Workings of NatureFis

Workings of Nature

The work of the Oliver Peryman, better known by his Fis moniker, never ceases to evade description. With a rich background in D&B and techno, there are undeniable tendencies towards beat-oriented music present in the sound. However, to only focus on these would be to misdescribe Fis entirely. There is something more mystical and elemental at work throughout his work, and his music takes clear inspirational cues from nature.

However, unlike the field recordings of say, Wolfgang Voigt or Fennesz, Peryman’s work doesn’t so much replicate nature, as mimic it. The naturalistic motifs are there, but re-realised through computer-mediated software and hyperengineered effects. His latest album, The Blue Quicksand is Going Now brings this phenomenon to the fore, twisting and contorting textures in novel and innovative ways. We hear flutters of tremolo that sound like a flock of birds taking flight, gravely subs that lap around the stereo field like a diving whale and the thick churning of dense undergrowth. It’s a complex and considered record, and one that cannot be fully absorbed with just surface listening. In light of this release, we decided to catch up with Peryman to talk nation, permaculture and Alice Coltrane.

How have things been this last year? What have you been up to?

Things have been really good thanks. Just had a great summer at home in NZ, working day jobs, finishing the album and writing more stuff.

I’m looking forward to your Berlin Atonal set this year. It must have been daunting to follow Cabaret Voltaire in 2014! What have you got planned this time around?

I’m looking forward to it too. Atonal was a definite highlight of last year for me. Such a dope festival. If anything, following Cabaret Voltaire actually took the pressure off, it was a perfect chance to work outside the spotlight and step in from there. As for this year, Jovan is pushing himself on the visual side as always, it’s inspiring to see how rapidly he develops his stuff, it makes me want to push things too. It’s looking like we’ll offer a progression on last year…

I remember that there was a surprising amount of (what sounded like) naturalistic samples in your set at Atonal last year: wind, rain, running water and so on. I can hear a lot of this in your new album, but with some grittier, metallic elements in the sound, too. What has changed in your taste since last summer? What are you listening to at the moment?

I don’t actually listen to much music at all, nor do I have a big knowledge about it. I rely on friends to share what they’re into, which is nice in a way. Lately, if I do put stuff on it’s been Alice Coltrane. She was a genius. I’ve been liking lots of classical too. Someone passed me the Aiki, Lowe, Kalma release on RVNG recently, been loving that. All good stuff to learn from. As for my own work I think it’s leading/following me through some big shifts, there might not be as much ‘harsh noise’ anymore, that was coming from some pretty unhealthy energies in my system, that’s fine but it’s also nice to feel everything balancing out. I wouldn’t be surprised if an elemental influence remains, that’s a big part of my life and where I’m from.

Can you tell us something about the Loopy imprint that this album has released on? What, if any, is the ‘ethos’ of the label? Are there any future plans for it?

There are certainly future plans but that’s for the label to reveal. The same goes for any kind of ‘ethos’; that’ll get clearer as time goes by. I do feel ‘Loopy’s becoming something really valuable and well worth following, if my own experiences are anything to go by they’ll relate well with people and get their best efforts in return…

You’ve said in the past that making music for you is more of a bodily experience than one of cognition or language, that you feel the progress of a track through the torso rather than the mind. Do you think the heavy emphasis placed on dance in D&B has influenced you in this regard?

Yeah it will have done originally if not so much anymore, I used to study stuff from Consequence (who also mentored/supported me when I was starting out), and Photek’s earlier stuff too. Both of their outputs always sounded like an actual physical thing in the room. I’d say the wider soundsystem music traditions have been influential in this respect too. New Zealand has a strong soundsystem culture of its own, mostly very strong DIY handbuilds, I’d say that’s where my appreciation for low frequencies came from, especially the outdoor raves in NZ. I’m yet to play on better systems overseas to be honest, which is why I’m building one of my own in Europe. I won’t be returning or running away from D&B I guess. I don’t know, I’m just thinking about other things at the moment…

I especially like the artwork for Tri Angle, and I understand that those were your own creations. Is the artwork that accompanies your music important to you?

