ELECTRONIC BEATS CONVERSATIONS ON ESSENTIAL ISSUES N° 35 · FALL 2013
“Everything is not OK”
DIAMOND VERSION PRIMAL SCREAM ANGELA BULLOCH RAF SIMONS
“The paintings might get destroyed” Dear Readers, Max Dax: Different combinati-
Hans Ulrich Obrist: It’s not entirely surprising. I am currently working on a book called A Brief History of Sound, the follow-up to A Brief History of Curating, in which I’ve gathered the interviews I’ve conducted with key figures in the wake of John Cage, ranging from Karlheinz Stockhausen to Iannis Xenakis to Steve Reich. It’s interesting to know that permanent spaces for sound installations more or less don’t exist anymore—maybe with the exception of La Monte Young’s Dream House in New York.
This issue you’re holding in your hands is our tenth since having completely revamped the magazine back in 2011. Beginning with the Caribou/Dan Snaith cover that summer, we’ve been working tirelessly to come up with new ways to live up to our mission statement, “Conversations on Essential Issues”. Importantly, many of the artists and musicians we’ve interviewed in these pages have since become authors themselves—a testament to fulfilling the complementary goal of telling the history of electronic music from their unique perspectives. To celebrate our little anniversary, we’ve lowered the price of yearly subscriptions to a paltry 6 euros in Germany, 12 euros for the rest of the omniverse. Don’t miss another issue and subscribe now from our new online shop at electronicbeats.net/shop.
MD: Permanent no, but plenty
ons of sound and vision appear to be the main thread in this issue. We have A.J. Samuels talking to artist Angela Bulloch and Diamond Version’s Alva Noto and Byetone, aka Carsten Nicolai and Olaf Bender, in conversation with Kraftwerk’s legendary cover designer, occasional collaborator and Beuys student Emil Schult. It seems as if we’re all becoming increasingly aware of the diversity of sound. The MoMA in New York recently opened the exhibition Soundings: A Contemporary Score that runs until November 3. I find it strange that it doesn’t include any musicians who work with sound, but only artists who cross over to music.
of temporary ones, of course. Xenakis’s series of polytopes come to mind. These were multidimensional spaces he had created to
Max Dax Editor-in-Chief
expand his music into a kind of multimedia space, including light effects and filmed parts in a multitude of rooms. Over the years a couple of polytopes were actually realized but eventually disassembled. HUO: In 1970, Stockhausen famously gave a series of concerts at the Spherical Concert Hall that he himself also had designed for the Osaka World Expo. It was the first ball-shaped concert hall ever—and most of the music that was being played there had more the character of a multitrack sound installation. MD: People who have a foot in
both worlds, like Carsten Nicolai, have found larger audiences for their spectacular, abstract sounds. As Diamond Version, he and Olaf Bender recently played in front of audiences of tens of thousands during the recent Depeche Mode tour.
HUO: But the other way around, you find almost no collections dedicated to exhibiting sound pieces on a larger scale. MD: You’re a curator—how do you
approach this problem?
HUO: Well, during the early nineties, I met Russell Haswell in London. He is an important go-between of the art and the music worlds. He introduced me to the works of Merzbow and Pan Sonic’s Mika Vainio. When
I was curator of Paris’s Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville, I invited Vainio to do these polyphonic concerts with old radios. During the opening hours of the museum, the radios together performed their random cacophonous symphonies. When I invited Merzbow, the conservators of the museum were worried that the paintings might get destroyed because of the frequencies he used. And of course, at the Serpentine Gallery, we had performances by Robert Ashley and last summer as well by Yoko Ono. Haswell will also present Japanese pioneer Yasunao Tone in the Serpentine Gallery Pavillion. MD: We’re very interested in featuring artists who work with sound and musicians who cross over into the art world. Your interview with Milan Grygar (Summer 2012) is a good example, as is André Vida’s discussion of Iannis Xenakis’s GRM Works 1957-62 release (Spring 2013). It’s to track how certain ideas that used to be avant-garde gradually infiltrate popular electronic music. White noise has become extremely commonplace in today’s productions and DJ sets. And it’s not just with music. It almost seems as if emerging from the avant-garde is a condition of the possibility of eventual mass acceptance. It’s an odd paradox, but it fits with the co-option of so much art and music in advertising, as well as the phenomenon of corporate publishing. Is it a good thing? Time will tell. ~
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pictures to the editor Send your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org
The line-up at this year’s Electronic Beats-cosponsored Berlin Atonal festival was a technoise enthusiast’s wet dream, especially in combination with the austere industrial location. Away from the packed stage area, blissed-out festival-goers lay sprawled on their backs across the spacious venue, pinching themselves and each other to everything from Glenn Branca and Vatican Shadow to Juan Aktins and Moritz von Oswald. Photo: Anno Dittmer 4 EB 3/2013
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Born in Vienna in 1889, Ludwig Wittgenstein was one of the most important thinkers of the twentieth century and is responsible for two distinct kinds of language-based philosophical analysis. As a young man he argued that all scientific principles were verifiable and all sensory experience was expressible in logical propositions. The later Wittgenstein opted instead for a broader vision of knowledge as an evolving series of conceptual schemes reflected in common language. In between these two periods he designed a house that still stands today in Vienna’s central third district. Indeed, Wittgenstein didn’t just design the house, he designed every single last detail in it, from the grains in the floor slabs to the unique window handles pictured here. Acclaimed sound artist and Wittgenstein house expert Bernhard Leitner wrote a book about it. He shared his thoughts with us in this issue’s city report on Vienna on p. 82 - 96. Photo: Leonie Krammer
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The North African Saint Calogero is popular all over southern Italy, but nowhere more than in the Sicilian city of Agrigento, where he is said to have performed various miracles and taken care of lepers during the fifth and sixth centuries. At the time, townspeople afraid of catching the dreaded disease threw bread at him from the windows in a cautious show of support. Today, a statue of the saint, which resembles a kind of black Moses, is carried through the streets every year on a wooden gurney. The parade invariably causes a holy frenzy in which admirers literally climb on top of each other to kiss his likeness. Photo: Marta Palmisano
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When the closing of Berlin’s famed Tempelhof Airport was announced a few years ago, politicians and citizens sparred over what to make out of the centrally located, 486,000 square meter space. The majority opted for a park, and since 2008 Tempelhofer Freiheit (“Tempelhof Freedom”) has become one of the city’s most successful cultural reinventions. It includes an array of blooming public projects, such as this well-tended community garden. A few dozen meters away is one of the city’s greatest skateparks, built from the marble remains of the former East German House of Parliament into a transitionless, plaza-like street course. Photo: Arthur Rau
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“I shot this from a car while traveling through a pass in the Apenines on my way from Urbino to Florence to interview Andrei Tarkovsky Jr., son of the acclaimed Russian director and now head of the Tarkovsky archives [see Spring 2013 issue of Electronic Beats]. Starting along the Adriatic, the sky was clear. As we entered Tuscany, however, it became an appropriately ethereal expanse of low-lying cumulus clouds.” Photo: Max Dax
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Imprint Imprint Electronic Beats Magazine Conversations on Essential Issues Est. 2005 Issue N° 35 Fall 2013
Publisher: BurdaCreative, P.O. Box 810249, 81902 München, Germany Managing Directors: Gregor Vogelsang, Dr.-Ing. Christian Fill, Karsten Krämer Creative Director Editorial: Christine Fehenberger Head of Telco & Commerce: Thomas Walter
Editorial Office: Electronic Beats Magazine, Karl-Liebknecht-Straße 13, 10178 Berlin, Germany www.electronicbeats.net email@example.com Editor-in-Chief: Max Dax Duty Editor: Michael Lutz Editor: A.J. Samuels Editor-at-Large: Louise Brailey Art Director: Johannes Beck Graphic Designer: Inka Gerbert Copy Editors: Karen Carolin, Rachel Marks-Ritzenhoff
Cover: MGMT, photographed by Miguel Villalobos in New York City.
Contributing Authors: H.P. Baxxter, Olaf Bender, Angela Bulloch, Bianca Casady, Sierra Casady, Cibelle, Elisa Da Prato, Bobby Gillespie, Ben Goldwasser, Dimitri Hegemann, Daniel Jones, Rita Koslov, Peter Kruder, Bernhard Leitner, Douglas McCarthy, Thomas Meinecke, Therese Muxeneder Carsten Nicolai, Hermann Nitsch, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Patrick Pulsinger, Mark Reeder, Peter Rehberg, Will Saul, Schneider TM, Emil Schult, Elisabeth Skale, Niko Solorio, Jimi Tenor, Andrew VanWyngarden, André Vida, Robert Wilson
Contributing Photographers and Illustrators: Anno Dittmer, Carsten Eisfeld, Markus Hansen, Lucie Jansch, Leonie Krammer, Luci Lux, minus, Marta Palmisano, Jim Rakete, Arthur Rau, Andrea Rossetti, Emil Schult, Oliver Schultz-Berndt, Hans Martin Sewcz, Andrea Stappert, Miguel Villalobos, Richard Young
Electronic Beats Magazine is a division of Telekom’s international music program “Electronic Beats” International Musicmarketing / Deutsche Telekom AG: Claudia Jonas and Ralf Lülsdorf Public Relations: Kruger Media GmbH—Public Relations & Brand Communication, Torstraße 171, 10115 Berlin, Germany Julia Rommel, firstname.lastname@example.org Subscriptions: www.electronicbeats.net/subscriptions Advertising: email@example.com Printing: Druckhaus Kaufmann, Raiffeisenstr. 29, 77933 Lahr, Germany Distribution: VERTRIEB MZV GmbH & Co KG, 85716 Unterschleißheim, Germany
Thanks to: Peter Cadera, Konstantin Drobil, Arno Frisch, Florian Hadler, Stephanie Heinemann, Hili Perlson, Richard and Debra Samuels, Thomas Schoenberger, Sarah Louisa Seidensticker, Jens Thele © 2013 Electronic Beats Magazine / Reproduction without permission is prohibited ISSN 2196-0194 “Beauty is the brightness emanating from truth.”
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Content Content Editorial .................................................................................... 3 Pictures to the Editor .......................................................... 4 Recommendations................................................................... 18 Music and other media recommended by Mark Reeder, Will Saul, Thomas Meinecke, Douglas McCarthy, Schneider TM et al.; featuring new releases by Rashad Becker, Lawrence, Dawn of Midi, Visionist, Pet Shop Boys and more ¥C$ How Cibelle spends 100 euros .................................................. 28 ABC The alphabet according to Dimitri Hegemann .......................... 30 Style IconS H.P. Baxxter on The KLF ....................................... 34 Counting with . . . Jimi Tenor................................................... 36
“Everything is not OK” A.J. Samuels meets MGMT ............................................................... 40 “Like a portrait of someone in a bad situation” Max Dax talks to BOBBY GILLESPIE .............................................. 48 “Poeticness is a by-product” A.J. Samuels interviews ANGELA BULLOCH .................................... 54
“The theater was a place of ill repute and it was a sin to go” BIANCA and SIERRA CASADY of COCOROSIE talk to ROBERT WILSON ............................................................... 66 “Could billions of stars be read like notes?” EMIL SCHULT in conversation with OLAF BENDER and CARSTEN NICOLAI of DIAMOND VERSION.................................. 72 Wanderlust: 72 hours in Vienna...................................................... 82 NEU: fMRI, Sonified ...................................................................... 98
Three of our featured contributors: Douglas McCarthy
(* 1966) is a British musician and producer best known for his work with EBM godfathers Nitzer Ebb. A regular contributor to the magazine, in this issue he recommends the Spring/Summer Collection of Belgian designer Raf Simons. Photo: Max Dax
(* 1978) is a Brazilian-born, London-based singer and electronic musician. In this issue, she describes the best way to spend 100 euros, which includes a trip to the spa and a Pokketmixer. This is her first contribution to the magazine. Photo: Luci Lux
(* 1968) received his first camera, an AGFAMATIC 2008, at the age of eight. Based in Berlin, he is a regular contributor to both the magazine and electronicbeats.net. For this issue, he photographed artist and director Robert Wilson. Photo: Jim Rakete
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L.A.-based Douglas J. McCarthy is a singer, producer and founding member of EBM legends Nitzer Ebb. He toured his most recent solo album, Kill Your Friends, through Europe with Depeche Mode. In the Summer 2012 issue of Electronic Beats he recommended Light Asylum’s eponymous debut LP. Opposite Page: Onesie EBM-bers aglow in Paris this past summer during Raf Simons’ Menswear show. The playlist: Technotronic – “Pump Up the Jam” (Terence Fixmer Edit); Tragic Error – “Tanzen” (Terence Fixmer Edit); 101 – “Rock to the Beat”; Lords of Acid – “I Sit on Acid”; Technotronic – “Pump Up the Jam”.
“I immediately recognized motifs from my Nitzer Ebb youth” Douglas McCarthy recommends Raf Simons’ Spring/Summer 2014 Menswear Collection In the midst of an array of live shows and studio work, Terence Fixmer and myself decided to take a break in Paris to see Raf Simons’ Spring/Summer collection during men’s fashion week. With buses waiting for us at Place de la Concorde and scheduled for a 7:15 p.m. sharp departure, we joined a large group of Raf aficionados and press for our trip to the Gagosian Gallery at Le Bourget airport on the northern outskirts of the city. Arriving under the shadow of the European Space Agency’s “Arriane” rocket, which stood erect by the side of the entrance, we filed into the already packed but spacious gallery that currently houses a joint show of Jean Prouvé architectural mock-ups and Alexander Calder mobiles. This delightful exercise in scale and modernism could easily keep a fifteen-metertall toddler occupied for hours. With Monsieur Fixmer providing assistance to Michel Gaubert
for the fashion show soundtrack, I already knew Raf was striving for a version of his nineties Belgian new beat club adventures, so I was surprised to hear a slowed-down version of Technotronic’s “Pump Up the Jam” which gleefully began to speed up as the models did a well choreographed marcharound through and under the artwork. They bounced along in fantastically mismatched colored trainers, or stomped in secretly two-tone leather shoes, which on closer inspection revealed hot-rod style flames fanning back from the toe. All of the men had adorably skinny stick legs, which I felt was the only way to show the majority of this collection. I immediately recognized motifs from my Nitzer Ebb youth, although to be fair, even though we did wear our fair share of shorts, we never donned the onesie variety. And there were plenty of other nineties signifiers too.
These included brightly printed, highly flammable-looking A-line synthetic shirts emblazoned with faux billboard advertising proclaiming suitably silly English/ non-English slogans like “Super Nylon”. It was rather like if the peloton from the 1992 Tour de France had just all ridden through a bunch of roadside awnings. There were also more subtle pieces that felt like they have a better chance of making it to the showroom. The mathematical graphic knitwear and jackets had just the right amount of fun and restraint. The eighties NFL-like fabric used for the presumably laser-cut parka managed to retain a hint of retro whilst looking firmly toward the future. Additionally, there were plenty of Haçienda-inspired diagonal details on all of the outerwear, which, seeing as Peter Saville was sitting upfront and center, made perfect sense. ~
“Real history that you can dance to” Thomas Meinecke recommends DJ Sprinkles’s Queerifications & Ruins: Collected Remixes
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Terre Thaemlitz is an artist of many incarnations, although the core message of her body of work circles around mutual topics: transgender issues, queer rights and the marginalization of the sexually dissident. In order to approach her art it’s worth distinguishing between the many aliases she uses. He or she? Under his main name, Terre appears as a rather masculine-coded being with a “discursive” approach to musical work, and that was how
I met him—he uses both pronouns—at a congress about feminism in Zurich’s Rote Fabrik a good ten years ago. We both were invited as panelists and sat on stage together as biological males confessing to a political attitude of feminism, after which he DJ’d as Sprinkles in women’s clothing. Around the same time, we were also both invited to take part as panelists at another congress, this time in Frankfurt on communism, after which Terre performed a set
of sonically scratched-up tracks that didn’t focus on rhythm or danceability but instead used sound as an element of irritation, an agitation toward a bigger narrative in which he tackled politically charged topics. These “socioanalytical compositions” engaged me to such a degree that the whole experience ended up in the closing scene of my novel Musik. By way of contrast Thaemlitz’s queer DJ Sprinkles persona earned her spurs in the New York
Above: Big beat, small legs.
Thomas Meinecke is a German writer, house music afficionado and founding member of German avant-garde/ post-punk outfit F.S.K. His most recent book, Analog (Verbrecher Verlag), is a collection of essays he wrote for Groove Magazine between 2007 and 2013. He lives in southern Bavaria with his wife, the artist and fellow F.S.K. member Michaela Melián. 20 EB 3/2013
house scene of the late eighties and early nineties. She’s one among few who can give a true insider’s view of the context from which New York deep house emerged: a scene of lost souls in shady Midtown Manhattan bars that had to deal with stigmatization and police brutality, black-market hormones, diseases and suffering. In this regard the Kami-Sakunobe House Explosion record from 2006 is outstanding: a record that, on the surface, is a sequence of danceable tracks and enjoyable to everyone with a soft spot for connoisseur house. Yet listen actively and the chorus of marginalized voices, interspersed throughout, reveals the ingenious concept behind it. This brings us to Queerifications & Ruins, a collection of remixes DJ Sprinkles has made during the last three years, which operates in a similar area of conflict. We hear remixes
of music from artists all over the world: France (Hardrock Striker), Lithuania (Corbie), Scotland (Marco Bernardi), Japan (Oh, Yoko), Italy (Hard Ton), USA (Ducktails, Area), Berlin (June), and the list goes on. What’s remarkable throughout is the way she imposes her very own style on almost any source material, giving the sense that these two and a half hours could have been made out of one piece. And while Queerifications is a playful record, there’s a sense of respect and almost tragic momentum; in fact, there are moments on the record that almost possess the characteristics of ambient in their careful avoidance of musical peaks. Perhaps this is why it’s so intoxicating? You can hear that she’s sat at a piano and embellished these tracks, and it’s this musicality that I find thrilling: the ability to confidently add new ideas to the originals or to strip back when
required. Indeed, I found these reimagined pieces of music so congruent and striking that I felt no need or desire to hear the originals. However, the most striking aspect of Queerifications & Ruins is that I instantly hear DJ Sprinkles’ very own language within it—a language that tells me about the heyday of New York and New Jersey deep house music; the early nineties; vogueing; ballrooms in Spanish Harlem; a deconstruction of social identities. There’s a real sense that this is where the music comes from and the political and sexual brisance is imminent in every track. It’s thrilling to see somebody who keeps on remembering this part of club culture’s past—its long relationship with struggle—by bringing the political and the dancefloor back together in such a unique and fascinating way. This is real history that you can dance to. ~
“We were given a table at the edge of the dance floor and a bottle of sickly sweet prosecco” Mark Reeder on Pet Shop Boys’ Electric The last time I can remember hearing the Pet Shop Boys played in a club was in late September of 1988. I had the pleasure of debuting their then new album Introspective in a former school dinner hall that had been converted into a clandestine gay disco deep in East Berlin. I was there with my mate Dave Rimmer, who is a former Smash Hits colleague of Neil Tennant’s. Neil had sent him a cassette tape of the album, and after a brief listen we decided to smuggle it over the Wall and debut it in the venue known as Busche, or in English “Bushes”. Aside from its being a perfect playground to present the new album, we also considered it a symbolic gesture and thought it would mean something to the gay crowd. So we took off for the border with the tape hidden safe and secure. As was usual for all East Berlin discos, it took us ages to get in. Indeed, it was very much like trying to get into Berghain when you aren’t on the guestlist. But in the end, our patience paid off, and almost frozen to the bone we entered into the cosy, dark, ultra-violet-lit world of East Berlin’s most secretive sub-cultural club. Before leaving, I had carefully wound the cassette to the exact point where the forthcoming single “Domino Dancing” would play, and, confident the DJ would play it, I marched through the crowded dance floor, dodging the surreal sight of brilliantly white teeth, blonde hair and white clothing bobbing about in the blackness. I proudly handed the cassette to the DJ and above the din of “Cheri Cheri Lady”
explained it was the new Pet Shop Boys album. He just looked at me suspiciously and then refused to play it. He turned to his tape decks and ignored me. I knew what he was thinking. Not put off, I was determined to do this guy a favor and make him come to his senses. Patiently, I explained again that it was the new Pet Shop Boys album. He still didn’t want it. I thought, “You’re not going to get away that easily, you imbecile.” Slowly, I told him again what it was and that it wasn’t released yet and it was just for him and that it was for free. Finally, the pfennig dropped as he took a moment to actually read the cover of the cassette. Then he just looked at me, gobsmacked. I knew I had him. All of the sudden, Dave and I were the guests of honor. We were given a table at the edge of the dance floor and a bottle of sickly sweet prosecco. We sat back to watch the people dancing. The DJ picked up his microphone and mumbled that this was the fantastic, new Pet Shop Boys single. Unbeknownst to him, it was in fact the world premiere of this record. We could hardly contain our excitement. The DJ pressed the play button, and as the first percussive strains of “Domino Dancing” pulsated from the loudspeakers everyone dancing suddenly turned and walked off. Within moments the dance floor was all but empty. They didn’t know that tune, and it obviously wasn’t Modern Talking. We couldn’t help but laugh. Yet, regardless of such a dramatic fail, that single eventually went on to become a worldwide dance-
floor hit for the Pet Shop Boys. Indeed, many fans have been yearning for them to make a new dance album for ages. Neil said they’d already had a collection of ideas for club tracks and also wanted to work with the very talented producer Stuart Price. But his work ethic was very different from the boys and while collaborating with them on Electric, he eventually got Neil and Chris addicted to daytime television: “Gradually over a few weeks it started to settle in with Neil and Chris, and I went from watching disgusted faces trying to concentrate on the music to washed-out faces staring like a pair of crack addicts at Bargain Hunt.” And despite their temporary TV addiction the album has exceeded everyone’s expectations. It’s rough and tough and the total opposite of their previous album Elysium, which was a relaxed, reflective, smooth adult affair—more like a dinner party soundtrack than one for a night out. Neil Tennant told me that after Elysium, he and Chris Lowe went into the studio almost immediately to record Electric, which is the first release on their new x2 label. As an utterly unobjective observer, I can thankfully say that the boys have given us something that we are all familiar with. They have remained forever young, and that shows from the very beginning with “Axis”, which sets the synth and syncopationheavy atmosphere. The overall contemporary electronic feel combines well with Neil’s highly amusing lyrics. He really is the only person who could ever get away with writing a song called
x2 / Kobalt
Born in Manchester, Mark Reeder was an early associate of the Factory Records crew in the late seventies before being drawn to Berlin’s political fault line in the early eighties. After producing various post-punk acts on both sides of the Iron Curtain and forming Factory Records darkwavers Shark Vegas, he founded the trance label Masterminded For Success and released some of the most important electronic music of the early nineties by acts such as Cosmic Baby and Paul van Dyk. He was featured in an extensive portrait in the Fall 2012 issue of Electronic Beats.
