.

How did you construct that killer ambience at the start of Zoft Broiled Ed? Kroungrine is on my list of albums that you know will be awesome 30 seconds after you turn them on.
That's a modular thing if I remember correctly, through a ton of Lexicon reverb. I have a habit of improvising with modular synthesisers, then sampling and processing it through a bunch of stuff, usually with no set idea about where and how it will be used, but most usually end up being used at some point. In fact I'm pretty sure I still have those samples in the Nord Wave for live use.

O, Chuma is unusual in that it has some almost atonal melodies. This is a great track, so I'm curious about how it came to be so unusual.
It's dodecaphonic, in other words a 12 tone scale, so that's why it may seem atonal because it's not locked to a particular major or minor key. The last time I used that sort of thing was on the final section of Diamortem, which is both 12 tone and a serial composition. I love that kind of thing, in fact thinking about it I should do a lot more of it.

It's not common for your albums to blend tracks into one another. The Eluus - Sirasancerre transition is an awesome example. How did that come about?
I'd like to pretend I'm much cleverer than I really am in this interview, but I'm not.. So the truth is it was just a happy example of something that crossfaded perfectly.

Though they are all excellent, are there any tracks you feel turned out especially well?
It's really hard for me to pick anything specific because I'm more interested in the making rather than the outcome, but I must admit to being really pleased with some of the new album because I've actually worked in new ways to make it, so tracks like "Evensong" "Kappafects" and "Maghellen" have been very revealing production wise.  However I suppose if pushed I could pick a track from each release that I'm most happy with, so here goes.....

One     "Krak Jakomo"
Soup     "Aguilla"
Mauver   "Vespers"
Fyuti     "Magnasushi"
Jello Voille  "Neph"
Gnayze     "Papnwea"
Shapes! (Well if pushed hard) "Pentagon"
Kroungrine  "Diamortem"
       

Thanks for taking the time to answer these. Is there anything you'd like to tell your fans in closing?

You're welcome and thanks to everyone's undying patience, I just hope people feel "D.E.G" was worth the wait.

Comments

  1. Thank you Almo and Darrel! This interview gives me great insight on some of my favorite pieces. I've always wanted to peer behind the curtain to see what the wizard was thinking in some of these profound soundscapes. Great praises to you both!

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