In this episode Steph speaks with Aram and Thomas from KRANKk. The Belgian trio creates a mesmerising mix of UK Garage, Grime & Bass Music. As one of the four artists who joined Revelland to take their live gigs to a whole other level, they share insights regarding their creative process and what people can expect of their show on September 18th at Sencity Festival.
By drawing inspiration from sensory limitations and including deaf people and people with learning difficulties in their creative process, they explored new realms of possibilities. Curious how enriching the experience for a whole audience and making your performance more accessible can go hand in hand, regardless of any limitations people may have? Tune in and discover how KNARS (NL), Kormac (IE), KRANKk (BE) and Perhaps Contraption (UK) transformed their gigs to multi-sensorial, immersive experiences.
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Hello, and welcome to the Revelland podcast. My name is Stephanie Singer, and I’ll be your host today. This podcast is a deep dive into the creative process of transforming a gig into an accessible [00:15] immersive experience. You can find an accessible version of this podcast with subtitles and a video on our website and on our YouTube: ‘Discover Revelland’. If you’re all comfortable, I’ll just give you a description of what I look like. So, I’m a blonde, white woman, [00:30] I’m in Londen and I’m wearing a floaty top, because, reverse everything you’ve ever known about Londen, it’s actually warm today. And besides that I’m sitting in my front room and there’s a green background behind me.
So a bit of context. This podcast is devoted to Revelland. And Revelland is transforming the performing arts. The team based in the Netherlands and are working with professionals and artists to research, develop and present new inclusive, immersive solutions [01:00] for the performing arts. It’s a pretty big aim and I’ve been working with the team for the past two years and I’ve been lucky enough to be consulting and working with four bands in particular to change their thinking [01:15] from being musicians, to being makers of music experiences, and that involves making music, but that also involves thinking about how we can create and curate an experience that unlocks what music is all [01:30] about to audiences. So that’s thinking about the ways that audiences come into gigs. The lighting, what people eat, what people taste, what people smell, what people feel. Having an active curatorial approach that speaks [01:45] from the music all the way into everything that’s experienced by the audience. And so it’s been my privilege to speak to the bands regularly for the past two years as they go across this process and start thinking about [02:00] creating. Not just a gig, but a multisensory, immersive experience of their music. Everything is culminating in some gigs in September, in the middle of September, and as you can appreciate, in the last year… has been the year of [02:15] COVID. So we’ve had quite a lot of challenges thrown at us, when we’re thinking about immersivity and the sensory world. If you were even thinking about touch, or taste. There’s so many other precautions that now we have to think about when we’re creating experiences. [02:30] Even in live gig settings. The ways in which we sing, the ways in which audiences can be spaced out, you know, a lot has changed during this year. So the bands have been through a huge, huge transition. And this podcast is gonna be devoted [02:45] to tracking their progress. So each episode is devoted to a different band. And today, I’m so excited to be with KRANKk.
So for today’s episode we’re with the wonderful, glorious, luminous, [03:00] joyes KRANKk, who are a talented group of musicians who are gonna share a bit more about what they do and I can’t wait. And just before we start, can you please give a visual introduction of yourselfs, and just tell us who you are and where you are?
Hi, my name is Aram. I’m in the studio in the basement of the Trix. And I’m wearing a black hat, black clothes and I have a black beard, and the studio [03:30] is full of acoustic panels.
Alright, so I’m Thomas. I play drums and I’m wearing a white cap, an orange vest, a blue t-shirt [03:45] and yeah, we’re in the studio right now. Trix is a place in Antwerp, where we live, where we study music as well. And it’s where we have our residency. So yeah. And by the way, we have to excuse the third person, because [04:00] KRANKk is a collective of three. His name is Willem. He’s the tallest of the three of us and he couldn’t be here unfortunately but yeah, that’s who we are, hi.
Normally when Willem is in the picture he’s in a yurt, right?
Yeah, he lives in a yurt. He has long hair but we like, we… We’ve made a deal that when he shaves his head, I’m gonna shave my beard.
Try to encourage him, people [laughter].
So I have to say this thing that I experience whenever you are near a conversation or in a creative process, you just bring joy into the room. Like, it’s just instantaneous. [04:45] I think part of that is because you three are so connected, and you have a real creative understanding and I love seeing it and I feel it every time that I’m near you guys. So, who are you and how on earth did [05:00] you all come to be together in each other’s life, making music and yeah, tell us, tell us how it happened.
