TRICKY MARK ERNESTUS MORITZ VON OSWALD AUSTRA
CONVERSATIONS ON ESSENTIAL ISSUES N° 34 · SUMMER 2013
LANA DEL REY:
“I believe in free love”
“What does Dakar need?”
Max Dax: This issue of Electronic
Beats Magazine involved a lot of traveling. It may sound obvious, but we often conduct better and more honest conversations in person rather than on the phone, or communicating via email or Skype. Some of our main features took place in Detroit, Berlin, Dakar, Prague and Montenegro, where we met, amongst others, legendary techno innovators Juan Atkins and Moritz von Oswald, Senegalese Mbalax musician Bakane Seck or pop star Lana Del Rey. The fact is, you can’t digitize real encounters.
Hans Ulrich Obrist: That’s abso-
lutely right, and it’s the same in the art world. You can’t understand or feel certain spaces and contexts if you haven’t been there.
MD: In the interview and con-
versation context, it’s extremely important to get a feeling for the other person. Once you’ve had that experience, it’s a totally normal thing to continue communicating virtually. In this issue, we track visionary Berlin dub-technoist Mark Ernestus’s trip to Senegal to meet local musicians and griots who play a highly codified form of percussion-based music particu-
Historical narratives, especially ones with clearly defined sides, wars, oppositions and results, are the hardest to rewrite. They remain anchored in our imagination and eventually calcify into bedrocks of truth. For that very reason, such “reliable” reference points are important to challenge. In this issue of Electronic Beats, we take a look at the writing and rewriting of these and other narratives in different geographical contexts, ranging from the anti-capitalist legacy of American sixties counterculture to Lana Del Rey’s relationship to feminism. Stories told and tarnished, from the big and important to the quotidian. Documented in Berlin, Silicon Valley, London, Dakar, Podgorica and Detroit. Kindest regards, Max Dax Editor-in-Chief
lar to West Africa. He traveled thousands of kilometers and for him the payoff was undoubtedly worth it. HUO: I actually organized the
L’Art Africain Contemporain Biennale Dak’Art in Dakar in 2004, and with every subsequent exhibition we’ve done there, we’ve asked ourselves, “What does Dakar need?” I saw that there was a lack of experimental cinemas and we then offered to turn the former Palace of Justice into a cinema for the duration of the Biennale. When we entered the palace, I was reminded of an installation by Ilya Kabakov, as the space was literally covered by papers and letters. For a couple of months, we were allowed to use this amazing space and turn it into a platform for the experimental.
MD: Were you also wondering
what Berlin needed when you did the 1998 Biennale together with Klaus Biesenbach? It seems to me that in the late nineties, Berlin was experiencing pivotal change—both in a broader sense and specifically in the art world. It was a time when, in contrast to many other comparable urban environments, the reunited West and East Berlin were just beginning to become
properly international. That went both for visual art and music. Would you agree? HUO: Sure. Berlin then needed a cartography of all the amazing artists from all over the world who were working in the city. MD: Maps are usually used for orientation—to walk for instance from one artist’s studio to another or to navigate your way from one city to another. We try to map out the world of electronic music by talking to its protagonists. It sometimes feels like writing down what otherwise functions as the oral history of electronic music and its digital environments. Your conversation with Stewart Brand of Whole Earth Catalog fame perfectly fits into this context, as he is widely considered a prophet of the Internet, both in its countercultural and neo-liberal contexts. HUO: Yes. But we should also remember in the context of travel and online worlds the great Lucius Burckhardt who was a pioneer in the field of “strollogy”. Promenading is an essential opportunity to understand our surroundings and to develop thoughts. Suffice to say that walking and talking together implies physical presence. You can’t digitize walking. ~
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PICTURES TO THE EDITOR Send your photos to email@example.com
This year’s Electronic Beats Festival in Bratislava was hosted on the outskirts of the Slovakian capitol in the Refinery Gallery—an island of a venue situated amidst a wasteland of industrial architectural cadavers. The line-up was heavy on contrast and light on filler, including the likes of Hurts, James Pants, Youthkills, and Agoria. Here’s a glimpse of happy audience members throwing shapes and Crip signs during Hurts’ brilliantly choreographed musical pose-a-thon. Photo: Stanislava Karellova 4 EB 2/2013
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There was no limit to the love shown for James Blake at the Electronic Beats Festival in Cologne, where he played an assortment of tracks from both his self-titled debut and his most recent release, Overgrown. Photo: Peyman Azhari
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Dizzee Rascal’s raucous performance at the Electronic Beats Festival in the Polish city of Poznan was full of dubious anti-drug messages, paired with shameless confessions of his long-term bass addiction, a kind of D.A.R.E. public service announcement sponsored by Funktion One: “I don’t need no speed/I don’t need no heroin/I don’t want no coke/You can keep your ketamine/I’m a bassline junkie!” OK, Dizzee, to each his own. Photo: Lukasz Jaszak EB 2/2013 9
No matter how hard she seems to be trying with the pastel sweater, Lana Del Rey simply can’t blend into the background. The perma-pouting sphinx-like singer-songwriter looked ready to make all the naysayers look like mere player haters before taking the stage at the Electronic Beats Festival in Prague. Which is exactly what she did. The outstanding performance was a far cry from her onstage insecurity of yesteryear. Read Lisa Blanning’s in-depth interview with the “face that launched a thousand think pieces” on page 38. Photo: Robert Carrithers 10 EB 2/2013
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IMPRINT IMPRINT ELECTRONIC BEATS MAGAZINE CONVERSATIONS ON ESSENTIAL ISSUES Est. 2005 Issue N° 34 Summer 2013
Publisher: Burda Creative Group GmbH, P.O. Box 810249, 81902 München, Germany Managing Directors: Gregor Vogelsang, Dr.-Ing. Christian Fill Head of Telco, Commerce & Utilities: Christine Fehenberger
Editorial Office: Electronic Beats Magazine, Karl-Liebknecht-Straße 13, 10178 Berlin, Germany www.electronicbeats.net firstname.lastname@example.org Editor-in-Chief: Max Dax Managing Editor: Thomas Walter Duty Editor: Michael Lutz Editor: A.J. Samuels Editor-at-Large: Louise Brailey Art Director: Johannes Beck Graphic Designer: Inka Gerbert Copy Editor: Karen Carolin
Cover: Lana Del Rey, photographed by Nicole Nodland.
Contributing Authors: Stuart Argabright, Juan Atkins, Lisa Blanning, Stewart Brand, Branko Brnovi´c, Kai Campos, Charli XCX, Dejan “Dedduh” Dedovi´c, Lana Del Rey, Mario “Noyz” Đord-evi´c, Alec Empire, Mark Ernestus, Heatsick, Theo Hutchcraft, Edin Jasarovic, Daniel Jones, Džijo Leki´c, Little Boots, Janko Ljumovi´c, Bojan Martinovi´c, Andrijana Nikic, Hans Ulrich Obrist, David Pyrooz, Nina Redzepagic, Hank Shocklee, Steffi, Katie Stelmanis, Tricky, Laurens von Oswald, Moritz von Oswald
Contributing Photographers and Illustrators: Peyman Azhari, Larry Busacca, Robert Carrithers, Mark Ernestus, Lukasz Jaszak, Stanislava Karellova, Bernd Kuchenbeiser, Luci Lux, minus, Ryan Phelan, Mbene Diatta Seck, Hans Martin Sewcz, Lisa Swarna Khanna, Miguel Villalobos
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, email@example.com Subscriptions: www.electronicbeats.net/subscriptions Advertising: firstname.lastname@example.org Printing: Druckhaus Kaufmann, Raiffeisenstr. 29, 77933 Lahr, Germany Distribution: VERTRIEB MZV GmbH & Co KG, 85716 Unterschleißheim, Germany
Thanks to: H.P. Baxxter, Peter Boettcher, Zuri Maria Daiß, Detlef Diederichsen, Dimitri Hegemann, Stephanie Heinemann, Constantin Köhncke, Bernd Kuchenbeiser, Anne Maier, Jo-Ann Nina, Anne Rolfs, Ada Celeste Garretson Samuels, Emil Schult, Lorraine Two, Elisabeth von Oswald © 2013 Electronic Beats Magazine / Reproduction without permission is prohibited ISSN 2196-0194 Comment streams are the modern day graffiti wall.
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CONTENT CONTENT EDITORIAL .................................................................................... 3 PICTURES TO THE EDITOR .......................................................... 4 RECOMMENDATIONS................................................................... 16 Music and other media recommended by Charli XCX, Heatsick, Stuart Argabright, Daniel Jones, Alec Empire et al.; featuring new releases by Diedrich Diederichsen & Anselm Franke, Julia Holter, Violetshaped, Primal Scream, Major Lazer, Native Instruments and more ¥C$ How Steffi spends 100 EURO ................................................... 26 ABC The alphabet according to Hank Shocklee ................................ 28 MR. STYLE ICON Theo Hutchcraft of Hurts on Jeremy Irons ........... 32 COUNTING WITH . . . Little Boots................................................. 34
“I believe in free love” Lisa Blanning meets LANA DEL REY ............................................... 38 “The circle will be complete” Max Dax talks to MARK ERNESTUS ............................................... 46 “And then there was an uncomfortable silence” Max Dax interviews TRICKY ........................................................... 58
“We haven’t noticed that we are as gods” HANS ULRICH OBRIST in conversation with STEWART BRAND .... 66 “We were abusing our equipment” KATIE STELMANIS of Austra chats with Mount Kimbie’s KAI CAMPOS......................................................... 74 “It felt like you could fall from the edge of the earth” MORITZ VON OSWALD talks to JUAN ATKINS.............................. 78 A Week in the Life: Montenegro........................................................ 86 NEU: Internet Bangers ................................................................... 98
Three of our featured contributors: Stewart Brand
(* 1938) is an American activist, founder of the Whole Earth Catalog and president of The Long Now Foundation. An ardent and controversial ecopragmatist, Brand is featured in this issue in conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist. Photo: Ryan Phelan.
(* 1985) is the classically trained lead singer of Torontobased electro-goth band Austra. In this issue she talks to Mount Kimbie’s Kai Campos about dealing with hype and the expectations surrounding second albums. Photo: Hans Martin Sewcz
(* 1958) is a producer and founding member of the Bomb Squad, best known for their work with seminal hip hop group Public Enemy. In this issue, Shocklee explicates the musical terms closest to his career, from A to Z. Photo: Miguel Villalobos
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“Cumming together, seperately” Heatsick on The Whole Earth: California and the Disappearance of the Outside
Heatsick, aka Steven Warwick, is a British musician and visual artist based in Berlin. His work encompasses technology, hybridization, performance, sculpture and film. In the last issue of Electronic Beats he recommended Autechre’s Exai.
Opposite Page: Whole Earth Catalog, Fall 1969, 2nd Printing, January 1970, Menlo Park, California. Detail from this issue also featured on page 18. Read Hans Ulrich Obrist’s conversation with Stewart Brand on page 66.
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The current Whole Earth exhibition in Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt and its accompanying catalogue is a massive curatorial and conceptual undertaking, telling the story of how hippie liberetarianism provided foundation of neoliberalism as we know it today. It’s a complex and multifaceted narrative put together by criticcurators Diedrich Diederichsen and Anselm Franke, and one which is wide open to numerous interpretations. This is mine. Let’s start from the beginning: The Whole Earth Catalog was initiated by Stewart Brand, a man who seemed to always be in the right place at the right time. Prefiguring the Internet, Brand’s catalogue was launched in 1968 as a visualization of the cybernetic systems reconfiguring the collective mindset. It offered tools, tips and products for those interested in recreational drug use, developing the communal living ideas of Buckminster Fuller, or individual self-realization. The “Californian Ideology,” as it came to be known, roughly views the body/mind as a computer that can be re-adapted and re-booted via organic food, yoga, global consciousness and expanding upon lifestyle ideals that had emerged from the late fifties onwards. This is the exhibition’s conceptual starting point and an extremely important one at that—especially in light of the often flattering valuation of America’s countercultural past, both within the art world and the context of cultural history. Brand’s catalogue, emblazoned with the NASA image of the Earth as seen from space, invited humanity to view the world as a unified global network, relying upon ever increasing interconnectivity and
self-regulation via feedback systems. After World War II, cyberneticians such as Norbert Wiener searched for similiarities in nature and in human cognitive processes, suggesting a connection between all things following a program. The modeling of various processes was then fed into computers for data collection to forecast trends and to analyze data. Humans were machines, and, in a sense, we’re all one collective organism bound by networks which could be controlled and regulated by a technocratic society. Interestingly, shortly following the appearance of Whole Earth, the gold standard was abandoned by the U.S. government, exposing currency and market value as purely speculative and the Chicago School of neoliberal economic policy began to emerge. This supported an economic, sociological, ethical and cultural vision where politics disappeared from society, replaced by self-made men and women eating organic food, exercising regularly and operating within a powerful market economy. Communes were founded, people were encouraged to get in touch with their emotions and to be one with nature. Anti-psychologists such as R. D. Laing or the Vienna Actionists demanded people scream away societal constraints, while Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters suggested a cognitive reprogramming of the senses via LSD. It’s no surprise that Whole Earth was beloved and quoted from by Steve Jobs, and Taoism would become part of the neoliberal furniture. After all, flexibility encourages precarity and interconnectivity begets surveillance. Facebook and other social networking sites were predicted as far back as 1985, in
which data collectors would forecast a time when citizens would willingly submit data about themselves in order to seem to be participating conceptually in, well, the whole earth. This strand of thought, particularly well depicted in the exhibition, reminded me of an anecdote by philosopher Slavoj Zizek about the annual “Masturbate-a-thon” in San Francisco, in which he describes masturbating together as the “Californian Ideology” stripped bare: people supposedly share an experience, but in reality they just assert their own selfish goals with no regard to the person in front of them. They’re cumming together, seperately—if only not to feel alone in their solipsism. Diederichsen and Franke convincingly argue that Brand and company never really stood in opposition to capitalism, despite all their talk of counter-culture. Instead, as the exhibition and catalogue show, Brand honed a form of libertarianism that would seemlessly integrate itself into capitalism as technocratic doctrine. This view was compounded by a recent Guardian feature on the Whole Earth and Stewart Brand. I was alarmed by the utter lack of political discussion, which struck me as a rather false view of liberation. And to what end? The far more critical Whole Earth exhibit serves an important function in exposing the various strands of “California Ideology” by parsing out what they spawned—humorously summed up by the inclusion of a scene from 1984’s The Karate Kid, in which Ralph Macchio learns to enter Zen-like contemplation whilst carrying out the most mundane domestic tasks for his teacher. ~
“Today, all music is hybrid music” Charli XCX recommends Major Lazer’s Free the Universe
Charlotte Aitchison, aka Charli XCX, is an English producersinger-songwriter known for her dark, well-crafted pop sensibility. She has collaborated with the likes of Gold Panda, Ariel Rechtshaid and veteran hitmaker Todd Rundgren. Her debut album, True Romance, was released this past April on IAMSOUND. 18 EB 2/2013
I first became aware of Major Lazer when someone gave me a copy of their debut Guns Don’t Kill People . . . Lazers Do upon which I promptly skipped to the track called “Keep It Goin’ Louder” featuring Nina Sky; I’m a big fan of Nina and when I heard it I thought “Okay, this is good.” I quickly fell in love with Major Lazer’s energy, which they’ve maintained on Free the Universe, and when I saw them at South by Southwest earlier this year I, like everyone, loved “Get Free”. For me however, I’ve always felt that I somehow had a connection with Major Lazer through my friend and co-writer Ariel Rechtshaid, who is a key component of the Major Lazer project. Plus he’s collaborated with Diplo on
Usher’s “Climax” and all the Snoop Lion material. Ariel’s my main collaborator on True Romance, but we met four years ago when I went out to L.A. on a writing trip at age sixteen which turned out to be really unsuccessful. I attempted to run away from the record label and tried to get to L.A. It was like an Avril Lavigne video or something, I was just running down the road— really dramatic! I never made it, it turned out L.A. was miles away, but a couple of hours before I was due to go to the airport I was introduced to Ariel, and we just clicked. In that short time we actually wrote the song “Stay Away”, which became the first track I ever released. So, in a weird way I feel as if I’m a part of Major Lazer’s
extended family. Perhaps this isn’t so unusual in the twenty-first century, as I feel like every artist has a link with every other artist nowadays because we exist in this post-Internet environment. There’s an interconnectedness between artists now, or at the very least our cyber personalities on Twitter. Of course, the Internet has changed how we experience and accumulate music and one of the things that I really admire about Major Lazer, and Diplo in particular, is the fact that he was making this kind of pan-global soundclash just before Internet 2.0 really took off. They preceded the post-genre explosion. I’m an Internet native; I came up through performing at warehouse raves
in the post-genre age, and I feel that in Diplo you can almost pinpoint the moment it all took off. This is partly because Diplo has a great ear: listen back to the early M.I.A. stuff like Piracy Funds Terrorism and it sounds crazy. Naturally you can detect some of that craziness in this record that featured artist choices inspired throughout. “Jessica” is one of the best songs here, and it’s really odd hearing Ezra Koenig singing “badman”, but somehow it kind of works. Likewise the opening track “You’re No Good” features Santigold, Yasmin, Vybz Kartel and Danielle Haim, who I love. I’m
a fan of Kartel but when I go out to DJ “Clarks” I have a moment where I’m like “Am I going to do this? I’m, like, really white . . . ” But I believe music is meant to be a universal thing. Sometimes it can be problematic, and context is important when channeling global musics, but I can’t help feeling there’s no such thing as genre anymore. Artists can be like, “I make electronic pop fucking darkwave synthbeat whatever.” Today, all music is hybrid music. This is a particularly interesting topic for me because I want to record my second album in India. My family are Ugandan Asians,
and their heritage is from India and I recently began listening to a load of Gujurati folk music that my Nan often plays. It’s really beautiful and I’ve began researching it alongside other Indian genres such as Bollywood which my Nan also introduced me to, alongside super dramatic Indian soaps. I want to speak to Ariel about it. After all they did the whole Snoop Lion Reincarnated album in Jamaica and that must have had a huge impact: Perhaps making my record in India is going to make it sound more authentic, but I don’t know. What does that word even mean in 2013? ~
“Lyrics such as ‘Drink some blood’ arise unexpectedly from lips that moments before were crooning like Enya” Daniel Jones recommends Julia Holter’s Loud City Song Since 2011’s Tragedy, Julia Holter has proven her capacity to take our breath away. That was an album for contemplation and for solitude, but as talented as Holter is, no vast masses stormed the record shops to buy up ten-minute cello epics based on the works of Euripides. 2012’s Ekstasis was different. The sense of ritualism was still firmly embedded in the music, as was the methodical intelligence. However, here the hand of the Pop Gods are at work as well—a divine touch that tingled the inner cortex lining labeled RELISTENABILITY. As much as it evoked the dusty and celebrated scents of known cerebral popologists—e.g your Laurie Andersons and Brian Enos—it also felt timeless. Ekstasis’ ascendant sounds could become earworms as well as thesis-worthy aural sculptures. Often, it feels like new music
these days is firmly rooted in the now, with the producer as artist. It’s music that strives, or occasionally effortlessly transcends, categorization. Not that we need any more writers making up new names for micro-genres—music journalism is already enough of a plague on music. In contrast, Loud City Song defies the URL/ ADD-thrusted idealism of postgenre, celebrating the established in a thoroughly cohesive fashion. Holter skips playfully, yet masterfully, through eras of influence, with individual songs often metamorphosing through several time and instrumentation changes in a way subtle enough to only be noticeable after the fact: upright bass is jazzily plunked before shifting into slightly sinister violins and layers of bluesy piano; classical arrangements meld with suggestions of psychedelic rock and yé-yé
while the ethereal and the tribal weave spells in the background. While Ekstasis literally means “standing outside yourself”, Loud City Song has Holter doing just the opposite. She digs deep into the pits of her own emotion and to the core of something id-like. Gone is any trace of vocoded transhumanism. Instead, the vocals are allowed to play an equal, if not occasionally greater role than the instrumentation. Which is not to say that any of the tracks have lost their sense of the epic. The ice-queen inflections of “Horns Surrounding Me” sits imperiously between Nico and Siouxsie Sioux, with blasts of saxophone and vinyl popping leading up to an explosive chorus that shatters into solemnly birthed organ bursts. “Maxim’s II” starts and stops with false builds and lurking whispers. A lightly tapped xylophone and ambient, sampled conversations create an
Opposite page: A slice of the broader musical omniverse in the late sixties, connecting Miles Davis’ In a Silent Way, field recording equipment, an early Moog synthesizer, Rolling Stone magazine, Mick Jagger and a book on jazz improv. The referential nexus is tied together by a mise en abyme, reflecting Whole Earth’s fascination with self-contained systems. (Fall 1969) Julia Holter has yet to make a final decision regarding Loud City Song’s cover art, but for sure it will be out on Domino.
