Image Don Michael De Leon aka Happyfingers
Post-punk trio Joi Noir has traversed the world, meeting venerable figures such as Steve Albini and Stephen Hague along the way. From Congo, Africa to Asia where they’ve settled in our country; JUICE spoke to vocalist-bassist Olga Gallo and guitarist Igor Plotnikov about working with Albini on their sophomore and being multicultural misfits…
Could you describe the post-punk scene in the Congo and around Africa when you guys were playing there?
Olga Gallo In the Congo, besides African music such as rumba and salsa, there were a few bands from the French and Italian expat community but they preferred classic rock. There was no post-punk scene. We were the only ones, yet people dug us.
How did you meet drummer Mie Apache?
Igor Plotnikov After our drummer Jack (Kuznetsov) had left Malaysia, we started to look for a drummer in KL. Olga discovered Mie on Facebook. [She] contacted him, we met and the rest is history.
Is Jack still a part of Joi Noir?
O Not so much, as he is not in Malaysia anymore. He went back to Siberia.
I However, as friends we haven’t stopped sharing music ideas with Jack. We stay in touch all the time. He’s an old friend. We have known each other for ages. He was one of the forefathers of punk in Siberia.
How long have you been gigging here in KL? How do you find the scene here?
O We started to check out the local music scene as soon as we arrived in KL in mid-2014, but we took our time to start playing here because Jack left and then we needed time to rehearse with Mie. We have only been gigging for three months in KL (at time of interview)… Musicians in KL help each other, and that’s great. This may not be very common in other places we have been to.
Joi Noir made its debut album while Jack visited Malaysia. Why did you guys decide to record everything in such a short span of time? Or has it been a long process all the while that finally came into fruition during those three days?
O Black Sabbath recorded their debut album in one day but it took us three. We kind of took it slow.
I We had the songs ready back in Congo but no opportunity to go into a studio until our arrival in Malaysia. We wanted to try a different sound and chose two studios in KL – Big A Productions and Star Mount. We recorded it fast. Didn’t want to sleep on it or be perfect. Just do it and move on.
Steve Albini will be working on your sophomore album. That must be very exciting for the band. How did this happen?
I Steve’s the man! We contacted him to see if he would mix our album but he declined saying that he would not mix something he did not record himself. He’s into the integrity of the process and final product. We decided to go into his studio for our next record then. While in Barcelona earlier this year, we met with him and discussed how it could be done. He is very well-versed and a no-nonsense, accommodating professional.
O Everyone knows Steve for his work with Nirvana, PJ Harvey, and the Pixies, but bands like us are his real bread and butter. He has recorded over a thousand albums. He does not like to be called a ‘producer’. His approach is to capture the essence of the band during recording and not impose his personal ambitions to get more royalties. He still uses analogue tape machines to record and mix music. Old school. No digital.
What would happen to your Malaysian drummer if you decide to relocate?
O We are planning to adopt him and take him with us wherever we are going next.
Travelling and making music is at the heart of a lot of young artistes. How did you manage to do both?
O I speak four different languages. I have always been an avid concert and festivalgoer in various parts of the world.
I My day job usually takes me places. I have lived for an extended period of time in Canada, Ecuador, Amsterdam, Barcelona, several former Soviet republics – Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan. Everywhere I go, I’d pick up a music thing or two. Rock may have different cultural flavours all over the world but in essence it’s pretty much the same everywhere. In Africa, we used to perform Bowie covers in Italian, as well as some old school ‘80s Italo-pop like Ricci I Poveri… Our previous project was a dub album which we released on vinyl.