It’s been a couple of years in the making, but we are so happy to finally be bringing Kavus Torabi up to Sheffield for a solo set. His psychedelic tendrils run far and wide across the ‘funny music’ scene in the UK, being part of Cardiacs, taking up the helm of Gong after Daevid Allen’s passing and forging a whole new path bringing weird and experimental music to dancefloors with his international snooker star DJ partner! I’ll let him tell you more…
You’ve been involved in so many incredible musical projects over the years and worked with such a range of talented people that it’s now become a job in itself to list them all. Can you give us your version of the Torabi potted history?
It’s funny, it never seems confusing until I try to list things in any kind of chronological order. I moved up to London with my band The Monsoon Bassoon in the early 90’s and from about 95 to 2001 when we split up we played a lot and put out a few singles and an album. I did a few other projects around this time, including a band with Spider Stacy and other ex-Pogues but Monsoons was my main thing.
I joined Cardiacs in 2003 with whom I remained till it all came to an end in 2008, I also joined Guapo on guitar too around 2005. Throughout this decade I had been working on and off on an album, Buried Alone: Tales Of Crushing Defeat’, which finally came out as Knifeworld in 2009 and for the next few years, up to 2016 this was my main focus. We expanded into an octet and have released four albums to date.
During this time I met Daevid Allen in 2012 and we remained in contact until the following year he asked me to play guitar in Gong. That line up made one album, ‘I See You’ but following its release Daevid became very ill. Once it became clear he wouldn’t be getting better he laid out plans for the remaining band to continue Gong without him..with me fronting the thing! An unnerving thought which we reluctantly agreed to. I’m glad we did, we’ve been touring extensively since and have released two further albums of new music.
Things get stranger, a recording session for fun in 2018 with Steve Davis and Micheal J York (of Teleplasmiste) kicked off a few months of recording which culminated in an album and a band we called The Utopia Strong. It’s quite unlike anything else I’ve done previously. We’ve since made four albums and toured a little.
Steve and I also DJ together at various festivals and clubs and put out a book, part memoir part enthusiastic rant – Medical Grade Music – earlier this year.
In between commitments with Gong and The Utopia Strong, I recorded a solo album, Hip To The Jag, which came out in May 2019 and it’s from this record that most of the music I’ll be performing in Sheffield is taken.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
I have a number of things in various stages of completion. We’ve just mastered a Gong live album which will be out next year. The Utopia Strong has completed our next studio album and we’re mixing that at the start of October. I have about four songs recorded for the next solo album and am working on that whenever I have time and we’ve started writing music for the next Gong album. We tend to write when we’re all together which has made things a little difficult recently, given that one of our members lives in Brazil!
I have a collaboration album with one of my favourite composers which is half finished, again it’ll be done when time allows. There’s a few other things on the backburner too. I have lots of ideas for one-off projects, often borne out of pub conversations, I don’t expect all of them to happen but if, say, one tenth of them do then that’s a pretty good strike rate. Most of what I do starts this way, just me suggesting ‘So I had an idea for an album, what if me and you…’
Also, Guapo has morphed into a new thing called The Holy Family. We put out an album earlier this year. Up until now it’s been a studio project but we start rehearsals later this month to turn it into a live thing for some shows next year.
Thinking back to your own humble beginnings as a musician, was there a point at which the penny dropped and you thought ‘THIS is what I want to do’?
I wrote about this very moment in our book, actually. It was seeing Stray Cats on Top Of The Pops in 1980. I knew right then that this was what I wanted to do and have spent the rest of my life trying to get there. I’m so bummed TOTP isn’t still a thing because, as completely unlikely the idea of me actually getting on it in any capacity is, it was always the goal.
Which artist or album is on heavy rotation on your turntable / MP3 player / listening device of choice at the moment?
Not a lot, actually. I’ve entered a strange solipsistic phase where I only want to think about my own music. I have a lot on the go at the moment and spend most of my time thinking about that. I don’t feel particularly guilty about it because I think the stuff I’m doing now is where I’ve been trying to get to for all these years. Lockdown sent me pretty nutty and the way back was playing guitar. A lot.
More than I ever have since I was a teenager, so that’s usually my soundtrack these days. That said, I still listen to new music from my friends, Chlöe Herington’s Silent Reflux is lovely, Michael Woodman’s Psithurism too. I play both fairly often. Usually in the morning before I start doing my thing. I also got turned onto a new album by my friends Neil and Libby Spragg under the name Bending Shapes which pushed all my goth buttons to the point that I had to listen to it four times in a row.
Which musical influences or passions do you have that might surprise people? What track would you play them to convert them to your way of thinking?
I suppose the DJ sets that Steve Davis and I do are exactly that. We managed to ‘convert’ about a thousand people out of the marquee and back to their tents at Camp Bestival last month. It turns out French-avant jazz rock isn’t really the Camp Bestival vibe, who knew? While I’m very particular about what I like, as in it has to be brilliant, it’s not exclusive to any one genre. Actually, a couple of people were pleasantly surprised that I like Supergrass recently. I don’t know why, I mean they’re my kinda pop.
If money / logistics / time travel were no object, which artist would you be telling Buds & Spawn that we MUST book?
I’d love to go back to the Don Caballero show I saw in 1999 at The Knitting Factory and see if it really was as good as I remember it. Unfair on them as there was so much animosity in the band at the time, mind.
What are you most looking forward to about touring with Mike Woodman? Which tracks / artists do you predict will feature heavily on your tour bus (ok, car share) playlist?
I expect I’ll load my iPod up with all the usual crap and let shuffle take care of it. It’s the best radio station ever.
Kavus Torabi joins us for a solo live show on Thursday 7th October 2021
at Sidney & Matilda in Sheffield, alongside Michael Woodman and New Ghost.
Tickets available at budsspawn.nutickets.com