Some bands are louder than others
If you had to sum up Johannesburg instrumental band Tale of the Son in one word, that word would be relentless.
This is not noise for noise’s sake. In fact, it’s anything but.
Tale of the Son delicately craft their noise, guitar riff after guitar riff and drum fill after drum fill, to create music that could quite easily soundtrack the apocalypse.
“The loudest band in the southern hemisphere,” claimed producer Matthew Fink as I caught up with him and guitarist Gregoire Pinard a few weeks after the recording sessions. “My Bloody Valentine in the northern hemisphere and Tale of the Son in the south.”
Fink delighted in telling me the band’s tales of studio destruction, how they had melted microphones and made a crack in the studio wall.
“At one stage Gregoire had his Big Muff pedal playing through a Vox Foundation 1965 amp and it was so loud that a crack appeared on the outside of the studio wall. The whole studio was vibrating. It was beautiful,” he said.
When I asked Pinard about this he enthused about the Big Muff pedal he was recording with.
“We got this old Russian-made pedal, the Big Muff. It’s the most evil, disturbing distortion pedal, with lots of happy juices flowing through the guitar,” he said. “A lot of bottom end —- so much so that my guitar ended up sounding like the call-to-arms horn of the Orcs in the Lord of the Rings.”
“John Linderman [the studio’s owner] wanted to hire us as paint strippers we were making so much noise,” said Pinard. “We had my guitar running through a bass amp and two guitar amps, all at the same time, so there was intensity of note —- plus the Big Muff.”
“Thank God there was a Woolworths close by because I had to change my underpants a few times during recordings,” said Fink, joking. “My God, some of the tones that came out were unbelievable.”
The origins of Tale of the Son can be traced back to when Pinard and drummer Raymond Orton met in a Vega College graphic design class.
Orton then picked up the story.
“Gregoire heard that I was a drummer and he gave me a call and told me to come around and listen to some stuff, so I did and it was very interesting. He had that sitary sound —- that’s what I remember and that’s what has always drawn me to the project.”
Four years of jamming followed without the duo even considering a gig.
“We didn’t play any gigs because we were always just waiting for people to join the band,” said Pinard. “We auditioned a few bassists and vocalists, but the only people that Ray and I seemed to gel with was Ray and I.
“Ray reads my mind backwards, because we have spent so much time playing together and improvising together,” said Pinard. “We could do a 20-minute improvisational piece that would sound fantastic. It’s getting to the point where we don’t even have to look at each other.”
Although former Taxi Violence bassist Loedi van Renen joined the band for a while after moving to Johannesburg, he soon departed, leaving Tale of the Son as a two-piece once again.
The band’s intense live show and great visuals created quite a stir on the local music scene, even if their audience was not breaking out on the dance floor.
“When we first started playing live people just stood there stunned, as they do now,” said Pinard. “We don’t really have people dancing at our shows -— they might do a wiggle here or there.”
“I don’t know if it’s dumbstruck or if it’s like watching a movie for them,” he said.
The band doesn’t have songs, as Pinard explained to me —- they have “movements, passages, pieces” and how they interrelate is meticulously planned.
These “movements, passages and pieces” don’t really have names either —- well, actually, two do: Persia and B, the latter named after the main tuning of the guitar during the piece.
These movements are complemented by visuals projected on to a screen behind the band.
“The visuals add a third or fourth dimension to the performance. They help to create a sense of journey,” said Pinard. “I think everyone who comes to a Tale of the Son show goes on a journey.”
Tale of the Son’s debut album will be available through Deconstruction Recordings in August.
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