2006: THE WIRE´s Invisible Jukebox
by Mike Barnes, The Wire 266, April 2006
Mike Barnes and Burnt Friedman, Cologne 3rd March 06
SUGAR MINOTT ‘INTERNATIONAL HERB’ FROM WACKIES SAMPLER VOL 2
Lovely. Superb. It sounds like a Lee Perry production. I know the singer, but I can’t think of his name
MB: It’s Sugar Minott. Part of the reason we played this was because it is so obviously pro-Herb and we were interested in your own track, ‘Do Not Legalize It!’
It was a serious joke, because at this time in New Zealand there was a threat for the farmers with this hydroponic culture and the ambitions to legalise, and it’s the same story here. When you legalise it, like in the Netherlands, it ruins the quality. It’s just way too strong. Scientists found out that it has 20 times more THC than it used to. So it’s better not to legalise it. And if everyone’s smoking weed in public, it’s not the right attitude to do that because when it was illegal, for a few it was a welcome transgression in public to show how much courage they have. We rather like the fact that it’s illegal – keep it for ourselves and cultivate it. So it was dead serious to say ‘Don’t legalise it’. I printed myself up one t-shirt with that slogan but I knew that it would be recognised as a joke and I thought it was a nice reference to that particular track [by Peter Tosh].
MB: The dub music you make with Nu Dub Players sounds a lot different to the classic Jamaican style.
I thought I did as good as I could, because I was trying to get really close to that dub feel. Maybe it was because I was exposed to the Scientist records that are more about effects processing and more formal aspects of dub, and not so much the songlines that have been dubbed by Lee Perry. Or this track, which is wonderful but which I wouldn’t consider dub. It’s really an instrumental version stripped down to next to nothing concentrating on the production techniques and indulging in effects like a comic strip. It takes to the limits whatever is formalistically possible, without any restraints – that’s what I like about dub.
I felt familiar with this music because the mixing board is the main protagonist in the music and the producer made himself invisible. That was what dub was to me, and why it affected me before reggae music and rocksteady, the original tracks. I think it’s about playing as relaxed as possible while still having a lot of tension in there and to keep this going as long as possible; that’s the principle, I think, with reggae dub music and some of my tracks too. There’s not much happening there and no obvious changes. It’s not so busy and players would be able to improvise to it because it’s somehow predictable, as many dance tracks are. But then there is a level of irregularity in there which constantly changes at a subliminal level; there are lots of textures, little things. One gets the impression that the players are really trying to play it as good as possible while keeping it simple. That’s what I like about dub music, the discipline of the players. They are almost invisible or as robots, like marionettes, following the universal laws of the music and not trying to express themselves (Laughs). The magic is not coming from some individual effort but from the whole ensemble. The players can’t be strategically pursuing that point.
MB: What do you actually do when the Nu Dub players perform live? Do you programme or mix or play instruments?
With one hand I do mixing, mainly eight separate tracks running from the laptop, but with the right hand I play the MS20 synthesiser through a bass amp. It’s a solo instrument and I do add some sequences. I don’t do any dub effects, that’s the sound engineer on the front of house desk.. I’ve got some effects tricks on the laptop as well but it’s not live dubbing, therefore I don’t have the tools on stage. We try and keep it as simple as possible and travel with only a few kilogrammes.
MB: The producer of the track we just heard was Lloyd ‘Bullwackie’ Barnes, who is revered by Rhythm And Sound. Do you like their digi-dub music?
It’s probably the only neo-dub music that I like. My favourite out of the bunch is ‘King Of My Empire’ Sometimes I think they could go a little bit further as they seem to avoid mistakes rather than experiment. Often it is too monotone for my taste, but there’s something about it, a certain mood that hardly anyone else can capture. That’s what I was talking about; keep the tension without doing anything. I wonder what it would sound like if a band was playing it, with the way they programme it? That would be quite challenging.