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“Bolshy” or “Love Is a Bourgeois Construct”, which has a very clever Louis XVI-sounding riff to it. Price’s intricate production mixes dance genres, unique instrumentation and all kinds of familiar sounds from the eighties and nineties to make this thing, in my opinion, a retro-modern
twenty-first-century slammer. The cover art is also pretty striking, even though you can hardly read the band name stuck in small print and hidden in the spine. But it’s instantly recognizable, like a stylized or minimalized version of Peter Saville’s Unknown Pleasures design turned on its
side. Of course, turning things around, sometimes on their head, is something we have almost come to expect from the boys, with the chillingly recontextualized Bruce Springsteen cover, “The Last to Die” perhaps another perfect example. How? Listen and learn from the masters themselves. ~
Opposite page: “It was rather like if the peloton from the 1992 Tour de France had just all ridden through a bunch of roadside awnings.”
“These poisoned gifts have brought more than nerve anesthesia; they’ve also produced cultural forgetfulness” Daniel Jones on Visionist’s I’m Fine EP The numbing tentacles of modern medicine have expanded upon the human nervous system to the degree that any sort of pain, once just a daily part of existence, can be snuffed out at whim. These poisoned gifts have brought more than nerve anesthesia, however; they’ve also produced cultural forgetfulness. Pain isn’t always a bad thing, something to deny and tuck away behind walls of man-made chemistry. We see things from a different perspective when we hurt. It was once thought that pain could bestow visionary and revolutionary powers upon a person, uncover prophecies and, sometimes, bring the sufferer redemption. Not everyone is capable of having visions. It’s a rare and powerful thing to be able to see what is to come, rarer still to be able to transform these visions by your own hands and mind, to shape them into reality. London-born producer Louis Carnell has been transfiguring his own audio desires under the name Visionist for some years now, soulfully dipping into genres like grime, house, and whateverstep and emerging with beautiful liquid bass. As good as Carnell is, the aim of his work
is more or less straightforward: making bodies sweat-slick and shredding leg muscles. This is modern pain: the masochistic pain of the flesh. His latest EP, however, delves deeper into the pain of the soul, exploring the intimacies of loss and what follows. I’m Fine is an oddly beautiful vision of the various mental and physical emotions the mind and soul experience when dealing with loss, and throughout it never stops being an album you can lose your shit to on the floor. Carnell’s ability to enhance his dance with such heavy inner reflection is what imbues the EP with much of its power. It’s also one of the reasons why it’s his finest work to date. The synth textures of the title track opener drip down the here-shivering, there-stomping centipede legs of snare and bass as an asexual voice repeatedly stutters, “I can feel”. It’s hypnotic, encasing the mind in a haze of melancholic joy even as it forces your body to respond to its fluctuations. It’s cut short with a gasp, and the meaty thud of “Lost” gives way to a lacerating whip-snap beat, a flagellating BDSMotivator that caresses as much as it pun-
ishes. The looming drill-stabs of “Pain” pierce downward like the ache of reality, closing in around you in dizzying procession. The black hole in the soul, once rimmed semi-bright with faint hope threatens to implode before searching voices reach in a choral snippet of what may or may not be Goapele’s “Tears On My Pillow” spirals into oblivion. The penitence completed, “Escape” provides ascension as a beckoning voice repeats, “come”. Further implications of eroticism aside, it’s a swift and sudden release that arrives like salvation. As vocals fall around shimmering synth stabs, the pain is pushed where it belongs: not out of sight but into a new context—one that allows you to see more clearly. The soul is allowed to transcend and to heal, though it may not be to a place of light. The shadowy flow of Fatima Al Qadiri’s contribution to the collaborative track “The Call” entwines itself around Carnell’s, promising seductions and temptations before the sullen skank of “I Don’t Care” shuffles up on rudebwoy bass. It’s here the listener is left alone to acknowledge the reality of loss, though not quite accept it. ~
Lit City Trax
Daniel Jones is a music promoter and creator of the subculture reconceptualization tumblr formerly known as Gucci Goth, now BlackBlackGold. Since 2011 he’s also been a staff writer and editor for electronicbeats.net. In the last issue of Electronic Beats, he recommended Julia Holter’s Loud City Song.
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“Weird and wonderful melancholy” Will Saul recommends Lawrence’s Films & Windows
Will Saul is a DJ, producer and founder of labels Simple Records and Aus Music. Under the moniker Closer, he anonymously released his most recent LP Getting Closer in June 2013 on !K7. This is his first contribution to Electronic Beats.
I have listened to Films & Windows a lot over the last two weeks whilst traveling around the US and have come to one definite conclusion: it’s perfect thinking music. Lawrence is the master of creating hypnotic moods and one of the few producers who really engages me while allowing me to float off into my imagination. I’m a longtime fan of his work and have booked him for a couple of parties in the past, including once at London’s Cable club years ago, and I always found him a charmingly shy man. Of course, I’ve played a lot of his records myself and included his music in commercial mix compilations I’ve done, including the 2007 track “Laid One” which made an appearance on my Balance mix. His productions have a very unique sound—you can always tell a Lawrence record when you hear it because of the type of melodies that he writes: they’re very melancholic and often offkey. I’m pretty sure I could pick a Lawrence track out of ten others.
While all artists strive toward an overall sound aesthetic, Lawrence nailed his down early in his career. I’ve always been drawn to the sometimes dusty, sometimes sparkly sheen of his music, and this, his sixth album, is so unmistakably in this vein that if you’re hoping for any new developments you’ll be disappointed. For those who love what he does with melody then this is him at his best, with the beatless first track “The Opening Scene” giving a clear indication of what to expect melodically throughout the album: weird and wonderful melancholy, sad and pensive, introspective and touching. Some of the tracks here have been released before, either on Dial or Pampa, like “Kurama” for example, but second track “Marlen” is new and a highlight for me along with “Creator” and “Angels At Night”. “In Patagonia” has a more low-slung gait and rubbery bassline that drives everything along beautifully. The electro bounce of “Films &
Windows” sets it apart from its four-to-the-floor bedfellows, and I occasionally find myself wanting to hear Lawrence stray away from the metronomic kick and apply his melodic sensibilities to other rhythms more often. Or to be more precise: one of his key production techniques is the way he creates rhythm using melodic and resonant percussive elements. He seems to build very “straight” drum tracks and then lets his percussive elements bubble away around the drums in various syncopations. And as the percussion often carries a melody or tone beyond a traditional drum sound he uses them to harmonize with his lead melodies and chords. You could compare him to Isolée or perhaps the other guys on Dial like Efdemin in terms of how his music becomes detailed, almost microhouse-ish, in how the lushness works—both on headphones and in the club. But there are few who can do it as well as he. I think he’s a genius producer. ~
“Documenting the formats of a hypothetical culture” Rashad Becker’s Traditional Music of Notional Species Vol. 1 recommended by André Vida
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Rashad Becker’s Traditional Music of Notional Species Vol. 1 is a collection of themes and dances documenting the formats of a hypothetical culture. Their musical materials betray the approximate gestures of a mouth but remain ambiguously balanced between indecipherable lyrical narratives and morphing instrumental bodies. Sounds of voices hint at language, but the undermining
entropy of the arrangements, their dissolve and decay, indicate this might also be a form of camouflage that allows this mysterious species to fulfill its rituals under the radar of human listeners. In Becker’s earlier works such as “Many Critical Minded Officers Suffer From Their Jobs and Hence Breed a Likeable Melancholia”, a narrative progression can be heard in the vein of a foley table used for
sound effects. In contrast, these pieces hang in their own internal moodiness, lashing out from time to time. Themes I and II have cyclical progressions, filled with taunting, smarmy, wallowing, and erotic cadences, which come into focus with the kind of comical timing of a Laurel and Hardy routine. Themes III and IV teeter more on a musical edge, playing with the language of solos, disloca-
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André Vida is cofounder of the NYC collective Creative Trans-Informational Alliance and a frequent collaborator with musicians and artists as diverse as Oni Ayhun, Anthony Braxton and Tino Sehgal. In the Winter 2013 issue of Electronic Beats he recomended Iannis Xenakis’ GRM Works 1957-1962.
Opposite: Raf riffs on stripes.
tions and accompaniment. Here begins a move into more densely populated sonic environments where the society of this species expands beyond conversation into something ritual. And with ritual, questions begin to emerge about the “notional” cultural phenomena: Are they generating these sounds by rubbing against themselves? Are tools involved? How strong is the vocoded tradition in this culture anyways? Some ethnomusicologists theorize that the variations of human folk verses that survive time are those that most comfortably fit the vocal range and languages of their singers. Becker’s themes share that sense of ease with the instruments of their transmission. This is perhaps what I find so misleading about the role of voices in this recording. They warp and snuggle
up against one another, creating fields of activity that swoop in and out of focus. A process of natural selection recurs within every new generation. Becker’s mouths sometimes puke back, murmuring codes and displaying uncanny features, only to then disappear into a muted cudgel of feedback. The limp, repetitive, hungover intro to “Dances I” opens up a lyrical, folksy sounding narrative. The presence of Eastern European gestures of ornamentation hint at a village context and forms of local inebriation. “Dances II” is a far more aggressive and taunting affair, progressing with the abrupt and repetitive belligerence of a mating ritual. The sequences are driven by such a complex sound palette that the repetitive fiction dissolves. As much as I want to understand the
poetic implications of these dances, I find myself unable to wrap my mind around the meaning of it. Is this sound world too distracting to think in words? I find myself looking for traditional human music to compare. Listening to Ugandan court music, I’ve become hyper aware of the implications of collective telepathy and trance via the human body. In relation to Becker’s society, the sounds gnaw at me with their distorting shapes. They thrive in a dislocated sense of physicality and expectation, and for me that feeling sheds its inverted shadows back onto the royal court. The invitation to backwards engineer the traditions of this notional species from the gestures and moods of these sounds is provocation enough for me to recommend this to anyone interested in expanding their sense of creative listening. ~
“Contemporary listening habits are lost on me” Schneider TM on Dawn of Midi’s Dysnomian
Schneider TM is a Berlin-based producer and guitarist. His music has gradually gravitated from indie electronics toward more avantgarde releases, most recently on Hamburg’s renowned krautrock label Bureau B. His album Construction Sounds was recommended by Drew Daniel in the Winter 2012 issue of Electronic Beats. 26 EB 3/2013
Contemporary listening habits are lost on me; I never use shuffle or customizable taste algorithms. I prefer to listen to albums because I think the format allows an artist to tell far more complex stories. A three-to-four minute track either works or it doesn’t, but it certainly won’t let you delve deeply into someone’s musical vision—at least for the most part. In contrast, Dysnomian’s nine parts feel like one single track, as overlapping melodic and syncopational themes connect in complex clusters, falling out over time only to resurface later in a different but recognizable fashion. I find it surprising that the record is divided at all, because if you were to only hear ten minutes of it, you would miss the true experience it has to offer. The big idea behind it just wouldn’t be acces-
sible. How to put the “big idea” into words? The second album of Brooklyn-based trio Dawn of Midi wants to abolish our conventional understanding of time in music. After listening to Dysnomian five times in a row, something very important became clear to me: it works fundamentally as a whole. Time, of course, isn’t linear—it’s elliptical. Linearity is a human construction necessitated by decay, rituals and cyclically recurrent events. But beyond human interpretation and practice, time simply doesn’t exist in this way. Interestingly, while listening to this record I was often reminded of Can. Even though Jaki Liebezeit’s strict beats give Can tracks a clear structure, all of the other instruments break and shift the rhythm because of how percussively they’re being
played. Krautrock in general did, or still does, engage with linearity but simultaneously stops and approaches it on other levels. It’s something that Dawn of Midi have down pat. The older I get, the more ultralinearity shows itself to be a fallacy. Four-to-the-floor, for example, references military music and a mechanical age of industrialization, when everything had to be in lockstep to work efficiently. I’d even argue that the spirit of contemporary mainstream electronic dance music is comparable to a kind of mechanized mass political co-option. Is that a too-drastic way of seeing it? I don’t think so. In the end, I can imagine a different club landscape—a hypothetical world where the complex grooves of a record like this are on parade. ~
“He cannot and did not want to hide” Niko Solorio recommends Warhol’s Queens Warhol’s Queens is not a book that is merely concerned with the subject of drag or royalty. Rather, it’s first and foremost about photography and portraiture, Warhol’s portraiture. The high-resolution reproductions of the artists’ original Polaroids of both proper royalty and notable drag queens—her highness “Queen Andy”, Princess Sonja of Norway (now Queen Sonja), Princess Caroline of Monaco, and Empress Farah Pahlavi—appear to jump right off the page. The images and high-quality paper have a kind of exalting function, showing Warhol’s queens and real queens to be two sides of an illusionary coin, one subcultural and the other of the highest social order. It seems such an obvious pairing, though somehow it’s only through Warhol’s lens and aura-producing ability that we are able to see this clearly. Sandwiched between all of these queens is, of course, Andy himself. He is the tie that binds, and in his self-portraits in drag you get the sense that he, in contrast to the other queens, is not trying to fool anyone. Warhol is aware that he does not make
the prettiest girl and appears more than OK with that. He also appears to have the thickest make-up, and yet he always remains unmistakably himself. He cannot and did not want to hide, even before his fame as a student at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, as author and curator Hubertus Butin writes: “Warhol stood out for his highly affected appearance, which he employed in a very specific way to demonstratively display his homosexuality.” Being gay was something Warhol always seemed fearless about, as his role as a judge in the 1967 drag queen competition documentary The Queen proudly displayed. The significance of that is not to be underestimated. The chief archivist of The Andy Warhol Museum, Matt Wrbican explains that “[. . .] the fact that Warhol lent his time and name to the event comes as no surprise, given what we know of the details of his personal life. But it was still a risk for him, not only because the local laws of the time regarding cross-dressing were quite draconian but also because
of the social stigma.” The organizer of that particular drag contest is none other than self-proclaimed “gender clown” Jack Doroshow, aka Flawless Sabrina, who also happens to be my guardian, of sorts. I spoke with Jack, who I and many others refer to affectionately as “Grandma”, and asked him if he could share a few thoughts about the book. He told me, “With Andy, the more you look the less you’ll see. He had a way of illuminating the mundane and rendering it iconic. I don’t think Andy saw drag queens any different from Brillo boxes. It was just something that was always around but that people sort of ignored.” Of course, thanks to Warhol, ignoring queens these days is no longer an option, something attributable in no small part to another social phenomenon he loosely predicted: reality television. That said, it’s only appropriate that his portrait legacy would not itself be given only fifteen minutes of fame but rather bound in a King James-like bible with a golden binding. I like to think of it as the Queen Andy version. ~
Niko Solorio is an artist and curator based in Los Angeles. He is the proud owner of a pair of Andy Warhol’s eyeglasses, bestowed upon him by none other than Jack Doroshaw, aka Flawless Sabrina.
EB 3/2013 27
How Cibelle spends
São Paulo-born, London-based singer-producer Cibelle mines Brazilian rhythms and glitched-out aesthetics to create her own brand of folky electronics. On her latest album Unbinding (Crammed Discs) she goes beyond merely exploiting her talents as a vocalist to explore less conventional forms of vocal processing and various club genres. We gave her 100 euros and this is what she bought.
ting “warp” to make them slower or faster. It seems that size does matter nowadays: a friend of mine walks around with two USB keys with I don’t know how many gigabytes of music, and she plugs these into the new Pioneers and she’s got her whole set on her necklace. To each their own. I always have the Pokketmixer in my bag.
Gear: Pokketmixer, € 70.50 used
Purchased on site at Möckernstrasse 10, 10963 Berlin
Day at the Spa: Liquidrom, € 29.50
Purchased at Berlin’s Mauerpark flea-market (€ 89.95 new at pokketmixer.com)
The Pokketmixer has changed the way I DJ mainly because of its size: it’s really tiny and literally fits in the palm of your hand. It also powers itself from whatever device you’re using, be it an iPhone, iPad, laptop, or a boom box. So if I’m in a park with friends and someone inevitably asks “Do you have your iPod?” I can plug it in and do a mix instead. Originally I thought that I could just use the Djay app on my iPad, and I have used that in the past, but then you need to buy extra hardware so you can preview a track before you play it. But importantly, I also like analogue and the Pokketmixer merges digital software with an tangible interface: there’s an actual button to press to hear the channel and a switch to turn the EQ on and off. It also has the ability to allow four tracks at a time if you use the different apps on your devices. So if I’m using my iPad and my iPhone and I have Djay on one and Traktor on the other, it creates two tracks on each side, which allows for live mash-ups. I know I can do it on Ableton and while that’s great when you’re producing mixtapes and you want everything to cleave to one BPM, I don’t necessarily want to play the same BPM all night when I’m DJing. I definitely don’t want to be opening audio tracks and hit28 EB 3/2013
Cibelle Cavalli, photographed in Berlin by Luci Lux. When making GIF art she sometimes goes by the name Sonja Khalecallon.
I love going to the spa because I love quiet time. I discovered the Liquidrom in Berlin two months ago with fellow DJ João Brasil when I was booked to play the Lusotronics Festival for Man Recordings in Berlin. During the day I was so exhausted that I didn’t know how I was going to DJ that night, but someone told João about this spa and it was close to the hotel so we both ran there, got naked and dove straight into the pool. I freaked out when I found the salt-water pool that you can float in. It looks like a scene straight out of Cocoon. In the sauna they douse the hot coals once every hour, and you find yourself sweating like mad in a ninety-degree room with twenty other people. I love that kind of collective experience. Vapor-wise, what they put on the coals is always changing—from salt and ice-based liquids to menthol and honey. By the time I arrived at the venue that night I couldn’t have been more relaxed, and it turned out to be a great gig. I ended up staying and dancing until seven in the morning— although that’s not an uncommon occurrence for me in Berlin. The next day I went back to the Liquidrom. Actually, I spent two more days in a row there—getting ready to play a show and then getting ready for life after. ~
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The alphabet according to Dimitri Hegemann
Few people have made as large an impact on the Berlin techno as in ATONAL: Since 1982, the scene as Dimitri Berlin Atonal festival has been Hegemann. Like many about not only innovative sounds of its innovators, the but also innovative visions. We’re fifty-nine-year-old happy to have continued on in founder of the Tresor that spirit this year with the oldempire and Berlin school atonalists Glenn Branca, Atonal festival got his Jon Hassell and Z’ev who comple- start during the early mented the new generation of art- eighties in the city’s ists like Vatican Shadow, Raime flourishing musical and Samuel Kerridge perfectly. avant-garde. In the late eighties, a compulsion to evangelize about the importance of electronic music would result in Berlin’s first acid parties and eventually the legendary Tresor club and record label. Two decades later, Tresor’s as in Bigotry: Bigotry is a form heart still beats of stupidity. And as Timothy four-to-the-floor, and Leary once said during a lecture he gave in the FischBüro [see “F”]: Berlin Atonal is once again back at indus“The only danger is stupidity.” trial strength. Here, This means of course that bigotry Hegemann describes is also the enemy of creativity. I the unlikely conflucan’t work with stubborn people. ence of conditions They destroy everything and that allowed for the drag me down in the process. I’ve creation of Berlin club developed a strategy for dealculture, from A to Z. ing with it: let the bullshit flow into your left ear and out your Photo: Luci Lux right. Or just avoid it altogether. 30 EB 3/2013
as in Club culture: Berlin’s club culture is undoubtedly unique. That said, around the world clubbing has assumed a fundamental role in millions of lives. It’s a culture with a history, a key aspect of which is: let the kids have their space. This became possible in Berlin shortly after the fall of the Wall. A lot of people used the incredible opportunities, and as a result this city has become the most beloved for the openminded youth of the world. It’s a spirit of trial and error amidst ruins, places that were decrepit but had a certain charm. This unconstrained experimentation was at the core of Berlin’s magic.
as in Detroit: The city where unknowns could become global stars. Motown. This was where the most important influences for techno and my own Tresor label emerged in the beginning of the nineties: Juan Atkins, Blake Baxter, Jeff Mills, Robert Hood, Mike Banks, Terrence Parker, Eddie “Flashin’” Fowlkes, James Pennington. I went
to this lonely city in 1994 and met them all. Many of them put out records on Tresor, which worked out well for both sides: cash on delivery money for a DAT tape. Of course, their connection to the Tresor club was also optimal in that regard, and Detroit artists had a lasting impact on its musical direction. We actually had a plan to open a techno club in 1995 in an old Detroit movie theater, but it didn’t work out because of asbestos problems. I hope things start looking up for Detroit. It remains one of the most important cities for music in the world.
as in East Berlin: Without East Berlin there would be no techno scene here. It was because of all the free space there that it even was able to exist. After the Wall fell, there was a gold fever atmosphere within the West Berlin avant-garde scene because everybody had the same problem: there wasn’t enough space for experimentation! From 1990, all sorts of niches and new spaces popped up in cheap or illegal locations. This was the proper beginning of the infrastructure of Berlin’s rich club landscape as we know it today.
as in FischBüro: The FischBüro was a kind of Dada club in BerlinKreuzberg in the mid-eighties—a meeting place for good-natured cultural ambassadors of then West Berlin. The best thing about it was how it promoted the rediscovery of real conversations. Over the years it became the nucleus for various movements, many artistic in nature. These included the FischLabor and the UFO Club, which would eventually become Tresor in 1991. Many of the founders of the Loveparade got their start here.