Daniel Jones is a music promoter and creator of the subculture reconceptualization tumblr formerly known as Gucci Goth, now Black Black Gold. Since 2011, he’s also been a staff writer and editor for electronicbeats.net. In the last issue, he recommended the New EBM . . . or did he?
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atmosphere of quivering tensions. Lyrics such as “Whispers awakening the beast in me” and “Drink some blood” arise unexpectedly from lips that moments before were crooning like Enya. Tragedy and Ekstasis both had a sense of something greater at work. That’s what made them stand apart. Loud City Song contrasts that, which is also its strength. It’s misleading and prob-
ably somewhat disrespectful to say that the tracks here feel more like “songs” than “pieces” to me. But, well, they do. There’s enough traditional structure in these songs to keep pace, and for the most part it’s easy to sing along with the lyrics. But the album’s catchiness is still sufficiently weird enough to push all the right buttons. It’s not immediately apparent whether this album is meant to “fit in” with
her previous two. It almost feels as though Holter, venerated in increasingly larger circles, wants to re-introduce herself to us from a different angle. “Hello, stranger,” she sings. “It seems so good to see you back again. How long has it been?” It’s a difficult question to answer because in its intimacy, complexity and ability to surprise, Loud City Song feels like meeting her for the very first time. ~
Opposite page: The back cover of the Last Whole Earth Catalog (V), Revised and Updated, May 1973, Menlo Park, California. Detail from this issue featured on page 25.
“An idea that has come to mean more and more to DJs these days: size matters and the smaller the better” Max Dax on Native Instruments’ Traktor DJ app for iPhone I’ve DJ’d all my life, but it took me a long time to find out how. In 1988 I was asked by my then boss and club manager Ingrid Lockowandt to perform my first DJ set in an acid house club called The Base in my hometown Kiel on the Baltic Sea. I was eighteen years old and something of a consultant to her on musical trends. Ingrid thought I knew what young people like me would be up to. She also thought that rookies should be thrown into the deep end to learn how to survive. I was proud as hell to be invited to DJ, and marched over to The Base with sixteen records, among them the brilliant brand-new double vinyl Techno! The New Dance Sound of Detroit. Needless to say, at the time I thought that all it took to DJ was to be armed with great music. Obviously, I was incredibly naive. It was in that live context, failing in front of a party-hungry crowd that I experienced just how much records don’t match automatically. The debut was a disaster, and I almost died of shame. But this didn’t prevent me from try-
ing it again and again and again. Of course, those were different times. CDs were rare; Laptops, MP3s and iPads were still science fiction. There was even a healthy majority who thought that music made by or with machines couldn’t compete with the handmade. I also only partially understood DJs who stuck to functional dance music just to please a crowd or show off their craftsmanship. To this day, I get wary when I experience DJs sets where it’s all played safe. When Einstürzende Neubauten asked me to DJ at their twentyfifth anniversary party in 2005 at Columbiahalle in Berlin, I played tunes by Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Public Enemy, Primal Scream and N.W.A.— music of all genres that was held together not by matching beats but by musical virtue. It was great to see Bobby Gillespie, who was a guest at the party, dancing to his very own “Swastika Eyes”. And it was even greater being invited the same night by Berlin actor Ben Becker to become resident selector in his
Bond-like nightclub Trompete. It was there during a two-year stint that I would play long, monotonous instrumental pieces by The Cinematic Orchestra while Becker would recite selfpenned love poems to former RAF terrorist Ulrike Meinhof. Don’t get me wrong—I admire DJs who can mix. And, in a way, I had made peace with my own inability to develop any mixing skills. But maybe it was too early, because now DJing has changed and the barriers have come down between the records, the DJ, and the audience. Appropriately, on May 1, Native Instruments released the Traktor DJ iPhone app, forcing DJs both professional and occasional to recalibrate their sense of what’s possible. The app display is set up for two tracks, each represented as sound waves. Neither technically nor visually does the interface attempt to emulate a typical turntable or CD player set-up, but it is capable of synchronizing every tune, with an algorithm that suggests matching tracks while you mix in real time. Suffice to say, this is not entirely a paradigm
Max Dax is editorin-chief of Electronic Beats Magazine and electronicbeats.net
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Above: A match made in BPM heaven, according to the Traktor DJ iPhone app. Until The Monks/Daphni collab finally happens (rumored to be in the works), you’ll have to get high on your own supply.
shift—that came with Ableton Live, which was the first software widely available that no longer required much skill to mix, create loops or use effects. However, Traktor for iPhone underscores an idea that has come to mean more and more to DJs these days: size matters and the smaller the better. Of course, it’s mattered since the advent of CDs and even more with laptops, MP3s and iPads. Naturally, like most brave technological voyages into uncharted territory, the app is not without its idiosyncrasies.
Due to the fact that the iPhone only has one audio output, you can’t pre-listen to a track with your headphones. Everything you do will be heard, which means that you better know the tracks you’re going to mix. But then again, it makes trial and error a playful component, as any mistakes are at least assured not to be out of synch—something I greatly appreciated when I was invited to DJ in support of Tricky for his recent gig at Berlin’s Berghain. I put together a kind of improvisational
instrumental loop of Prince’s “Sign ‘O’ the Times”, combining it with the bassline of Alva Noto’s “Uni Asymmetric Noises”. It felt absurd to mix without headphones, like some kind of technological phantom pain. I missed clamping the headphones to my ear. In fact, I briefly felt tempted to pretend to use some, but the feeling passed. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Traktor DJ app spawns a legion of new DJs whose lack of skill will no longer prevent them from performing in public. And while you’re wondering whether this will be a blessing or a curse, consider the potential for individual music libraries to not only surface but also intertwine more than ever before—thanks in part to an algorithm that suggests tracks on basis of their BPM as opposed to genre. My recent experiments mixing Daphni’s “Ye Ye” with The Monks’ “Monk Time” worked surprisingly well. ~
“Sometimes it isn’t the new idea that’s important, but rather defending the right idea” Alec Empire on More Light by Primal Scream
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I’ve been into Primal Scream since the very beginning and by extension always had an interest in the scene that gave birth to them. Manchester’s rich dance music history appears, to the outsider like me, one of inclusion and coming together—a kind of sixties psychedelic resurgence, both musically and ideologically. That statement may surprise some people as I’m often aligned with a kind of punk culture that’s quite removed from hippie ideals. However, I consider the sixties—one of Primal Scream’s major touchstones—to
be one of the most creative eras in rock music. That was the birth of radical new ideas about how we could live as a society. It was when the word “freedom” became incredibly important. Of course, lots of artists nowadays blindly pray to the sixties, mimicking the musical language, but discarding what made the music so powerful: the political charge. In contrast, More Light is a political record, and Primal Scream are probably the first band of that prominence after 2011—the year of hacker activism
and Occupy—to properly channel that sense of rage into their album. When Bobby Gillespie sings about “soldier boys dying in war” on the opening track “2013”, it feels vital at a time when apathy reigns. You might see similarities between the lyrics of Primal Scream and Atari Teenage Riot, not surprising perhaps as my band has remained closely aligned with political activism. In fact I firmly maintain that it’s always the right time to address political topics through music. A cynic would ask, “Why aren’t the younger gen-
INTERNATIONAL MUSIC FESTIVAL
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EFTERKLANG / DJ KOZE / AUFGANG / APPARAT WE WERE PROMISED JETPACKS / GENTLEMAN LUKAS GRAHAM / SIZARR / RETRO STEFSON WHEN SAINTS GO MACHINE / DENA / NINA KRAVIZ PACHANGA BOYS / COMA / MATIAS AGUAYO … TICKETVORVERKAUF UNTER WWW.C-O-POP.DE Förderer
Alec Empire is a founding member of the Berlin-based digital hardcore band Atari Teenage Riot. He currently runs two labels, Digital Hardcore Recordings (established in 1994) and the more recent Eat Your Heart Out. Aside from being a prolific solo artist, he is also an avid remixer and DJ. In the Fall 2012 issue of Electronic Beats he recommended Adrian Sherwood’s Survival & Resistance.
erations of musicians expressing these feelings? Why is it always the older bands?” Well, I can tell you: it’s because espousing political views would jeopardize their chance of landing a record deal. Some people might be tempted to write off the unspooling grooves and psychedelic passages in tracks like “2013” and “Relativity” as hippie garbage, but I especially hear the influence of Alice Coltrane on More Light. To those who only believe in the three-minute pop song, the breakdown of “River of Pain”, with its symphonic swells and free jazz flourishes, might appear selfindulgent, pointless. That track is probably my personal highlight, because it captures a kind of epic atmosphere which is exactly what I’m into. Importantly, it’s also the sort of track you can’t make
if you cater to the kind of person who decides whether or not to click away in a track’s first three seconds. Of course then you’re not dealing with a listener anymore; you’re dealing with someone who should be kept far away from music. More Light is an antidote to lazy listening, with Primal Scream having reimagined the trope that we’ve seen so often in films about drugs, where the character has swallowed the pill and melts into this euphoric, disassociated state, recreated through layers of sonics. It’s something My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain do really well too, and I never grow tired of it. Is More Light a retro album? No. For me Primal Scream have never been about merely retreading old ground or old sounds. It sounds modern to me, maybe
because people like Steve Jobs and other architects of twenty-first century technology had a great affinity for the sixties, too: LSD, meditation, spiritual experiments. I believe there’s a connection between technological progress, spiritualism and freedom. When I listen to More Light I feel like I want to start moving, not in the sense of dancing, but in the sense of riding a motorbike or being in the back of a tour bus after having played an intense show. Besides, sometimes it isn’t the new idea that’s important, but rather defending the right idea. The past decade of war and terror has not brought any positive change. More Light goes back to a time when people held peace up as the highest goal, even though Primal Scream most likely still hate hippies. ~
“Evocative of giant walls, hulking beams and barriers both oppressing and disintegrating as we outlive them” Stuart Argabright recommends Violetshaped’s self-titled LP
Stuart Argabright is a New York-based musician and founding member of Factory Records’ no-wave futurists Ike Yard. A compilation of his cyberpunk inspired avant-techno project Black Rain, Now I’m Just A Number: Soundtracks 19941995, was rereleased on Blackest Ever Black in 2012.
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It was last fall when I first met Nino, perhaps better known as Violet Poison and one half of Violetshaped along with partner Shapednoise. After a gig with my band Black Rain in Vienna—a pleasant city with its coffee shops and faint air of decadence—I caught the train to Poland. Along the way I had to move from the smart Austrian train to the regular Polish service, and the first guy I saw board during the switch looked like someone had punched him in the face something awful. It was in this bizarre and not unthreatening context that Nino and I met. We ended up playing the same venue that night in a bitingly cold train station.
The whole show was improvised because the city government told the promoter that while we could play there, there wouldn’t be any power. Despite this rather large setback, we figured out a generator and somehow the audience stayed, I imagine because they knew my old band Ike Yard. Plus, Shapednoise did a really great set. The next morning it was snowing and we all ended up taking the train to Berlin together. Since then I’ve remained in touch with Nino and followed his output closely. Violetshaped is, for me, an album of truly forward-facing music. What I especially appreciate about the project lies within the historical context of elec-
tronic music. For so many years we’ve used drum machines to measure precise time. However, Violetshaped, and kindred artists like Vatican Shadow, have moved further into what you might call “anti-beat”. It’s just an oscillation, a pattern. My own band has experimented with this mode too—using a beat but avoiding the rote kick-snare-kick-snare spine to create more of a mood than a foundation. It’s a variant of twenty-first century tech-informed industrial, and the Violetshaped sound is particularly evocative of giant walls, hulking beams and barriers both oppressing and disintegrating as we outlive them. A track like “The Lord Won’t
Forget”, where the beat seems to shiver in front and inside you, is violent, bloody, in your face, and, above all, modern. The same can be said of “Delusory Parasitosis”, which slowly increases in volume before the machine beat hooks into in a larger, complex rhythmic system. The effect is one of racing through mud and debris and it’s a relief for me to hear an alternative to the average 4/4 fare, as I’ve been waiting for music to get beyond that old formula. In the past, people deified straightforward house and techno beats to the point where a new genre was born if the hi-hat moved the slightest bit. But the world is changing and with Violetshaped a new wave is forming. I believe that the best industrial music now reflects how our tired systems, built long ago, are crumbling. This is a kind of punk spirit for a desynchronized
age. Violetshaped also belong to a lineage of a certain kind of specifically American industrial music. Having lived in New York since 1978, I’d say that Throbbing Gristle had a limited impact in America. Instead we had Z’EV, who was one of the original guys to play metal-based percussive sounds. Then there was Survival Research Laboratories on the West Coast staging interactions between robots and machines that destroyed each other as a form of social commentary. RE/Search Magazine even published its own Industrial Culture Handbook. America certainly had a landscape of its own, perhaps built more on real machines and blood as opposed to the intellectual idea of industrial music. It touches on the twistedness of the expansive Californian and Midwest landscapes, which have since become staple horror movie settings. Of
course, British intellectualism was combined with the bleak reality of factories and industrial towns, or the harsh streets of London. Different places, different sounds. Nowadays, there are quite a few groups doing the retro synth revival, and while I can enjoy and relate to that sound, there’s little tangible relevance to the now. If replicating old sounds is fun for them, that’s great, but I don’t think by making music that looks back you can ever move forward. Personally, I like the feel of the wind in my face, the sense that things are changing and, after all, music should reflect this. Of course, throughout the decades there have always been just a few true innovators. Nino and Violetshaped seem to be fulfilling that very role here. Striving forward, they seem to be hungry. And they should be, because the waves are falling close and quick. ~
Above: Whole Earth was rife with bionic insights relating to design and engineering, like the connection between the McDonnel F-101A Voodoo supersonic jet fighter and the Ganges River shark. (May 1973)
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How Steffi spends 100
Record: € 9.99 Incunabula by Autechre. Clone Records, Mauritsweg 60, 3012 JX Rotterdam, The Netherlands, clone.nl
Dutch-born DJ and producer Steffi has been a resident of Berlin’s Panorama Bar for the past six years, gaining a cult following for her ability to connect the dots between classic house and contemporary techno. In between running two record labels (Klakson and Dolly) and banging out mind-altering Sunday sets, she recently mixed Panorama Bar 05. We gave her 100 euros and this is what she bought. Photo: Lisa Swarna Khanna. 26 EB 2/2013
Autechre’s first LP for Warp is one I’ve bought countless times because I have a habit of giving it away to friends. If somebody is at my place and we’re talking about music and they tell me they haven’t heard Incunabula, I go straight to my collection and pull out a copy for them. This is a record that changed my life and by far had the biggest influence on me as a DJ. I must have done this at least ten times in the last two years, as giving it away is the only way I know they’re going to listen to it. I practically force the record onto
people now, it’s that important to me. Autechre’s later work has lacked the song structure and the sense of melancholy that I’m so drawn to on Incunabula—though I always say it must be impossible to write an album with the same intensity twenty years later with this debut. It’s an absolutely perfect electronic music album. Period. Tickets for a gig: It’s Bigger Than event. €75 donation. itsbiggerthan.org
It’s Bigger Than is a Berlin-based collective that throws parties with high profile DJs to raise money for various causes— focused currently on Mercy Corps emergency response support for Syrian families who’ve fled the country because of the civil war.
This kind of event is crucial in an atmosphere of over-commercialization—something that has contributed to a new generation having little connection to the notion of charity. In the eighties it was a bigger topic, with Live Aid and similar large-scale events, but now we feel less connected to what’s going on outside our own lives, even if we’re more connected with what’s going on around the world. Berlin is the place people come to escape: to spend money in clubs and experience the liberty of the city. Why not introduce some social awareness too—beyond our first-world fulfillment?
€15 per group lesson. songuel.com
I’ve had health problems in the past because of all the traveling I do and I actually slipped a disc from carrying my vinyl. It was so bad that I thought I’d have to switch to digital, which was something I wanted to avoid. But luckily I found a Pilates school that really helped me. It’s tempting to spend your money on objects, clothing, and random stuff while forgetting to do something at least once a week that involves your mind and body—something that makes you both feel good and healthy. Pilates has a lot to do with body awareness, and it’s great for relieving stress. It’s also an excellent way of getting to know your body, which is the only thing we have to carry us through life. ~
The alphabet according to Hank Shocklee
as in AMERICAN GANGSTER: I created the source music for this period piece film that allowed director Ridley Scott to blend it seamlessly into the original score. It was all about creating a more densely filled listening environment to draw the viewer into.
as in BOMB SQUAD: The production team I created to help me get my sonic vision across and to be the bridge between Chuck D’s lyrics and an audience that wanted a whole new experience from rap music. 28 EB 2/2013
In the late eighties, Public Enemy hit rap like a ton of bricks, making a social and sonic statement as powerful as the other era-defining heavyweight, Iron Mike Tyson. PE’s Harlemborn co-founder Hank Shocklee was the chief mastermind behind the layered production and collage-like sampling that would frame the group’s signature black power missive. The combination raised the bar for both rap’s musicality and its potential as a vehicle of protest. Today, Shocklee’s production work— e.g. with Ninja Tune newcomer Emika— attests to a continued path of exploration, albeit one less militant. Here’s what’s in his vocabulary. Opposite page: Hank Shocklee, photographed by Miguel Villalobos in New York City.
as in CHUCK D: The vehicle to express my social and political views and to help foster more conversation about questions that were on all of our minds but did not have the means or the channel to be heard.
as in DO THE RIGHT THING: This film gave me the chance to change Spike Lee’s idea of having PE make a hip-hop version of “Lift Every Voice And Sing” produced by Terence Blanchard.
as in EMIKA: The 2013 version of Public Enemy and the BOMB SQUAD from a female’s perspective. Also the most talented female producer in the world.
as in FLAVOR FLAV: Needed to put him in the group to prove to the world that a great, powerful and innocent spirit can trump all creativity and talent in our universe.
as in THE GOSPEL: We are put here in this dimension to correct the phase alignment when our universe gets out of sync. This is why we have a duty to vibrate at a higher frequency and help those who cannot reach our level of understanding. Love is the message. Hank Shocklee has more friends in the Nation of Islam than you.
as in IT TAKES A NATION OF MILLIONS TO HOLD US BACK: I fought long and hard with Def Jam over that title, as opposed to “Rebel Without a Pause”. “It Takes a Nation of Millions . . .” was actually a lyric from “My Uzi Weighs a Ton”. I thought at that time we needed to make a statement that would signify the rising of a nation’s consciousness, the underclass movement. Also, the sequel to the critically acclaimed first album Yo! Bum Rush the Show needed to show all those that didn’t believe in our mission that it was going to take more than non-belief to stop us.
as in JAZZ: America’s first real modern music form. To me jazz represents the state of all things, all energy and all forms. It’s that shapeless being that produces a feeling of excitement inside of us. It pushes us through our mundane life cycle with pizazz and flava. It’s the embryo of creativity. The spark of our very existence. as in HARLEM: The place where I spent most of my weekends in the early seventies growing up and learning a lot of lessons from my older cousins. How to be a warrior for the truth and respect the code of the streets: respect the elders, protect the women, watch over the youths. 212 West 141 Street. as in KANYE WEST: The hardest working producer on the planet. He has worked his way from a ghostwriter to renowned superstar celebrity and entertainer. However, his greatest work is yet to come. Once he gets finished having fun he will get back to his original form in changing the planet for the better. Jesus Walks.
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as in LAYERING SNARE DRUMS: A concept brought to my attention through my friend and production partner at the time, Eric Sadler. It was a mistake that happened when I was always taking samples and playing them together with other samples and there would be a clash of beats. Those clashes would produce a unique sound of their own. Eric took a snare and tried to emulate that process and all the sudden it worked. So it became part of our workflow to create new sounds for kicks and snares. Circa 1985.
as in MINISTER LOUIS FARRAKHAN: Mosque 7B, Corona, Queens. 1974. I went to the temple with my friend Michael Griffin. Yes, Professor Griff’s older brother. We were blessed to receive a radio broadcast of a speech by the minister at the temple. That speech changed my entire frequency. It made me realize my life was not going in the right direction. I needed a change and a vehicle to express those ideas that I knew needed to be broadcasted. The only question was HOW?
as in NEVE MIXING BOARD: My first encounter with the Neve was at Chung King Recording Studio. The engineer Steve Ett was working on a Neve 1073. I worked with him on the first single “Public Enemy Number One” and the Neve is what defined the PE sound. Of course I had to abuse the mixing board a little—push the noise floor up and get the true distortion and bite needed to make me shiver with excitement.
