Coffee Conversations with Z.M. Wise and A.J. Kaufmann

For more info regarding the collaborative spoken word album Ch’ulel, you may watch this interview with World Inkers Network.

Recently, you released a collaboration effort entitled Ch’ulel. Tell us about what led up to the collaboration and what the process was for you both.

ZMW: AJ and I have known each other for a few years. I started off as a fanboy of his endless body of work, and by some stroke of kismethe began following me on Soundcloud. I could not believe it. He said he loved my work, both written and musical. Naturally, I gushed about his work. We seemed to click immediately. We both have similar musical and literary influences and wanted to explore that. AJ brought up the prospect of a collaborative album. I jumped at the chance immediately and we began work on what would be Ch’ulel. 

AJK: Well, we chatted with Z.M. via soundcloud for quite a bit. I know he was a fan of my 2 songs, “Hippie”, and “King of Kreuzberg”. I also noticed his music, which I found interesting. It was like discovering a long lost ESP-Disk album.

What inspired the title of the album? Why choose an obscure word?

ZMW: For ages, I have been obsessed with words in other languages that could not be translated into English. Most of these words contain some of the most beautiful and obscure meanings. In my lowly opinion, while English itself is versatile, it seems more mechanical in comparison to other languages. I wanted to select a word that not only contained an abstract meaning, but something that described our creative partnership. While I am more of a solo creator, AJ is one of a few individuals I would work with until the day of my demise. That being said, I stumbled upon a brilliant poet, Irma Pineda, who published a tome called Intraducibles (Untranslatables). Deep within the book’s contents, Intraducibles contains sixty-eight untranslatable words from thirty-three various Mexican indigenous languages. I am not sure if this was done intentionally, but there are also sixty-eight indigenous languages in Mexico, making it the most diverse nation in terms of indigenous linguistics. Irma’s favorite word included is ch’ulel, a Tstosil word which means ‘being linked to the soul’. Words like ch’ulel cannot even be translated into Spanish. That said it all for me. It was either that or a Zapotec word, chuchumi, which means ‘staring into the void’. The artwork that AJ selected fit perfectly. It was primordial…almost cosmic in a way, and it accompanied the ancient, psychedelic, and mystical elements within the album.

AJK: You’d have to ask Z.M. – it was his idea. Although I admit I was interested in pre-Columbian cultures for quite a time – ever since reading my first Erich von Daniken books. So, over 20 years in fact.

Tell us about the poetry the album contains. What inspired it and how does it relate to the album title? 

ZMW: While poetry is the main factor of the album, it is a mixture of spoken word and traditional songs. My individual pieces contain four traditional songs, two spoken word pieces, and a soundscape-like instrumental. Since the album title was the final ingredient, the coincidental running theme is more of a cosmic atmosphere that neither one of us could have predicted. 

AJK: I did not include any poems, only songs. But some people say my lyrics are poetic. Definitely linked to the soul and as such to the album title. I like the connotation.

How did you plan the album overall? What steps did you take in producing it?

ZMW: Since I was limited by technology at the time, I did not have access to more intricate programs that would aid in the process of audio production. I sent AJ multiple tracks for almost every piece and he either spliced them or combined them. He also sent me three backing tracks for particular pieces. The results that follow, on the other hand, are up to the listener. Tell us what you think. On our next album, though, I will be more involved in the production process. He loves producing his work and it shows when one listens.

AJK: Z.M. sent in his poetry, songs, and complete tracks and I added some flavors to them. I also included my songs and demos that would otherwise not surface on another album. The album is definitely not over-produced. In my opinion it’s a simple production bordering on lo-fi. I tried to add an early bill bissett flavor.

Do you have future collaboration plans? 

ZMW: Absolutely! We are discussing the prospect of a split single consisting of a lengthy track of mine that was excluded from the album and one of AJ’s supplementary tracks. We also plan to release a second collaborative album next year, which I am looking forward to with much enthusiasm.

AJK:  I would love to work with Z.M. again. We’ll see what the future brings.

Tell us a little bit about other works you have created independently of one another. 

ZMW: I have had several books published, as well as numerous individual pieces of poesy and prose. My newest book, a nonlinear epic poem (or collection of poems and songs, depending on each individual reader) will be released before summer’s end. Concerning music, I have posted various tracks to Soundcloud and will continue to do so. It is the greatest platform I have ever stumbled upon, from the diversity of talent to the most supportive group of artists. It is entirely underrated. I am honored to have met some of the most gifted minds in the world. I am also in the works of a debut solo album.

AJK: I did a lot of stuff in the past, but would like to concentrate on this year. There were 3 major albums released so far in 2023 – “Bard’s Woman in the Cool of the Summer Breeze” (CD, The Swamp Records, USA), “Transmitter: Sonic Abstractions by A.J. Kaufmann” (CD, Ramble Records, Australia), and “The Legend of Krauter Yoda and Chyme Castle” (Digital, TIBProd. Italy). I also write some new poetry, but I haven’t really published anything since 2013. 10 years of silence already!

What pushes you to create more? What do you do when you want to create something but feel the force blocked? 

ZMW: I cannot speak for AJ, but for me, creation is a requirement. If I cannot satisfy my creative cravings at least once a day or every other day, my mind begins to feel deprived. I have not known creative block for eons, especially having my opinion on how there is no such thing as a true creative block reinforced by Nikki Giovanni. We may endure dry spells brought on by tragedy, trauma, or the dullness of ennui, but the only thing that truly blocks me is me and no other secondary source. However, I am not about to speak for the entire creative population. Everyone has their own set of experiences. 

AJK:  I don’t have writer’s block at all these days. I just create when it feels like it. There is also no push. It all happens naturally, or not at all.

What would you say about each another’s input to the album, and are you content with the final piece? How do you know when you are complete with a project? 

ZMW: Time and again, we have shared mutual adoration and pride for our musical spawn. I have never known collaboration like this and it was one of the major honors of my creative career. Concerning completion, I maintain that a true piece of creation is never truly finished. It could be complete enough to send itself off into the artistic wilderness. 

AJK:  I am content. I know when I am complete when I have a full album length material finished. Without Z.M.’s input this album wouldn’t exist. I’d say it’s more his album than mine. I only helped a brotherly creative soul shine.

Pick up and listen to this collaboration at Bandcamp!

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