Oliver Rivera-Drew interviews Dave Konopka, speaking about Battles creative process and Ian Williams moustache.
Battles played an amazing show at Postbahnhof on the 7th of December. They performed a set featuring songs from Gloss Drop and one song from Mirrored. Joining them onstage via two gigantic video displays resembling the monoliths from Space Odyssey, were their guest singers: Gary Numan, Matias Aguayo, Kazu Makino (Blond Redhead), and Yamantaka Eye (Boredomes) along with former Battles member Tyondai Braxton performing the song Atlas via video-link. Visuals and audio were well timed by what seemed to be an Ableton set up next to guitar/ keyboard player Ian Williams. Everything was locked nicely into place by the ever solid and inventive drumming of John Stanier.
Battles use their machines as a limitation to work with and against. Their process is similar to that of Can, who edited epic jams by cutting and splicing tape together. However, so much progress has been made in recording and looping technology. Battles are pushing the limits of what is possible onstage and in the studio using computers and live instruments in a way that gives the music an ultra-precise sense of focus not present in say, the work of Don Caballero (Ian Williams old band). It’s interesting to listen to the two bands back to back and compare the differences in timing and composition.
Battles have been on tour since last April and you can tell by the bags under their eyes, they’re road warriors of a group at this point. Their performance is consummately professional and energetic, even after having their tour bus recently set on fire.
It’s very easy to get caught up in the technical wizardry of a band like Battles. However, as I watched Ian Williams play guitar and two keyboards while drinking beer, doing the running man and simultaneously triggering audio and visual samples I thought; Battles is really a fun party band, despite all the machines they use.
I have seen Battles twice before as a four piece, although as a three piece it seems that Bass/Guitar player Dave Konopka has more room to play in. He is incredibly skilled at using effects and loops and much of the steel drum Caribbean sound on Gloss Drop is actually created by him and his guitar.
Interview with Dave Konopka & Words: Oliver Rivera-Drew; Photos: Tom O’Doherty