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Triptaka - interview (2008)
2008-07-17 | Katarzyna NINa Górnisiewicz and Brian Backlash | e-mail interview
NINa: Your band name sounds original, and if someone wanted to translate that into Polish it could mean something like 'Three Birds'. What does the band name mean?

Graeme Cornies: It's a word that actually came from a mispronunciation on my part. I was reading the Bhagavad Gita at the time that James and I were brainstorming names. I mispronounced one of the Sanskrit words to James. Though I eventually realized my mistake, James and I still thought Triptaka was fitting. It sounds percussive, and seems to evoke the idea of a journey of some sort. Incidentally, the Triptaka is also a Buddhist Cannon, though we were unaware at the time. Purely coincidental.

James Chapple: It's funny how the name has taken on different meanings totally by accident - I mean even "Three Birds" seems to fit nicely as there are three of us, no?

Brian Backlash: Triptaka is still a young band, and you're still trying to make a name for yourself. Who outside the band has done the most to cheer you on and help you realize your goals?

Dave Kelly: All the people who listen to our tunes and are inspired in some form or another - they are what really keep us motivated to make music.

Graeme Cornies: Also, our friends and family, though recently, we've had a number of people get involved that have given us a new burst of energy. We've been putting together a remix album for Second War and as a result, we've had the opportunity to work with a bunch of people whose work we really admire.

NINa: When and where did you first meet up with your band members, and was it difficult forming a solid lineup?

Dave Kelly: It wasn't difficult forming a solid lineup as the band came together pretty naturally, and was a tight fit from the start. James and I met when we were in college. Home recording technology was relatively new and we both realized we had similar taste in music. So we began laying down tracks together, and the music began to sculpt itself. Graeme came into the mix a little later down the road.

James Chapple: I knew Graeme from as far back as high school - and always thought he was a great musician.

Dave Kelly: He was the missing piece that solved everything, and since then the three of us have been making music together for close to ten years. When it's tight, its right.

Brian Backlash: I haven't been able to find any live dates for Triptaka - past or future. Do you have anything in the works to bring the band to the stage, or will you keep it a studio project?

James Chapple: We are currently working on getting our live show together - We want to make sure that the live experience is the best it possibly can be before we present it, unfortunatly this takes a lot of time and preparation. We are also putting the finishing touches on the remix album and our next full length, so as you can imagine we are pretty busy. As soon as there are any updates on playing live we'll post them to our myspace and our website.

Brian Backlash: I've occasionally asked a number of our interview subjects how they feel towards and regard the term "industrial", including in how it applies to their work. For a number of years that term was treated as a dirty word, and many bands people often describe as industrial did their best to disassociate themselves from it. Do you think the term industrial is an accurate description of your work? Do you still see it as a descriptor with negative connotations?

James Chapple: Our music has been described in many different ways, but I think it's easy for people to classify us as industrial because we utilize a lot of electronic elements. I wouldn't say we are a pure industrial band though - Industrial Rock or Industrial Metal would probably be the best description.
Overall I personally don't see the term "industrial" as having any negative connotations, but I think putting any label on music can be a difficult thing - As soon as you do there is a certain expectation from the listener. Many people's musical taste represents their identity, so they feel a kind of ownership over their favourite styles - and "industrial" is no different. This puts a certain kind of pressure on us as artists to meet those expectations. But I mean, really what else can you do? You have to describe your music somehow.

NINa: Does Seattle still support new trends in music or is it more focused on the '90s boom for grunge music?

James Chapple: I wasn't here in the '90s, so I really don't know what it was like, but I get the impression that folks here in Seattle that were part of the whole "grunge" thing were never really focused on it to begin with. I think they were just listening to the bands they liked, and doing their thing - it was external forces that took grunge to the international market. Presently, I don't think much has changed. People here continue to support their various local scenes regardless if they are popular on a local, national or international level. There is still a great love and respect for the musical heritage here as well - They like to play Nirvana and Pearl Jam every hour or two on the radio.

Brian Backlash: I've heard some unkind things about the Seattle music scene in recent years, from bands like Rabbit Junk to regular people I've met who've lived around there. It's easy to be negative about things. What I want to know is, what's going on in Seattle that's positive? Who's making the music scene a better place? Who's making the interesting music? Where are the places to be?

James Chapple: When I first moved to Seattle I had no idea there was such a vibrant industrial scene happening here. I mean you've got a lot of kick ass bands who are keeping industrial alive, and it certainly doesn't hurt having a band as influential as KMFDM based here as well. Also, as I mentioned earlier, Seattle really supports it's music scene. It is a city filled with music lovers - which makes it a really great city to be in. The music scene here is very inter-dependant, and everyone kind of feeds off each other. From record labels, to concert series, radio stations such as KEXP, to local publications - Seattle's music scene is alive and well because of the various different musical entities that support each other.

