[Doh-Len-Nee] Welsh, to loop: enfold, encircle, arrange in a loop…”
Thus Wales-based looping ensemble,
Dolennu explain the name on their self-titled debut CD + DVD release,
inspired by the work of Terry Riley and Steve Reich
and heralding the return of the
Peter Muir's interview with Warren is available at the bottom of the page.
The Zyklus “I’d been familiar with the process
of using loops for almost 30 years, inspired by the works of Steve Reich and
Terry Riley. We used to perform his work In C, which is the most perfect piece
to play on a Zyklus. When Billy mentioned a looping project I immediately
thought of the Zyklus.” WARREN GREVESON
Track Listing: 1. JLP Special 2. Berwyn Blues 3. The Breathing City
4. Pripyat 5. Just Fibbin
File: Jazz Rock/Fusion
CD & DVD Twin Pack
Rel: Sept 2017
and watch the accompanying DVD for this titular metaphor to come alive in your
ears and eyes. Because this is ‘twisting’ music: a sinuous spacey fusion of
jazz, funk, rock and electronica that spins, spirals and worms its way into
your inner being.
Roberts (Kenny Driscoll Band, Barbara
Thompson’s Paraphernalia) on drums, band founder Warren Greveson (Neil
Ardley/Zyklus) plays synthesisers looped to the violin of Billy Thompson
(Paraphernalia, Mike Westbrook) aligned to image/sound sculpturist Maurice
Lock’s interpretative video loops as featured in the album’s bonus DVD. Five
huge, sprawling tracks here journey into sonic other worlds in a wholly immersive trip helmed by a
collaboration of some of contemporary jazz’s most innovative players and
Thompson is a
classically trained improvising violinist performing in numerous different
styles of music. These styles vary from his highly popular band Billy
Thompson Gypsy Style to performing with internationally acclaimed jazz
artists such as saxophonist/composer Barbara Thompson OBE and
pianist/composer Mike Westbrook OBE. Billy performs on five albums
and a DVD with Barbara Thompson’s Paraphernalia and is an integral part of the
wonderful Glad Day by Mike Westbrook featuring on the live DVD released last
year. Billy is also working on a project with a highly talented
singer/songwriter (and wine producer) called Gavin Crisfield.
Billy’s time living in Wales, Billy has performed and recorded with many of
Wales’ finest musicians and singer/songwriters including Meic Stevens (for ten
years), Gai Toms (Mim Twm Llai),
Heather Jones, Sian James, Delwyn Sion, Dafydd Iwan, Alun Tan Lan and Gwilym
Bowen Rhys. During his time in South Wales, Billy was an integral part of The
Amigos performing all around Wales
and featuring on three studio albums.
singer/songwriter Rhian Williams (now Thompson) led to the creation of the
Welsh band Amledd and the release of the album Cyfnod Cyntaf.
residing in Bala, North Wales with his family
since 2005, Billy also runs a recording studio offering recording services,
location recording and an online session musician service. For further details
visit Thompsound Music
Warren Greveson is an electronic
music composer, having composed and produced music for the BBC, ITV, Discovery
and the Children’s Channel. He was a founding member of the eclectic electronic
jazz orchestra Zyklus, along with British jazz legends Neil Ardley and Ian Carr
and ex-Lansdcape member John Walters, performing in such places as the Royal
Festival Hall, Barbican and Purcell Room. They were featured in an hour long
programme on Radio 3 and produced one album, Virtual Realities, which received
considerable critical acclaim.
has released two albums so far: Voyager, an electronic work following the
journeys made by the spacecraft Voyagers 1 and 2 (think of it as a reboot of
Holst’s Planets); and Songs From The Grand Massif, a jazz-rock trip though the
French Alps, featuring the wonderful Billy Thompson on violin. Both albums are
graced with the considerable drumming skills of Jon Hiseman.
