To explain it is to complicate it. When Malka Spigel (Minimal Compact) or Colin Newman (Wire) even attempt to put into words the natural ease and organic flow of their collaborative work as Immersion, it’s a progression of stammered phrases and consistent interruptions. It makes sense. How does one explain that the music simply arrives?
Analogue Creatures is Immersion’s first release since Y2K was a thing, but the interest and inspiration was finally there. There is no forcing it for Malka and Colin. Our conversation with the duo reveals the mystery and surprise at work when an artist is willing to trust — both instincts and partner.
Stereo Subversion: Either of you could likely decide to work with a number of people given your connections and expertise and experience. What made this the time for a new Immersion album?
Malka: We find it very easy to work together. This is probably the easiest project out of all the projects we work on, because it’s quite free. We just play. It’s unrestricted with what gear we use, so it naturally finds its kind of sound. It’s also important that you like the person you work with.
Colin: Obviously we live together, so it’d be weird if we didn’t like each other. It’s a strange thing. I was just thinking that we’ve done two things together this year already. Malka’s old band, Minimal Contact, had their very occasional comeback. They only ever seem to be doing this at the moment in Tel Aviv, but it might happen in other places in the future. They’re legendary in certain places and it’s not a small thing. There were over five shows where they played to 5,000 people. For the second time, I was asked not by Malka but by the band to join with them and play guitar. I enjoyed it thoroughly and it was a fantastic experience.
I think collaboration is a strange thing, but we’re both natural collaborators. We both like to collaborate. The ease of it is fantastic, as she said, between us because we don’t really have… I don’t want to say ‘ego,’ because it will sound like it’s not true. [Laughs] We’re partners. You don’t screw over your best friend and the person you love most in the world. We have a way of working together, and it’s how we live.
Immersion is a very pure version of it. There’s not that much of a difference between the way we make the music and the way we do almost anything, really.
SSv: So the music is really just an extension of your daily lives together?
Colin: The music is ultimately an extension of that. We’re putting in other guises, and we have done other projects together — most notably Githead in the last few years — but we had that sense that we wanted to do something again with Immersion. I don’t know. Maybe the time felt right. It’s been a long time since we’ve done anything with Immersion.
Groups can be complicated for lots of different reasons, especially if they all don’t live in the same place. There is a sort of ease for Malka and I to be able to do things. We can decide since we’re both here that we’re going to do it now. Obviously there are times I’m on tour or she’s doing something else.
SSv: You surprised me by not having a set answer for why the return to Immersion. Is that true that it wasn’t this intentional thing?
Colin: There’s no master plan. Wire is something which requires a lot of planning and thinking about, whereas Malka and I do things and we prefer the spontaneity, to be honest. It’s not formal. It’s the way we do anything else, really.
Malka: There are a few things going on, so you have the find the space for something to happen. And we found that space. Plus we were into the gear side of it, with synthesizers, so you think, ‘Oh, that’d be nice to do.’ Then we do it.
SSv: Have you had other seasons where you’ve had the time, but the interest wasn’t there?
Malka: Yeah, it’s almost random.
Colin: It is almost random. I don’t know why. I spent the ’90s avoiding doing anything with singing.
Malka: Then we were into electronic music and no guitars. Then we go back into guitars. There’s an ease about doing stuff with synthesizers. You just mess with it and then it comes out. I don’t know.
SSv: What was the point, then, that the two of you look at each other and say, ‘Let’s return to Immersion’?
Colin: Malka came to America when Wire had done Drill: Chicago. Then she and I flew to New York after the festival. I was very interested to get a little analog synth. I thought we could do with something like that. That was really the beginning of thinking, ‘Well, if we’re going to get an analog synth, then we should do something that has analog synthesizers.’ [Laughs] And that would obviously be Immersion.
SSv: Listening to you talk about following your interests and being so relaxed makes me wonder if it is safe to assume that you’re still surprised by the music?
Malka: Yes. It is still fresh and new and exciting and surprising. Yes. Some people might get into repeating what they do and it becomes not that exciting. For me, it always feels surprising.
Colin: When you’re talking about marketing, it’s a different kind of thing. One of the things you’re expected to have is product consistency. But when you’re talking about independent music, that’s actually the thing you don’t want. You want consistency in terms of the quality, but you don’t want it in terms of being the same thing. If you buy cheddar cheese, you wouldn’t be very happy if it turned out to be a package of sausages. [Laughs] With music, the tendency is that the more successful things are and the more mainstream they become, there’s a demand for basically doing the same thing but just a little bit different. That’s the death of creativity in music.
Malka: From my point of view, it’s partly laziness and partly I don’t bother to learn technically how something works. It feels endless and always new.
SSv: When you decided to record, does the process stay this organic or loose or do you find it becomes a bit more rigid?
Malka: I think it stays easy between us. When you work with someone you don’t know, it can be awkward if you don’t like something. We don’t have that between us. We naturally steer this thing forward, and when it feels like we’re not quite there, we just change it. It all feels very organic and easy.
Colin: Some of the pieces start with Malka and some of them start with me. She’ll just play. She’ll take an instrument and then start playing it, and she’ll play it for a certain amount of time. I’ll just record it. Then she might want to play another part straight away with it, but I might try to figure out to use a bit more science about my parts.
What Malka does is always surprising to me. She never does what you would expect her to do. I think that’s part of the fun of working with her. She’s very good at starting things. I guess that’s a bass player function, so it’s amazing that naturally when she plays, she invites people to want to play around her.