Interview: Oren Ambarchi

The last time I saw you solo was April last year at Café Oto; I recall a very intense, high-volume performance consisting of drawn-out bass frequencies, humming drones and manipulated guitar noise. Has your approach or equipment setup for solo performances changed much in the meantime? What can we expect from your solo performance at Tusk Festival?

Like at Oto I’ll be using the guitar and some effect pedals with multiple amps including a Leslie cabinet. If all goes well it will be an immersive experience with lots of movement in the space. I’m interested in creating an exploratory, hypnotic state where both I and the listener can lose themselves in the physical sound. Indian ragas are a big influence these days.

You’re also playing a collaborative set with Mick Flower and Neil Campbell at Tusk. How did that come about? Will there be any preparation for that? Do you have any expectations of how it may turn out?

Over the years I’ve been a fan of Vibracathedral Orchestra and Mick and Neil’s various projects (Astral Social Club, Flower/Corsano duo etc etc). We shared a van and the bill a few times back in 2002 we really got along. TUSK proposed that I play a collab show with UK players so I was thinking of people that would be fun to collaborate with. A few months ago I played a show with Keiji Haino and Stephen O’Malley in London and Mick and Chris Corsano opened. We were talking and I thought it would be fun to work with Mick, he was up for it and then he suggested including Neil which was exciting so…voila! I assume our preparation will be us having a few beers before the show. Hopefully it will be a fun show, I’m looking forward to it.

I also caught your fantastic Nazoranai set in London recently. You’ve worked with both Stephen O’Malley and Keiji Haino on numerous occasions now – how easy is it to keep the collaboration fresh and interesting?

Haino is a very inventive and unpredictable artist so it’s always inspiring to work with him, he keeps Stephen and I on our toes! He’s also fun to go record shopping with.

You’ve collaborated with a wide array of different artists over recent years, from the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra to Swedish trio Fire!. How easy do you find the process of finding a “way in” during collaboration, and adapting your sound to accommodate the other performers?

I ‘ve found that the easiest way to find a “way in” is to play as loud as possible and generally ignore what the others are doing… ; )

In regards to your recorded work, is there a particular environment that works best for you when composing your music or coming up with ideas?

When I’m in the studio I’ve found it’s good to work fast and go for it without getting too bogged down from stopping and analysing the material. Most pieces will start as an improvisation and I try to use my instincts in the direction a piece takes. After that I like to sit with the material and think about how it can be presented as far as shaping a piece via overdubs and the mix. It’s like solving a puzzle – sometimes it’s a struggle but it’s exhilarating when it comes together. Quite addictive in fact.

What other artists/records/groups are you listening to at the moment?

I’m always listening to records, non-stop. As I’m typing I’m listening to a collection of Arthur Russell related disco edits (which is making it hard for me to concentrate on this interview). Just before that I had some Charles Gayle on the turntable and before that Canadian black metal band Wold. I’ve been spinning Joe Henderson’s The Elements LP alot lately too. I picked that up when I was 16 and it’s really interesting to hear it again now. The mix and editing are really strange and inventive for a jazz record.  Ah records, I love records..

What’s next for you and your music?

Apart from lots of touring there are some upcoming releases and projects.  A new duo lp with UK pianist John Tibury is out any day now. I just finished mixing a duo record with US percussionist Eli Keszler. There’s a new collaboration with Martin Ng and a Sydney based classical ensemble.

I have loads of things I need to mix/finish, including a live record of my piece Knots for Editions Mego. One side will be a duo version featuring Joe Talia on drums which was recorded in Tokyo and the other side is a version from London featuring Joe, Canadian sound artist crys cole and various string players. There’s a bunch of recordings with Haino and Jim O’Rourke from earlier this year that I need to mix too.

And there’s a long form piece that will be my next solo record for Touch that needs to be finished, I’ve been sitting with the material for a while now.  It’s very rhythmic and features people such as Thomas Brinkmann, John Tilbury, Eyvind Kang, crys cole, Matt Chamberlain and others. I’m excited about it and hope to complete it soon although it’s going to be a bitch to mix as there’s so many elements.

Alvin Lucier recently wrote a piece for Stephen O’Malley and I called “Criss Cross”, we premiered it in Glasgow in May and will be performing at again at the Louvre and recording it the following day a week or so after TUSK. Looking forward to that.


Oren Ambarchi’s website –

TUSK Festival website –