So yeah, this happened in the conservatorium in Antwerp. That’s where we study music, so I [05:15] began… I play drums so, and Willem, he studies jazz and Aram, he studies classical piano, so that’s where we met. About three or four years ago we were into like, you know, the old school genres and [05:30] Drum and bass, UK Garage, Grime and all like the subgenres. Yeah, we really liked those and… so we were, I guess, experimenting with productions and Ableton and Logic back then. We just met up and [05:45] started making music and having a good time and started bonding and, I mean, we really found each other I guess yeah [laughter].
Yeah, I think most of the time it’s the music that gets us so excited because [06:00] we really, really, really love the genres and playing it live.
And every time we think about that, and working around, that just brings joy in our…
So tell us a bit about the sound, [06:15] what do you sound like, if you’re gonna describe it to an alien human.
So we experiment with a mixture between acoustic and electronic sounds.
Yeah, and I think [06:30] the mood of our music would be dark and bass-y, energetic. But also like meaningful in a way [06:45] that’s not just noise or anything. Every bit has its emotional load, which we try to like, communicate within our music.
Yeah it’s really nice to play with the dynamics within.
So, in this [07:30] crazy process that we’re in, where obviously, you’ve been tasked with transforming your gigs into experiences. How is it different, the process that you’re kind of working on now, how is that different from a normal [07:45] KRANKk gig?
Is it different?
To be honest, [laughter], I think the previous, like the normal KRANKk gigs, they were like…[08:00]
It’s with a lot less senses, you know.
Yeah of course, and it was just only the music that really ran through your body, but there was no… yeah, not a lot of context to it, which made our [08:15] audience feel like, how do you call it, disoriented from time to time. They didn’t know if there was a part to dance or listen or to be shocked or something. [08:30] And we couldn’t bring togetherness within our audience. Right? There was like… there were moments and sort of types of songs, [08:45] mostly when there were more lyrics to it, that we could really bring people together and let them dance but in the other alternative, things that were more… experimental things, it was like an individual journey [09:00] but we couldn’t represent this within visuals or… it was only the music and sometimes maybe difficult to understand.
And when there was lyrics, you know, we could bring the actual features, the artists that we collab with on the track with us. And then we have this track with Manga Saint Hilare and Coco from London, and with Miss Angel and Blu Samu and…those tracks are, you know, we play everything live so [09:30] people sense and watch and be amazed at what they see. Like afterwards there were loads of people, come to us and just like telling us like “yo, we were just watching you guys, thinking, you know, [09:45] what the f is going on?!” [laughter]. Like, you know, these sounds and then live and… They were blown away about that. So we figured that we had to work on the energy given by other people [10:00] in the front really, and really leading the pack, the listeners and the people there. So that’s why we’re working with dancers as well, about four [10:15] dancers.
So let’s zoom out a second, I think that there’s a kind of something that you just said. There was almost this, your audience is prior to thinking experientially. Your audiences might have been like what’s being asked [10:30] of us or how do we respond to each bit of sound. And I think that’s really interesting because, knowing what you are working on now, and knowing that we’re thinking experientially, which really means we’re saying, what are my audience experiencing, and how can [10:45] I as a musician, kind of curate, and be certain that they know what’s asked of them or that they have things they kind of sensorily do and when we’re inviting to respond in certain ways. So in this kind of way, when you’re thinking kinda [11:00] experientially and also theatrically, you’re giving the audience more clarity about how to hear your music.
Yeah, we’re giving them a story because, yeah, there is a story behind [11:15] our music, but by only hearing it, you don’t get the full story. And that’s like what we’ve been working on the past one and a half year, to try to clarify what we do.
You get the full story, but only through music, you know, I mean, so now we try to extend that by letting dancers express it and through visuals [11:45] and combining all of that. So it’s a bigger picture of that story, you know what I mean?
Totally, it’s like you’re saying, the music is the kinda center, and then, once you’ve got that heart, then you get to think about how to amplify it, [12:00] using other tools. So I guess everybody is probably desperate to hear then, what it is that you’re actually working towards. I know it’s called ‘RESET’. So let’s hear a bit about the vision. What is it gonna be like? Who is gonna be there, what is gonna be there? [12:15] What am I, if I’m an audience member, what am I gonna do?
