So the next step in your musical career is Instrument in 1995, the
12" on Mego ?
started to work with electronic music in the early 90's. I bought
electronic equipment because it was cheap to buy. Suddenly, it was
possible to buy a sampler, before it wasn't, you know. As soon as
i had one, i was still playing guitar but i was recording the guitar
with the sampler and was trying to do something with it, finding
my own production techniques. And i realized : "Super, i can
do everything alone, i don't need those fuckers any more".
did you work on Instrument, what has been the process of recording
It's a guitar, a very old Ensoniq sampler with only two Megabytes
of Ram, that means you could make realy small loops only. So you
had to take care of it ... I didn't even have a midi computer at
this time. I used the internal sequencer of the sampler and recorded
it directly to DAT, that's Instrument.
there was your contribution in the Orchester 33 1/3 project ...
was it before or after Hotel Paral.lel ?
I think it was after Hotel Parallel , or during the same time,
i don't know.
Orchester 33 1/3 you have a more conventionnal approach of guitar
...Which was the plan for this project ?
The second record i'm not playing, it's a mistake. They put my name
under it, but i'm not on this record at all. At this time i quit.
I said : "I don't want to work with you any more ..."
you fed up with the group format ?
No, it's this. Christof Kurzmann is a major figure in the Viennese
music scene. He's having many different projects which work as a
network, collecting ideas, bringing people together, also musicians.
This was something that he got offered from an Austrian jazz festival
(Music Unlimited Festival). To make a project which is this orchestra,
but just for one or two live gigs. And then, he said ok , we have
two other gigs on another festival and that's it. For me, this was
the thing. He was asking me to write tracks. He was trying, but
he was not able to do it alone actually. And he knew i have this
past : I learnt how to do this, compose or arrange a track. And
we had to make it very simple for musicians, because these musicians
were not used to play that kind of music, they were people from
rock bands. Within two months, i had to write six or seven pieces
that had to be simple, but effective, and bring everything together.
So i did this. But afterwards, they started to play once a week
all the time the same thing, like a music box. So i said : "Boys,
this is not for me anymore, sorry , i go."
instrument and Hotel parallel, you began working with a computer
No. That's a very interesting thing. Once i read that Hotel
Paral.lel is supposed to be one of the landmarks of laptop music,
but the truth is ... i had bought another sampler. A new Ensoniq
sampler that had a bit more RAM, like 16, which was like massive
for me, and an Atari just running Cubase for triggering the sampler,
but there's no DSP, nothing ... on this record. Why i came to these
sounds, is that i discovered how my sampler was crashing, and what
it was doing when i made it crash. So i was developing structures
; how to make the sampler crash that was doing eventually this.
That was the material i was working with. I was suddenly completely
excited about this kind of sounds, and it's just an accident, but
it was some kind of sounds people have been waiting for or something
... and on the other side, there were a lot of computer musicians
who were trying to make these sounds also, but with computers. But,
on Hotel Paral.lel, there is no DSP, no Macintosh.
it the one you recorded in your garden ?
The one i recorded in my garden ( ) is the only laptop album
i ever did [...] For me it was a time of being a bit more insecure,
and not so confident than with th other things. I was not able to
listen to this album after i made it. I just listened to it recently
again, and then i found it ok, not everything, but for my own personel
development, it was ok. But, during the time that i produced it,
i was not very happy, i was not feeling so good. I did not get a
lot of support, I always had to ... still now, i still have to fight.
People are trying to pull me down all the time and say what i do
is shit ... At this time, this feeling was even stronger. For me
it was much better if i isolate. I don't give a fuck about anyone
else, and just develop my music. That's why i came back to Endless
Summer. I also have to say that during the time when i recorded
the Touch album, i was very interested in software, processing...
I was also trying to write my own kind of enviroments on the computer.
At this time, for me it was really interesting to go deep into the
software, that's why the album is maybe so, a bit cold, abstract
... But i really wanted to try this, i was totally excited about
it. That's affect, you know.
then there was the plays 7" ?
Plays is something completely different for me. It's another
stream in my musical thinking, some idea of song. I remember when
i was producing this, i felt extremely strong. I thought i could
do everything at this time. It was like a magic time for me. I was
just trying out things and suddenly, i had this half of a track
that made me really happy. So i went on working on it, and thinking
it was something special.
did you work on this 7", since the result is so surrealistic
There are different approaches on those two tracks. The first
one, the Rolling Stones cover, which is older, it' s from 1995 or
96, was entirely made on a sampler, during the Instrument sessions.
And the second one, i made two years later, the Beach Boys cover.
