This interview with Chris Cutler was conducted by e-mail on the occasion of the release of The Science Group's album "...A Mere Coincidence...", in December 1999.
The credits for your lyrics to the album
(1992-96) suggest that this project has been a long time in the
writing. When and in what circumstances did you first start working
I have been writing texts on science related subjects for a long time, some appear on other CD's (starting with News from Babel). I began to work toward a whole project somewhere around 1992, slowly accumulating texts. I seem to work that way at the moment, there are several other projects growing in the same way.
The press release mentions that Stevan
Tickmayer is a "contemporary classical composer from the
ex-Yugoslavia". But the music on "...A Mere Coincidence..." is
certainly rock-based, and Stevan himself plays the keyboard parts. Is
working in a rock group something new for him?
Stevan was trained in composition, piano and contrabass. He has written numerous contemporary pieces and has a standing ensemble (The Tickmayer Formatio) to perform them. He studied, amongst others, with Louis Andreissen in Amsterdam and then moved to France as composer for choreographer Josef Nadj at the Centre Choreographique National d'Orleans. I met him first in Novi Sad (Jugoslavia) in the early Eighties. There was a memorable concert with the Black Sheep in the garden of a local sculptor there, where Stevan and some other Hungarian musicians joined us. After that, I saw him on and off, eventually working with him - with Josef Nadj (Stevan played the piano), on a circus piece and in a trio with Erno Kiraly. I offered him the Science texts, by then a record's worth, and proposed we make a CD. I thought his way of composing would bring something new, he is trained and thinks as a contemporary composer but is equally happy with electronics - and he understands folk music and rock also from the inside. As far as I know he never worked in a Rock group and I'm not sure if he would call this a rock record either.
The music on this album is extremely
complicated and the listener's only possible way of explaining that
human beings are able to play this music is to believe there's
probably a lot of studio trickery involved. Well... Could this work
be performed live? (BTW, any such plans?)
Yes, the compositions are extremely complicated, though the played parts were of course really played. Not all together though, and not in real time. Steven and I put our parts on first. Then Fred came to France and added his. Claudio was sent an A-Dats and a score and he added his parts in Germany, after which Amy arrived and sang. Bob added his bass parts as we went along, as well as singing and overdubbing guitars, percussion and whatever else he thought was necessary in the course of the mixing. There was a great deal of production work involved but, I would say, the compositions are certainly performable. It would take at least 10 days of rehearsal though and we would need our own mixing engineer and probably some outboard equipment. In fact we were invited to Victoriaville this year, but Amy was already engaged at that time. However, because of the rehearsal time and travel costs, only a festival or tour could afford to invite us and it would not be cheap. The same was true of t'Domestic Stories', which we were never invited to perform. P53 only ever got two invitations, both from major festivals. So, unless there is serious interest I doubt whether the Science material will ever actually be performed. Which, I think, is a great pity.
Fred Frith and Amy Denio make very significant
contributions to almost all the tracks on the album. Why aren't they
credited as full members of the project?
As with 'Domestic', this was not really a group project, it was Stevan and my project with invited musicians. Bob produced the record, as well as playing and singing. He did all the mixing alone, so his was a full and equal part. The others came for a day or two days and overdubbed parts. Their imput, though vital was of a different order. As I wrote it, they are all credited as members of the project, but the 'authors' of the record were Stevan (music), Bob (production) and myself (texts). Does that make sense?
It is tempting to see The Science Group as a
particularly successful attempt at modern "progressive" rock. What
music do you (or would like to) associate the word "progressive" to
I guess that could be said; it has enough in common with the language of 'progressive' rock to be seen as fitting into it. Nevertheless 'progressive' seems to me to a historical label - to refer to styles that matured in the 1970's. To say a group is progressive today seems to mean that their music refers back somehow to that period. Which is why I am equivocal about the term, and myself no longer use it, except historically. And why, when all is said, I'm not sure if this CD is really a progressive rock record. There are some parts that definitely use that language, but far more which do not. Perhaps the familiar bits are just easier to recognise and label? I prefer to think there is something else going on on this record, but I am happy when anyone has a good word to say for it!
(c) 1999 Calyx - The Canterbury Website