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15 Questions to Kevin M Krebs / 833-45

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Hello!  I'm doing fairly well, although always too busy these days. I'm living in a small apartment in Anyang, South Korea, a city on the southern border of Seoul. I teach English in a private school, which is an immensely rewarding but often exhausting job.

What's on your schedule right now?
I've always been rather poor at scheduling. I tend to jump into a handful of projects at once and then meander between them as inspiration goads me. The closest thing to fruition at the moment is a new electro-acoustic / ambient album that will be entitled 'The Blue Concubine'. I've also been working exceptionally slowly on a follow up to my original Oneiromancy album (

I'm putting together another album in my new conceptual series called 'The Jade Furnace' ( released on Thomas Park's Treetrunk netlabel. It is a series that strives to connect alchemical metaphors to sound in a meaningful way. I won't take up space with the details here -- they can be found on the release page for readers who are interested.

I also have some new work under my 833-45 alias in progress... and finally, I'm attempting to force myself to get two full length CDs I composed recently released on an appropriate CD/CDR label.

What was the concept behind founding Nishi? What makes it different from other labels out there?
Well, I don't know if I could claim it as being much different than most other net labels. Nishi falls in with quite a few other net labels that cover more the eclectic landscape of net audio. As for the concept behind it -- it originally began as an extension of the No Type net label. I wanted to provide a localized label for the west coast of Canada, as No Type was based on the east in Montreal. Nishi soon took on a life of its own and releases began coming in from all over the world.


Your catalogue is highly diverse. While there can be no doubt that the individual releases are excellent, aren't you afraid
that the eclecticism could endanger the label's coherence?

Thank you for such a compliment. I want to let everyone know that I can't take all the credit for the selection of works. For about the last year and a half, Nishi has been run almost exclusively by my friend and gifted musician Ed Powley (aka colophon). But, to answer the question about eclecticism endangering the label's coherence -- No, I'm not afraid of it at all.

I am certain a majority of listeners tastes in music are quite wide-ranging and they're not afraid to try something unknown. This is particularly true in the realm of net audio, where there is very little risk involved.

On the other hand, web labels like Nishi offer yourself and other musicians the opportunity to create music without having to check back on its marketability all the time. Is that the freedom you always wanted?

The freedom offered by net labels certainly allows musicians to not only create without fears of market viability, but with the knowledge that they might even find an audience.

You're an active artist yourself. How would you describe or characterise your composing process?

Having no formal musical training, I tend to approach composition from the bottom. I begin with individual sounds and build from there, listening carefully to the characteristics of the sounds and letting them guide me. For example, many of my 833-45 compositions were inspired directly by shortwave recordings and what they triggered in my auditory imagination. Once someone commented that I was an 'audio architect' -- I found that an insightful description of my process in that I tend to start from a foundation and build upon it.

Continuing on that metaphor, I assume most of my listeners will have noticed that a majority of my compositions have a conceptual foundation. A coherent theme is important when I'm composing, especially for my longer works. It serves as a central focus to build around and increases the sense of continuity and connection between the compositions. Sometimes it can be a very simple concept, like the source of sounds. In my more recent compositions, I find myself becoming increasingly abstract; while this is intellectually and acoustically satisfying for me (and hopefully for listeners) it is also much more demanding and time consuming.

How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?
As I noted above, sound is the origin of composition in my process. They're impossibly tangled with one another.

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

When I play live it is vital for me to have some degree of unpredictability. An example is that when I play under my 833-45 moniker, I use several short-wave radios live -- I don't know ahead of time what I'll pick up. This forces me to listen and engage with the sound in a spontaneous manner.

I have seen a few too many electronic shows where the artist(s) push play on a CD player and twist a few knobs; very few people want to watch something akin to a laboratory technician when they see a show. Regardless of the genre of music there needs to be, however subtle or unique, a living interaction between the artist and the music.

What's your view on the music scene at present? Is there a crisis?
I'm going to limit myself to the net label music scene as I think that's where I have the most to speak on. In many respects net labels are thriving in a manner that was unimaginable when I first got involved with online music ten years ago. Unfortunately, this explosion of growth is creating a crisis of information. New net labels springing up every day and there is an ever-increasing number of artists turning to net labels to get their music out. Simon Carless and the Internet Archive have gone a long way to centralizing and creating a community for net labels. However, I worry that many people just discovering net labels will find them intimidating -- without any familiarity of the different net labels and their styles, it is all to easy to become lost.

