INTERVIEW

As Apostille, Please front man Michael Kasparis explores the funny side of dark thoughts and the punk side of darkwave.

apostille

Michael Kasparis’ medieval jam trio Please have been disturbingly quiet since we interviewed them in October 2010. The magazine that bombed a thousand careers. There’s been no manic, prog-eyed psych riffs, no unexpected U-turns in time signatures and pace, no bat-shit yodelling. But Please, Michael tells me, aren’t done yet. Truth is, they never were prolific, even when they all lived in the same city. Musically, they appeared to be making it up as they went along, but beneath the fevered, ADHD charge, everything was meticulously rehearsed. They rarely wrote new songs because the seven they had were good and they’d learned to play them well. Apostille, Michael’s proto electronic project that ominously creaks and rumbles from his north London bedroom when he’s not running his Night School Records label, is pretty much the polar opposite.

“The other two in Please are perfectionists,” he says over coffee, “where I’ve always been more like slap it down and move on to the next thing, and that’s what this has been about. And I do like records that sound like that, like they’ve been recorded while whatever made it is still fresh.

“It’s been pretty amazing going from a group to suddenly being on your own and having no one to blame except for yourself. I like it. The only thing is there’s no editing. When you’re in a band there’s other people there to say, ‘that’s ridiculous, don’t do that’; on my own I think, ‘that’s ridiculous, maybe I should do it’. There’s some new stuff I’m working on that if I was in a band I’d be told it was ridiculous.”

Apostille released its debut AA single last month via Manchester indie label Comfortable On A Tightrope. ‘Wrong’, inspired by 70s dub music, and ‘The Road To War’ – a smoother take on static-laden, vintage darkwave – both bubble with melodramatic brain lava – the kind of inner horrors you think of on the bus that are so extreme you scare yourself for a second. You thank the lord for the internal monologue. Then you laugh.

“I don’t think I am a deeply dark person,” Michael laughs as I read him one of his own lyrics buried beneath the unrelenting, seasick organ of ‘Wrong’ – Mother, can I go out to kill tonight. “I think to get on in life – sorry, this sounds quite deep – but you’ve got to put on a positive clown mask or something, and that’s how things get done. Ultimately you’ve got to be a bit friendly to get on in life, so I’m like that, but y’know, sometimes people disappoint you and you get into those moods.

“With the lyrics on that song, I mean, they’re pretty ridiculous and melodramatic, but even though they’re really overblown, I think it’s something that most people feel at some point. Obviously not many people act on them, because it’s pretty wrong.

“What I intended for both of those songs – and for all of my songs, in fact – is for them to be quite dark but also quite funny. It’s like The Smiths, who I was obsessed with as a kid – everybody says they’re miserable, but they’re actually hilarious, and I really like that in songs. When something is out-and-out gloomy I think it gets a little bit uninteresting and self-important. There’s quite a lot of it about, isn’t there – mysterious 19-year-olds in the dark in their rooms, on their MacBooks. But really they’re all at uni studying business affairs or whatever.”

From Apostille’s haunted calypso synthesisers and knackered, industrial drum machine, it sounds like Michael – who describes the whole bumpily homemade project as “misanthropic” – is one of London’s many electronic gear nerds, but he’s not. What he’s more excited about than pursuing the life of an analogue Nazi is taking his new (well, he’s been toying with Apostille for four years already, but it’s new to us) project on the road.

In Please and all of his bands before them, Michael has enjoyed performing his songs most of all. The challenge with Apostille, as he sees it, is to approach it like a punk show rather than an electronic one. “I like getting into people’s faces,” he says, “and I like when you go to a punk show and get involved, so I’ve always been interested to see if you can do that with one guy singing along to stuff he made earlier.”

Like John Maus?

“Yeaaah, that’s a good touchstone, but I always think that he has this ideological framework, and also he seems quite aware of the space – it’s him performing to himself and bashing himself about and there are boundaries. I don’t really believe in bashing people around the head with stuff and saying, ‘listen to what I’m doing’, because that’s just rude, but it is good to involve people and have a dance with them.”

Five days before I meet Michael, this is exactly how he rang in the New Year. When his equipment was knocked off a table causing sudden, deathly silence he just finished the song a capella… an electronic song. Similarly, his recordings make do and mend. They’re a subtle feature, but for a project that has acted as a “fun learning exercise”, the anti-sheen of Apostille – the rough corners and unedited mishaps – are what make tracks like ‘Wrong’ a little more human and essentially, yes, a little more punk.

“It was all hand played on that track,” says Michael. “There are no loops in it and if you actually analyse it it’s pretty ropey. It was all one take, because when I did that I didn’t know how to do any editing – I mean, this sounds ridiculous – but the solo part has bum notes in it, but I’m all for bum notes. A lot of the songs are improvised, in fact, and then the lyrics won’t be, because improvised vocals are what sound bad. A bum vocal is totally different thing. You don’t what to sound like you’re in the funny round on X Factor.”

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