Read more ABC’s at electronicbeats.net
as in RICK RUBIN: He gave me the opportunity and the creative freedom to express my musical ideas and theories without compromise.
as in WEST COAST HIP HOP: All depends on your perspective and geographical location. What is West when you live in the West. The world is hip hop and hip hop is the world.
as in SAMPLING OUT OF KEY: I don’t listen to music! I feel it. I don’t hear keys! I see frequencies.
as in OBAMA, BARACK: Our first Black president. Yes, there are always going to be flaws in being the first, but my faith is strong enough to know that he will turn things around once it settles in that he is the leader of our future. We are at the tipping point. We can choose people or material.
as in PROFESSOR GRIFF: This would take a book to answer. All I can say is great ideas come with great solutions, not statements.
as in QUEER HIP HOP: Queer hip hop? Really? What about good hip hop or bad hip hop?
as in TRAP: How appropriate of a genre to be named trap. I just want to be free.
as in the UGLY TRUTH: I know very little about anything and a lot about everything.
as in VIRAL HYPE: Perception is reality. No, perception is perception. Reality is reality. Even a fool can tell the difference.
as in MALCOLM X: The greatest teacher we had about growing up black in America. All praise due. I asked Spike when was he doing a part two. He looked puzzled and shook his head. I rephrased the question by saying the first one was mainly on Malcolm Little. I would like to see him do Malcolm X. He didn’t get me.
as in YO! MTV RAPS: Peace to Ted Demme, Doctor Dré and Ed Lover.
as in ZERO: The greatest symbol in our known universe. The beginning and the end; the end that brings about the beginning. The eternal loop. ~ EB 2/2013 31
THEO HUTCHCRAFT OF HURTS ON JEREMY IRONS
Mr. Style Icon
Someone once told me that the films you like as a kid and the stars that you idolize become what you subconsciously emulate through your style later in life. I discussed with a group of my friends the other day this very idea, and it was telling, to say the least. When I was about eight, it was undoubtedly Kiefer Sutherland as the older brother in Stand By Me who influenced me. I would even comb my hair to be just like him. But as I’ve grown older, there’s somebody else who has exerted an even greater hold on me, someone who I only realized was cool a few years ago: Jeremy Irons. I found this really great, stark black and white picture of him the other day wearing a monocle and a polo neck by the photographer Michel Comte in an Interview Magazine from 1990. It’s such a brilliant fucking photo—I’d argue that it’s one of the coolest, well, of all time. There’s another photograph that I really like where he’s wearing a suit matched with a pair of Nike trainers. Tell me, who else would dare to do that? When I look at these kind of pictures of him I can’t help but imagine what being Jeremy Irons is actually like; It’s something about his demeanor that suggests a romantic back story that I want to rifle through. Of course, he’s this established 32 EB 2/2013
As they’ve raced through pop puberty and grown from boys to men, severe haircut heartthrobs Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson continue to prevent any disassociation of their style from their music, as evidenced by the release of the vaguely poperatic Exile (Major Label). Here, native Mancunian Hutchcraft discusses his style icon, another man with great hair and a penchant for dark roles: Jeremy Irons. Armed with little factual information about the actor himself, Hutchcraft offers tableau-rich speculation about Irons’ life as based on the actor’s various on-screen identities. Opposite page: Jeremy Irons plays identical twin gynecologists in David Cronenberg’s classic Dead Ringers from 1988. Image courtesy of Concorde Home Entertainment.
Hollywood star so he probably has a beautiful house and a nice car. But it’s about more than the usual trappings. He looks like he could live in some sort of house in Paris or somewhere in rural France with a vineyard. Or else he looks like you might see him on a yacht or a small canal boat tending to the flowers on the roof. Why? Why do I think that about him? It’s weird, because I actually know essentially nothing about the details of his private life. But that doesn’t stop me. I can’t help it—his style tells a story that seems to tacitly suggest that he’s in the middle of doing something much more interesting than you could ever be doing. Recently I’ve come to the conclusion that the key to growing old is to always look old in the first place. And Jeremy Irons has always looked old. Even when he was young he possessed an air of refinement. Just look at him in Brideshead Revisited: he had such gravitas! Or if you watch his performance in David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers, which is my favorite of the films he’s made. Such a creepy stillness in his dual role as twin gynecologists and an incredible departure from his quintessentially English TV past. What a way to gain a rep in Hollywood. But it doesn’t matter what role
he’s playing because he always maintains an air of effortless, chilling cool. He even looks good in Die Hard: With a Vengeance as the baddie. Perhaps it’s those sad eyes, which, for some reason, remind me of a horse’s eyes because they’re so big. They’re certainly great actor’s eyes. I think there’s a big dose of Jeremy Irons in Hurts, or we would very much like there to be. He dresses like I aspire to dress, but you couldn’t emulate Jeremy Irons off the peg. It comes down to that unknowable mystery: what is cool? I think the secret is not to care, and Jeremy Irons acts like he couldn’t care less. It’s like Marlon Brando: he wore the same clothes as everyone else but he seemed like he didn’t give a shit. You’ve got to be comfortable to be able to pull that off, especially if you most definitely do care about how people perceive you. I guess it’s a mindset because you sometimes get cool people who don’t dress very well. But there’s just something about them that draws you into their orbit, like I’m drawn to Irons’. Are Hurts like him? No. But I think we’ve tricked people into believing we are. Put it this way: If I’m like Jeremy Irons when I’m old, I’ll be a very, very happy man. ~
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Victoria Christina Hesketh caught the tail end of the MySpace discovery wave in 2008 with her band Dead Disco before taking giant steps towards becoming solo electro-pop songsmith Little Boots. 2013’s Nocturnes sees the synth-savvy soprano revisiting nineties dance music with futuristic production flourishes.
memorable line in a film or song: “Don’t worry baby, everything will turn out alright.” – The Beach Boys, “Don’t Worry Baby” (1964)
decisions I regret:
– Not trusting myself. – Not buying these Miu Miu shoes earlier.
– My thirteen-year-old self had good fashion sense.
hours ago I was ...
running five miles to road test my new mix. The last fifteen minutes need some work.
seven albums everyone should own:
Daft Punk, Nile Rodgers and Giorgio Moroder. Oh wait, that just happened.
Abba - The Visitors (Polydor, 1981) / Kate Bush - The Kick Inside (EMI, 1978) / David Bowie - Let’s Dance (EMI, 1983) / Madonna – Confessions on a Dance Floor (Warner Bros., 2005) / Giorgio Moroder - From Here to Eternity (Casablanca Records, 1977) / Spice Girls - Spice World (Virgin, 1997) / Barbra Streisand – Guilty (Columbia, 1980)
things I haven’t done yet:
people that should collaborate:
four – – – –
Been to New Zealand. Had a Number One record. Experienced déjà vu. Grown any taller.
I try to stay away from my computer.
five nine things I used to believe:
– Fairies were real. – So was magic. – Cheesecake did not contain actual cheese. – Carrot cake did not contain actual carrots. 34 EB 2/2013
lives . . .
are running low.
I wouldn’t touch it with a -foot pole . . .
Cheese and dubstep. ~
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LISA BLANNING TALKS TO LANA DEL REY
“I believe in free love” Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games” went viral in 2011, bringing international scrutiny to her former life as Lizzy Grant. Whether it was the languid coquettishness, her sultry, wide-ranging contralto, or undefined charisma, Del Rey became the face that launched a thousand think pieces; a lightning rod for feminist critique and the inquest of authenticity. The cover portrait of 2012’s Born to Die echoed Grant Wood’s iconic painting American Gothic, itself an appropriate term for her music. The album’s familiar, somewhat old-fashioned approach to songwriting and the sepia-soaked imagery evoked a sense of nostalgia. But combined with the explicitly modern lyrics and production flourishes—hallmarks of an innocent, bygone era framed in knowing darkness—it created a unique tension, especially apparent in her EP Paradise. That release’s single, “Ride”, and the accompanying video, seemed to encapsulate every argument surrounding Del Rey, portraying her as submissive, promiscuous, a prostitute, and glamorizing guns and senseless rebellion. But peel back the layers and a different, if still post-feminist, story emerges. She may not claim it, but Del Rey understands the power her image has. And she uses it, regardless of public opinion, to further her music—surely the most overlooked element in the talk surrounding her person. Left: Lana Del Rey photographed in Prague. All photos by Robert Carrithers.
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I haven’t talked to an American journalist in, like, forever.
So how important is it to have total control over your image, especially today?
Really? I don’t count, though, because I’m an expatriate.
Me too. I think America is amazing for its landscape and its history. California is beautiful, New York is beautiful, but when you’re a gypsy at heart, it probably suits you to be traveling. You think you’re a gypsy?
I don’t feel that way as much as I used to. I actually don’t feel that way that much anymore, but when I was younger I used to really want to have an unpredictable life where I could feel free and travel anywhere I wanted to, whenever I wanted to. I actually really like California now, although I’ve never lived there before. I like the idea of living in one place now. But you grew up in one place?
It’s important—really important. It’s hard, though. It’s gotten totally taken away from me. I don’t have that much control because things go viral really quickly. I went from having no real fan base or interest to having a lot of really skewed interest and criticism. But for the majority of eight years before that in New York, I sang to the same people in the same bars and had a pretty comfortable experience doing that. That’s not really possible for me anymore, because bloggers are really influential and people are really influenced by reviews and five star critics. And those people are really influenced by images, and what they see quickly. Also, a lot of what’s been written about me is not true: of my family history or my choices or my interests. Actually, I’ve never read anything written about me that was true. It’s been completely crazy. When did you realize that it had gotten out of control?
Yeah, I grew up in Lake Placid, New York until I was fifteen, and then I went to boarding school for three years in Connecticut. Then I moved to the Bronx when I was almost eighteen. First, let’s talk about your style, because you definitely have it. Was there an iconic figure that influenced that?
Like musically? No . . .
More looks-wise? Well, vibe-wise. The funny thing is that my style is something that no one ever asked me about until a couple of years ago. For years it was all music driven. I really loved Nina Simone; Kurt Cobain was my driving influence; I listen to everything Bob Dylan did . . . But in terms of actual style icons, female icons? No. I was impressed with what someone like Karl Lagerfeld built and did and the house that he made, but there was never really a female figure I wanted to emulate. Karl Lagerfeld? That’s really interesting because I never would have associated the look you have with someone like him.
Yeah, I know. But a lot of the reason my look is the way it is is because it’s really easy to put on a sundress every night if I have to perform—or just wear jeans every day and a flannel or something. Stylistically, I love make-up. I love doing my own make-up and stuff, but clothes-wise, I actually didn’t ever really care. Initially the fashion world was more interested in me than the music world, which was strange when I first started singing. Your music and your image often seem inseparable.
Yeah. It is now, but it shouldn’t be. I don’t actually care. But because of the way I look, it looks like I really do care. So that means you do separate the music from . . .
Yeah, because I don’t believe . . . well, I don’t know how to put it. I don’t think it’s appropriate to try and look extremely beautiful. I don’t think it’s a good message or focus. I actually have been writing and singing on the Lower East Side since I was seventeen, but a lot of a person’s history doesn’t really translate.
The first day that anyone ever wrote about me, as soon as I put “Video Games” up. Everything they wrote was fucking crazy. Like about my dad, about me, like having millions of dollars, and all this shit. I was like, “Really? I thought I was supporting everyone!” [laughing] Everything was not true. As soon as the first person wrote about me, the articles became just blatant, allout lies. I consider it slander. If I cared more, I’d kill them. Obviously you will know that in preparation for this interview I read a lot of that stuff.
Yeah, but none of it’s true. Because there does actually seem to be a disconnect between your public image . . .
And who I am? And the private life you talk about.
There is a disconnect, yeah. I spent the last ten years in community service and writing folk songs. I don’t give a fuck about what I look like. Saying I came from billions of dollars is crazy. We never had any money. I feel, as a person who grew up reading about and being inspired by other figures with integrity, to kind of be turned into the antithesis of that is not what I planned. It’s the way it’s going right now, but I deal with it as it comes. Let’s go back to what you said about doing community work. Social work involves working with people that society has forgotten or left behind, or who simply can’t function in normal society. It usually involves reintegration . . .
I’m not a trained social worker. I’ve been sober for ten years, so it was drug and alcohol rehabilitation. It was more traditional twelve-step call stuff. Just people who can’t get it together, me and groups of other people who have been based in New York for a long time working with people who need help and reached out. It was about building communities around sobriety and staying clean and stuff like that. That was my focus since I moved to the Bronx when I was eighteen. I liked music, but I considered it to be
Right: What’s she thinking?
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a luxury. It wasn’t my primary focus: the other stuff was really my life. But no one ever . . . it’s not interesting. No, it’s really interesting. So your social work was based on your own experiences?
Yeah, because I was an addict who got clean. As a teenager?
Yeah. So obviously it must have informed your music.
Yeah, it’s been my main influence, I would say. Well, I watched the video for “Ride”, and I was truly fascinated. To me, it felt so ‘wrong’ on so many levels, but that also made it truly transgressive because mere hedonism or being rebellious is no longer transgressive.
lot of different people come in and out of your life. And it’s really fun to say yes, and it’s really fun to be easy about everything and just let songs come to you and let people come to you. And it is free, in a way. Let’s go back to what you were saying about not necessarily having a message, because American themes and imagery, like the American flag, feature prominently in your videos and your music. Although to my mind, it could be seen as a dark side of America.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love any fucking film or book that wasn’t based around the underbelly of society. I’ve always loved that. But on the other hand, I’m kind of simple in the way that I love the movement of a super-eight flag waving in the wind. The same with the palm trees and that sepia color of the fifties film. Like a lot of my choices had to do with the grade of the film. It was that simple, purely aesthetic. Same with my interest in photographers and things like that. A lot of it is just the look of it. I just like it.
Do you consider yourself patriYeah. Like, I remember it was the San Francisco Chronicle otic? or whatever who wrote this Not anymore. huge thing about me being an anti-feminist. But the thing is, You were still living in America I don’t really have any comwhen Obama took over. Did that mentary on the female’s role change things for you? in society. It was the same with my first song that got The first election? I was happy big, “Video Games”. People for the American people because had criticisms about it being he was a symbol that they needsubmissive and whatever, but ed to feel better. nothing I ever wrote had a message. It was just my own Do you have opinions on healthpersonal experience, and it’s care reform or . . . the same with “Ride”. I believe in free love and that’s just how I have a lot of political opinions. I feel. It’s just my experience of being with different kinds Above: Lana Del Rey doesn’t just wear her mistrust on her sleeve; she has it tatYeah? Let’s hear some of them. of men and being born without tooed on her hand. a preference for a certain type I get a lot of grief for just talkof person. For me, that is my story in finding love in lots of different people, and that’s been ing about my own musical choices. I don’t usually talk about my views these days that much on politics. the second biggest influence in my music. I was taken aback by how affected I was by the “Ride” video, because I felt it was really saying something important, in a sense. Talking about internal darkness, but not only accepting that within yourself, but the line in the monologue where you talk about actually being in a position to explore that—it’s very brave, actually.
Thank you. Well, one thing you learn when you do get sober is that complete surrender is the foundation for all good things to come. And I feel like that idea translated to all aspects of my life. When you have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen to you or what your career’s going to end up like and you’re just really open to anything, then you don’t really have anything to lose. A 42 EB 2/2013
Do you consider yourself to be political?
Yeah, definitely. Shortly, healthcare.
Well, it’s complicated because everything has changed for me. Before I had no money. And now everything I make, I lose. So I don’t have money again, because I lose half. Healthcare reform— that needed to be addressed. I still don’t have health insurance because I haven’t been back to the United States since the time when I couldn’t afford healthcare because it was seven hundred dollars a month.
Okay, let’s talk about feminism. What’s your take on feminism?
To be honest, I don’t really have one. I have a great appreciation for our world’s history. I learn from my own mistakes, I learn from the mistakes we’ve made as a human race. But I think we’ve gotten to a good place as women and we’ll just keep naturally progressing. That’s kind of how I feel about it. Is it true that you left the US because you felt oppressed and unloved by the American media?
[laughing] Well, no one was really asking me for interviews, so there wasn’t really a reason to stay. Musically, I wouldn’t really work there because I wouldn’t know where to sing. I had a million shows lined up here, so that’s kind of why I went. And I didn’t really have any shows there. I mean, I could play on Sunset Strip and stuff. I could go back to New York . . . I’m sure you could line up some shows now. How does moving abroad affect the way you feel about America or being American?
Do you still pay attention to what’s happening with the Church? Like, the new pope?
Yes, I’m aware. I wish him all the best. And what do you think of the Church sex scandals?
It’s hard to see other people’s bad choices ruin the mysticism that can come from inside the walls of a church. It’s unfortunate. I don’t really understand why certain groups of people are drawn to that profession. I was talking to my mom about that. For the latest EP, Paradise, would you say there was a creative change in your approach to songwriting?
I was in a better mood, staying in one place in California. It was kind of a summing-up of the idea of living at the Chateau Marmont—and then I moved out. It was just kind of a closing door. I like that it feels more lush and tropical, and I like that it has more of a Pacific Coast sound at times, like “Gods & Monsters”. Paradise is my favorite record, I love it. Does it have anything to do with working with Rick Rubin?
I think that my love for America has now become contained to the more specific things I appreciate about it. Like driving up the coast from Santa Monica to Santa Barbara—simple stuff like that. In terms of what I maybe thought it stood for, I don’t know. You’ve already said that a lot of the imagery was driven by aesthetic choices, but how did exploring the dark side of America affect the way you explore the theme of Americanism?
That’s a good question. I actually find myself not going back to those themes in my writing in the last thirteen months.
No, I only worked with him for six days, because he only worked on “Ride”. But I worked with the same guys I worked with for Born to Die. I’ve only ever worked with those guys. Emile Haynie, he comes in at the end, and then there’s Rick Nowels and Justin Parker who write the music underneath the songs. I write the words and melody and they write all the chords and music. And then Dan Heath comes in for the string arrangements, after which Emile puts in the beats and soundscaping, like birds and bells. Emile Haynie worked with Eminem and Lil Wayne, right?
So I suppose that’s something we’ll see the result of soon?
Yeah, definitely. I think it’s kind of pushed me back to really early influences. I still love the way I felt when I first found Allen Ginsberg and how much he painted with his words. And he was influenced by the American underbelly, but now, rather than me being influenced by my passion for the country, I just feel good when I listen to Jim Morrison. I feel good when I go back and read some of the Beat poets. But other than that, I don’t feel like, “Rah, rah, America!” Fuck that shit [laughing].
You’ve described yourself in the past as “Lolita lost in the hood.”
What are some of the new themes, you think?
Well, I graduated with a metaphysics degree and I loved philosophy, I’ve kind of gone back to things that made me feel excited about learning maybe six years ago when I was in school. And I have a boyfriend I really like, I write about him a lot. That’s really it. I’d read that you’d studied philosophy. Was there a certain school of thought that really interested you?
Well, I mixed it with my studies in theology, because it was the best school for the Jesuit faith and all of the Jesuits taught philosophy classes. There was just a lot of talk about going back to that basic question: Why do we exist? How did reality come to be? Why do we do what we do? And how not to become the butcher, the baker, the candlestickmaker, the guardians of the middle-class—that really interested me. I don’t know. Yeah, I loved being around people who wondered why we were here.
[laughing] I was fucking around with that journalist. I thought it was funny. But how does the idea of “hood” fit in to what you do?
Well, I lived in the Bronx for four years. I lived in Brooklyn for like four years after that. I always consider myself to have a serious street side, even when I was in high school. I mean, I was pretty crazy. Everyone I knew was really crazy. Why’s that?
It’s just the way it was. Is it because you lived in a small town in upstate New York?
Yeah, probably. It was boring. That town is crazy, too. I was a bad girl, but I’m good now. I guess I have some bad tendencies. I don’t like to do hurtful things, but I am drawn to the wild side. I love riding motorcycles; I love rollercoasters; I do like adrenaline. But I’ve also found true happiness when I was living in New York and working with other people in that way that we’ve talked about. So, I don’t know. But I don’t feel at odds with it. The “hood” thing relates to the underbelly thing, but in your case it kind of comes across as a “white trash” hood in terms of the EB 2/2013 43
image you project, especially in the “Ride” video—though probably not in your real life. But it’s also related to the choices you make and the producers you work with, because they work with rappers, who are artists more likely to be associated with the notion of “hood“.
I did move into a trailer park when I made my first record. I got ten grand from Five Points Records and moved into Manhattan Mobile Home in New Jersey. And I was happy, because I was doing it for myself. There was a white trash element in the way there was a time that I didn’t want to be a part of mainstream society because I thought it was gross. I was trying to carve my own piece of the pie in a creative way that I kind of knew how. And I thought it was cool to be living by myself and working with a famous producer. I was excited about the future at the time. You didn’t want to be a part of mainstream society, mainstream America, which I get. And now?