Dimitri Hegemann has organized more parties in squats than you.
as in Gold: Gold is hard currency. Money on the other hand is nothing more to me than a fluid lubricant in the machine of nightlife. Like with icebergs that hide six-sevenths of their size under water, most of the expenses that you have to meet as a club owner lurk under the surface. If you run a club, you have to use the money to keep the apparatus in motion. It comes in crumpled, filthy banknotes out of pant pockets or handbags, which is then brought back into shape and sorted by night managers. It then goes to the bank to disappear in the eternal circuit of turnover. But if the money doesn’t flow, the horror is immeasurable. You can be sure that you won’t get greeting cards anymore. The way underground nightclubs have been run in Berlin doesn’t have anything to do with capitalism.
as in Hendrix, Jimi: Electric Ladyland was my first love. It sounded like radical, psychedelic brainwashing. On weekends in our well-mannered provincial reality, we would sit on mattresses in my friend’s basement and would allow ourselves to be lifted away in the spheres of this brilliant musician. From this point on, my life was on a different track. In hindsight I can only warn people about dark basements with psychedelic music. 32 EB 3/2013
as in Interfisch Records: This was my first independent label, the central organ of the FischBüro and the basis of my first activities as a producer. One of our first releases was “Moondance” by TV Victor. Back then we were convinced that in the near future there would be weekend vacation trips into outer space with massive orbital gliders, not unlike today’s offerings with EasyJet. “Moondance” was kind of an answer to the question of how people would dance in outer space. But what would you drink there? With great euphoria we developed so-called “space beer”.
as in Jefferson, Marshall: Marshall Jefferson was a key protagonist of Chicago house, which was responsible for an entire musical revolution. The bassline for “Open Your Eyes” was an invitation to take part in a new musical journey. The interesting thing is hearing a song by chance and having it be a key moment in your personal and musical development that leads you into an entirely different musical direction. This song was so exciting that I needed to hear it more and more. Obviously a lot of other people felt the same way. By then, at the latest, Jimi Hendrix was history.
as in Kraftwerk (the venue): After visiting Olafur Elliasson’s exhibit The Weather Project at the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, I had the idea to create a massive experimental space for large-scale projects in Berlin. It was to be a magical space in the middle of Berlin for uncommon events. Then, in 2005 I discovered the Kraftwerk, which is a 22,000 square meter industrial ruin, unfinished, amorphous, and the new home of the Tresor club. This is where I can fulfill my dreams.
as in Loveparade: What began as a hundred-person demonstration developed in a few years into an event for millions— one that resonated positively around the world. Everywhere they wanted techno, and techno became one of the largest youth movements of the last century. Images of happily dancing people taking over the streets of Berlin had a lasting positive effect on the city, which is why young people continue to come here from around the world.
as in Mills, Jeff: An incredible musician, turntable wizard and forerunner of the Detroit avant-garde. I’d already released one of his records on Interfisch a year before Jeff and I first met in 1990. The album was “Deep Into the Cut” by the group Final Cut. The important role he played for Tresor, and his reserved ways are what inspire me to mention him here. I clearly recall the time before his first solo album Waveform Transmissions on Tresor when he was much more interested in pushing other people’s work and was extremely modest in holding back his own compositions. I was so impressed by his work that I luckily was able to convince him to start a solo project, which was an incredible success.
as in No Zen Orchestra: An extremely well-produced project made within the circle surrounding the FischBüro. In my opinion it’s a milestone of the Berlin music scene in the eighties. It was a Tuesday in 1984 with five guitars, two drumsets, two percussionists from Nubia, two basses and vocalist Nadja, all ready to spend the next four days in Tritonus Studio recording the album Invisible Collage. The live concerts we played were legendary. There were no practices, everything happened freely and authentically on stage. Whoever finds that record will be in possession of a true rarity.
as in OVER: The problem with things being “over”: when you think it’s over, it’s not over. Or as Emilíana Torrini said: “It’s not over till it starts again.” It took a long time for me to find out that it’s literally never over. Something comes to an end, and you think your life will be changing again, and of course you hate changes. But then you will find out that things do not come to an end as long as you keep calm and wait for the things to come to you. The uncomfortable news: it’s mostly the bad things in life that don’t end. That’s because you always try to keep calm when bad things happen and totally overreact when the good things slip through your fingers. Is it over now? No.
as in Punk: We’re all children of punk. Almost everybody that really wanted to make their mark came from the punk movement. In the beginning of the eighties I had the luck to experience one of the strangest phases of American punk up close and personal. In SO36, Dead Kennedys played a doubleheader. It was chaos on Heinrichplatz. Shortly thereafter I accompanied the group Black Flag through continental Europe. That was the tour where Henry Rollins just joined the band. The fast, highenergy songs fascinated me. The power these concerts had is something I’ve never experienced ever again. In 1986 Black Flag broke up, in part because of physical exhaustion. That’s understandable because they toured relentlessly. Then I saw the poster that they’re doing it again in 2013—in two versions! All I can say is: respect.
as in Quality und Quantity: Quality is important and it’s what lasts. And without lots of feedback, you can’t create quality. A Loveparade with only a few people
would never have turned into a worldwide movement. It’s also true that a good thing attracts lots of people. That’s why I don’t make things for the masses but rather just produce things that are good.
Tresor Park. This was the true highlight of the Loveparade weekend. Around 8000 people would show up to enjoy Sven’s passionate eight-hour sets. I never missed it.
as in West Berlin: West Berlin was a mythical place for those who were searching for something. This included a lot of completely insane people. It’s hard to imagine it as the Western enclave in the Cold War, but everybody who experienced it looks back wistfully. This is where the consciousness and alternative infrastructures that became so fruitful for a united Berlin after the Wall fell first sprouted up: alternative ways of living, squats, political protest, homosexuality, eccentric artists, Geniale Dilletanten.
as in Risk taking: If you don’t risk anything, you won’t get anything. That’s what you live by if you want to achieve things in the world. It’s as true for entrepreneurs as it is for artists. If I would ever have taken a red pen to edit myself, I probably would have become pensive and fearful. A lot of things would have never been created. And even in those instances where things didn’t work out or ran into difficulties, I’m happy that I’ve always put it all on the line.
as in X-Ray: Where would we be without x-rays? Here’s to modern science and the blessing that it’s been for our lives and health.
as in Synergy: There can only be success if energy and strength are pooled, working toward a single goal. And this is something beautiful.
as in Youth Culture: All youth cultures in post-war Germany were important for integration, social progress and the expansion of a cultural landscape.
as in TRESOR: Tresor is the cradle of the techno movement. It also continues to carry its torch.
as in the UFO Club: UFO was the beginning, born in the basement of the FischBüro. This is where it all started with acid parties in 1988.
as in Väth, Sven: Back when the Loveparade grooved through Berlin and people danced in Tresor for three days straight, for many years in a row there was always a special event at 2 p.m. on Sunday at the open air stage in the middle of an extremely dusty Leipziger Platz: Sven Väth’s
Read more ABC’s at electronicbeats.net
as in Zenith: Life flows in waves. Everything has high points and low points, including genres of music. The most important thing is that something happens at the right time. We only have our own lifetimes to make our mark. And when the time is ripe and the right people are in the right place at the right time, then something meaningful will come out of it. And when that’s passed its zenith, it’s important not to disappear, but rather to start something new. ~ EB 3/2013 33
H.P. BAXXTER on the klf
Style Icons Hearing The KLF for the first time was a decisive turning point in my life—I remember it like it was yesterday. A local radio show in Hanover played “What Time is Love?” on a Saturday in the summer of 1990, and my fate was changed forever. It was the track’s second release, the “Live at Trancentral” version with a rap by Isaac Bello and also included crowd cheering, a siren sound, a high pitched chorus and this amazingly hypnotic synth sequence that we later secretly used on dozens of Scooter tracks. It immediately reminded me of Anne Clarke’s “Sleeper in Metropolis”. The emergence of “What Time Is Love?” in the German charts came totally unexpectedly for all of us. It was like a cannon ball blast, an explosion—certainly something I had never heard before. “Kick out the jams, motherfucker!” Heavy metal and techno and maximum pressure and EUPHORIA united in a single track. The KLF’s Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty were simply far ahead of their time. That following Monday I immediately went to the record store and bought the single and, throughout the years, every subsequent as well. I remember on Friday nights we would always meet up at my place in Hanover about an hour before we went out partying. Immediately we’d open our beers and turn up The KLF to earsplitting levels. The neighbors then knew: the crazy dude—that would be myself—is going to lean out the window and scream his soul out of his body 34 EB 3/2013
When Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty formed the British situationist acid house collective The KLF, they couldn’t have hoped for a more entertaining result than the irony of much of their stadium techno getting lost in translation. Enter Scooter and frontman H.P. Baxxter, whose propensity to shout surrealist musings over hard trance has galvanized legions of fans from Germany to Belarus to pierce their eyebrows and rock peroxide flattops. And to buy thirty million albums. Here, Baxxter describes how The KLF taught him that you don’t have to get the joke to laugh all the way to the bank. Right: Bill Drummond taking a cue from André Breton during the BRIT Awards in 1992 and firing blanks from his M-16 randomly into the stunned crowd. For the performance, The KLF teamed up with crust punks Extreme Noise Terror to play “3 a.m. Eternal”. Photo: Richard Young
for the next hour. After that, he’ll be okay. But I really thought I could fly. That was before we had any raves in our area so we just went out to our local discotheque waiting to hear The KLF. But naturally it was quite difficult to convince the DJs to play them because it didn’t really fit in with everything else in the German charts, which I admit were absolutely horrifying. But those were the times—DJ culture for us was just beginning, the first techno club in Hanover opened in 1991, and then came the first raves. What always fascinated me was how The KLF created their own, megalomaniacal world with a healthy dose of irony. It was all very ambiguous, anarchic, smart and funny. They released studio recordings that sound like they’ve been recorded in a stadium, which they also marketed as such. I mean, “Trancentral” was their studio! Scooter’s very own “Hyper Hyper” also later on included massive crowd cheering, and to this day our liner notes always include surreal claims like “Made at Sheffield Underground Studios 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 . . . ”, as if everything was recorded in eight different studios with superhuman amounts of gear and effort. In the past, I even wrote in “London”! Indeed, The KLF were always something of a mystery, almost like a secret cult. Just look at the mysterious logo with a ghetto blaster in the pyramid and the all-seeing eye, which immediately reminded me of Freemasonry
and secret societies. Or Cauty’s wrecked, 1968 Ford Galaxy police car that appeared in videos and on their album covers, and which they claim was used in the film Superman IV. The KLF declared that the car had spoken to them, revealing its name as “Ford Timelord”, which is also credited in the album sleeves. To me, such surreal approaches to presenting their image were key in bridging the gap between underground and commercial success. Paradoxically, The KLF always looked upon themselves as a vehicle of shortterm artistic expression rather than a long-term recipe for success. It wasn’t until years later that I actually read The Manual: How to Have a Number One the Easy Way by Drummond and Cauty. I was proud to realize that Scooter had followed most of the rules in the book without even knowing of its existence. I was especially amused by the parts about the singer having to be the greatest asshole imaginable—but that’s another story. Around 2000 we read an interview where Bill Drummond was asked who he sees as their successors. When I read the name “Scooter”, I couldn’t believe it. There had always been the suspicion amongst musicians and fans that The KLF were the true masterminds behind Scooter. When “Ramp! (The Logical Song)” made it into the UK and Australian charts, our English label was approached by a number of people demanding that they admit Drummond and Cauty were us. I couldn’t imagine more flattering praise. ~
EB 3/2013 35
Tenor one six
Producer and reed/woodwind expert Jimi Tenor keeps the curveballs coming on Enigmatic (Herakles), his most recent foray into vocal and deep house together with partner Nicole Willis. Here’s Tenor’s ten-count, from Finland with love.
memorable line in a film or song:
“People walking,” from the Russian film Brother by Aleksei Balabanov. You have to see it to understand.
decisions I regret:
– Never having played the Lotto. – No longer making films.
people that should collaborate: George W. Bush, David Hockney, and Shakira (all excellent painters).
four things I haven’t done yet: – – – –
Hang gliding Skydiving Space travel Played the sousaphone
hours ago ...
I made soup from fish and crawfish that I caught myself. For dessert: cloudberries with whipped cream.
albums everyone should own: Sun Ra – Space Is the Place (Blue Thumb Records) Igor Stravinsky – Le Sacre du Printemps (Ernest Ansermet, L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande – Sine Qua Non) Einojuhani Rautavaara – Cantus Arcticus (Ondine) Charles Mingus – Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus (Impulse!) Hermeto Pascoal – Ao Vivo: Montreux Jazz Festival (Atlantic) Roland Kirk – The Inflated Tear (Atlantic) The New Rotary Connection – Hey, Love (Cadet Concept Records)
I have dinner and some wine. I have a strict no-drinks-before-6-p.m. policy. That works out if you wake up around 2 p.m.
five nine My
things I used to believe:
– Jesus was gay. – Yeast is the cause for my runny nose. – Free jazz is like bebop. – That you could really have it “your way” at Burger King. – That Mikey exploded from Pop Rocks and soda.
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lives . . .
. . . were already spent in a previous life. I have this one left. It feels good to be here right now.
I wouldn’t touch it with a -foot pole . . . Nuclear waste. ~
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EB 3/2013 39
A.J. Samuels talks to MGMT
“Everything is not OK” Working-class clout has appeared at the heart of the Anglo-American conception of authenticity ever since the late seventies, when narratives of pop music’s blue-collar roots became a kind of common knowledge and the terms “middle class” and “suburban” became epithets. And while a far greater number of American bands have emerged from the ’burbs, most have immortalized their upbringings as boring, dysfunctional, or authoritarian. Not so MGMT’s Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden. Thrust into the limelight in 2008 with their debut LP Oracular Spectacular, the duo’s retrospective soundtrack to an unburdened childhood reserved its few dark moments to describe the approaching specter of adulthood. Five years and one commercial failure later, their self-titled third LP initially picks up where their last album— the Sonic Boom-produced Congratulations—left off. Which is not a bad thing. However, MGMT’s marked Side B moves beyond clever forays into psychedelic pop to a place more disorienting. There, amidst radical deconstructions and Teo Macero-like edits, lurks an experimental spirit that was once fodder for the band’s jokes as prankster students of Anthony Braxton, Ron Kuivila and Alvin Lucier at Wesleyan University. The tables have turned, and now the past is as dark as the future. Or in the words of Ben Goldwasser, “Everything is not OK.” Left: MGMT’s Andrew VanWyngarden, photographed in New York City, July 2013. All photos: Miguel Villalobos
EB 3/2013 41
One of the strangest MGMT interviews I’ve seen was Andrew talking to Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre in a fifty-minute ramble-a-thon in Newcombe’s living room in Berlin. Newcombe did most of the talking. Ben Goldwasser: Whoa, when was that from?
It was the night before your show in Berlin in 2010. It’s like a long, awkward chess match of non sequiturs. You can watch it on YouTube. BG: I’ve never seen that! We were hanging out with Will Carruthers from Spectrum and Spacemen 3, and I know he’s a friend of Anton’s, but I had no idea that took place. Andrew VanWyngarden: Yeah, well, Anton’s a pretty far out dude.
His girlfriend was in the 8mm Bar, which we happened to pass by, and she came over and was like, “You want to come upstairs to meet Anton?” and so I followed her. His apartment is pretty crazy—I guess you can see it in the video. A lot of cigarette butts everywhere, and guitars too. I’d seen Dig!, and I had met him already at the Accelerator Festival in Stockholm and was aware of his demeanor that’s kind of shape shifting and a little bit wild or something. I had been out to dinner with my ex-girlfriend and then we went to that bar. I actually kind of forgot it happened. I was at the show the night after and that was the first time I’d seen you live. I remember having the impression that you somehow wanted to break free from the crowd’s expectations but you couldn’t. You seemed almost despondent onstage . . . AVW: I broke up with my ex-girlfriend the day of that show. It was
very dramatic and awful. I literally bought her a ticket home and then walked onstage, so I think there was some weird emotional stuff happening. But also touring for Congratulations was totally draining because in interviews we had to defend ourselves and justify our music for some reason. Live it made us feel self-conscious, and we closed up a little bit. Berlin was the tail end of that. The shows this year, however, have been completely different. I still feel anxious onstage, and I wish I could just open up and be free, but I think the lyrics and music for the new album is just so personal and writing it was, well, let’s just say that I find the best thing about the music that Ben and I make is that it’s a result of a very special combination of our two personalities. We’re not prolific. We don’t produce a lot. So whatever comes out are like the little, condensed versions of our lives at that time. It means that the music is very personal and watching crowds who aren’t connecting with it or feeding off of it can be strange.
The crowd at the show was incredibly young. What do you think of the youthfulness of your audience? AVW: We get handwritten notes and fan art, and it’s very clear that people have gone as deep into it as one could go and found their own meaning in it, and that’s really satisfying for us—especially when it’s teenagers and young kids in high school going through whatever they’re going through. I did that a lot with bands in high school—Talking Heads was one, The Grateful Dead . . . I actually never got to see a Dead show, but they played in ’94 in Memphis where I grew up, which was a year before Jerry died. I was only eleven, but I had gotten into them because of my sister. I was also
very into Phish in high school, and what was cool about that was finding a lot of music and other bands in listening to them and their covers. I actually got into the Velvet Underground through Phish, believe it or not. The same goes for The Pixies and Pavement. All these bands they would randomly cover. But when I got to college and I met Ben and we were exchanging music, there was this exponential growth of different music we were listening to. You both went to Wesleyan University, a small liberal arts college in Connecticut, which has a reputation for fostering an eclectic musical community including people like Anthony Braxton, Alvin Lucier, André Vida, Le1f, Das Racist and Amanda Palmer. How important was that for your musical development? BG: Very important. The thing is, we’re not “cool” people. I grew up in the country and had no real sense of pop culture in the way that the kids I met at college did. I met all these kids who grew up in New York City and who knew about cool underground bands and all that. I didn’t know a ton of stuff, but there was a college radio station I would listen to from Burlington, Vermont, and I had a couple of relatives who would send me mixtapes. But that’s about all I got as for exposure to cool music. A lot of it was just figuring it out on my own, and once the Internet became a place where you could actually find things, it opened up all sorts of doors. At that time it was before a lot of music blogs even existed, so it was always about going on allmusic.com and reading about a band and clicking on the links. That was pretty much how I found out about everything that I knew. There was never a scene I ever belonged to. On the other hand when I got to Wesleyan, my focus soon became experimental music. Ron Kuivila was my adviser, and he does a lot with computer music, programming and synthesis. There’s quite a rich history of that at Wesleyan. John Cage was involved there; David Tudor had his collection of electronic instruments there. I would say that both Andrew and I have learned quite a bit about that approach, although it’s not something that really gets discussed by the press at all. I think we got a lot out of just trying to understand how varied people’s approaches to music have been, many of which are by some people’s standards totally unlistenable, but still really interesting. That’s stuck with us.
There’s a long history of middle-class suburban rockers in America, but when it comes to singing about suburbia it mostly gets shit on as being uncool, inauthentic, or neurotic. But you guys seem in contrast to have embraced it. For better or worse, there was no pretending about who you were or where you’re from. AVW: We’ve never denied any part of our upbringing to further
any concept of authenticity. Our group of friends at Wesleyan were really into drinking milkshakes and going to the mall and exploring roadside attractions in Connecticut. It was a very American, not big-city style of living. And those were experiences that made life at college special. In terms of music at Wesleyan, I actually took Anthony Braxton’s “Large Ensemble” course twice without really being able to read music, but it didn’t really matter. I remember his scores were interesting because he actually couldn’t even read a lot of them because the time signatures would be like 9/16 or something extremely hard to play on the fly. But the class was amazing because a lot of the time he would go off on these incredible tangents channeling some other stuff. Often he’d end up just talking about pop culture or
Right: MGMT’s Ben Goldwasser.
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Alien vs. Predator or Britney Spears. And then he’d interrupt himself and go, “What am I saying? What am I saying?” It was amazing just to observe him, even if I wasn’t properly playing music. But we did play a few of his experimental operas, together with Daniela Gesundheit. who has a really amazing voice. Sam Hillmer of Zs was also there, as was Mary Halverson, who is an incredible guitarist. So experimental music has been an important influence for you both? AVG: Yeah, the scene at Wesleyan was pretty big, and it certainly
influenced us, but in a way where we would be in these classes and, well, sometimes it would be really cool and other times it would just get really painful about how academic the approach would be. It was so much more of the concept over anything else. That’s why our early shows and approaches to live performance were drawing on experimentation in sort of a tongue-in-cheek way—a parody almost. We would go to concerts that were stuffy and pretentious, and our way of handling that was to be as stupid as possible. But at the same time it was formative to go through that experience with Ben, taking classes on Well Tempered Clavier or with Alvin Lucier.
