EUROPEAN FACTORY OF PSYCHEDELIC INNOVATION
By: Jorge Munnshe
The music by Macromassa has an unusual personality, very imaginative, capable of attracting the attention of the listener at the first chance. In the current panorama of the alternative musics, there are bands and artists who have something new to say, whereas others don't. Macromassa no doubt belongs to the first sector.
The band Macromassa was founded in 1976 by Victor Nubla and Juan Crek. Musicians Albert Gimenez, Anton Ignorant, Zush, Markus A. Breuss, Pere Boada, Kasper T. Toeplitz, Eric Blanchard, Patri Martinez, Pep Figueras et al. have collaborated with them in different stages in the history of the band. About thirty people have participated in the band during these years. There have been moments when the team consisted in four, five, eight or three musicians, to name but a few figures.
Victor Nubla is a composer, videoartist and writer. He has likewise composed movie soundtracks. Born in 1956, he started his artistic career in the mid seventies. He has worked in many other bands and projects: Colectivo de Improvisación Libre, Naif, El Cuarteto Albano, Nubla & Zulián, Agrupación Instrumental Phonos, El Consuelo Húngaro, Delirio de Dioses, Secreto Metro, UMYU, UMBN, Klamm, Clónicos, Zush-Tres, Bel Canto Orquestra, Leo Mariño & Victor Nubla, and CKT3, among others.
Juan Crek began his activity as a professional musician in the mid seventies, with a stylistic basis near to psychedelic rock. He has explored numerous areas in the new musical frontiers. He also has an interesting solo career. He has collaborated with different artists, among them Pep Figueras, Sergio Oca, Gustavo Puber del Burgo, Sophie Borthwick, and Carter Piler.
Looking deeper into how Nubla and Crek developed their musical vocations and decided to unite their efforts in the common project of Macromassa, Nubla offers us this explanation:
"I became interested in music through music albums, at age thirteen. Yet this took place in several stages: One is when I heard "XXI Century Schizoid Man". Then, when I heard "Lands of Perfection" by Maquina, I became a fan of theirs following them in their concerts. By then, I formed a duo with a childhood friend. We played on Sunday afternoons in his home with the following instruments: A toy harmonium, mouth harp, and mouth organ. Thinking about it now, I realise we did all that because I had been given a cassette recorder/player as a present. We recorded our experiments. I often did this between ages thirteen and eighteen, with homemade instruments. One of my friends was Juan Crek, who used a metal heater as drums. I made experiments with two tape recorders, a short wave radio and small instruments plus vocals, in those times. I recorded tapes, I made the covers and wrote fantastic or surrealist texts that came to accompany the sounds I recorded. Some time later, Crek and me entered some environments where Rock was played. We founded a band, "Lamerxis", with friends who played in "Fuego", a legendary band in our neighbourhood. We even came to give some live concerts, playing some of our own things, together with some by Hendrix, Stones... Therefore, these are more or less the starting points for my laboratory works as well as my works with a band. There it was where, what you call my vocation, was already decided. There is a series of stepping stones, a series of launching events, of this vocation. They are places and moments you go by at the right moment. They could be called chances, yet I prefer to call them minimal readjustements from fate."
"I was self-taught until age twenty-four, when for a year I studied the clarinet and musical notation a little bit. Specially, for the clarinet it was obvious indeed that I had been playing on my own for too long, and I had acquired what is called digitation vices and all that. So I stopped studying and continued playing the clarinet. Crek and I went on to a more advanced phase in our musical activities, where I was singer and keyboardist, and Crek drums and percussion. In 1976, given the founding of Macromassa, I bought my first wind instrument: A saxophone. I was very impressed by David Jackson, Andy MacKay or Ian Underwood, and the use of wind instruments modified with pedals. The result was impressive indeed. With this sax connected to a synthesizer module that Rafael Duyos had customized for me, I recorded "Darlia Microtónica", the first album by Macromassa. Crek had been in charge of the audio generator (as well as Duy). In the following years, I turned to other types of clarinet. The Duy synth was substituted by modern compact pedals. Also my first Korg MS20 came to be used together with a sampler. Crek's evolution took him from the audio generator to the "pedalled" baritone saxo."
In the beginning, the reaction of the people before the music played by Macromassa was not very comforting...
