> ASMUS TIETCHENS Interview by Nuno Loureiro – Chain D.L.K. (2007)
Asmus Tietchens is a name that requires no introduction for those who have been following the evolution of the most experimental spectrum of electronic music for the last three decades. More than an interview, the following conversation is a brief voyage through the career of one the most important German sound artists.
Chain D.L.K.: What can you tell about your latest work, Zeta-Menge?
Asmus Tietchens: Zeta-Menge is the sixth album in an ongoing MENGEN series. 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 in the room between foreground and background.
Chain D.L.K.: You developed the Kontact der Jünglinge project with Thomas Köner (www.koener.de). What was the concept behind it? Was it an homage to Karlheinz Stockhausen, or did it go beyond that?
Asmus Tietchens: In a way the name Kontakt der Jünglinge is an homage to the Big Karlheinz. But musically, it absolutely is not. We never aimed to make electronic music like Stockhausen. Thomas and I enjoy improvising live with preformed materials; we like to surprise each other in a live situation. So the majority of our performances does not sound like 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.
Chain D.L.K.: Going back into the past, you started working during very prolific periods in contemporary German musical 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?
Asmus Tietchens: 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 path, which differed more and 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.
Chain D.L.K.: On the other hand, you also were in contact with the Krautrock generation, isn’t that right? Did you have any kind of relationship with it?
Asmus Tietchens: Not really. I never prefered that acid stuff à la Klaus Schulze, Throbbing Gristle, 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; that album was released in 1978 on the Brain label as Liliental.
Chain D.L.K.: With such a long career, how do you see the current production, regarding electronic and experimental music? Has hedonism replaced conceptual thought? Does the avant garde still exist?
Asmus Tietchens: The avant garde still exists, but luckily it is not the old avant garde. A lot of new composers/musicians developed the genre of experimental electronic music very carefully. I do not think that hedonism has 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 ’80s, but nowadays we have more from both of them. These immense quantities make it difficult to separate the chaff from the wheat.
Chain D.L.K.: Electronics have passed from the “laboratories” (including at universities) to mass production. Do you find any significant changes in composition, from the technical point of view?
Asmus Tietchens: Of course digital tools changed the compositional approaches of many musicians. As it did in the ’80s when cheap synthesizers and cheap multi-track recorders became available. Now everyone 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 quality.
Chain D.L.K.: What are your projects for the near future, concerning artistic and/or academic work?
Asmus Tietchens: Besides the above mentioned studio album with Thomas Köner, I am preparing the next MENGEN album, Eta-Menge, to be released by Line this fall. And after a 12-year 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.
Chain D.L.K.: You were a professor of Sound Installations at the Hamburg Arts School, right? Do you still teach?
Asmus Tietchens: I am not a professor, but a lecturer. I taught sound design and audio technology at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences. I still do so.
Chain D.L.K.: 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?
Asmus Tietchens: The whole album isn’t kitschy, oh no! Just “Grünschattiger Nachmittag.” Yes, this piece is still big-time 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?
Visit Asmus Tietchens on the web at:
[interviewed by Nuno Loureiro] [proofreading by Benjamin Pike]