As far as places to play, there are so many great venues, it's hard to narrow down the best, so I'll just give you my personal favorites. The Showbox and the Showbox Sodo are pretty kick ass and can support large acts while still maintaining an intimate feel. The best place to catch an act here though would have to be an outdoor ampitheatre called "The Gorge", which is actually located outside of Seattle, but well worth the drive. The stage is at the bottom of a natural gorge overlooking the Columbia River. There is nothing more magical than seeing a band play while the sun sets over that picturesque scene. But like I said, these are just my personal favs - there are so many great places to play in Seattle, both big and small.

NINa: What kind of music were you a fan of during the '90s?

Graeme Cornies: Nirvana, NIN, Sound Garden, I Mother Earth, Tool, Rage Against the Machine etc.

James Chapple: It's hard to sum it all up in an interview without looking like someone's myspace page.

Dave Kelly: Anything that fuckin' rocked.

James Chapple: Yeah - exactly what Dave said.

NINa: You point to Tool and NIN as your main influences. What attracts you so strongly to their music?

Dave Kelly: The great things found in the dark - Intelligence in a rare and basic animal state.

James Chapple: The fact they make creative music that challenges the listener, and also sell out stadiums and are on MTV - Compositionally, there is a lot of raw power and emotion in their music while also not compromising on the heavy side of things.

NINa: Which of all the Tool videos impressed you the most?

Dave Kelly: My fave was Prison Sex.

Graeme Cornies: Same here.

James Chapple: For me it's probably Sober, mainly because that was the first time I heard the band, and it hooked me on the spot. Really any of the videos with Adam Jones' animation work are incredible to watch.

Brian Backlash: NINa mentioned that you were influenced by bands like Tool and NIN. You're also a fan of Nirvana, the Beatles and other widely ranging styles of music. Can you put into words what the difference is between good music and bad music?

James Chapple: If I had to put it into words, it would go something like this: to me the difference between good and bad music is good music challenges, entertains and makes you feel/think - Bad music would be the opposite. But it's different for everybody depending on their tastes.

Dave Kelly: I think "good" music comes from a real place, both emotionally and talent wise - When listening to a "good"song, whether you like the style of music or not, there is an immediate recognition that the artist is a true talent that believes what he/she is singing about, and not faking their way through the song. Straight up.

James Chapple: Well as some famous person once said: "Talking about music is like dancing about architecture" - It's really a hard thing to discuss without playing a few examples - Also, it's such a subjective thing it's really impossible to answer definitively.

Brian Backlash: Your first full length album is called "Second War". Is that an allusion to a particular real-world war or a personal war?

Graeme Cornies: It was definitely meant to be figurative, though at this point, perhaps it's both. It was initially meant to refer to the often painful process of reshaping yourself into what you would like to become. Since these struggles in the world have dominated the media in the past few years, I have started to extend this idea to refer to the fight to maintain your humanity, despite the many media outlets that have done more to promote hate and intolerance than understanding on both sides. The Second War is similar to the war for hearts and minds - it is the hidden battle that is being fought behind the scenes.

NINa: Your songs are mostly guitar orientated. What guitars do you like using the most?

Dave Kelly: This album has a few different guitars on it. All the tones were a mix of great and crappy guitars. The main guitars for the majority of the album are Gibson Les Pauls. There is also an ibanez and and a couple of garage sale axes to add some akward flavor. Randall & Fender Amps with some BBE, Aphex, and sometimes some old digitech effects. The BIG MUFF was sprinkled throughout the album for some dirty fuzz. Some of the guitars always had fresh strings while I would also purposely not change some of the strings and then beat the shit out of them to get some really interesting sounds. Although the guitars are thick and in your face for the most part, there was a lot of experimenting with different tones, styles and effects.

Brian Backlash: "Second War" has so far garnered some very favorable reviews as well as some cross country radio play. Clearly the album is a strong piece of work, for it to acquire such attention. Still, do you think "Second War" is an album you'll still be pleased with in ten years' time? Do you see yourself exploring different musical directions in the future, as a reaction to what you're doing now?

James Chapple: I'll still be happy with it, but already I think we hear parts we wish we could go back and touch up. But that's the way it always goes - who was it that said "Good music is released, great music escapes"? We work on the tracks a long time and eventually we have to finish them - so they kind of get out of our hands at that point and you move on to the next thing.

Dave Kelly: I will always be pleased with Second War. Its our debut and we bled for a long time to put that together.

