Kurt Uenala has his fingerprints on more things than you may realize. While his name may be new to you, it’s possible you’ve come across collaborations he’s done under the moniker Null + Void, including Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Moby, John Grant, The Kills, Woodkid and most notably, Dave Gahan and Depeche Mode.
Having worked in Gahan’s NYC studio for years, and traveling with Depeche Mode, Uenala became aware of one of Dave’s rituals. Sometimes a notebook and pen would come out.
Something would get jotted down.
But what? That remained a mystery.
Uenala now calls Iceland home, so he’s no stranger to isolation, but what about city-dweller Gahan? The two kept in close touch during lockdown, sharing thoughts and ideas.
“I always wondered what he was writing in the notebook,” Uenala says, “but I never pried. During one of our check-ins I eventually asked what he was scribbling down when he was off in some corner, or standing on his own, next to a studio window.” Gahan disclosed that they were thoughts, feelings, and observations that would likely never see the light of day.
But then again, why not? Living during a lockdown is unquestionably difficult, but fortune also favors those who are bold in challenging times. Gahan sent Uenala a recording of him reciting something from the journal.
In his studio, a decommissioned hospital situated on an Icelandic Fjörd, Kurt sat in front of a classic Oberheim synth with the recording, reacting to anything from the timbre of Gahan’s voice, to background noise. Inspiration also came from ambience in the black chapel in Uenala’s town, which has often acted as a natural reverb chamber when one was needed. Songs started to take shape, through a modified form of call and response. The confluence of tone, poem, and tone poem.
Both artists were pleased with the results, and agreed that the prose had more of an impact in concert with the music than it did merely existing, on paper, hidden in a notebook. Work continued, and produced a collection of recitations set to soundscapes. “Longing,” “Get Out,” “GOD,” “I Think Not,” and a piece born from the first recording Gahan sent, “Cracks Are Showing,” were completed, then assembled as the Manuscript EP.
“I’m not sure why, or when, exactly, I wrote these short pieces. I knew they were never to be songs.
I do know that they were written when I was alone. Sometimes in a hotel room.
Where? I can’t recall.
Sometimes standing by the ocean, or walking the beach in winter. Sometimes on the empty streets of New York City, during the lock-down.
Always whilst feeling the beauty, power, and loneliness of a world beyond me.”