> 15 QUESTIONS TO Z’EV By Tobias Fischer (Tokafi)


It was about time some director thought about shooting a movie on Z’EV’s life – In the 70s, he was one of the pioneers and figureheads of the Industrial movement, used advance materials (such as metals and plastics) “to produce a music based on the orchestration of Acoustic Phenomenon as opposed to conventional / traditional tuning systems” and held a job a the Society for the Preservation of Occult Consciousness. In the 80s, he was involved in the first interactive piece of art and arguably the first music video ever, started teaching Composition and Improvisation and expanded into soundtracks and painting. While the early 90s were marked by the usual energy and fervour (and by publishing a book on applying the healing power of the Qabalha to music, as well as producing some of the first Hard Core Techno tracks, which laid the basis for the movement also known as “Gabber”), personal circumstances made him withdraw from the limelight at mid-decade. A concert tour, some re-releases and fascinating collaborations have marked a much-applauded come-back – with a recent fourway split with Fear Falls Burning, John Duncan and Aidan Baker as one of many highlights. Until Hollywood calls, we can expect Z’EV to stay in the groove and finish the biggest project he has been working on up til now: [heart beating / ear drumming], a book on “Metaphors, Mythos, Metaphonics and the Trance State”, which he has been writing on for about eight years.

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Hi! How are you? Where are you?
And greetings to you and my thanks for this invitation.
So I would say that gratefully my health is in good shape and I’m getting a lot of work done so the answer to that would have to be: quite good, surprisingly, considering how much general misery there is in the world presently.
And at the moment I am in London which is currently pretty much my ‘operational base’, although without yet a proper visa, which I hope to rectify in May of this year [2006], or not.

What’s on your schedule right now?
Finishing a book [heart beating / ear drumming] that I’ve been working on, on and off and on again since it’s first short version was written in 1992 for the ARCANA project commissioned by John Zorn.
SoundWorld here in the UK will be publishing it.
In between I’m supposed to be finishing off a few different recording projects, and am also slowly gearing up mentally for a series of duet shows in April with Kazuyuki Kishino [KK.NULL], and now I’m starting to try and answer an e-nterview that will do justice to the others on your site.

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?

Very most likely the opportunity I had to be part of the first 6 months of California Institute of the Arts at the Villa Cabrini Campus in Burbank in 1969. Maurice Tuchman who was hired [and then fired within 3 months] as the head of the Critical Studies program had the vision to bring an incredible range of peoples to California at that time; Emmett Williams, Alison Knowles, Dick Higgins, Herbert Marcuse, J.J.Hurtak, Sue Ellen Case and the list just went on and on. Nam June Paik and Serge Tschrepnin were also there.
It was a life altering experience for an 18-year-old aspirant let me tell you.
Pretty much set my vision of what Art and the Artist should be.
Which leads into your second question, and yes I do see myself as but another link in the chain from the great modernist movements; futurism, surrealism and most especially dada.
So then yes I do see myself as a ‘traditionalist’ in that basically, I see the function of the Artist as one of re-interpreting, extending and expanding the traditional knowledge and values of their Culture in a way that makes them relevant for the particular time that they are alive.


What’s your view on the music scene at present? Is there a crisis?
Well I can only speak from the very marginal strata I inhabit, but personally I’m waiting to see [although its probably up on the web somewhere] a really rigourous marxist analysis of what has to be the first TOTAL marxist revolution;
where not only the means of production, but all aspects of the distribution complex as well, fell into the hands of ‘the people‘.
As to, is this a ‘crisis‘?
Well there’s obviously been more change in the last 10 years than in the little bit over 140 years before, that’s starting with the invention of the player piano in 1863, and change is always threatening.
And if there is a ‘threat‘, it seems to me to be the general ‘post-modernist‘ infatuation with [what I can only call] the ignorance that allows them to think they are doing something/s ‘new‘.

What does the term ’new’ mean to you in connection with music?
Was that a lead-in or what?
I don’t know. You take someone like Harry Partch, he made new instruments, with new tunings etc etc, but for him his most important works were the large-scale pieces based on mythologies.
From my own experience, the movement based percussion I was doing from the mid-70’s to the early 80’s was definitely ‘new’, in that it had never been done before, but again, the sounds it was generating were just as definitely archaic.
Some say that it was sometime around 35 BCE that a Rav Hillel was supposed to have said “there’s nothing new under the sun”, but he was probably just repeating something he heard his great-grandmother say.

How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?
The short answer could just quote John Lennon; “it’s all in the mind, you know.”
But and so, well I write, with words, and I do see that as composing as well.
So then composition plainly exists outside of sound as well.
Now obviously very great music is/has been written by hand and only becomes sound when it is played.
So answering a question with a question, at what point when one produces sound by some activity does the production become composition?
And but so yes I do think the answer is all in the mind, and I sense another lead-in here, so I’ll just move on to the next question.

