To celebrate our release of double-disc boutique edition of Richmond Avant Improv Collective‘s third and fourth albums, Communion and Il Delirio E La Mortalità Di Amore respectively, I got drummer and co-founder Samuel Goff (bottom-right) to set aside some time for a chat.
Jakob Rehlinger: I need to start with an important, serious question. Scented candles — Overrated or underrated?
Samuel Goff: Haha. I mean it depends on the scent. Like a Yankee Candle Apple Grove might be overrated. A good sandalwood? Underrated. I approve of the product as a whole.
JR: So, you have the new Arachnidiscs edition of RAIC’s third and fourth albums out. So my ears they sound interconnected. Was that in any way intentional?
SG: Well, yes and no. The Il Delirio E La Mortalità Di Amore album was sort of put together as things that didn’t quite fit elsewhere. But a lot of that was recorded around the same time. And of course the actual song “Il Delirio E La Mortalità Di Amore” is included a total of three times over the two discs—live, studio and remix—so that could be some continuity right there. We are always in the process of recording three or four albums at the same time and I have plans outlined for the next four which are in various stages of completion. A good example is the song “Midnight” which we recorded with Brooklyn guitarist Lucas Brode, we recorded two tracks that day, the other one will be included on album number seven called Multiplicity which just got finished last week. I’m currently shopping that one around to labels.
JR: With the opener of Communion being the free-jazz “First Strike”, and the closer of Il Delirio… being the similarly toned “Ouroboros”, titled after the snake that eats its own tail, there’s a nice circular quality to the two albums together.
SG: I never thought about that but you are right. I had an idea to close each album out with one of the members doing a solo track. So Zoe did hers on Communion which was beautiful. But gosh we had to go through s lot of takes for that one. Zoe is obsessed with baroque music and she wanted to do this song from like the 15th century and I’m like, “Well it’s not really improv, but fuck it, let’s go for it.” So me and Richard coached her on and we finally got some good takes and then Richard layered her voices together and it came out beautiful. So to date that is our only “composition.” We are improv like 99.2 percent of the time. So at the end of the second album that was Erik’s solo track, which yeah, now that you say it, sort of is a full circle type of situation. Next time I’m going to say we meant that, haha. Erik is such a gifted performer and improviser. Usually when we play live I focus on him and his energy and sort of play off that.
JR: Speaking of “Plaindre L’ennuy De La Peine Estimee”, Zoe’s baroque track, and say, “First Strike” or a track like “Midnight”, stylistically you’re all over the map.
SG: That’s exactly how this group was intended. I work a job where I work about 55 hours a week and I’m also in Among The Rocks And Roots and I have a fiancée that I devote a lot of time to, so I don’t have time to devote to being in 4-5 different bands. There used to be a joke here in Richmond where you were not taken seriously as a musician unless you were in four bands. But I have always been interested in a very wide assortment of music so this is sort of a way of getting to do that noise track or that baroque track and then we move on. It also gives us the opportunity to work with a myriad of performers who are also busy but don’t necessarily have the time to devote to another band. But they can devote 3-4 practices and maybe a studio date. It’s painless for everyone involved. We are about to get even more varied with there being two black metal tracks on our album Multiplicity where Abdul makes his RAIC drumming debut and I switch to vocals. It’s a weird life… if I ever write a autobiography I want to call it “How I became a black metal vocalist at the age of 42.” Also on our album Gestalt which is about 50 percent complete we are working on a 50’s style country song with me and Laura Marina on vocals and a hip hop noise track with local MC Black Liquid. I just love music and I have been obsessed with just about every genre at one point in my life so why not have a group where you can try ANYTHING with ANYONE.
JR: Since you bring up Richmond, as a long-time fan of Pelt, I’ve had this, probably somewhat unfounded, idea the city is a hotbed of improv music. Is this the case?