In 2012, Warren
rearranged the Voyager music to be the world’s first work for orchestra and
four iPads, with an accompanying film produced by Maurice Lock. This has been
performed several times, both in the UK
He is also currently reworking Voyager Reimagined to be performed by Zyklist as
a live project, again merging audio and video, and this should be at a town
near you later on in 2017, which will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the
launch of the iconic spacecraft.
It was during the making of Songs From The Grand Massif that
Warren and Billy considered the idea of forming a loop-based band, mixing
electronic loops with loops created by Billy’s violin, which is heavily treated
on some pieces. This led to the formation of the band Dolennu, augmented by
Steve Roberts on drums and Maurice Lock providing visual accompaniment. Their
first album will include both a CD of the music and a DVD of the visual
interpretations of the music and is available now.
Steve Roberts was the
drummer/keyboard player and writer in Godsticks since 2009, releasing one
EP and three albums with the band. They have also toured alongside The
Aristocrats (Marco Minnemann/Bryan
Beller/Guthrie Govan) and The Mike Keneally Band as well as appearing at
Steve also played for award winning prog band Magenta and
appeared on their latest dvd/album Chaos from the Stage (2016) as well as the
double live album On Our Way To Who Knows Where (2012), recorded on the continent.
He was also one third
of the UK Emerson, Lake & Palmer tribute Noddys Puncture and was in the
band when Keith Emerson appeared with them for a show. That concert is
available on a live cd.
Lock recently completed
a BA (Hons) Fine Art degree at Coleg Menai, North Wales.
During this time he worked with various combinations of video, sound,
sculptural objects, installations and photography, exploring the nature and
representation of the sublime.
subsequently began working on a lens-based project, digitally re-imagining the
spaces beneath motorway flyovers as Cathedrals to the Sublime and three of
these images were selected for the Galeri Open 2014 exhibition in Caernarfon
during October 2014.
His video collaboration with Warren
started in 2012 with the video accompanying Voyager for Orchestra and Four
iPads and continued with two performances in October 2014 of an expanded
version being performed at Stetson University and Mt Dora Center for the Arts in Florida by the Stetson
University Symphony Orchestra.
Maurice is soon to launch a bespoke service to
visualise walking trails, coastlines or any other personally significant
geographical feature in the manner of Anglesey In Bits, a piece from his 2nd
Year degree course.
Dolennu as the visual partner has seen Maurice take a move towards loop-based
video. This will be shown in the future at Dolennu concerts and will feature a
mix of video loops and live action from webcams suitably placed near members of
the band. He performed video works to the master recordings from the Dolennu
album project and these are included with the music on a DVD with the new album
pioneers Vangelis and White Noise ranked amongst users, as was the band that
took its name. Yet while ground-breaking keyboard tech such as the Moog and
Mellotron have been kept in play, the Zyklus got left behind …
Peter Muir: OK Warren, given
that the Zyklus lies at the beating heart of your new band, Dolennu, let’s start with a quick look
at how that all came about?
Warren Greveson: Well, a few years
ago I was working on my last album Songs
From The Grand Massif (SFTGM). This had been done in two parts. Half of the
tracks were recorded some time ago, along with the first half of my Voyager album, and I had gone to Jon
Hiseman’s studio to record him playing drums for me and also to mix the album.
During the mixing process it became clear that the two halves didn’t make a
whole. The Voyager album was very
electronic, apart from Jon’s drumming, think of the soundtrack to Blade Runner but with attitude! The SFTGM tracks had a jazzier feel, being
bass, drums, guitar, piano, sax, flute, bass clarinet and trumpet.
decided to complete the original Voyager
album first and then set to work on the SFTGM
tracks. I had lost touch with the sax/flute/bass clarinet player and didn’t
feel that trumpet alone would have sounded right. I was talking with Jon and he
said that the violin player from Paraphernalia,
Billy Thompson, didn’t live too far from where we had moved to.
suggested that I got in touch with him. I had now written five tracks that
would work well with Billy’s violin playing, so I contacted him. I went over to
see him and took the tracks that I wanted him to play on. He played some
terrific stuff on them, far better than I had imagined. He’s a wonderful player
and a great improviser, not to mention a terrific live performer. I took
several takes with each track, both for the tunes and solos and had a real
problem in deciding what wasn’t going to make it onto the final mix!