BG: Experimental music for us is about throwing good taste out
the window and seeing how taste is a construction. Music can be all these other things. Right now I personally am fascinated by the idea of taste and playing around with that, poking fun at it or challenging what good taste is. You have to get wet, you can’t just say, “I am above taste. It doesn’t affect me.” I’m sure it affected John Cage, too.
That kind of reminds me of the schizophrenic song shifts in “Siberian Breaks” off Congratulations, a good chunk of which sounds like a recontextualized Carly Simon. It’s interesting how something that’s been relegated to adult contemporary limbo can regain relevance through someone else’s filter—like you guys or even through Ariel Pink, or the reemergence of new-age influences over the past six or seven years. It seems that music doesn’t have to appear “important” to contribute to some kind of evolution. BG: It’s funny that there are these standards of what is pop music
and what isn’t. I actually almost got into an argument with a journalist over it because he was trying to get me to talk about why MGMT suddenly decided not to make pop music anymore. No! We’re making pop music! Who gets to decide who’s making pop music and who’s not? I also think it’s funny, the whole idea of really pretentious people reading blogs and finding these things that nobody knows about and then as soon as people find out about it, it suddenly becomes not cool anymore. That’s just ridiculous to me. I think it’s important to stay above it in a way, but still not to be too good for it. You never felt possessive about music that you were one of the few who liked or knew about and that then blew up? BG: I felt like that when I was younger, but I grew out of it. Now
I get excited if there’s a band I knew about five years ago who I thought nobody cared about and I felt like a dork for listening to. Then I go to some bar in Brooklyn and hear it on a stereo and people get really excited about it. It’s great that people are listening to this great music. It makes me feel like I’m not alone. But New York is a place that can be kind of unforgiving and satu-
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rated with bands, and I understand where the cynicism comes from. There are so many things I don’t give a chance just because they’re hyped up. I think a lot of musicians I talk to these days are way too concerned with the commercial side of things and how to market themselves when they should just be making music and not be worrying about outside influences and what people think of what they’re doing. Especially since Congratulations and all the backlash from people who thought we were one thing and they were wrong, we’ve just kind of learned to not try to explain ourselves too much or to correct people. It’s pop music. It’s pop culture. It’s a stupid world in a lot of ways but it’s still fun to be a part of and deconstruct. How did your beginnings as a DIY Karaoke band covering other people’s music shape the way you understand how to compose— or how to deconstruct? AV: I think covering other bands has been extremely important
and actually kind of the main theme of the second record, too. Congratulations was in large part an attempt to get into the heads of some of our favorite artists and musicians. And a lot of those people who were the main influences were the guys who were in groups who had some recognition in the sixties and then went off and made their own loner, weirdo solo records, like Skip Spence and Mayo Thompson. I’ve always been drawn to one-off solo ventures. And that’s the side of music we were trying to empathize with on the last record. But it was a really good idea covering-wise to just make music and not think too much about it.
During the making of Congratulations you did a whole joke series of Eno’s Oblique Strategies—his aphorism card deck meant to help artists to get beyond creative block. You titled your faux version Obtuse Strategies and supposedly the first one was “Go fuck yourself”—you’ve also named a song after him. BG: If anything, “Brian Eno” is a friendly song. We love Brian Eno, but it’s fun to have a joke song about him just because so many people consider him untouchable. He seems like a guy with a good sense of humor. AVW: Actually, Pete [Kember aka Sonic Boom] was totally into it;
he got a big kick out of making different obtuse strategies. We had a whole notebook full of them and a lot were actually a direct take on Eno’s originals. Someone told us that Brian Eno had heard of Obtuse Strategies and thought it was amazing.
Maybe he’ll try to claim it for himself. Anyhow, Congratulations made people pay attention to MGMT who otherwise probably would never have given you a chance. The album sounded almost triply refracted, with you channeling Kember’s eighties vision of sixties psychedelia. AVW: I think it’s even further refracted because you look at the bands from the sixties looking at the blues and folk stuff. Pete, being into the Rolling Stones, Electric Prunes and Yardbirds, knew that the bands from the sixties were incorporating a lot of American folk and blues in their heyday. We’d actually never even met him before we started Congratulations, but we were both big Spacemen 3 and Spectrum fans. The first few days he was at the studio in Malibu, he’d put on his iPod at dinner and the songs he’d play for us would just blow our minds. BW: He did a lot of suggesting—playing something in a certain way, recommending music that our playing reminded him of. It
wasn’t so much handing the controls over and telling him: “Make some of your cool Spacemen 3 sounds.” We’re pretty comfortable in the studio. Making sounds on our own is what we do. It was a cool collaboration but maybe different from how he’s worked with a lot of people—maybe less hands on, less giving him a really raw thing so he can then determine how it sounds. I think at times we frustrated him because he thought something should sound a certain way and we didn’t. With Oracular Spectacular we were also reluctant to give up any sort of control and wanted to retain as much of the original intention as possible. Actually, I think that there’s something really limiting to that—getting too far inside your own head and losing the ability to censor yourself. On the new record we let producer Dave Fridmann in more than ever before. He can be very neutral, and the last time around we didn’t really ask for his criticism. But this time we did. He ended up kind of reassuring us in the whole process.
your songs have a bunch of complicated parts, but who cares?” We just made this stuff, and we didn’t know what it is or where it came from, but we thought why don’t we just take the best parts and fit them together? When you worked with Fridmann on Oracular Spectacular you brought a lot of the really lo-fi tracks you recorded on your own, and he managed to combine them with all of his hi-fi studio wizardry. It’s as if that very particular sound—copied and coveted the world over—was born out of this unlikely pairing of amateurism and expertise.
BG: The funny thing is that back then we’d sometimes complain like, “We’re in this fancy studio—aren’t you going to take what we did and make it sound better? Aren’t you going to rerecord everything using all these nice microphones?” I don’t know if we really got the point across then, but at the time for him it was much more exciting to use our crappy demos There is a lot more and the idiosyncrasies of Fridmann’s touch inherent in our initial on MGMT. He’s known recordings and transbest for his work with form them instead of the Flaming Lips and making a real slick MGMT sounds very sounding recording. much in the vein of He did kind of a simiThe Soft Bulletin, “Without being totally aware of it, I’ve been living my life since high school assuming that everything I type lar thing with Kevin with the monumental or write or every website I go to, somebody else is seeing it. I think a lot of other people feel the same way, Parker from Tame pumping drums and but it wasn’t until more recently that most people stopped thinking just casually about it and started think- Impala, who is totally the jungle of synths. ing that it was fucked up.” – Andrew VanWyngarden self-taught in terms of recording. Dave used Actually, it doesn’t sound so far away from the last Flaming Lips album, The Terror, his uniqueness as an important part of their sound, too. On the other hand, I’m just so excited that anyone can make a record these days. either. Plug-ins are getting so good now. Everybody talks about how anaAVW: I can say as Flaming Lips fans and Dave Fridmann fans long logue is better, and maybe it is for some things, but I don’t know . . . I before we worked with either, it’s really hard to go into Tar Box think it’s way cooler that anybody can make a good sounding record Road Studios and play a drumbeat that doesn’t sound like some- in their bedroom. My friend Carolyn [Polachek] from Chairlift is thing off Soft Bulletin . . . recording an entire album using the mics from her MacBook. BG: Andrew and I had set up all of this equipment, a lot of
analogue synths and sequencers and drum machines hooked up together. We would just hit record and end up with literally hours of music, mostly improvised without a set idea of what we were going to do. We built up so much material, and then we got really intimidated by what to do with it for the next step. We knew there were some really good moments in it, but we didn’t know what to do with it. Dave stepped up, which allowed us to be much more editors than composers because for me a lot of compositional stuff is kind of boring. I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but I hear so much music where I just wonder, “Who do you want to impress with your compositional prowess? Great,
Molly Nilsson has recorded every single album like that. BG: I think it’s something in hindsight people will recognize more. People think it’s an internal mic on a laptop so it must be crappy. But these days people fetishize four-track recordings and attach all this mojo to it that in the past nobody would have ever done.
Getting back to the new album, MGMT, I think really seems to have two sides, like tape or vinyl. Side A is more classically song oriented, while Side B has the darker, deconstructive, more experimental edits where song structures or harmonic structures emerge in quite unexpected ways. EB 3/2013 45
BG: Actually, a lot of the music on the second half of this album
has no harmonic structure at all. It’s just so many layers on top of each other and a lot of things tonally that won’t fit together in a traditional sense. But that’s been done before. I suppose “Astromancy” has ended up being my favorite song, which is the one we finished last. It’s a song where nothing fits together and there’s all sorts of space in between the sounds, which disallows you to concentrate on a single thing. All of the sonic elements appear to be trying to divert your attention. I think it invites a different way of listening.
AVW: Everything changes on the second half of the album. On cer-
tain tracks like “I Love You Too, Death” we both were interested in the simplicity of something like “Dream Baby Dream” by Suicide or stuff by Disco Inferno, and we were trying to attain a song shape that we’ve never crafted before—pretty much like a rising line, a train which accelerates and then just cuts off. No verse, no chorus. Just building momentum.
That’s funny Ben because I had the impression that you were religious, based on a quote I found online in the Jewish Chronicle: “I am unavoidably, ineradicably, Jewish. It’s in my heart, my head and my blood.” BG: I didn’t say that! They totally took my quote out of context—or rather they entirely made it up. But you can’t really do anything about it. I don’t even think that many people read it, but it sucks when people feel like they have to make up something to make their story better. I don’t identify with any religion at all but I’m really interested in all religions. I would never want to associate myself with just one of them.
So you’re agnostics when it comes to religion—and equally as cagey when it comes to politics? You’ve described the new album as “prismatically post-political”. What does that mean?
On the first half of the album I was intrigued by the contrast between the poppier arrangements on the one hand and much darker lyrics on the other. It reminded me of a specific kind of pop song, like VU’s “Who Loves The Sun?” or The Stone Roses’ “I Wanna Be Adored”—that’s how I hear the single “Life Is a Lie”, for example.
BG: Andrew writes the lyrics, but I can say that things are approaching the point of becoming completely ridiculous in terms of some of what America is doing. It’s getting to the point where I really can’t say that I trust the government to do what’s best for me at all. But at the same time it doesn’t have anything to do with political parties. I just don’t feel safe at this point. I don’t have complete confidence that people in this country can just take their freedom for granted the way they have been for a long time.
AVW: I don’t have to sell my soul / He’s already in me . . .
In what sense?
BG: In some ways I would say this album is more optimistic than Congratulations because it’s more about empowerment. It’s about saying we’re all strong enough to look all these scary things in the face and deal with them. I’m so sick of all this indie rock that’s coming out that’s about finding a space where everything is OK and telling everyone they’re safe and sound. Everything is not OK and everyone should know that. But we can deal with it. I don’t think this album is dark or depressing. It’s reality. It’s about freaking yourself out in a good way and getting more real. It’s not about “Everything sucks.” We’re all going to make things better and become better people if we confront those lies.
BG: There are some basic freedoms that people should have that are being systematically violated, and that’s scary. But a lot of overtly political music annoys me. Music is a higher art and not just about topical songs. For me, it’s about sound and having a transcendental experience through sound, and I think words can sometimes get in the way of that if they’re too literal . . .
AVW: It’s weird because for all three albums the music has come
first for pretty much every song. So when it comes to writing lyrics, I’m not sure if I somehow want there to be a big disparity between the feeling of the music and the tone of the lyrics. I do think, consciously or not, that disparity has been part of the spirit of the band from the beginning. We had a little EP that we made as seniors in college called We Care/We Don’t Care. To me, it was a sign that we always wanted two opposing things happening at once. But like Ben said, I think there were much darker moments on Congratulations, though MGMT has more of what you’re talking about. An hour and a half into improvising, with twelve different things going at once, we would look at each other and not know where the sounds were coming from or who was making what. There, an otherworldly thing that happens. A lot of the new songs are about a relationship to some intangible enlightenment, an inherent drive to attain a deeper answer—and the frustration of not being able to pay attention long enough to start down that road.
BG: I think Andrew is way more into the mystical side of things, and I’m way more into rational science and math stuff. I don’t have a lot of tolerance for the mystical and superstition, whereas he really loves getting into that. Every now and again we’ll have an argument about it, but we still love each other.
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AVW: You know, our music isn’t topical in the sense of having an
obvious connection to any political movement or current event. The music is more addressing the feelings we get when we ask ourselves if and how we want to address that stuff. It’s more connecting to a current consciousness or feeling that, having played shows all over the world and meeting lots of people, seems common everywhere. Like Ben said, it’s way bigger than political parties, but it’s also very hard to define or talk about it. However, I know it exists. I think of it as a sensation where everything appears OK but with an underlying sense that it’s all wrong. It’s hard to say why and even when you try to say why it’s like that, something cuts you off. I’m not good at describing or defining it. It’s fear. Without being totally aware of it, I’ve been living my life since high school assuming that everything I type or write or every website I go to, somebody else is seeing it. I think a lot of other people feel the same way, but it wasn’t until more recently that most people stopped thinking just casually about it and started thinking that it was fucked up. Ben and I stay pretty up to date with the news, but we never really want to put it in our music unless it’s in an encrypted manner. I don’t know if that’s about a fear of directly addressing it, but if someone were to come out and go full Bob Dylan, I don’t know if it would even fit in this day and age.
It’s strange, but one of the most fitting lyrics on the new album that describes you as a band comes in your Faine Jade cover . . . AVW: I know what you mean: Striving for perfection / hiding when
it comes. ~
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MAX DAX interviews BOBBY GILLESPIE
“Like a portrait of someone in a bad situation” Primal Scream always exploited their liminal status as a band by cultivating an identity too musically and politically rebellious for the mainstream, but too rock and roll for obscurity. Since 1991’s classic Screamadelica, singer Bobby Gillespie and his changing cast of British postpunk, Madchester and shoegaze royalty—including My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields and The Stone Roses’ Mani—have made guitar driven dance music that doesn’t sound like a forced marriage. After decades of chemically fueled rage and increasingly overdriven guitars, a clean Gillespie and co. return to the groove with More Light, determined to get high only on their idiosyncratic supply of musical pastiche. Bobby, I was pleasantly surprised to hear more than one Jeffrey Lee Pierce reference on Primal Scream’s most recent album More Light, including your cover version of “Goodbye Johnny” and titling another song “Walking with the Beast”. What inspired you to explore his work?
Funny enough, I only bought The Gun Club’s The Las Vegas Story featuring the original “Walking with the Beast“ about two
months ago. Of course, I own the first two records, Fire of Love and Miami. Years ago, we even learned to cover “Fire of Love”, and if my memory serves me well, I think we actually learned it from a Jody Reynolds version on an album of songs that The Cramps covered. Clearly we’re fans. I saw The Gun Club play with Kid Congo Powers on guitar, and it was just great. I guess you might call using the title “Walking with the Beast” an act of the unconscious in the Freudian sense.
Left: Bobby Gillespie in Berlin. All photos: Luci Lux
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Your version of “Walking with the Beast“ strikes me as very personal—a song about the anger of a desperate man.
They only want gossip about drugs—you know, stuff you’d expect in tabloids but not in music press.
Yes. We had some music for it and I began writing the lyrics in the studio very quickly about somebody I know. As I said, I didn’t know the Gun Club song, but somewhere throughout the years I must have picked up its title and it was stored there as a good phrase. “Goodbye Johnny” on the other hand was sent to us by a guy called Chris Neats. Jeffrey Lee is the godfather of his son, but I don’t think any of these guys were looking after children. The child’s mother died and so the child grew up with his grandmother, so it’s a pretty sad story. Anyway, this guy sent us the song and it was a demo of Jeffrey Lee and he asked us to cover it. We did our version of it, but all I did was keep the lyrics. We changed the melody and the arrangement. The version that we were sent was a very early idea for a song with just an acoustic guitar and vocals. I know sometimes people have an idea for a song so they just pick up a guitar, press play and record and then that’s it. That’s what it sounded like—more like a sketch for a song. So we just took the lyrics like you would take someone’s poem and we made new music, a new melody and a new arrangement. Jeffery Lee was a really great lyricist. He says a lot with a little.
Macero’s production style was anti-authentic to the point of absolute re-editing, like with Miles’ Dark Magus or Live-Evil.
Totally. It’s interesting, because when they issued those box sets of Miles albums from the seventies—from On the Corner to The Cellar Door Sessions—they made all the loose jams accessible. But to tell you the truth, I didn’t like them at all. I think the art lies in how Macero chopped and edited the jams. My friend Warren Ellis who plays in the Bad Seeds says the same thing. It’s interesting to listen to these hours of recordings once, but then that’s kind of it. It seems that the loose jams are the material and then the edit is the collage or the art. When did this become a working method for you? The vast majority of rock bands either believe in or want to sell the idea of authenticity, instead of, say, properly entering experimental territory. More Light seems to be the band’s most situationist musical gesture since Vanishing Point, which is now over 15 years ago.
As I said, the last two albums we didn’t chop, cut and re-edit because we wanted to try doing it “normally” again. That approach has a different discipline, but it’s good to try because when you’re able to utilize the straight, conventional songwriting discipline, you learn something that you can use when you go back to doing it the other way. But you can marry both approaches I think; you can do the cut-up with the song craft and combine it. We’ve just gotten better at everything, at arranging the songs without really trying.
When I was listening to the album I was thinking that I would really love to see your collective mind map of it—how you developed the concept and incorporated the various points of reference. Production-wise, it reminded me of Teo Macero’s production methods cutting and pasting Miles Davis’ records in the seventies.
We’ve been working like that for years, from Vanishing Point onwards. Only the past two albums we did more conventionally, like a sort of live recording of a rock band. But soon we got tired of that again and went back to the process where we record a lot of music and then edit it. Who does the editing?
Screamadelica (Creation Records, top) was Primal Scream’s third album, but their first significant commercial success. Released some two years after Britain’s Second Summer of Love, it continues to shine as a paradigm of the band’s sophisticated and sample heavy rave ’n’ roll. A deluxe twentieth anniversary edition was rereleased in 2011. 1997’s Vanishing Point (Creation) continued on a stoned trail the band had blazed themselves, but also successfully ventured off into the dubbier realms of psychedelia and krautrock.
Our guitar player Andrew Innes and me. David Holmes helped as well. Andrew and I would edit it up to a point and then we would get David to come in and listen. Sometimes he would say it was fine but other times he would have a better idea and then mess around with the arrangement. The whole thing was kind of a sprawl; a long, loose jam which we would tighten up through the edit, with David then tightening it up even further. We got better at it as we went along. It’s funny that you mention Miles Davis because someone else said recently that they could hear an influence on the record as well. It’s definitely there, but it’s sometimes hard to explain to people, especially to British music journalists. They don’t seem to be interested in the processes and thoughts behind the music. 50 EB 3/2013
At what point did the Sun Ra Arkestra come into the picture? I read something that they were forced to stay in London during the volcano eruption in Iceland . . .
The story is that the Arkestra played three nights in a row at Cafe Oto in Dalston, which is only ten minutes from me in London, so I went for two nights. They were great gigs with maybe 300 people. The third night, though, I went to see Lou Reed perform Metal Machine Music at Royal Festival Hall, after which I met an American guy called Glen Marks who was the promoter there. He’s a really cool guy and has put on some incredible bills. He did a gig once with the Sun Ra Arkestra and MC5 together and made some seemingly impossible things happen. He mentioned to me that because of the volcano in Iceland no one could fly for two weeks and that the Arkestra guys were trapped in London and running out of money. They were spending what they’d made on their London gigs on hotels and food and missing work back in the
US. Glen was asking people to donate money to hire a venue so that they could play a gig. So, how much did you donate?
I didn’t. Actually I thought we should hire them to play on our record, which is much more creative! So I called Glen and floated the idea to him and he then made a couple of phone calls. Later that day Marshall Allen and a few of the other guys from the Arkestra came up and we had them play on two songs. We had the track “River of Pain” but there were no lyrics yet. We had the Eastern, psychedelic groove, the drums, the folky guitar and most of the structure of the song, so the atmosphere was already there; dark with a rolling drumbeat—a kind of desert groove. Then we made a loop that they could play over and told them to keep playing until they hit something that’s right. Did you guys get a chance to talk to them at length?
Yeah. My friend Douglas Hart from The Jesus and Mary Chain filmed the whole thing, which is really cool because it’s the first time we’ve ever done that. We’ve had all these great people in the studio before, like Augustus Pablo or Michael Karoli and Jaki Liebezeit from Can and never filmed it because I’m a bit superstitious about that sort of thing, but I thought that this time we had to capture it. Again, we didn’t have a theme for the song. I had a few ideas but I hadn’t discussed them with Andrew. So while they wrote their part, they spoke amongst each other and they have this harmonic sensibility that is just so different to ours. It’s obviously something that they’ve worked on and that has been part of their thing for years. Anyhow, we kept the best parts of it and edited it down to make some sense of it and then we had our drummer Darrin Mooney come in and do all the free jazz percussion. We had another track, “Sideman”, which is kind of punky and in a really strange time signature which they played on as well. What they do there is almost like soul or funk, with horn stabs and this really African-American style. To me the whole album seems very cohesive lyrically. Twenty-first century protest music, would you agree?
Yeah, but not just in terms of external political protest, but also internal protest within the family. Some songs, like “Walking with the Beast”, are more like a portrait of someone in a bad situation. His pain is his disease / Hurts him every time he breathes / Hates himself and everyone / He’s sucking on a loaded gun?