I have certain people. It’s more like times. Like when I was working with my first producer David Kahne and I was in that mobile home for two years. I was between there and Williamsburg and I had a boyfriend then. It was a very happy time and I reach back to those memories for my writing, so sometimes to people. But I would never tell them or talk to them about it. But I have a distinct version of the way things went. So are you also going to work with the same team for the next record?
Yeah. I thought the sound developed quite a bit from Born to Die to Paradise.
You did? Yeah, I thought Paradise was much better.
And now, still, I’m in my own world. It’s kind of like neither here nor there—musically and socially, and whatever. Me and Barrie [-James O’Neill, her boyfriend from band Kassidy], we don’t have too many friends in music, or people that we know who are kind of doing the same thing. We do our own thing. It’s all about the writing. It used to all be about the service work through the drug and alcohol rehabilitation, which I haven’t worked in in two years now. But it’s always been about the art.
Yeah, I thought it was better, too.
You don’t feel you have a group of people in music who you necessarily connect to—a scene, let’s say, or a group of peers? What you talk about publicly and in interviews—say, listening to the The Doors or Dylan—it all seems “normal”. But I think what you do is not normal, actually.
No. Things have still continued to not be easy, even with the ways that they should have become better. They’re still really hard, which I think has been my theme in life: trudging the road to happiness. Definitely a happy destiny, it’s trudged.
Well, I thought so, too. I thought my tastes and likes were pretty normal, but then I met everyone and I was like, “These people don’t actually care about music and art. They want to be cool.” I never met anyone who cared about music as deeply as me and my boyfriend, or who really cared about poetry— who really lived it and breathed it. I haven’t met anyone so far. I just can’t affiliate with those people. But didn’t you say at one point that you weren’t even interested in putting out another album?
I’m not that interested in putting out another album. But you are working on your follow-up?
There’s a lot of darkness and pathos, I’d say.
Yeah. And that’s not changed, from the sound of what we’re listening to now.
Well, happiness isn’t a static state. It’s an active state. That’s the ancient Greek definition. It’s not a state of rest—it’s a process.
Yeah. For me, there are moments of pure happiness, but you can’t achieve that over a sustained period of time. It’s just you try to make those as many as possible.
Definitely. And I mean, it sounds really strange, but just in general, I have found that devoting your life to the people around you and caring for them is the true road to general happiness. Why is that strange?
Well, I work on music, but I don’t have a time when I would release it or anything. I could play you some stuff. Want to hear it? [Starts playing new tracks from laptop] Yeah, of course. Are you working with your boyfriend on music?
Yeah, some of it. And he’s great. Almost every song on Born to Die is in the second person, the same goes for Paradise. To what extent is it all addressed to the same person?
It depends. It’s just like a general, spiritual collective. The ether.
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Well, I mean, people aren’t going to understand. Trust me. But I’m just saying, in my experience. Well, it does seem kind of sad, it is almost as though you can’t do anything right.
Yeah, oh it is sad. Trust me. It’s not fair. And do you think that’s a feminism thing? Or would you say an anti-woman thing?
[laughs] No, I think it’s an anti-me thing. ~
MAX DAX TALKS TO MARK ERNESTUS
“The circle will be complete” Over the past twenty years, Mark Ernestus has revolutionized electronic music’s relationship to minimalism, drawing on dub’s skeletal structure and sense of spatiality as a foundational musical parameter. While his less-ismore aesthetic was always cross-genre, Ernestus’ focus has recently shifted towards the Senegambian polyrhythms and vocal stylings known as mbalax. His latest release, 800% Ndagga, features a host of musicians surrounding the percussion-centric Dakar-based band Jeri-Jeri, led by griot Bakane Seck. Mark, you’re known as one of the world’s leading innovators of dub and minimal techno, but your latest releases, 800% Ndagga and Ndagga Versions, center exclusively on African mbalax music. Can you describe mbalax and ndagga and the difference between the two?
sound. What these guys were playing was very different from anything I knew. Yet I felt quite at home with it at the same time. Being struck by a sound completely new to you like that; it’s special and it doesn’t happen often. So first thing the next day I had to find out more about it.
Ndagga is a more specific but less common term for mbalax, which is a genre of urban popular music predominant quite specifically in Senegal and Gambia, on the coast of West Africa. It fuses traditional, tribal music—mainly percussion—and more modern elements like electric guitar, bass, keyboard and drum kit. It always features sabar drums, typically played by ensembles recruiting from griot families or clans. The term sabar can refer to the drum in its various shapes and sizes, but also to a dance or a gathering with traditional drumming and sometimes singing.
Was it easy to find mbalax music in Berlin?
Understood. But why did you follow the drum trail in the first place?
I became aware of mbalax for the first time when I played with Tikiman at an open-air festival in Denmark a couple of years ago. Right before our gig, a DJ team from Gambia was playing this exciting music with these unbelievable rhythms for two or three hours. I listened to the whole set and just got hooked. I couldn’t get it out of my head anymore. Of course, my main focus in producing is always the rhythm or groove and the atmosphere or overall
Forget it. Even on the web it seemed like there’s hardly more than a dozen albums, and those of course were more on the commercial end of the spectrum. Actually YouTube was my best source. It’s an important channel for this kind of music, maybe more so than records. The next step was to check the African record shops in Paris’ eighteenth arrondissement, where I found at least a few CDs and cassettes from the search list that I had by the time. But still I totally knew that there’s more where this came from, so to speak. I knew that it’s a big genre that has been around for a few decades, with roots going back hundreds of years. Do you have an explanation for why this centuries-old traditional music sounds so futuristic to our ears?
I guess that’s why I was so fascinated by it. I hear elements in this music that I have always liked in any music, especially in dub and reggae or in electronic music. Actually I always thought if you love techno and you don’t at least appreciate dub or other music that is
Left: Bakane Seck (left) and Mark Ernestus in a borrowed car. Ernestus’s first stop in Senegal was Kaolack, known alternately as the center of the country’s thriving peanut industry, one of the dirtiest cities in Africa, and the hometown of some of the country’s greatest percussionists. Photo: Mbene Diatta Seck. All other photos by Mark Ernestus.
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based on reduction and repetition there’s something wrong. There’s not supposed to be a divide there. I have always been interested in music reduced to its essence. That’s what drew me to dub and then house and techno in the first place. I think house and techno were so liberating in the beginning because it radically focused and relied on the functionality of the rhythm. And even though mbalax is rather dense and in that sense the opposite of being reduced or minimalistic, I feel a strong relatedness between these genres in terms of repetitiveness and the emphasis on groove. Most modern mbalax is actually quite dense and has layers of stuff that I’d rather do without, like lots of brass keyboard, electric guitars playing too melodic for me, vocals with hardly ever a break or extensive bakks. But when I listen to it with a producer’s ear, I can virtually mute those elements and enjoy what’s underneath: complex but smooth polyrhythmic grooves. What are bakks?
I would describe them as basically rhythm breaks or changes that can be quite complex. It is sometimes translated as choreography and it corresponds to dance moves. It’s a science in itself and from what I understand it also relates to the local languages and goes back to the times when drums were used to deliver messages over long distances. That’s why the small drums are called talking drums?
The talking drums—or tamas— take it even further, they get strapped under the arm and squeezed to change the tuning while being played so they can literally almost talk. Anyhow, the bakks are important in the local context; they are like a musical language or code. Sometimes they are just rhythmically brilliant breaks, but if you, like me, don’t understand the code, they can also be difficult to relate to and disrupt the groove.
the Senegalese tradition of oral storytelling and that these storytellers are called griots. They even have this saying: “Whenever a griot dies, it’s like a library burning to the ground.”
So true. For the longest time there was no written history in West Africa and still today the griots are in charge of passing on the traditions and oral history. Abdoulaye Diack once explained it to me like this: when a griot tells you about your grandfather’s grandfather and the heroic deeds of your ancestors, you just get goose bumps all over and you can’t help but handing him banknotes to make sure he goes on and on. On the other hand, if he doesn’t give you goose bumps you can tell him to fuck off. Most of the drummers—like the majority of singers and dancers there—come from long lines of griot families. They were born as drummers, and most of the older ones never went to school. So they see themselves very consciously as conveyors of ancient traditions who at the same time develop it further and that way keep it a living thing. When it comes to production though, I don’t see this idea that you see for example in Jamaica—to use the studio as an instrument, to use it more creatively. In Senegal some productions sound quite good, others don’t. But the studio is just a means to an end. Maybe it’s because live music is considered more important than recorded music, especially when it comes to dance music. So, what happened when you arrived in Dakar?
Well, I have to go back a bit, because I first arrived in Gambia. English is the Above: Tama (talking drum) player Yatma Thiam at home. The pitch of the hourofficial language there, and glass-shaped tama can be regulated to mimic the tone of human speech. I had two phone numbers there, whereas in Senegal I didn’t have any contacts And you can’t expect your audiences to listen to the music with a at all. I also don’t speak French. But just two weeks before my producer’s ear . . . flight, after I had just gotten all my vaccinations against yellow fever, typhus and other diseases, I met a friend of Tikiman, Exactly. You can’t play stuff in a club that even you yourself can Abdoulaye Diack, who has been living in Germany for about only enjoy when you imagine some of the elements weren’t there. I twenty years. So of course I was keen to quiz him about Senegal had this fantasy: what if in mbalax, like in reggae, you had the tra- and mbalax, and I also showed him some of my YouTube favordition of always releasing an instrumental or rhythm only version ites. Turns out he knows half of the people in the videos because along with the straight vocal version. I guess that was my biggest he used to be a dancer and he is from Kaolack. He basically grew hope and the best case scenario going to Senegal initially: not just up with some of the older brothers of Bakane Seck—one of the to dig deeper but potentially making contact with people who own most prolific drummers of Senegal—and he even had his current the rights and have the multitracks of some of my favorite tunes in mobile number at hand. On top of that he had booked a flight to order to do stripped down instrumental mixes. Still I tried not to leave two days before mine, so he insisted that I should not waste have any expectations beyond finding some more CDs or cassettes any time in Gambia, but to come straight to Kaolack where we should take it from there. By the way, Kaolack is supposed to be and getting a bit closer to where this music comes from. one of the dirtiest cities in Africa, plastic waste everywhere. In I once met Youssou N’Dour in the early nineties. He told me about the Ndar Gou Ndaw neighborhood where all the Jeri-Jeri drum48 EB 2/2013
mers come from, there is tap water but the sewage canals along the wide dust roads are open and don’t flow anywhere, at least not in the dry season. I think if you ever fell into one of them you’d wish you had never been born. Besides the grime, what is the city like?
Somewhere I read Kaolack is described as Senegal’s most “sizzling” city, though I’m not sure if it was meant culturally or climatically. It does get really hot there and for some reason a lot of Senegal’s great drummers come from there. When you check it out on Google Earth you’ll see the streets are symmetrically laid out like a chess grid. Most housing blocks are more like compounds: big square properties that are enclosed by cement brick walls or corrugated metal. Within these compounds you always have an inner courtyard where the people work, eat or socialize, that is surrounded by rooms . . . or shacks. So basically you didn’t have any meetings set up in Dakar or Kaolack when you traveled to Senegal in January 2011?
No, but by the time I booked my flight, all I knew was that there was definitely a lot of great music to find. With Diack’s help it became a bigger thing as it was easy to hook up with Bakane and all the others.
How did you actually convince Bakane Seck to record music with you?
As I said before, I had this “utopian” fantasy of finding people who own the rights and possibly multitracks of some of my favorite stuff and to negotiate the possibility to remix and release it here. So I told Bakane about this idea and what my background and my interest were. His immediate response was, “Why so complicated?” The point being: who knows how many people you will have to convince and who knows what they’re going to expect financially because licensing is not a common thing there and people tend to believe anything a toubab—that’s a West African word for white Europeans or visitors—shows interest in is worth a million. As a live and studio musician he suggested to book a studio the next day instead and to record everything just how I wanted it from scratch. This way I would own all the necessary rights and as a result would have total freedom to work with the recordings. But among all the bestcase scenarios I had imagined, setting up a studio session was the one option I had ruled out. I had deemed it simply impossible to achieve on a first twoweek visit. But it obviously did happen. What precipitated that?
Well, the next day Bakane asked me exactly what I wanted and I tried to explain it to him as best as I could. I asked him about specific people I was interested in. Some of I guess, but who could resist them were easy to get a hold given the possibility? I assume of for him, some were even you are also referring to my visfrom his family. Others would its to Detroit in the early ninebe difficult to deal with or ties, which is actually a funny they were not in the country. parallel in some ways. At that Above: Bakane Seck (center) talking with drum makers in downtown Dakar. What He then started making calls time my record store Hard Wax Istanbul is for cymbals, Dakar is for various African percussion instruments. on his three mobile phones had started to import directly and a few hours later came up from labels and distributors in with a budget for three days the US, and I was keen to see the place and meet our contacts of studio recordings including the fees for the musicians. It was there. Then when the Tresor club opened around that time it was not pocket money, but this was an opportunity I couldn’t possia win-win-win situation. They had an interest in DJ and book- bly let pass . . . even though it was exactly what I had ruled out ing contacts, the label came later. We had an interest in label beforehand. However, if I’d had doubts about Bakane’s sincerity and distribution contacts, and the guys in Detroit also were I wouldn’t have done it. I think the same goes for him, vice-versa. interested in both. By the way, my first trip there was almost exactly to the day twenty years before my first trip to Dakar, What exactly would have held you back? and thinking about it I’d say Detroit at that time was not a more likely place to visit than Dakar in 2011. Detroit was almost syn- The sabar drummers and the others work as studio and live musionymous with “murder capital”, but without the urban farming cians on a regular basis. Normally, a producer or manager hires and techno, which was mostly unrecognized within the city and them. It was important for me for it to be clear that this was not just happening underground. And from a 1991 perspective— a case of a toubab passing through with some money to spend on it’s funny to even mention this today—this was ages before we some recordings. I didn’t want anyone to have the attitude: whathad email or even mobile phones. Calling or faxing to the US ever that guy wants—as long as we get paid. But this wasn’t the clocked in at 3.96 deutschmarks per minute. This is burnt into case at all. Every single one of them was serious and could relate to my comments and suggestions to reduce the bakks, to play the my memory. You seem to like adventures. You don’t hesitate traveling to far-flung places to come closer to the music.
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keyboards and electric guitars percussively, not too melodic and that the vocals should not be too dominating. If you compare the overall result with locally produced recordings you’ll notice quite a difference. How would you describe your contribution to the recording sessions?
Giving the guidelines roughly of what kind of rhythms to play and how to play them, especially when it came to the other instruments; to keep the focus on interplay and texture and to avoid anything too solo-like. I guess we would consider that interplay an African quality in music, but funny enough, in this situation I was the one enforcing it. The word most used throughout the session was “simple”—in African French pronunciation. I mention this because even later, in the process of arranging and mixing, I put a lot more work into simplifying it or clearing it up. In our context though, I think the result still sounds pretty dense and complex. One day of preparation doesn’t seem like a long time—neither for the musicians, nor for you.
The musicians were playing well within their comfort zone, so they didn’t really need a lot of preparation. This is their life. But the night before the recording session I did feel the weight of responsibility on my shoulders not to blow it, to the extent that it was in my hands. It was too great of an opportunity and also too much money to consider it a trial-and-error thing. But I knew it was going to be a complex situation with many unknowns. So what was your point of reference? Were there any similar experiences you were able to draw upon?
The closest thing I can think of was working with different reggae singers. No matter how big or experienced an artist is and how much you respect him or her, you can’t force a result. A recording session can be magic or it can be just a recording session. All you can do is try to find the right balance between giving room and giving directions. I played Bakane a number of tunes in the evening, pointing out to him what particular aspects I liked in them and what kind of grooves within the genre I was most interested in. At the same time I made it clear that I didn’t want them to just replicate my examples and that something genuine should come from our session. So, when we finally started the next day we first recorded the sabar drums and right away it was clear that this was working. Bakane’s capability to mediate my guidelines to the musicians was great. Most of them didn’t speak any English, but I hardly felt any language barrier. The musical understanding was working great, also when I interfered and suggested changes. Sometimes followed by brief discussions in Wolof. I didn’t understand the words but I felt clearly that they were with me. It all went smoothly? This isn’t what you’d necessarily expect from a recording session where you don’t share a common language, no?
“Smoothly” is not the right word. You had an average of twenty people running around between the small rooms where one of the doors wouldn’t open, another one wouldn’t close. Then the power went out several times and the power generator was broken. You have to know that normally even a barbershop has it’s own generator there. On the third day all of us waited in the dark for about four hours before we called it a day, because it could come back on any minute, of course. Then even most of the younger drummers have at least two mobile phones, so a few minutes into the recording you would hear a prayer call or whatever ringtones they had. Then Bakane would collect all the phones, put them on a pile in the control room and start over. Of course it only lasted until after the next break. But between all these circumstances the sessions actually were all very focused, and it was quite challenging for me to decide in real time when to give more specific directions and when to keep going in order to avoid lengthy discussions and keep up the attention level with ten drummers in the recording room and the others listening in the control room. Suffice to say the studio clock was ticking. So I guess it did run smoothly in an African way. Should I mention that during two of the four days I had fever from food poisoning? I actually got it after the only non-African meal I had in all my visits. So, in the end you’d call it a successful trip?
That would be a gross understatement. I had booked the flight without knowing anyone there, not speaking Wolof or French, and having no expectations. I came back with an extensive Pro Tools session featuring many of the players I was interested in and even owning the rights to use and mix it whichever way I want. I couldn’t wait to start working on all this great material and throw it on the mixing desk. It turned out quite a challenge though to deal with the density in the mix. Do you think that your visit to Kaolack has altered the way Bakane and the musicians you work with see their music?
I’d say yes, but I think it’s a bit too early to really tell. In some ways, the common understanding is surprisingly quick and accurate considering the language barrier. But then again the approach is so different—that is, between dealing with recorded, produced music on my part, and mainly just playing it on theirs. The last time I went, I had finished CDs for the musicians so they could better prepare for upcoming concerts, and it turned out hardly any one of them owns a functioning “replicator machine”—a CD player or burner. But when eventually all of them had managed to get the tracks onto their mobile phones, the feedback they gave me on the mix and production was really enthusiastic, particularly regarding clarity and transparency. And how would you measure your own success in Senegal?
I guess if some day we’re stuck in traffic in Dakar and the street merchants try to sell us bootlegs of the album through the car window, then the circle will be complete. ~
Right: Street scene in the “commune d’arrondissement” Grand Dakar, downtown Dakar. p. 52 - 53: Fishmongers at the Dakar seaside. In its colonial heyday, Dakar was one of the French Empire’s major cities, comparable to Hanoi or Beirut. p. 54 - 55: Mbene Diatta Seck looking thoughtful. The vocalist often combines singing, MCing, and coordinating dances when performing live with mbalax combo Jeri-Jeri. p. 56 - 57: (left to right) Babacar Seck, Serigne Mamoune Seck, Kora Faye and Bakane Seck playing in sabar overdubs at Prince Arts Studio in Dakar. The drum is generally played with one hand and one stick and historically was used as a form of communication between villages in a kind of musical morse code. The different rhythms correspond to phrases that could be heard for over fifteen kilometers.
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MAX DAX TALKS TO TRICKY
“And then there was an uncomfortable silence” Tricky’s never been one to mince words. Since releasing his genre-defining trip-hop masterpiece Maxinquaye in 1995, the Bristol-born bad boy is notorious for blowing the smoke from his ever-present spliff in the direction of celebrities deemed worthy of being knocked down a notch. And now, he’s made an entire album about it: False Idols takes swipes at everything from the vacantness of celebrity culture to the perceived neoconservative, wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing politics of Barack Obama. Some might call him a hater; others will salute his truth with a hallelujah. Either way, a conversation with Tricky is never less than entertaining as Max Dax found out recently in Berlin. Tricky, when we last spoke you mentioned you were convinced we’d meet again to celebrate when your album went number one in Germany. That’s a bold statement, not something you usually hear from artists, but rather from promoters.
