|Born||5 December 1971|
|Instruments||Guitar, vocals, bass guitar, keyboards, mandolin, cuatro, santur, melodica, violin, various other instruments|
The Monsoon Bassoon
North Sea Radio Orchestra
Hatchjaw and Bassett
The Utopia Strong
Kavus Torabi (born 5 December 1971 in Tehran, Iran) is a British Iranian musician and composer, record label owner and broadcaster. A multi-instrumentalist, he is known for his work in the psychedelic, avant-garde rock field (primarily as a guitarist). Torabi was one of the founding members of The Monsoon Bassoon (as singer, guitarist and one of the two primary composers) and subsequently joined the cult psychedelic rock group Cardiacs as second guitarist.
He currently fronts his own group Knifeworld and also plays guitar and composes for Guapo and for the legendary psychedelic band Gong, is a touring and recording musician for the Mediæval Bæbes and for Rob Crow and frequently collaborates with notable artists working in left-field music.
Torabi is reluctant to be pegged as a particular stylist, and his music has always drawn on a wide variety of influences. These have included indie and alternative rock (Pixies, Shudder to Think, XTC), British and American art/progressive rock (Cardiacs, Henry Cow, Yes, Hatfield and the North, Don Caballero), folk music, minimalist music, various forms of hard rock and heavy metal (Voivod, Melvins) and many others. His compositions are often typically dense, polyrhythmic and based in the lydian mode.
History and main musical projects
Torabi was born in Iran to an Iranian father and an English mother. His family moved to Plymouth, UK, when he was eighteen months old, originally planning to return once his father had made sufficient money, but ended up settling permanently following the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran. "Most" of Torabi's relatives remain in Iran, but he himself has never returned.
Kavus Torabi on classifying his music
Torabi remembers that his family were not particularly musical (although his mother knew a few guitar chords) but that he himself was interested in music from an early age (in particular the music from TV shows). Torabi taught himself music by inventing his own form of notation and using it to score out the theme from CHIPS. When he was seven, his family bought a piano and he used it as a compositional tool – already writing songs of his own, he showed little interest in learning those of others. From 1980, he became interested in pop music (initially becoming inspired by Brian Setzer and the Stray Cats) and began teaching himself how to play guitar. Eight years later, aged sixteen, he discovered his main musical touchstone in the form of Cardiacs, although in the interim he had taught himself more about music by sequential obsessions with various other bands and music forms.
Die Laughing (1988–1993)
Torabi's first significant band was Die Laughing, formed in 1988. This was a psychedelic/thrash metal group formed in Torabi's native Plymouth in which he played guitar and in which he first met his close friend and collaborator, Dan Chudley. (Chudley – a fellow guitarist and singer – has been part of Torabi's life for most of his musical career, and the two are noted for their interlocking, highly complex guitar style.) Die Laughing released three demos before they eventually split in 1993.
The Monsoon Bassoon (1994–2001)
In 1994, Torabi reunited with Chudley, who had been playing in a band called Squid Squad since the previous year. The two formed a new band called The Monsoon Bassoon, in which they were joined by bass player Laurie Osbourne and two more Squid Squad members (singing clarinet/flute/sax player Sarah Measures and drummer Jamie Keddie). Their musical – an energetic and tuneful form of psychedelic math rock – was built around Torabi and Chudley's singular compositions. The group soon relocated from Plymouth to Leyton, East London and began to gain underground attention, releasing recordings on their own Weird Neighbourhood Records label.
Despite scoring several Single of the Week awards in New Musical Express, the Monsoon Bassoon failed to get signed to a larger label or make a significant commercial breakthrough, although they did receive critical acclaim and a cult following for their unorthodox approach and sound. The band released a lone, well-regarded studio album (I Dig Your Voodoo) and five singles, and split up in 2001 following the exit of Keddie. Many of the band's recordings remain unreleased.
