From Triple Life to Filtron M
Originally inspired by my father’s mosaic trilogy Black, White & Blue, my debut album Triple Life released in March 2011 set the foundation of what would later lead to the concept of Filtron M.
After growing up in Switzerland and having had a home base in the US for nearly equal amounts of time, the title Triple Life exemplified the resulting third, sonic entity. The album was the hybrid of my ever-changing perspectives, travels, bands, projects, performances, recordings, studies and throughout all that my family, friendships and relationships. It was a long process until all the elements blended to put together an album that could include many of these aspects of my life journey without any particular genre in mind. For the most part recorded in a basement studio and at my home during the course of about two years it was not the ideal framework, but with the help of many friends I was able to make it come alive.
After the release of Triple Life, the challenge was if one single band would be able to evolve these ideas in a live setting. Even by being content with the outcome of the record, it was conceptually and musically a compromise in regard to what I really wanted to combine and express. Since my Boston years in the 1990’s, I got accustomed to play with all kinds of musicians from numerous countries. Besides being immersed in my Jazz studies at Berklee College Of Music, I became a freelance musician, was mostly connected to the local Brazilian music scene, some Funk and Hip-Hop projects, as well as other bands that introduced me to styles from the Caribbean to West Africa. In Boston I already had written music that I performed with my own group, but just felt that there was so much still missing. I couldn’t point my finger to what it was exactly. Was it lack-of experience or not sufficient understanding of the cultures I wanted to incorporate? After all I just absorbed the sounds and people as I went along, unfolding from my perspective deriving from a very quiet and moderate environment in Switzerland. It took my move to New York in the year 2000 and many performances, travels, achievements and failures in the following years to finally get to a stage where it began to make sense to me. Triple Life was a new start to convert my explorations and searches into sound.
What eventually generated Filtron M was my aspiration to create and perform authentic original music with a broad multi-cultural group of musicians, which until now has been my work field and reality for the past 25 years. Simultaneously, since the turn of the century the significance of the internet with Napster, MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, Spotify, social media in general, emerged increasingly and consequently a rapid devaluation of music took place. While I was struggling to make a living and at the same time wanted to keep learning and growing musically, I was aware of the risks but also the relevance of my task. I couldn’t let go of it and was ready to maintain what I envisioned. The complexity of my overall situation left me in uncharted territory. I came to the realization that while I wanted to shape what would become Filtron M, and in order to preserve its principle, I had to treat it as an ongoing free-form project that naturally evokes many trials and errors.
Establishing units like Astoria Roots and Unique Afrique helped developing repertoire with selected rhythm sections that were instrumental in the creation of the music. The importance of leaving room for individual input as well as having long-time friends participating was and will always be essential to the concept of Filtron M. Still, at its heart it remains a personal quest and I came to understand that continuing in form of units unnecessarily compartmentalizes, and therefore is limiting and defeats the purpose. The units were crucial in the formative years to set a standard but will not be named as such and not exclusively appear in these specific formations from this point forward. Every once in a while, somebody asks me what the M stands for. I simply assume it is evident that it refers to the first letter of my name. In an era where it is counterintuitive when an artist isn’t constantly calling for attention, it seems like it comes across as an insecurity when the ego isn’t purposely overemphasized. Not making it predominantly about my image and my name leaves space for a vast, diversified platform that ultimately can serve many musicians, and in addition anybody associated with each individual collaborator of Filtron M.
I think such a mindset is necessary to counteract a reality where nearly everything around us is about the 1%. Not just with massive income inequality or class contrasts, even in the music industry we are dealing with a hierarchy that is supported by the entire ecosystem from artist to fellow musician, audience, media, critic, blogger, label, booking agent, club owner, festival organizer or producer. That is the nature of the beast. The amount of likes and views on social media amplify who gets the deserved consideration which is largely disproportionate to the potential diversity and actual talent existing. It imposes joining the hip crowd of hype and name recognition. In general, the use of social media in its current form paradoxically divides more than it unites. It should be the zone where we can go beyond nationality, race, religion or any category social manipulators would like the population to be placed in.
Additionally, by now nearly every major city and music festival on the planet has its multi-national bands and projects exemplifying the unification of humanity. In the light of tragic events which caused the migration crisis, as an answer to rising nationalism or an attempt towards integration and acceptance, music as a global connecting force has almost become fashionable. This is without a doubt a positive trend but what are the ingredients to create substantial, divergent world culture and not remain a shallow Kumbaya–Imagine all the people exercise? Long-term collaborations, building friendships and trust will be decisive qualities which will eventually set us humans apart from Artificial Intelligence as futurists and computer scientists predict. Like in every relationship, adapting to differences and at times facing and overcoming confrontation are inevitable and have to be part of multi-cultural operations so it can be lasting and have an impact. Since this takes time such endeavors most likely will not appear in the instant satisfaction-conformed mainstream. There is space for incalculable amounts of such undertakings, composed of diverse backgrounds, personal stories, individual choices and imperfections that are not primarily visually triggered. The aim is never for it to be absolute, but instead to open up infinite new possibilities beyond genres and digital perfection, mainly arising from off-screen experiences and teamwork. Filtron M’s goal is to bring these ideas to fruition, to inspire, be unpredictable and continually expand at its own pace.
Manu Koch, New York September 3rd 2018