Get To Know: Frame/Frame

2 October 2013

“If you strip away all the production layers and everything,” Nikhil Kaul explains “at the very root of it, you should be able to play [a song] with an acoustic guitar. … At the core, if you mute all the drums and everything, there’s still something happening that has melodic sensibility.

“That’s my golden rule to decide if it’s a good song.“

Coming from Kaul, better known as Frame/Frame, this might surprise the casual listener. Many Frame/Frame tracks – and his live performance to an even greater degree - experiment with sonic collages, unexpected noise, and a dizzying palate of sample sources.

“It’s a new thing that I’m trying to do,” Kaul elaborates, “sampling stuff around the house. Like the hi-hats in 'FeatherSwimmers

But despite the diversity of sounds that find their way onto Frame/Frame’s debut EP, 'Swimmers', Kaul’s artistic evolution towards bassy, beat heavy and at times hip-hop inspired instrumention is very much rooted in writing just the kind of accoustic guitar tracks that he continues to see as the gold standard:

“When I was [in school] we didn’t get too much music,“ Kaul explains. “I was listinging to … alternative and punk rock. I was in 1992 for most of my adolescent years. … As soon as I got to college, it was freedom. It was running through a field naked. Because suddenly you could do whatever the fuck you want, and the weirder you were the better it was.

…“That led into [my] singer songwriter phase, which lasted for about three years. I would just go on stage with an acoustic guitar. Toughest gigs ever. Because you are actually softer than the crowd. There’s no fucking way you can drown them out. … [Now] I feel so empowered with speakers and an APC and a laptop. I feel so fucking powerful. High fidelity music definitely has its advantages. Because whether you’re into it or not, I’m going to drown you out.”

Indeed, from the glitch-hop madness that closes the EP to slow burning balads with a trip-hop tinge, Frame/Frame seems to be racing towards his new musical identity.

“I don’t know who the race is against. Even though I’m spending a lot of time doing this, it’s not giving me a lot of money. But fuck that, man. I can’t stop doing it. And it is hard. You do get asked questions that you wouldn’t if you were doing some 9-7 job. But at the end of the day, I’d rather deal with that than die having not tried this. Giving it a full shot. Frame/Frame is this honest shot.”

What is...?

The first piece of vinyl/music you bought with your own money?
Probably something like the fucking Doors, when I was like 10 or 12. A whole lot of my dad’s music. And then I bought a whole lot of shit like nu metal and alternative rock, rap metal, all that kind of nonsense. Then everyone stopped buying music all together. Now I’m back to buying music because shit’s just so cheap on iTunes and you get really high quality for extremely low prices.

The best set you’ve ever played?
The set that I opened for
Michal Menert. Because I think I surprised myself with that set. I basically went and played a whole lot of post-rock songs that I’ve never since played. Because, to be quite honest, I got a call [at the last minute] from Mo [Abood], and he basically lectured me, saying “Listen, be careful. He’s going to play 100 BPM kind of stuff. Go familiarise yourself with his music. … So I just went there and it was kind of a social experiment on the dance floor that was being conducted that day.

[Michal Menert] was a sweet guy. He gave me his MIDI controller. He seemed to really like the set. The last song that we did, me and Abhishek didn’t know what we were going to play, so that was also a first for me.

When I got up on stage, I told him: “Listen man, I have 8 loops. I’m going to try and mix them on these shitty monitors. You sing, and after I have those 8 loops going, I’ll join in on the guitar.” And that was our plan of action. And we did that for about 7 and half minutes [laughing]. And I actually remember when the bass line kicked in and the synth came in, and by this time Michal Menert had kind of taken position. And when I looked at the beat, snare and hi-hat separately, that’s when I heard Michal just go “Wow. What the fuck did you just do? Who does that?”

That was fun. That was the first time I’ve ever done that; just have a great time, jam, and not know what’s going to happen. It was fucking rewarding because we found each other’s vibe while playing music. I usually get too lost to see what people are doing, unfortunately. I’m not a good DJ that way. I can’t gauge a crowd. I’m just gauging where my set is going.

The one song you’d want to listen to while you were blasting off into outer space?
I’d probably listen to dance music. I’d probably fucking listen to Stress, the Auto Remix, by Justice. Just that sound, going [imitates the track], just off into outerspace… that would kill it for me.

The best album for making love?
Probably the Last Resort by TrentemØller. Moments in there, not all of it. Some of it’s just too hectic.
Actually, a whole lot of Daisuke Tanabe. He’s the love specialist, man.

One track that’s a guaranteed dancefloor filler for any crowd?
Everything by Noisia, if the dancefloor’s filled by a lot of people like me.
Actually, anyone will rage. It’s really tough not to rage to that.

Your favourite book?
Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Murakami.

Your worst/most embarrassing DJ experience?
This Cheri gig. I was slotted after 7 tech-house DJs. I dropped the tempo right down. I was just annoyed with the music. It was the kind of techno that doesn’t float my boat. It just sounds like loops. The whole six and a half minute song happened, but nothing happened.

That was a nightmare. Just playing there at that moment with Fink playing next door. It was just such a “why am I here” kind of experience. Playing shows like that is just disheartening.

Your favourite city to spin in?
Delhi, man. Delhi wins hands down for me. Bangalore was fun. But when Delhi gets into it, they really fucking get into it.

An artist or producer whom you admire or respect, but rarely feel compelled to listen to?
Venetian Snares. Mr. Bungle. I can barely listen to them, but they’re amazing.

The effect of zero gravity on the downbeat?
I have no idea how to answer these space questions.

**Frame/Frame's EP launch is at blueFROG Delhi, Friday 4 October and in Bangalore, Saturday 5 October at the Humming Tree - check out his debut EP 'Swimmers' here**


Words: Kerry Harwin
Image Credit: Sachin Soni


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