Erik Honore: Small Sonic Postcards
AAJ: You have been closely associated with Jan Bang through the years. What has your relationship of friendship and work with Bang been like?
EH: We're like an old married couple now, I guess. And it is by far the most important musical relationship I have had. We've developed this way of collaborating, first in the studio and later live, where we can work very intuitively with our various tools, and feed off each others' ideas. When we started it was more like a "synth duo," Jan was the vocalist, I wrote the lyrics and recorded what we did on multi-track cassette machines, and we both played synthesizers and wrote songs. But after we got mixed up with the improv people, we developed other ways of working. Jan was first; he collaborated with Bugge Wesseltoft and Nils Petter Molvær from a very early stage, performing as an improvising live sampler. But I am slowly catching up.
AAJ: How did you come up with the idea of making a festival such as Punkt? Please talk about the festival's concept and how it developed through the years.
EH: Jan and I sat at a café and talked about how we could combine two valuable elements that we knew we had at our disposal: our extensive network of musicians; and our way of working with live sampling/live electronics. So we drew a "family tree" on a napkin, and immediately saw that this musician network was pure gold. Through our Norwegian contacts, musicians that we had worked with either in the studio or live, we could reach most of the artists we wanted to invite if the aim was to create some kind of musical event where the formation of new constellations of musicians and creating new music was the main goal.
At the center of this family tree we had us, and the city of Kristiansand. So we marked this point (punkt) as the center. The venue would have to be the Agder Theatre, which had two stages: One main stage for normal concerts and a second stage well suited to become a "live remix laboratory," where other musicians would sample from and remix the concerts. This we wanted to happen immediately, so that the audience could go there and hear a reinterpretation of the concert they just heard.
This was in 2000, and after that it took us five years to find financing; we needed it to be a high end project technically. But the basic structure was already there, on that napkin.
The first year, in 2005, we had [trumpeter] Jon Hassell as headliner due to his contact with Norwegian guitarist Eivind Aarset, and from then on the project grew in an organic way. As I mentioned earlier, Molvær had connected us with Sylvian. [Bassist] John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin fame, came to a Punkt event in London and then to Punkt in Kristiansand, the following year he met and played with Supersilent. They still perform together. Jon Hassell and musician/visual artist Russell Mills put us in contact with Brian Eno, who curated the 2012 edition. So almost everything is organized artist-to-artist, a fact that makes it much easier to experiment with new projects and collaborations.
AAJ: What did Eno bring to the festival and how did it fit in with the festival's original design, concept and intentions?
EH: Obviously, Eno is the godfather of many of the genres involved in Punkt, and of the idea of bringing these genres together and working with them with studio tools, or now with technology that earlier was only available in studios. Eno and David Byrne's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (Sire, 1981) and Eno's work with Jon Hassell are only two examples, there are many others. We first had Eno visit Punkt with his audio-visual installation 77 Milllion Paintings in 2008, and afterwards we asked if he would be interested in curating a whole edition of the festival. He accepted, to our surprise, and this year he brought a number of artists that he personally finds most interesting today. Mainly new or younger artists over a broad genre spectrum, from electronic experimentalists like Ben Frost to pop artist Owen Pallett to improvised standup comedian/musician Reggie Watts.
This experience was very interesting to us, also the aspect of totally letting go of control over the festival program. But we will probably return to curating ourselves next year, at least most of the festival, as this is what we enjoy most. After all, Punkt is an ongoing artistic project to Jan and I, more than a traditional festival.
AAJ: What are some of the most memorable concerts that have happened at Punkt?
EH: On a personal level, I must admit that the highlights have been to perform together with some of the musicians I respect most, like David Sylvian, Jon Hassell, [guitarist] Christian Fennesz, and, of course, Sidsel Endresen, Nils Petter Molvær and Arve Henriksen, to name a few. Also because many of these performances have been starting points for further collaboration, recordings and live work. But if you ask our loyal and very knowledgeable audience, they may give you other answers.