Talk in a (groovy) bit – with Lionel Friedli

In a couple of days the percussionist Lionel Friedli, electronics composer Luca Martegani, sound designer Enrico Mangione and sound poet Tomomi Adachi are getting on planes and coming to London, to spend some days improvising together and finding our grooves before we launch “Talk in a bit”.

Julian Sartorius is on the record, and I absolutely loved our nattering, arguing and racing with articulation and drummery. But he can’t make the tour and has recommended Lionel Friedli, who is an award-winning Swiss percussionist. I’ve not met him yet. But I had a bit of talk with him the other day about his approach to grooving. Here it is:

HS: How do you think about rhythm? How would you describe your approach as a percussionist?

I like to try to find a way to combine patterns and grooves with improvised and free sounds, like a soundscape environment… it’s a mixture between the grooves and the world of sounds…

I like to have a groove and shape a groove in different directions and to explore and improvise around the groove…

When Alan [the record producer] sent me the tracks, I thought it was really fantastic, it’s a great album, I like to absorb it. I’ve known Julian for many years because we studied together in Switzerland, he was a drummer in my class. He’s a good friend, I admire what he’s doing, it’s great and brave, he’s a fantastic drummer, all the sounds that he’s using to colour the music and the way he listens to music and fits into it, I’m a big fan.

How do you think you might approach the tracks differently?

I don’t know yet, I know we will find a way, I am in the process of preparing, having some thoughts. I will try to go in the direction of what Julian did, but my goal is not to imitate Julian but bring my own personality to it. Of course everybody has a different personality and tries to express that in music.

I also use varied percussion elements, I put things onto the drums to make different sounds, wooden or metallic objects, to try and modulate the original sound of the drum and make it more dry, for instance. I have different types of gongs, you can cover them with a towel to make the sound dry, you can use different kinds of sticks to produce different harmonics, big mallets, or soft objects, or chopsticks even. I have different splash, small cymbals. Sometimes I use an ashtray.

There’s an American guy, Pete Engelhart, who builds some creative percussion elements, I have two of them and I use some of that, it’s a kind of cow bell.

Pete Engelhart
Pete Engelhart

I like the way you use the word ‘groove’ – how do you define it?

I could also have used the word beats… but groove, okay, it’s

when you have the feeling that you have a kind of rhythm

it could be any kind of time signature 5/8, 7/8, it could be a floating groove, like a respiration

         like a breathing process

and when you have the feeling you are inside it, it’s like a flow

                             and you try to

with this flow

           to support the music and the other musicians and to allow the grooves

when it’s good             it can allow the other musicians, and drummer

to go deep into the music and the feeling of communication

 (It’s possible that Lionel did not talk with the above line breaks. Never let a poet interview you. )

Image by Dragan Tasic- N.G.A.
Image by Dragan Tasic- N.G.A.

See Lionel and the rest of us playing together to launch my debut album Talk in a bit:

9th May: Cafe Oto, London

10th May: Canada Water (The Albany) London *& masterclass

11th May: Norwich Arts Centre (Norwich and Norfolk Festival)

15th May: The Basement, York. 

*MASTERCLASS: Sound Poetry with Hannah Silva and Tomomi Adachi. FREE! 10th May Canada Water Theatre, 6-7pm. (presented by Apples and Snakes)

How can we transform our bodies into musical instruments? Can we write purely with sound? With gesture? Can you literally play the shirt on your back? Tomomi Adachi and Hannah Silva lead this introduction to sound poetry and electronics. We explore how gesture and the textural sound of words can enable us to compose and improvise as sound poets. We will introduce our work with infra-red sensor shirts, programming, voice and loop stations and explore how technology can enable us to ‘write’ with our bodies. A workshop for poets, musicians, performers and people interested in ‘writing’ with vocal sounds and gesture.


Pre-order album here