Exactly. It’s more about empathy, not judgment. The song “Culturecide” again has both elements, protest and also empathy for people that are trapped. It’s like taking a photograph of something. You’re trying to describe some version of reality, kind of like reporting something back. Bob Dylan also took a similar approach in terms of displaying empathy with his subjects, and he also didn’t really like to be described as writing protest songs. Of course, there are artists who attempt to make overtly political albums, like The Knife’s recent Shaking the Habitual. I think More Light can be listened to either simply as rock ‘n’ roll or as an updated form of protest.
I knew from the beginning what I wanted to write the lyrics about, but I didn’t have them fully realized. After making them more
concise and better, I think I was able to tell a story I’ve always wanted to tell. “2013” seems to voice an anger against a new generation of politically apathetic artists?
There seems to be no dissent anywhere anymore, it’s like a science fiction scenario, a right-wing revolution worldwide. There seems to be no resistance to it other than the Occupy movement, which stood up and said “No, this is wrong, and we’re going to expose it for what it is”. People seem to be tranquilized. I kept waiting to see if there was any dissent, protest, anger or dissatisfaction from art against the new right that comes disguised as a hipster culture, and there was nothing. Apart from the Pussy Riot girls in Russia I hardly see anybody raise his or her voice. Pussy Riot made a really brave gesture, but they got absolutely squashed by the Russian state. No one in the UK—maybe with the exception of Mark Stewart—would dare to do something like that. I don’t know if those girls come from academic families, but they’re definitely intellectual and very conscious politically and culturally. That kind of person doesn’t seem to exist in Britain. The British have a serf-like attitude. It is especially irritating as we have a very strong trade union history in Britain. I mean, Marx moved to London after having written the Communist Manifesto and he thought the British proletariat was very well organized. But EB 3/2013 51
today there’s no protest or dissent anymore. That’s why I wrote the song. I was exasperated and was thinking, “What has happened?” What kind of protest music has inspired you?
Although I grew up as a punk a lot of the music I listen to is black sixties and seventies soul and a lot of that is protest music and really descriptive of scenes on the street. Hip hop is like that as well, but rock music doesn’t seem to be there, apart from punk. What political events—real or media created—specifically fueled More Light?
In the UK when 9/11 happened, TV stations were playing footage of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers on repeat twenty-four hours a day. I remember that day perfectly. I thought I was watching an Andy Warhol channel or something. At the time I had just read the book The Society of the Spectacle by the French situationist Guy Debord, and watching TV all day I saw all this fear that was all around and it really affected me. The media went into overdrive and assumed this proper propaganda role like in wartime. Then they went into over-overdrive convincing people that Britain had to go to war with Iraq. In the run up to that the newspapers and the government were telling lies about weapons of mass destruction. The London Evening Standard, which is given away for free on the Underground was proclaiming “Saddam can hurt us” and “Saddam could hit London in under forty minutes”. People were creating a climate of fear. Since then I’ve noticed that tabloid newspapers have less and less real news in them, and more and more articles about TV stars or football players having affairs. There is less reporting about real events and more celebrity distraction and general rubbish. The truth seems to disappear. News articles are put together in a certain way to persuade you to think in a certain way and they often distort the facts. It just seemed that everything in the media was more extreme than it was before and to me it was like a science fiction story.
people are less politicized and they seem to embrace the idea to think that politics hasn’t got anything to do with their lives. They’ve been trained to think that the politicians are over there and they’re all corrupt but we just get on with our lives and what they do doesn’t affect us. But what they do does fucking affect you! So-called “youth culture”, which can be anyone from seventeen-year-olds to people in their fucking fifties, just seemed so cozy and complacent and there were no confrontational artists. I don’t even mean politically confrontational, but even somebody like Kurt Cobain with raw emotion, a real outsider. I never heard any pain and I didn’t see any art that was truthful to the reality I was seeing. I was thinking, “Where’s all the pain gone?” You know, there’s a lot of pain out there and there’s a lot of pain in here but there’s no pain at all in any of the art. So I wanted to make something that had some pain in it and some truth. Truth is a dangerous word, but you get the point. I’m kind of having a go at rock music because it seems so much a part of the fucking system. You’re obviously conscious of using Nazi terminology in lyrics like, “You need a will to power, a triumph of the will” and “The final solution to the teenage revolution”. What’s the idea?
I think that politicians use archetypes and know how to touch people at their core. Politicians and advertisers have studied Sigmund Freud, and I think they understand psychology, needs, and fears in a kind of occult way. I threw these Nazi things in because I think that the media and the politicians use them in the same way as the Nazis. And “The final solution to the teenage revolution” just sounds like a good rhyme to me, but I was also saying that there’s no fire or danger in rock ‘n’ roll anymore. The music has just become part of the power structure. It’s been “inducted, corrupted, deluded, excluded, shackled and hooded,” as I sing in “2013”. All I’m saying is that we’re 2000’s XTRMNTR (above) boasted a markedly more in the twenty-first century, but people still violent edge than previous PS albums and would have a serf mentality. When I was a teenbe Creation Records’ final release. Songs like “Kill ager, I wasn’t too hopeful but I thought that All Hippies” and “Swastika Eyes” displayed a sound by this point people would be freer, more and anti-imperialist message audibly in alignment. liberated, more enlightened, more rational In contrast, 2013’s much celebrated More Light and more progressive. But it feels like we’re (First International) sees the band’s return to heavgoing backwards and nobody can really ily edited hypnotic rhythms, embellished by a cast of see that we’re going backwards. In the arts free jazz guest musicians from the Sun Ra Arkestra. people are dining out, having nice meals Political message, groovy medium. It’s interesting that you mention Guy and doing quite well, but I don’t think the Debord. I believe you rhyme his name arts are reflective of reality. I am not a fason the new album with “Explode yourself in protest the House of cist but I think politicians are black magicians. They transform Lords,” right? reality. Like Tony Blair—he used the same language as American Republican politicians, along the lines that “There are people who Yeah. There’s this quote from Guy Debord that “The world is make history and there are spectators. We’re making history.” image”, and the whole way that the government or advertisers They’re transforming reality in a kind of magical process. These or those who work in TV understand the power of an image to people are super conscious of what they are doing and they have seduce, distract or dissuade is really disturbing. It was like that a lot of power. They could be using that power in a good way to before September 11th but after that I really saw it go into over- make everybody’s lives better, but they’re using it in a bad way. drive because it suddenly was a pre-war situation. It seems that They’re not people like us, they’re a different breed. ~ 52 EB 3/2013
SCOOTER REVEAL THE BACK STORY & SECRETS. Published to celebrate the 20th anniversary of SCOOTER with interviews of the band members and the best statements of other German celebrities like Jan Delay, Moses Pelham and Heinz Strunk .
in e l b a l i a v a r Novembe
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A.J. SAMUELS interviews ANGELA BULLOCH
“Poeticness is a by-product” Despite emerging as one of the Young British Artists in the late eighties, Angela Bulloch has always circumvented the hype of shock. In a deceptively minimalist fashion, she has focused instead on recasting the observer as both encoder and decoder of artistic information: feedback loops of data conversion emerge from sound-driven drawing machines and exploded manifestos expose the circularity of rules and behavior. Last year in Miami you were featured in the Absolut Art Bureau’s Art Basel Conversations panel entitled “The Artist as Musician”, moderated by Hans Ulrich Obrist. Can you tell me about your involvement in the panel and what it means to be perceived “as a musician”?
very challenging thing to do. When I played in a bass guitar band called Big Bottom we were dealing not only with massive volumes, but also these strange frequencies. We were five different bass sounds and specific Ampeg amps arranged in a semicircle on the stage, a Stonehenge formation. Balancing the sounds was a big part of it.
I think the panel went pretty fluidly. I mean, I’ve been on panel discussions with Hans Ulrich which were completely falling apart. I remember one in Paris where people were just fighting. Then there was another where nobody spoke at all. “The Artist as Musician” is an odd opening gambit because it calls into question one’s legitimacy. When you start off like that you just wonder, “I am an artist, but am I really a musician?” Is this really an interesting question? I don’t know—I didn’t think it was. Because if the opening thing is just about whether you’re legitimate, it can be undermining. But I’m glad nobody focused on that, because questioning legitimacy is not that productive, really. I recall the final question of the panel was something about a piece of music that saved your life, which was prompted by Jim Shaw who was also on the panel. I just remember turning to Hans Ulrich and telling him “This question could kill me!” Because it’s too hard to decide. I can’t take it too seriously.
Bass has been an important part of your work. For the exhibition The Disenchanted Forest x 1001 in Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof you developed a “bass shaker” together with artist and electronic musician Florian Hecker. Can you tell me a bit about that?
I know Jim Shaw described his involvement in music as a form of therapy—an escape from his perfectionist tendencies as a visual artist. But you incorporate sound and music in a very different way into your work. Can you describe that?
I don’t think of music as a form of therapy. For me it has been a very cathartic thing to perform live when it’s amplified, but it’s also a
That was a very specific sound delivery system set up for an installation that was a kind of sound shower. The bottom side to it was the vibration, so when you stood on it, you could truly feel the bass. It touched you. On the other hand you had extremely high frequencies coming at you from the top. It was like being in a sound sandwich. I developed the sound system and the physical artwork installation, and Florian made the music. Is the physicality of sound something you’re especially interested in? Is there something transportive about your work that’s contained in the physical sounds you create?
Absolutely. I feel music, so sound for me is often “moving” in more ways than one. I’ve always wanted to play bass because of its physicality and that’s why I was excited to play in Big Bottom—which, by the way, is or was Susan Stenger’s band. The music was quite structured heavy rock riffs with pockets of improvisation within it. We opened for Throbbing Gristle a few years back in Berlin at the Volksbühne, and
Left: Angela Bulloch, photographed in Berlin by Andrea Stappert.
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it was quite scary actually—especially when the lights came on at the end and you could see all the people who came to watch the concert. Some of Florian Hecker’s work also feels like a sonic assault. How did you end up working with him?
I was curating a musical weekend event at MoMA PS1 in the midnineties and had asked Russell Haswell to come. I had been interested in a few of these Austrian outfits like Farmers Manual and other acts on Editions Mego. I actually didn’t know Florian, but was introduced to him through Russell. Funnily enough, when I met Florian for the first time he had missed his interview for art school in Munich! So he said, “Angela, you have to get me an interview for art school in Vienna. I need the most important person to write me a recommendation so I can get in!” He was very, very focused. He’d given up his chance to study for the gig. He was basically saying that he had come to New York because I had invited him to and missed his interview and now I had to help him. So that’s what we did: we got Alana Heiss [founder of PS1] to write him a review to go to another art school in Vienna. Getting back to the idea of artist as musician, I also think it’s interesting to consider the concept from the other end: musicians who have one foot in the art world. In Germany there are quite a few, with probably the most prominent example being Kraftwerk. Their music recalls cybernetics: emotionally transportive aspects of their music are often represented by systems of transport, which are themselves sources of rhythmic repetition, programmed by man and played by machine. You’ve also created recursive systems with your sound drawings, with machines that record the sound qualities of a given space and transfer them into large format images. How important is coding and decoding, translating and transferring information from one form into another for your work?
I’m a big Kraftwerk fan, and the whole man-as-machine thing is very appealing. It’s a very strong aesthetic, especially when considering what they write their songs about. Like the topic of driving, which is actually very boring. But to answer your question, coding and decoding are very important and transubstantiation or alchemy are interesting ideas for me. I’m an artist who really thinks about objects and the state of things; whether an object is two-dimensional or three-dimensional; whether it’s based on the wall or the floor. There’s something very interesting about the spatial shift of something from one form into another. It’s a negotiation, how things do or don’t go together and what’s the conflict. In your work the observer is often involved in the piece itself—not just in terms of completing its meaning but also as an active participant in the encoding of information.
Yes. The idea of encoding code and decoding code fascinates me. The music on the second release of my record label ABCDLP was composed and performed by George van Dam on violin, though it was made specifically to drive one of my drawing machines in a specific way. I knew I would make it as a vinyl, where the sound produced from the needle in the groove would drive the drawing machine, which is drawing on the wall. I was thinking about the stylus and pen and making the connection between man, that one long groove and a single area on the wall with a yellow rectangular drawing. I think it’s important to mention that this specific drawing machine is driven better by certain frequencies, so the composition was made within certain ranges and within certain parameters that fit to the microphone on the machine. The actual quality of the movements drawn on the wall was very much like the sound of the violin. Composition made the drawing, and the 56 EB 3/2013
machine became the instrument. I made the machine first, and then we set the parameters for the frequencies and stuff and talked about the structure of the piece and the length. Depending on which piece or machine, different microphones will be used. For some drawing machines, the mic is more geared towards the human voice and the picture produced corresponds to that. But of course I have little control of what actually happens in the environment. You also work a lot with the physical representation of rules, as well as with color—two themes that Ludwig Wittgenstein often addressed. Wittgenstein famously claimed that his remarks on color would be of little use for visual artists because he wrote about the meaning and use of color words and how they reflect our conceptual schemes, as opposed to color organization or aesthetic function.
As an art student I read Wittgenstein, but that was long ago. As a young artist it was very beneficial for me to have read Wittgenstein laying out the internal logic of language. When you’re an artist and you’re putting things together, it’s often about being pragmatic in terms of combining elements in a given language. He also lays out philosophical ideas in an especially poetic way.
That happens by itself, but it’s not an intention to make something poetic, especially not for me. I’m thinking about structure. The way some people talk about art is sometimes a little bit cringe making. When people say something is “poetic” it’s like being romantic, and that sounds really terrible to me. Poeticness is a by-product, an accident. You’ve mentioned John Cage as a major influence. You actually met him, too. How did that come about?
I was in my early twenties and I was invited to New York to be in a group show in a gallery and John Cage was also in that show. I was young and I remember reading a lot about him on the plane, so I was very excited to meet him. When our works were being installed we spoke with each other about the work and some of the other pieces in the show. And we talked about mushrooms, because there was a mushroom growing out of this wooden piece of art by Louise Bourgeois. We were wondering about where it came from: From the place it was stored, or from the wood which it came from in Mexico? He was actually an expert on mushrooms and I knew that, so we spoke quite a bit about that. We also spoke about the process of chance and how he uses that in his work. I find it very inspiring how he invented his own language and established his own artistic space to talk about language and music. I don’t really think of him only as a musician. I think of him as an artist because of the experimental freedom of his work. The things that he did are a way of seeing. It’s about perception. What’s the difference between sound art and music?
I don’t like to think of sound art. I don’t like those terms. I like to think about music and about art. “Sound art” sounds like a bureaucratic definition. It doesn’t appeal to me. It’s interesting to hear your description of going beyond the expected modus operandi of organizing sound as an entry into creating art. With your label you’ve kind of gone the other way by appropriating the formats of musicians—LPs and home listening—while musicians often want to get away from those formats in doing art.
Well, I also work with text and rules and structure and materials, and
with a record label it’s a system of publishing and distribution and rules and copyright and GEMA. A friend of mine, Steven Warwick [aka Heatsick] helped me come up with the name ABCDLP. I make sculpture essentially, and when you put music into an object, there are some things that are more appropriate to be in one form than another. For instance, the piece that was made for the drawing machine needed to be in record form because of the stylus’ relationship to the moving vinyl object. Is there something intrinsically sculptural about vinyl?
Absolutely, but nobody has record players anymore! I’m still trying to find the specific kind of cutting machine where the grooves in the lacquer are cut as a loop. Once I figure that out, that’ll be my next piece. Or perhaps something with David Grubbs . . . This year we have made a live concert piece together called The Wired Salutation. I’ve made avatars of each performer which I project on the stage and I also made a lighting concept using some Cage ideas of translation. I perform with my bass guitar for a short time of the concert. The music is David’s, he’s mostly on guitar but also some organ. Andrea Belfi plays drums and electronic sounds and Stefano Pilia plays guitar. We played one night at the Centre Pompidou theatre in March and another in Berlin at the HAU 1.
make new work and a different kind of politics out of it. I chose to present a group of my works I call the Rules Series, which is an ongoing collection of rules, to which I added aspects of the manifesto. To give some context, the Novembergruppe was a political lobby founded in Berlin in November 1919 made up of a wide variety of creative people organized with a Socialist agenda. All sorts of different people were involved—lawyers, artists, doctors, musicians— with an aim to stop the encroaching influence of the fascist regime as well as the bourgeoisie. I found their original manifesto in the museum’s archives. You know, I don’t only choose subjects I find interesting, but things that could be provocative. It’s about bringing out certain conditions of work or ideas or rules and parameters that govern somebody’s choices or way of being. So you’re interested in exposing the rules that govern people’s behavior but otherwise remain unseen?
Yes. With the exhibition at the Berlinische Galerie I was also looking at the idea of an art institution itself, it was a form of institutional critique. One of the large rules exhibited on the walls of the gallery was about the handling and negotiation of a Robert Morris work, in several different versions over time. The first time the Tate showed his Bodyspacemotionthings, which includes navigating seesaws, tightropes and other obstacles, people didn’t know how to interact with the work. There was a Corporate sponsorship has an Above and p. 62 - 63: Constructostrato Drawing Machine, 2011. Bench to activate learning process that had to hapincreasing presence in the music drawing machine, ink (red), metal rails and electronic motor. Installation view at pen between the audience and and art worlds. The entire lecture Städtische Galerie Wolfsburg, 2011 Photo: © Carsten Eisfeld the institution. The Tate had to series at Art Basel Miami Beach close the exhibition because peois sponsored by Absolut Vodka, P. 58 - 59: Blue Horizon, 1990, Drawing machine, ink (blue), infra-red detectors. ple were getting hurt. Gradually and I know you recently won the Installation view: Whitechapel Gallery, Photo: © Markus Hansen as the piece was shown elsewhere Vattenfall art prize, named after in Leeds and then years later one of Europe’s largest energy P. 60 - 61: Short Big Yellow Drawing Machine, 2012. Drawing Machine, ink (yellow), again at Tate Modern, it gained companies. Is this something wall mounted table, MP3 player or yellow record player, ABCDLP 002 record, presmall texts that informed people amp, various cables, Genelec speaker. Sound piece “Short Big Drama for YDM” by you think about at all? what to do and what not to do. George van Dam. Photo: © Andrea Rossetti People adapted a certain way of Yeah, it is. I think it’s meaningseeing it and interacting with it, ful whether the money for a prize All images courtesy of the artist and Esther Schipper, Berlin. which evolved over time. I like is from one type of company as to include aesthetic quotation as opposed to another. Vattenfall part of representing the condigave me a prize, but it had strings attached. Winning the prize tions under which an artwork changes and evolves because of what meant I had to make an exhibition and produce a publication, and happens between the people and the artworks and the institution. that was an awful lot of work to do in a short time. I received this prize right after the big nuclear disaster in Fukushima and there Do you experience a kind of feedback loop between art and music? was an incredible amount of resistance against Vattenfall because of their interest in nuclear energy. So, you know, I was thinking Absolutely, I see loops as a structural thing and, as I mentioned, I’m about not accepting it. But in the end I chose to take it and talk fascinated by structure. Also, technology fascinates me, and not just in about those kinds of things, also because the prize isn’t only spon- the sense of modes of reproduction or looping, but also how informasored by them, it was also part of this institution, the Berlinische tion is recorded and edited in certain ways. The difference between Galerie, which has a very rich history and collection, and it’s in writing freehand and typing with a typewriter or into a file on a the city I live in. I wanted to work with their archives and with a computer is an evolution that changes syntax. The way you record or historical view of politics and with the Novembergruppe manifesto, write something changes the way you think about something, and as in particular. I thought it would be better to accept the prize and we know from Auden, “There’s many a slip twixt cup and lip.” ~ EB 3/2013 57
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Sound was always an intergral part of Robert Wilson’s vision. Since the early seventies, the Waco, Texas-born artist and director has been parsing out the emotional value of theater into what has come to be seen as characteristically Wilsonian component parts: sublime set design, highly choreographed staging, and the music of dreams and nightmares. Teaming up with the likes of Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson or Antony Hegarty (amongst others), Wilson has transformed the theater into a fantastical refuge—from the drab everyday to the melancholy and the macabre of everynight. Earlier this year, he tapped sister duo Sierra and Bianca Casady of veteran freak folkers CocoRosie to help compose the sonic accompaniment for a production of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan at the Berliner Ensemble in the German capitol— an appropiate location and musical choice for a story about a boy who never grows up. Here, Wilson and the Casady sisters discuss the leitmotifs of their very particular Never Never Land: death and androgyny. Left: Bianca (left) and Sierra Casady of CocoRosie, photographed in Berlin by Luci Lux.
BIANCA and SIERRA CASADY of cocorosie talk to ROBERT WILSON
“The theater was a place of ill repute and it was a sin to go” Bianca Casady: Bob, it’s great
to speak to you again. Jesus, I don’t even know where I am— that tends to happen on tour.
Robert Wilson: I’m in Toronto right
now and we’re opening The Life and Death of Maria Abramovi´c in three days. The scenery is actually still stuck in customs and the lighting has yet to arrive, so things are a little tense. But we’re also very much changing gears to what we had been doing in Berlin with Peter Pan. Surely what you, Sierra and I have put together is very different than the Disney version of Peter Pan—not to mention what Mary Martin did on Broadway or on NBC. We’ve created something quite dark. But the dark side is what makes the light lighter. The theme of death in general was not something I had thought about until you two stumbled on the idea. And that’s when it became clear that this should run throughout the piece, beginning with a song about death which changes and transforms, showing the different sides or passing and mortality. Death frames our Peter Pan and gives it another dimension and also invites the fantastical. You could never perform this “realistically”. I mean, how would you perform a dead person? BC: I picked up a certain sense
of mental illness and death as one of Peter Pan’s main “issues”. James M. Barrie describes the Lost Boys—Peter’s gang—as being “children who fell out of their cribs”. That struck me as a point of departure for figuring out a new way to tell this story: the idea of the Lost Boys as ghosts; not knowing whether Peter Pan was really alive; or whether Never Never Land was a more transcendental kind of space. RW: Our collaboration was very different than working with, say, David Byrne, Philip Glass or Tom Waits, because you’re visual artists, too—even if the final execution is sonic. I recall when you and Sierra presented me with practically an entire visual rendering of Peter Pan, with plot and characters, in addition to text and music. You thought quite a bit about make-up and what the characters look like while trying to figure out how the songs and noise elements should work. Even most playwrights or directors don’t think as much about how they’ll look, surprisingly enough. BC: Well, it was actually one
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“When I was growing up it was a sin if a woman wore pants! The theater was a place of ill repute, and it was a sin to go. Back then it was still considered a disgrace that Abraham Lincoln, the President of the United States, had died in the theater. At my high school on Friday afternoon there was a general assembly, and if you had seen somebody sinning during the week, you could put their name on a piece of paper and put it in a box so everybody in school could pray for the people in the prayer box.” Robert Wilson
CocoRosie’s fifth studio album, Tales of a Grass Widow was released this past May on City Slang.