ATOM HEART ‘ABSTRACT MINIATURES IN MEMORIAM GILLES DELEUZE’ FROM IN MEMORIAM GILLES DELEUZE (MILLE PLATEAUX) 1996
It’s like a sound diary. It remind me of the Ash International records catalogue – that way of working with sound.
MB: It’s someone you have worked with.
No idea. I’ll have to go look in the address book.
MB: That was Uwe Schmidt aka Atom Heart.
Honestly, I first thought it was Atom Heart. Some of the sounds were recognisable, but when I heard the voice I didn’t have a clue.
MB: It’s from the In Memoriam Gilles Deleuze CD.
Mille Plateaux was exploiting the thousand plateaux, taking advantage of it without making sense of it. Or they could say that everything makes sense in that context; you can throw together the most heterogeneous works and it will work because that is one of the principles of a thousand plateaux. It’s always a big problem for music to be accommodated in such concepts. I don’t think it goes along well. I remember that Jan Werner [of Mouse On Mars] once said – I didn’t hear it directly so you have to be cautious about this quote – that they thought of themselves as if they were the Gilles Deleuze house band. This is when they were asked to do a piece for that compilation. It’s because their music seems so appropriate for the theories of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Often it’s the more neglected ones that are more interesting. They always concentrate on Gilles Deleuze and forget about Guattari. That is totally against that philosophy.
MB: Do you mean that they used Deleuze as a kind of a brand for the music?
Yeah, I think the approach was clearly dodgy. This is how it appeared to me.
MB: It’s unprecedented that a certain strand of philosophy is so linked to a specific type of music at a specific time. I hadn’t even heard of Deleuze before I was acquainted with the label.
Neither had the artists. It doesn’t make any sense, for Deleuze is probably the most important philosopher of the last century. I think it was Foucault who said that people will look back to that century as the Deluezian century and A Thousand Plateaux was a milestone in philosophy. I think people should be more careful in using those terms and know the background. They even have a flag put on the wall at those label events – that’s not very rhizomatic. That’s one of the core metaphors of the philosophy. I think that’s why it’s appeals to music so much, because everyone is interacting with everybody else and no one has a clue anymore – it’s impossible to archive. Thus it’s impossible to create a tree with one heavy root. They also have this sub-label Ritournelle so they exploit the whole Deleuze/Guattari cosmos, but I can’t see the obvious connection.
MB: How do you go about recording now Atom Heart lives in Chile?
I met him three times in Santiago, Chile, where we recorded the three Flanger records for Ninja Tune. It was only with the last one that we chose to work on our own, We created the sketches when we were touring Chile three years ago as Flanger. It was Uwe, me and Jaki [Liebezeit] on drums. After that we wrote some tracks for the last Flanger record that we finished via internet, posted large sessions.
MB: What’s the methodology behind the music you make as Flanger?
At first we were figuring out how far it was possible to fake jazz live instrumentation. We were trying to have a session on computers, which sounds like a tiny jazz ensemble playing. Every now and then the electronic nature of the session leaks through because what you hear is a permanent merging of acoustic instrumentation with electronic instrumentation. It’s bringing these two worlds together. It’s something that follows me from the very point I first started making music with rhythm machines and synthesisers, because in the beginning I was drumming, playing guitar and singing as well and playing with found objects. So I have never made the distinction between the two worlds, but I was always confronted with presuppositions of whether it was electronic music or acoustic music. On one side you’ve got stiff electronic music; on the other hand you’ve got ‘real’ music. Between the lines there was always the assumption that music played on instruments is the real music and electronic music isn’t, because you only need to press buttons. What we were doing was to try to merge both those worlds so that if people had these prejudices it would be impossible for them to carry on with this concept of these two worlds. They would be perplexed and wouldn’t be able to decide whether to opt for the jazzy, fake band or the electronics – it would confuse their preconceptions.
MB: Is Flanger music deliberately more complex and intricate than that of the Nu Dub players?
