Interview: Asmus Tietchens


Asmus Tietchens is a name that requires no presentation for those who have being following the evolution of the most experimental spectrum of electronic music of the last three decades. More than an interview, GPInformation publishes a brief voyage through the career of one the most important german sound artists. The pleasure was all ours.

What can you tell about your latest work, "Zeta Menge"?
"Zeta-Menge" is the 6th one in an ongoing series of MENGEN
. On this CD I tried to create spatial structures without being "spacy". There is an acoustic foreground and an acoustic background. My main interest is the room between foreground and the background.

You developed with Thomas Köner the Kontact der Jünglinge project. What was the concept behind it? Was it an hommage to Karlheinz Stockhausen, or did it go beyond?
In a way the name Kontakt der Jünglinge is an hommage to the Big Karlheinz. But musically absolutely not. We never aimed to make electronic music like Stockhausen. Thomas and I enjoy to improvise live with preformed materials, we like to surprise each other in the live situation. So the most of our performances do not sound typical Köner or Tietchens. Much more we try to step beyond our own stylistical borders. By the way, we just began to record our first studio album.

Going back in the past, you started working during very prolific periods in the german musical contemporary history. Although having always a very strong identity, did you ever feel, in any way, affiliated with any movement or aesthetic, like - for instance - the "industrial" one?
Yes, in the early 80s, after my "Sky Period", I felt connected with the industrial movement. Remember, my first post-"Sky" records have been released on industrial labels like United Diaries and Esplendor Geométrico. But soon I found my own way, which differed more + more from the typical industrial attitude. Industrial was a very important and thrilling starting point for further developments in the direction of musique concrète and advanced electronic music.

On the other hand, you also were in contact with the Krautrock generation, isn't that right? Did you had any kind of relationship with it?
Not really. I never prefered that acid stuff
a la Klaus Schulze, TG etc. But there is one exception: In 1976 I was part of the group Liliental with Dieter Moebius (Cluster + Harmonia) and others. We recorded one album at Conny Planck's studio, which has been released in 1978 on the Brain label as "Liliental".

With such a long career, how do you see the current production, regarding electronic and experimental music? Has hedonism replaced conceptual thought? Does the avantgarde still exist?
avantgarde still exist, but luckily it is not the old avantgarde. A lot of new composers/musicians developed very carefully the genre of experimental electronic music. I do not think that hedonism replaced conceptual thinking. Of course there is a lot banal electronic stuff around, but in the same way serious approaches increased. The ratio of both is the same as it was in the early 80's, but nowadays we have more from both of them. These immense quantities make it difficult to separate the chaff from the wheat.

Electronics have passed from the "laboratories" (including at universities) to massified production. Do you find any significative changes in composition, from the technical point of view?
Of course the digital tools changed the compositional approaches of many musicians. As it did in the 80's when cheap synthesizers and cheap multi-track recorders became available. Now everone can buy good computers and useful software
for a handful of Euros. That's really democratic. And still you and I (the listeners) decide what we want to listen to. Maybe this answers the question of the quality.

What are your projects for the near future, concerning artistic and/or academic work?
Beside the above mentioned studio album with Thomas Köner, I prepare the next MENGEN album, "Eta-Menge", to be released by Line in this fall. And after a 12 years break I started again to experiment with the sounds of dripping water. So far I already recorded three new "Hydrophonien". Early next year
"Seuchengebiete 4" will be released on Die Stadt.

You were a professor of Sound Installations on the Hamburg Arts School, right? Do you still teach?
I am not a professor, but a lecturer. I teach sound design a
nd audio technology on the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences. I still do so.

In an interview once given to a portuguese publication ["Monitor", issue#1, June 1993 ], you stated that the "Marches Funébres" album was «total kitsch», which is a rather curious thought. Is that still your opinion?
Not the whole album is kitschy, oh no! Just "Grünschattiger Nachmittag". Yes, this piece is still big kitsch, it should have been a joke. The concept was to let Django dance the Bolero with schmaltzy strings and pathetic
drums. Didn't it work?

Nuno Loureiro
Photo + Image: R.R.

This interview is also available at Chain D.L.K.

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