jeune américain Nick Zammuto Willscher, outre son parcours
atypique, est à l'origine de quelques albums rigoureusement
incontournables. Aux frontières de la musique électro-acoustique
et d'une électronica microscopique, l'univers musical de
ce génial musicien autodidacte s'est trouvé l'an dernier
des affinités avec celui du new-yorkais Paul De Jong. Thought
For Food, sorti sur le label Tomlab, composé par le duo sous
le nom de The Books figure parmi les disques les plus excitants
de 2002. Willscher revient sur son singulier parcours et expose
sa conception très "pure" de la production musicale.
do not know much about you. How would you introduce yourself ?
I'm 27 years old, short and thin with a bright orange hat. my background
is in the Visual Arts, although i also seriously studied chemistry
in college. After school i ended up working in art conservation,
doing microchemical investigations of old paintings. Since then
i've lived in miles from Maine to Georgia along a mountain path
called the Appalachian trail. It changed many things for me. I became
a cook at an inn in North Carolina for a while and then returned
back to Massachusetts to be near to my family. All the while i have
been working on music, mostly with Paul De Jong (The Books). As
a visual artist i started out painting and drawing, and eventually
began making sculptures that moved and made sounds, sort of rudimentary
automatic instruments. I became totally fascinated with the digital
recordings i was making of the sculptures and so i started to rearrange
the sounds into music. In fact most of the sounds from Solutiore
are directly from those sculptures.
point of your "career" is that it puts together technical
and more artistic things : being both a cook and a chemist, and
making instruments/editing sounds. Does this give you more awareness
or freedom in the practice of your arts ?
Wow, i didn't know i had a 'career' but yes, i thrive on subverting
those artificial boundaries. A culture begins to fail when it tells
its people they are only good for one thing. It is my duty, both
political and spiritual, to follow my own nose, and allow my mind
to find its potential. I mean this in the least capitalistic way.
Awareness is a good word for what i'm interested in.
work seems to be strongly associated with the exploration of guitar.
So can guitar be seen as the centre of your work ? Something like
"clicks around the rock" ...
I love the directness of fingers on strings. to be able to hold
a vibration like that in my hands just feels good so i always return
to it. The harmonic content of open strings is complete and undiluted,
and at the same time lively and unpredictable. Its metal tempered
by wood and air. My own interest in sound work is the mysterious
inner life of the acoustic world. the guitar has been a good way
to tap into that world.
you have a classical guitar training? do you play other instruments
? How do you rework the guitar sounds ... do you use samplers or
more elaborated softwares ?
No, i have no classical training, or any other kind of training,
in fact i have no idea how to play the guitar at all. Mostly i suspend
it with wires and shoot rubber bands at it until it makes a really
great noise. I make digital recordings with stereo microphones and
various devices. Over the years i have created a really bizarre
library of sounds that serve as a sort of 'instrument' to be used
in musical compositions. I've been satisfied with the most simple
software, just a wave editor and a ram based sequencer. The interface
is transparent and simple enough that i don't have to think about
it, and i can just use my ears efficiently.
So there is
no Digital Signal Processing or that kind of stuffs in The Books
That is more or less true although we are not that idealistic about
it. dsp effects (other than basic eq and volume changes) rarely
add musical or literal value to the elements that we tend to use.
And i really hate unnatural reverb. I can't understand why everyone
wants their music to sound like its in a cave. We prefer broad daylight.
are your musical heroes ? What are your strongest influences ?
I've been really interested in old american music recently, which
of course, is not really american at all, but a strange conglomeration
of African, Native American and European musics. I really love Harry
Partch's experiments. and of course, more recent folks like Aphex
Twin and Tortoise. And i must not forget the Raincoats, amazing.
I have a tendency to isolate myself musically for long periods of
time, and i'm destitute, so my access to music is limited. So i
guess silence is my biggest influence.
is "Zammuto", or what was it before becoming your pseudonym
Zammuto is my last name (my fathers name, italian), Willscher is
my mothers maiden name (german).
far as I know, apart from a few contributions to compilations (on
Apt B and Tomlab), you produced two works : the three CD-r series
(whose 2/3 has been reissued as Solutiore Of Stareau & Willscher)
and the collaboration with Paul De Jong, The Books. Have I missed
Yeah, thats it for cds. Although there is a lot of unreleased material
waiting for the right home. And the sound sculpture is still going
strong, although not many people have seen that work yet. i have
a short video of them.
would you describe the three CD-r Series ? To you, is it relevant
to see Solutiore as the abstract, drone side and Willscher as a
more rhythmic/dynamic side of your work. What does the other CD
sound like ?
Disc one is a long bass guitar improvisation, peformed in real time
through two sets of delay devices. Eq changes were then applied
to pull out different layers of the sound.
Disc two was created by using pens and pencils and razor blades
to add clicks and pops to the 'silent' parts of vinyl records. The
resulting rhythms were then sequenced using a midi sampler.