Thomas & Aram: [12:21]
Well, I think yeah, RESET is about… we didn’t have a name for [12:30] the show for a long time. And I think RESET came from the… yeah, from everything that’s been going on in the past year. And it was a really different life that we had to lead, [12:45] adapt to everything and I think RESET is a way to, like, give an opportunity to let that go and go back to a normal state of being, without limitations. [13:00] And I think that’s… and yeah like unify people together and create togetherness. I think that’s RESET…that’s what RESET is about. But then you can [13:15]… we’re gonna use it in a symbolic way and in a musical way and a sensorial way. Like, I don’t know if I…
No no, keep going! This is it, bring it to life, you know you’ve got.. you’ve done so much thinking, [13:30] it’s also one of those moments when you’re kind of trying to consolidate the level of a year and a half of work on this concept into something that can be digestible and communicable, it’s not easy. So this what’s it all [13:45] about, yeah, tell us… what will we sense, what will we see and also what have the challenge has been because I know having kind of been with you on this process that is not being straight forward, planning, RESET, you know, we say after the year we’ve had, [14:00] and what you mean is COVID, you know, and as musicians, that’s huge. Tell us a bit about what kind of things you can imagine us seeing at RESET and doing. Or that you’re thinking about, or that you’re playing with, [14:15] exploring at the moment.
Well, we had a trial at Vooruit in Ghent about two months ago, one month, two months ago, something like that, and so the process [14:30] is still… there’s some stuff on stage design that’s still going on. So we will have residency at De Singel in Antwerp for two weeks to work on that and to improve some [14:45] visual skills but I mean, what you will see is obviously the three of us live and then dancers and the Collapse, like, the artist that we have our songs with. Visuals triggered on our music, through, you know, triggers [15:00] and our instruments and about the senses, like, I mean, I don’t know if we have to go too much into that, because it’s like… Some of that is still in developing stages.
And a surprise. [15:15] It has to be a surprise. Otherwise [laughter], if they know what it is, then yeah…
We made five chapters. You can rewatch it on YouTube, there will be five [15:30] online, out of six and it’s like a small documentary in, like behind the scenes footage of how we, you know, went to work and experiment with like all different senses and [15:45] things that trigger, you know, imagination really.
It’s interesting thinking about, because knowing the process as I do, I know that certain details are only just really being confirmed as in yesterday [16:00] [laughter], that you will be live, which has obviously been a big question mark for the last year and a half, given COVID. And even though we say to be live, there’s still the kind of like, [16:15] we’re still all preparing ourselves for the fact that could all be pulled away at any moment. So I appreciate that things are in process, but I’d be really curious for you to share anything that you could about how you’re making decisions, [16:30] you know, when you’re thinking about the sensory stimulations, and you’re thinking about accessibility in particular. I know that, you know, you’ll be thinking about sign language, integrating that within the movement, but also what do you think the kind of other sensory [16:45] details, so smell or what people will taste or what people will feel. How you… how do you want to use them, even if you can’t share what the people will be doing. How do you want to use those tools. [17:00]
Yeah, so we’ve come across certain, a certain technology, that puts us in a position to like take the… take touch as an input [17:15] to anything, it can be the sound, it can be the visuals, it can be lights, anything. And yeah, we still need to experiment with it but I think it’s possible to create a new level of [17:30] interaction with our audience. With technology, but like, give it a sensory touch by using touch. And I think, [17:45] like you said, the dancers use sign language within their choreography, we look up, like the meaning of the essence in our song to repeatedly [18:00] put that in the choreography or in the certain part that’s really the core of the song or something. And I think for the vibration and also for the feeling [18:15] of the music. We work with a lot of sub frequencies, but when we isolate the sub frequencies, what’s left of the music? That’s a big question mark for us. [18:30] Is our music standing alone on the sub frequencies themselves in order to feel… to feel like the rhythm or the heaviness of the music, because it can go [18:45] quite complex what we do with our subs and I… it’s still a question mark if that’s yeah… we need to take in account what’s happening there. Because like people with [19:00] hearing disabilities would only hear that and see other things so it needs to be representable.
