KANT FREUD KAFKA: The Conversation

Kant Freud Kafka

Kant Freud Kafka is the name of a musical project by Javi Herrera, a musician from Barcelona. He spend more than 20 years working on an album that was released in May this year. 

The album named “No tengas miedo” was born from a disturbing story written by a friend in order to exorcise her fear to darkness. That story unchained a first composition and recording process that, after many years forgoten, has achieved maturity, been partially rewritten and revived with strength driven by a vital need, always present, of materialising it on a record in first place, and then sharing it with others.

Prog Sphere has talked with Javi about the creative process that informed “No tengas miedo,” the connection with famous philosophers and authors, spirituality. Hit the play button below and enjoy reading.

How did you go about starting the Kant Freud Kafka project? In what measure were you inspired by works of these philosophers and authors?

Javi Herrera: It all started many years ago, when I began composing music inspired on a story that a friend of mine told me. This music was partially home-recorded on a 4 track Tascam and later arranged on a computer with MIDI sounds – this was mid 90’s maybe. That stuff fell into sleep for many years, but about 2006 my friend and guitarist Pol Sánchez told me that he was about to open a recording studio and asked me if I would like to record all that music of mine. I accepted his offering and started to review my old stuff, re-writing some sections, arranging others and writing brand new music for a group of instruments that grew and grew… in fact recording this music was something that I owed to myself, it’s been like the realization of a vital need. The project name ”Kant Freud Kafka” came much later, and in fact is not related to the output of those big names, it’s more a kind of private joke between friends.

What can you tell me about the creative process of your debut album “No tengas miedo”? How long did it take you to complete the work on the album?

As I said it’s been a very long trip, I’d say some 25 years in total. At the very first stage the music was quite naïve, although the basic ideas and melodies were already there. Later, computers and virtual instruments gave me the prefect tools for shaping what was coming to my mind, a great advantage when you’re basically a drummer. The recording process took some years, because only used the studio just depending on the availability of the three parts involved (Pol and the studio, myself and the musician who was to record his/her part).

No tengas miedoThere is definitely something lyrical and philosophical or spiritual on the material showcased on the album. Was it your idea since the beginning to achieve some sort of a connection between the music and that spirituality?

Well, I think that the music may sound spiritual because it’s inspired by a sort of fairy tale about two supreme beings, and also because of my perception of music both as a listener and as a musician: to me music is, basically, emotion. Of course technique (and, for that matter, form and production) matters and I love a lot of sheer technical stuff, but I think it’s a means for expressing something and as such it should never be more important than the music itself. Music must touch you, must move you.

Perhaps it’s the album’s classical music side that exudes an aura of spiritual and lyrical. What is your take on it?

Yes, I agree. It goes without saying that I love classical music and I’m currently listening to more and more “classical” stuff (mainly from Romanticism onwards), and I think my music reflects this even from the early version of NTM. On the other hand, the classical-oriented fragments mostly reflect Dama’s point of view on the story (Dama is one of the two characters on the story, the betrayed mother, the relegated darkness), and Dama’s feelings are the most exposed ones throughout the story.

I have mentioned the lyrical side of the album few times already, although the songs on “No tengas miedo” does not include lyrics. What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when working on the album?

The music follows quite well the story flow. The original story was told to me maybe in 1986-87 or so by a fellow student called Virginia Barceló, this story triggered a compositional process that ended up in a home-made recording of the first three tracks, as I’ve already explained. I’ve never had access to a written version of the story and eventually I lose contact with Virginia, so when I started thinking about recording the CD and decided to include the story in the booklet I had to remember the details and asked Carlos Gámbero, a friend of mine, to write the story from the scratch. He had witnessed the whole creative process from the early stages, so he wrote the story according to my guidelines but also while he was listening to the music, so the words and the music feedback each other.

The album doesn’t include lyrics due to the fact that when I’m composing I always “hear” the music played by an instrument, not sung… maybe because I don’t trust very much on my lyric writing skills. (Laughs)

Technically the main problem is that KFK is not a band, so you won’t find the kind of complicity and compact sound that you have when you regularly work with other musicians. It’s a record made up of collaborations, some from musician friends, others from session studio musicians, to a total of 15 musicians, along with the sequenced parts… so all the “glue” had to come from the music itself and from the musical production and mixing work.