I don’t believe that’s right, because to me those dub tracks, from a production side, are as complex. I wouldn’t make a distinction. Definitely not. For instance, the second Flanger album isn’t like that. It’s not as rich as the first one where we wanted to sound non-repetitive and emptied the memory of the sampler continuously, to load new sounds. We haven’t done that since then.
DAVID SYLVIAN & HOLGER CZUKAY ‘FLUX (A BIG, BRIGHT, COLOURFUL WORLD)’ FROM FLUX AND MUTABILITY (VIRGIN) 1989
This could be David Toop with these ethno influences. But it’s a bit too nice for David Toop; too soothing. It could also be Jon Hassell because of the drum patterns but it’s too synthetic. It could also be Brian Eno, but there’s too much going on. Is it David Sylvian? Flux and Mutability? I didn’t say this in the first place because my memory of the record is that it’s without drums. Jaki was involved but he told me he was just playing flute. I bought this record second hand in Melbourne last year. I used it as a mirror for shaving myself while travelling and I played it once, also about a year ago.
MB: You collaborated with Sylvian on the Nine Horses Project last year. How did that come about?
My French freelance manager put me in touch. I went to the Blemish show in Cologne and also met Steve Jansen who was part of the line-up. They seem to like my drum programmings on Flanger and know most of the other works. We started exchanging sketches and ideas. I’m interested in working more with vocalists. Take the Can’t Cool record [by Burnt Friedmann & The Nu Dub Players]. It features six vocal tracks in the notorious two minutes thirty to three minute thirty time frame, the track arrangements differ compared with the common pop commodity. I’m interested in reaching a wider audience and I guess with Nine Horses we have a mutual interest in pushing the pop format into more obscure territory while keeping it accessible to a wider audience.
MB: Is that an area of music that you’ll be pursuing more in the future?
Not so much with my own instrumental music but this is something Nine Horses could be good for. It’s likely to be an ongoing group rather than just a one-off. I always liked pop music and I liked to hear pop music that was out of place. For instance, even Sting, he is one of the very few composers using odd time signatures but you don’t recognise them because they are so well arranged. There is a lot of craft in there. From the surface it seems so easy, laid back and natural but a closer look reveals a structure that is almost impossible to capture. This is the challenge for me within the pop format.
I think the first odd metre track I heard came from a Frank Zappa live recording. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. It was something I didn’t have a reference point for, but realised that everyone else playing the music had a reference point. It keeps fascinating me that you can have different angles on the same music – it all depends where you lock yourself in – and odd signatures have more complex symmetries than four: you have more rhythmic shapes within a cycle. It still happens that Jaki and I spend a night in the rehearsal room, develop something new and by the time we drive home, listening back to it on tape in the car, we don’t recognise it anymore, because we have a different reference point. It’s like an anamorphotic spot on paintings; when you move to the side, when you’ve got an extreme angle to the painting, you recognise an object, but when you look at it normally it appears abstract. More generally it could just be a fascination with something that is totally alien, the most exciting aspect when listening to music. I was once confronted with at term that I liked that Kodwo Eshun came up with: xenophilia as opposite to xenophobia. It’s like children, when they encounter something new.
MB: You have been collaborating with Jaki Liebezeit for a number of years now. How did you meet him?
Jaki would say that Cologne is such a small city that eventually catching up is inevitable. I think he is right, especially when you’re concerned with odd metre grooves in a city known for minimal Christian symmetries.
TANGERINE DREAM ‘JOURNEY THROUGH A BURNING BRAIN’ FROM ELECTRONIC MEDITATION (CASTLE) 1970
Lovely sounding organ. It’s definitely made in one go.
MB: I read in The Wire that you particularly like this record.
[After about four minutes] I’m still waiting for the beginning of the track. I don’t recognise it.
MB: It’s the first Tangerine Dream album, Electronic Meditation.
No I haven’t heard this one.
MB: What did you think of it?
