Interviewed by LKJ

Did you have any exposure to reggae before the making of Peeni Waali?

No. Reggae came into my world only in 1987 during a stay in Jamaica. When I began experimenting with music, looking for a genuine sound, sometime in the early 80ies, there was no such thing as the etiquette ‘world-music’ (sic). My aim was more at a cosmopolitan aproach. I liked too much different music to dwell in one style only. Yet I don’t necessarily like everything in every music…
Hence avant-garde would be the terrain I could sharpen my claws with. Until reggae took me by surprise…

How do you deal with the cultural isolation living in a retrieved valley in Switzerland?

I never felt isolated, because there’s been so many great musicians visiting me here and recording in my own premises. And I been travelling extensively for some 7 years, soaking up impressions to a point like when you mix all colours and ‘receive’ white (I never understood why this is so, though).
It annoys me to a certain extent that I was ‘tainted’ so indelebily by reggae, because I always tried to break that bondage of ‘influence’ e.g. such as the american hegemony; all those Swiss bands singing in english often with an embarrassing accent. I don’t feel it’s an issue to sell Coca Cola to yanks.
But then again, I’d be a damn fool not to accept all these great renderings, the musicians I’ve worked with had to offer. It’s up to anyone to make reggae original. Peeni Waali is certainly very remote from roots reggae because I use reggae mainly to ride upon like a vehicle, a carrier to travel upon/with. That voyage is leading me (hopefully) to unknown places, meeting new people and breaking the cultural isolation enough to live in a back-water country (musically) like Switzerland. Although that’s not important to me. It’s to relate to what I do with whom. My mind is my root.
World-music as such appears to me like esoterism and that’s not my cup of tea at all…

How did you chose Peeni Waali as a leitmotiv?

When I seen the firefly first (in Oracabessa – outside Ocho Rios, Jamaica), I was puzzled by the phenomenom and kept asking people what it meant to them. I also realised that it was one of the few animals, people would just let in peace. I was told all kinds of pleasant stories how the Peeni Waali meant ‘good omen’ in short. That transcends to me like hope, a very, very important vision that should stand for more people as a forceful power within. I’m puzzled that so little is known scientifically about that bug. Fireflys exist all over the world. I remember when I was in Malaysia, I seen even more of them at a mangrove-coast. They call it clip-clip there. Fireflys also exist in the warmer parts of our country. Yet, the species here doesn’t fly. We call it glow-worm.
However, it came in handy to build a concept for a musical project around this wonderful experience.

How did you get to know all those players on your albums?
How I got to meet all these people is as long a story as the time it took me to terminate the trilogy (“The Dawn”, “The Return” and “The Eve” of Peeni Waali). I like people. I like challenge. I like provocation. I like ‘the difference’. Any difference from what I know, I can learn from. Difference is a complementarity.
Working with all these different people always made me learn more and more of that who’s who. It’s like a puzzle and a snowball combined. Knowing one musician who’s worked with other people I’d discover the records that one musician plays upon and would want to know maybe a next musician that’s on that record and so on. I’m insatiable to learn, to experience...
However, I wouldn’t want to be ‘stuck’ with reggae only. I find a lot of interest in continental music and hope I’ll be able to transcribe all my past experiences with that element. Reason why I start working more and more with our native instruments (although somewhat limited) like the alphorn, hackbrett, acordion, hornussen and others.