Cxemcast 066 – Friedensreich
Let’s start with the podcast itself: how and where was this mix recorded, and what is the idea behind it?
The original idea was to record a one-take live mix at one of the recent events, but it failed, not exclusively, for technical reasons. Thus, this podcast is a collection of cuts from live improvisations I was doing for the last three months or so.
In your work, how do you refer to the Hundertwasser aesthetics? Your stage name is, after all, the first part of his pseudonym, isn’t it?
I don’t think that aesthetics comes first in this case. The core idea here is that both of my parents are artists. Obviously, we had a lot of hot art-related discussions in my family when I was a kid. But, as far as I remember, the only name that didn’t spawn any disagreement was the name of Friedensreich Hundertwasser. That is why this name is so important to me, you know. Right from the start, so to speak.
Did you study art?
Sort of, I guess. I went to art school in my childhood years, but then I realized that the “level” of my talent was not satisfactory enough for me to achieve what I wanted. Maybe I needed more patience at that point. Anyway, I plan to return to this activity, but probably later.
You’ve played at the majority of the club spaces in Kyiv (and not only), from major locations, such as Closer and Plivka, to an intimate underground club Эfir. Do you adjust your music to a particular place where you have to deliver it? What is the perfect setting for you: concert, rave, small party, or festival?
Of course, location matters. I noticed that usually you cannot play the same music at a small bar and at a large warehouse. I always try to find out all the details before the event, but that is not always possible. The location would affect the technical side, as well as some tonal qualities. Although, there are some exceptions.
For example, Эfir could withstand both ambient and 140+ bpm techno. Festivals, however, usually need to be aware of the material beforehand. There was a case when I needed to make stylistic decisions one hour before going on stage. So, improvisational skills definitely come in handy, but the majority of my time I spend learning new modules and some technical aspects, since, in order to improvise, one must be fully aware of what is going to happen and how it would sound under specific circumstances.
Tell us about your setup. Why are you attracted to modular synthesis and analog sound?
Indeed, the modular synth is the heart of my setup. “Why modular?” is a very broad question, and I sometimes give lectures on these issues. There are several points that, I would argue, are important here: tactility, control, sound, and uniqueness. When I say “tactility”, I mean immediate control, tactile control of my instrument in the real world. You turn the knob — you hear the result. I’m building my live performances in a way that I’m almost one hundred percent sure what each small thing does and how it works exactly.
As I’m using modular both in a studio and on stage, I have more time to study my system better and get away from a computer, and that is also important for me. Control means that my system is absolutely taken over by me. People love to mention “one knob — one function” rule here, but I’m not exactly limiting myself to that. What I love about modular is the ability to choose the level of control which completely fulfills my expectations. The sound is, of course, an extension of the user’s choices which were made in the process of planning/assembling the system. I’m not an analog purist, though. I use plenty of digital modules and this is exactly what makes the sound unique: the variety of modules chosen by the user and their particular combination.
The idea here is that personalized systems give personalized sound. Furthermore, I rebuild my system before each live performance, which guarantees a unique result every time I’m on stage. The sound is changing from one performance to another, and I really like it. Setup is a big part of it.
Once, I came across an interesting interview with Xeno & Oaklander in which they metaphorically described the workings of analog synthesis as a certain way of organizing and shaping the flow of electricity, which is quite amorphous in its nature. How difficult is it to arrange such a vulnerable, as they think, matter with a synthesizer? How often does it get out of control?
Ha-ha, yeah, right. Musicians go with this type of description of analog hardware very often. I think that this is happening because many of them started their production careers with computer-based setups where everything is by default more static than in analog universe. Modular synths actually are very helpful here: you can be both random and static, or be something in between. I would add randomness only when I think it’s necessary, but this also happens on my behalf. I like to call it “controlled random”.
How is your collaboration with Timur Samarsky and his label Corridor Audio going? Do you plan to release more music together?
We’ve been improvising with Timur a lot lately. It’s much more fun, but also technically easier. Sure, we are planning releases on the label and outside of it, but it’s too early to give away more information.
You have recently given a lecture on improvisation techniques in electronic music. Could you share the main points?
Yes, I did. It was mostly technical, but interesting nevertheless. Each live performance is improvisation, so I assembled a set of, I guess, concepts that I’m using to make the experience more fluid. There are some points I want to underline: genre, improvisation, and workflow. Before building the modular system, the genre must be defined to a certain extent, since it affects technical aspects as well. For me, it is techno, no question about it. With some deviations to one side or another. Also, a user needs to determine the desired level of improvisation.
I chose real-time recording: you record something and you listen to it right away. This rule does not apply to all layers, though. I usually divide the final result into several layers and work with them using separate workflows: sequence, drums, atmosphere, and effects. In the scope of each layer, I have a different workflow. On the other hand, a workflow is a very personal process that each electronic musician would need to go through, considering musical desires, technical abilities and specifics of the result. So, to me, this is mostly technical homework.
Tell us your musical biography. When and where did you start playing music? What are your influences and musical tastes? How did they develop and change?
My music journey started when I got my first personal computer. A bit earlier, I took guitar lessons at a musical school. Stylistically, there is no way to define everything, there was a lot of stuff I engaged myself with: sang in a band, produced tracks for a hip-hop collective, played in a metal band, played DJ sets, etc. Now, I’m at the point where it’s quite hard to determine influences even for myself, especially the musical ones. I can only say that various random “field work” experiences, or some completely new interests, such as astrophysics, affect my music much more than listening to a specific track.
What exactly is your “field”?
Everyday life. I know that I’m missing a lot of interesting details, even in my everyday activities. Actually, the same can be said about music: details can change the outcome drastically. On the other hand, the discovery of Eris dwarf planet can easily become a great inspiration for another track. There are so many things we don’t know about the Universe.
As the end of the year is approaching, how would you sum up 2018 for yourself, both in professional and personal dimension?
This year, I got myself involved in photography. I photograph a lot, primarily for my personal diary, which makes it easier to memorize the recent activities. In 2018, I traveled a lot and played a lot of gigs, which is great, so I plan to continue next year.
Interviewed by Yustyna Kravchuk