Such a deep insight into your process. Because it’s like…. And what you’re articulating is that, this… [19:15] that makes me understand that this is an experiment for you, you know, you’re testing something that you’ve never tested. You’re discovering something that you’ve never known, in this process, and that is so exciting in lots of ways, you know, thinking about what is sound [19:30] when it’s not audible, but it is felt. And what is translated in that kind of meaning. And is something that is… well it can push… obviously your music but it can also push technologies. [19:45] And it can push the way we think about gig experiences and it can push the way we think about amplification in the future, you know, that has got so much potential. And it makes me really excited to hear you talk about it in those ways actually. And the technology [20:00] that you mentioned, the one that’s kinda centered around touch. It sounds like, the thing that most excites you at the moment is the way in which vibration works on the body. So the kind of touch, the contact between the body and the sub [20:15] or the body and the vibration of the sound. As well as the touch of an audience member to trigger other happenings within your gig. So it sounds like touch in the skin is kind of like, something that you’re thinking a lot about [20:30] and in the time of kinda COVID, how does that feel, to be focussing on touch and togetherness at a time when we’ve just been isolated. And.. [laughter] [20:45]
It feels very risky [laughter]
But it’s something we need to try, I think.
Yeah, and I mean, it’s a long term project as well, you know, so… [21:00]
At a certain point we need to break boundaries. And if it means that the audience needs to wear gloves in order to touch each other, that would be perfectly fine, then we’ll do it that way [21:15] or we’ll just wait out until it’s okay again, till it’s over. And use it, because those are all extra things, the music is still the center of the full [21:30] show and, yeah I think with the other senses, with the dancers, with the people that are actually there, performing, we can tell our story, we believe. It’s just the interaction [21:45] that gets enhanced with these extra senses. And our theme RESET can be used with those extra inputs.
Yeah right, whoa well said! [laughter]
[laughter] And so I guess I’m interested then, because it sounds like, the way that you’re talking is very deep and I know, obviously from being with you across this process, [22:15] you’ve been very careful and very practical, you know, testing things out regularly, not just thinking in theory but actually getting in the room with different people. And trying stuff out. And so it feels like this [22:30] process, you have embraced this process to a level where I believe it might have an impact on your future as a band, and the way you do lots of your gigs in the future. Is that fair to say?
Steph & Aram: [22:47]
It’s a certain thing that needs to, I think, if we take this into extremes, it cannot be done within a… half an hour [23:00] changeover. So it will be very special gigs and I think we need to figure out a way to incorporate this as much in festival gigs and club [23:15] gigs as we can. But there is like, we’re going into two separate directions for the moment, because we’re not finished with our full show. [23:30] But we’re still getting bookings. And we’re trying to incorporate as much of these things that we’ve learned. But it’s not always as easy or the budget isn’t always there.
It’s not easily accessible [23:45] in every, like, situation, you know.
Yeah, but we try to push this through. That’s one of our goals to incorporate as much as extra sensory stuff. And yeah, I think the [24:00] bookers or the festivals are getting a glimpse of: okay, it’s… they’re really serious about this and we’re gonna give it a shot, so yeah, that’s positive.
It makes me feel like it’s the future.
Yeah, really, no I think that people actually crave [24:30] for more sensory performances. Because yeah, you create a different…
It’s just different, diverse, so it’s something else. [24:45] There is one in Antwerp right now, we still have to go but I know a lot of people who went. It’s like a full multi-sensorial show of Vincent van Gogh. And, I mean, they were like, Yo this is so [25:00] cool and so new and what a visuals and the sounds and it looks amazing and yeah… And I’m like yeah, we’re about to like, yeah, we’re developing a show like that as well you know, follow us then [laughter]! [25:15] Yeah no, but it’s really interesting and it’s super exciting as well cause it gives so much new insights, you know, on what it does and what you can get out of it.
