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 Israel's Bahir Haifa supplement. [22/4/01]

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apache 61


Interview in the ‘Bahir Haifa’. [weekend suppliment of Israel’s main news paper]

1. Since you've had the chance of being in so many musical situations, and unlike most of the younger generation – you had the ability of being a part of the music movement in the 80’ – how do you squeeze the history of modern electronica {if you can} thru the development of the past 20’ years?

My own perspective of things is with the more ‘left field’ and experimental fringes of music and culture. In that respect, the last 10 years in this industry for me has been characterized by periods of incredible optimism with exciting and groundbreaking developments and equally frustrating episodes of total mediocrity and directionless music. Just when it seems that a new and radical form of music is entering the consciousness of our time, it’s quickly hijacked and watered down for popular consumption. I don’t have the slightest problem with music being accessible and popular but I don’t think the intent behind it should be compromised in the process.

2. What in your opinion was the major contribution of “rising high records” to the development of electronic music?

I became involved with Rising High quite early on when it was a small operation; just at the point it was going into deeper, more experimental post-club music. I was talking to a number of labels at the time but what interested me about Rising High was that it had a much broader outlook on the techno scene. They were able to put out trance records followed by jungle and hardcore and then minimalist soundscape stuff without having to constantly justify themselves. They embraced a wide range of styles and attitudes, and while it wasn’t all a success, it at least nurtured an atmosphere were artists like me felt we weren’t limited in any way. We were one of the first labels to introduce ambient and experimental sounds to clubbers and DJs and this was breaking new ground at that time with me, [mixmaster] morris and then luke [vibert]. It’s commonplace to find these elements creeping into all kinds of music now by default, from breakbeat and commercial trance to chart music, and it just goes to show how much has changed since those early days.

3. During your career you have recorded tons of stuff and it seems that in general most of the electronic artists are more productive than the – let’s say, rock’n’roll artists – do you think it has more to do than with just technical reasons, like the fact that you can produce music in your bedroom, or do you see other more “hidden” reasons why electronic artists tend to produce more material??

I wouldn’t say this music is particularly easy to produce. I know for a fact that some artists spend one or two months programming just a drum breakdown for example. For me I’d say there is a sense of being involved in a process that is never ending with electronic music. Often as I produce a track, it doesn’t necessarily go in the direction I intended, but does something different or more interesting instead – afterwards I’ll probably move right on to the next thing, without pausing, in an attempt to clarify something I was only able to just touch upon. Because of the increasing complexity and sophistication of music technology the only way we can really approach it is by this kind of non-deterministic trial and error. With this ‘experimental’ process lots of new ideas are being thrown up spontaneously in the normal course of working (or more accurately, playing) and these contribute to a pool of ideas you’d probably want to explore further as soon as you finish the current project. It’s a relentless stream of activity and it’s an impressive feat if even a fraction of it can be successfully bought to fruition. Personally I don’t limit myself to music but find that the same software skills and compositional approach can be explored through design, film, programming and writing as well. So I guess the discipline is in knowing where to draw the lines and distinguish between the good and the bad.

4. You write soundtracks to movies like “Tatawo” and Wayne Wong film – I wanna know how do you approach this musical situation- it seems like it’s the total opposite of what you approach “DysFunkt!onal_Beats” , anyway… how do you do it ?

In the case of both these films they chose music of mine that they’d already heard so I wasn’t being asked to write anything new specifically for the picture. Nevertheless I wouldn’t see soundtracks as being any different from any of the other stuff I do. Film is a great medium for music because, in this context, the music doesn’t have to carry the full weight of the narrative on it’s own. There’s more space to be able suggest the peripheral thoughts and feelings that may not be so explanatory alone. I tend to work this way anyway in the studio. I like themes that are presented in a more lateral or elusive way than stated head on. It gives more scope to the imagination and that is always more powerful than some emphatic statement of mood or atmosphere. My project “DysFunkt!onal_Beats” is really exploring similar territory but this time it’s primarily concerned with the non-linear aspects of rhythm and how they can be made to carry more abstract forms and narrative.

