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15 Questions to Photophob

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Hi! I’m fine, thanks. I am sitting in my flat in Graz (I live here together with my girlfriend), in front of my computer (of course)… summer rain is going down outside on the streets.


What’s on your schedule right now?
Well, I am working on different new projects, another science-fiction influenced idm/breakbeat album and a more laid back ambient/electronic project are consuming most of my time at the moment. But actually i should rather work on my diploma thesis…


What or who was your biggest influence as an artist? Do you see yourself as part of a certain tradition or as part of a movement?
I guess my biggest influence for making music was Aphex Twin, as I got introduced to electronica by his works. Before that I was sort of a die-hard metalfan, considering every form of electronic music as “soulless, dishonest techno”. But well, I was 15 then… And I got very influenced by the “radical constructivism” some time ago, what of course has also affected me as an artist.

I don’t consider myself being part of any movement, although I am quite active in the idm- and netlabel-scene. But I wouldn’t say that that’s the only real thing for me. I hope my music does not just appeal to people within this particular scene, as it’s more the emotional than the stylistic aspect i am focussing on. And emotionally I guess I am just one of these kids that grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, spending too much time on computer games and movies, feeling more at home in sci-fi-dystopias than in their actual homes, fleeing from reality and daydreaming along their childhood. You could say I am one of those guys who get about 90% of all the jokes in futurama…


What’s your view on the music scene at present? Is there a crisis?
I don’t think that things are really getting worse in the scene, it’s just getting bigger, faster and more confusing. If there is a crisis it’s not about quality but about oversupply, as it has become so much easier and cheaper to produce music. But on the other hand, that’s exactly the reason why I make music myself, so I guess I shouldn’t complain… As long as there’s so much great music out there, it’s your own fault if you consider the present situation as a crisis.

The internet-distribution of music has definitely changed a lot and is going to change the scene even more in future, i think in a positive way. New licensing ideas like the creative commons are a big chance for unknown music acts to distribute their work.

(I am of course not talking about the MTV contaminated, casting show infected surface of music business, which of course is, and has always been, a reiterating crisis as a whole. But nobody is forced to waste his time on that.)


What does the term „new“ mean to you in connection with music?

I don’t really care about innovation in music. I am glad I can enjoy really unprogressive music just as much as lots of the “new” things. I don’t feel the need to revolutionize or invent a new genre, and i don’t consider that as a criteria for liking something.


How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?
I don’t have any real education in this sector, so my view on things might be a bit dowdy. I think making music in general means to compose and arrange sounds of any kind. A qualitative distinction between different sounds is not possible, if you ask me. It’s just not important whether a sound comes from picking a guitar string or from throwing a stone into a bowl of rice pudding (for example…).

But (and that’s a very interesting topic) you can use the fact that most people will recognize the guitar sound, but propably won’t be able to relate the “splash” of the stone to anything they’ve heard before. And that’s one of the reasons why i am so interested in idm. It’s this combination of well-known, beautiful (often kitschy) compositions and not assignable, abstract (often annoying) sounds and beats, the tension between these two poles that’s really fascinating me. It has an even reconciliatory effect on me.


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How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?

I would describe my strategy for making music as “playing around, trying out as much as possible and sticking to the sounds, rhythms and melodies I like”. Maybe you could call that improvisational composition? But i can’t play any instrument so actually it’s composition i am doing. Well, in fact i just don’t care what people might call it…


What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
Performing electronica live is always difficult. My live performances are more like a kind of “presentation” of finished tracks, with some improvisational filter-sweeping and arrangement-structuring. So it has really nothing to do with the way I “make” music at home, because that would be quite boring in front of an audience. It’s more like an advanced dj-set of selfmade tracks. But whatever you do on stage, the most important thing is that the people can see (and feel) that you really like what you’re doing. That’s what they get out of your performance.


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?
I don’t feel the need for drawing a border anywhere. If I like what I hear it’s fine for me. But if some people feel better when saying that something’s not “music” but “noise”, well, I also got no problem with that. If they can save their idea of “pure music” from being infected with “dangerous alien influences” this way… they just don’t know what they are missing.


Are “serious” and “popular” really two different types of music or just empty words without a meaning?
I never quite understood what should be the criteria for this distinction. So much of the classical music is everything but “serious” when taken literally, while so much of the so called “popular” music is meant and understood deadly serious (just think of the industrial scene). And why can something “popular” not be “serious”? Or does the educational level of the artist decide whether his output becomes “serious” or “popular”? Does the complexity of music make it more serious? I don’t think so. It’s just up to the listener how “serious” he or she takes the music.


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?

I don’t think you can do anything that is not completely personal. “Objective art” is an illusion, just as is “objectivity” as a whole. You just can’t leave your personal thoughts and feelings behind, because that’s all you got. Many artists dislike the idea of art, being a kind of therapy for the artists, but i believe everything we do is a form of self-therapy. It makes no difference if you’re concentrating on social, political or personal aspects, it’s always your subjective view on things, and you’re always doing it because you somehow expect to feel better afterwards.


True or false: People need to be educated about  music, before they can really appreciate it.
False. Education may of course change your view on things, but that doesn’t mean that “educated appreciation” stands above the “uneducated appreciation”. You can really really appreciate music you have absolutely no idea about. Often this is what makes it interesting at all, because I think factual knowledge can have a rather disenchanting effect. When you don’t need to think about “how” and “why” something sounds like it does, you are more likely able to just “feel” it. That’s why I actually focus mainly on dramaturgy and atmosphere when making music, because I don’t want people to analyse my works from an educated, technical or musical point of view. I think that’s just not important, at least not for what I am doing. I just want them to have a nice time while listening to my music, I want them to associate freely and to dream around. In other words: It’s about the content, not the form.


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?
Isn’t that the current situation with creative commons? Would be totally ok for me, as long as the artists don’t adorn themselves with borrowed plumes. So if material is used in an experimental or atmospherical way, everything’s fine. But i don’t like it when artists use finished drumloops and stuff and then show off because they think they’ve done a “cool groove”. I use speech samples from movies or radio shows for atmospherical reasons, but i don’t touch others drumloops or melodies. If I can’t build something on my own, well than I’m not good enough and have to accept that or keep trying. So for me this is actually a moral topic, not a judicial one.


You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
I would force some of my favourite artists to perform together. I’m for example thinking of Arvo Pärt, writing a composition that Aphex Twin would accompany live with beats and sound effects. Or maybe Tool, performing their psychedelic metal songs, underlayed with minimal ambient soundscapes by Biosphere. Or a duett by rockstar-prototype David Bowie and anti-rockstar Will Oldham. Well, there would be lots of possibilities for exciting cooperations.


Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?
No, not really. I try not to think in superlatives. I just hope I won’t have to be ashamed of anything i’ve done when looking back on my life. Well, I’d call that an ending…


Discography:

MP3-albums:

Photophob (2004) Geska Records
Digitalis (2004) Laridae Records
Tantalus (2004) tonAtom Records
Within (2004) Laridae Records
Mixes/d (2005) Laridae Records
November 30th (2005) tonAtom Records
Music for Spaceports LP (2005) Earstroke Records

CD-albums:
Your majesty machine (2004) Hive Records
Still Warm (2006) Hive Records

Homepage:
Photophob

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