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Cornel Wilczek makes music that works on your brain long after you've stopped listening to it. It tinkers away and burrows down and makes you think and dream. I went travelling with his first album ‘Forgetabout’ in 2003 and i didn't tire of listening to it for a whole year and would forcefully ply it upon people that I met in my travels. 2005's ‘Painting Monsters On Clouds’ was another step forward, the same beautiful and complex melodies melded with field recordings and beats both delicate and forceful. In 2007 he will release his third album on esteemed American Label Mush who have also recently put out albums from Adelaide's Clue To Kalo and Melbourne's Curse Ov Dialect. The two year gap between albums has not seen this sandgroper lay idle. He's been in demand scoring films, mixing surround sound and making music for animations, short films and commercials. I caught up with him in the mayhem leading up to christmas.


r&d: Cornel, thanks for talking with r&d.

cw: thanks : )

r&d:You have been a fixture on Melbourne's music scene for a long time, so long that many people probably aren't aware that you originally hail from Adelaide. Can you tell us about growing up there and your first musical dabblings?

cw: Sometimes I feel it's wrong to say I grew up in Adelaide.. more importantly.. it was the Western Suburbs of Adelaide. I rarely left the western borders. Between the beach and the city was my whole life. It was a very multicultural area. My mother is Italian and father German, so I felt quite comfortable around non-english speaking areas. There wasn't much going on musically except what was happening in the back yards. Some of my fondest memories as a child are from big parties with my family, especially New Years, where uncles and aunties would pick up the piano accordion and mandolin and party to their own music. It was beautiful! From this influence, my first musical outing was a as a classical and flamenco guitarist. As a young teenager.. I had serious chops! I was such a better guitarist then. I was studying very seriously with a few private teachers. My first live performance was at 10 years old on a local radio station. It was sooo much fun. Once i discovered other music things changed dramatically. I couldn't make up my mind what I wanted to do. Metal, free-jazz or electronics. I dabbled in some metal & prog rock bands, playing out weekly by the time I was 16. At that time I was seriously getting into Improvised free jazz. At 17 I ended up traveling to the states as a "guitar-shredder" endorsing Yamaha guitars. I was a really technically proficient guitarist back then and got involved in all kinds of bad taste rock! It took a while for me to get out of the "serious-beard-scratching" mode but by the time I was 19 I really found a love for everything else. Thank God. I then started buying hip hop and realised the potential of electronics in music. I was obsessed. I saved so hard for my first sampler but when i got it everything changed. I started gigging out by 22 with a sampler and a Mac Classic Plus. I loved it.

r&d: 2007 will see the release of your third album on Mush records (congratulations!). How did the deal come about and what's in store for this album?

cw: Well this one came out of the blue! To be honest, I wasn't fishing around at all. I really was looking forward to finishing the next album without any label on board so I could shop it around as a finished product and work on it without any pressure. Then, one night driving back from a Mountains In The Sky gig in Adelaide I got a very excited call from Mark Mitchell (Clue to Kalo). “Corn, Robert wants to release your albums!“ Mush who has already signed two Australian artists, Clue to Kalo and Curse Ov Dialect wanted to sign me. I really love that label and to be honest I couldn't think of anything better for me over there. Apparently when Clue to Kalo were last touring the US, Mark had left my two albums on Robert (Mush owner's) iTunes. 6 months later or so, he finds it and decides to not only release my new album but to rerelease the last two - AND press Vinyl! When he made the connection that not only was I another artist from Australia but I had also played guitar on the Clue to Kalo album and mixed the last Curse Ov Dialect, the linking seemed inevitable.

The new album has gone through so many twists and turns. I knew that I wanted it different and I've already done so many things that won't make it onto the album (Finally - leftover tracks for compilations!!!). I'm actually starting again as I type. I recently sat down in a short period and just recorded a whole heap of stuff. Sketches. No rhyme no reason. Out of the 40 or so sketches around 10 feel really good. These are now my foundation for the new tracks. They're much simpler than the previous releases. I really want to remove the "laboured" element that my other records have. I don't want this sounding like I've spent a year in front of a computer. I want them to pour out of me a little more with each song only containing a handful of sounds. There is lots of live instrumentation on this album. Lots of guitar and synth (courtesy of my new Moog). I'm also playing a lot of ethnic instruments, things I've collected on my travels - namely two Vietnamese interments the Dan Bau and the Dan Tranh plus an Egyptian wind instrument the Double Mijwiz (which you'll hear a LOT).

So far the songs sound a lot more like what I listen to than previous albums. I love 60-70's European Library music. I love Morricone and Komeda. Even though the instrumentation on my album is simpler the arrangements are more complex but ultimately it IS a pop album. There will be vocals. Miho Hatori (once Cibo Matto) and I have struck up a friendship and she's keen to do vocals on the album. I'll be singing a bit too. At this stage a good third has vocals. Miho is one of my favorite singers of all time and I really can't believe she contacted me out of the blue two years ago after buying Painting Monsters on Clouds in Japan.

r&d: It's not surprising that someone who writes such beautiful instrumental music has become incredibly busy working on soundtracks and advertisements but how did you get into that world?

cw: I studied Media Arts at RMIT and majored in Soundtrack. As far as I'm concerned, I was always going to work in soundtrack and to be honest I'm not sure what else I cold have done and remained happy.

