EoIpso: Let's talk about current electronic music. Most of the sounds that used to be classified as futuristic and unusual twenty or thirty years ago you can here in TV commercials and jingles these days. So, as electronic music has become mainstream, has it lost its fascination? And what is electronic music anyway? Is it a musical style of its own or couldn't you take a classical piece, orchestrate it with electronic instruments and thus make it electronic music?
Hypnotique: There is so much music now which can be classified as "electronic", from composer's classical scores played on a synthesizer for reasons of economy, to "power electronics" like Whitehouse and thumping hardcore Techno music. The Musicians Union were afraid that the synthesizer would make real musicians redundant and to a certain extent they have. It is true that electronic music is all around us, both in the tinny & synthetic sounds you hear on the train or airport to sound amplification in every shop - it's inescapable. Muzak is trapping - you need to use your inner ear to switch it off or it will drive you crazy! The sounds of the modern world can be extremely disturbing, extremely painful, more than even "power electronics". I've hinted at a few extreme electro-acoustic sounds on my album, to keep the listener on their toes and to remember that the apocalypse of the modern world is not far away.
Don't forget that a lot of innovative music actually comes from commercial and advertising - Coil produced music for adverts, and in the 1960s Jean Jacques Perrey made a handsome living making crazy, futuristic tape loops and sounds for commercials. In fact, much innovation comes from commercial music, particularly the cinema, where crazy and dark sounds are often desirable as an effect. I would love to make a soundtrack to a really dark, psychological film - or maybe just a cute cartoon about talking animals! Of course, Wendy Carlos is the most famous musician to orchestrate classical music using purely electronic instruments (the Modular Moog) in the album "Switched On Bach". But thousands of bad imitations followed, none had her mastery and skill, so accomplishing good psychological effects with music is not easy. You cannot let the machine make the sounds by pushing a button, you must program every parameter.
I like to combine real instruments (theremin, saxophone, clarinet, voice, percussion) with programmed sounds to make the music more random, more expressive, and more humanistic. Electronic and classical sounds can exist together. The problem for classical music is that it is a historical, not a living genre. Most classical musicians are craftsmen recreating how music was played in centuries gone by. They have no imagination, which is why I am bored of many of the people I met at music college. Also, there is a lot of snobbery amongst many of my friends who seem to only be turned on by purely electronic music. They don't like songs or traditional instruments at all. I like to merge the old and the new, the traditional and the modern. You can only move into the future by using a little of the past.
EoIpso: You're not very keen on using computers in music production, but surely you used a computer for recording "The Hanging Garden"...
Hypnotique: It's fine to use any machine, but be original and be in control of it. I would have liked to have recorded onto tape, but it was too complex and I didn't have the money or the equipment, so the computer was a more convenient alternative. I'm hoping to record some of the next album in a purely analogue studio. I would say, if the machine allows you to do something you would not otherwise have the means to do, then use it. If there is another way, then explore that first. Use a drum machine because you want that particular sounds and mechanical rhythm, not because you don't have a drummer.
EoIpso: How do you feel about John Peel's death? Do you think someone will be able to follow in his footsteps?
Hypnotique: Now I will say something a little controversial: to me, John Peel as a musical connoisseur died many years ago. He was a great person and a great broadcaster that I was privileged to have met and also played for his radio show, but he was just one man, and his music tastes were limited. Many great music he never played on his show, many wonderful bands, because they were not his style. And dare I say it, in later years the boundary between good and bad music became increasingly blurred. I was lucky he liked two of the bands I played with. My favourite memory was playing a Punk-Rock version of "Like a Rhinestone Cowboy" with the band Dawn of the Replicants on a Steinway Grand piano in the BBC studios for his radio show. No one else would have paid us to do that!
I loved his Radio 4 morning
show "Home Truths" about family life, very humourous and personal,
and this is what I will miss the most. He was a broadcaster for many generations
and a genius. What is so sad is that the controllers of Radio 1 always
hated John Peel's show, and they would never try to replace him, and also
there is no one to play crazy new music on the BBC World Service, which
was a real lifeline for music freaks around the world. I don't think "the
industry" wants that kind of maverick genius to rock their boat.
The internet radio age is looking better: listen to radio online wherever
you like, no ad breaks, and made by people who are genuine enthusiasts!
My favourites are WFMU
in New York and Resonance
FM in London. Also a DJ on London station XFM called John Kennedy,
he is like John Peel, a connoisseur who is enthusiastic about new bands.
I have ambitions to go into broadcasting, so who knows!
Hypnotique: The internet and computer technology are wonderful tools, they have "democratized" music by allowing us all to make an album and a website, to be independent. But there is more bad music out there than good, which makes it harder for good talent to shine through the mud. The collapse of so many professional record labels and "hard" CD music distribution is a sad thing, but it is a regeneration. A new model of distribution will come through, and it will start independently from the grass roots up, and at the core will be digital technology - but I don't think MP3 will be the new music format of choice. I'm not competing with Elton John or Celine Dion to sell records, so I don't care if people want to burn a CD on their computer and give it to their friends - as one of them may hear it and buy a copy. On my level, if you want to hear my music your friend probably won't have a copy, so someone will need to buy it anyway, so piracy is not a big issue! For me, it is a "slow build", but I can be patient. Too many people just want the chicks or the money, but they don't want the perspiration. They will not succeed this way. As my good friend Jean Jacques Perrey says: "always remember to be optimistic"! You need to be in these end times. And do check out the samples from my new album "The Hanging Garden" - uplifting and soothing music for the impending apocalypse.
(rh 11/MMIV, pictures tony oudot, jason knott and tvox)
Read a story on the theremin here.