Your name as an artist generates a kind of ‘ultimate respect’ among fellow artists, musicians, record collectors, serious music fans, your name appears on many favorites lists, what do you think of that?
I guess I haven’t seem any of these lists! I don’t feel I am confronted with ‘ultimate respect’ , I think I’m pretty unknown. I just get on with it. At this point I have been putting out records for a long time. I’m a lifer. It seems there is a core of people who like what I do and are along for the ride, and a growing circle that know me through new works like the Venture Bros and commissions. Be nice if there were more!
You (& Martin Rev) made a great point in the Film ‘Kill Your Idols’ about that sure there are new bands that wear an alternative culture label but they for the most part hold no lasting interest, that their just interpretive of whats come before – such as a jazz band now will play 50 year old standards well but offer nothing really new to the music world. To take this thought further – do you think that the period of time (whatever time frame you would like to place on it, say ’76-’96?) was the high water mark or creative influx of ‘alternative music’ and is just over & music is dormant now waiting for the next ‘music period’ in a historical sense – such as looking back in history there are very concrete time of starting and stopping say the ‘classical music age’ or the ‘jazz music age’?
To be honest I still haven’t watched Kill Your Idols so I’m not sure what you are referring to. It’s hard to gauge what you think is a “high watermark” – based on what filters into the mainstream? The “music scene” isn’t one huge amorphous organism, it’s a lot of different artists. Granted there are times when great creativity begets great creativity. There is always interesting and worthwhile music going on somewhere. In terms of a cultural time and place that cant be replicated, I was lucky enough to live in London from 78 to 82 and the amount of new music and ideas being created then was phenomenal. It was a very exciting time, post-punk and the dawn of independent labels. I don’t know if here will ever again be a “movement” like punk in 1976, or psychedelia in 1967, that causes such musical and social upheavals. The good thing about the technology we use today is that anyone can make music. The bad thing is – everyone is making music. We are in the internet era of music and its inherent democratization of dissemination. Music is omnipresent and unfortunately the dross sours the cream; the content is overloaded yet the culture is threatened with extinction. Some would have it that everything has been done, and I think that’s just not true. I am often confronted with things that I consider that I have never seen or heard before in art and music. And that is not just new combination’s of things, but people extending technique, using new materials, or is the fact that there is still so much from the past to discover. I unearth a lot of things I have never heard regularly, from Turkish psychedelia to Finnish fusion to noise in Bushwick basements. There is usually a couple of things but I have to dig. I listen widely; I am most interested in contemporary classical, soundtracks and progressive / RIO / zeuhl music at the moment . But I look for things to hear and go and see music a lot. Having said that, I consider what I create to be in a universe unto itself, with its own laws of physics and gravity.
Was a creative ‘zeitgeist’ if you will for people active within a certain music time?
I see music as my art that happens to also be my living. As such I am required to be a renaissance man and handle all the business side, label and so on. But I have done that all along. But I am the sort that has a burning desire to create some thing and get it out of me, and get closure on it. I have a restlessness where I don’t like to repeat myself so much. Also my process is not collaborative, or a “band”. therefore not social. Mine is quite solitary. I can create for years and not play people what I have done!
You were given a Sony contract in 1995, how did this happen & was the cover art for Gash real – was the Foetus sign really in Times Square with strings pulled by Sony or was that photo-shopped?
A lot of people were being signed in the post-Nirvana alternative gold-rush. I talked to a couple of labels and it seemed like a good idea to go with Sony. My A&R man left soon after I signed so I was kinda left high and dry, and in fact before Gash even came out, business affairs in Japan decided they weren’t going to promote the following album so the gears started rolling to get me out of the contract. Yes, that image on the sign in Times Square was real. If you watch the Verklemmt video you can see it as well. I recorded the album in Times Square, and each night I would leave the studio I would see that sign. I wanted to do something different with the album artwork,then it dawned on me how cool it would be to use it as Sony had just bought it. They liked the idea. Funnily enough, at the time it was about the biggest sign in Times Square…now it looks positively tiny compared to the explosion of electronic lights covering the buildings there now.
How did you get signed to Sony?
No of course I didn’t wake up and decide to be signed. I wasn’t exactly unknown. I had been talking to the A & R guy about it for some time and it took a year to negotiate the contract and I was writing the material over a long time as well. I’m not going into all the boring details.
What ever happened to the project with Diamanda Galas that was a maybe years ago?
We had meetings about it.. It was going to be Diamanda with me and Caspar Brotzmann I think. Casper and I got together a couple of times and just ended up hanging out drinking vodka. The project became a casualty of the wilderness years.
How did the single from Gash end up to be released on other labels?
I got the rights back to the EPs Null and Void and did different licensing deals for it.
Seems most folks have some story about how record labels screwed up something or other – whats yours?
I don’t discuss my business dealings in the media. I think it’s bad form (and it can come back to bite you).