Well, I have a new label and my deal is actually with Horst Weidenmüller from !K7, which is a special thing—something you might call a love affair rather than just business. In contrast, I spoke to Laurence Bell from my other label Domino after a show not too long ago, and I realized they’re really all about radio. Look, everybody wants radio play, and that’s cool. I mentioned something to him about Franz Ferdinand. I said I liked some of their stuff, because they write some good songs sometimes. I asked him how
one of their albums was going and he was like, “It’s all finished, we just have to work out the singles.” And I was trying to figure out what he meant. Was the album finished or not? How would he know when an artist is ready? He owns a label. He doesn’t sit in the studio and know how to make music . . . It’s like, with this new album people keep telling me, “You’re back! You’re back!” But I haven’t been away. I’ve simply chosen not to do certain things because I haven’t been in a love affair. So, I guess you could say I’m back because I’m happy. You can’t make your best music when you’re not. There’s another kind of artistic love affair I hear on your new album, False Idols, with the voice of Chet Baker. I also remember you once
Left: Tricky, photographed by Luci Lux in Berlin.
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did a remix of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”. You also performed it live . . .
Cagney film. Your album Angels with Dirty Faces is also a Cagney reference. Do you ever think you would have liked to have lived back in the twenties or thirties or at some other time in the past?
I grew up with her voice. My grandma used to play Billie Holiday’s music day and night.
When all the blues and jazz guys went to Paris—that was a special thing. It was pure music, without an industry.
The new album also has some excellent sampling of Baker’s voice from his classic “My Funny Valentine”. By talking about jazz legends and using their voices, you’re probably confronting younger audiences with them for the first time. Are you looking to educate your listeners? Why do you love these older voices so much?
You could have been Miles Davis’ rival for Juliette Gréco in the late forties and fifties. When I met her she said that she once invited him to meet her in Manhattan at the Waldorf Astoria where she stayed and he told her he didn’t want to come. But she couldn’t figure out why, so she finally persuaded him. She told me she had been shocked when she realized how badly he was mistreated by all the white staff. It was embarrassing.
Because when I was going out with Björk, that’s what we listened to. It reminds me of her. And Chet Baker was such a real artist; he had so much pain. We’re missing that in music now. The last true voice I could relate to was Kurt Cobain. Now it’s all just such a celebrity culture, and it’s weakening music. By sampling Chet Baker it’s me offering him to people because you’re not going to get him in real life. And I think I respect older music more than I do new music. Have you ever listened to “Little” Jimmy Scott?
No. You should. A few years ago he also did a great version of “Strange Fruit”. His voice is like this transcendental sonic gate to the past, but still extremely relevant.
I’ll check it out. When I did my remix of “Strange Fruit”, it was odd working with her voice, too. Very spooky. Definitely not earthly.
Fucking hell, it’s strange. You don’t usually associate that kind of racism with Miles Davis. You think the guy’s untouchable, a legend, so they should treat him like a legend. Those were different times. Tricky has had his fingers in more than a few of legendary trip-hop releases of yore. As an early collaborator with Massive Attack, the brazen Bristolian was a featured rapper and vocalist on a number of tracks from the band’s critically acclaimed Blue Lines (1991) before going solo and releasing the equally historical Maxinquaye four years later in 1995. Both albums marked a turning point in vocal electronic music, signifying a particularly British form of combining beats, rhymes and R&B.
That means you were able to work with the voice on a single track?
Yeah. I listened to it over and over and over again in a little apartment in New Orleans. It was a very eerie vibe listening to the original without the instrumental backing. The same goes for Chet Baker. Do you consider artists like Chet Baker and Billie Holiday to be your teachers?
Actually, I think about them as peers. There aren’t that many people I respect in the music industry. Most of them are dead. It’s almost like me giving respect and, as you mentioned, introducing them to a younger generation. Would you say your music is a kind of channeling medium?
Well, yeah. Like with “Black Steel”, my Public Enemy cover. I did it because I wanted to take it to a different audience. Some people are so good that their message should be taken to a bigger environment. I knew Public Enemy was, first of all, an urban thing, and I wanted to show it to kids who aren’t from there. You could think of Public Enemy’s name as a nod to the old James 60 EB 2/2013
I’ve done a few interviews with Miles Davis sideman and Weather Report keyboarder Joe Zawinul, and he recalled often being offered to sleep in “white” hotels, while the black band members of the groups he was in had to sleep elsewhere. Suffice to say he refused and preferred to stay with the musicians.
We always tend to forget that segregation wasn’t even that long ago. It’s truly difficult to understand all that in light of the insane amount of great music that was played and released back in the day.
People sometimes seem to forget that music used to be about so much more than just business. Bob Dylan recently said that he gets nervous listening to new music.
Did he really use the word nervous? Now, that’s interesting. I think what he meant is that there was a certain honesty in the sadness of people’s voices in the past. And now, amidst the neoliberal “creative” environment of today’s music industry, people only consider whether or not they can sell something.
I got you. Take “Ace of Spades” by Motörhead and try bringing something like that to Radio 1 in England these days and they’ll laugh you right out the door. Nowadays, you’ve got all these artists who’ve become ATM cards for big businessmen, so the music industry is kind of fucked, you know? As it’s got worse, I’ve gotten worse. I’ve become more militant. I’m not so easy going anymore. I’ve become kind of obsessive. For instance, I had this thing happen to me: 3D from Massive Attack came over to my house last year . . . Robert Del Naja—how’s he doing?
He’s doing good, or he seems like he’s doing good. Anyhow we
agreed to do some songs and within an hour we were arguing, and not over music. It’s because he walked into my house with this Massive Attack bullshit. And I had to say to him: “The younger generation don’t give a fuck about me. They don’t give a fuck about you or Massive Attack. I’ve got a daughter who’s eighteen and she don’t care about my music. She doesn’t know who you are, by name or otherwise. So get over yourself.” My guess would be that he’s not so used to be being spoken to like that—or maybe I’m wrong? I’d be very curious to know how he took it.
Look, back in the day when me and him used to write together—tracks like “Karmacoma” or “Blue Lines”—I didn’t notice certain things. 3D’s a good man and he’s got a good heart. He’s not a malicious person, but he loves his Massive Attack thing too much. I’d like to think that if this all ended for me tomorrow, I’ve still got friends. I’ve got family who don’t give a fuck if I was famous or not. I’m going to be the same person. I don’t need this to say who I am. I like to see myself like DJ Milo—he walked away from a huge record deal, went to New York, got a job and started doing music in his bedroom. Milo without the music is still Milo. He was just in Bristol with some of my family. But 3D’s different. He needs Massive Attack. Without Massive Attack, he’s nobody. And he knows that. I’m not being disrespectful; it’s just the truth.
loves chasing women. Anyhow, we were smoking a spliff and this promoter guy I know comes over and is like, “Lenny wants to meet you.” And all I can think is, “Who’s Lenny?” I said to the guy I know, “I don’t know no Lenny!” And the promoter’s like, “Lenny Kravitz.” He’s sitting over there and wants me to get up and go over there, even though he wants to meet me. It sounds like he isn’t used to casually running into people.
Well, he ended up coming over and said, “Oh, I love your music.” And then there was an uncomfortable silence, because I think I was supposed to say it back to him. But it’s not true, so at some point he’s like, “I’ve got a studio in Miami, you should come down and record.” We’re in New York and at the time I lived in New Jersey. I had a studio twenty minutes away, so I was like “Why would I come to Miami?” He was like, “So we can record together.” And I was like, “Why?” And he couldn’t answer. That annoys me. Just because you’re so famous and have so much success you think I want a part of that. Artists need to be brought down to earth a little bit. So what’s the difference between working with Lenny Kravitz and someone like Grace Jones, who you did collaborate with? I mean, she’s famous too.
I love Grace. She’s mad. And she doesn’t take herself too seriously. She’s just a crazy woman with talent. And she’s extremely funny, got an amazing sense of humor. Kravitz has got no sense of humor about himself at all.
Maybe he should go to therapy.
I think he should love himself more and forget the Massive Attack thing. I think maybe he should have kids. When you have a child you forget about yourself. You begin to see the world with their eyes. After recording with him for a few days he’s texting me, I’m getting messages from him. He wants a buddy. He doesn’t want just someone to work with. He wants a buddy to go out together and DJ and drink together—you know, he’s 3D and I’m Tricky, and we party together. But I realized that I didn’t want to hang out with him. Should I tell him that? What should I do? Should I just not answer him? So I asked my cousin for advice and she was telling me: “Just keep it business.” That’s a tough way of seeing it.
I met her at the Marco Polo restaurant in London once and I only had a fifteen-minute slot scheduled. I was on my way there, already annoyed, but next thing I knew, we’d had two bottles of Chardonnay and talked for almost two hours. It was great. And we were talking a lot about you! Tricky named Angel’s with Dirty Faces (above top) after the 1938 American gangster film directed by Michael Curtiz and starring James Cagney. While sales weren’t as impressive as his debut, the album presented a different and darker vision of Tricky’s maximally blunted world— one pervaded by a shadowy paranoia, as the bile-filled “Record Companies” demonstrated. That spirit continues to haunt his latest release, “False Idols,” which is packed with verbal pot shots at former rock and roll hot shots.
I told you before: as things have continued, I’ve gotten more militant. I ain’t got time for certain people no more. If you were a famous artist and you walk in here like a pop star with your pop star attitude, in the past I might have politely said, “Hey, how are you doing?” But now my mouth just won’t open. My hand won’t even extend to you. Because the lack of honesty you know has just . . . well, here’s another story: I was in New York one time in a club with a friend who doesn’t make any music. My friend’s not interested in any of that stuff, he had a job at the airport. The only thing he was interested in was women. He
She’s great. You know that Grace Jones doesn’t need the music thing to be her makeup. I respect artists who can do all this and then put it down. People shouldn’t take it for granted. And if I like you, you shouldn’t take it for granted when you meet me. I’ve seen Prince on the dance floor in a club in L.A. and had a drink in my hand walking back to my table and security told me to walk around the dance floor. When I asked why, they just replied, “Prince is dancing.” You think he’s living in the past?
It’s so old-fashioned. That stuff is over anyway. I used to listen to Prince. I had a lot of his stuff. But now he’s just a has-been. Then again, I caught a Kode9 DJ set in Turin the other day, and he started it all out with “Sign ‘O’ the Times” and put this great bass line underneath. He didn’t extend the three minutes, but it sounded like an entirely new journey. You say Prince is a has-been, but he EB 2/2013 61
really was a proper somebody when he still was releasing hits, wasn’t he?
He was an incredible talent! But his mind is that of a has-been’s. Undoubtedly he’s one of the most talented artists of that generation, but he still thinks that if he walks into a room, he’ll get the coat taken off his shoulders. Those days are over. The Prince “persona” is from a long time ago. You can’t survive like that, especially with someone like me. Because if Prince walks into the room right now, unless he came to talk to me, I wouldn’t go talk to him. Because I don’t give a fuck about him and I don’t respect the man. Have you seen any of his recent shows?
No, after that thing in L.A. I haven’t wanted to. Someone actually had tickets for me for a show in Paris when I was there. But I was like, “Nah.” I just sat at a café and smoked weed, chilled out. Once someone acts like that, it’s over for me.
What about Angels with Dirty Faces?
She’s not gotten to that one yet. That album’s spirit reminds me so much of Miles Davis’ Cellar Door Sessions and The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions. Also your live shows from around Angels with Dirty Faces were amazing. Do you have any plans to release live material?
I didn’t record any of them. If anybody did, that would be nice to release, but I don’t look back. I move on. I don’t really live in the past. I’ve got another album, Hixx, that’s about to be mixed and False Idols isn’t even out yet. I don’t think I’ll be able to bring Hixx out this year, but most likely in January 2014. And then I’m going to do a rap album with DJ Milo. I’ll do some of the production, but then have him do some of it too. I just keep things moving. You mentioned Obama’s deceitfulness before. You were living in Los Angeles for a while. Was this when you started seeing him critically?
I know you’ve spent quite a bit of time in Paris. Who have you been meeting in Paris that you wanted to work with?
When he was first elected I was going out with a black girl, and she kept saying how great it is to have the first black president. In America, still to this day, it’s difficult for blacks and Hispanics. Obama was a false hope, another false idol. But because I’m English, my experience as a black person has been different. I saw through him from the beginning. But when you’re desperate, you grasp for desperate measures.
There’s a guy called Seyfu, who’s a very, very good rapper. He’s very real, very antiFollowing his mother’s suicide when he was just popstar. I lived around Chapelle, which is seven years old, Tricky turned to older artists kind of ghetto. I’ve got another friend, who’s like Wild Style’s DJ Milo for musical guidance. an amateur boxer and he introduced me to a In the Fall 2011 issue of Electronic Beats, Tricky bunch of people. But I often meet people just candidly describes the influence Milo had on his by walking around. See, I’m very accessible. musical and sartorial sensibility. I’ve got no entourage. I walk by myself. You might see me in a supermarket or at a health food store. I’m working with a camera guy at the moment that I He’s a brilliant rhetorician. bumped into randomly once. He said if I ever needed anything, I should call. So I called and ended up doing two videos recently Absolutely. with him. So the album title False Idols is a reference to people like Lenny Kravitz and Prince?
Yeah, all that stupid shit. And new artists too, like, say, Rihanna. Look at the power that girl has got. And she’s doing nothing with it! It seems she has more problems keeping her clothes on than . . . It’s like all she sells is sex, right? No disrespect to her at all, but when you have that much power going on, help somebody. Do something. There’s a lot of bad stuff going on in her own country. Comment on it! Say something about it! Say Obama is a big fucking liar. I think she’s originally from Barbados.
Well, fine. But she lives in the U.S. If you’re just going to be famous and it’s a mantle for your ego, then it’s a waste of time.
I have to admit that I had tears in my eyes when he gave his inauguration speech . . .
But if you look at all the people behind him, you realize he’s Bush with a black face, right? When Bobby Kennedy was killed, that was the end of democracy. Before that, when J.F.K. was killed, that was the rise of the Bush’s and all the ex-slave owners and those in the opium trade. Obama is just coming from that. How so?
He’s related to Dick Cheney—that’s his eighth cousin! If you go back far enough you’ll see it. He’s worse than Bush, because Bush is easy to see for what he is. Obama is dangerous because he seems so good. He’s got a black wife and black children but he doesn’t give a fuck about anybody or any thing.
What’s your daughter listening to?
He regularly invites musicians to play at the White House. What would you do if he invited you?
Well, she’s finally starting to listen to my music now. She told me the other day that she really liked Blowback. She thought it was very “advanced”. Now she’s going through them all and analyzing them. She only knew Maxinquaye before, but now she’s getting in Nearly God and . . .
The only reason I would go would be for the moment when he goes to shake my hand, which is when I would say: “I can’t shake your hand—there’s too much blood on it.” I would like to sit down with him and tell him, “You’re a dog. I have no respect for you. If there is a hell, you’re going there.” ~
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Stewart Brand conceived the Whole Earth Catalog in 1968 as a collection of tools, tips and accessories to help America’s burgeoning hippie culture and alternative living communities change the world by understanding better how to survive outside of its conventions. Appropriating the font and concept from the then pre-yuppified L.L. Bean mail order catalogue, Brand’s vision of the objects necessary for self-sustainability included everything from special-purpose utensils, gardening tools and welding equipment to books on Eastern philosophy, early synthesizers and personal computers. The products were organized under categories such as “Understanding Whole Systems”, “Communications”, “Shelter and Land Use” and “Nomadics”, thereby conceptually maintaining a connection between the utopian and practical. Over the past decade, Brand’s visionary status has been cemented amongst the TED cognoscenti, with no less than Steve Jobs describing Whole Earth in 2005 as a farsighted nexus of thought not unlike that of a Google search engine. Today, the catalogue is also experiencing a period of fawning reassessment within the art world, and has become the focus of major exhibitions from New York to Berlin. Curator Hans Ulrich Obrist spoke with Brand about the history of Whole Earth and its legacy in the Internet age.
HANS ULRICH OBRIST IN CONVERSATION WITH STEWART BRAND
“We haven’t noticed that we are as gods” Hans Ulrich Obrist: When one reads about your work, it seems as if you’ve experienced a chain-reaction of epiphanies throughout your career. Stewart Brand: That’s sort of
HUO: What was the first? SB: I organized a rock and light show called the Trips Festival in 1966, because I realized that Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters wouldn’t be able to pull it off by themselves! Until then, I’d gone along with how they were organizing the event and the Acid Tests, but then I picked up the phone and started making the public event happen and it turned out to be easy and inexpensive and to have a lot of influence. That epiphany led to the epiphany that it was easy to make a difference in the world. HUO: So the Trips Festival showed you that one can change the world? SB: Yes, that it was easy! HUO: That was a legendary festival, with one of the Grateful Dead’s first performances, and the LSD parties called Acid Tests, described by Tom Wolfe in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. It seemed to be a crystallization of the hippie movement. Left: Stewart Brand, photographed by Larry Busacca. © Ghetty Images 2013.
SB: Nobody knew there were 10,000 hippies—everybody thought there were just a few thousand. On one weekend, we had this huge throbbing crowd of people and it was news to us, just like it was news to them. That’s when Haight-Ashbury was born: people realized that the hippie movement was large, powerful and fun. And then the next epiphany came with the realization that a photograph of the Earth from space would change everything. That was a classic LSD trip. I just printed buttons that said: ‘Why haven’t we seen a photograph of the whole Earth yet?’ and sold them for twenty-five cents. HUO: You waged a campaign to make NASA’s image of the Earth available as a powerful symbol. SB: It was a campaign in the sense that I was a guy with a sandwich board in a top hat standing outside several different universities. It was definitely a one-man campaign. HUO: And that led to a national Earth Day. It showed, as you’ve said, that the Earth is a “jewel-like icon amongst a featureless black vacuum”. You often talk about the idea of auto-symbiosis and our connection to nature. Did this stem from that early experience? SB: Yes. Just out of college, a set of realizations were coming into place: what I wanted to be and what I wanted to do and
what I wanted to care about. HUO: And who were your heroes at that time? Because you had so many different facets at the beginning of your work: you studied biology, then you studied photography, then you mounted activist campaigns, then you organized the Trips Festival—all of which is pre-Whole Earth Catalog. Then you assisted the electronic engineer Douglas Engelbart with this incredible presentation of revolutionary computer technologies. SB: “The Mother of All Demos”, yes. In college, my hero was Ed Ricketts, a marine biologist in Monterey, whom John Steinbeck wrote about in his novels, Sweet Thursday and Cannery Row. Ricketts was a classic, bohemian-living, freeloving biologist, and I picked up on him in prep school. I went to California looking to be him. HUO: Was this conference with Douglas Engelbart the beginning of your connection with technology? SB: No. When I got out of the Army, in 1962, for some reason I was given a tour in Stanford University, where I’d been a student, of the computation center, and in the back room of the computation center, some guys were playing Spacewar!, which had just been invented at the MIT. What I saw was a window into another world: it was like when I first saw American Indians . . . just another world. And it gave me a sense, at that time, that computers were going to be of the essence, and so I carried computer stuff from early on in the Whole Earth Catalog, and when I stopped the Catalog in 1972, I finally wrote an article for Rolling Stone magazine about hackers, who had begun serious computer hacking in 1961 at MIT. I was told, “Well, we’ve got a scoop. This is going to become a standard newspaper story about what you call these ‘computer hackers’.” But there was no further news about hackers for another ten years, until Steven Levy’s book [Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution (1984)].
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“Design at that time was very much about the idea of white space: you’d have a lot of white space and some perfectly designed logo, rendered with graceful stylishness, and it might have some information and it might not. It was supposed to be beautiful. I wanted to flip that. I’d have a publication that had no white space at all. It was just crammed with information, all of which was useful.” Stewart Brand HUO: Amazing. Did you also have
heroes in art or photography?
SB: When I got out of Stanford in 1960 and was on my way to serve in the Army, these beautiful books with lots of photographs started coming out and the “exhibit” format book was invented. I was becoming a professional photographer at that time, and I had a sense that I was on the right track. Robert Frank’s book The Americans was revelatory. Later, I got to know Frank as a very good friend in Canada. I bought property near his in Nova Scotia just to get to know him, but by that time he was no longer doing any photography. But he did come and shoot a film of an event I organized called “Life After Earth”. The event was amazing, and Robert filmed it … a very touching film. HUO: And that’s a dia-
logue that continues?