Although the album doesn’t include lyrics, it is still a concept record. Tell me about the story you try to tell through the music.

It’s basically a story about the conflict between light and darkness, expressed through two characters, Dama (which represents darkness) and her daughter Adah (which represents light, or the white color). The story tells the victory of light over darkness on a battle caused by a misunderstanding between Dama, a peaceful and gentle character, and Adah, her haughty and revengeful daughter. The revenge of Adah consists in painting the world with colors and relegating the black color to the night and the shadows, and lastly creating Men and teaching them to have fear of darkness.

The album title loosely translates to “don’t be afraid.” What are you referring to?

Yes, “Don’t be afraid” or “Feel no fear”, which is the form we choose for the English translation. The title is a nod to Virginia, who wrote the original story as a means of exorcising her own fear to darkness. In fact she passed one night alone on an abandoned lighthouse and after this she wrote the story, which all in all concludes that there is no reason to fear darkness.

How would you describe “No tengas miedo” to someone who didn’t hear it before?

If I had to use the standard labels I’d say it’s a symphonic prog rock record, with a bias towards classical music and some hints of jazz and other elements, but I prefer to describe it just at honest, emotional music, that may appear not only to proggers and should be approached as reading a book as it tries to tell a story exclusively through music – although a parallel reading of the story helps.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on “No tengas miedo”?

Well, apart from the evident influence from classical music, I think all of the great names of the classic prog era are somewhat present, and also a few of the current scene (mainly Porcupine Tree and the Steven Wilson solo works). Maybe Genesis, Oldfield, Renaissance and The Enid are the most evident, but I’d also mention Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, Yes, Camel and maybe IQ on the earliest stages of composition. Amongst many others. However I can’t tell where the slightly jazzy edge comes from, I’m not particularly into jazz but it came in a rather natural way. And of course Pol’s guitar soloing throws a fusion feeling to it, as the solos were the only element that was not previously written by me and I thought Pol would add an interesting stylistic twist to the music.

Javi Herrera

Is there anyone in the current prog scene that you are into? Another great band from Spain that we should check? We are already introduced to Cheeto’s Magazine and Pervy Perkin.

I think in general we’re living a very interesting year, although I’m not much into the prog-metal/technical Floyd-influenced kind of band that dominates the scene today. To my taste I would highlight an Italian band, Syndone, which I had the pleasure to meet in a little festival held in Barcelona and was very impressed by their music and their live playing. I bought their record “Odysseas”, which I like very much. They play the old-school Italian prog with a very fresh edge, very inspired and emotional (did I already say that for me music is emotion?). Also the Belgian chamber-rockers Aranis, who recorded an album which I absolutely love called “Songs from Mirage”, has published a very interesting record this year called “Made in Belgium II”. In Spain, yes, certainly Cheeto’s Magazine has been a blow of fresh air, and also Pervy Perkin. Of course I’d recommend checking the Spanish big names of our days, to those who don’t know them yet: Senogul and the giants Kotebel, whose “Concerto for Piano and Electric Ensemble” is one of the best records recorded Spain in decades.

Do you have plans for another Kant Freud Kafka album? Do you have a clear vision in which direction your sound would further develop?

Well, yes. I hope so. I’m writing new stuff and I hope to go into the studio and launch a second album, but don’t know when this would be. Direction? Well, I don’t try to give the music a pre-conceived direction, I just let it flow, and then I find myself arranging a particular idea for a piano-cor anglais-cello trio or for a prog rock combo of drums, Hammond or mellotron, bass and guitar …or a combination of both worlds, what fits better. Maybe this time there will be a few less instruments and I think there will also be sung melodies – my elder daughter will help on the lyrics (laughs) – and maybe a few other surprises. It won’t be a conceptual or “programme music” album in the vein of NTM, but I think it will be about the world of dreams (no connection with Sigmund Freud’s works!), at least on the track names. This is because, as happens to many other people, my most creative moment of the day is wakefulness, when all kind of musical ideas come and go through my mind… and unfortunately most of them get lost. This will be my view of that important phase of the day.

Buy No tengas miedo from Bandcamp.

Nikola Savić is a prog enthusiast, blogger and author, in addition to being the founder of Prog Sphere, Progify, ProgLyrics and the ongoing Progstravaganza compilation series.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: