In Fai Baba’s cave

On stage at Lephoto_fai_baba_01 Bourg, Fabian Sigmund, alias Fai Baba, surprises us with a trio that’s as minimal as it is powerful. He is back at Paléo Festival Nyon, Friday the 26th of July.

First of all, there’s the voice that can scale great heights in an empowered register, something which doesn’t really go with the willowy physique and jerky body moves. An intriguing mismatch which strikes a chord straight away.

The accompanying bassist and drummer amplify and play around with these noisy blues, tinged with flashes of rock and punk.

The rhythms are broken up to make way for long instrumental sections. Thanks to two guitars, (one simple and one 12 string), and a few pedals for effects, Fai Baba puts his guts into his music without batting an eyelid.

A cover version of Townes Van Zandt and a nod in the direction of many different rock styles, all of which confirms that the man is a music freak.

Fai Baba says goodbye, announces that his CDs are on sale and gets straight to business by pulling out a suitcase from the side of the stage. Inside are his two CDs releases, including the latest “She’s the guru”. It’s a lot more orchestral than what the Zurichois has just delivered on stage despite being a work that he designed entirely on his own. Here are some insights into his work:

How did you set about making « She is My Guru » ?

Fai Baba: This LP was made in six months. I shut myself away in a rehearsal studio in Zurich and started working on some loops, experimenting with sounds on an eight-track. Within six months all the ground work was done. I then went to New York to finish the rest. I worked in the studio with Tony Maimone who was Père Ubu’s bass player for a long time.

How did you meet Tony Maimone ?

Fai Baba: By chance. I was helping a friend organise a kids’ second-hand market and whilst chatting to a woman I mentioned that I was a musician. She happened to be Tony Maimone’s sister-in-law and she hooked us up. In him I discovered a nerd who like me enjoys organic music and working with analogue sound.

Since when have you been working on your own?

Fai Baba: When I was 14, I started playing in a band and hanging out with an older friend who was clued up. He taught me how to record onto a tape deck and I immediately thought it was more cool than working with a computer.

How do you work?

Fai Baba: I’ve always played my rhythm section plus guitar. As soon as I touch an instrument I know there’s a specific sound for me to make. For example, I can make a kick drum sound with my foot, then I sample it and play it back and this gives me a base on which to build. It’s often as basic as just one simple note. This is a hip-hop technique but its origins come from the blues.

How did you get into the blues ?

Fai Baba: I used to play in a band where we went through all different styles of playing: rock à la Radiohead, then Pink Floyd style, and then Sonic Youth! Next I went off to India with my guitar, it was some travellers there who initiated me into the blues. When I got back I found myself playing the first half of a set all alone on the guitar. It was then that I realised that I wanted to play solo.

You seem to have an impressive collection of instruments and synths?

Fai Baba: I don’t know how many instruments I’ve got. They fill up a whole room, rather stressful because I’ve got to move house soon. I’ve always loved vintage sounds, the instruments used back in the day, but I’m not rich enough to have them all. Recently a friend of mine unearthed an Ace Tone organ, (a portable organ used a lot in 60s American rock), which featurs on the LP.

 You invited some musicians to join you on the LP, what did they contribute to the sound?

Fai Baba: When I ask someone to play on my record I know exactly what I want from them and the kind of sound that they’ll bring. But I also like for the process to be spontaneous and radical.

 Your album is entitled « She is my Guru ». Who is your guru?

Fai Baba: Once the recording was over, I noticed that I’d only done love songs. When we think of a guru our first thoughts are often of a man, but it amused me to say “She’s my guru”; a ‘she’ that refers to ‘woman’ in general, my muse as much as my guru.

“Julia”, a track from Fai Baba’s first LP (“Snake Snake”) is available for download on bandcamp at Swiss Vibes and can heard here:

PS. This text was originally published in French on the 31st MAY 2013 on this blog

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