An Interview with Notnef Greco

Here at Sublamental, we are always searching for artists that break the mold. One of these unusual acts is a duo that goes by the bizarre name Notnef Greco. We have no idea what this means. After meeting them a few years ago at an experimental music festival, we were happy to release their first recording Deviant Horses, which they describe as “an underwater suite in three movements”.

Since then, we heard nothing from these fellows, even though we had interns scour the internet looking for any sign. Until a month ago, when Sublamental received a soggy letter in the mail announcing that Notnef Greco had finished a series of new recordings. Curiously, they described it as demo tapes meant merely for their own ears except that – this is astonishingly what they said: “ulterior forces pressured us into making them public”. What does that mean?

To our befuddled response, they announced that they would be willing to resurface if only to show that the tapes were real. Moreover, they planned to hit land in Berkeley, California, which is where I happen to live – how miraculous! (did they know? is this a stunt?) – and offer themselves to an interview, which is remarkable since no one quite understands who these guys are, where they live, and what they do, apart for making trouble.

This bizarre conversation is what ensued.

Sub: Gentlemen, welcome to our humble quarters. I am amazed to meet both of you in person. I mean, after all, you guys are weird artists – you say that you compose and record all your music underwater. Is this true? Are we joking? What are we doing?

[No response. Enigmatic smiles.]

Sub: Ok. I don’t know what to say about you guys… How did The Demo Tapes get constructed and why the long delay between releases?

NG 1: Well, that’s a rather absurd question, if you don’t mind me saying. How did it get constructed? Well, like any other art: we sit down, we work on music, we throw out what we don’t want and keep what we like.

NG 2: I’m afraid he’s right, it’s a silly question, but I acknowledge that our process is possibly unique. We develop and record all of our music underwater.

Sub: Yes, but are you serious? What could possibly motivate you to work this way? Certainly, working on land would be much more convenient and, I would also guess, much cheaper, no?

NG 1: Well, we’ve been working this way for so long that working on land would seem strange.

NG 2: Quite. But since you asked why we went in this direction, I’d say it goes back to Jimi Hendrix exposure while we were growing up.

NG 1: Yes, we listened to Jimi’s albums all night and day. One night we were immobilized by “1983 … (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)”. This is a real science fiction tune, you understand? Mesmerizing. And two lines stole our brains: “And they also said/It's impossible for man to live and breathe underwater forever".

NG 2: We took this very seriously. We’ve recorded countless underwater shows. Sorry you haven’t heard them. We’re weird about sharing. It requires getting dry and all – we kinda like the water.

Sub: You realize, what you’re saying is absurd.

Notnef Greco in action

NG 1: Sure. We hear that all the time. Life on land is always unforgiving. But, hey, occasionally it tosses up some gifts. This last year we lucked into a hefty inheritance, so we started thinking maybe we should build our own underwater studio and performance space. We started checking out underwater studios as models, and then we thought we’d see who might have some unbooked time for us to record some tracks quickly. It wasn’t easy. Underwater people are very protective of their caves.

NG 2: But then, something totally obvious occurred to me. Why not steal time from each studio, in between their already allotted slots, and record whatever we managed before we got kicked out? This would also give us a chance to see the pros and cons of each studio and take notes for our own.

Sub: You mean, this recording is clandestine?

NG 1: Not at all. We’ve lived underwater long enough that we have friends in every walk of sea creature life. Underwater caves opened their doors with astounding generosity.

Sub: Are you serious?

NG 2: Of course! Listen to the recordings!

NG 1: Well, to be fair, doors were opened but often time was constricted. We had to record and get the hell out of there before oxygen ran out!

[Laughter]

NG 2: Hence, the difference in length…

NG 1: Not just in length. The whole sound is different. Every piece is its own room. Its own cave.

Sub: You mean the recordings are improvised?

NG 1: To a large extent. All guitar work is improvised.

NG 2: And what isn’t improvised happens by chance.

[Laughter]

Sub: And why call them “Demo Tapes”?

NG 1: Well, that’s what they are. Not that we were thinking of sending them to some producer or something. They are demos of different studio situations. Different capacities, equipment. Different vibes. Or time-space equations! [Giggles]

NG 2: He gets that way when he thinks of studios. They’re toys to him… [Noise.] But yeah, these are demos of certain underwater moments, each in a specific room. They capture an aquatic convergence.

NG 1: We worked with whatever each studio happened to have around – instruments, pedals, loopers, mixers. Even people, whose voices we used on a couple of occasions. Except for his guitar, which he always carries around with him wherever he goes. The guitar is in every piece. It’s the thread that ties these fragments together.

NG 2: That’s what he says. I just play. And I make sure no one can tell it’s guitar. I dare you to try to figure it out. Of course, all these sea treasures would have been lost if not for Sublamental. And for this, we’re grateful.

Sub: It’s great for us! But tell me, what’s next? Are you going back diving? Things getting a little too dry?
[Smirks]

"The Demo Tapes" will be released soon.