The five tracks for
SFGTM were completed and I went back
to Jon Hiseman’s studio to add the drums. I had a feeling now that the two
halves still didn’t gel and I much preferred the second, violin-driven, half. I
sent a copy of all of the final mixes over to Billy for his comments, really to
check that he was happy with how the violin sounded. His only comment was “Why
aren’t I playing on all of it?”! So that was it then, he’d confirmed my
I re-arranged the
original first half to work with violin, adding more guitar and some
synthesiser in there too, and went back to Billy’s studio where he added his
magic again. The result was a far more coherent and better album than I had had
originally and SFTGM was released
PM: But how did that lead to the Dolennu project?
WG: I’d been a member of the pioneering loop-based
electronic orchestra Zyklus with Neil
Ardley, John L. Walters and Ian Carr.
Neil, John and I
all had a particular quirky piece of electronica called the Zyklus.
We would program
MIDI loops into the machine and play them all together, triggering those loops
from whatever MIDI devices we could get our hands on – keyboards, guitar
synths, drum pads, an electronic saxophone; and even two very esoteric
controllers – one which resembled a small piece of drainpipe which would
trigger different notes depending upon where you bashed it and even a light
harp, which you played using your fingers through laser beams of light inside a
small square frame!
I’d been familiar
with the process of using loops for almost 30 years, inspired by the works of
Steve Reich and Terry Riley. We used to perform his work In C, which is the most perfect piece to play on a Zyklus.
During the SFGTM recording sessions, Billy got out
his Zeta MIDI violin and asked if there was anything I could do with it. It
wasn’t making the sounds that it was supposed to. It’s a beautiful instrument,
badly let down by the module that it connects to, which turned out to be the
Only one string
would make any attempt at making any kind of sound, and that wasn’t a good
sound anyway. I spotted that the connector lead to the sound module was the
same type as for my guitar synth/processor, so I brought that over at the next
session and we were amazed by what came out - Hendrix on a violin! I wasn’t
using the synth at the time, so I left it with Billy to experiment with.
The results were
incredible – silky smooth violin one moment, morphing to extreme distorted
mayhem (imagine putting a violin through a Marshall stack) and synthy sounds to
round it all off. The potential was really huge.
Billy also said
that he’d always had the idea of trying some kind of loop-based project. He had
a fairly simple looper pedal at the time, along with a number of other pedals.
Adding the MIDI violin completed his arsenal of sounds and we christened the
lot “The Moat” because it wrapped around him like a moat around a castle, which
we have a fair few of around us.
mentioned a looping project I immediately thought of the Zyklus.
PM: So you had the equipment and the personnel, how did
you go about making the music?
WG: I dug out my trusty old Zyklus, now officially an electronic
antique, and tried to remember how to work it! While it was capable of
producing some incredible music, the editing side of things left a lot to be
desired. A 2 x 40 character display, which was fading fast, was a little more
austere than my 27” Apple monitor connected to my Mac!
I started playing
with it again and came up with some ideas, some of which dated back to the Zyklus days, some of which were new
works. I took these round to Billy’s studio, where we rehearsed every week, and
together we started to come up with pieces that worked for the two of us to
The Zyklus is a
very fragile instrument that doesn’t like travelling about. Retrieving “songs”
(for a better word) was very slow and fairly hit-and-miss. It would crash every
now and then too. But there were two bigger problems – the display was getting
so faint that I could hardly see it and would have no chance in a gig
situation; and the clock that worked out the tempo was also wrong.