I would have switched it off by now. (Laughs). I don’t like that. There are a couple of records that I like by Tangerine Dream. I’m surprised about this guitar and drums. I like Alpha Centauri, a few of the more recent records even. But it’s the same as Klaus Schultze: he’s done some great records beside a pile of bad ones. That’s how I learned drums, by playing along to Tangerine Dream’s analogue sequencers on the hi-fi. I always thought, ‘this is great but it has to have drums’. There are, of course, examples for it. Jaki is a living example, one of the first drummers who used rhythm machines and other sequencers. But Jean Michel Jarre and Tangerine Dream who used sequencers at the time, they couldn’t be used to trigger a drum machine so one had to play drums to it.
MB: Were you interested in any of the other German bands of that era?
I’m not too familiar with this time. I don’t know what to say, because there are a few other English bands like Section 25 on Factory Records that I find more interesting, than for instance, Ash Ra Tempel. (Exhales loudly with relief as CD is turned off). Soft Machine I was interested in; it’s not just particularly the German side of it. There are a few bands I can remember from round that time but because I wasn’t connected to a musical scene in Kassel where I come from, nor to label business, I decided to buy my records by the cover. I made many mistakes, but also accidentally encountered some interesting ones, some German bands that aren’t very popular internationally like Eloy – with a terrible German English singer – but this was due to the fact that I was quite lost and didn’t have any hint from anybody as a teenager. I didn’t even listen to Can at that time.
I mean this was also around the late 70s, early 80s, and there was the German New Wave as well as this Krautrock stuff, that I would call Unkrautrock. Kraut is cabbage, unkraut is wheat. It needs to be corrected some day. And I don’t have an historic sense of it, as I probably discovered Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd ten years after it was released and that totally confused things. So it’s more my subjective history marked by the time I discover things, which doesn’t refer to the logical progression of the music. Most things I discovered a lot later.
MB: That’s interesting. I recently saw a teenager sitting on the tube, looking at his CD purchases which spanned 40 years of rock history. It’s as if we are living in an eternal present.
Yeah, it’s as if history isn’t there any more. That’s what they call post-modernism maybe. It’s finally come into existence. Because if modernism was a progression, a story that you could tell, now you have access to all those possible stories and the present is experienced as something which hasn’t got anything new to present. This is not the actually the case as this progression is continuously happening, it’s just the possibility of putting things in order has exploded.
HERBERT EIMERT & ROBERT BEYER ‘KLANGSTUDIE 2’ FROM AN ANTHOLOGY OF NOISE AND ELECTRONIC MUSIC/THIRD A-CHRONOLOGY 1952-2004 (SUB ROSA) 1952
Is it some piece of classic electronic piece from the 60s? I don’t know what it is.
MB: It’s a bit earlier. It’s Herbert Eimert and Robert Beyer made at the WDR studios in Cologne. What do you think of it?
To be honest, crap, but surely therapeutic for the composer. Someone had to make it.
MB: I wondered whether as a musician living in Cologne, you felt in any way influenced by the legacy of WDR studios where this piece originated, and where Stockhausen had recorded?
When I moved to Cologne in 1993, the Radiophonic music research had long been history. I once visited Erwin Humpert, who worked at Cologne University after Eimert and played him a DAT recording. I just popped in with some intricate stuff that I had programmed. I thought, I’d better find out about this Uni and see how far I had come with an academic musical background of almost zero. I was told that the music on the DAT could have been played by musicians, that it wasn’t an electronic recording in the sense of their radical concept of Radiophonic music, as Stockhausen called it. That is simply composed on electronic devices for loudspeakers. Art for art’s sake.
In the music academy, I believe when you want to pursue a musical piece. you have to apply for money to get the budget for the ensemble and the studio. You have to justify everything you do. You need concepts and I think that’s the wrong approach. The ideas appear intellectualised, because you have to convince professors and the bureaucrats, and that’s what fucks the art-work before it exists.