Disc one is about resonance, disc two is about rhythm, disc 3 is
just about having fun in the context of the first two discs.
solutiore of stareau (3 cdrs) were all of my first experiments in
sound. they were the first tracks i ever made and they happened
to coincide with the first time i had ever lived alone in my own
apartment/studio. I made discs 1 and 2 over a two month period in
the summer of 98 in North Adams Massachusetts. For the first time
in my life i was completely absorbed in my own idiosyncratic sound
world. Days would pass and i would realize that i hadn't spoken
to anyone. My ears were learning so fast. Discs 1 and 2 were exercises
that i gave myself, to help sharpen my ears and increasing my stamina
for concentrating on minutia. Working on them was an invaluable
experience for me personally, but i'm not sure how useful they are
for other people. I don't worry about it too much. Disc three has
more of a pop sensibilty. I've always loved pop music for its ability
to make the banal profound, and at its best it can subvert the culture
that it comes from. It has more of a political mobility than less
accessible musics. Disc 3 is all of my early experiments in finding
a balance between interesting sounds and a pop paced composition
(progression of ideas).
Has it been ok for you to have them reissued as separate albums
I pushed hard for the three to be released together but unfortunately
no one shared my vision. in retrospect i think a mistake was made
in separating them.
the missing album come out ?
I don't think so. I'll send a cdr to anyone whose interested.
When was The
Books project born, why "The Books" ? How would you describe
its concept and musical scope ? Was the fact of being far away from
Paul De Jong a part of the "concept" ? What has been the
process of recording of Thought For Food ? How long did it take
to record Thought For Food ?
Paul and i met in new york in 2000. We happened to be living in
the same building, and a good friend introduced us. I went over
to his place one night for dinner and he whips out his sample collection,
which was on minidisc at that time. The moment i heard Shoobee Taylor
i was hooked. It was clear from the beginning that we had a similar
love of sound and so we started working together with the idea that
we would make somewhat accessible music that featured our sample
collections. Thought for food took more than two years to finish
since i was living out in LA for a while and then in the south after
hiking the AT. but pressure from Tom Steinle kept the project from
getting lost and we finally pulled the record together in 2002.
It is much better now that we are living closer together. We get
much more done, and the scope of the project has widened further.
Our focus is simply on the sounds that we like, the ones we find
most beautiful or gripping. He is a cellist and i have a guitar
so we tend to use those, although various banjo's have come in and
out of our lives as well.
So the Books
is mainly about the meeting of two individuals with their history
and their collection of sounds. Where does the name "The Books"
come from ? And what about the title ?
Yes. since our interests in sound are so different and yet somehow
so similar it seemed like a great idea to pool our resources and
learn from each other. It continues to be an amazing collaboration
in this way. We inspire each other and keep each other focused.
its very valuable. The name 'The Books' was unanimously discouraged
by our friends, but we love it so it stuck. Paul reads a lot. Books
are so commonplace but have such infinite variety and richness,
and are inseparable from the human condition. 'Thought for food'
is a play on the common english phrase 'food for thought'. Paul
is always doing these absurd things with english sayings. he's made
quite a large collection by now. my favorite at the moment is 'that
right ain't shit'.
You mention the importance of Tom Steinle in the release of Thoughts
For Food. What were the reasons why it almost got lost ?
Frankly, its hard to get excited about electronic music when you've
tasted how sweet a simpler life can be. My time living outside made
me want to never return to the nonsense of 'civilized' life. working
with Paul and Tom has reminded me of the value of this mode of existence.
I just really love silence. Maybe someday.
funny because you mention that you moved quite a lot/often and I
see an obvious epic dimension in The Books, as if you were telling
a story, or at least giving landmarks for a story to be imagined
by the listener. Do you see it this way ?
I'm not sure if the journey of two people could ever be epic, but
it is true we both changed a lot while making that record. I feel
like i'm still in a period of rapid learning in music, so every
track i work on has a specific kind of character depending on where
my ears are going at the time. This always seems to incorporate
the immediate environment in some way. Now i associate those tracks
with the smell of my studio at the time they were made, from a hardwood
floor in new york to a carpeted LA bedroom to a musty concrete basement
in North Carolina. Its difficult to avoid a narrative in music.
I'm always amazed that it spontaneously forms without any apparent
effort. I think its the mixture of autobiographical sounds and more
public sounds that drives the story. Its a guilty pleasure because
i know i enjoy it more than anyone else.
brought what in The Books?
Its hard to say. It is a full collaboration, and so we become more
than the sum of our parts. The work is sort of anti formulaic, so
we just focus on a free exchange of ideas. Most of what we do never
ends up on a record. We laugh a lot when were in the studio.
you still living in North Carolina ?
No, i'm in massachusetts now. still in the same mountain chain,
just much further north.
there be a follow-up to Thought For Food ?
Yes, its about half way done. it will be very good i think.
Zammuto - Willscher (Apartment b) www.apartmentb.com
Zammuto - Solutiore Of Stareau : Disc One (Infraction)
Zammuto - Full Martyr Status Remixes (MP3 album) www.notype.com
The Books (w/ Paul De Jong) - Thought For Food (Tomlab) www.tomlab.de
Interview réalisée par Christophe Taupin.
Remerciements à Tom Steinle.