It's a completely different process. In this case, i was transcribing
the whole track : the voice, the bass line, the string section,
everything ... I had it on a piece of paper, and i was trying to
rebuild it with my own equipment and sounds. So i started to play
a bass line, but i just made an abstract bass line with just a few
notes that make the harmony changes work. It was an extremely long
lasting experience but i was so focussed on it. I didn't have this
very often in my life as a musician, but i remember there were a
couple of hours where i thought i had gold in my hands, it's very
pop format is an obvious link between plays and Endless Summer..How
did you have the idea of Endless Summer ?
I had this idea for a long time actually. I knew that the next
record on Mego was going to be very melodic one and a simple one.
I wanted to make something very simple and clearly working. I didn't
want to talk around it. I got so frustrated about this image that
computer music had. Always seeing, all the same laptop people doing
the same shit in a way, all of them may be very interesting, but
there was just something that i thought is not a bit too easy to
do and then i went to Australia, when was that ... like two years
ago, i was on tour in Australia, and i got this really strong feeling
; I was living in Sydney at Bondai beach. I like surf culture for
example, i'm really into this, it's something i find fascinating,
not only the sport, but the overall attitude around it, it's like
a religion. So i got this idea, making a record that may be called
Endless Summer, not because of the Beach Boys compilation but because
of this film, Bruce Brown's movie of the late 60's that my brother,
who's a surfer, introduced to me. Only later, i realised that there
is this compilation on Capitol Records that i wasn't aware of. I
have many Beach Boys records but not this one. And then i checked
it, and said, "ok, it's fine". But then suddenly people
were starting to write Endless Summer is another Beach Boys cover
versions. It's not, it's all my tracks.
we can feel this kind of Beach Boys spirit in it ?
Yes of course.
It is the spirit of simple things i'm just fascinated with. Spirits
of good will, hapiness, but that's not working, there's this melancholy
over it. A state that is not reachable, something you see but you
can't reach and you always long for it. It was these feelings i've
tried to express a bit or so.
music is much more connected with reality (references to musics,
images and places) than most laptop artists' works ?
I want to break rules, and clichés.You have so many genres,
every month they invent something new, like clicks and cuts and
all this... Now it's click house and i'm supposed to be glitch rock.
I think it's really stupid. It's made by people who are not able
to see the world as it is, it's complicated, and they try to make
it easier. It's not easy. I'm against this, and i'm against this
whole aesthetics that comes with every genre. Once i've been playing
in New York, America is very special for this. I was wearing a shirt
which was more like a designer shirt. In a mailing list people complained,
saying "That it's not a possible that a computer musician is
wearing designer's clothes." You have to this kind of haircut
and look like a student ...i'm not into this. For example, when
i started to play live... In Berlin there was the first Phonotaktik
festival where they really tried to put this music in spaces where
it's normally not shown. There was never a stage. But they didn't
succeed with this idea. And just as rock bands we have to go on
a stage again. I was always against stages. I always said "I
don't have to play on a stage, i can be somewhere", this music
doesn't have to be shown on a stage, it's boring, there's nothing
happening. But it was absolutely not possible to change anything,
and it's still this way. Everywhere i go i have to be on a stage.
Then i think, even if i don't like it, when i'm on a stage then
i want at least stand for what i'm doing, even if it's boring. I'm
an official person when i do this, I don't want to piss off people,
being arrogant, which i have seen so many times in electronic music.
I don't like a sitting audience for example, i feel stupid when
people are sitting and staring at me. For me it would be better
to have a constant flow of going in, going out, talking, drinking,
whatever. The good thing for me tonight is that it was very intimate.
It was a small place, but if it had been a bigger place, like ...
I had this before at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, it's a
seated audience in a theatre. You stand on a stage and you have
one thousand people sitting and staring at you. It's not working
for me, there's something wrong. They see a person in front of his
computer, ok, why are they looking at this?
your performance was quite pop in the format, i mean one could recognize
elements and motives from Endless Summer...
It's always improvised.
But i'm improvising with parts, today i was using a lot of Endless
Summer material, which is more structured in itself. I'm into this
idea. At the moment - it could change, i might be doing something
different in two months - i like it when people recognize a track
that i made, it makes me feel proud. Sorry, but for me it's nice.
is your position on the debate of laptop music in a live format
? We have sometimes the impression to be attending a great digital
swindle. Do you think it's important to be a musician to make laptop
Musician or not musician is not the question for me. The question
is boring or not boring. Because you don't have to be a musician
to make good music. Someone who's got the feeling for it is a musician.