We had to create
blank loops to import into Billy’s looper pedal so that he could build up his
loops in real-time and these had to match the tempo that the Zyklus was working
to. It took a lot of painstaking work to create those loops, but we did
eventually manage it. The display was much less easy to solve, so in the end I
decided it just wasn’t feasible to use the Zyklus in a live performance, which
was a great disappointment to me. [I’ve since found a replacement screen and
fitted it into my Zyklus; it’s so bright now I need to wear my shades when using
PM: That’s a real shame; how did you replace such a unique
WG: I began the search for a software-based MIDI looper
that could perhaps do what the Zyklus did. It took a long time, but I
discovered that there was nothing that came even close! What I did find was a
very obscure piece of software called the Zyklus Improviser; something that, on
the face of it, would do something similar.
I played with the
software for ages and found that, apart from the fact that is was actually
nothing like the real Zyklus, it had some interesting compositional tools and
real-time mangling of the loops played into it. But, the editing was quirky,
there were a lot of bugs and it also had large sections of the program that
hadn’t been written. In the end, although I’d worked out some interesting
pieces using it, it was also just not reliable enough for live performance.
PM: So near yet so far, what did you do next?
WG: I noticed that the Zyklus Improviser software had been
written using some software called Max,
which I was familiar with. A version of Max
was included with the Ableton Live
software, so I downloaded a demo version of Live
and could see immediately that this was the system to use. Live wasn’t a software version of the Zyklus hardware, but I could see
a way to make this work for this project.
PM: But you had works developed using the Zyklus hardware
and the Zyklus Improviser software. How could you port it across from those
WG: With a lot of difficulty and time. It took me ages to
work out how to take the pieces worked out previously on other platforms and
get them into Live. But it was
possible and, as is often the way, the pieces evolved again into something
The real revelation
was getting hold of the Ableton Push
controller. Push really transformed
how I could work with the software. I particularly liked how it could either
control the launching of loops and could also be used as a keyboard in itself,
albeit not in the traditional piano-key way of triggering notes. It was almost
like going back to the old Zyklus
band days and the crazy controllers we used then, except that Push just seemed to work for me. So I
got a second one and now use one for launching loops and the other for playing
notes. That, with my MacBook Pro (running Live)
and a Korg Kronos X synth for handling any notes that I play live (with a small
L), is my Live (with both a small and capital L) rig. I’m really happy and
settled with it.
Billy was getting
frustrated by the flexibility in his looping pedal, so he got a Boss RC-300
Loop Station. This gave him far more freedom to experiment and also made his
Moat even bigger! Plus, our problems in creating blank loops immediately
disappeared with what we were using. Again, as with the original Zyklus band project, we didn’t need to
synchronise my rig to Billy’s, as we would be constantly retriggering samples
and it would stay in time.
PM: Well, that’s sorted out the technology, how about
making some music then?
WG: Exactly! Now we had a stable platform on which we both
could work, we could press on with using it. I had a number of pieces by now
and we spent our rehearsal time working on them. Billy also came forward with a
couple of ideas which I took away and turned them into Dolennu pieces.
Firstly, he gave me
the chords that would become the second track on the album: Berwyn Blues. This was interesting as he
gave me a sequence of chords to work with. We were possibly looking to work
with a remixer further down the line and so the idea of using odd time
signatures seemed a good idea. I took the chords that Billy had given me and
wrote the entire piece in 7/4 time. We’d been working on this in rehearsals for
quite a while before Billy realised it was in 7/4 time, which I thought was good
as it meant that it sounded like it wasn’t in 7/4 time!
The other piece is
called JLP Special and is the opening
track on our new album. The JLP refers to Jean-Luc Ponty, one of Billy’s
heroes, and is inspired by his work. It was also possible to bring this work to
life as Billy could now use his MIDI violin (and quite a lot of his Moat) to
get the kind of sounds that he always envisioned would be needed for the piece.