An interesting question for someone in charge of a net label: Imagine a situation in which there'd be no such thing as copyright and everybody were free to use musical material as a basis for their own compositions – would that be an improvement to the current situation?
I think that would be a terrible situation. Copyright is important for artists and without it they would have an even more difficult time to make any kind of living from their work. That said, the politicalization of copyright and the heavy-handed attempts to enforce it are clearly problematic.

Some feel there is no need to record albums any more, that there is no such thing as genuinely "new" music. What do
you tell them? Is "new" an important aspect of what you want your pieces to be?

The concept of 'new' is so slippery, and often requires historical hindsight to discern. It is difficult to imagine anything that could be obviously called new -- we've been living in a time when we can create or record any sound we want, edit it at the sample level, and replay it an infinite number of times (or at least until the power goes out). If there is any newness, it comes to us in the form of how we approach and re-interpret the music of the past. 'New' music is, in my mind, more a form of listening -- what the sounds inspire and evoke within us, as well as how they relate to the ever changing (and often devolving) acoustic environments we live in.

Do you feel an artist has a certain duty towards anyone but himself? Or to put it differently: Should art have a poltical/social or any other aspect apart from a personal sensation?
I'm heavily influenced by archetypal psychology and tend to believe that the first and foremost 'duty' (I don't like the implications of that word) of an artist is to manifest their vision -- perhaps a bad metaphor for musicians which attests to the visual bias of modern cultures. This is not to say artists should not attempt to communicate political or social ideas. It can be dangerous though, as often the art itself can be swallowed up or trivialized for the sake of these messages -- crossing the border between art and propaganda.

You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
This is a good question. I would be drawn towards variety as well as the primacy of sound. Ideally the space would have a multi-channel sound system to allow sounds to surround the listeners. Phonographic and field recordings would play a large part, as well as electro-acoustic and ambient music. A build up to a traditional Gamelan performance, followed by some minimal house fading into more field recordings. Finally, finish with a single shakuhachi player in twilight. Oh, I would probably need some bagpipe players mixed in there too..

A lot of people feel that some of the radical experiments of modern compositions can no longer be qualified as "music". Would you draw a border – and if so, where?
The whole venture of defining music has often been an effort by one ideological group to cross the music of another group off their list. We can't deny that music is a social construction. Perhaps excluding our own era, musicians (and listeners, too) of every time and culture have placed boundaries on what constitutes music from sound or noise. So, yes, I can sympathize with people who feel a that many modern compositions don't fit within their perceptual categories of what constitutes music. However, what I would ask of them is why a composition needs to be easily recognized as musical to make it worth listening to.

It is all too common to create a false dichotomy between music and non-musical sounds, which has been emphasized by the commercialization of music. Our ears are made for listening to more than just music. This has been a major theme in a lot of modern music, with John Cage being one of the obvious pioneers, and I feel it is particularly evidenced by the ever-growing interest in phonography.

Many artists dream of a "magnum opus". Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?

I do have a vision of it and I have found myself at times so intimidated by it that I can't complete any work. Describing it is obviously a difficult proposition... I think my as yet unreleased 'Alchymy' CD is the closest I've gotten. Also, my Live at Rien a Voir 15 ( release on the Conv net label contains an extended version of one of the tracks from this CD,
as well as a reworking of an older composition. I think both those tracks can give a vague idea of what direction I want to continue in.

as Kevin M Krebs:
The Jade Furnace I (Treetrunk Record)
Live at Rien á Voir 15 ep (Conv)
The Light will Fill the Darkness and Obliterate It (Webbed Hand Records)
Rain I (Webbed Hand Records)
Oneiromancy (Webbed Hand Records.)
An Orange Rainbow (Nishi)
Sine Fiction Vol. VII - William S. Burroughs' "The Soft Machine" (Sine Fiction)
The Halberd of Chemistry (
The Light will Fill the Darkness and Obliterate It (Mystery Sea)
Lethe (No Type)
The Seed Project (private release)
Oneiromancy (private release)

As 833-45:
xi phosphe (earlabs)
deadfire ep (
solar cycle 23 (autoplate)
leylines (
live at multiplex X (live recordings page)
live at video in studios -(live recordings page)
sunspot ep (no type)
wavelength ep (no type)
solar cycle 23 (private release)
distance ep (no type )

Kevin M Krebs / 833-45

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