Machine Eats Natureby Yusuf Laher / 23.09.2009
If you’ve ever seen spacey Pretoria instrumentalists Kidofdoom in action, Richard Brokensha’s the little blonde dude playing keyboards with a guitar slung across his back, that looks like he’s having an orgasm over every note. Speaking to the singer/guitarist about his new band, Isochronous, I get the feeling he’s really just a slave to the music, following the path laid out before him. From out-of-body-experience-jamming to the study of harmonies and melody, in the end, Richard’s all about catching the biggest fish.
Look out for Isochronous’ debut, self-titled album. It’s a smooth blend of experimental prog rock, pop and sweet-sounding melodies. I gave Richard a call to find out more.
What drew you to the name Isochronous? It doesn’t sound like a name that rolls easily off the tongue?
I think ‘cos our music’s quite different. I don’t know. The name’s quite unusual, so is our music. A friend of ours suggested it and we thought it was quite cool.
Does it mean you guys are smart?
Yeah, we’re smart bro. Ha ha.
Do you know what dendrochronology is then?
Nought. What is it?
Tree ring dating. It’s supposed to be related to the idea of isochrone and contour lines of equal time.
How about the four data flow types for USB devices?
Jassus dude, I don’t know, I’m just a singer.
Well, they’re control, bulk, interrupt and isochronous.
You’ve just released your first album, what’s it all about? Is there any kind of central theme?
The concept is machine eats nature and the balance between them. Well, that’s the general idea. On the back cover of the album there’s a whole bunch of straight lines and right angles and stuff, which represent all the machinery and stuff like that. On the other side, the lines are more wavy, like, more nature vibes. If you open up the CD, the square and wavy lines meet up and form a mācība, which looks kind of like a Jewish star with a circle in the middle.
Whose idea was all that?
Our drummer, Marko.
Where did you record?
At B Sharp, about a year ago. It took us 10 months to get it all together. We released it last year in September but we’re just getting it in stores now.
And how has the response been so far?
It’s been really good. Every show we’ve played, people like it a lot, I think. Well, judging by the way they scream and shit. Ha ha.
So where can people get hold of an album?
You can order it from us on MySpace, but the best place to get one is at one of our shows. We’re getting distribution very soon though.
Have you got a video on MK and a song on the radio and all that?
No, we haven’t done any of that shit yet. I don’t know if we’ll do the whole MK thing. We haven’t given radio stations a single yet ‘cos all our songs are too long. We’re probably gonna have to do a radio edit.
I read the collective subconscious blog on your MySpace page, who’s the psychology major?
Oh, that’s just me, reading and speaking my mind. We’re all into that kind of stuff. Playing music takes you on a path, you know? And all that stuff interests us: philosophy, psychology…
But getting back to the idea, have you ever felt the “collective subconscious” while jamming?
With the guys? Yeah, I get that a lot, especially with Marko. When we jam together we can kind of get into each other’s minds. Live, with a crowd? Yes I have, but only once. It was quite weird (laughs). It felt like everyone was on the same, how do I say it, like the people listening were taking it all in. It was a very weird sensation. Maybe it was all just in my mind. It was during the end of our song “Silence.”
And how does the ego get in the way of the process?
Jas bro, it gets in the way big time. A lot of musicians have ego problems and it comes through in their playing. They’re only worrying about what they’re doing and not seeing the big picture, the whole thing. It’s gotta be an outer experience, that’s when you can really make some amazing stuff. If you’re focussing on the final picture, the whole sound, and trying to find objective listening points, you can just create so much more. I don’t know if it’s better or not.
But what about people like Billy Corgan (The Smashing Pumpkins) and Maynard James Keenan (Tool)? They seem like they’d probably be quite egocentric?
Hmm, maybe they can just let go of all of that when they’re writing? I don’t know. I think that Maynard definitely listens to the whole song, but I don’t know about Billy Corgan.
So how did the band come together?
Marko and I stared jamming together; he used to live really close to me. We had a few jam sessions and recorded some stuff. It was a lot more prog, like heavy technical prog. Then we brought in some other guys and focused more on structure, melody and making the songs work as a whole. It’s still technical, just not as much. It’s more focussed now, not just shredding everywhere.
Dropping the ego?
There we go. Ha ha.
And how would you describe the music?
When we write songs we spend a lot of time focussing on each little part. We study the harmonies and make sure that, harmonically, everything’s right and working together. I’d say that it’s quite classical, mixed with rock, a bit of jazz, a little bit of indie, not much, and quite a bit of prog.
Who are some of your favourite bands, when it comes to Isochronous?
All four of us listen to such different stuff. Franco’s (bass) into African music and funk stuff, I’m into jazz, rock and a bit of blues, Alex (keyboard) is into classical music – he loves his classical stuff – and Marko likes Death Cab For Cutie, M83 and heavy players, like Dennis Chambers and Steve Smith. He goes and watches all the drum clinics and things. He’s into the drummers.
How does playing in Isochronous differ from Kidofdoom?
Hmm, jas bro. It’s just different. The music’s different. In Isochronous, I have to concentrate a lot more, so I can’t get stoned or wasted before I play. Kidofdoom’s more solid stuff. Isochronous is more riffy, more prog. I have to concentrate and remember all the changes, and I’m singing. It’s quite a different crowd as well.
Have you always been into singing? Did you sing in a band before Kidofdoom?
I still sang with this other group, Velvet Love, this jazz kind of thing. But then Kidofdoom got so busy I didn’t feel like doing the chilled out jazz thing anymore.
How much gigging and touring have you guys done already?
Most of the stuff’s coming now, this year, but we’ve played Cape Town, Stellenbosch, OppiKoppi, Earthdance… We’ve gotten around but it hasn’t been constant. Kidofdoom was every weekend last year. We’re (Isochronous) just focussing on cool shows at the moment.
How do you balance the two band schedules?
Sometimes I have to do two gigs in one night, but we try and work together. We’ve jammed together and even toured to Cape Town and Stellenbosch.
From you guys to Shu, Kidofdoom, Desmond and the Tutus and Yesterday’s Pupil, there seems to be quite a thriving “art” scene up in Pretoria?
Yeah, and the weird thing is there’s fuck all places to play. So we all spend a lot time just thinking about ideas and planning shit.
What have you got planned later? More thinking?
I wanna go fishing. I like fishing. I wish we were by the sea.
Like, deep-sea fishing?
Or even just off the rocks. I love that shit.
Don’t you have any dams or anything up your way?
Yeah, there are dams, but if I wanna catch something I have to drive for like an hour.
Check ‘em out at http://www.myspace.com/isochronousband
Pictures © Yusuf Laher