MB: It seems paradoxical for experimental musicians to have such a dogmatic attitude; that there is a right and wrong way to make music.
The problem with the piece we’ve been listening to is you can hardly invent it twice. It’s the same with free jazz, it crosses a border at the time but what can you do with it for the future? What do you *want* to do with it ? Once you’ve come up with the transgression, when it becomes a dogma it loses its radical aspects. If you are an artist and paint a black square, why paint a black square twice? It’s a big problem for an artist when you want to make a living; it’s a dilemma. It’s easier for entertainers, Unterhaltung in German. The problem in Germany is the separation of U and E Music – U stands for Unterhaltungsmusik, entertaining music, and E stands for Ernste Music, serious music. Now, through this division, there is a group of people who don’t belong to either side, the superfluous part of the society; for the academics they are a threat and for the pop business, too. They don’t have a lobby, they are not settled with their ideas, they don’t own established concepts, nor solely commercial, entertaining concepts. Poverty is underrated.
PYROLATOR ‘BACANO BROTHERCITO!’ FROM AUSLAND (ATATAK) 1981
I’ve got an idea, only one idea. I don’t remember the record so well. Could it be an Atom Heart production?
MB: It’s an old track by Pyrolator.
Pyrolator? I didn’t realise that he had done anything with a Spanish vocalist. That’s interesting, that’s a surprise. I didn’t hear anything like that from Pyrolator before.
MB: How influential was the Atatak label?
It was really influential during the 80s, it was the New Wave label in Germany, with Der Plan and Pyrolator, but the record I know by Pyrolator is not like that at all. An amazing piece for 81: revolutionary, almost. Do you remember Liaisons Dangereuses? Chrislo Haas? It was quite an important record from that period which had Spanish vocals on there as well, but Liaisons Dangereuses was a Berlin project. Haas was also a founder member of Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft. There were lots of German bands that I was quite attracted to at that time.
From today’s point of view the New Wave music can’t be accommodated by one concept. A lot of bands simply imitated English rock bands, the Clash for instance, but sung in German. Others like DAF developed something new as did Der Plan and Liaisons Dangereuses. I found these most significant as they developed a unique German way of New Wave independent from international influences and the humour in there is quite precise and very special. DAF were known for this one club hit ‘Dance the Mussolini’. It’s still stuck in my head those brilliant song titles like ‘Ich Und Die Wirklichkeit ‘ You can’t really translate ‘Wirklichkeit’ but the song more or less means ‘Me And Reality’. And they only sing ‘Ich und die wirklichkeit’, that’s the only text in there. It’s just simply brilliant the way they sing it, as if this guy really struggles with reality. It’s absolutely convincing in its minimalism. What appeals most to me was this naivete in the expression. Exposing one’s stupidity, is one way of putting it; or genius dilettantes. You probably know De Tödliche Doris as well, they were connected to the art scene. They were more conceptualising, whereas Der Plan and DAF were more about the music I think and acting the music, presenting it live. It was provocative, especially DAF, it appeared to be fascist for lots of people.
MB: I would have thought that having a track called ‘Dance The Mussolini’ could easily lay you open to misinterpretation, especially as irony in pop music is often misread. It’s the same as Laibach. It’s taking the strategy of the enemy instead of preaching to the converted; that’s where they come from. Instead of showing discernment they just stress the arguments of the enemy much further. It’s common with comedians, a typical strategy, but with DAF it was also in the music, as if the monotony was some kind of torture one has to go through (Laughs). Most of the performance was a real workout.
Nowadays I would say irony doesn’t really exist. It’s a form of rhetorical tool, to say the truth. If you apply irony you stretch it a little bit further but then it’s still the truth, so why use it anyway? DAF and Laibach, I think they stage a problem. They don’t express themselves but can confront a problem and don’t give the answer to it. Because then the audience is on its own and have to decide themselves: is that acceptable or is that dangerous? Because mostly the common perception of Laibach and many apparently right wing or fascist groups is that it could be dangerous if the wrong people hear the music because they think it’s for real and take it seriously. And that’s why they are detested, although people might be affected and fascinated by the power it has .This is quite ambiguous, and quite a big problem, especially for intellectual people.