Since the mid-1990s Torabi has had a close working relationship with Tim Smith (lead singer and songwriter for Cardiacs), who produced the majority of The Monsoon Bassoon's recordings. Having been Cardiacs' guitar technician since around 1995, Torabi finally joined the band as second guitarist in 2003 (replacing Jon Poole). His first appearance with Cardiacs was at their now legendary three-date Garage concerts (at which they played only archive material from their first two cassette releases). He was not publicly revealed as a full member until the next round of concerts. He featured on their 2007 single, Ditzy Scene (for which he also wrote the lyrics) and contributed to recordings for a subsequent album tentatively titled LSD (which remains unreleased). Cardiacs suspended activities in 2008 following the hospitalisation of Tim Smith, and the line-up remained on hold during his period of illness. Smith died in July 2020.
Knifeworld (circa 2002–present)
Knifeworld is Torabi's current main band. Originally a solo project, it has since become a full band . Knifeworld originated from around the time of the Monsoon Bassoon's breakup, but only released its first material eight years later following a long recording period. Knifeworld is currently Torabi's main compositional vehicle, in many ways continuing ideas and approaches to polyrhythmic songwriting and arrangements that were germinated in The Monsoon Bassoon.
Torabi joined the instrumental avant-psychedelic/progressive rock band Guapo as permanent guitarist in 2006. He has toured extensively with the band, and co-wrote the 2013 album History Of The Visitation and the 2015 album Obscure Knowledge (Cuneiform)
Torabi started the label Believers Roast in 2009, initially as a platform to release his own music, however since the release of 2010's The Leader Of The Starry Skies it has released music Torabi feels particularly strongly about, including The Gasman, Thumpermonkey and Redbus Noface
The Utopia Strong
Torabi also plays in The Utopia Strong alongside Steve Davis (DJ and snooker player) and Coil associate, Michael J. York. Their first album "The Utopia Strong" was released on 13th September 2019 and has been followed by a series of three live recordings available in limited editions of 250 on vinyl and digital download.
Other musical projects
Further work with Dan Chudley (Miss Helsinki, Authority, Hatchjaw & Bassett)
Since the breakup of The Monsoon Bassoon, Torabi has maintained an ongoing (if interrupted) musical relationship with Dan Chudley, resulting in several other projects. The first of these was Miss Helsinki, a more straightforward rock band which recorded a couple of tracks and played a few acoustic gigs in 2002. The band failed to find a steady lineup (despite assistance from Richard Larcombe from Stars In Battledress and from Monsoon Bassoon drummer Jamie Keddie) and consequently folded. Torabi, Chudley and Keddie worked together again when they formed another rock band, Authority, in 2005 (the lineup was completed by Craig Fortnam of North Sea Radio Orchestra on bass). Authority recorded several songs and played live over the next two years, but never released anything beyond a couple of MySpace uploads. The band split in 2007 due to the various members' other commitments and Chudley's move to Cornwall.
Torabi and Chudley have worked on another project together – the instrumental Hatchjaw & Bassett, which Chudley has described as "acoustic spiritual music". This project has not released any records, although a video featuring the duo and their music has appeared on YouTube.
Work with Spider Stacy (2001–2003)
Before the split of The Monsoon Bassoon, Torabi toured as guitarist with former Pogues member Spider Stacy's group, Wisemen (which also featured other ex-Pogues). After line-up changes, the group became The Vendettas.
Torabi co-wrote and produced an album with Spider in 2003, but the project was shelved in the wake of the Pogues' reunion that year. Torabi has subsequently expressed an interest in releasing the album on his own Believer's Roast label.
Torabi is a member of Admirals Hard, an occasional "sea-shanty supergroup" made up of members of London math-rock bands and avant-garde folk groups (Stars in Battledress, Tunng, Max Tundra, Foe and The Monsoon Bassoon) and fronted by singer Andy Carne. Torabi plays mandolin and guitar (and sings backing vocals) for the group.