SB: No, I’d love to see what Robert is up to. But there’s a long distance between California and New York, and you see it played out in many
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Above: Brand created the famous button in 1966 as part of a campaign to have NASA release the first satellite images of the entire Earth as seen from space. Sold for twenty-five cents, the buttons were the unexpected starting point of a one-world universalism precipated by an LSD trip. As Brand summed up the images’ eventual release in 1968: “For the first time, humanity saw itself from outside.” In 1970 Earth Day was born and with it the modern ecological movement.
things. The clearest case, which I didn’t understand at the time, was that Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters were doing one thing on the West Coast, while Lou Reed, Andy Warhol and the Factory were doing something almost identical on the East Coast, but there was no linkage between them. It wasn’t until I got to know Lou Reed nine years later that I realized Andy did a better job than Kesey did on making radically creative stuff happen. We had the Grateful Dead, and he had the Velvet Underground. Both pretty good. The major linkage in those days between the East and the West Coast was Allen Ginsberg. HUO: He traveled all the time. SB: Allen traveled all the time. He connected the New York Beats with the California Beats: Michael McClure, Gary Snyder … Neal Cassady was with Kesey by then, so I got to know Allen through the Pranksters. HUO: To come back to your work, in 1968 there was the epiphany of Whole Earth Catalog, which is a major invention of the twentieth century. I visit artists in the US all the time, from Vito Acconci to Bill Levi, and so often they have the catalogue in their studio. It’s so important for intellectuals. Do you remember when you had the idea? SB: Yes. We’d just buried my father,
who died at sixty-four in Illinois; I was on a plane going back to California. All the years I was growing up, my parents had been investing money in my name, and so there was this body of money that I supposedly owned but which I’d never had anything to do with. I figured: “Well, now I have to actually take responsibility for this money and do something with it. What should I do?” On the plane, I pretty much came up with the idea of Whole Earth. It’s called Whole Earth, but it was just access to tools: a truck store and catalogue. The truck store was inspired by the various communes that my friends were starting. I’d been on a couple of them and helped out, and they’d been started by liberal-arts college
students who didn’t know how to do anything. They were busily trying to reinvent civilization from scratch without knowing how to do scratch. I had a pretty clear idea that I could acquire the tools that I needed. I had a science education; I knew how to make a refrigerator work. The idea was that there was going to be this truck that would travel around with these tools that would make it possible for the communes to create their own mini-civilizations, and there would also be a mail-order catalogue, which in my mind was based on a hunting and fishing catalogue called L.L. Bean. My father was a catalogue fanatic and so I knew that catalogue well. . HUO: So L.L. Bean was your inspiration? SB: Yes. The typeface I used on
the cover, the Windsor typeface, was a copy of the L.L. Bean font. I borrowed everything. I wrote that down right away because when you have an idea, you’ve got about five minutes to act on it before it disappears. So I wrote the idea down, a page or so, on my notebook, and then I played it out. I did the truck store first and found out that the communes desperately needed the information, but they didn’t have any money. I drove with my wife to these places, it took a long time to get there. Then when we got there, we were welcomed but they couldn’t afford to buy anything. So that wasn’t a commercial event, but the catalogue turned out to be a commercial event. So, of my parents’ money, I’d probably invested 10,000 dollars before it started coming back. HUO: You did the catalogue’s layout yourself, and it was a unusual, oversized format. What was the inspiration behind that? SB: Well, I’d studied design, both at Stanford and then afterwards at San Francisco Institute. Then I worked in Gordon Ashby’s design shop. He was a protégé of Charles Eames, who did the Mathematica exhibition. So the Eames-style design was something I was familiar with. There was a bunch of things that I wanted to do that
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Above: A black-andwhite image taken by the Apollo 8 crew on Christmas Eve, 1968, one minute before the first color photograph of the entire Earth. The coordinates of the images known as “Earthrise” were also modelled a year after the flight, allowing scientists to create a lunar positioning system pinpointing exactly when the photographs were taken, where the spacecraft was at the time, and what part of the lunar terrain is visible. Interestingly, the astronauts themselves saw these images with the lunar horizon vertically and the Moon’s surface on the right side. Photo: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio. Previous page: Curator and regular Electronic Beats contributor Hans Ulrich Obrist, photographed in London’s Serpentine Gallery by Max Dax. 70 EB 2/2013
were different in the Whole Earth Catalog. Design at that time was very much about the idea of white space: you’d have a lot of white space and some perfectly designed logo, rendered with graceful stylishness, and it might have some information and it might not. It was supposed to be beautiful. I wanted to totally flip that. I’d have a publication that had no white space at all. It was just crammed with information, all of which was useful. So I just clipped material out of all the books and catalogues and pasted it. With the IBM electric typewriter, which was the first kind of desktop typesetting machine and with a device that made sort of instant halftones, the technology made it very easy to do self-publishing. I couldn’t imagine any other way to do it. HUO: Can you tell me about the text printed at the front of the catalogue under “Purpose”? It starts: “We are as gods and might as well get good at it.” SB: Yeah, that was another theft. I
stole that from an anthropologist whose name and whose book I now forget, who said that humans were attaining powers that the Greek gods would have envied. Jesus was tempted by the devil who said “You can be as a God,” and Jesus said “No thanks.” But the rest of us all said: “Yes, thanks very much.”
But we haven’t noticed that we are as gods, and that’s why we’re still crappy at it; we’re still trying to flip that. The flip is: take that as good news instead of bad news, and then act on it. We’re still getting good at that, whereas God isn’t. HUO: This idea of the Whole
Earth Catalog involves an encyclopedic approach. How did you go about the data collection?
SB: It turned out you could pretend to be a bookstore, which I did, and then you could buy books at a retailer’s discount. So I was able to buy large quantities of books, and that was the research, plus talking to people, wandering around. HUO: In the nineties I curated an exhibition called Do It, which is still touring. It’s about the idea of not having objects in an exhibition, but recipes, instructions, how to manually do it yourself. It’s an art exhibition where everybody can do it. And during my research I found out a lot about the late sixties DIY culture. Was the Whole Earth Catalog connected in any way to this “DIY” moment—to Jerry Rubin or to an art movement like Fluxus? SB: No connections to Rubin. I
never met him and never liked him. Abbie Hoffman was a friend whom I liked a lot and I really miss. But before both of those guys was Paul
Krassner’s The Realist magazine, and that was a model for the Whole Earth Catalog. Paul of course wrote most of The Realist, and his byline was usually just “PK”, so my by-line in the Whole Earth Catalog was “SB”. Do-it-yourself, in my world, was something that middleclass people did in their garages, and us artists and college-educated people looked down from a great height on people who did things in their garages! That was “popular mechanics”, a disregarded world. So I was just basically taking DIY a little bit upscale, or intellectualizing it, or something like that. But I had no connection with it. The East Coast also had John Brockman, Steve Durkee . . . we were collaborative, cooperative artists and engineers, and we were sort of in the milieu of John Cage and all that. But really that’s the extent of the East Coast in the very early sixties. HUO: How did your dialogue with John Brockman start? SB: We were both at a confer-
ence. There was John, Norman O. Brown, and some other people, and John was going on about dolphins. He gave me a page about the book he’d like to do about dolphins. He sold it very quickly, for very good money. It must have been 1967 or something like that, and when I was planning the last Whole Earth Catalog, in 1971 - 72,
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Brockman went to the New York publishers and got us a great contract with Random House, which was huge. And then it became a bestseller, the first trade paperback. So by then, Brockman was my agent and he got me in. HUO: What I find so interesting is that despite having sold millions of books with the Whole Earth Catalog, it’s clear from the beginning you wanted not just to preach to the converted, but rather to go out to the world. That also became clear when in the seventies you went into politics and became advisor to Jerry Brown, the Governor of California. How do you feel about this whole idea of science for all, art for all, going beyond a limited, specialized audience to a more general one? SB: Both groups of people who made up the counter-culture in the sixties—which was the New Left and Abbie Hoffman on the one hand and the psychedelic crowd around Ken Kesey on the other—assumed a national audience. Perhaps it was because we’d grown up on television. We called press conferences and people would come; we’d have the expectation that there was going to be a national audience and there was. So it was an assumption at that time that was very well rewarded. People went out, did communes for a while, got really bored, came back to town, tried to do political activism. They wanted to get into local politics so they got onto the school boards and even ran for local office. And for me, working with the State Governor was kind of a smaller thing than the national audience we’d all gotten used to. But that’s where the national effectiveness was, of course. The rest was just noise. HUO: Yeah. Jerry Brown was kind of exceptional. SB: Very exceptional. Still is. HUO: It’s been remarked that the Whole Earth Catalog was like an early version of Google, and during the 1980s you invented the online community the WELL,
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which was a kind of prototype for today’s online publications. What was the epiphany of the WELL?
Above: As president of the Long Now Foundation, Brand has dedicated a good chunk of the past fifteen years to developing strategies to counteract the universal shortening of attention spans and short-term thinking. Pictured above is the Clock of the Long Now, which is set to run for 10,000 years. Brand seems to find it difficult not to think in monumental terms.
Above: Despite his elevated eco-world status, Brand’s current iconoclastic environmentalism has ruffled more than a few feathers. In 2010’s Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto, he outlines his controversial arguments for nuclear power and genetically modified food in detail. Even after the disaster in Fukushima, Brand has obdurately defended his positions on nuclear energy in talks and public debates.
SB: There were a lot of little online communities then. And there were some medium-sized ones. I’d been part of a medium-sized one called The Eyes at New Jersey Institute of Technology. I saw some bulletin boards, which were these local, online group discussion things, run out of someone’s basement. And these were starting to operate at a national scale, like with CompuServe. To participate would be very expensive: they were like sixty dollars an hour. And so what I had in mind was brilliant. Basically hire a service. This company, Netty, would put up the money for us to do a Whole Earth Catalog online. And I was pretty sure that that wouldn’t fly, but that a form of discussion online would fly, because I’d seen versions of that with The Eyes. So all I was doing was taking what I’d learnt from The Eyes, which was that it should be cheap but not free —it was two dollars an hour, eighty dollars a month. And there should be no anonymity. Not as good as Facebook’s lack of anonymity. I should have done that. But anyway people changed their “handle” all the time, what they wanted to be called, but the real name was available on there. And there was instant access: nobody had to sign in, and nothing physical happened. People got on, used their credit-card number and they were instantly in, even before we’d cleared their card. So: instant gratification, low cost and free subscriptions to journalists. And you owned your own words, which was my attempt to work around us being liable for the things that people say to each other. I said “Look, all we have is a phone company and people insult each other on the phone, nobody sues AT&T. We’ve got to have it understood that nobody sues us; you own your own words.” We knew enough hackers thanks to the Hackers’ Conference to help to write the manual and improve this very bad code we were working with, called “People’s Spam”. So it was kind of a bootstrap operation, a combination of
writers from the magazine I edited, CoEvolution Quarterly, and other journalists, plus programming skills from the hackers. That combination gave it an interesting voice that then drew other people in. It was a self-enforcing community. I wouldn’t say that was an epiphany, but just a set of designed decisions. HUO: When I started out as a curator, in the late 1980s, it was an activity exclusively of the art world, but now, on the Internet, it’s become the big buzzword. Do you see yourself as a curator of knowledge? How do you view this notion of curating and selecting, which is becoming so important in our current world? SB: I think it’s been a very useful word. Chris Anderson uses it with the TED [Technology, Entertainment, Design] conferences. He’s basically a curator of that body of speakers; it’s a very good use of the term. I’m curating a lecture series, but to me it’s exactly what I did as editor of the CoEvolution Quarterly—basically bringing interesting people and interesting subjects together. Curating is assembling, it’s letting other people do most of the work. It’s a very lazy, therefore good, way to influence the world! It’s a question of intelligent collection and then of intelligent display. And it’s tremendously educational for the curator. The curator has more fun than anybody. I expect you experience this, because you get to learn about subject after subject after subject, person after person. Some curators specialize and other curators—I guess you and I are examples— tend to generalize; generalization is a form of specialization: that’s what we do. Like everything else, it’s been democratized by the Net, so, in one sense, everybody is curating. If you’re writing a blog, it’s curating. Blog items now all have to have an image, so people are getting literate in images that work, and you can have a whole entity like iStock Photo that just sells amateur images for a couple of dollars that work very well. So we’re becoming editors and curators, and those two are blending online. Lots of people are organizing online conferences.
It’s much easier to do that than real-life physical conferences, as in the old days. Curating has become a generalized, democratized skill. HUO: Have you ever used the medium of the exhibition? SB: One of my first jobs was as an exhibition designer. I mentioned Gordon Ashby, who had been Eames’ protégé. I was hired by him shortly after the Army to be the researcher for an exhibition called Astronomia, which was like Eames’s Mathematica. Astronomia was funded by IBM to be at the Hayden planetarium in New York’s Museum of Natural History. And so I got to study the history of astronomy and to figure out what objects from that history would be good artifacts to act as a series of windows on the astronomical events, mostly in Europe, that were going on during the fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I got the glass plates that Fraunhofer made, which started to give us the knowledge of what stars were made of. What I couldn’t get was Galileo’s telescope, so we just reproduced it. One of our first exhibits was the constellation Orion: three stars—the belt, the sword. It sort of looks like a guy with a belt from the front, but of course, from the side it doesn’t. So we made a box that you looked at from one end, and you saw Orion represented by a set of little LEDtype lights, arrayed in different brightnesses. Constellations are just a matter of perspective, and space is primarily a volume, and a surface. This was very highlevel exhibition design that we did. Astronomia stayed at the planetarium for twenty years or something like that. Then I was asked to work with four new museums. HUO: Do you have any proj-
ects too big to be realized—dreams, utopias?
SB: I like the idea of space colonies, and that hasn’t happened yet. Not that I’m ready to go out and try to make that happen. I have friends who are doing that, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson. One of the largest things I want to see happen is
various geo-engineering schemes; we need to go forward on that scale, but it won’t be me doing it. HUO: And what would be your advice to a young artist or researcher? SB: The best thing I did as a college student was major in biology, and when I hear young people ask: “I can’t know what I’m going to do in life, so what should I study?”, basically I say, “Science is your first thing. Whether or not you become a scientist, you’ll use that way of understanding, that way of checking your own thinking.” That’s a much more rewarding and adaptive way to live intellectually than the others. I wish I had had more anthropology. I wish I’d gotten theatre skills. I got design skills, photography skills, and command skills in the army. Acquiring a whole basket of skills and then getting in the habit of acquiring more of them is much easier and more common today than yesterday. It’s not the case in Europe, but Americans are monolingual, and so any American who doesn’t at least know Spanish
Above: The supplement to the Whole Earth Catalog from 1971, showing production inside the Pillow, an inflatable structure created by the Ant Farm art collective in California’s Saline Valley. The purpose of the supplement was to update information about previously featured items, as well as to add new publications and services that arose between printings. The information was sent in by readers and various contributors. Six months after the above supplement appeared, the self-termination of the Whole Earth Catalog began. This involved a party where “non-stop non-score volleyball game competed for loudest activity with balloons full of inhalable laughing gas.”
is going to be severely limited. And, you know, I even studied a bit of German at Stanford just because I wanted to read Goethe. HUO: I’m working on a list where I ask artists and writers to give a sentence about the future. What would be your definition of the future? SB: The future is 10,000 years long, and with that perspective, a concept like “Seize the century” sort of makes sense. If you think your life is eighty years long, then “Seize the day” is the right advice. We’ve “centuryized” climate change: it’s not going to be fixed in a year, it’s not going to be fixed in a decade, it’s not going to be fixed in two decades. We may get ahead of it in a century, but it’s a centuryscale problem and that’s why The Long Now Foundation exists. And it’s why we’re going to do a 10,000year clock at the Smithsonian. HUO: So it’s about long-distance running, not sprinting. SB: Oh yes, very long distance running. ~
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Second albums: with very few exceptions, respectable musicians have to make them. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy, especially not for acts whose debut releases have critics’ expectations for follow-ups skyhigh. For Kai Campos of post-dubstep reformers Mount Kimbie and Katie Stelmanis of shadowy electro-goths Austra, however, the hype has been less of a doubleedged sword than for most. Keeping their safe distance from the flighty sensibilities of their respective scenes, both have managed to make impressively unselfconscious second LPs with a focus on analogue electronics. In the case of Mount Kimbie’s Cold Spring Fault Less Youth (Warp), this has meant moving away from the limitations of exclusively computer-based composition and plug-in abuse towards a poetics of imperfection offered by electric instruments and hissy outboard gear. Oh yeah, and the human voice—an instrument whose potential for perfection the classically trained vocalist Katie Stelmanis has actively sought to temper on Austra’s recently released Olympia (Domino). Here, in trans-Atlantic cawfy tawk, the two let us know where they’re at and how they got there. Left: Katie Stelmanis, photographed in Berlin by Hans Martin Sewcz.
AUSTRA’S KATIE STELMANIS TALKS TO KAI CAMPOS OF MOUNT KIMBIE
“We were abusing our equipment” Katie Stelmanis: Kai, in terms
of the UK music scene, dubsteb and garage belong to a culture I’ve been watching and glorifying from afar and obsessing over—especially growing up in a place like Toronto and coming from a classical music background. I’d be interested in knowing how much of the music you make derives from being part of a scene. Or is it a more independent thing? Kai Campos: I grew up in a really rural part of England where there was no real music scene of any kind. So most of my alternative music education came from the radio, especially John Peel and Gilles Peterson. I would always tape them—especially John Peel because he played such a diverse collection of music. In a sense I took it for granted that people listen to music like that. But I think, by definition, you make music to fit a certain context. The thing is, our music never really worked in clubs, so you wouldn’t hear it in places we went to. We’ve only been in London since late 2006, so that was kind of the start of the end of what was interesting in dubstep. When we made our first LP, we were starting to lose interest, really. We actually decided to stop playing club shows for that very reason: playing before or after a DJ just sucked every single time. We just had to recontextualize what we were doing. It
had nothing to do with what was going on around us. And since we’ve started Mount Kimbie, we’ve not been at home so much, so I’m not so clued up as to what goes on. We’re good friends with musicians, but there’s not much of a sense of community. Or rather, there is a community, but it doesn’t have much to do with what we do artistically. KS: I’m curious to know what it was like making your second record, as that one’s always associated with certain difficulties. I know I didn’t feel any pressure making Olympia, because there were so many things I wanted to change from the first one. KC: It’s remarkably similar for us
actually. We finished Crooks & and Lovers what feels like ages ago and then we felt like we were done with that kind of music; we’d said about as much as we’d wanted to say, really. And then we toured it and that was the longest I’d ever gone without writing music. When we stopped touring we dropped off the radar a bit, which was good for us. We didn’t have a label because our deal with Hotflush was over at the time—after two EPs and an album. It was a very amicable thing. But I will say that dealing with hype isn’t always easy. We want people to like the music and for it to be a success and to have this as our jobs. It’s important to make good deci-
sions. But it’s all stuff that comes after you’ve made the record. KS: I don’t think Austra ever really got too hyped. That’s why I never felt like we had to live up to hype or some idea. With Olympia, we just wanted to do something bigger. We toured Feel It Break for so long that the songs became something very different on the road, which was a good thing. KC: I think being onstage
is sometimes the only place where you can hear how other people hear you music.
KS: That’s true, because you also rarely know what format people are listening to you on. I’m imagining people listening with headphones . . . KC: If you’re lucky! I think
most people do it over laptop speakers and only listen for thirty seconds before, like, making a comment about it on Facebook or Soundcloud.
KS: At least you have good radio. I’m very jealous of the radio you have in the UK. KC: They do their best to make
it worse. Was radio an important thing for you growing up?
KS: Well, I came to making electronic music by accident when I was nineteen or twenty. I came out of the classical world and wanted to write orchestral music, which I then started to do with MIDI. But in Toronto, nobody was doing that. There was an insane amount of pressure from people to play “real” instruments. All I heard was, “Your voice would sound so pretty on these types of sounds.” But there’s been this massive cultural shift since then. KC: I was playing in bands for a
while until around sixteen when I had a really good teacher who taught me about multitrack recording on a little tape deck. From that point on, after I figured out how to overdub, EB 2/2013 75
“I grew up in a really rural part of England where there was no real music scene of any kind. So most of my alternative music education came from the radio, especially John Peel and Gilles Peterson [. . .] In a sense I took it for granted that people listen to music like that. But I think, by definition, you make music to fit a certain context. The thing is, our music never really worked in clubs, so you wouldn’t hear it in places we went to. We’ve only been in London since late 2006, so that was kind of the start of the end of what was interesting in dubstep. When we made our first LP, we were starting to lose interest, really. ” Kai Campos
Stelmanis rocks a whiter shade of pale on the cover of Austra’s Olympia (Domino)
I asked myself, “Why would I ever be in a band again?” Then I started making really, really bad electronic music for around the next ten years. Now it’s come back full circle. By the way, I hope I didn’t disappoint you before about the “scene” in London . . . KS: It makes me happy, because now I don’t have to be jealous. But I feel like I would never even be part of it anyway because I’m not super into club culture. I’m a homebody. I love dance music and electronic music but I rarely experience it in a club. KC: There are a lot of people like
Mount Kimbie’s Cold Spring Fault Less Youth (Warp) mir(r)o(r)’s an analogue past. Opposite page: Kai Campos (left) and Dominic Maker, photographed in Berlin by Hans Martin Sewcz.