I always had soundtracks on the go. Even before I was studying. It was just a natural thing to do. Even before I could afford a computer I would carefully time everything on my 4-track and meticulously sync every move! I'm not sure how i started... I guess it was always an extension of making music. I was also the young teenager at the pub always talkng about soundtracks and film with any one that would listen. Things really started to change for me in 2004 after the release of Painting Monsters on Clouds. I guess the nature of the sounds really evoked soundtrack-music to most people. Offers started to pour in. It was amazing I had a good six or so short films come in instantaneously! It wasn't until my first TV commercial that I was able to consider this a full time job. It was a Twinings ad and essentially I got to do a Qua song in 30 seconds. I know some people have issues with TVCs but at the end of the day - I drink Twinings tea and it was an extreme way to get soundtrack exposure. I was getting so many emails from people saying “Is that you on the tea ad?”. ”Can I get something like that?” The response was insane!

r&d:Particularly in advertising I imagine the short time you have to convey something or tell a story is challenging but ultimately rewarding. Have the deadline constraints of film and ad work changed the way you work?

The biggest change for me isn't the briefs, timelines, deadlines and narrative challenges, I've been ready for that for a long time : ) It's the bigger budgets. Having the money to get something done means I can hire musicians, buy a new microphone, hire an expensive preamp or whatever. Having access to more gear has actually changed my music a hell of a lot. It sounds better! It's funny I never related expensive gear to things sounding better. Obviously this is not always true. Some of my favourite music was done with very little. However my interest at the moment lies in that "expensive" sound. I love the sound of a good desk. I love the sound of mics that cost more than my car! It's the combination of that bedroom sound mixed with that studio sound that I'm really interested in. Having mashed, bedroom, electronics slowly morphing into a lush three dimensional string section is incredible.

r&d: Towards the end of 2005 you toured Japan in support of the Headz release of Painting Monsters On Clouds (PMOC), how were you received over there? Any plans to return?

cw: Man! It went really well. It was amazing. Everyone at the shows knew that album back to front. It was the first time I've ever felt like a celebrity. [My Japanese Label] Headz have quite a big presence over there and they are that label that every kid wants to be on. I had no idea how big they were before I went. I've made some great friends from that tour and played with some amazing bands who I'm keeping in contact with. I've just finished a remix for a band I played with in Tokyo, Miaou.

I hopefuly will return at the end of the year and as far as I'm concerned I wanna make these trips regular! oh.. the food...

r&d: You mentioned that Painting Monsters was predominantly constructed out of live sets and arrangements that came together during performance, will album number three be constructed in a simliar way or will it be a more focused studio exercise?

cw: Well I haven't been performing anywhere near as much as I did before the release of PMOC. [At that time] I was performing weekly. Out of shear necessity I had to keep writing songs as live became the focus more than studio.. but things have changed. I only enjoy playing live infrequently. Too many gigs in a row make me feel a little strange. I can't explain it... But I feel like I lose the ability to stay fresh when I play too much. This will obviously have to change for the new album as now it involves quite a few Overseas tours!!! But I'm actually keen to take a different approach and reinterpret my songs the way a band would. This also involves bringing in a few members (more on that when I work it out!)

And yes, number three is a studio album. Very much so. In fact I have NO idea how some of it will translate live. It will definitely have to change.

r&d: We hear that you might be moving your studio to new premises to centralise your work for film and TV as well as bring other artists on board, can you tell us a little about that?

cw: Yes.. all scary!!!

Well the idea of centralising all my work has been on the cards for a while. A lot of my work has to at some stage happen at a "pro" studio. Either mixdown or just a comfortable listening environment. Having my own studio will mean no more other expensive studios. Usually it's the least inspiring part. Hanging out in a studio that's decked out to look like a bad hotel isn't very invigorating. I'm really keen to make something that feels like home but has all the pro cons. It'll be a space for everything. From feature films to recording bands. Everybody helping me on my soundtrack work will have access to it as well.. It's not just for me but for quite a few people. At this stage there will be quite a few studios. 2 main ones and then a half a dozen smaller workstation rooms. Artists like John Lee, Mountains in the Sky and Henry Wagons have both been working with me on TV stuff.. having this will ensure that we can get together more often and hear eachother's work. It also means we can bring a few more people into the fold and not have to worry about what they've got at home to make music on. Qua stuff will happen at home though. It just always has and always will!

Current Australian Listenings To:

  • Sven Libaek "Solar Flares"

Current Overseas Listenings To:

  • Imitation Electric Piano - "Blow It Up, Burn It Down, Kick It 'Til It Bleeds"
  • Bellbury Polly - "the Owls Map"