For Montréal improviser Martin Tétreault. a turntable is a machine for literal deconstruction, rich with infinite ionic possibilities as its own source of sound. “For Île bizarre, I don’t use a lot of records.” asserts Tétreault. “Most of the sounds come from the turntahles themselves — the sound of motors, prepared needles, prepared records. It’s more ‘musique d’objet.’ More texture research than, for instance, [1998’s] Dur noyau dur with René Lussier, which was a mix of using records and using the turntable and with Japanese turntablist Otomo Yoshihide, on 21 situation, it’s mostly turntable with a little bit of sampling. Every project has its own direction.”
He continues: “All the sound are well-kept secrets in the [turntable] because when this object is manufactured, it’s not made for this purpose. You put of using turntable for the secret sounds inside. Cartridges and needles are microphones, so it is possible to catch a lot of sound inside the object itself. And with prepared records I prepare the circular surface – put stickers on it, sound it with some sandpaper — so there are more rhythmic possibilities to make it more noisy, more lyrical. [The turntable] is more of a musical instrument because I develop its language. I can control it. It is not just to listen to a record on it.”
Tétrtault, who adds springs to his cartridges and balloons to the tone arms will occasionally plug a guitar distortion pedal in the turntable. But no samplers. Instead he concentrates on coaxing sounds from his 20 decks – including old fashioned elementary school Califone record players — and is his collection of 3000 records. And while many of the turntables are heavily customised. Tétreault has taken to improvising in their construction and building them from scratch. His most recent creation is a turntable with two tone arms. He attributes his unorthodox approach to his background in fine arts. In fact, he insists it was purely by accident that he switched to music in 1984.
“One day I was cutting paper in fine arts class. I was doing very minimalist stuff. One day I decide to cut on something else other than paper. I cut a record (in half). I reversed one side and put side B with side A and put a needle on it and wow, it works. So that you take a record of a sitar and record of big band and take a different side of each and glue it together and create your own orchestra only on one record. Most of the time when I go into my studio to work I think I am doing more fine art than music. For me, it is like working on a canvas.”