From The Horse's Mouth: Derek Allen (counterfeit i) on Still (Vol. II)

counterfeit i (photo by Roger Zwinklis)

counterfeit i (photo by Roger Zwinklis)

Chicago-based experimental act counterfeit i is the brainchild of songwriter and front man Derek Allen. Taking cues from Mogwai, Coltrane, Penderecki and Depeche Mode, they create a unique mixture of intense soundscapes and swooning melodies.????
Still Vol. II, out April 8 via Bit Riot Records, is the second in their series titled Still, with Volume 1 surfacing in 2013 (the UK’s Intravenous Mag called the release “a cross between the sublime dissonance of ‘Mourner’ era Caina and the haunting emotion of Deftones by way of Mogwai”).  Mastered by Colin Jordan (Xiu Xiu, Pigface) at the Boiler Room in Chicago, Still Vol. II, shares some of the same emotional intensity and melancholic melodies with its predecessor.
The group is currently planning a series of Midwestern dates throughout the spring and an East Coast tour in May. First though, Ghettoblaster caught up with Allen to discuss the record.  This is what he told us about it..
When did you begin writing the material for Still, Volume 2?  
I started writing Still (Vol. II) right about when I was finishing up Still (Vol. I), which was over a year and a half ago. There was definitely some overlap. It was a slow process, which was nice because it wasn’t very stressful.

What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing?  Why was it so troublesome?

I wouldn’t say that any of these songs were troublesome, but one that required a lot of tweaking and time was “The Point is a Circle.” All of the sound design in that piece was taken from a small recording I made of a short conversation that was heavily processed. I used three different software programs to create the soundscapes, so it definitely took some time.
Which of the songs on Still, Volume 2 is most different from your original concept for the song?
I think I’d have to say “The Point is a Circle” again because when I recorded that conversation, I had no idea what I would use it for. “Between the Suns” was another surprising one. It ended up developing out of a bunch of improvisation and experiments.

Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?

I actually used the guys in the live band for this EP. Tyler Kirgiss played all of the drums, and Ryan Worthy the bass. It was exciting to record with them and feed off their energy while recording my own parts.
 Who produced the record?  What input did that person have that changed the face of the record?
Still (Vol. II) was self-produced. Tyler and Ryan definitely helped with that aspect though. I would show them the parts and they would add their own spin to them. This EP is a lot more representative of our live show than previous releases.

Is there an overarching concept behind Still, Volume 2 that ties the record together?

Like the first volume of Still, this EP is meant to give a kind of introspective experience to the listener. Most of the lyrics and singing aren’t understandable. There’s a lot of glossolalia and effects, similar to Still (Vol. I).

How do the songs differ when you play them live? 

A lot of the vocal parts were improvised, so those will probably change from night to night. But apart from that, I think most of songs will be pretty similar. With our other releases, we always had to rearrange the songs to be played live, especially in regards to the electronics. But since this EP is so organic and uses acoustic drums, I think we’ll be able to mostly play the songs as is.
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