Opposite page: Robert Wilson, photographed in Bochum, Germany by Oliver Schultz-Berndt. Wilson’s breakthrough production in the late seventies was the opera Einstein on the Beach, done in collaboration with composer Philip Glass. According to Glass, Albert Einstein only became the focus of the production after Wilson rejected the suggestion of Ghandi and Glass rejected Hitler.
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to divorce the visual aspect from meditating on the story musically. It seemed to need to materialize all at the same time. I remember having Sierra as Captain Hook go onstage to function as an image reference, because she was writing these operatic diva songs for him and needed to find his voice by actually becoming him. What fascinated me from the very beginning was this process of theatrical improvisation—starting right away with spontaneous movement as a means to gauge space and expressive potential. Also, working with you made me aware of all of the truly rhythmic forms of theater. RW: Thinking and imagining something is one thing. Doing it is a completely different story. You both were also amenable to change. If something didn’t work with the staging or the music . . . BC: Because nothing’s precious!
I’ve had the experience of changing things quite a bit on the fly, especially with designing installations for exhibitions because for me it’s part of the process. And also I became aware of the fact that place, in a geographical sense, doesn’t matter—Peter Pan would be what it is regardless of where it’s staged in the world and in whatever language. Eternal youth is a pretty universal concept, even
though it especially fits to Berlin, even if we didn’t spend our times going out to clubs or whatever. RW: For me, if I’m making a
piece in New York, it’s different than in Berlin. I can’t explain it, but of course German actors, both stylistically and obviously in terms of language, have a different approach to theater. And that’s surely a reflection of place. I think if we were doing this in Texas where I’m originally from, it would be pretty different. I’m from Waco and grew up in this ultra-conservative, right wing community. It was only a few years ago at Baylor University that they started to allow “social dancing” on campus! When I was growing up it was a sin if a woman wore pants! The theater was a place of ill repute, and it was a sin to go. Back then it was still considered a disgrace that Abraham Lincoln, the President of the United States, had died in the theater. At my high school on Friday afternoon there was a general assembly, and if you had seen somebody sinning during the week, you could put their name on a piece of paper and put it in a box so everybody in school could pray for the people in the prayer box. It was also a very racist community—and still is to some extent. It’s seen as a disgrace in many parts of Texas that Barack Obama, a black man, is in the
White House. Although things are changing, it’s still like that. BC: Have you ever done
any plays in Texas?
RW: Not in Waco, but I did in Houston. I directed Parsifal, which was the first time Wagner had been performed in Texas, believe it or not. I’ve said it in the past and I’ll say it again: the landscape and the Texas sky, or should I say skies, is in all of my work somehow. It still gives me inspiration. BC: I feel inspired by concepts of androgyny, and that was a part of the attraction of Peter Pan. I also think it’s unusual for Peter to be as shadowy and self-reflective as we ended up making him. That gets established pretty early on in the play when he sings, “To die would be an awfully big adventure.” RW: I never think so much about whether it’s a “man” or a “woman” playing a role. I just look at the character and cast accordingly. I did King Lear with a woman. I did the Shakespeare’s Sonnets together with Rufus Wainwright and all the men played female roles and all the women played male roles. Sabin Tambrea who played Peter Pan in Berlin also has very feminine aspects to his personality and that’s what makes the character rich. I mean, look at Mick Jagger—he’s very female . . . and male too. Or take Marlene Dietrich: for the first half of her stage performances she’d perform in men’s clothes and the second half in women’s clothes. And that’s what makes her interesting. Indeed, Peter Pan is both male and female, but it doesn’t have to be thought about in just one way. BC: You know Bob, when we
first met to plan Peter Pan I was a bit nervous. I wouldn’t quite say intimidated, but . . .
Sierra Casady: It’s a bit strange to go from death to romance, but I would like to go on the record by saying just how interesting our very first encounter was, Bob. It was romantic; I was mystified by how handsome your are.
doing something physical. And you allowed us that space. I think one of my favorite moments was working on one of Tinker Bell’s solos when everyone was all very in the moment and the mood. We suddenly realized that we had been thinking only visually about this until that point and had no music, so Bianca and I rushed into the bathroom and wrote a song in, like, a matter of minutes, then gave it to Tinker Bell, and it came to life. My nervousness working with you, Bob, disappeared after we realized that there were no expectations from your side about what we had to deliver. RW: I find if I have too many
RW: Oh, God, please. I was knocked out by how sexy you are! And how well you listened to the actors’ voices and figured out what worked for their ranges and qualities. I think it can be challenging for a singer or composer to hear another voice sing their material. But you two are visual artists and that makes an enormous difference. For example, I think Tom Waits is great and I’m going to work with him again soon, but Tom doesn’t get involved with the look of a piece. He thinks more like a songwriter. I construct pieces visually. I always start with a work silently, and then we add movement and only then comes the music. But often when working with composers, they get frustrated about working initially with silence; they want to know the melodies and lyrics, and they want to know them immediately. But
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Above: “To die would be an awfully big adventure,” exclaims Sabin Tambrea as Peter Pan in Robert Wilson and CocoRosie’s production at the Berliner Ensemble. Since his initial appearance in J.M. Barrie’s novel The Little White Bird in 1902, Pan has fascinated readers and audiences with his combination of eternal youth and suicidal tendencies. Barrie based the character (commonly played by an adult woman) on his brother who died at fourteen—hence, the boy who never grew up. Photo: Lucie Jansch
physical movement can often stand on its own, adding music and text is another layer. That’s how I like to think of it. Pure sound has a narrative quality like any visual or textual event. I’m not a composer, but I like suggesting things and seeing where that goes. In the long run, I can’t remember who did what with Peter Pan, and that’s the sign of a great collaboration. SC: Part of our process in CocoRosie is not to be separatists in regards to how we work on things between each other— musical, visual or sentimental. We let all of those lines be very blurry. Often we’ll be thinking and discussing ideas visually and then it will come out sonically. In Berlin with you, we’d be thinking about music and then just jump onstage and ask one of the actors to help inspire us to compose by
ideas in my head before I go into a rehearsal, I don’t actually look at the room and see what’s happening directly in front of me. I have to remind myself that spontaneity counts. Trying to force fixed ideas can be an incredible waste of time. In the beginning I used to be afraid that if I didn’t come to rehearsal with lots of ideas, I wouldn’t know what to do. But as I got older, I understood how unproductive visions you have alone in your room could actually be. Spontaneity can turn into something formal and vice-versa. I recently did the Lady From the Sea, the Susan Sontag adaption of the Ibsen piece. I changed it completely and I feel good about that.
BC: Sierra and I recall lots of
quotes from working with you and since then, when we’re onstage, one especially comes to mind. I remember you yelling to Captain Hook’s pirates: “Stop enjoying the music so much!” We think about that all the time. We’re not the kind of musicians who want to look like we’re having too good of a time onstage. I often have to remind Sierra not to look like she’s having too much fun. But it’s also a reminder of the importance of formality and idle moments. Taking turns singing, I’m sometimes left to just stand around. I search for formality in those in-between parts. Why? To not look like I’m simply bopping along to the music. ~
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As a student of Joseph Beuys, Gerhard Richter and Dieter Roth in Dusseldorf in the late sixties, Emil Schult found himself early on in the epicenter of Germany’s post-war cultural resurgence, absorbing the transformative artistic ideals of the day and transferring them to his work with thenobscure band Kraftwerk. While Schult never considered himself a musical equal, he soon found his place designing the band’s album covers and writing some of the group’s most poetic lyrics. Schult’s futuristic visual representations of science, technology and transport would not only become inseparable from Kraftwerk’s sound, they would also help cement electronic music’s utopian trajectory—one followed proudly by Carsten Nicolai and Olaf Bender. The Chemnitz-born musicians and owners of post-techno imprint Raster-Noton have long taken their cue in part from Kraftwerk’s sonic and visual formalism. With their recent spate of EPs as Diamond Version, the duo has chosen to invert the utopian paradigm, meditating instead on the neoliberal mottos of multinational tech corporations. Dystopia hasn’t sounded this good in years. Right: Emil Schult in Berlin. All photos: Hans Martin Sewcz.
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EMIL SCHULT TALKS TO CARSTEN NICOLAI AND OLAF BENDER of DIAMOND VERSION
“Could billions of stars be read like notes?” Carsten Nicolai: Preparing for this
discussion, Emil, I noticed that you were born in Dessau. Olaf and I come from nearby Chemnitz which was known as Karl-MarxStadt back in the day. We grew up in the GDR, you in West Germany. Still, Dessau stands in my mind for the Bauhaus, and I wonder how the Bauhaus tradition was discussed or taught at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf, where you studied under Joseph Beuys.
Emil Schult: The Bauhaus was
omnipresent in Beuys’s class, the reason being that one of the main protagonists in that class came from Dessau. Imi Knoebel was then collaborating with Imi Giese on various minimalist concepts. And since Beuys’s class was central to the social fabric of the Kunstakademie, it had an impact far beyond the class that continues up through today. My assistant is currently working on her bachelor’s degree in 3D textile design at the Dusseldorf University of Applied Sciences. She’s actually designing an audio headdress. I told her that she should see the headdress within a historical context, from ancient status symbol, to the crown to Oskar Schlemmer’s experiments in three-dimensional staging at the Bauhaus in Dessau.
Olaf Bender: I think it’s interest-
ing that the Bauhaus in Dessau is surrounded by the massive
English Grounds of Wörlitz, which is this classically ornate garden created in the late eighteenth century by Leopold III. It’s essentially the natural representation of romantic ideals—the opposite of the abstract functionalism they taught at the Bauhaus. Not that we were originally schooled— Carsten and I started out as autodidacts, both as musicians and as artists. But everything we learned in terms of craftsmanship somehow pointed to the Bauhaus and craftsmanship as art. ES: How do you see the relation-
ship between Bauhaus and music?
CN: Well, you mentioned Oskar
Schlemmer, whose Triadic Ballet became the most widely performed avant-garde dance piece of its time. During Schlemmer’s stint at the Bauhaus in the twenties, his touring ballet helped spread the ethos of the Bauhaus. Also, many professors at the Bauhaus—Kandinsky and others—were interested in music.
ES: I have the impression that,
more often than not, it’s artists who seek out musicians to collaborate, as opposed to the other way around. Nam June Paik’s love of John Lennon comes to mind.
CN: For us, the connection came
when we were confronted with the question of how to design our record covers. Only later did we
start more actively visualizing our music—that is, ignoring narrative or illustrative approaches and focusing instead on visually analyzing the sound instead, using tools such as waveform oscilloscopes to analyze and translate sound into graphic design. ES: How important is it for
you to hear what you see and see what you hear?
CN: In all honesty, we never
sought contact with visual artists as much as we communicated with machines.
ES: Carsten, you’ve called one of
your recent Alva Noto albums Univrs. When I think of the universe, I feel reminded of man’s inability to understand what’s beyond our reach. I don’t understand terms like “eternity” or “light year”. We could extend this to history as well: What are one hundred million years of evolution compared to the last two hundred years? CN: I am not a teacher—I don’t
evangelize about things, and I’ve never tried to convert or convince people of anything. My approach is rather private as opposed to, say, someone like Beuys.
ES: I actually don’t know if he
tried to “convert” people to his way of thinking. I’d rather say he was a man without fear. But let me tell you a little anecdote. The electronic music that you and other musicians compose goes back to the invention of transistors. If you ask me, the transistor is one of the crucial inventions of the modern age, created by John Bardeen, William Shockley and Walter Brattain at Bell Labs in the late forties. All three are now long dead. After them, a new generation helped further the field. Nick Holonyak, Jr. invented LED in 1962. He’s eighty years old now. I traveled to the States to meet him at a lecture. I remember he said: “If we turn off the transistor, the modern world will come to a standstill.” That’s a true statement. I had the honor to give a speech that evening in
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which I mentioned Beuys: “Being asked about the definition of beauty, Beuys answered: “Beauty is the brightness emanating from truth.” I as a painter try to incorporate beauty in my work. I also paint transistors because they are beautiful. And it is remarkable: the style and form of transistors changed over the decades, always following the tastes of their respective eras. Transistors from the sixties have a completely different aesthetic compared to the Pentium processors of our age. I told Holonyak that the beauty of the transistors to me represents the spirit of truth. The same could be said about the LED, which is a beautiful invention in itself as it will decrease the energy consumption drastically. Knowing that this invention will revolutionize the world is beautiful. CN: You wouldn’t say Beuys
preached to his audiences?
ES: He certainly was political.
As our teacher, he was adamant in his approach, and I remember him always laughing. If someone would talk nonsense, he’d confront that person and discuss the nonsense until it was transfigured into something that made sense.
OB: “Beauty is the brightness
emanating from truth,” I like that. But I like Mies van der Rohe’s famous statement “God is in the details,” even more. Perhaps unconsciously, over the years we’ve attempted to incorporate two definitions of beauty in our music. When we started making music, the first affordable personal computers had just come on the market. That was important because using the computer allowed us to veer away from traditional compositional constraints. And the same thing went for visuals. The computer allowed me to compose music and to design visuals at the same time with the same machine. And the most important thing for us was that we could actually see the music. Composing became a visual thing on the screen thanks to the translation of sound into waveforms.
And in a way we treated music in the same way we’d design something. Repetition and harmonics became visible. For us, this was like a revolution. ES: Do you have a vision of
how your music will sound in the future? Will it represent its time and surroundings?
OB: That’s a very heavy question. You only need two tones to create an association, but we had, have or will have a different association hearing the same two tones twenty years ago, today, or in two decades. ES: That’s true. OB: The big problem is that as soon as I publish a piece of music it becomes a kind of formula. I cannot repeat it. I have to move on because musically there is no point preaching to the converted. By the way, I don’t think that the frontline is defined by the dialectic of analogue versus digital. What’s far more important is whether the music manages to touch or even caress the unconscious.
“Any given sound that Olaf and I are working with cannot be limited to the fact that it was played in the key of C. Almost all of the sounds we generate have a prototypical quality. Space, time, temperature, the instrument the sound was played on, the amount of noise inherent—a sound is like a cosmic event. What I mean is, how would you notate white noise?”
ES: In other words, music
has to be exploratory?
CN: How often do people want
to hear from me a sentence like “The future of music is electronic.” But I won’t say it. Just because I happen to explore the field of electronic music doesn’t mean that this is the future. I think that an important part of the future will be the issues of copyright and notation. For centuries you didn’t need more than a pen and a sheet of paper to secure the copyright for a scored melody, composition or arrangement. But I belong to a generation where notes have become insufficient when it comes to defining the syncrisis of a sound. Any given sound that Olaf and I are working with cannot be limited to the fact that it was played in the key of C. Almost all of the sounds we generate have a prototypical quality. Space, time, temperature, the instrument the sound was
Above: Carsten Nicolai, aka Alva Noto, and Ryuichi Sakamoto’s first collaborative LP, Vrioon (2002). According to Nicolai: “I remember that a lot of people hated me for collaborating with Sakamoto because it meant accepting the human element. They saw the collaboration as a betrayal.” The duo would go on to make three more full-length albums together up through 2011, characterized by spaced-out rhythm, sub-bass, high pitched bleeps and Sakamoto’s delicate piano playing.
played on, the amount of noise inherent—a sound is like a cosmic event. What I mean is, how would you notate white noise? But white noise is a key element in almost all of our compositions. I’d say that the vocabulary of sounds has increased enormously during the last one hundred years, whereas the vocabulary of defining and notating these sounds has not. OB: Not that long ago, we didn’t have the gear to record a concert or an opera and to conserve it. But by being able to do so today we can carry around memories of specific musical performances, conducted and played by a specific cast of musicians in a specific space. As Carsten said, if I’d go to the opera house to see, say, La Traviata, I’d hear an interpretation from exact notation. CN: I remember that moment in
time when certain musicians were searching for universal harmonies, certain all-encompassing vibrations or oscillations. I’d like to mention Paul Hindemith in this context. He wrote music that seemed to embrace the idea EB 3/2013 75
“I’ve always attempted to contribute to electronic music in whatever way I was capable—be it by providing images, lyrics, or crafting objects. But the bottom line was always: How can I contribute to civilization? I often ask myself if other artists and musicians still see it as their goal to contribute.” EMIL SCHULT
of a musical world formula—a sonic theory of everything. Olaf and I often throw around the phrase “the ghost in the machine” regardless of whether we’re trying to squeeze out a sound from an analogue device or if we’re sitting in front of the screen handling a complex digital sound patch. The funny thing is: you only think that things have become more precise and definable thanks to the digital revolution. The truth is that everything is as obscure as it ever was. ES: I’ve always attempted to
contribute to electronic music in whatever way I was capable—be it by providing images, lyrics, or crafting objects. But the bottom line was always: How can I contribute to civilization? I often ask myself if other artists and musicians still see it as their main goal to heal people, to contribute. I ask this specifically in the context of music having become so malleable in its application, so undefined. It’s used nowadays for everything, from advertisements and background noise to torture. When huge corporations invest billions of euros into the development of new technologies ranging from useful hardware to machines of mass destruction, it only makes sense to ask whether musicians
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Above: AG Geige’s Trickbeat from 1989. Before Raster-Noton, Olaf Bender was a member of one of the only great East German bands to ever release an album on the state run Amiga label. With fellow Raster-Noton founder Frank Brettschneider as the group’s unofficial leader, AG Geige’s disarming, Dadaist lyrics and minimal postpunk/electronic sound made them a kind of East German version of Die Tödliche Döris— albeit with thick Saxonian accents and a penchant for selfmade costumes. In 2012, director Carsten Gebhardt released the documentary AG Geige – Ein Amateurfilm, soon to be out on DVD.
still seek universal harmony. CN: I’d like to know what you tell
your students about the conceivability of time. How long are one hundred million years? I mean, also in graphic design this is an issue. How do you design a sign that warns people unmistakably of radio activity—in Chernobyl or in Fukushima for instance— that will still be understood in ten thousand years?
ES: I always say to my students:
there is something that is larger than death, and that is life. We cannot understand the universe because we are a part of it. And we should be happy about it! We will not be able to make certain assertions because we are a part of the universe. Could a slowly turning galaxy best be described with music? Could billions of stars be read like notes?
OB: I think we could come to a mutual agreement and accept wave motion as a model of describing the universe. Sound and vision are both part of the same frequency spectrum. OK, the human ear’s capability to hear frequencies is very limited. But still, the rotation of a planet is still measurable by means of a frequency. CN: We’ve never tried to see the
world from a macroscopic perspective. On the contrary, we were always more interested in its atomic particles. I actually think we’ll observe similar phenomena and come to similar conclusions, like Mies van der Rohe said. Just take advances in granular synthesis. Or even better, the inventor of holography, Dénes Gábor, once wrote an article in response to Einstein’s discovery that light consists of small photons. Gábor wanted to find out if the same thing applied to sound, i.e. if you could find microscopic sound particles. He tried to define— according to the human ear—the moment when a sound comes into existence. Interestingly, the human ear seems to have undergone some kind of evo-
lution because today it takes far less time to sense a sound than back then. Gábor actually called that impulse a quantum. ES: Did you ever recheck
CN: Actually, yeah. And I was
surprised how slow the human ear must have been back in the day to differentiate between the sound of a piano or that of a trumpet. Back then they claimed that the human ear needed a tenth of a second to identify a sound. I probably would say today that you’d need one tenth of that time.
OB: This to me shows how much growing up with abstract music— if not electronic music—has altered the way we perceive sound. CN: What used to be perceived as
noise we hear today as a tone or sound. Our listening habits seem to have changed completely.
OB: Our relationship with sound is culturally conditioned. In the Renaissance, our music wouldn’t have sounded like music at all. ES: We should not forget that
electronic music has become a world standard of sorts. This is connected to the frequency spectrum of the music and the new networks and the current digital music players that support that spectrum. For sure this has an effect on the “old” music with both a different spectrum and different dynamics.
OB: I know you paint on glass, Emil. Glass painting is an ancient Chinese craft, but today it also relates to all sorts of communication interfaces, especially touch screens. ES: Norbert Tadeusz, another
student from the Beuys class, told me a couple of years ago: “The aim of the artist is to improve our perception.” He said it as if he was saying: “The aim of the baker is to bake bread.” This had a crucial impact on my work. I started to paint behind glass because the computer screen—and
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later the touch screen—are the things we look at the majority of the time these days. And if you add the windshield of the car, normal windows or the glasses we wear, it seems we see the world through glass. I felt the obligation to reflect that in my paintings. When I started doing TV test patterns behind glass, people immediately felt drawn to them. People kept saying everything looked familiar! I still remember the time when the iPhone and similar devices, or even electronic music, were regarded as science fiction.
element. They saw the collaboration as a betrayal. ES: At the Dusseldorf Music
Academy they used to have a break time bell sound composed by Karlheinz Stockhausen. They recently got rid of it though. This goes hand in hand with a tendency toward supporting conventional classical music. Whenever I enter the school, I hear people rehearsing the trumpet, the viola or the cello . . . The young and serious students who’ve opted for electronic music are somewhere else, or maybe just at home. Or maybe they’re all just using headphones.