It’s not hugely important but it’s always a pleasant part of the release process. It comes after a tracklisting has been finalised and you start to feel a record is making its way into the world. I love that Tri Angle let me do those artworks. They were both such effortless releases for us actually. Robin just let me play around with shit and everything fell into place. I use the drawings more as a way of understanding the essence of each track or releases as a whole. The artwork for my new record is actually a hand-drawn work done by Brian DeGraw. Loopy sourced that and I really dig it. The whole thing holds its place peacefully with the music. I work from the belief that sound and light are one in the same.

I’m not really influenced by film or specific films per se, not knowingly or intentionally anyway. But soundtracking is something that seems to crop up around my work. There are some avenues coming into view for me there that are really exciting. I don’t know a lot about visual arts either, if anything the drawings that I did for Triangle are influenced by illustrations I see in Biodynamics and Permaculture reading…

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What exactly is your connection to permaculture?

Hard to say where my connection to permaculture started. I come from a pretty typical hippy Pakeha family in NZ; my father has grown food at home and made me and my brothers help as long as I can remember. I didn’t really know ‘organic food’ was a thing until I got older. We just called that ‘food’. I guess when you just like people and you like plants and animals you want to do something that looks after them. Permaculture is a really useful tool in that regard. I’m excited to be talking with a venue in Berlin about putting their site through a permaculture renovation, and by the looks of the site this should result in some edible gardens and forest orchards. Every ecologically successful community has used art and music to store wisdom about the workings of nature. Electronic music can start re-integrating with our source too, and I hope to make a contribution in that way.

Is it true that your debut European show was last year? How did it go if so? Do you think your fan base is mostly based in New Zealand or here in Europe? Is it weird to have a fan-base on the other side of the world?

Yes that’s true, in Brussels. It was my debut live-set anywhere and it was a bit rough round the edges, so I’m probably not expecting a second date there!! It was a good chance to learn and move on and I’m quite happy with where things are at in the live sense now. There seems to be an even balance between NZ and elsewhere. Something pretty uncanny is going on around the music though, especially with people overseas, we’re meeting each other for the first time but having a strange sense of knowing each other really well already. It’s as if the music’s been a table we’re sitting around chatting to each other without ever really knowing it. I hope that carries on as some fantastic relationships have cropped up lately.

I wouldn’t deny that there is an element of ‘Britishness’ or ‘European sound’ present in my music if people wanted to make that association. I have European ancestry so of course it’s not a big leap either, but it’s hard to put my finger on anything detailed there, my priority so far has just been learning my own craft and trying to develop things internally…

I’m interested to hear your thoughts on colonialism in music, particularly in New Zealand. What did you think, for example, about British label Livity Sound’s appropriation of Māori imagery in their artwork?

The academic who spoke up about it is a friend of a friend (typical NZ!). I think he had every right to be concerned, but to me that issue is primarily between him and Livity Sound. I’m not sure how their conversations went, hopefully restorative for everyone involved… I’m no expert but I would say that colonialism, like any other variation of bullshit, will only operate as long as people have parts of themselves for it to latch onto and work through. In my opinion it just means people (especially those from dominant cultures - which includes me) have a responsibility to heal the parts of themselves that harmful systems feed off, give it nothing to hold onto in other words.

That means we need an environment where people can be open and honest about where they need to grow, but nobody can do that while so many people are waiting to say a big fuck-you to anyone who stuffs up. It’s no wonder people get defensive after getting called-out when there’s no room for error. The irony is leaning in like that is just as symptomatic of the problem as anything else, and in the end I thin it’s anti-growth. It’s important to speak up when shit’s not good enough, but that’s got to go hand in hand with a higher purpose of supporting each other into our better nature. When it comes to appropriation I think that has something to do with contentedness in your own space and learning how to honour the people/things we meet in our lives.

Finally, are there any other exciting projects coming up that you can tell us about? What else does 2015 hold for you?

Yes! There are more releases coming after the album. I have some shows to do in Europe too. Also my music will slowly become more integrated with other work I do in my life around permaculture design/biodynamic agriculture. I’ll do this work as Fis, so expect to see some ‘Fis’ projects that don’t actually involve music as directly as before!

‘The Blue Quicksand Is Going Now’ will be released on June 29th’

  • Published
  • Jun 24, 2015
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