Interview with Rhys Mottley – by Nick Ashwood. December 2018.

Listen to an excerpt from parasite here.

1. Could you tell us a bit about your approach to the guitar?

I guess I like to explore ways of making the instrument not sound like a guitar. I find the sound of the guitar so jarring a lot of the time in this style of music. Perhaps because its sound is everywhere in musics around the world. Or maybe (probably) because I’ve played the instrument for 20 years.

After joining the Splinter Orchestra, I became more involved in trying to make this instrument work with that group. The traditional sounds of the guitar stuck out to me over the entire ensemble and were just awful.

I started exploring using the usual suspects of prepared guitar objects: violin bow(s), chopsticks, alligator clips. I started collecting bottle caps and began finding these flat metal needles in the gutters of streets. I think they’re from street-cleaners. CDs, foil, bamboo, plastic bottles, drill bits, anything rusty.

I guess my approach is: get comfortable and see what happens. I really like sitting on certain ideas/sounds and having the patience to see how they can develop over a long period of time. I think my aesthetics on how I improvise is heavily influenced by my time in Splinter Orchestra.

2. The location of the recording of parasite plays a big part in the music with planes flying over and cars passing by. Was this precomposed or just happened?

I started recording parasite at Tempe Jets at the start of the year when everyone was away and I knew there would be no disruptions. Tempe Jets is an old sports club located near Sydney Airport which has become studios for artists of all mediums.
Besides being documentation to my approach to improvised music and prepared guitar, it is also documentation of my first experiences to DIY recording and using microphones. I have no idea about microphones in general, so I didn’t know how sensitive the ones I used would be! I knew they would pick up the planes flying over the top of Tempe Jets (though to which volume, I had no idea) but there were even more sounds picked up that I couldn’t hear or were much more minimal to my senses.
At the time of recording, I liked the concept of airplanes occasionally making appearances with whatever I was doing. It was a sound I was totally use to from being and rehearsing at Tempe Jets many hours in a week (also from living in the Inner West of Sydney).
That was the extent of any ‘pre composition’ with this recording. When Jim and I started mixing the tracks, we brought out certain frequencies and realised there was so much more recorded which really contributed to what I was doing.

3. How did playing in a space such as this affect your listening? Did it make the direction of the music change or make you react in any kind of way?
Like I said, I’ve spent many hours at Tempe Jets playing, practising and hanging out with my friends. So, I feel (and felt) very comfortable and relaxed in this space. In terms of the outside sounds, not really. Maybe I subconsciously played a bit louder when a plane flew over so I could hear myself better (and from my novice thinking: the microphones).

4. Could you tell us about the title of the album?
The title of the album has meanings to me. But, it can mean anything you like, or nothing. It’s up to you. I don’t want to influence the way you see/think/hear the music.

5. What’s next?
Lots of exciting upcoming projects/releases with other groups I’m a part of. Co-organising gigs/festivals. Co-managing emus (exploratory music in sydney) –
I also play and love the Clarinet; which I have found myself exploring more as of late. Maybe a Bass Clarinet album will be my next solo record :O !!… (probably not)