Interview with Fraqx (Frank Crijns & Jacq Palinckx) (February 2019)
When did you start playing the guitar and why?
Jacq : I started playing guitar when I was 18 years old, in 1977. It was a classical, acoustic guitar.
I wanted a hobby, because I was going to study visual arts. So, painting and drawing was no longer a hobby at that moment. Learning to play baroque and renaissance music seemed like a nice leisure activity. Very soon I bought an electric guitar and free improvisation and free jazz became my music in the beginning.
Frank : I started around 15 years old on a semi acoustic (hard to play ) electric guitar.
At that time listened a lot to the early (first 5 records) of Santana and Mahavisnu Orchestra , they intrigued and baffled me, triggering a “flame” for the guitar.
Beside that i liked the esthetic of the guitar.
What did you study and what is your musical background?
Frank : I studied contemporary composition at the Rotterdam conservatory .
As a guitar player i am autodidact (had only something like 9 months of guitar lessons) and discovered it by “trial and error”.
My early background was the recordcollection of a elder family member and then start playing around 16 years with friends.
Some time later i did 2 years of composition classes from teachers at the Tilburg Music School, where jacq also attended , and then again some time later i went the Rotterdam conservatory to study composition .
Jacq : So I had a training in the visual arts. However, I started to make more and more music during the time of my art education. At the same time, I had 5 years, one hour a week, classical guitar lessons and 2 years of composition classes from teachers at the Tilburg Music School. Soon I started to compose music. Especially music that could be used as a starting point for improvisation. I discovered that the creative processes in the visual arts were also very good to use in my music. Immediately after I finished my education I worked as a professional guitarist/composer. By the way, in 2009 I started again with making visual art.
What were and are your main musical influences?
Jacq : They are very diverse and are not tied to a genre either. It is mainly music that has a large degree of freedom, such as the Sun Ra Orchestra, Captain Beefheart, the English improvisation scene that I discovered in the 80s, but certainly composer Charles Ives. Maybe composer John Cage is my main influence, but mainly as a musical thinker. When I heard his prepared piano I immediately thought that something like that on the electric guitar should be possible. Of course I knew from Jimi Hendrix that the range of possible sounds of an electric guitar could be enormous. During my musical life, the musicians and composers that I played and worked with have always been a source of inspiration.
Frank : For me the same : very diverse .
As guitar player : J. McLaughlin, F. Frith , J. Page, F. Zappa, M. Ribot, D. Gilmour , M. Halverson, Dimebag , D. Bailey (and “some“ more).
As a composer : L.Berio , H. Birthwhistle , I. Xenakis , J. Zorn , I. Stravinsky , B.A. Zimmerman , W. Rihm , Captainbeefheart , G.Ligeti, C. Nancarrow (and “some” more ).
How did it start the idea for Fraqx? How did you meet?
Jacq : Frank and I have known each other for a long time, we were in the same high school. We were both in the composers class (which I mentioned above) and we were both involved in the founding of VONK, a stage for contemporary improvised and composed music in our home town Tilburg.
During the years, Frank developed the group BLAST and I started my group PALINCKX. These two groups together did a project in the 1990s.
Frank came up with the idea for FRAQX a few years ago. We were both ready for a concept where improvisation was the most important factor.
Frank : As i recall we were asked to play a duo improvisation at the T.A.S. organisation here in Tilburg . We both liked the interraction on stage and decided to go for some more concerts if the situation occured. Since then we did several concerts , resulting finally in this C.D.
How would you describe the music you play together?
Frank : A journalist described it as : “Glenn Branca meets Sonic Youth without drum(s) “.
I would call it instant composed improvisations.
Jacq : This is a difficult question. I could call it impro-noise-scape.
What does mean improvisation in your music research? Can we go back to talking about improvisation in a repertoire so encoded as the classic or you’re forced to leave and turn to other repertoires, jazz, contemporary, etc.?
Jacq : Improvisation is the core of Fraqx’s music. But if we play a concert we have planned a route in advance. Completely free passages alternate with concrete anchor points.
Fraqx does not follow an improvisation idiom like in jazz for example. However, we do have a specific musical landscape in mind. In this landscape, a great deal of freedom of play prevails.
Frank : As Jacq says , no idiom fixed improvisations and an open attitude to sound and possibilities.
What’s the role of the “Error” in your musical vision? For “error” I mean an incorrect procedure, an irregularity in the normal operation of a mechanism, a discontinuity on an otherwise uniform surface that can lead to new developments and unexpected surprises…
Frank : For me “errors” can be a means to a new choice , a new route or junction . As Miles put it :”don fear mistakes – there are none “.
Jacq : If you improvise in the true sense of the word, there will be ‘errors’. Or maybe ‘coincidences’ is a better word. What matters to me is that you are not only a player of, but also a listener to your own concert. A random, unexpected element in your own performance or that of the fellow musician is often the impulse you need to rise above yourself.
And what do you think is the “function” of a moment of crisis?
Jacq : A crisis situation in an improvised piece of music can arise if there is no connection between the musicians on stage. This can eventually produce an interesting concert, but usually it’s boring for the audience. If the crisis consists of a ‘festival of errors’, the music is possibly lifted to a much higher level. And, sometimes you need static moments with no musical direction at all. The struggle to get out of that situation can be the highlight of the evening.
Frank : I agree with jacq . As for me a moment of crisis is also a new chance for “lifting” the music. Or when in a static situation “looking “ to find a new junction or texture(s).
What are your next projects? What are you working on?
Frank : Well some new c.d.’s will be released in 2019 :
-in february “Altered Circuit[s] “ , a new solo cd of guitar(s) improvisations will be released on No Hand Reords in Holland.
– then sometime( & some where ) in 2019 1) a new (and 8th) cd of Blast .
2) and a 4th cd of Betonfraktion on Blowpipe records .
Jacq : Recently we launched two CDs with VLEK, the band that I have been playing with for 10 years and for which I also write part of the music. VLEK will play a series of concerts with new repertoire in 2019. This year I will also be making a (music) film: TRIGGERS. I write the music and do all the camera work, direction, editing, etc. This should be finished by the end of 2019. This film consists of a composition for (live) viola and video of 50 minutes.