CN: That reminds me of cos-
monauts versus astronauts, or Andrey Tarkovsky’s Solaris versus Stanley Kubrick’s A Space Odyssey. But the Cold War sci-fi competition, it went far deeper. I remember that our schoolbooks in the GDR were full of comparisons. And I imagine that it was the same in the West.
CN: That doesn’t surprise me.
Unlike ten or twenty years ago, the tools of production have become affordable. You don’t need the academy anymore to emulate a recording studio. That’s the big difference compared to Stockhausen’s era or even to when Kraftwerk were getting started.
OB: When we were growing up in the East, science fiction still mostly had positive connotations. The year 2000 was synonymous with a brighter future. And all the soundtracks for these films were made of electronic music. Electronic music was closer to the unheard, I guess. I mean, take Eduard Aternev’s brilliant scores for Solaris or Stalker . . .
OB: Today it’s more difficult to find a well-tuned piano than a fully equipped recording studio for electronic music. I still remember when the sampler became available for the first time. Back then, almost everybody tried to sample or to emulate the sound of a piano or the sound of a horn section. It took some time until someone finally used the sampler as something other than a tool of imitation.
CN: I once recorded my
own electronic score for Solaris, just for myself. ES: Do either of you deal
with acoustic instruments?
CN: I think the use of acoustic
instruments in electronic music will become more important in the future because I believe in metamorphoses and permeability. As soon as genres isolate themselves from others they run the danger of becoming irrelevant.
ES: Is this why you continue col-
laborating with Sakamoto?
CN: I remember that a lot of
people hated me for collaborating with Sakamoto because it meant accepting the human
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Above, top to bottom: First Integrated Circuit 4 Transistors 1962 (2001), Logic Gate Waver (2001), Ancient Strutcure, (2002), Pentium (2002), Human Rights Carta (2001). Emil Schult has long been fascinated by the history of electronics. Pictured here are paintings of microchips resembling different levels of macro organization, from gridded urban sprawls to more esoteric global systems.
CN: I am currently reading a book
about Joy Division. You probably have heard about that legendary concert the Sex Pistols played in Manchester in 1976 at the Lesser Free Trade Hall. Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook, separately from each other, came to the conclusion that they could also form a group like that—which wouldn’t have been possible if they had been playing super expensive Steinway grand pianos—the instrument itself simply isn’t affordable! I think everybody has those I-can-do-that moments.
ES: In my case it was when I was
nineteen or twenty years old. I just didn’t want to listen to the
music I was forced to hear on the radio. So I started to buy vinyl electronic music from Philips. There were only a couple of albums available at all in the sixties, and I played them to death. It seemed as if it took ages until more than just a few bands started experimenting with synthesizers. In 1964 I attended the World Expo in New York, and of course I visited the Futurama II exhibition. For the first time I was confronted with sounds that sounded as if they came directly from the future. The illusion was perfect. Suffice it to say that many of the things that were presented as utopian in the exhibit became reality, like the moon landing or the colonization of the Antarctic. For me, electronic music was the soundtrack to the future as we Westerners imagined it. CN: The funny thing is that in the
meantime electronic music has become a fixed aspect of everyday culture. At least I don’t connect it anymore to utopian ideals . . .
OB: Come on! I remember when we were children and we couldn’t believe Kraftwerk’s sounds . . . CN: But that happens less
and less these days.
ES: Before I forget, I want to pay
you my respect for what you’ve achieved with Raster-Noton and Diamond Version. What you guys do on a musical level is defined by beauty and simplicity.
OB: Thanks. Kraftwerk were also inventors of sounds. And since we talked about sampling before, I want to stress that I always would support the idea that you can sample whatever you want, including an original sound by Kraftwerk. But you’re also somehow obliged to alter the sound to the point of unrecognizability. Otherwise it would be a rip-off. ES: But few musicians ques-
tion the use of pre-set sounds these days . . .
OB: Well, today’s software encourages you to think in
pre-set patterns. The whole idea of the loop resembles a dogma that you actively have to question as an artist. ES: Are you talking about eth-
ics or aesthetics in terms of producing electronic music?
CN: A kind of ethics, I suppose. OB: It feels so normal to appropriate from others because the technical possibilities make it so damn easy. And don’t forget that these same technical possibilities fuel and accelerate the creative processes. It’s clear that this leads to clashes with copyright infringement. ES: Van Gogh didn’t invent
sunflowers either . . .
OB: Every artist has a different
point of view, and this way of looking at things certainly is con-
nected to the context you grew up in. I mean, how often were we asked whether sounds or snippets of our music could be used in a different context, for instance in an advertisement? And if we ask for the conditions and how much money we’d get for giving permission, we sometimes hear that if we don’t give permission, they’d just emulate our original sound. And there again we have the question of ethics . . . CN: Then again certain styles of
music, such as hip hop, would have never seen the light of day without aggressive sampling. Being socialized in Germany and knowing about the legacy of CAN, Neu! and Kraftwerk, we sort of grew up with the certainty that you can create something truly original without having to rip-off others.
ES: I think that we have to
Above: Joseph Beuys, filmed by Emil Schult. Schult was one of a number of wellknown Beuys students, including Blinky Palermo, Jörg Immendorf and Anselm Kiefer. According to Schult: “The Bauhaus was omnipresent in Beuys’s class, the reason being that one of the main protagonists in that class came from Dessau. Imi Knoebel was then collaborating with Imi Giese on various minimalist concepts. And since Beuys’s class was central to the social fabric of the Kunstakademie, it had an impact far beyond the class that continues up through today.”
convey that to new generations. Everything seems to have already been invented, compared to the sixties. But you can’t be pessimistic. Just because poverty sometimes begets creativity doesn’t mean that when you’re rich you don’t have to be inventive anymore. As a musician working in the field of electronic music, you have to force yourself harder to experiment. CN: You simply can’t allow
yourself to think formulaically. If you only use common sense you can’t be surprised when nobody takes any notice. Although when we started to make music, we failed big time.
ES: I like that! What went wrong? CN: We recorded everything very
carefully but when we tried to play it on our computer speakers, we couldn’t hear anything.
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Our compositions consisted only of very high tones and very low sub-basses. Nowadays, the speakers of laptops are much better, but back then… Anyhow, due to that experience we learned and put more effort into customizing our frequencies. And maybe that’s one of the reasons why our tracks stand out from the mainstream. ES: It’s what you’d call learning by doing. I recently walked into a store in Cologne that sells LED equipment, and they’ve become insanely rich over the past few years. I asked them a simple question: Do you know who you owe your wealth to? Do you know who invented the LED? Of course, they didn’t. But I think the world would be a better place if they would have. It’s the same in the field of electronic music: show me a musician who knows how a sample is saved at 48,000 Hz on a chip or transistor. There’s a lack of interest! But it is actually utterly interesting to track the stories behind the surfaces. Who did it? Where was it programmed? For instance, to emulate the sound of a violin, during the early eighties, legions of programmers at the Center for Artificial Intelligence in Berkeley, California, had to write endless columns of code. They invested months and years in writing code for the simplest things. But it was necessary, as a foundation. And finally, they’d programmed one second of violin. And everybody applauded. But they didn’t stop. They continued to program and to write code, thousands of people. And we consumers swipe with our fingers over the stunningly beautiful surface of our touch screens and take everything for granted— even though it’s all real-life science fiction. I have always tried to understand and look deeper than the surface, even though I admit that I am totally fascinated by the brilliant surfaces that we touch and caress with our fingertips. CN: Where we grew up in
Chemnitz was once the world’s epicenter for textiles. The Jacquard machine—an automated version of the weaving frame—to me is one of the first mechanical computers. We know
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the machines, and we know the punch cards that are perforated in a specific pattern representing certain data to be read by the Jacquard weaving frame. Each punch card will be translated by the machine to one specific weaving pattern. So, when I witnessed the various stages of the digital evolution, I could always relate to processes I had seen with that machine. In that sense I already had a general understanding when I was digitalizing sounds. OB: We live in an era where it is easy to get all the information that you need to understand a certain process. I don’t necessarily need to attend a lecture at university to thoroughly study and comprehend a specific problem. Let’s just say that understanding a process doesn’t mean mastering its crafts. CN: Olaf and I work on com-
puters all the time. Or to be more precise: we work on the user interfaces the computers provide. It becomes more and more difficult to understand what’s happening and thus to avoid the possibility of being manipulated by the machine.
ES: Do you write code yourself? CN: Of course! We program our
Carsten Nicolai and Olaf Bender appropriated company slogans for the track titles off of the five Diamond Version EPs. These either take the form of companies’ own imagined impact on the world or an abstract demand on the consumer, e.g. “Empowering Change” (Credit Suisse) “Science For A Better Life” (Bayer) or “Turn On Tomorrow” (Samsung).
own software and we design our own user interfaces. We’ve even designed our own control panels for our live concerts. Writing code and designing interfaces is part of our daily life. This is actually essential to defend and to underline our own musical DNA.
OB: But if I could choose, I’d
rather focus on the music instead of writing code. For me, these peripheral aspects have become increasingly annoying. ES: Isn’t it interesting that in order to achieve a truly unique signature sound you have to become an instrument designer of sorts? CN: Interesting yes—but also
annoying. And it doesn’t stop there. When we play shows, we also have visu-
als that are triggered algorithmically by the music. ES: What about your other
artistic activities? Do you experience similar obstacles? CN: I’d say there are fewer obsta-
cles when it comes to designing record sleeves. It’s funny, but if Olaf or I see a well designed book with good typography from the sixties we immediately feel happy. Buying it we feel like children getting a new toy.
OB: When I jot down notes, I always try to write with my left hand even though I am righthanded. Well, actually, I am left-handed, but back in the day children were forced to learn to write with their right hands, no ifs or buts. By forcing myself to write with my left hand and undo that injustice, I end up with a very specific handwriting. ES: You could start in my studio:
painting behind glass means to paint inverted and backwards.
CN: Do you have to use spe-
cific colors for glass painting?
ES: No, it’s customized acrylic
paint that I use mostly. But I also use metals—gold, silver, copper. This especially makes sense because I paint chips and transistors that are built with these materials. I still fancy the idea that one day I’ll be able to paint a picture with these metals and then be able to switch it on. CN: This would make it
a screen then, no?
ES: I’d actually prefer to hear a
tone when it goes on. Because I still think that music should have the goal to touch us on a very profound level, the same way famous paintings escort some of us throughout our lives. Once you’ve seen certain works by Goya or Caravaggio or Da Vinci as a child, you’ll never forget it. They engrave themselves into your memory. Certain tones or intervals can do the same. Music can be uplifting. It can cure people. ~
THE FIELD CUPID‘S HEAD
KAITO UNTIL THE END OF TIME
COMA IN TECHNICOLOR REMIXE
GUI BORATTO TOO LATE
THOMAS FEHLMANN EYE / TREE
DAVE DK PALMAILLE
KOMPAKT 290/2LP CD110
KOMPAKT 288/2LP CD111
20 JAHRE KOMPAKT KOLLEKTION 2
20 JAHRE KOMPAKT KOLLEKTION 1
GREGOR SCHWELLENBACH SPIELT 20 JAHRE KOMPAKT
TERRANOVA PAINKILLER REMIX EP
KOMPAKT 276/2LP CD107
KOMPAKT 275/2LP CD108
P OP UP ST ORE AMSTE RDAM 16.10. – 20.10.2013 O Z . P R O J E K T S PA C E O U D E Z I J D S A C H T E R B U R G WA L 6 6
1 9 . 1 0 . 2 0 1 3 NDSM DOCKLAND DJS
M I C H A E L M AY E R / P A C H A N G A B O Y S LIVE
G U I B O R AT T O / K Ö L S C H / S A S C H I E N N E E L E K FA N T Z / C O M A VISUALS
O K I N AWA 6 9
W W W . K O M P A K T. F M
2 0 J AHRE KOMPAKT PART Y
72 Hours in vienna
Interviews: Max Dax, Michael Lutz, A.J. Samuels PHOTOGRAPHY: luci lux Photo: Vienna’s Prater amusement park at dusk.
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The quality of life in the former capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire is indisputably high: the drinking water is the purest of any city in the world, the politics have become slightly less fascist since the death of Jörg Haider, the food is delectable, and its disparate music scenes remain vital. But it still feels sleepy. Almost everywhere you look, architectural pomp serves as a reminder of Vienna’s former life as a geopolitical superpower and its status as the birthplace of most significant branches of modernism, from philosophy’s linguistic turn and the rise of psychoanalysis to the advent of atonality. This is a city defined as much by its former greatness as by the forced exile of its greatest citizens. Where does that leave it today? thursday night: a long Dinner with Peter kruder of kruder & dorfmeister (and Gstone recordings) at Gelbmanns Gaststube, Wilhelminenstrasse 62 I grew up in Vienna and I never really wanted to leave. When Kruder & Dorfmeister became successful our travelling schedule was insane. Within three years I’d been around the world a couple of times, and only a few other cities really appealed to me in terms of living. Over the last fifty years, Vienna hasn’t changed that much in its appearance. You still see old neon signs and other relicts of the past. Life is beautiful here; the 84 EB 3/2013
food is exceptional in almost every traditional Gasthaus—family-run restaurants that you’ll find all over the city. The quality of the water is also incredibly high; everybody here drinks it from the tap. It’s been certified as the best drinking water in the world. This is true quality of life. But the best thing about my hometown is that you can be who you are. Nobody will bother you. Of course, there is a price to pay for that freedom. The Viennese are only superficially friendly. It’s been said that we are actually curmudgeons deep down, which I would agree with. Here, you’re allowed to be introverted and gruff. But if you dare to dig deeper, at the core you’ll find warmth and heartiness. See it as a series of tests that you have to pass if you’d like to enter the soul of Vienna. The arch Viennese is like a
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piece of Esterházy torte that consists of many layers—all of which carefully make up that special taste. As a musician in Vienna, all kinds of music shaped my taste. In the legendary U4 club, DJs would spin an extremely wide variety of records, and, on account of that kind of eclecticism, I was socialized in equal parts by Italian cosmic music, New York no-groove, bossa from Rio de Janeiro, punk and new wave from London and many more styles. I always loved putting in effort to explore new musical territory—as opposed to things that are omnipresent here, like classical and Viennese waltz music. Musically speaking, Vienna has always been a melting pot of sorts, and that’s surely led to open-mindedness on the behalf of DJs and musicians. You’re rarely confronted with crowds that only enjoy one style of music. I have to say that I love this attitude, and it has strongly informed my own way of planning my DJ sets. At the moment, I rarely play less than four hours, which is time enough to take the crowd on a musical trip from one style to another. Talking about music in Vienna, one name must be mentioned: Falco. I had the pleasure of meeting him once in person. He wanted Richard [Dorfmeister] and me to help him produce his next album but then tragically died a couple of months later in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Falco is something of a godfather to Vienna’s modern music scene. Even if you only take his first three albums, Falco’s style was the definition of cool for multiple generations here. He used to hang out with the dangerous bosses and barons of the red-light district of Vienna, the so-called Strizzi—and he adapted their slang. Talking to him was like talking to a duke of organized crime. We once headlined a show in the city at the Heldenplatz in front of an enormous crowd of around 50,000 people. We took great care to put together a rocking set list. The only problem was the finale. Richard and I couldn’t find a fitting track. Only hours before our show, I heard Falco’s “Ganz Wien” (“All of Vienna”) in a taxi with the infamous lines: Ganz Wien ist heut’ auf Heroin / Ganz Wien ist
so herrlich hin. (“All of Vienna is on heroin, all of Vienna is totally wasted.”) That’s what we played as the last track, and I’ve never seen any crowd react as enthusiastically and heartfelt as that night. It still gives me the shivers.
friday: coffee and conversation with therese muxeneder, head of the archives at the arnold schönberg center, LandstraSSe 1030 The Schönberg Center was founded in 1998 and houses the entire Schönberg estate, which was moved from Los Angeles to Vienna. There had been an entire Schönberg Institute at the University of Southern California, between 1975 and 1997, but at some point there was a fight with the Schönberg heirs, who weren’t pleased with the fact that the building was also being used for unrelated purposes. This resulted in a worldwide search for a new home for his archives, and appropriately enough, Vienna won. Of course, this is Schönberg’s birthplace, and Vienna was the only city to offer his heir’s an institute that functioned independently from an academic system. We are publicly funded by the city and the Austrian government and celebrated our fifteen-year anniversary this year. This independence is important for numerous reasons, but it’s also especially appropriate when considered in connection to his biography as an artist and composer. Schönberg grew up in the second district of Vienna in a Jewish family. He did not attend university and was entirely self-taught in terms of musical education. In the late 1890s he converted to Protestantism—a fairly common occurrence for Jews seeking to find a place amongst the Austrian middle class at the time. As Schönberg taught himself to be a composer entirely on his own, step by step, he would analyze the scores of the Viennese masters from Baroque to contemporary music and eventually come under the tutelage of Mahler and Richard
Strauss through his brother-inlaw, the composer Alexander von Zemlinsky. Nowadays, being an autodidact is not an uncommon occurrence, but back then, within the extreme academic hierarchy of the classical world and in fine arts, it was practically unheard of. In my opinion, this independent thinking and independent ear is what allowed him to cause one of the first big scandals in music history: taking the classical string quartet and adding a soprano. Performed for the first time in 1908, the critics didn’t know what to do with his String Quartet Number 2, which included texts by contemporary poet Stefan George. There were literally fistfights and screaming, punches thrown and chairs overturned. People rioted because of the music—that is, because of Schönberg’s compulsion to speak a radically contemporary language, both lyrically and musically. His approach had nothing to do with provocation. There is nothing comparable in music today because on the one hand we’re used to all kinds of styles, while on the other hand we’re absolutely not used to expressing our feelings anymore in a concert hall—at least not with so-called “serious” contemporary classical music. It always annoys me to consider how Schönberg has become an icon for “ugly” or “painful” music, demonized as one of the twentieth century’s biggest muckraker composers. I see that as traceable to his compositions’ fundamental lack of sequences and repetition. Twelve-tone phrasing is aphoristic. Strung together, these aphorisms form a novel, but not one that’s easy to follow or wastes time with needless redundancies. You can’t just take a twelve-tone piece and listen to it easily in the car. This is powerful, emotional music, not the kind you would find in a grocery store, although there is a famous story of the entire Schönberg family visiting a mall in California in the sixties and stopping to listen to the familiar music being piped through the spatious shopping area, which was Transfigured Night. I suppose in a positive sense, there’s no accounting for taste. Finally, I think it’s important to
Opposite page: Peter Kruder is an electronic musician and founding member of both legendary duo Kruder & Dorfmeister and the label G-Stone Recordings. He also looks a bit like Mephistopheles these days.
Previous page: Culture aplenty in the restaurant Skopik & Lohn, Leopoldsgasse 17. Horst Scheuer (above) is a cook with a vision. His restaurant Skopik & Lohn, located in Vienna’s second District, was conceptually inspired by the Viennese Actionist Oswald Wiener. Due to persecution by the Austrian government, Wiener was forced to flee to Germany, where he opened the Viennese restaurant Exil in Berlin. Accordingly, Skopik & Lohn is paradoxically fashioned as a meeting place for Austrian expats forced into exile. This sets the stage for some interesting and unexpected culinary detours from traditional Austrian cuisine, itself the result of centuries of experimentation with various cultural influences. Of particular distinction: Wiener Schnitzel fried in less fat and Goulash with bitter chocolate.
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Above: Musicologist Therese Muxeneder is the head of the archives and library at The Arnold Schönberg Center in Vienna.
Above: Peter Rehberg, aka Pita, is a Britishborn electronic musician and co-founder of the label Editions Mego, formerly known simply as Mego. He was making and releasing noisy techno long before it became en vogue.
Opposite page: A graphical representation of Arnold Schönberg’s twelve tone technique, which centers on composing equally with all twelve tones of a chromatic scale so that they are related only with one another other as opposed to a single root or key. The image, on exhibit at The Arnold Schönberg Center, was drawn by Schönberg himself in 1934. 88 EB 3/2013
mention how significant Schönberg is to artistic disciplines beyond music. You can’t open a book about the history of art or European and American modernism without his being mentioned. And while most art critics scoff at Schönberg’s paintings, painters themselves found Schönberg incredibly interesting precisely because of his unschooled approach. Kandinsky, Schiele, Paul Klee, you name it. Schönberg famously left Vienna after Hitler’s rise to power, and, as we all know, his music was denounced as “degenerate art” by the Nazis. When he was forced into exile, he converted back to Judaism and became interested in Zionism, which he also explored musically in later works. But it somehow seems appropriate that his radical approach to music and culture would be welcomed with such open arms in the New World. Schönberg famously told Theodor Adorno, “My music is not beautiful,” but he might as well have said: not beautiful for everyone. After all, Schönberg also said: “If it is art, it is not for all, and if it is for all, it isn’t art.”
Friday: At home with peter Rehberg, cofounder of label editions mego and technoise evangelist In 1987, when I was nineteen, I left my home just outside of London with a box of records and a suitcase. I’ve no idea why I chose Vienna to move to; maybe it’s because I didn’t know anything about it and was intrigued by the mystery. However, within two weeks of being here I was DJing at a place called Chelsea, and two weeks later . . . I wasn’t. They kicked me out because they didn’t like good music, which is funny because I wasn’t playing anything weird: Mark Stewart, Sonic Youth, On-U Sound stuff, probably a bit of Swans but fair enough, I was a bit too wild for them. It wasn’t Gun Club. In the meantime I met the five people who were interested in the same things as me, and one thing led to the other.