MB: How has Cologne as a town changed in terms of its musical importance? More of the new Wave bands came from Dusseldorf, is that right? And now Cologne is a hive of activity with electronica.
At that time Dusseldorf was more important than Cologne, sure, there was a lot more going on. Now it’s not worth going that way because in the meantime the infrastructure is so well developed that it doesn’t make sense [to make a division between the cities]. Dusseldorf is just around the corner. There are so many more international people involved, the influence has become more international. In the 80s, it would have made a difference if you had come from Dusseldorf or Berlin, but now I don’t think it makes sense to look at it in terms of geographic locations. There are too many scenes. To create a scene journalistically means to exclude others.
We’re digressing a bit from Atatak here. Those New Wave bands were quite influential because it was the time I started making music as well. But since I grew up in a small town I didn’t realise that those musicians I was listening to were mates, if you like, or colleagues, because I didn’t have any connections to a label or music scene. This was deeply provincial. So only now I realise that these people were almost the same age, maybe five or seven years older. That’s why I am grateful that you brought one of those New Wave examples. It was an intense time in music.
PROFESSIONAL SUPER BANTOUS ‘SUPER NEGRO BANTOUS’ FROM VARIOUS: LAGOS ALL ROUTES (HONEST JON’S) 1976
Could be the West Coast. Rolling Dollar?
MB: It is from Nigeria by a group called the Professional Super Bantous.
You can clearly hear the connection with Latin Music which originated from West Africa. Is it from the 70s?
MB: Yes. I know you are interested in African music. Has it had an influence on your own music?
Oh, definitely. The Afrobeat movement bakes my cake. Fela Kuti’s music, Tony Allen. Not only Nigerian but Ethiopian music from the 70s that has influences from funk and jazz, especially Mulatu, a vibraphone player. It is the most amazing music for me. Or from Mali, Ali Farka Toure.
MB: Was it something you heard at a young age?
No, not at all, I’m still discovering it. It was not more than 10 years. The introduction came more from recycling records like My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts. I don’t know where you can find this in European music. Talking Heads? David Byrne definitely has something going on with Africa music.
MB: We were thinking of playing you a track of My Life In the Bush Of Ghosts. Do you think that the album has worn well over the years?
I think so, yeah. It’s not getting better, though (Laughs). I would have to check it. I don’t own the record, but I’ve been listening to it after a long time and thought it was really grooving nicely. It’s one of the first examples of using sampling. Holger Czukay was doing this a lot, exploiting ethnological recordings, either from the radio or records. He just took it away, so to speak, and I think it’s similar to what David Byrne and Eno were doing on My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, although they put credits on the records. I suppose part of the concept was to use global transmissions and it has got that global sound, although part of the production was coming from a European studio of course. But it’s an influence; you could tell that they are affected by non-European, particularly African music. I’m not sure, I would have to prove it. There are some outstanding tracks on it and some not so good, that’s what I remember. But when I first heard it I was blown away by the record.
MB: What do you think of this track?
[Long pause] I don’t like the rhythm machine. I like the guitar. It’s really average, there’s something average about it. But I like the mood, it’s absolutely nice. It reminds me of Cumbia, Colombian music and Calypso stuff, Caribbean music and of course other African music. I prefer it to Techno, that’s for sure. But it’s the same thing driving there, the same tension, probably, too. It’s party music.
C-SCHULTZ & HAJSCH ‘UNTITLED’ FROM C-SCHULTZ AND HAJSCH (SONIG) 2000
I’ve completely failed. I haven’t recognise any of them (Laughs).
MB: This one might be difficult as well.