"September 1976, Magic hall (Barcelona): 300 people at the beginning of the concert. 2 at its end. This was our first concert already as Macromassa. Then, the reactions were very varied. Whereas in 1980 we already had fans, although very few, at the festival of Aja-Cerdanya together with Secreto Metro, we were thrown true stones from the border (I never came to find out whether they were from the French or the Spanish side). Anyhow, always, from the beginning, there have been loyal friends who have supported us in many ways, and who helped both to finance our first albums and to lend us their premises or their instruments to be able to rehearse. Friends, basically, within the music world, and specially within the "alternative" circles. Only now we have friends from no matter which environment and they do not treat us as if we were mad. Or maybe yes, but from the perspective of their own madness, which is very comforting. Another constant support has been that of the specialized press. They have always helped us to breathe a little."
Albert Giménez, who also was one of the first members of Macromassa, came to music through a similar path to that of Nubla's and Crek's:
"I began to get interested in music at age fourteen, more or less, when I discovered Jimi Hendrix. His music impressed me a lot. Then I knew what I wanted to do, which was to play the guitar in an experimental, innovative way. My beginnings as a guitarist were the typical ones: playing in street bands and school bands during my teenage days. My activity became more professional when I met Jordi García, and later Michel Huygen, and we founded Suck Electronic, a band that at the beginning was called Yeti, until we changed the name after our first concert. Our music was between the electronic and the psychedelic. In those times (the mid '70s) I was very interested in German electronic music, like for instance Tangerine Dream's and Klaus Schulze's, and I tried to work more or less within this trend. After a while, I left the band. Then I met, through Michel Huygen, the musicians of the band Macromassa, and became a member."
Certainly, the beginnings of Macromassa were rather difficult. Giménez remembers some of the incidents:
"I recorded "Darlia Microtónica" with them, live, at the Magic hall; and on the third day the police came and there was a frightful fight; the music was very radical, provoking, and experimental".
"I continued to give concerts in Macromassa. I specially remember a very amusing one at a cultural center. Each one of us would bring a tape with things he had recorded without the others knowing what it was. For instance, I brought recordings from a television set, records played backwards, and other similar material. Our performance consisted in playing all our tapes together as, at the same time, we played our instruments. The audience, mostly consisting of people over sixty years of age, had come to listen to us without knowing what we used to do, and became astounded at what we played. Even so, there were those who were within our wavelength, and one even came to say: "This is better than Pink Floyd!".
Michel Huygen himself, who some time late was to found Neuronium, also was a member of Macromassa during a brief period of time. Victor Nubla tells us about this in further detail:
"Michel Huygen, although almost no one may know this, was the first person who played in Macromassa, apart from Crek and myself. As Crek and me were preparing the presentation of Macromassa, in 1976, before we ever had played live, at a place where we rehearsed, Michel brought his keyboards and we stayed together for about a week. After this time, as we saw we did not get along well in the least, we departed one another and continued to be friends, and later Albert Giménez, who had left Suck Electronic, came to our band and stayed for almost a year. He even recorded the first single of "Darlia Microtónica" live with us. And later, Michel and Albert formed Neuronium soon after. Therefore, the evolution pre-Neuronium of Michel Huygen and Albert Giménez also passed through Macromassa. After the creation of Neuronium, we kept in some contact during the release of our first albums. When Albert left Neuronium, it was less so, as the one we had come to deal with more often was him, whereas with Michel there was less contact."
In 1976, Macromassa began to concentrate in their studio an important amount of electronic equipment, which was a clear evidence of the innovative path that Nubla's and Crek's project was to take. Many of the instruments were customized by Rafael Duyos, the Spanish pioneer in the making of synthesizers. They even had a legendary Ondes Martenot that they succeeded in rescuing and restoring. With respect to all this, Nubla states: "Always the will of Macromassa, and as an extension my own, has been that of relying on our own, very particular technical infrastructure, very adapted to what we need, and therefore that has always been one of the basic interests in our work. About whether it has been difficult to gather the equipment, well yes, and even more so taking into account the fact that the entire first laboratory, not only mine but also that of Macromassa, was stolen in 1980. So whatever we have now has been purchased from that year on."
Besides synthesizers, electric guitars, computers and other frequent instruments in a psychedelic or electronic band, the members of Macromassa work or have worked with unusual instruments, and even with diverse objects such as dry flowers from which they have extracted their peculiar sound when moved before a microphone.
A very important aspect of Nubla's and Creck's has been that of pioneering independent music publishers, who impulsed the avantgarde musical scene in the 1970s and the 1980s in Spain.
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