Well it’s like [25:30] in terms of the sensory, the attention that the senses get. There seems to be throughout at least the 20th century, there’s kind of cyclical every ten years, there seems to be a spike in artistic interest in the senses, which is really interesting. [25:45] And over the last sort of ten years there’s been this growing spike and you can see it not just in music, like you say you could see in our installations, but also in advertising, you know, the language of feel and sense, they’re everywhere in the ways that we’re [26:00] selling products, because, we’re starting to think about… well two things, the ways that we make products now is the sensory designers that are responsible for designing packaging and designing the sensory properties of a product, but also [26:15] because we’re more used to being sold not a product anymore but a feeling, you know, we want to inhabit the feeling of a brand rather than the… be sold the direct product, so it does feel like the kinda sensory conversation [26:30] is in lots of places and obviously with Revelland the focus particularly is all around immersivity and accessibility. And I’m really interested in your journey with that because I know, as I’ve said before in the first episode, I’m not myself disabled [26:45] and I can say that I think neither of you are… would describe yourself as disabled either, and so when we’re talking about accessibility it seems… it’d be really interesting I think for you to share what your process has been, to not just [27:00] design something for accessible and for inclusive audiences, but actually with people, who have different disabilities. And I know you have had a process around that so I think people would be really interested to hear. [27:15]
Yeah, so in the full process we work with three different people. The first one was a girl from Platform K, her name was Jasmien [27:30] and she makes really nice illustrations. She’s a painter and she likes to paint and draw. So we were inspired by this work from Sam Brakhage [27:45] on which you can make, like, drawings on like this…
It was Steph’s idea, to give her credit.
I mean but yeah yeah yeah, great idea [laughter] [28:00], but we did it and it worked out really nice, you know, and so we used those images on the immersive live session of Aftermath, we did, it’s a track of ours and with Amos. [28:15] And we will also use those visuals on, you know, live.
Yeah, we need to create more of that, actually because it’s, it gets yeah, the snippets on film, [28:30] they get… You can create a loop and it’s done in a couple of seconds, it’s really short.
But the impact is cool, you know.
The impact is really cool. These are textures, but not just textures, they’re [28:45] like symbolic figures and colours on…of how Jasmien felt listening to the music. So it’s like a visual representation of someone that occupies, yeah [29:00] with art, and how that connects to music. Because, if we had an idea on how to create visuals on our music, it would be very different than a visual artist or [29:15] someone with a… yeah, different view on art and music then us, because of course, we understand our music but how does someone else understand our the [29:30] sounds and the textures within our music and how does this translate to someone?
Especially combined as well, like, it works really well if you combine it and the output is really nice so then we… [29:45] After Jasmien we worked with Juki. Juki is a… she’s a dancer from Ghent as well.
As well Platform K. So yeah, Jasmien was from KONEKT [30:00], it’s a part of Platform K. And yeah, Juki is a contemporary dancer. Also with disabilities but she has a lot of strength within [30:15] her and a lot of energy, positivity. And like, she became our best friend during the period that we worked with her and we’re gonna still work with her. Yeah we gave [30:30] our very good friend Rabba, the task to make the choreography on the spot in a couple of days. And yeah, they shared their ideas, they… because Rabba, he’s an afro dancer [30:45] and he does a lot of styles but he takes inspiration from people themselves instead of the style so he worked on a very personal level with Juki, [31:00] he had respect for what was possible with her and took out the maximum like… yeah, out of it. And yeah, we’re really happy with the result [31:15] and like seeing from our perspective, we could… yeah we really felt the emotion that’s being brought there.
Yeah, definitely. Cause it’s as well like, she has [31:30] a solo on the very end of the set and so it’s like the set has two major build ups right. So the second one, like the ending is huge. It’s a super heavy tune, loads [31:45] of bass, you know, really heavy energy. Like… and there is a, she has a solo on that and she gets like visual support from like two other dancers who have like the choreography [32:00] as well. And that supports her soul even more so it works out really nice in the set as well. Yeah. And then the third person that we had… but he unfortunately [32:15] isn’t in the show. But I had some one-on-one sessions with him and… Bjorn is his name. Shoutout Bjorn, yeah and he is a really nice dancer as well and so we worked on, [32:30] you know, how you can dance and make music in a collective improvisation just by watching each other and listening to each other and playing with frequenties low and high and [32:45] in space and with aura and, I mean, oh my God, we learned so much about that. Yeah. As well out of the feedback as well as…
So to get, is it fair to say that to get to each piece or each kind of element that [33:00] people will experience in your show in september, there’s been a whole process that’s kind of gone into each element that’s been not just kinda from you but also you witnessing other people experience you sound, and translate it into something else. [33:15]
Yeah exactly. And I think out of all these experiments we will then finally, like, have a certain type of workflow in our residency in De Singel, because like, when, we didn’t [33:30] work by playing live with Juki and the rehearsals, but then Thomas did the sessions with Bjorn and something totally different came out of that, so we might, [33:45] like, create choreography while we’re playing it live, because it’s a different dynamic, so yeah.
