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15 Questions to Stefan Németh

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Tired. Vienna can be a quiet city in winter. Anyway, I miss to sleep a bit longer these days. Nevertheless I am feeling fine in general, if that’s what you mean.

What's on your schedule right now?
I am working on the soundscore for a film called "Optical Vacuum" by Dariusz Kowalski. It’s a pretty weird combination of a personal diary by Stephen Mathewson and material from webcams from all over the world. Sound is the third level on which some kind story evolves. Apart from that we have to finish a record with my duo called Lokai as well as an EP with Radian. The latter should be out on Thrill Jockey later this year. Well, and there’s the label Mosz, where we are going to release a new album by Kapital Band 1 ("Playing by numbers"). You see: no danger getting bored during the next months.

What's your view on the music scene at present? Is there a crisis?
Depends on what we are talking about. If we are talking about music itself, I cannot see a crises. There is a lot of stuff around. Maybe there isn’t a specific genre, which I find especially interesting, but everything is present at the same time. There is not a certain style which reflects these days - at least for me. Probably I have to do more research to find music, which I like. The reason simply might be the signal-to-noise is easy to produce music and it became easier to present it to the public. So everybody has access to tons of great tracks - and of course also to pieces in which you are not interested in. Anyway, the music scene is becoming more and more a parallel world or worlds in itself, where different approaches to music coexist at the same time. That means, if you are looking for a particular style that overshadows the rest for a certain period - like punk, techno etc. did -then you might be perhaps disappointed.

Do you see yourself as part of a certain tradition or as part of a movement?

No, not really. I mean, when I started making music more seriously there was (and still is) a vivid  electronica scene here in Vienna (Mego,Cheap, etc), which influenced me for sure. But the music I listen to is so diverse.... I am looking for general functions in pieces of other musicians and not so much for aesthetics. So the music or let’s say one aspect of a piece which has an influence on what I do, can come from nearly everywhere. Diversity is so important for me that I can hardly imagine to be part of a movement - at least not a strict one that has any kind of "rules".

What, would you say, are the factors of your creativity? What "inspires" you?
Oh, that’s really hard to say. I doubt that I can completely answer this for myself as it is a subtile process. Probably a lot of it comes from outside - so it is not necessarily related to music. i.e. it can be a movie, some coincidal sound in the street, an exhibition. If I try to think to much in terms of music it seems to make me blind regarding my own music.

How would you describe your method of composing?

Usually i have an idea of the effect, which the piece should have. Then I try to build sounds and tonal relationships to establish that. But I don’t follow the tracks all the time – sometimes there happens an exciting fragment on the original way and I continue with that. Most of the time there is a small structure, a small texture by an acoustic instrument in the beginning and by the time I build more and more around it. When I have found the basic modules, then I think about the general structure and so on. It is a modular system, but not in a specific order - what I mean is that I don’t necessarily start with a theme or something.

How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?

Sound is just like any other part of a composition (notes, rhythm etc). Maybe it is a little bit more important for me personally.

How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
For a record I usually try to seperate it pretty much. Personally I am more interested in a record as a work of its own and not so much as a document of a live setting, which probably needs to be experienced live to fulfill all demands. Apart from that I am more familiar with the process of composing, because I can form something about a longer period.

What does the term "new" mean to you in connection with music?
1 + 1 = 3

Let’s say, you combine something which you have experienced once and the result goes beyond the original source. Or you are the lucky guy, who "invents" something due to a random event.

Do you personally enjoy multimedia as an enrichment or do you feel that it is leading away from the essence of what you want to achieve?

Very often I feel distracted from the music by projections and vice versa. Though I admit that some artist made a good job with combining different media. It is possible for me, but very hard to achieve. It seems to me that it has to be a "minimal" approach. Enough blank space should be left for the recipient.

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What's your approach to performing on stage?

A good live performance can be everything for me - I can enjoy "no performance" and "glam" long as I feel that the story is convincing and not superposed.

Do you feel an artist has a certain duty towards anyone but himself? Or to put it differently: Should art have a political/social or any other aspect apart from a personal sensation?
If people make music which is not part of the mainstream, it is already a political statement somehow. It does not need to be an explicit political statement which reflects a social reality

How, would you say, could non-mainstream forms of music reach wider audiences without >sacrificing their soul?
Hmm...I don’t think you have to change the music or sacrifice your soul. I still believe that there are a lot of people who are willing to listen to unusual music. The problem is how they can be introduced to this kind of music. Also you need to be open to experience something new to you, which means that there is a process of learning (at least a bit) included. Just an example: I could imagine that one could combine something accessible (which does not mean bad quality!!!) with controversial music. And give people a chance. However, unfortunately this has to do with strategies of major industry branches...they should dare a bit more. I am sure they would not loose anything on that, if they make it wise.

You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?

I am glad, that I am not in the position to program a festival on my own. It would be so hard for me to choose among the bands and artists I like.

Many artists dream of a "magnum opus". Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?
No. Honestly talking, I don’t have a vision of an opus magnum and I guess even if I did, I probably woold not recognise when it happens. I try to do my work as good as I can, but with the knowledge that it reflects my personal development and the cirumstances of a specific period of my life. These conditions change and the output will be different. This kind of evolution is interesting for me, but not a single peak.

Pucture by Gerald Zahn

Film (2008) Thrill Jockey

With Radian:
Juxtaposition (2004) Thrill Jockey
Rec.Extern (2002) Thrill Jockey
TG11 (2000) Thrill Jockey

With Lokai:
Seven Million (2005) Mosz


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