5. I am wondering how you approach remixes – it seems like most of the experimental artists I have talked to wanted to get away from the original version and make their total new interpretation of it- some of them even make it their own new track- what is your opinion and “system of working” in remix situations?

This kind of approach to remixes is pretty pointless as far as I’m concerned because it doesn’t prove anything musically – it’s just a marketing ploy to have a remixer’s name associated with a new track. It takes no effort on the part of the remixer to just hack in to the source elements and write a new track of their own – they would be doing that anyway and the source material doesn’t contribute anything meaningful to the process or inspire a new approach. I think it’s just lazy and demonstrates that a remixer hasn’t given any thought to what the original composer was trying to achieve. For me, I try to use the remix as a point of departure from my usual methodology. There’s no point in me doing it if it doesn’t present me with a whole new set of challenges and possibilities than those I’d ordinarily encounter. I see it more as a collaborative opportunity then a chance for me to just deliver one of my own tracks for the sake of it. The tracks I remix tend to be very different to my usual tracks and so I get to assimilate other styles and learn a lot about how someone else worked with their palette of sounds – then I get to totally deconstruct it all and build it back up in the way that works for me. I’m conscious about leaving in as much as possible of the original idea so that it’s still a development of it – but this time hopefully with a much more radical and experimental slant.

6. you helped set up law & auder and now you have your new label “no immortal records” which is gonna be the place for “forward thinking and radical artists….”- please tell some more about what would be the “new thing” or “the new approach”this label would bring ?

I've always been very active about networking with other artists and I’ve always had my eyes and ears wide open when it came to unique and creative individuals. Even from way back in the eighties it struck me that the most exciting phenomena were being passed by and the most mediocre and nauseating were being celebrated! So, for a long time I’ve had a vague agenda to reverse that situation if possible. Whatever scene I’ve found myself in, I’ve built up a great circle of activity with others and it was obvious that at some point I would have to put my money where my heart was and open things up to a larger audience. DysFunkt!onal.Live.arts is just such a collaborative platform and it also serves to devalue our fixation with existing recorded and archived music. It’s live music and if you’re not physically there you’re not part of it and you’re literally missing out. The label will just elaborate on this and build a catalogue for people to refer to.

7. I wanna know some more about “DysFunkt!onal_Beats” – do you record the stuff in this live situation ?

At it simplest level DysFunkt!onal_Beats is about bringing some of the experimental approaches of music like jazz and Indian classical music and funk, etc, into the computer music and breakbeat realm. It seems that, with the popularity of commercial dance and house music, all those sensibilities, and that ‘rush’ of streaming, fluid rhythm, died out. I’m very much into ‘groove’ music but I think that grooves can sound, and feel, more exciting when they are stretched and broken up and you can explore the gaps and spaces between beats. Regular patterns of grids and symmetrical lines don’t say enough

8. It’s a real brilliant idea to treat electronic music like total improvised “jazz” music and with the “robotic” and non organic nature of machines – how much of the music that you create on live “DysFunkt!onal” events do you ‘like’, or should I say – you see as a ground breaking results ?

I never really know what the result of a live ‘jam’ will be, but at the same time I’m not improvising from scratch in the same way that a jazz instrumentalist would be. The way I work is that I have my Powerbook and drum machines and stuff on stage and I have lot of options, sounds and grooves which I prepare in advance which can interact together and be brought into the mix. Not all the elements work together just as they are. I’m faced with prospect of making choices and setting certain things off each other to see what develops. Sometimes things really surprise me and I let them run and then build things up in a way I never anticipated. Sometimes things don’t work and I have to change direction and try something I wouldn’t ordinarily do. It’s the mistakes that I like because they can send you down the most rewarding paths. After all, it was all the mistakes in our genetics that drove human evolution to where it is now.