So, we’ve got the gigs coming up in September [34:00], which is actually not that long away, because we’re in June, right.
Time flies, it’s crazy.
Right?! You know, we spent a year and a half, like talking about this and then all of a sudden, it’s June, July, August.
So, tell us a little bit about how you’re gonna use the time between, cause the next time that we meet you, will be at the gigs in September. And we’ll wanna hear about how all of this went, you know. We’re gonna be in the room together, I will meet you finally in [34:30] the flesh. we’ll be in the room and we’ll be experiencing your work. Tell us, what is the time between now and September gonna be like for you.
June is gonna be as always
No June it’s gonna be [34:45] a… until the mid of June we’re gonna be rounding up our studies at the conservatory, that’s our main focus now, so we don’t have work in the summer for school, for the second finals. But [35:00] yeah, at the end of June, we’re gonna like work out the plot around RESET and make a rigid idea of how we’re gonna use this in the sections of the show. [35:15] And then, I think, the main thing we’re gonna focus on is the sonography, how we’re gonna incorporate everything into a sonography, and then it’s just coming [35:30] together with all these creative people and start working very focused and…
We’re gonna focus… visuals as well, stage design, rehearsing, yeah, [35:45] making new music.
Yeah, making new music as well, but I think that the main part will be taking inspiration from each other and create the show, while we’re together, [36:00] it’s, it takes more time to think about things, then to do it, and I think by doing things on the spot, we work the best, yeah we work the… [36:15] how do you say it, the most effective, I think, yeah.
It was actually…the show in De Vooruit was created in four working days. [36:30] But we thought about it for months and the result wasn’t what we were thinking about. So actually by doing, you’re creating and we just need to come together with everyone [36:45] as much as we can. Instead of working out different ideas that eventually might not happen, because yeah, like working with artists, it’s not something you can [37:00] you can write and then do it like a theatre piece or something. It’s…
It’s really full of a process.
In our context it’s, yeah it’s a surprise every time, but in a positive way.
Such a nice [37:15] note to leave it on and I’ve got one more question for you, which is, if there’s other bands that are thinking about transforming their gigs into experiences for instance, thinking sensorially, what would your main piece of advice [37:30] be for them.
Get to know a lot of people who know a lot of shit.
I mean because we, you know, you guys as experts in the senses, in all of the senses really helped us out a lot, you know, for inspiration and through the process, I mean we had a call every month with different experts and all of these [38:00] different feels. There were loads of people like into film, you know, into arts, into like all the sensory aspects of a show who we [38:15] called and just searched online and asked through, like, the people in school, through you guys. So I mean, build your network.
Yeah of course and I guess the main thing is, get in touch with [38:30] people that you’re gonna see at your show, or that you want to see at your show. And ask them what they would like to see. And start from there.
Also the people who inspire you.
Yeah, of course. [38:45]
That’s great advice
Yeah and I just want to say yeah, money is always the thing that comes in the first place, you might think, [39:00] but there are… in our process we came across a lot of things that we didn’t know that was actually that cheap to rent, the show or something, so it’s doable, everything is doable, all the extras [39:15] are actually doable. So it’s just something you need to figure out where to get it and implement it in your show.
Amazing, well it’s been such a pleasure as always to talk to you. And [39:30] I can’t wait to see what happens in September.
And that’s the end of episode two, it’s been a pleasure to share this process with you. And I think that KRANKk have shared some really interesting perspectives about [39:45] why multi-sensory work could be the future of live performance and also been very honest and frank about their own personal experiences that they’ve been on. So you can join us every month as we talk to the different bands as they go across their unique processes. We’ve got Perhaps Contraption, [40:00] KNARS and Kormac coming up and then of course we’ve got the gigs themselves in September. I can’t wait to share more of this thinking with you all and you can join every month. Follow us at ‘Discover Revelland’ [40:15].