Archie Pelago (Interview)

Archie Pelago is the musical equivalent of a cyborg. Part programmed music, part live instrumentation, the trio is made up of three classically trained musicians, Hirshi (trumpet/DJ), Cosmo D (cello/Ableton) and Kroba (sax/Ableton). The music they create strikes a fine balance between the energy and precision of a DJ set and the dynamism and proficiency of seasoned live instrumentalists. It is meticulous as it is innovative, layering string and saxophone arrangements over programmed drums and synths, and a prime example of what happens when talented musicians take a running leap out of their comfort zone.

Improvisation and electronic music seem almost diametrically opposed. Where jazz has a limited structure, electronic music for the most part is written and composed off stage. How do you bridge the gap between the two? How much does improvisation factor into your set?

We take influences from a wide array of music, be it improvised free jazz or through-composed impressionistic classical.  A lot of our electronic influences such as Voices From the Lake and Terrence Dixon heavily feature improvisation in their compositional methods and live sets.  In terms of an Archie Pelago set, Hirshi selects songs unbeknownst to myself (Kroba) or Cosmo D.  We react entirely on-the-spot to his musical moves, and nothing is pre-conceived.

As a person that can’t dance, I’ve always been afraid of jazz and electronic dance music. Tell me, why shouldn’t I be afraid of these genres? And where would be a good starting point for a newbie like me?

Jazz and electronic music can be as cerebral or as rhythmic as you the listener would like to make it.  Anyone can dance, you just have to find your own unique rhythm and get out of your comfort zone.  Check out this Carlos Souffront mix for a true techno education and my own selection of jazz influences from our bi-weekly SubFM show.

What’s the biggest difference between performing with live instrumentation as opposed to a straight DJ set? In your opinion, does performing your set set you apart from other DJs?

We are a performing ensemble that embraces elements of DJ culture, such as playing other people’s music and hour+ long continuous sets.  A DJ, like the name suggests, jockeys discs.  Beatmatching two separate tracks can be one part of the Archie Pelago show, but we also create our own material live and are constantly performing and improvising.

Having played music professionally from a young age, do you ever feel like you hit a plateau, either developmentally or creatively? If so, how do you shake out of it? ‘

Having three members in our band keeps us on our toes, and we can all contribute to the creative process. As an individual performer, the constant search for knowledge and new inspiration from various life experiences consistently keeps me inspired.

Being a rock musician makes up a large part of a persons identity. Is that a similar case in the Jazz, classical or dj worlds? As musicians who play around in so many genres, are there any labels you still ascribe to? Are these labels useful?

I consider myself to be a thinker and a seeker of knowledge and sound.  This could be channeled through a clarinet, a saxophone, two turntables, or a drum machine; the musical label or physical manifestation isn’t of importance.  The same can be said of my bandmates as well; we identify as only ourselves, removed from preconceived aesthetics.

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