9. as the internet become more and more important in our life and the fact that it became the big pipe of information – from your left-field perspective, how do you see the music industry and your music in the net space?

The Internet will definitely be a significant medium for independent musicians and labels. Not so much for sales or distribution yet but just as vehicle for collaboration, networking and information. The sales thing has developed much more slowly but that will change soon. Certainly for me I’ve been able to make connections with people, plug into a community of artists and achieve things that wouldn’t have been possible ten years ago.

10. what contemporary electronic artists do you like?

I don’t really follow things closely. I don’t have the chance to buy new records because I’m in the studio so much making my own tunes. DJ and musician friends often play me their new stuff and other things they like so I get to hear other music regularly. I like different elements of lots of tracks but rarely like all of it. I like the direction certain things are going, like the Detroit/London broken beat stuff and hip-hop ideas, etc. I like the ideas but the productions sometimes annoy me or bore with their over-proficient and smooth sounds. I like the new Icarus stuff at the moment and that new Timbaland/Missy Elliot track is pretty wild for a chart track.

11. you are broadcasting on a “pirate radio on the net” what music do you play there ?

They can be good fun sometimes. I’ll often go down with a mix of minidisks, CDRs, Vinyl, cassettes and my powerbook. I do mad mixes using all these sources running together with new unfinished tracks I’ve been working on. This is the only way I can DJ because I’m not a traditional DJ playing beat-matched techno. Some of these sessions have been really wild and they give me loads of ideas to try when I get back in the studio

12. you always look for new ways of creating music and sounds; 'DysFunkt!onal' seems like the “’hot new thing”. Do you have plans for the next wave?

DysFunktional_beats is just a name for something I’ve been doing for almost 15 years now. I don’t really concern myself with the future or being the first with a new style. I don’t want to enter into what is a pretty unforgiving and futile race! The point is to be immersed in the present as much as possible. If we could deal with what we’ve got now we wouldn’t be so preoccupied with the past or future in the first place. My approach is to try and see through to the structures behind things and then separate the things that work from those that don’t. All you really need is an open mind. At the moment all the styles are being mixed up in ways that were not done before. I think people are beginning to see that the divisions between different eras, styles, forms, etc are pretty irrelevant. I like it when this happens in a really un-self conscious way. These structural collisions between east and west and north and south are almost like geological plates colliding and throwing up mountain ranges. They in turn get weathered down and re-worked back into the mix.

13. it seems like it’s a great time for experimental electronic music with many new artist’s that try to discover new grounds - like this is the right time for this music- like what it was for jazz in the 60’ – what do you think about it?

Yeah, every now and then everyone seems to tap into a collective will to break the boundaries of their respective fields. I really think there is scope for incredible change and progress when people of different backgrounds come together and start seeing similarities in each other’s work. The 1920s and 30s were like that with a lot of modernist ideas spreading through the fringes of science, art, music, architecture and philosophy, etc. Writers, musicians, artists, scientists would hang out together and they were all plugged into the same set of ideas and finding a lot of lateral associations and solutions to common problems. I’d like to nurture a similar scene now and I’d really hoped that the early 90’s were going to go that way. There was certainly a lot of incredible music that suddenly appeared and seemed to have arrived from nowhere; Post-Detroit techno and funk that was progressive and minimal but unlike anything before it. The scene has now matured for 10 years and exploded into a new phenomenon fueled by the Internet and other technology. The other artforms have developed too and there will be a lot more crossovers between computer arts, music, film, web art, etc. It’s still early days but I’d like to stay at the front pushing things further and drawing them together

14. the show you gonna present here is gonna be totally improvised of course and I guess you yerself don’t really know what is gonna happen- but can you give us some taste of the things to come?

Noize, bass, breakbeats and….maybe some malfunction.

o.k.- that’s it – thanx for your time and we are all waiting to see you here!

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