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that—especially DJs and producers over here. DJs obviously have to go to the clubs to work, but a lot of them wouldn’t be there if they weren’t working.
KS: Are you guys into
mostly analogue stuff or do you do a lot of programming and plug-in work? KC: Our first set-up was almost
all digital, but with this album, all the mixing and mastering was analogue. I think before you make the leap, the difference is not something you hear that
much. But then you notice them in certain contexts. And even if there’s only, say, a ten percent difference when using digital, I wonder why anybody would sacrifice that ten percent. KS: It’s one thing to sacrifice ten percent of a sound for a single instrument. It’s an entirely different thing when you do that for all instruments. KC: Yeah. And lots of soft-
ware today leaves little to no room for it to be misused. Loads of moments on our last record were just accidents. We were abusing our equipment—pushing it to do things it wasn’t designed to do and that’s when you find your own unique voice. KS: I feel like there’s been a big
shift towards analogue recording methods recently, at least amongst artists I’ve talked to. Five years ago they were like, “I can do everything on my computer in GarageBand! It’s amazing!” And now, suddenly, they’re feeling very different about the sounds they use. Now everybody has access to a laptop, so you have to try harder to make something different.
KC: These things really do go
in circles. When you’re younger you end up making sweeping statements about what you’re never going to do, but I try not to do that anymore.
KS: Ten years ago I used to say I could never identify with folk music. But these days I absolutely love it. KC: What do you love about it? KS: The songwriting and the way that artists are really communicating a story, like the last Perfume Genius record, Put Your Back N 2 It. I used to pay much less attention to lyrics, but now it’s become an important part of what I focus on as an artist. KC: There have been times in the
past where I could sing along to an entire album and still not really know any of the lyrics. When we were writing the songs for this album, there was a lot of space where the vocals should be, but we didn’t want to have an album featuring a bunch of different people. I had all these ideas for the vocal parts and because I’m a bit of a control freak, I just ended up doing it myself. That was quite a new thing. It wasn’t particularly scary because it felt like the right thing to do. I felt like with this record we just had to put more on the line. Honestly, I really enjoy the vocal performances where people can’t sing. Even though I sometimes wish I had gone for singing lessons before. But it is what it is. Now I know that for the next time.
KS: I love non-singers, though I come from the opposite end of the spectrum, and I’ve been criticized for singing “effortlessly”. That’s an aspect I’ve also heard in other singers: great voices that do absolutely nothing for me. KC: It’s like with equipment:
when people don’t know how to use it, it’s interesting. I like using something before I’ve read the manual. It’s like a route to . . . yourself. ~
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Juan Atkins and Moritz von Oswald are two of techno’s most central figures from two distinct eras: Atkins of course, was one of the genre’s co-pioneers in the early eighties under the Cybotron and Model 500 monikers while von Oswald, working in tandem with then partner Mark Ernestus in the early nineties, was an originator of techno’s dub-inflected and minimal manifestations under the guises Maurizio, Basic Channel, Rhythm & Sound. Somewhat inevitably, their relationship has been a feedback loop of influence, with early remixes and coproductions on Tresor Records helping to establish the historical Berlin-Detroit axis. Now, after a long break that’s seen tectonic shifts in both artists’ personal lives, as well as opposite developments in economic progress between Berlin’s boom and Detroit’s bankruptcy, Atkins and von Oswald have reunited to make Borderland. The LP is a continuation of sonic conversations dear to their respective oeuvres: music without beginnings or ends and tracks in endless variations. Here, the two spoke with von Oswald’s nephew Laurens at the German family’s West Berlin residence about music bridging time and space. Left: Moritz von Oswald, photographed at home in Berlin. All photos by Luci Lux.
MORITZ AND LAURENS VON OSWALD TALK TO JUAN ATKINS
“It felt like you could fall from the edge of the earth” Laurens von Oswald: Moritz, do you remember how you and Juan first met? I mean, I know your history goes way back. You met way before in Detroit, no?
the story a couple of times, but I’ve never heard it from your perspective, Moritz.
you name them. Basically, we’d listen to a record in Berlin and then wanted to really know who the artist behind the track was. And this meant that you had to book a transcontinental flight to Detroit to find out and to get to know all these people personally. So, that’s what I mean when I say I met Juan around the corner.
Moritz von Oswald: In Detroit in
JA: I remember that corner. You
Juan Atkins: Yeah—I’ve told
those days, you just needed to look around the corner to bump into someone you knew from the records we were getting in Europe, because so many releases came from that city. I would even go so far as to say that in the beginning of the nineties, all the important records came from there, from Underground Resistance to Juan and so many other artists. So, I wanted to go to Detroit because I was curious, and I wanted to meet people like you, Juan. I knew who you were and when I finally saw you, I thought: that’s him. For the first trip to Detroit, I had actually followed my former partner [Mark Ernestus] who was interested in the important labels from Detroit—Fragile, Metroplex,
were not only carrying records with you, but also real instruments. You were busy buying musical gear, keyboards
knows the price of these instruments nowadays. Besides, we have eBay for that now. But I remember that smile on Moritz’s face when he’d got hold of a rare synth in some basement in central Detroit. It was like Christmas for him. MvO: [pulls out incredibly obscure
looking old filter] In fact, I still own some of these old devices— filters, drum machines, synthesizers . . . But it was exactly like you said: we would buy the most obscure instruments for little money and eventually use them as add-ons to our productions.
JA: And I was most curious what
you guys would get out of these machines. I mean, I had some imagination, but do you remember we didn’t have MIDI back then? This meant that we couldn’t synch our gear. The different manufacturers didn’t care whether their instruments would interface with instruments from other manufacturers. The fact that you could use a Roland drum machine only together with a Roland keyboard and a Roland sequencer did actually effect a lot of pre-MIDI productions. That’s why some of us would sell gear that was actually great—because we couldn’t use it properly. And we were quite impressed that you had built this customized system that nobody else in the world had and that would synchronize all the old instruments. We called it German engineering! And that’s one of the reasons why I went to actually see you in Berlin: to see all these keyboards that you’d bought in Detroit synchronized and in action. I was quite impressed because it meant so much more freedom.
“Whenever and wherever there are loops, I am happy with it. I would extend this even beyond techno music: I also like loops in human relationships. I like the daily business. I like repetition.” and sequencers from all these pawnshops. Man, you dug out some obscure instruments. LvO: Does that still happen? Can people still find stuff cheap in pawnshops?
LvO: Do you remember your first visit to Berlin?
JA: No, you can’t. Everybody
[Hegemann] to play at the Tresor
JA: I was invited by Dimitri
EB 2/2013 79
“The Borderland project reminds me of collaborations where you would constantly seek out different configurations of musicians. It’s like listening to a George Duke album and he has Billy Cobham on drums and Randy Jackson on the bass. And these guys are cool musicians on their own, but whenever they record in different configurations, something totally different will come out.” Juan Atkins
Like previous releases by German electronic acts Pole and GAS, the cover art for Borderland draws a connection between techno and dark forests. Opposite page: Juan Atkins without a trace of jetlag at Moritz von Oswald’s home studio. In contrast to von Oswald, whose royal lineage traces directly back to former German Reich Chancellor Otto von Bismarck (his great, great grandfather), Atkins comes from two generations of auto factory workers. Somewhat ironically, Atkins licensed Model 500’s classic “No UFOs” in the year 2000 to Ford for a TV commercial identifying the city’s auto industry with Detroit techno. It ran during the Super Bowl.
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that was then still located on Leipziger Straße. I ran into him at a record company in the UK and he arranged my first trip to Berlin where I recorded 3MB with Moritz and Thomas Fehlmann. I remember quite clearly that this first stay in Berlin was during the time when the Wall came down.
out seeing a single person. It felt like you could fall from the edge of the earth if you’d walk towards the horizon. LvO: As if the world was flat . . .
coincidence. I knew it two weeks in advance. Actually I had just moved to Berlin myself to witness the fall of the Wall.
MvO: Exactly. Detroit—and beyond that the infinite universe. On the streets, everything was empty. It was a lost city. Of course, there was activity but it was almost invisible. And as we all know, Berlin and Detroit have gone in two totally different economic directions since then . . .
LvO: How did you know
JA: But at that time there were
LvO: Ha, quite a coincidence! MvO: Of course that wasn’t a
it was coming?
MvO: That was a joke. JA: I immediately thought Berlin and Detroit had a lot of similarities. There wasn’t much development happening in either city and Berlin reminded me of the bleakness of Detroit. Back then it still had that dark kind of feeling. I’m talking about the time before Sony and Chrysler and all those big corporations that built their tall buildings at Potsdamer Platz. MvO: When I came to Detroit for the first time I had this feeling that I had arrived at the end of the world. It was like the civilized world’s last outpost. In Europe you don’t see wastelands like that. I mean, you could look through Detroit’s abandoned main station with-
a lot of similarities. And when I came to Berlin the next time, all I remember is that they had so many cranes in the sky, more than I’ve ever seen before in my life. Berlin to me was like the biggest building site in the world. Today, a lot of this work is finished and it strikes me as amazing to see how fast you can actually build a city. I’ve been fortunate to have seen a lot of cities in the meantime. Unfortunately, there is still no direct flight from Detroit to Berlin, which is a strange obstacle considering the unique story these two cities share. I really don’t get it. I sometimes wonder how a direct flight would have changed things.
MvO: You always had to change at Schiphol or Frankfurt am Main or New York. It was never easy getting to Detroit. But it always was worth the pain because it was a real creative challenge to meet
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MvO: Yes, but these are different times. And something that’s especially important to mention is the fact that there has been a long break. In fact it’s been more than twelve years since the last time we worked together. That’s significant. During this off time, the energies on Juan’s and my part were constantly growing, and the resulting collaboration reflects exactly that. It’s as if we had to wait that long to successfully bundle all that energy and then let it out in a series of long jams, which, of course, were carefully edited. LvO: I think these jams sound really cohesive. JA: The funny thing is, we didn’t
the friends I had there. The funny thing is that the city never really changed in all these years. Detroit is definitively struggling hard. Everybody is trying to develop the city, but you can’t change the fact that there is simply no economy. JA: Detroit even had to declare
bankruptcy. It used to be the Motor City. But Detroit closed when the industry closed.
MvO: As far as I know, Chrysler is finally profitable again.
Above: Laurens von Oswald helped engineer Borderland in his uncle’s home studio in former West Berlin. He is also one of the curators of this year’s revived mixed media festival Atonal, to be held in Berlin’s famed Tresor club under the direction of founder and label owner Dimitri Hegemann.
JA: That’s what I heard too,
but it’s all automated now. It’s robots making robots.
LvO: Let’s talk about the album
for a moment. I know that Dimitri approached you both about doing something together. Did it need him or would you have collaborated anyway? MvO: I would agree that Dimitri
was the driving force behind Borderland. I think he is obsessed with bringing people together he thinks should collaborate. JA: He’s probably someone who
thinks in jazz terms; you know, like some visionary producer who wants to hear how it would 82 EB 2/2013
Moritz von Oswald’s dubbed out remix of Model 500’s Starlight (Metroplex) was an instant classic upon its release in 1995. Because the track wasn’t included on the original double 12-inch, it also quickly became a collector’s item.
sound like if certain jazz musicians would decide to work together. He has always been someone who tried to make things happen. The Borderland project reminds me of collaborations where you would constantly seek out different configurations of musicians. It’s like listening to a George Duke album and he has Billy Cobham on drums and Randy Jackson on the bass. And these guys are cool musicians on their own, but whenever they record in different configurations, something totally different will come out. Same thing with Miles Davis and his decision to invite Joe Zawinul to play with him, Herbie Hancock and Dave Holland on In a Silent Way. But coming back to Moritz and myself, of course it helped that we’ve worked a lot together in the past. I recorded most of Model 500’s Deep Space with him, as well as my Sonic Sunset EP and, as I mentioned before, the 3MB project and a couple of other things. That made everything unfold pretty easy. LvO: Yeah, but now it’s Moritz von Oswald and Juan Atkins—before that it was all about anonymity and hiding behind monikers, wasn’t it?
plan this cohesiveness. Not planning it actually marks the beauty of this experiment. If we knew in advance exactly what would be coming out, it wouldn’t have been so much fun recording Borderland. I mean, we knew what each of us was bringing to the project. But during the process of recording we couldn’t predict what the result would be. I think that we both have that type of personality where we just can work together. I can only explain for myself, but when I work with somebody—and this is not limited to music—I have this tendency to work harder for other people than I’d do for myself. That’s why I like collaborations so much.
MvO: I agree. JA: And on the other hand, I’ve
been in situations where I worked with other people who were overbearing. I don’t like people who behave like that. Moritz, you are not like that at all, and that’s probably why this collaboration turned out so organic in the end: because we both always knew when to give and when to take. We didn’t listen to other music, either. We would only listen to the music we just had recorded and what we were working on. We were busy doing what we were doing.
MvO: That’s correct. JA: Right now, in electronic music,
3MB consisted of Moritz von Oswald and Thomas Fehlmann, together with a floating third member—alternately Juan Atkins or Eddie Fowlkes. Atkins’ first release with the group was this selftitled double 12-inch from 1992 (Tresor).
“In Detroit in those days, you just needed to look around the corner to bump into someone you knew from the records we were getting in Europe, because so many releases came from that city. I would even go so far to say that in the beginning of the nineties, all the important records came from there, from Underground Resistance to Juan and so many other artists. So, I wanted to go to Detroit because I was curious, and I wanted to meet people like you, Juan [. . .] Basically, we’d listen to a record in Berlin and then wanted to really know who the artist behind the track was.” Moritz von Oswald people have overcome the novelty of the electronic sound. Artists should put in more of an organic feel into the music they make.
Model 500’s Sonic Sunset EP (R&S Records) from 1994, was a well-executed combination of upbeat Detroit techno, deep house and ambient electronics. The album was also engineered by Moritz von Oswald.
Juan Atkins released Deep Space (R&S Records) under his Model 500 moniker in 1995. The album was was engineered by Moritz von Oswald and also featured heavyweights Kevin Saunderson and François Kevorkian.
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LvO: So, you’d describe the “organic” sounds and compositions on Borderland as a progression? JA: Yes. I mean, you witnessed the recording process from the beginning. How did you perceive the whole thing, Laurens?
where the collaboration will lead you. It’s also about freedom—the freedom of reaction. As a musician you always react differently to what somebody else is playing.
engineering the record, I feel that the tracks are very much a result of reactions to what you were both doing and hearing.
JA: The difference to jazz obvi-
sound is a sound. Whenever we hear a sound, we change. When I hear a sound made by Juan, I change. So, you are absolutely right when you put emphasis on things like that. We of course do everything with respect and openness towards one another. I should add that I have to respect the musician in order to be open to being influenced by him.
ously is that we are more like multi-instrumentalists when we work with sequencers, drum machines and keyboards. But this is just a minor difference. The concept is still the same.
LvO: I remember the setting seeming kind of weird. At first you didn’t say much to each other. You were just sitting together. It was days and days of sitting around and jamming. And then, at a certain stage, we just put it together. It seemed like a really comfortable collaborative process, as if you’d done it a thousand times before. Not necessarily talking about the music, but just making it. Occasionally I noticed nods of approval between the two of you.
MvO: As far as I am concerned, I
MvO: You noticed one of the capi-
met again, Juan. I really like the loop as a metaphor for everything I enjoy in life and in music. Life is not only about exploring but also about revisiting.
tal rules of music and especially in jazz: music is always about development. It’s as easy as that. You pay respect to another musician when you choose to collaborate with him or her. It’s because you’re interested in the way the other person plays their instrument and because you’re curious
find rest in loops. Whenever and wherever there are loops, I am happy with it. I would extend this even beyond techno music: I also like loops in human relationships. I like the daily business. I like repetition. I accept everydayness.
JA: Everything is a cycle, a
wave, a vibration. I truly believe in cycles too. Techno is music that’s based on just that.
MvO: It’s also a cycle that we have
LvO: I hear both of you on the album in unexpected and very interesting ways. Having been there with you in the studio
MvO: For me it is like this: a
JA: Admiring an artist and listen-
ing to his music are closely linked. I wouldn’t be here in Berlin in Moritz’s studio if I didn’t admire his work and attitude. And at the same time, it’s not a conscious thing. It’s hard to explain. Let me try to give you an example: if you succeed in turning the recording process of an album into a natural process, your perception of time becomes blurry. You either perceive time as if it was running, and you achieve a lot in almost “no” time. Or you lose yourself in the process of making music and you don’t even notice how it passes . . . at all. Every time I work with Moritz things come easy. If it’s right, it should be easy. If it’s hard, something’s not right. ~
Atoms For Peace, Alt-J, Archive, Austra, Babyshambles, Azealia Banks, Barnt, Ben UFO, Bicep, James Blake, Chvrches, Daniel Bortz, Dan Deacon, Daughter, Marcel Dettmann, Diiv, Disclosure, DJ Koze, Django Django, Ellen Allien, Everything Everything, Feine Sahne Fischfilet, Flying Lotus, Function, Get Physical Special feat. Wankelmut, M.A.N.D.Y., Catz ’N Dogz u.a., Henrik Schwarz & Band, James Holden, Iamamiwhoami, Jets, Joy Orbison, Julio Bashmore, Junip, Karenn, Kettcar, King Krule, Ben Klock, The Knife, Monika Kruse, Laing, Local Natives, Maceo Plex, Mark Ronson vs. Riton DJ-Set, Metro Area (Live), Miss Kittin (Live), Modeselektor & Apparat (DJ-Set), Mount Kimbie, MS MR, James Murphy (DJ-Set), Mykki Blanco, Markus Kavka, Oliver Koletzki, Otto von Schirach, Owen Pallett, Purity Ring, Rebel Rave feat. Jamie Jones, Art Department, Damian Lazarus u.a., Rhye, Roosevelt, Rudimental, Ry x Frank Wiedemann present The Howling, SBTRKT (DJ-Set), Schwarzmann (Live), Scuba, Simian Mobile Disco (DJ-Set), Siriusmo (Live), Sizarr, Solomun, Soulwax, SUOL special feat. Daniel Bortz, Trickski u.a., Swim Deep, Amon Tobin presents Two Fingers (DJ-Set), Todd Terje & Lindstrøm (Live), Trentemøller (Live), Pre-Pahrtetyrs, Tricky, Trümmer, Hans Unstern, Woodkid, Zebra Katz, ig Crystal F (LIVE), s iu im S Kid 20 Jahre Kompakt feat. Michael Mayer & Tobias Thomas, ore ol and m Abby, Po 3 1 The 1975 and many more 18 July 20 5 Euro Tickets:
19/2 0/21 July 2013, Ferropolis, Germany www.meltfestival.de, #melt2013
Ein Fest von:
A WEEK IN THE LIFE
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NEGRO INTERVIEWS: LISA BLANNING AND MAX DAX PHOTOGRAPHY: ROSALIA KULLICK AND LUCI LUX Photo: Hand painted real estate advertisements adorn the highway outside Podgorica
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Since declaring independence on June 3, 2006, the tiny ex-Yugoslavian Republic of Montenegro has had aspirations of becoming the Adriatic’s next St. Tropéz, wooing the rich, beautiful and famous to its shores by investing heavily in elite tourism. But until this utopic vision becomes reality and the country lives up to its onscreen depiction from Casino Royale (filmed on location), Montenegrins have been hedging their bets in search of alternate national identities, turning to everyone from national football coach Branko Brnovic´ and various celebrated turbo-folk outfits to find out which way is up. In Podgorica, it’s get rich or sigh trying, as we recently learned from some of the city’s prominent protagonists. MONDAY, KOTOR COFFEE WITH DEDDUH AND NOYZ OF WHO SEE?, MONTENEGRIN RAP DUO AND PARTICIPANTS IN 2013’s EUROVISION SONG CONTEST Our band Who See? never felt like part of the Montenegrin music scene, which is very small and produces a lot of garbage called Montenegrin “turbo folk”. In fact, we have always only listened to international music, especially American hip hop. Since we founded the band in 2000, we have seen ourselves as part of an international hip hop underground which goes back to the mid-nineties when we started listening to that music— 88 EB 2/2013
particularly Ice-T, Ice Cube and gangsta rap. At the time, it was very difficult to get any original music in the country. This was also a result of the economic embargo against Serbia and Montenegro that came into effect in 1992 during the war with Bosnia and Herzegovina. We had to ask tourists from the West who looked like hip hop fans if they could give us some music that we then would copy onto cassettes. Today, there are probably only fifty people who do hip hop in the entire ex-Yugoslavia, and we most likely know them all. As natives of Kotor Bay, we were originally inspired by a hip hop duo known as the politically incorrect “Monteniggers”. The group was popular throughout the nineties until Nebojša “Nebo” Saveljic´ was tragically killed in a car accident
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in 1999. Certainly, MTV Adria has made huge efforts when it comes to promoting hip hop in ex-Yugoslavia. The video to our song “Reggaeton Montenegro” from 2012 may not be known outside of the region, but along the Adriatic it had massive success, receiving double platinum status for more than eight hundred plays on MTV. Having studied graphic design at the faculty of fine arts in Cetinje, this was a huge accomplishment as we had edited the video all by ourselves. And yet despite this regional success, we were surprised when we heard that we were nominated to represent Montenegro at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Malmö. After all, it’s only the country’s fifth time participating since independence. And we didn’t expect that a hip hop track such as “Igranka”, featuring our dear friend and singer Nina ´ could ever be considered Žižic, representative of what Montenegro is about. Back when Serbia and Montenegro were still participating together, a hip hop track would have simply been impossible because it wouldn’t have been familiar enough for the authorities. But one thing that we have learned about our home country is that things simply happen the way they do, be it arbitrarily or for totally practical reasons, like sending us to Eurovision to save money. You have to know that since 2006, the Montenegrin understanding of participating in the Eurovision Song Contest meant to spend crazy amounts of money to produce some fancy-ass music they thought would blow the rest of the world away, which of course it didn’t. So when we finally received the unexpected phone call from the director of Montenegro Public Broadcasting Service inviting us, we were just happy to not have that happen again. We knew that Eurovision reaches hundreds of millions of spectators, so for us it meant a chance to perform our music in front of a huge international audience. Naturally we accepted the offer. We also hadn’t planned anything else: no holidays booked, no work to do, no recording sessions. Last but not least, we’d never been to Sweden before. That we lost in the first round—well, that’s another story.
