TRCH Classic Thriller Season

Trekkah Talks High-Concept Album The Enlightening

11 February 17 interview: Bridie Squires

Trekkah has created an album full of raw improvisation, Notts collaboration and chakras – The Enlightening. The local producer has taken each of the seven so-called spiritual power points in the body and made fourteen tracks, with two based on each one. There are sixteen vocalists on the album and all the tracks correspond with a chakra’s specific tuning frequency. We met up with the big hippy down Broadway to see if he’s done wearing himself out yet...

photo: Mike Zimorski

The Enlightening is high concept – where did the idea stem from?
Really, it came from being very unenlightened. I was touring a lot with Origin One and burning myself out, so I guess I was looking for something above that. I met Gina [Brierley – girlfriend and local yoga instructor] when I was in a bit of a weird space, and she opened me up to certain concepts. That's kind of where it started with the chakras.

Can you explain the chakras?
They're different points throughout the body that vibrate, like all matter around us, so they represent a connection to the universe, but it's a self-guided exploration of a journey. Chakra means wheel of life, so it's like a journey through your life. It starts at the root chakra in the tailbone area: where you came from, past life, past traumas; moving into creativity in the lower abdomen; new people and relationships with the orange, sacral chakra; into ego being the yellow one in the upper abdomen; into the heart and loving people; and then into the higher realm for the next three.

When Gina told me about these things, I was like, “This would make an amazing musical concept.” They all had a tuning frequency, they all had a colour. When I started out, it wasn't a spiritual journey, but I became quite immersed as I went along. When I talk about being spiritual, it's about being part of something bigger than yourself, a bit like religion, but not answering to one set thing. It's more individual to you.

How did the technical side to development fit in with everything you were learning about spiritualism?
Each chakra's got a tuning, so I used that as the fundamental frequency for each track. Then I had the stupid idea of doing male and female versions, so I had to make fourteen tracks. The root frequency is in C, the next one was D, E, and so on, and I made thirty-odd tracks, all at these different frequencies and colour coded them. I sent them out to vocalists with a clear description of what that chakra is, so people were drawn to tracks and wrote around the themes.

Did you find that all the lyrics fell into the narrative?
The full album is a story, I can hear that clearly. With Frazer Lowrie's track, Slowly Fading, he's trapped in a cage he's built to protect himself – that's the root, an unbalanced root. He's asking his loved ones for help, slowly fading. It was perfect. He wants to walk with the giants, rise up into that creativity and those good experiences with people. Ed's Own Worst Enemy is in the throat chakra.  “Stop complaining,” he says – he's having a war with himself in his throat. Eyes of Content with Bru-C – he's just had his boy, so he's gone past the love, he's seeing new things through his son. It all just worked.

Was it a long process?
To the release, it's a year and a half's work. I wrote the beats, mixed them, and identified them to the tunings. Then, instrumentalists Lance, Ed, Ursula, and myself, were playing beats over the top, so they took on a whole new life. I added all resonating instruments – sitar, sax, flute, drum, didgeridoo – because I wanted to keep that “Ommm”. I really wanted to catch that raw performance, so they each listened to the track once, then took their instruments, got in and improvised. I took everything back to the studio for editing, then they got sent out to the artists, so it was a long process. Hippy stuff aside, applying a concept to my work – a real strict one, cos there's no key changes – and having all these conceptual boundaries allowed everyone to be so much more creative.

There was so much cracking off at the launch night at Rough Trade. Incense, lighting, stencil spraying, Jamal Sterrett dancing, so many different things created an awesome atmosphere. Where did all your ideas come from?
I'm very meticulous, so before I recorded anybody, I'd written the whole project up in my book and the environment we created was very important to me. I work with deaf children and we use vibrating boxes so they can feel music; at uni, I studied 7.1 surround sound stuff; and I've brought natural environments into big theatres, so I've always been interested in the multi-sensory experience.

 

You've mentioned doing workshops into relation to the album...
I’d like to work with socially excluded or community-based groups in the city. The ambition is to go through the different processes that me and all the featured artists went through: music production, instrument playing, recording, songwriting, video production, design. Then we'll create a fifteenth track, The Enlightening, which will be a response back to the album. So workshop participants will work with the artists throughout the process – that's always been the ambition. I’m applying for funding, so hopefully that will come through.

The ownership of the piece is very multi-faceted...
Art, and specifically music, is all about collaboration for me. A lot of people lose that in electronic production. It's usually a guy on his own in the studio making a beat, but I come from a band-based background where it's about that moment you get in that room, where you've got the energy, and it's raw. The energy you produce is put into that record as a band. It gives me shivers just thinking about it.

Do you have any other ambitions for the project?
I'm not making music that can be played out at a club, but it is dance and electronic music. We're currently sending stuff to publishing houses, for TV, radio and film. Getting on an advert or a film soundtrack, that’s a big goal for me, to establish myself as a producer.

I had sea monkeys when I was little. I was about eight, and I took them to Barker’s Pond in Long Eaton to set them free into this massive world. I was really nervous about it. That and the the album felt very similar – letting go of something you're really attached to, it was hard.

Anything else you're up to?
I'm working on two albums – one's a very grimey, dance thing because I went well away from that in The Enlightening, and there's another that's more world music, working with artists from overseas. With the YMCA, we're doing a really good project on the history of immigration in Nottingham; hosting Pakistani-, African- and Caribbean-themed workshops with young people, interviewing first generation immigrants, and we'll eventually do an exhibition on it at the Contemporary.

The Enlightening will be performed at St. Mary’s Church for the after party of ThinkNotts’ mass meditation in Old Market Square on Saturday 13 May.

Trekkah on SoundCloud

photo: Mike Zimorski

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