Now signed to LA indie label Mush, oddball Bristol electronicist Zoon van snooK is about to make his live debut and release his first album. Jay Chakravorty checks his sanity at the door.
“I wrote a letter to Boards of Canada once, addressed to Mr Board and Mr Canada, suggesting a collaboration in return for the price of a custard slice in second-class stamps. I told them that if they didn't agree I’d leave a dead bear full of wasps on their driveway. I heard nothing back.” Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of Alec Snook, better known to fans of wonky electronic music as Zoon van snooK.
Having a conversation with Alec is like chatting to a sleepwalking Peter Ustinov. He’s a master of strange anecdotes and surreal asides. Nobody else could end a story about having a microwaveable dinner for one thrown at them from a moving car with the immortal line “I was wearing a dressing gown on the street and shining a big light in my own face though, so I guess I deserved it.”
That skewed approach to life is clearly evident in his music too. His soon-to-be-released debut album ‘(Falling From) The Nutty Tree’ doesn’t sound so much composed as beautifully constructed. With one song he’ll conjure up a seascape in which scrapes and scratches form tidal rhythms and accordians sit alongside samples of the shipping forecast, then with the next he’ll switch into techno synths, atonal chord shifts and hip-hop beats, just because he can. And for some reason, it all works. “I’ve been doing music since the mid-90s in various, mainly indie, guises. I'd done the constant rehearsing and gigging thing for umpteen years. I just wanted to write music for me. This whole thing is about me having the time to sit in my studio and write. I've just been lucky enough that people have heard it and believe in it enough to put it out.”
By “people”, he means legendary LA-based indie label Mush, home to electronic pioneers like Bibio, Boom Bip and Daedelus. Having heard a sampler from Zoon, Mush signed him up for two albums, as well as a remix album due in the New Year. It’s this remix album that precipitated the writing of the aforementioned letter to Messrs Board and Canada. Rather than letting his label do all the work for him, Alec has been approaching musicians he admires and requesting their input personally. In fact, most of the musicians that have agreed to a remix did so before he was even signed, which is no mean feat, considering the big names involved. Tunng, James Yuill and Super Furry Animals’ Cian Ciaran have all agreed to rework his tracks.
However, Alec’s not one for resting on his laurels – no matter how well-earned they may be – and has recently thrown himself into the task of transforming his studio-based project into a feasible live act in time for his album launch and debut live performance on 11 Dec at Colston Hall. “Coming from a live band background, it’s been doing my head in as to how to do it. I want to play drums, but I also want to play keyboards. Above all, I just want to let go and enjoy the experience of being there.” He’s currently settled on a three-piece band incorporating live instruments, laptops and samplers, but all that could change depending on the availability of bandmates at future gigs. “Hopefully, I’ll have a few different sets soon. One for me on my own, one for a band and, who knows, maybe one with six or seven different people and no samples, where everything gets played live.”
With an offer of a place at next year’s SXSW festival and a tour in Europe already booked, it’s clear that the Zoon van snooK crazy-train is gathering speed. You might just want to head down to that first ever live show to get on board.
ZOON VAN SNOOK PLAYED THE COLSTON HALL, BRISTOL ON SAT 11 DEC. FFI: WWW.MYSPACE.COM/ZOONVANSNOOK
Copyright Jay Chakravorty 2010