Interview with BRUNO KARNEL

Bruno Karnel

French songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Bruno Karnel has partnered with synth player Frederic Gerchambeu for a collaborative full-length release entitled ‘Amra.’ Intoxicated with pisco and raki, Karnel’s nomadic rock is a mandala where guitars dance the saraband with Ukrainian mandolin, Peruvian charango or Turkish saz. Interested ears will find echoes from Thiéfaine, Peter Hammill or Dead Can Dance – sometimes a je-ne-sais-quoi from the old Anathema‘s.

Following the feature of the song “Ceres Bus Stop” on Progstravaganza XX, we talked with Karnel about the album, creative challenges, and more.

Define the mission of your project with Frederic Gerchambeau.

With Frédéric, we wanted to unite forces and try something different: his music is very much based on improvisation, and mine is more song-oriented. We just wanted to experiment: that’s how the album “Amra” came in.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your recent album “Amra.”

All the seven tracks were forged in the same way: Frédéric recorded various sequences, and sent them to me. Then I tried to put words, melodies and sounds on them. I had never worked like this before, so it was a great experience… a bit frightening at the beginning, because I had absolutely no idea if it would work or not! Sometimes I found the sequences very tricky, with a lot of polyrhythm and dissonance… it was like trying to write music for the first time. Quite exciting, I must say!

Is there a certain message you are trying to give with “Amra”?

No, not really. We were just trying to make music that sounded exciting to our ears. In the lyrics though, there are some subjects which are dear to me: Native American cultures in “Tutayan” and “Axolotl”, or the fact that Beauty and Culture (with the big “B” and the big “C”) are now endangered in our modern societies (in “Cérès bus stop”).


How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

In fact we kept it very secret. I didn’t know how our respective audiences would receive our collaboration… it went very well, finally !

Describe your approach to recording “Amra.”

It was all recorded in our home studios and via emails : we never actually met with Frédéric. And once it was recorded and mixed, we mastered the album together with my friend Louison Oranjor, who already worked on my previous EP “En ti solo”.

How long “Amra” was in the making?

Compared to my other works, it was quite short in the making, a few months actually. From the beginning, we both agreed that the process had to be very spontaneous. The most difficult part was the mixing, because of this mix of synths and acoustic instruments, which is quite unheard.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the album? 

I can only speak for myself, although I know Frédéric is fond of the Berlin School experiments, with the likes of Klaus Schultze for instance. Well, I don’t mean to sound pretentious, but in my work, I don’t feel quite influenced nowadays. I’m trying to let the instinct speak, especially in this record. Yet this was the occasion to try to approach what Peter Hammill calls the “Spirit of Chaos”, in the old Van Der Graaf Generator days, in particular in “Axolotl”, which sounds like it is totally out of control (but it is actually!).

What is your view on technology in music?

I’m no tech fan, to be honest. I’m very found of natural and “woody” sounds, like mandolin, saz or charango (instruments I used a lot in “Amra”) and acoustic guitars. But of course I like technology when it helps to record, mix or… create weird sounds!

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

I’d like it to serve a greater purpose, but it might be a little naive or pretentious. The way I see it, it can be a melting pot where sounds from all the world and all the times can meet and create something new. That is why I use a lot of world instruments, like the Turkish saz, or different languages, like Quechua or Nahuatl in this very record.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m currently working on the next album, which will be called “Las Ilusiones” and will be released next year. It has a more pop-rock approach, with a lot of guitars and various keyboards, and shorter tracks. But at the same time it will sound much progressive and modern than my latter works. I hope you will like it!

Amra is out now; get it from Bandcamp here. Like Bruno Karnel on Facebook.

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