I think the audience gets used to this music with what is fake and
what is good. This was not happening two or three years ago. Today,
i have the impression they are a bit more sophisticated, you can't
give them shit or fake.
The Wire, i read, that your recent compositions reminded you of
your early musical experiences as a child ...
I don't know, i probably need a psychoanalysis or something,
but i have this old box of cassette tapes that i have been recording
when i was starting at ten or eleven. In my parents house there
was this little room in the garden, outside the garden house, where
i had my guitar, there was a harmonium and my parents had a cassette
recorder, a 70's cassette recorder, with a microphone that was really
crap ; and i was recording everything i did, i was so fascinated.
I was spending like 8 hours a day in there. I was putting the microphone
in the guitar, i put everything on the wild side so that was distorting,
it sounded like a heavy metal guitar, same with the harmonium, then
with guitar pedals and electric guitar then, when i was thirteen.
When i listen to those tapes, it has so much to do with what i do
now again. And it seems that this rock group things i had was just
a compromise. And that, everything i did afterwards is so much more
related to this early past. It's fascinating. When i listened to
it i recognized the tracks and the melodies and thought "Oh
my god, it's actually quite good, i should use it again". I
had this big magic childhood, normally people don't have this, but
i was really a happy kid, i felt so good.
the light of your latest pop album, how do you see your improvised
That's something i'm still interested in. At the moment, i don't
want to do too many colaborations or too many improvised gigs, but
if it's the right people and the right time and if it's not happenning
too often then i really enjoy, because it keeps the music player
in me alive. I enjoy playing with other people actually, it's not
that i'm tied with this isolation idea. Yes, with my own production,
i am, but ... as a player, working with people like Keith (Rowe)
is fantastic, it is a challenge. He plays a tone and theres a whole
universe in it, a own personal universe.
you make differences between your collaborations with Pimmon, Rehberg,
Rowe on Ritornell, and the Fennoberg project ?
For me it belongs to the same part of mine. Fennoberg is maybe
a bit more pop, in a weird way. It's funny music. There's a new
one. It just has to be mastered. All the material is from two live
recordings, one in Paris and one in Vienna. And it's a bit different
, more serious, kind of adult Fennoberg. Deeper with more drones.
Not so funny, Still funny but more mellow.
you supposed to work on a project with Jim O'Rourke ?
Yes, we've been trying for many years. The schedule is just
not possible. When i have time, he has no time, and the other way
round. So, we were thinking about sending cds and sounds. It's so
hard. It can only work if there's a big label saying "ok, we
stuck you together guys for two months, it's super studio and now
work off something, we'll pay you for this." Otherwise i think
it doesn't work.
also collaborated with various dance companies ...
That is a very early work i did with a Viennese Dance Company
i stopped working with then. After having had really bad experiences
with dance music, now i only work with Mi-Octobre, Serge Ricci's
Dance Company. Once he got a contact with me and asked to make music
for his new piece. When i met him and the company i felt extremely
well with them. He's probably the only choreographer who is on the
same wave length as me. It's absolutely nice to work with him. It's
the second piece now, première was last week, and i'm going
to do the third one also, it's like at trilogy.
it was what you were looking for, not being on stage.
Actually for the first piece, i was on stage, playing live.
But people are not staring only at you, they are staring at the
dancers, it's something different, so you feel bit more relaxed.
how do you compose, do you compose something and propose it, or
is it a collaboration ?
The interesting thing with Serge Ricci is that i see what he
makes, and i don't know much about dance, and i understand ; and
when i present something, he understands. We just share a very similar
approach. For the first piece, i was just improvising all the time,
but i always used the same samples, a bank of 20 or 25 samples which
i was creating tracks with. What i did always worked so well, it
was always recognizable. For the new piece, i really compose the
music, it's like almost 60 minutes of music, it's like a big soundtrack,
more minimalistic, ambient. It's called Humour.
you publish these works ?
I don't know, i didn't think about this. It's just finished
now, maybe yes. For me, it's music that was made for something,
and i don't know if it works on a CD or not.
other plans ?
I'm starting to work on a new record. I'm working on ideas for
a new album for next year which will be a bit more jazz.
réalisée par Christophe Taupin et Cyrille Lanoë.
Remerciements à Isabelle Piechaczyk.
Hotel Paral.lel (Mego)
Fennesz Plays (Moikai/Mego)
Fennesz Plus forty seven degrees 56' 37" Minus sixteen degrees
51' 08" (Touch)
Fennesz - Endless Summer (Mego)
Fennesz - Field Recordings 1995-2002 (Touch)