[After a short while] Is it meant to be that quiet? It’s a lovely piece. I can already say that I like it. I’ve often been listening to music before and during sleep, and I have made special mix tapes for that purpose. This could definitely be on one of them. Is this old or more recent?
MB: This was released in 2000.
Is that Organ, or a gong. If it’s a gong it could be Thomas Köner. I’m sure it’s a gong played by a bow. It could be entirely cymbals.
MB: It’s C-Schultz and Hajsch.
This record often appears in the Invisible Jukebox. I’m sure I have seen it often in The Wire. I know through The Wire that this record exists. They are from Cologne. Nothing is wrong with it.
MB: What prompted you to make the mix tapes you mentioned?
It’s just a nice state when you go to bed and play some music that doesn’t affect you too much, doesn’t demand your attention too much. And often I’ve had the radio going the whole night just placed next to me on a very low volume and often I have had dreams and could remember the music – that was very nice. It definitely stimulates dreams as of course the whole acoustic world is still present.
MB: And there was your own Leisure Zones CD that were meant to be played no louder than background traffic sounds, or during sleep.
But the Leisure Zones has a lot of theoretical thoughts behind it. First it’s called Leisure Zones but then it’s entirely synthetic – the humming of a city. It’s not something considered natural that one would expect from a leisure zone, it’s totally industrial. but It’s soothing, calming one down. That’s the aspect I like about it. But it’s ironic also because you can’t find a quiet spot anymore. Always we have this humming of a city somewhere near. When you think you’ve found a quiet spot you will hear this humming, especially at night – that’s what I want to capture. It has some microphone recordings but the main source is not recorded with microphones, it’s made with synthesisers. Stupid white noise, nothing else. The instruments are in the background and you hardly hear them. And then Leisure Zones is a contradiction in itself it’s called Erholungsgebiet in German, which means more Recovery Zone. But what would you recover from, if not from life? But actually life should be recovering itself, you shouldn’t have to recover from life and have a place to recover – it’s this absurdity of something called a Leisure Zone. It’s more obvious when you’ve got the German term for it.
MB: Does the Leisure Zone concept tie-in with your theory of the ‘Non-place’?
Yeah. Before something becomes a ‘Leisure Zone’, it used to be a ‘Non-place’. It’s economically not of any interest to anybody, but this is when it’s important for those who use it. People are going out with their dogs, injecting heroin, children are going there to play. It’s simply a grey area. It doesn’t have any existence verbally; it’s not described; it’s no public spot; it’s just in between buildings or on the outskirts. But then take hold of it, call it a leisure zone, cultivate it, and something that used to be a non-place is brought into existence. It does appear. It has to serve people’s health, for instance. Something that used to be natural and people took it for granted that their environment is there to serve the living, so therefore their environment has to be the leisure zone or Erholungsgebiet as well. Non-place always is the symptom, the pathological thing that everyone is attached to personally, but its not expressible, not objectified.
MB: Would you play Leisure Zone music in a leisure zone?
(Laughs) No, it’s because it’s not recognisable; it’s a paradox. I once was asked to make a musical installation in a museum. It was during an art opening. So I put a CD player somewhere into the building. People came in and the exhibition and I had Leisure Zone going. The curator came back to me and asked me, ‘Where is your music’ and I said ‘It’s always there, all the time, that’s part of the idea’. Do you see the analogy? It’s as if they would take away the air that you breathe and put it in oxygen tanks that you have to pay for. This is happening all the time. It’s happening to water. That’s the Non-place concept – being aware of the things that don’t exist yet. Or being aware of the things that get lost in the digital process of encoding. Some people don’t mind listening to MP3s. I think that’s tragic , because I immediately hear the difference. But people don’t have the vocabulary to describe what happens. Some say it sounds Digital This is not an argument; I can’t argue with that. So as long as the vocabulary is missing these procedures always continue to take away the substance, to make it more redundant. It’s actually a process of higher redundancy that I’m working against.
The edited interview appeared in The Wire 266, April 2006
© 2006 The Wire.