SG: Hmm. Yes and no? There was a vibrant noise scene here that had died down a lot. Also there is the New Loft which blew my mind the first time I saw them. It’s an improv group with mostly veterans of the Richmond music scene, guys that have been hitting it for over 20 years. We have now worked with most of the people of that group most prominently with Tim Harding who in addition to being in the New Loft also is still going strong with his Afropop group Hotel X. He’s also in a great band called Zygmot with sometime RAIC collaborator Vlad Cuijuclu. Also Jimmy Ghaphery and drummer Sam Byrd from The New Loft has played with us as well. To me, when I saw them I thought they were the best improv group I had ever seen not just in Richmond but anywhere. It was an epiphany for sure. Being in this scene for going on 5 years now it seems, just like with anything, it’s cyclical. Sometimes it is vibrant and groups come and go and sometimes it is stagnant. It we will always be here. This is the music I intend to play when I’m 70. I also make it very clear that when you become an official member of RAIC you are not joining s band but a family. And we treat each other as such. Sometimes dysfunctional, but a family nonetheless. We all love each other and respect each other and their abilities so much. I just love being in this group.
JR: Any plans to buy a run-down farm property and make it full-fledged cult?
SG: Ha! I thought it sounded cult like when I said that! Good call!
JR: Cults are much more profitable than ensembles. Just an idea I’m throwing out there.
SG: I mean, yeah, our Bandcamp sales are holding strong at 99 dollars so I’m sure. The cult thing might be something worth looking into. Erik always talked about starting a cult. Was he kidding or…
JR: I imagine RAIC isn’t a touring proposition. But if you were, what would be in the van tape-deck?
SG: John Coltrane. The soundtrack to “Signor Rossi” Swans. Art Ensemble Of Chicago. Eyvind Kang. And whatever black metal Abdul brings along, haha. Oh! And Sun Ra!!!!
JR: If RAIC were hosting a movie night, what would be on the screen?
SG: We just recorded a movie soundtrack! I will say a silent film called The Seashell And The Clergyman, no hesitation. We have scored that live and in the studio now and for whatever reason it really speaks to us. We do that one really well!
JR: Though not exactly different than some of the sounds on these two CDs, I have to ask you about Among The Rocks and Roots and the absolutely punishing noise rock sounds you and Abdul create. Where does that come from?
SG: Years of having a lot of different emotions that we tried to deal with through the use of substances. We are both recovering addicts and, in fact, I met him my fourth day of sobriety. It’s a lot of just raw emotion. Sort of like improv we play off the energy of each other. How we set up live is indicative of that energy harnessing. I set up in the audience but I am facing the stage and him. And we face each other the whole performance. My back is to the crowd and really all I can see in the whole room is him. This is not some “fuck You” to the audience in any way but a way of getting us into the correct mind-frame in order to lock into each other emotions and energy. So because we are so locked into each other we can really let out everything that is going on inside of us. The room melts away and really it is just me and him there. Volume and intensity also play a part. I first stepped onto a stage at the age of 38 so I swore since I had to wait so long I was going to give every thing I had every performance. And Abdul does as well. We had a motto for awhile where we said “We play like our lives depend on it, because it just might.” It translates to a live audience as well, it’s a very intimate display and the audience feels that. Some people love us and some hate us but no one who sees that ever forgets us and I like that.
JR: That certainly comes through on the record. Though it might sound simple, it’s really tough to pull off.
SG: You mean the philosophy or the actual music?
JR: The actual music. The minimalist heavy noise thing. Like free-jazz, people tend to say “Aw, anyone can do that” but few who try can make it sound convincing.
SG: Oh ! Haha that stuff is not easy to play I promise. There is a good part on the song “Raga” where it’s quiet and I am doing a roll on the toms and if you listen you can hear me wheezing cause I’m out of breath. We recorded those songs live in the studio because I can’t play “cold” in a room by myself. Like I can’t even play that at all without feeding off his energy. These are 20-30 minute long songs where there are few stopping points and yeah the physicality of it is exhausting. Anything I do with RAIC is much easier than ATRR. I can be fat and do okay free jazz but to play ATRR you got to be in shape, haha.
JR: Last question. You mentioned a finance. Wedding dream band — who is it?
SG: RAIC is playing.
RAIC’s two disc compilation of Communion and Il Delirio E La Mortalità Di Amore is out now on Arachnidiscs Recordings.