There was much more
of an arrangement with this piece, so fitting this into the Dolennu framework
was more difficult. There weren’t any tunes for the piece, so Billy asked if I
could come up with something, which I did. This made the arrangement process
slightly easier. I remember playing Billy my ideas and his comment “Well, not
only did you throw the baby out with the bathwater but you tattooed it first”
did make me smile! Once he’d heard it through a couple of times and then
started playing it he took to the piece and it’s a very strong track now.
PM: What about your pieces? How did you work
WG: We used the same processes with my pieces as with
Billy’s. I’d come up with some kind of framework, bring it along to rehearsals
where we’d play with it and then I’d reflect on what was happening to make
changes where we needed to. We recorded everything that we played so that we
could check out what worked and what didn’t. It was an iterative process and
great fun, the rehearsals were always great fun!
Billy’s great to
work with, very easy-going but at the same time he will stick to his
principles. I can’t remember ever having a difficult moment during any part of
the writing and recording process, which is unusual.
PM: Which piece did you bring to the rehearsal first?
WG: That would be Just
Fibbin’, which is the last track on the album. It’s based on the Fibonacci
sequence, which goes 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 etc. The next number in the sequence is the
sum of the previous two. I had a number of loops that were written in different
time signatures: 3/4, 5/8 and 4/4 and these tumble and collide with each other
throughout the piece. I particularly liked the tune that I‘d written to go with
it, it’s very angular and manages to use all 12 tones in it, even though the
underlying chord is C. Music is very mathematical and so using a mathematical
sequence seemed like a good idea.
The piece is very
open and we had great fun playing it – I think some of the rehearsal takes were
nearly 40 minutes long! We actually filmed a version of it, which I edited down
to something more manageable. That’s the most open and improvised piece that we
do, that’s why it’s the most fun to play.
PM: What was the second piece?
WG: That is The
Breathing City, the third track on the album. It was originally titled What The Funk?, but was changed after we
started the recording process. This was greatly influenced by Billy’s MIDI
violin, a lot of the sounds you hear in the track are played by Billy on his
MIDI violin. We used some of his original phrases recorded at rehearsals on the
recording, they were that good.
This was the first
piece I used the Live software
exclusively on; we hadn’t worked on this piece before I changed my rig.
an interesting story to it?
WG: Yes, that’s the fourth track on the album. Parts of it
were developed using the Zyklus Improviser software, but the original idea came
from an earworm that I woke up with one morning. I couldn’t get it out of my
head; I rushed up to my studio to get the rough ideas down before I forgot
This also changed
its title. It was originally named Waltz
For Poppy. Poppy is my granddaughter, but once the piece started to develop
I realised that it was far too spooky for her! [I still owe her a piece of
I began to see this
as a theme for an abandoned amusement park/circus that would be inhabited by
ghosts. I imagined the images there and they drove the direction of the piece.
I started looking for images of abandoned amusement parks and found the story
of the fairground in Pripyat. The park was due to open on May 1 1986, but unfortunately
on 26 April 1986 the main reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear plant exploded.
Pripyat was the
town built to house the workers at the plant and is very close to the reactor.
The whole town was evacuated and the amusement park never opened. It is still
inside the exclusion zone around the crippled reactor, but people have gone
inside to photograph it and it is the most haunting (and scary) place that I’ve
PM: You’ve now got the material, how did you record the
WG: Most of it was recorded in Billy’s studio. We did
between four and six takes of each track. We recorded Billy’s live violin plus
the loops that he made up during the performance. My parts were recorded as
MIDI, rather than the actual sounds; this would make editing and the
construction of the final track much easier. I would then take all of the
material away and audition it all to find the best takes of the tunes and
Again, I had real
trouble in deciding which of Billy’s solos would make it to the final mix. That
was really hard and there are some great out-takes that I may get round to
resurrecting in the future. I particularly remember the opening section on the
first take for JLP Special. Billy was
very wound up (in a positive way) and when he started playing it almost knocked
me over! The energy was just incredible and I immediately thought “this is the
start of the album. If that doesn’t make a statement then I don’t know what
All of the pieces
were much longer when we recorded them, we would never have been able to fit an
original take of each track on the album. As I worked through the editing
process I would send over rough mixes for Billy to listen to. The final part of
the editing process saw me reprogram the drums so that they were less loop-like,
more like having a real drummer.