James Chapple: As far as exploring different sounds in the future, well, that's already happening with our next album - But I hope it's never as a reaction to what we are doing, but more of a progression. We don't ever want to go so far out of line with the "sound" of the band that we alienate fans - But we always want to keep fresh ideas coming, and keep ourselves interested too.

Brian Backlash: What do you think is the most essential aspect of good music?

James Chapple: I think the most essential aspect of any music, good or bad, is to entertain. Don't get me wrong, it's great if you can get listeners to think and feel and become inspired from your music. But ultimatly I think the goal should be to "wow" listeners. As I said before though, if you can combine the entertainment factor with the emotion factor, you've got a winning combination.

Dave Kelly: Also I think as a writer, it's important to try and avoid cliches and create songs that you want to listen to.

Graeme Cornies: Personally, I think most great music in any genre comes from a combination of innate talent, hard work and a belief in your own instincts. Making music without worrying what another person might think is perhaps the most important in my opinion. It's anyone's guess as to what others might think, but if the music is coming from an honest place within the person making it, if it touches the creator in a potent way, then there are bound to be other people that will connect with it. When I look back at some of my biggest influences, they emerged at a time when their style of music wasn't necessarily mainstream. Imagine if Kurt Cobain was trying desperately to be the next Milli Vanilli. It's laughable, but I often hear really talented musicians jumping on board the latest trend. That's not bad if it makes you grow musically, but I think it takes more courage to do your own thing, especially when your own thing is unpopular. If you're boldly being yourself, and your music speaks to that, I think you'll find like-minded listeners who will more than appreciate where you're coming from.

NINa: When you decide to write a new song what do you usually begin with?

Graeme Cornies: Usually, the instrumentals come first. I love hearing James and Dave's vision for a new song in near states of completion before laying down vocals. That way, I'm able to interact with the melodies that exist in the track already. That being said, we usually talk about what the song was written about instrumentally, so that the lyrics can reflect that idea in the end as well.

Brian Backlash: Do you listen to music much when you're writing and recording, or do you shut out all external influences as much as possible?

James Chapple: When we actually get down to the nitty gritty of recording, certainly there are no external influences - But often times I'm inspired by ideas I hear in someone else's song. Maybe it's the way a certain drum loop sounds, or just trying to capture the vibe of a track. Personally I like listening to things that are nothing like Triptaka, and borrowing ideas from that. It's easy to listen to a NIN or TOOL track and say: "yeah, let's do something like that!" - but it's far more engaging to "translate" an idea from a totally different style of music and make it our own.

NINa: Grunge coexisted with industrial rock in the 1990s. Do you have any thoughts on why there haven't been any new trends or revolutions in music since then?

Dave Kelly: I definitely think its time for something fresh. The music industry is in a huge transition - New ways of thinking have changed the rules and those who used to control the trends are figuring out new ways to regain their footing. The days of the record label are not done. The reset button has been pressed, that's all.

James Chapple: Personally I believe that once every 20-30 years or so an artists comes along that changes the face of music for ever. The past century saw the Beatles and Nirvana accomplish this, and I think that we are due for another musical facelift soon.

Graeme Cornies: I keep crossing my fingers for some great innovator to change the whole game again. I hope for it daily.

Dave Kelly: If you look back at all those types of musical icons (Lennon, Morrison, Cobain, etc), you can see that these people weren't focused on the marketing and crap needed to execute the perfect trend. They were in a certain state of mind that millions of people could relate to. This select group of people arrived to us exactly when they were supposed to, and I think as a society we may be calling out for it again.

NINa: Were you trained as a musician, or were you self taught?

Dave Kelly: Self taught.

Graeme Cornies: I taught myself for the first 10 years and started taking instruction after that.

James Chapple: Lot's of music lessons and schoolin' - Plus loads of gigging with various bands.

Brian Backlash: Which kind of song are you more proud of - the song you have to fight to get it right, or the one that comes more easily and sounds great from start to finish?

James Chapple: The one that comes easy is usually the better track - They tend to be the tighter, simpler, more refined ideas. When you're fighting a song, it's usually because there is something wrong with it you are trying to make right. Winning that fight can pay off in the end for sure, but not having to fight at all is preferable.

NINa: What would you do if electronic media, including TV, the internet and radio were banned?

James Chapple: The obvious. Lead a team of freedom fighters and broadcast pirate radio transmissions from our secret base.

Dave Kelly: Revolt and attempt to destroy all those responsible for the ban.

James Chapple: We'd be on the run from the government, but it would be exciting. Really though, I think we'd all be pretty much fucked if that happened, don't you think?

Graeme Cornies: Unsure, but I'm sure we'd still be making music.

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