Knifeworld are a psychedelic pop rock band from London, who have only just recently released their second album ‘The Unraveling’. Having grown in size since the debut album, the current eight-piece is led by creative mastermind, Kavus Torabi. We were thrilled that he agreed to answer a few questions we had for him. Check out his rather philosophical take on things in our interview below.
HTF: What do you hope for listeners to take away from Knifeworld?
KT: We’d love for everyone to hear the music in the same way that we although that’s an impossibility, most people only tend to listen to the lyrics or melody anyway which is fine, that’s the way of the world. I have no expectations for people to like us. I’m well aware what we do is generally considered unusual at best. Most people find it completely unlistenable. That said, we’ve been overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response to this album in particular. It seems to be getting some pretty sensational reviews which makes me more than a little suspicious. God forbid that we’re ‘maturing’.
HTF: Having been involved in music for so long, how do you keep yourself inspired after so many years?
KT: It’s not something I really think about because, thank the fates, the well doesn’t seem to be running dry. Music is pretty much all I think about anyway. When I’m not making it then I’m listening to it or talking about it. Or theorising, or ranting.
It’s not a finite thing, there’s always room for improvement, to refine the songs, for the next piece to be better than the last. I’ve never wanted us to repeat ourselves and largely speaking I don’t think we have. There’s so much further to go, outwards or inwards.
Music, like all art, is constantly evolving but I think the need to create it, to impose some sort of order out of the chaos is universal and is inherent to the human condition. That never changes. I don’t really find myself at a loss for inspiration, although I do suffer crippling periods of self-doubt which are totally fucking miserable.
I’ve gladly accepted a fairly frugal, non-materialistic existence in order to keep doing whatever the hell this thing is, so it’s a real kick in the guts when that uncertainty creeps in. To keep going takes a self-confidence that, viewed from the outside, probably looks a lot like arrogance. It’s vital in order to continue because there certainly isn’t much money in it. When that fearlessness slips then it can feel as if I been wrong about everything, which is awful because I’m far too long in the tooth to ever go back anyway. The last time I felt that was over a year ago and thankfully it rarely lasts too long.
HTF: What is the most bizarre place you’ve taken inspiration from?
KT: Lyrically always from my own life or the lives of those around me which I suppose are bizarre enough in their own way but musically, and I can only speak for myself, where inspiration comes from is such an abstract kind of place. It’s instinctive. You have to think about it and it has to undergo a very specific process but it’s nothing that I could really explain without making dreary allusions to architecture, watchmaking or LSD.
You’d probably get a better answer from someone who studies brain activity than you would from me. It’s really only doing interviews and being asked specifically about the process that I ever feel I have to clothe the act in words and usually when I do I just make up something that sounds interesting because the truth is probably far boring to rationally explain. Whatever the original spark of an idea is subject to such a rigorous system of checks, mutations, alterations before it becomes a song. It’s nothing I could put into words or at least not ones that wouldn’t sound completely insane. I do often worry I am a total madman, well not worry perhaps, suspect. It’s such a funny thing to try and rationalise so I tend not to.
HTF: You’ve just released your second album ‘The Unravelling’ after a five year wait. How was the songwriting/ recording process different this time round?
KT: The songwriting process has changed very little but in terms of the recording, the last album was the first time I’d ever completely recorded, produced and mixed myself. Previously in earlier bands I’d worked with engineers and producers. We’ve released a couple of EP’s and a few other things since that first record, probably about an album’s worth of stuff, so we’ve hardly been inactive.
I feel like I’m a lot better at producing and recording these days, also I have the sense to have someone else mix our music. It’s always good to get another set of more objective ears on it anyway.
Bob Drake mixed The Unravelling and, as well as being an extraordinarily gifted mixing engineer, is completely sympathetic to the vibe we’re trying to achieve. There’s so much more to making records than just the recording and the performances. If you don’t get the attitude right the whole thing will sound flat and lifeless or just wrong, no matter how much money and time you throw at the thing.
Give me a shitty recording full of attitude and confidence any day over a pristine, well recorded, record that says nothing . Music is a form of communication, so much of it sounds to me like being stuck in a boring conversation with someone telling you things you already knew and didn’t care for the first time round.
HTF: Do you feel that your sound has evolved or do you see this as a continuation of your previous releases?
KT: Both. It has evolved but it definitely has the same intent as when we started. I think it’s better now but I love everything we’ve done, to be honest we’d never put something out if we didn’t. We want everything to better what we did before, otherwise what’s the point? Whether it is actually better, of course, is subjective, I don’t think you can tell until you have the benefit of distance and time but certainly while working on it we need to feel that current thing eclipses, in some way at least, everything we’ve done previously.
HTF: Would you say that this album possesses a specific theme? If so, what is it?
KT: Absolutely, more than any other record we’ve made. The theme, simply, is that at some point life becomes a process of continual loss. It’s something I’ve felt overwhelmingly in the last five years or so since the first album and it pretty much dictated the subject matter of all the songs.
HTF: This time around, you’re working as an eight piece band, which can be quite rare in the scene. What are some of the challenges faced when working with such a big group of creative individuals?
KT: The whole band are such extraordinary musicians and everyone gets implicitly what Knifeworld is about. The dense and poly-rythmic nature of the songs demand it, really. The challenges are on a practical level. It’s a lot less appealing to put on an eight piece band, there are more people to accommodate, we need bigger stages, it’s harder to mix, we have to travel in a larger vehicle, it’s harder to get everyone together for rehearsals etc. etc. It’s worth it though, it sounds magnificent. There’s no turning back. Logic and practicality be damned. I’ve never been one to let common sense get in the way of an absurd idea. And as absurd ideas go, having an eight piece band playing a really intense kind of psychedelic pop is one of the best.
HTF: Having been a part of so many different bands in the past, would you say that each one has brought in a different influence to your current songwriting process?
KT: Not really, I mean I’m sure it has a bit but really the songs aren’t a million miles away from what I was writing about fifteen years ago, although like I said I do think I’m a lot better at it now. The biggest influence is seeing how other groups operate, how they make it work. It makes you realise where you’re going wrong or how you can improve.
HTF: If there was one thing that you could change about the music industry, what would it be?
KT: Don’t ask me, ask a businessman! Every time I go on the internet I read about how we’re all fucked, that no one can make a living out of music anymore and things were better in the old days. Maybe they were, I don’t know. The industry side of things was always the most depressingly boring part of doing this anyway. It’s easier to make records and get them out there now. There never was a golden age for the freaks making the kind of music we do anyway. What can I tell you? Last time I checked Screamadelica was outselling Trout Mask Replica, that’s the way it is. I’d rather change the way people listened to music.
HTF: How does the rest of 2014 look for Knifeworld?
KT: Hard to tell. I’m increasingly of the opinion that time is a construct that we’ve imposed upon ourselves and that everything is actually happening all at once. Your 2014 means nothing to me anymore. It’s beautiful, man.