He played guitar with Chrome Hoof between 2009 and 2010 (contributing to the 2010 album Crush Depth).
The Interesting Alternative Show
Since 2010 Torabi has been co-presenting "The Interesting Alternative Show" on Monday evenings, 10pm–12am with former snooker player Steve Davis on Brentwood radio station Phoenix FM. The show focusses largely on experimental, avant-progressive, psychedelic, electronic, folk and rock music with an emphasis on new releases. Previous guests have included Daevid Allen, Chris Cutler, Charles Hayward, Bob Drake, Sanguine Hum and Stars In Battledress
The Monsoon Bassoon
- Redoubtable Cassette EP (1995) ORG007
- In Bold Gardens EP (1996) (unreleased)
- Wise Guy 7" (1998) WNRS1
- In the Iceman's Back Garden 7" (1998) WNRS2
- The King of Evil 7" (1999) WNRS3
- I Dig Your Voodoo CD (1999) WNRS4
- Wall of Suss 1 7" split single with Rothko (2000) WNRS5
- Wall of Suss 2 7" split single with Max Tundra (2000) WNRS6
- Summer 2001: 4 Seasons Singles Club 3 x CD (2001) DRSUM01 (featuring The Noosemaker, God Bless The Monsoon Bassoon and Brickfields)
- Useless in Bed Volume 1 Compilation CD (2002) HOS001CD (featuring one song from the unreleased In Bold Gardens EP, plus the only known recording of Miss Helsinki)
- The Special Garage Concerts Vol I CD (2005) ALPH CD030
- The Special Garage Concerts Vol II CD (2005) ALPH CD031
- Ditzy Scene CD Single (2007) ORG419
- Pissed Up On Brake Fluid 7" (2009) BRR001V
- Buried Alone: Tales Of Crushing Defeat CD & LP (2009) BRR002
- Dear Lord, No Deal EP (2011) BR004
- Clairvoyant Fortnight EP (2012) BRR008
- The Unravelling CD & LP (2014) InsideOut
- Home Of The Newly Departed CD (2015) BR017
- Bottled Out of Eden CD (2016) InsideOut
- History Of The Visitation (2013) Cuneiform
- Obscure Knowledge (2015) Cuneiform
- I See You (2014) Madfish
- Rejoice! I'm Dead! (2016) Madfish
- The Universe Also Collapses (2019) KScope
- Temptation CD (2010) QSHEBA4 (Torabi plays electric and acoustic guitars, cuatro, bass guitar and additional vocals)
- The Huntress CD (2012) (Torabi plays electric and acoustic guitars, cuatro, bass guitar and additional vocals and also co-wrote one piece)
As Collaborator/ Guest
- New Worlds (2011) NIDL15 (Featuring two songs co-written and performed by Torabi)
- Mondo Profondo (2013) BR011 (guitar Mondo Profondo II)
- Strange Relations (2015) BR016 (Guitar and co-writing)
North Sea Radio Orchestra
- North Sea Radio Orchestra CD (2006) OOF006
- Birds CD (2008) OOF010 (Torabi appears as one of the choir on both)
- Crush Depth CD (2010) Southern 28162-2 (guitar)
- Bob's Drive In (2011) ReR CTA17 (Guitar and backing vocals)
- Dreams and Absurdities (2015) Esoteric/Antenna
- Silent Reflux (2021)
- "Kavus Torabi – Guitar & Singing". Subbacultcha webzine. 18 August 2009. Retrieved 1 September 2009.[permanent dead link]
- "Kavus Torabi: "I can never finish things"". Cardiacs Museum website. 2008. Archived from the original on 13 July 2009. Retrieved 1 September 2009.
- Torabi, Kavus (10 September 2019). "Could someone please add 'Was once given a satchel by Fiona Bruce' to my Wikipedia page?". @Knifeworld. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
- Metal Archives – Die Laughing
- Phoenix FM – The Interesting Alternative Show