Eventually we had
the five tracks mixed, but Billy wasn’t happy with the drums. Although the
programming was pretty “real”, Billy wanted a real person to play, particularly
on his tracks. I understood what he was getting at, so asked if he had any
suggestions. He came up with an old friend of his, Steve Roberts. Billy gave me
his CV and, once I had seen it, I had no problems at all with him playing on
Steve and he agreed to come up to my studio to re-record the drum parts. I had
a decent Roland MIDI kit, so suggested that he used that; he could also use it
when we get to play live, solving the age-old problem of having to set sound
levels to the volume of the drums. This would have been a particular problem if
we were playing smaller, more intimate gigs. Steve had never played a MIDI kit
before. He came up for a couple of days; we set him up and sorted out his
monitoring on the first day.
He recorded the
drum parts for the entire album on the second day. I was absolutely blown away
by both his playing and attitude and knew that there would be no problem with
him playing with us in a live situation.
Half way through
the session I could see that this was really going to work, so I asked him if he’d
like a solo on Just Fibbin’. I had
originally written a section in 13/8 (13 being the next number in the Fibonacci
sequence after 8) but had taken it out when it wasn’t working at our original
rehearsals. Steve said he was up for it, so I added the original
instrumentation and asked him to solo over the top, which is terrific!
weeks’ editing, Steve’s drum parts were on the album and the mixes were
PM: I see though that the Dolennu album has both a CD and a DVD. Why is this?
WG: Very early on in the project I had thought about
integrating video with live performances. We’re an instrumental band and I felt
that visuals would add something that would make concerts more interesting –
both to listen to and see. I’m a big believer in collaboration and this would
be the perfect mix in my opinion.
I had worked with
Maurice Lock on my Voyager for Orchestra
and Four iPads project and was really pleased with how it had turned out.
We had done live performances with the orchestra, complete with the four iPad
musicians, in both the UK and the USA and all had been extremely well received.
In fact, Billy was one of the original iPad players at the world premiere!
I spoke with
Maurice a lot over this, how he could work with video loops (and maybe even
incorporate the odd bit of live webcam) and we were certain that it would work
really well. Maurice would decide what the video content would be and he set
about finding the necessary video clips.
I sent over rough
mixes to Maurice as I was working on them to help him visualise the pieces.
Both Billy and I had ideas on some of the tracks but we would leave the
creation of the visual content up to Maurice.
Once he had got
together all of the media that he needed, then he would run a performance of
his video against the final mix and record that as a single video take, which I
subsequently edited against the audio to produce the final videos for the DVD.
The DVD has exactly
the same music mixes as on the CD but has the video that would be shown when we
play live. It was at this stage that What
The Funk? became The Breathing City
because of the wonderful start to Maurice’s video – the city is literally
Whilst all of the
videos were produced to accompany the music, it’s quite possible that in the
future we shall write music to fit one of Maurice’s videos.
The DVD is an
integral part of this project, not a last-minute add-on, and I’m really pleased
with how it has turned out. The album looks and sounds fantastic, the actual
package looks wonderful! Everyone at Market Square Music, who are releasing the
album, has been very encouraging and they’ve been a fantastic bunch to work
PM: Finally, why are you called Dolennu and what bearing did that have on the album?
WG: The four of us are based in Wales and we felt a Welsh
name would be the correct one to have. I thought about this for some time and
eventually came up with the word Dolennu,
which is the Welsh name for looping.
The Welsh word for
cycling was ruled out as that is beicio
- I think that might have given the wrong impression!