The so-called techno scene kicked off here during the late eighties, and I got involved with that. We started doing Mego as a reaction to, or rather against, boring techno labels, which is to say: we wanted to do something in the techno field but not mundane. People forget, the very first Mego records were distributed by Neuton, a big distributor near Frankfurt, and Ramon [Bauer] and Andreas [Pieper], my partners, operated the Mainframe label which put out Ilsa Gold beforehand, so we were actually part of the techno scene. But after two or so years Neuton dropped us because we weren’t delivering the banging beats—we were a bit more . . . weird. In some ways we were the forerunner to the techno-and-noise hybrid which is very in now with people like Container and Pete Swanson— noise-scene people making this techno stuff, which is fair enough, I suppose. I mean, techno is basically noise anyway, rhythmical noise. The funny thing is that the new record on Spectrum Spools is by Donato Dozzy, and we’re releasing the new Sensate Focus, which is house-y and techno, and it’s kind of like: this is what we were doing when we started! During the beginning of the original Mego label in 1994, our studio was based in Berlin because that’s where Andreas lived, but later we concentrated on Vienna. It’s a very comfortable city when you compare it to London, Paris or New York—those big, harsh cities where having a relatively normal lifestyle is hard. Of course, Berlin is the classic option for everyone in the creative field, and that’s probably the reason I decided I didn’t want to go there; you walk down the street, and you’ve met six musicians before you get to the first corner. I like the idea of anonymity; I like the idea that there’s hardly anyone living on the same street as me. For a label like Mego, location isn’t important anyway; all I need is a post office, an Internet connection and an airport. In fact, the label barely exists in Austria—I think I sell about five records here, and the Viennese music scene doesn’t feed back
on my work. Sure, I work with Fennesz, Philipp Quehenberger, Billy Roisz, Shampoo Boy, and I just recently did a record with Stefan Neméth from Radian, but these are all guys I’ve been working with since the beginning. Actually, I’m not sure if people here know I exist. Or maybe they know I exist and they think it’s rubbish. Or maybe they think I’m too famous to be approached but that’s always the way. Most bands have their biggest audiences outside of their cities. I guess people want something exotic. There’s probably a connection between what I do and the philosophical and musical background of Vienna, but it’s not for me to say. There is a weighty backdrop here in terms of music and art: Nitsch, Freud and just look at the city, the population is smaller than it was a hundred years ago and for years we lived just up the road from the Iron Curtain so no industry or businesses ever came here. Yes, the city’s in color now but before it was in black and white. What’s more, the Viennese mentality is quite grim and melancholic; they have a very dark humor attributable to the recent history, a sort of “don’t get too positive because it’s probably going to get shit again” outlook. Essentially, this was a big country and now it’s a small country, with a history of rightwing nationalism which is very confusing because what is Austria, really? It’s some republic they managed to scrape back together from a former empire, from a monarchy. It’s not really a country. The main problem is that the older generation never really came to terms with what happened in the World War II because they felt it wasn’t their fault—as if they were conned into believing the great German Right was going to save them all. The difference between Vienna and Berlin, which also has a dark history, is that Berlin was totally destroyed during the war, and most of it has now been rebuilt. Vienna, in contrast, looks like a grand capital that’s lost its grandeur; a city with big ring roads and beautiful buildings built for an empire that simply no longer exists. How could it not have a weird effect?
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saturday: learning about the unconscious from psychiatrist Elisabeth Skale, director of the Vienna psychoanalytic society
The Vienna Psychoanalytic Society was founded in 1908 by Sigmund Freud following the completion of his Interpretations of Dreams, probably his most well-known work. Originally it was just a small circle to discuss interesting aspects of psychoanalytic theory, although the idea soon became to found an international society in order to evangelize, so to speak. Naturally, the Society’s most formative years were pre-war, as many of the members of the society who were Jewish were forced into exile during the German annexation of Austria in 1938. Psychoanalysis as such was not allowed under Hitler, but the Nazis were intensely interested in psychotherapy as a means to create a new human being—to form the Übermensch. These days we are eager to include a broader range of Viennese society into what we do, including journalists, economists and philosophers. To that end we’ve founded an academy promoting psychoanalysis and its applications to areas beyond therapy because, as we all know, Freud’s ideas were based on a plethora of different sources— some medical, others literary, mythological and philosophical. It was actually a well-known architect who made me aware of a memorial installed by Viennese officials at the Cobenzl, a hilly area on the outskirts of Vienna. On a bronze plaque Freud’s words to his friend Wilhelm Fliess are engraved: “Do you suppose that someday a marble tablet will be placed on the house inscribed with these words: In this house on July 24th 1895 the secret of dreams was revealed to Dr. Sigmund Freud? At this moment I see little prospect of it.” The house he was referring to was the Schloss Bellevue, a sanatorium where he had been
assistant doctor, and which was later turned into a hotel before becoming dilapidated and eventually destroyed in the sixties. The memorial’s design illustrates how the Viennese officials managed to fulfill Freud’s wish for a plaque and counteract it at the same time by choosing a different material, exposing the characteristic dynamics of a neurotic symptom, one of Freud’s most important findings. I occasionally think about analyzing the psychogeography of a place like Vienna. Actually, I think about it perhaps more in terms of a psychosociology: attempting to understand history and movements in terms of a projection of or a defense against the individual unconscious dynamics of sexuality and aggression. Approaching the study of world cultures through that lens was something that fascinated Freud, as we know from Totem and Taboo. This is something that was revived by the leftist Austrian student movement, which was exploring new concepts of sexuality through psychoanalysis—which, of course, relates to the Viennese Actionists. That’s one generation before me, but I know that the fascination with people like Otto Muehl and Hermann Nitsch had a lot to do with therapy. But generally, it’s difficult for me to describe the mindset of the Viennese. It’s probably easier to describe us from the outside—just as the therapist might better understand the patient than the patient understands him or herself. Certainly, Austrian society is not the most open. But it is slowly starting to become more cosmopolitan. It’s almost as if Vienna is an island, an anachronistic hold-over from the times of the monarchy. In the area where he had his practice, around the Berggasse and the Hotel Regina, I often think of Freud’s noctural walks and vivid discussions, as Lou Andreas Salome has vividly described. Of course, some people link Vienna and Austria in general with a greater psychogeographical interest in sexuality and perversion, but I do not share this opinion.
Above: Elisabeth Skale is a trained neurologist, psychiatrist and current head of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, which was founded by Sigmund Freud and also included the likes of Carl Jung and Wilhelm Reich. Contrary to Vienna’s depictions in art and film, Skale does not connect the city with a particular psychogeographical interest in sexuality and perversion. Opposite page: Nocturnal light emissions surround the Vienna State Opera house in the city center.
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sunday: artist Bernhard leitner discusses why the wittgtenstein house stands for the philosopher’s artistic revelation, Parkgasse 18 Above: Aside from his practice as a ´ sound artist, Bernhard Leitner has also been key in preventing a house designed by Ludwig Wittgenstein from being destroyed. See a detail of the house and read why Wittgenstein is so damn important on p. 6 - 7 in Pictures to the Editor. Photo: Atelier Leitner
Opposite page: Musician and producer Patrick Pulsinger in his studio.
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It’s important to understand that Ludwig Wittgenstein’s architecture must be judged as architecture. The Wittgenstein House in Vienna is not applied philosophy. The idea of reading this house as a product of the philosophical propositions from, say, his Logical Philosophical Treatise is simply a mistake. However, the house is the product of the same person, the same thinking, the same attitude. Here, he is reflecting on form, material, structure, proportions and color. It was a challenge that pushed him to test the borders of his senses and to arrive at knowledge not through logic but through the very concrete process of creating architecture and creating his own aesthetics. Traces of this intense work can certainly be found in his later philosophical work, where he often discusses color, proportions, the height of a door, haptic qualities of glass, or our field of vision. This house stands for Wittgenstein’s artistic revelation. Accordingly, it’s hard to emphasize its importance enough. The City of Vienna certainly did not treat this unique building well. I fought very hard from 1969 to 1971 to prevent it from being torn down, which the Viennese Office of Landmarks Preservation would have ignorantly allowed. It wasn’t until I had left Vienna for New York in the late sixties and contacted ARTFORUM to write an article about the house’s significance and the real threat of its destruction that anybody really took notice. At the time, Wittgenstein’s nephew owned the house, and he didn’t want anyone interfering with his property or his intentions of sale. The interior of the house was unknown to the public. But when the story and my photographs were picked up by the New York Times and other renowned international print media, things changed. This
led to a press conference by the Office of Landmarks Preservation in Vienna to which I secretly invited architectural historians, architects, poets, and journalists I knew to write about it, which they prominently did. As a result, the Wittgenstein House was declared a landmark. Eventually, the Republic of Bulgaria bought the house in the mid-seventies, and it is currently used as the offices of their cultural attaché. But they haven’t spent much time or energy restoring the building to its original appearance. Still, the house remains undoubtedly one of the most unique examples of Viennese modernism, as well as evidence of how key figures of Viennese modernism were multitalented: Schönberg composed and painted; Kokoschka painted and wrote; Wittgenstein philosophized and built. One of the most interesting things is how, when constructing this house for his sister Margaret in the late twenties, Wittgenstein essentially ignored what was happening in modernist architecture at the time. His design process was quite different from Le Corbusier or Mies van der Rohe. As he put it: “I think I have never invented an idea—rather, it was always given to me. I have incorporated it into my endeavor to clarify thought.” Everything in the house was designed by Wittgenstein down to the most minute detail and with the most exact sizing imaginable, from the proportions of the rooms to the doorknobs. In the floor slabs for example, which were made from an artificial stone mixture, he wouldn’t allow there to be a single grain that was larger than one millimeter, which underscores the density he was aiming for, which is elegantly contrasted by an aesthetic of weightlessness. Using his impressive understanding of mechanics, he constructed flat panels as metal curtains to cover the window-doors at night. These very heavy elements are raised with no physical effort, floating up weightlessly through the use of perfectly balanced counterweights. Ultimately, Wittgenstein’s architecture did not invent a new vocabulary but rather used elements of the history of architecture to express entirely novel
ideas. The simplicity of the house’s design is not about functionality, and its austerity has nothing to do with expressing modesty. It has to do with reduction and complexity: the trained eye will discover layers of a unique beauty.
Sunday: Patrick Pulsinger takes a break from recording to explain how the jazz and electronic scenes in vienna have merged Today it’s not unusual for trained musicians to cross over into electronic music, but when I started in the nineties you were either a musician or you were interested in electronic music. Trained musicians wouldn’t consider what we did to be real music, and we would see them as boring and conservative. When that changed it made the whole scene much more interesting; the generations of producers and musicians who’ve come after me see things totally differently. I’m 43, I’m not that important anymore when it comes to breaking barriers, but back when I made my album Easy to Assemble. Hard to Take Apart I wanted to do things differently. That is, I didn’t want to do a classic jazz recording with everyone playing together. Instead, for the studio sessions, I wanted various groups of two or three musicians, or sometimes just one, to be hearing something very specific of my choosing in their headphones. None of them heard the same thing. For example, I’d have a bass player with a trumpet player, which creates a totally different vibe to having them play with a drummer, for obvious reasons. Because of the relative success of Easy to Assemble, I still work with plenty of jazz musicians— Franz Hauzinger, Boris Hauf, Paul Skrepek, Werner Dafeldecker—even though my original background is, of course, in electronic music. Vienna’s jazz scene has changed dramatically in the last ten years. A lot of improvisational groups still meet weekly at certain places, but ten years ago you would have had a local horn
Opposite page: Hermann Nitsch’s attic studio in his castle in Prinzendorf.
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player, drums and the rest of a more conventional instrumental set up. Celeste, a really small, classic club in the fourth district is just a basement with a stage and a bar. You sit down, and they play. There’s also Porgy and Bess, which is also still open for improv sessions. Both of those places I tend to frequent, less often than before, but still. Nowadays however, a lot of electronic musicians join in too. It’s hard to say whether Easy to Assemble is a record I could have made only in Vienna, but the city definitely has a healthy scene. I think it also has a lot to do with people who come here to study classical music and end up staying and discovering other scenes. Bands like König Leopold, for example, have come out of that world. In my opinion they represent an important piece of the puzzle in a city full of musicians who are becoming less and less afraid to cross over into new and different territory. Of course, the eclectic nature of Vienna in general has influenced many, especially people from my generation. Clubs like the U4 played an extremely big role as did radio shows in the late eighties and nineties, which played everything from hip hop and garage to punk and early electronics. Every day I’d listen to this one show called the Music Box presented by Werner Geier, who had a really wide range of music so you’d hear a record by Eric B. & Rakim followed by, say, a Leather Nun record. Growing up in the countryside, it was my only source of new musical input. I still think Vienna has this openness because it was never really steered toward one specific sound; the diversity of music itself has come to define the city. At a good club the DJ will play as many different musical styles as possible. That said, Vienna was also always in the shadows. Just a couple of kilometers from here, the West as we used to know it ended. That wasn’t a very hip standpoint for pop culture but I feel that places that aren’t as hip are forced to look deeper. If you’re not in the spotlight you have time to do just that.
sunday: viennese actionist hermann nitsch invites us to his castle to discuss the relationship between ethics and aesthetics I fell in love with the countryside around Prinzendorf when I studied art as a young man, learning to cherish the impressionists and Van Gogh especially. Thanks to him and his cornfield paintings, I was able to “read” the beauty of this particular landscape like an impressionist piece of art. It was fascinating to be confronted with that exact same shade of yellow here northeast of Vienna. When the birds are singing here, the area is enchanted. Here, for the first time, I encountered something you might call lifeaffirming natural mysticism. Knowing Prinzendorf, of course I knew its famous castle, too. I used to dream that the Austrian authorities might one day bequeath the castle to me as a perfect performance venue for my Orgien Mysterien Theater (“Orgies Mysteries Theater”). But instead of giving me the castle, the Austrian government imprisoned me three times and imposed an occupational ban on me. I had to leave my home country, so I headed for America first and then lived for a while in Bavaria. In 1971, my then wife Beate inherited some money, and amazingly the castle was up for sale. We bought it and Beate, who was a child psychologist, planned to open an institution for mentally handicapped children there. When she died in 1977, I continued to stage the theater on a regular basis—I owe this to her. I often receive visitors such as Genesis P. Orridge, who view visits to my castle as a pilgrimage of sorts. Here is where my Orgien Mysterien Theater, in which actors decked out all in white disembowel animals and handle entrails, blood and mucus in various rituals, can be most completely enacted. I’d become persona non grata in Vienna in the late sixties. I was always following my own path and never compromised. Looking back, I have always focused on the very
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Above: Hermann Nitsch is one of the last remaining Viennese Actionists. Despite having been jailed and forced into exile in the sixties due to his controversial blood-soaked performances, his reputation has been largely rehabilitated in the eyes of the bourgeois, marked by invitations to direct performances in the city’s renowned Burgtheater and Vienna State Opera.
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same things in art. I never changed. I would compare my career with that of Monet, who carried on with his very specific kind of impressionism, despite being surpassed by Malevich and the cubists and many others. However, his body of work as an impressionist remains unrivalled. Of course, I am not an art critic and not a curator. I could imagine that in Vienna plenty of artists unknown to me are working profoundly in realizing their own revolutionary concepts. Who knows? But I do have strong connections to the city of Vienna, in no small part because Arnold Schönberg came from there. The radically erotic expressionism of the Second Viennese School is very important to me. I was also schooled by phenomenology and by Martin Heidegger and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Sigmund Freud and C.G. Jung were also huge influences for me. Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious in particular is essential for my theater, as is the expressionist poet Georg Trakl. Funny enough, in 2005 I was finally invited to perform the Orgien Mysterien Theater in the famous bourgeois Wiener
Burgtheater—the very stage that we always wanted to storm during the days of Viennese Actionism because it was run by fascists. It took Vienna almost thirty years to engage Claus Peymann as its director in 1986, who was the first to reinstall political theater in Austria’s capital after decades of stagnation. Anyhow, my return to Vienna took place as early as 1995 when I co-directed Jules Massenete’s opera Hérodiade at the Vienna State Opera. It took only two days to completely sell out all performances. I filed it under reconciliation with the Viennese bourgeoisie. My next assignment directing Parsifal was cancelled before I could start working because the then right-wing government was against it. So it took another ten years to stage the beautiful, eight-hour 122. Aktion with the participation of a big symphonic orchestra at the Burgtheater. It seems that since Otto Muehl’s recent death in Portugal, I am one of the last men standing when it comes to the Viennese Actionists. With Muehl I fostered a lifelong competitive relationship and wrote an obituary about him in
ARTFORUM. I think he was a great artist, and I try not to comment on the issues involving sex with underage girls. And I would still say that the Viennese Commune was important, even though I want to stress the fact that I was never part of it and that it didn’t interest me that much. Indeed art knows no boundaries. It should have total, absolute freedom, which means that the artist potentially stands in conflict with the law or the ethics of the state or religion. You know, in ancient Rome, they actually tortured and killed actors on stage, and I believe you shouldn’t inhibit the artist’s urge to explore new territory. In that sense, even a war could be an artwork—a cruel, gruesome, oversized happening of actionist art. But I couldn’t create such an artwork because I wouldn’t want to take the responsibility for such bloodshed. Of course, Wittgenstein said that ethics and aesthetics are one, and in that sense form is something fundamentally good. But perhaps if you consume form in too concentrated a mixture, it can be a poison. Angst and aggression are basic aspects of humankind and find their expression in aesthetics, not least the impressive contours of a “Stuka” bomber, as Joseph Beuys often said. I want to be able to say: “This weapon is beautiful—but I don’t want to shoot anybody with it! I don’t want to kill anybody with it!” The same applies to the animals: I only use animals that are destined to be processed into food. To be more precise: art doesn’t know any boundaries, but the artist’s conscience does. I don’t want to kill a human being and I don’t want to torture an animal. I don’t want to start a war just because wars look great. But we would be fools if we wouldn’t see that weapons are beautiful only because they are inextricably linked with fear and aggression. Weapons are nothing else than terror and aggression cast into form. In this context Karlheinz Stockhausen’s infamous statements on 9/11 come to mind. He understood that something that is obviously cruel and horrible in a bourgeois sense can at the same time be incredibly beautiful, artistically speaking. ~
ers to better show us information in the sky. Dan’s sonifications are created from fMRIs [Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging], a neuroimaging procedure that records levels of blood flow in the brain. The “brain musics” are of course the result of various choices, the paring down of relevant data, tone choices, speed choices, etc. When listened to in real time, brain activity sounds much more like a drone. And if one were to sonify all parts at once, it would sound like TV static. When we pluck out the information we want to listen to and speed it up, various melodies and events emerge, which allows for both joy and analysis.
RK: In a sense, sonification imposes
concepts of musicality onto brain activity in order to draw conclusions about its musicality, which kind of begs the question, no? EDP: Yes and no. I think this is
Rita Koslov: What’s philosophical
about whether or not the different regions of our brains, when assigned musical values, work in harmony or disharmony? Elisa Da Prato: Dan Lloyd is a
philosopher of mind, which is all about understanding what consciousness is and how it works. In the last twenty years, there’s been a significant shift of focus toward neurology in attempting to answer these questions—that is, looking at the brain to understand the mind. It’s one of the main aims of cognitive science. At this point, the most prominent theory is that of the “Language of Thought”, which uses linguistic syntax as a model for the architecture of the mind. In contrast, Dan proposes that musical structure is a far more accurate model for analysis. He calls his new theory of mind “Music of Thought Hypothesis”, and his method of analysis uses sonification: assigning musical values to neurological functions and analyzing its syn98 EB 3/2013
Philosopher Dan Lloyd spends his days with the intellectually immodest task of understanding how human consciousness works. But unlike most of his colleagues, he is looking for the answer in music, not language syntax. Employing a method of “sonification”, Lloyd analyzes the music created from the patterns of blood flow to different regions of the brain—an approach as controversial as the results poetic. Director Elisa Da Prato has accompanied the philosopher over the past few years of his research. The resulting documentary, Music of the Hemispheres, is due out in 2014. Illustration: minus
tax. Essentially, he is studying the structures of “brain music”. RK: In your clips the sonifica-
tions all appear to be in perfect rhythm, which seems to be more a result of the sequencing process. Also, the kind of musical values—tonal or timbral—that are assigned to each area of the brain could be seen as arbitrary, no? EDP: Well, one could say that our
bodies are organized rhythmically, and this organization is derived from the brain. Dan’s sonifications are indeed a kind of painting by numbers, which raises the question of personal aesthetics tampering with the purity of information. But you could also argue that these aesthetic choices actually help to bring out the “story” in the information. I don’t think we are aware how often we actually see and appreciate visualizations that are representational models. For example, the colors you see in Hubble telescope images are assigned by the imag-
where sonification, or any other form of data representation, gets beautifully interesting, and that’s a large part of what we are exploring in the film; the beauty of information and the elegance of information rendering. But what you mention is a valid argument and one that has also been expressed by various thinkers and theorists we’ve interviewed. For example, the director of the Steinhardt School of Music at NYU, Robert Rowe, argues that any non-static system with multiple variables can be sonified and potentially heard as music, which would make everything music, which would actually make the concept of music meaningless. The well-known philosopher Daniel Dennett, whom Dan studied under, acknowledged the necessity of Dan’s work and theory in the grand discussion of consciousness but was also wary of claims regarding long-term effectiveness. Showing various sides of the debate is not only necessary but interesting. And it’s a kind of conflict we rarely see in film. ~
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