TUESDAY, SVETI STEFAN TOUR GUIDE EXTRAORDINAIRE ANDRIJANA NIKIC TAKES US FOR A SEASIDE DRIVE ALONG THE ADRIATIC Growing up in Montenegro and loving music, I welcome pretty much every concert that takes place here. Unfortunately, there weren’t that many in the past. Almost no major artists or groups come to perform. So I was quite surprised when The Rolling Stones, Madonna and Lenny Kravitz played in Budva in 2007 and 2008, even though it was an exception. Every other artist—including Depeche Mode—will usually only have Belgrade and Zagreb on their tour schedule. I often get asked if a music scene exists in Montenegro at all, and surely you can hardly find a DJ who has his own style. If people go dancing, they go to the big discotheques where mainly turbo-folk is being played. It’s a strange phenomenon because this music pretends to be of Balkan origin but in reality is a plagiarism of Turkish and Greek dance music, mixed with sexed-up lyrics that hardly make any sense at all. The other day I heard a girl singing some silly line in a turbo-folk song: “I am so hot that you can boil coffee on my body”—obviously not the words of a feminist. And everybody goes to these turbofolk events because mass culture always has the positive side effect that you’ll meet all the people you know. Still, I will never understand how this music could be so commercially successful and cast such a shadow on the traditional music of Montenegro, which is actually quite beautiful and made with a kind of lyre called a gusle. When I listen to the old music, I feel something like love for my country. But that’s as far as it goes. Apart from that, people are very patriotic in Montenegro. It doesn’t matter where they live, Montenegro will forever remain their first love. They will gladly defend their homeland when foreigners dare to criticize its absurd bureaucracy, poorly performing
economy or lack of contemporary youth culture. It’s as if other opinions are not welcome. Having said that, I don’t feel that patriotic at all, maybe because I’ve lived a couple of years in the US and in Paris and have seen systems that are way better organized. My hometown Sveti Stefan was a celebrity resort in the sixties frequently visited by the likes of Orson Welles, Elizabeth Taylor or Sophia Loren. But all I see today are things that could effortlessly be improved. But nobody seems to care. So yes, this tiny country has huge potential, but the people here mostly don’t give a shit. I’d actually describe the overall mentality of the Montenegrins as passive, but not lazy. As a rule of thumb, everybody always expects somebody else to start something. No one ever makes the first move. The results can mostly be seen in our stagnating economy. You have to know this if you want to understand people of my generation. As children and young adults we witnessed two decades of transition, including a war, a referendum, a declaration of independence and finally turbo-capitalism. On the political level, we currently have the Monty Pythonesque situation that almost every political party carries the word “socialist” in their name. The ruling party is the Democratic Party of Socialists, with the opposition made up of the Socialist People’s Party and the Social Democratic Party. They all claim socialist ideals, as if they want to nourish the people’s need for nostalgic socialist continuity in post-Tito Yugoslavia. But if you take a closer look at their political agendas, you’ll notice that they all stand for the various forms of neoliberalism. You can see this easily in the way our cities were rebuilt in the two decades after the end of Yugoslavia: huge residential complexes were erected in cities like Budva or Podgorica, but nobody ever invests a thought into the infrastructural and urban planning around it. Suffice to say, we sold or privatized basically everything that was formerly owned by the state. As a result, Montenegro, apart from its wine
Above: Passionate tour guide Andrijana Nikic lives to help visitors navigate their way around the impressive Montenegrin landscape. Opposite page: Make wine not war. The Šipcanik wine cellar ˇ opened in late 2007 in a former military aircraft hangar. According to a spokeswoman for Montenegrin wine manufacturer 13 julPlantaže, it took only two NATO bombs from a single strike—one at the front and one at the rear entrance—to destroy the country’s entire airforce. Previous page: Noyz (Mario Đordevic, ¯ ´ left) and Dedduh (Dejan ´ of MonteneDedovic) grin rap duo Who See?.
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Above: Nina Redzepagic is the person to talk to should you want to shoot a film, find a stuntman or organize a larger concert in Montenegro. Opposite page: The small natural island of Sveti Đorde ¯ is located off the coast of the town of Perast in the Bay of Kotor. It’s home to the Saint George Benedictine monastery, which was built in the twelfth century and contains an old graveyard for the local nobility. Locals say it’s a good place to fight temptations of all kinds.
industry, has almost no national production or exports to speak of. No politician has ever addressed sustainability as an issue, and we’re left with hoping that beach tourism will solve all our problems three months out of the year. Perhaps the worst thing is that the two decades of “transition” have also changed the moral values of the people who live here. Money has become the new religion, people are getting greedy and they’ve even started believing that the war never happened. If you’d ask people on the street, some say that the bad things started when Montenegro gave up its independence and became part of Serbia in 1918. They almost like the idea that our country had been occupied for almost ninety years, because it allows them to blame all the bad things on Serbia. Of course, if you go to Bosnia, Serbia or Croatia you’ll hear a completely different take on history. They talk more about communism than the Balkan war of the nineties, but ultimately they’d discuss it all. I don’t like Montenegrin hypocrisy. If you ask me, this country is currently undergoing a crisis of spirituality.
WEDNESDAY, PODGORICA SIT-DOWN WITH CULTURAL EVENT MANAGER NINA REDZEPAGIC I studied history and theater at the University of Bologna, Italy, which is where I also learned how to run a business after receiving my master’s degree in event management, which is what I do today. I am the owner and director of OR production company that I run together with my business partner Edin Jasarovic. We organize theater, film and live music productions as well as commercials for big international brands. Whenever a big corporation wants to organize something in our country, they come to us. Last year, we produced the Electronic Beats Festival featuring The Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble in Podgorica’s National Theater. You need a quick filming permit? Call us. We’ll organize everything 92 EB 2/2013
for you on the local level, including the truly bizarre and exciting forms of film entertainment like famous Balkan stuntmen—in Montenegro we have some of the world’s finest and bravest. This is big fun and filming stunts in Montenegro is one of my favorite things to produce. And with our close connections to the government, we are also occasionally able to close the highway on the seaside—pretty much the whole South Montenegrin region—for a film shoot. These kinds of jobs are very interesting because we constantly work together with the police. You see, the system functions because everybody knows everybody. If you have a problem, you pick up the phone and call the person that can help you. This way, you can make sure that an international film crew can do their work fast and easy without bureaucratic hassle. In Germany, you need lots of time and patience to get permission if you want to film outdoors. With our help, you’ll get the permission within twenty-four hours—even if you call us in the evening. Montenegro is a small country in terms of land, but we only have a population of around 630,000, which means that we have space. The country has a large variety of gorgeous landscapes. To travel from the tall, snow-capped mountains to the beaches of the Adriatic, you’ll need only two hours. This is precisely what makes us so attractive for filming different locations: you can have it all, which keeps the costs low as traveling expenses will be reduced to a minimum. But, unfortunately, the main business when it comes to popular culture here is the turbo-folk business. In all of ex-Yugoslavia, this is the mainstream. My theory is that this music must somehow provide some kind of identity for the people. Nevertheless since the embargo ended two years ago, young people started traveling without needing visas, even leaving the country to study in Europe where they listen to western music and develop different tastes. I am very curious about how this will change the music we play on the radio. The fact of the matter is that we have
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Above: Janko Ljumovic, ´ the director of Montenegro’s National Theater in Podgorica, believes that critical contemporary theater can help reunite spiritually divided Montenegrins. Opposite page: Bojan Martinovic´ is assistant dean of Montenegro’s Music Academy, located in the former British Embassy in Cetinje.
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witnessed quite a bit of progress here since the declaration of independence. This has triggered dynamic development here, which often gives me the impression that I am at the right place at the right time. Everything seems possible, and everybody who works for this young state is still motivated to make things happen. I cannot wait for the day Montenegro will become a full member of the European Union, opening the gates for even more investors than we have now. I see a bright future.
THURSDAY, CETINJE MEETING WITH BOJAN MARTINOVIĆ, ASSISTANT DEAN OF THE NATIONAL MUSIC ACADEMY The first vinyl LP I ever bought was The Man-Machine by Kraftwerk, which was released here on the Yugoslavian label Jugoton. I actually bought it at the official Jugoton store in Podgorica, at a time when I was playing violin. A lot of Kraftwerk albums were released in Yugoslavia and every new album was clearly understood as a step in a new direction, so you basically had to own it if you wanted to participate in discussions about popular music. Even though I am the assistant dean of the Montenegro Music Academy, I would go so far to say that Kraftwerk are as influential as Karlheinz Stockhausen or Olivier Messiaen when it comes to the field of electronic music. I wish we had influential musicians and composers like that in Montenegro. If I turn on the radio, I only hear turbo-folk, and it’s an absolutely atrocious sound to my ears. To me it’s comparable to musical genocide, as it’s completely flooding the country. I would love to turn on the radio and listen to good electronic or twelve-tone music. But every time I’m driving I feel like a prisoner of bad melodies and horrid words, gazing at other cars with customized color jobs. This music was invented to lower the intellectual level of the population. It is a huge enterprise and the market has since exceeded one billion euros in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-
Herzegovina and Montenegro. If you’d call that large-scale brainwashing, I wouldn’t disagree, as I am fully aware of the fact that the music you hear often determines important aspects of your life. And turbo-folk is a prime example of how greed and corruption could damage the ears of generations in most of the Balkans—and not only the ears. This music leads to more strokes, more tumors, more crimes, more prisoners, more fights on the street. It vulgarizes entire populations, especially when consumed together with enormous amounts of cheap lager. At the same time, musicologists have long been able to show how great music can heal people, if not nations. This applies to classical music, New Music, Chicago house or abstract electronic music in the same manner. In our academy I try to teach this to the students. I try to give them a clear vision that studying, composing and performing music can heal human beings on a spiritual level. It’s like in poetry. You’re either infiltrated by reading the hate-filled and vulgar language of the tabloids, or you read the wonderful and tender poetry of Jorge Luis Borges. My job is to educate and to teach people to believe in non-functional music that brings the world forward—fully knowing and acknowledging that this is only a very small country and that we are talking about a handful of students at the academy that represent the average non-brainwashed Montenegrin.
FRIDAY, PODGORICA MEETING WITH JANKO LJUMOVIĆ, DIRECTOR OF MONTENEGRO’S NATIONAL THEATER The National Theater in Podgorica is the central meeting point for contemporary theater in Montenegro. It is an untypical institution when it comes to drama because we focus entirely on contemporary pieces—both in terms of artistic expression as well as in terms of poetry. We invite innovative directors from other theaters, mostly Serbia, to show their plays in Podgorica. Just recently, at the
Biennial of Montenegrin Theatre in November 2012, we invited Boris Liješevic, who is of Montenegrin descent but lives and works in Novi Sad, Serbia’s second largest city. He is now working on a postdramatic documentary piece showing how the influence of money in the capitalist system has changed the people in the Balkans during the period of transition. Ask anybody on the street, and they will agree that new money has destroyed something inside of us. Liješevic’s piece essentially is a monetary history, beginning from the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1990 until today, all represented in a post-narrative fashion. Theater has always been political in the Balkans and this especially goes for the era of Tito. Indeed, contemporary critical culture has undeniably had an impact on the course of events here, in particular when it comes to the referendum and the following declaration of independence. At the National Theater we want to reflect Montenegrin reality. We seek to provoke and create awareness for the frightening new times that we’re living in. That’s why we are not staging any classical repertoire pieces, but only critical contemporary theater. Even though you will notice that most Montenegrins love their country, the pieces presented in the National Theater don’t follow any nationalist agenda. This is worth mentioning as Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Montenegro all speak the same Slavic language, even though these are partially different ethnic groups who had fought against each other in the Bosnian War from 1992 to 1995. Staging modern, experimental plays from Croatian or Serbian playwrights or from Montenegrins who live abroad in ex-Yugoslavia, is also of major interest for us. We promote our theater as a “hub” for current ideas. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I truly believe the theaters were the only institutions in former Yugoslavia that perceived themselves as cultural ambassadors whose goal was to reunite the people after all the hatred, killing, ethnic cleansing and mass rapes that defined the war. Our institution was one of the very first
Above: Montenegro’s head football coach Branko Brnovic´ has faith that his team will participate at next year’s World Cup in Brazil. By guiding Montenegro to the top of their qualifying group, Brnovic´ has become key in helping shape the young country’s national identity.
´ Above: If you haven’t ´ dined at Dzijo Lekic’s restaurant Pod Volat (run together with his brother Nedzad), then you probably aren’t part of Podgorica’s cultural vanguard. Opposite page: Peaceful Montenegrin football fans pose for a photo with anti-riot police in front of the city’s Podgorica Stadium shortly before the country’s historical draw against England.
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that made steps towards reconciliation. In that regard I am very happy to see that we attract a mainly younger audience. To me it shows that the generation that grew up with the war is strong enough to prefer peace and not nationalism as a way of life.
SUNDAY, PODGORICA INTERVIEW WITH MONTENEGRO HEAD FOOTBALL COACH BRANKO BRNOVIĆ FOLLOWING THE 1:1 DRAW WITH ENGLAND
SATURDAY, PODGORICA DINNER WITH DZIJO LEKIĆ, OWNER OF RESTAURANT POD VOLAT
Football is the largest and one of the most impressive forms of theater imaginable; the floodlights, drama and amount of passion shown by fans are unique. Football especially plays an important role in light of Montenegro’s recently gained independence. That we are currently leading group H in the qualifying campaign for the World Cup is a testament to the time and effort invested in forming our very first gathering of this national team. The Football Association of Montenegro, led ´ by Mr. Dejan Savicević, has provided us with excellent conditions for training, which we have gladly taken advantage of. Our two matches against England were prime examples of how football can unite a nation. The home match in Podgorica against England in particular saw our players and coaching staff drawing our small nation together like a single living being, all dreaming the same dream. However I do not see myself as a representative of the state. For instance, I do TV interviews only for professional reasons in moments when my association and my team need me to do it. I always leave the leading role to my players, because they are the ones who are properly responsible for the success. When it comes to football and strategy, all the players breath and think as one. Of course, nothing would be possible without hard work, and that’s probably the reason why there is a saying that, among many unimportant things in the world, football is the most important one. Football is a unique experience—it has the passion, devotion, drama, skills and many other ingredients that every person on this earth should, at least once in their lifetime, experience. Being part of the football spectacle is like nothing else, from whichever perspective you view it: at home, on the field, in the stadium, on the sidelines, or in your dreams. ~
If you haven’t at least once tasted meso ispod saca, then you haven’t really been to Montenegro. It’s one of the most traditional dishes the country has to offer and can generally be described as an ancient way of cooking lamb, veal, or goat under an iron lid covered with glowing coal. I use an old recipe from my grandmother, and until only a couple of years ago, you couldn’t find a single restaurant that would offer one of these old dishes. All the people who work in my restaurant had to learn how to cook it, and of course they were being watched closely by my mother. If you really want to deliver the best food for a reasonable price, you have to perfectly conduct every single step of the process. For instance, we only buy meat from one specific butcher who also happens to be one of my cousins. He knows what we need and how we want to have our meat cut. Only if you build up reliable supply sources can you offer better quality for a lower price. I learned a lot in 1998 when I stayed in the United States for two years, cooking in Las Vegas at the MGM Hotel and in New York in an Italian and a Turkish restaurant. When I returned to Podgorica, I immediately changed the concept of my restaurant, the Pod Volat, turning it into the popular buffet eatery that it is today—I added new dishes, redecorated and made it more attractive for families. In New York, I had also learned that you need a distinctive wine list to balance out an ambitious and yet affordable menu. We offer 165 different wines from different countries with prices ranging from low to very high. This way nobody is excluded.
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DP: What you see online mirrors the language of the street. Sometimes that translates as a mixing of upper and lower case letters and alternate spellings. Also, dialects can change according to the region—from the really hardcore criminals that we found in jails in Fresno, to those who were more reformed like parolees and probationers in St. Louis. But we didn’t notice huge differences in online behavior between different cities or across gender and racial divides. The biggest disparities were generational. The way older guys avoid the Internet, while the younger guys embrace it. AS: MySpace is interesting because
David Pyrooz: The study was actually part of a larger project by Google Ideas, who commissioned four studies related to various forms of extremism: religious, political, cult and gang-related. Gangs were sort of the odd duck out because they aren’t radicalized and do not propagandize like the other deviant networks. But they are violent, have similar group structure, and actively use social media for bragging and intimidation. They might send out a tweet that says, “If you testify or snitch, we’re going to come after you.” There’s been a diffusion of technology and a normative orientation to have Internet access. Even for very marginalized populations, it’s become cheap to be online. And that’s interesting.
The Very Crispy Gangsters and Rockstarz didn’t start the trend, but they did bring it to international attention: today’s American street gangs appear to be carrying out their feuds as much online as off. In a recent spate of widely publicized Facebook braggadocio that subsequently led to multiple arrests, the Brooklyn gangs recklessly posted about their murderous misdeeds and ill intentions. According to recent study by criminologist David Pyrooz, this reflects a wider trend of gang activity on social media sites, with LOL-generation bangers gaining criminal capital in posts and tweets while sacrificing the anonymity it takes to be a successful criminal.
AS: What kind of social
A.J. Samuels: Why do you think
people are interested in the online activity of street gangs and how did the study come about?
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media is popular amongst gang members and why? DP: They use them all, but YouTube is probably the biggest hit because it’s a hub for the transmission and exchange of gang culture. When we see Crips in the UK or Bloods and MS-13 in continental Europe, you can be certain it’s not because of mass gang migration. Most gangrelated activity on YouTube involves fight videos or a bunch of members throwing up gang signs on the street, both of which are viewed as pure entertainment. Gang members have compared watching these videos to watching boxing or UFC fights. You’ll also find a combination of self-made hip hop music videos, involving gang members or filmed in gang territories or “turf”. AS: So social media and increased
availability of digital technology have helped gangs create more specific identities with their own songs and graphic design. Does that extend to language?
it’s long been used as the paradigm of online socio-economic divide—previously in contrast to Facebook and Twitter. But I guess now MySpace is just obsolete. DP: Older gang members still use it. The appeal is that MySpace allows you to customize your page with entire flags, signs and symbols—in contrast to Facebook. But when we conducted our study, we made sure that all of the interviews were done face to face. If we had just done interviews online, we would have been much more skeptical of what people were feeding us. The people we talked to wanted distinguish themselves from the so-called “Internet bangers”—wannabe’s whom nobody perceives as legitimate. But showing you’re “real” online is as much a trade off as it is in reality: criminal capital means police surveillance. Comment streams are the modern day graffiti wall, except nothing gets painted over. It’s all really well documented. And these provocations online lead to real violence on the street, especially with YouTube or more esoteric websites like worldstarhiphop.com. And some of the benign things that would otherwise only elicit an individual response end up as a group confrontation. That’s the nature of gangs, online or off. ~
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Historical narratives, especially ones with clearly defined oppositions and results, are the hardest to rewrite. They remain anchored in our...
Published on Jun 24, 2013
Historical narratives, especially ones with clearly defined oppositions and results, are the hardest to rewrite. They remain anchored in our...