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Interview: Mazarin

9th September 2008

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"The best thing about Philly is its proximity to New York" says Quentin Stoltzfus - the craftsman behind Philadelphia's bittersweet musical collective, Mazarin. "Recently there's been a slew of articles about how it's considered the sixth borough."

And gushing cultural endorsements aren't limited to Quentin's neighbourhood either. Mazarin's third record We're Already There has been eagerly received by the press on both sides of the Atlantic and after nearly three years of preparation Stoltzfus is overjoyed with the result.

"I'm always thinking of the record in terms of itself as an entity, not necessarily thinking of it song by song… it's always geared towards making an album that you can sit down and listen to and enjoy all the way through… more like a mix-tape than anything else…"

"This is the first record that I made where every single song that ended up on the record came out in exactly the way I wanted to," he enthuses, "I don't feel like I could improve any of these songs… and that's kind of a rare feeling - on any of my previous records I always hear things and think 'I could have done this… I could have done that' but with this record I'm just really pleased with everything."

Having played in avant chin-stroke rockers Asuza Plane (whose music was 'basically all noise, no songs, just improvised stuff'), Quentin concocted Mazarin as a platform to feel his way through greater song structure in order to embrace poppier climes.

"[I was] always working towards writing songs and doing something that was a little more structured, but also had elements of noise and experimentation." he says, before joking about his indulgences, "[the strange noises are] just something that've stuck with me through the years… I've never really been able to shake them off. Any time I record a song, I always hear the strange noises in the background… I actually made an effort on this last record not to include [them]… but it just didn't happen! Before we knew it we were adding all sorts of feedback and weirdness. Maybe it's from smoking too much… I don't know."

Hence the soft, juddering beats and wobbly, car-sick melodies, then. However, it's Stoltzfus' satisfaction with such a precisely created record that exposes the thermos-clutching techno-geek within.

"I think you have to be [a techno geek]…" he says.

"If you're recording music these days and you're not skilled at the tools that you have at your disposal then you're really missing out and short selling yourself. I think that all the best musicians around these days are total tech-nerds. Recording has become much more of the art-form behind music… Nowadays you can do whatever you want… you can bring your $200 4-track into the most expensive studio in the world and feed sounds into a $5000 tape machine… anything is fair game these days because there've been so many bands that have pioneered the way for us to do whatever we want… and yet there are loads of great records out there being recorded in bedrooms."

So you can forget cream cheese, the Fresh Prince and a skinny Tom Hanks… The best thing about Philadelphia?

It's all about the music......

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