How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
And speaking of composing, I must say I’m finding your ordering of questions quite preternatural. This is the first time in an e-nterview that this sort of phenomenon has crept in. Very impressive, to say the least.
So and but first I think I’d have to say that all the great improvisers, and I’m speaking of jazz here, were pretty much equally as impressive as composers, say from Scott Joplin onwards and upwards.
But and so to try to answer your question on a personal level, I’m reminded of a press conference for the Der Hang zum Gesumptkunstwerk [is that correct spelling – please correct if wrong – thanks] show in Berlin in 1982.
Robert Ashley and I were the question-ees, and that was the first time I heard him speak of his concept of ‘spontaneous composition’.
Since then I’d have to say that in the live performance context I’m definitely more of a spontaneous composer, than say an ‘improviser’.
And but so actually even though I’m probably best known as a ‘solo’ performer, my favorite musical role is as an accompanist, which can be the most rewarding of experiences given the proper context, and favorites in this regards would be;
Salome Schnebelli – dance, Doro Franck – poetry, Rudoph Grey – guitar, Simone Forti – movement, Kain – poetry, Johanna Went – performance art.
Now the reason I put ‘solo’ in quotes back there is because even in that ‘role’ I’m actually playing in a quartet made up of:
me, the particular sounds that the instruments are generating in conjunction with the unique space and time and geography of the performance and the energy generated by the audience.


What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? 
What’s your approach to performing on stage?
To the first part, I would ask that the performer/s take me somewhere or at least share with me something about what it means to be human.
And to the second, well I think the answer to that slipped in above.

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?

So since generally speaking noise is considered sound that one doesn’t like, then music would be considered sound/s that one likes.
So I would say then that as so long as there are people liking these hypothetical compositions you are referring to here, they would surely qualify as music within this context. Personally speaking I am always listening to what’s going on around me with an      expectation of/for the delightful surprise. And because of my sound poetry background this also includes people/s talking.

Are “serious” and “popular” really two different types of music or just empty words without a meaning?
Well first I don’t think a word can exist separate from having meaning, or it wouldn’t be called a word.
And with regards to your example, that would be like asking if ‘ritual’ and ‘military’ musics were really two different types of music.
I think more to the point is the question of what ‘serious’ music means, and if it somehow entails an implicit elitism or say exclusionary function.
Unfortunately this does happen to be a ‘hidden’ side of Art in the broad socio-historical development of Western Culture, i.e., a vehicle for the enfranchising and maintaining of a ‘cultural elite’.
Which was just fine with Artists who were themselves using Art as a vehicle for ‘jumping’ class.

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?

As per various threads above, I’d reiterate the point that the artist has a primary responsibility to their Culture, and that at this point in time this term has become, and should be construed, as quite a bit more Global in nature than for most any previous generation of Artists.
And I must say that given the heartening and unusual amount of attention your interview section pays to women Artists, I’m a bit surprised by your use of himself rather than themselves for the Artist signifier here.
And but so as to the second part of the question, well it’s obvious that many people can and do get along quite handily without encumbering themselves with any sense of a responsible political or social awareness in their personal make-up.
But this is not saying that Art has to convey some overtly polemical / pedantic ‘message’ to be political.


True or false: People need to be educated about music, before they can really appreciate it.
First, the older I get the less inclined I am to invest in the either/or paradigm.
I kinda like to think of myself as a both/and kind of guy.
But and so well again the semantics of ‘educated’ is the issue hear.
[am I allowed to be that punny?]
Whatever, my experience rests on just that, experience.
That is, for example, the first time most people experience any [not just] musical information from outside their general knowledge base, it comes across as ‘strange’ or whatever.
Let’s take food as a great example.
Some people enjoy expanding their culinary palate, some don’t.
And some tastes are acquired.
Does this mean some sort of hierarchy should be set up based on these differences in attitude to something so basic to survival as nourishment.
And of course, in the context of this question, this notion of nourishment can expand exponentially.

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?
Well I have to say that in fact I have been trying to set an example for this in my own meagre way, because for the last 10 years all [but one] of my recorded works has been released with ‘public domain’ where everyone else has their publishing company listed.
This is what attracted me to the House Music scene that I became deeply involved with in Amsterdam from the late 80’s until I left in the mid 90’s.
That you’d hear a sound or a lick on a record from Belgium and the next week it would show up recontexualized on a record from Germany and etc and etc. I loved it, and that sort of set the course I adopted from say 1992 on with regard to not registering my released recordings.
Anyway, since the advent of agriculture some 10,000 years ago, ownership [beginning with an Earth parcelled out] – with uniformity in one hand and control in the worst of its connotations in the other – is the root of all evil.

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

Well since this is SUCH a fantasy I might as well go all out here;
A 5 day festival featuring 2-6 hour performances.
[one group each night, listed in alphabetical order]:
Konono N°1 
This 16-member group from the Democratic Republic of the Congo combines
scrap metal percussion and the heavily distorted sounds generated by DIY amplification of their instruments into their traditional trance music.
Myeong-Chang Jo,Tong-Dal with Ahn,Sook-Sun
Pansori [Korean Opera] performance by Master vocalist Jo and drummer Ahn. Note that because in Pansori audience participation is required, a core audience of app. 30 Koreans would also need to be arranged for.
Sugiura Kanze Noh Theater 
A Phantasmal Noh style performance of Nonomiya [based on the Tale of Genji, the world’s first novel] hopefully by this troupe featuring Motosaburo Sugiura, a National Cultural Treasure of Japan.
Tibetan ritual musics and dance performed by 11 nuns from the Khachoe Ghakyil Ling nunnery in Nepal.
Wayang Kulit a performance of ‘Siwa Tattwa’ by the Balinese Shadow Puppeteer / dalang; I Made Sidia and 4 musicians.


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

There are already some few of my recorded output that I do consider personal ‘masterworks’, but in terms of a ‘magnum opus’, that would have to be the heart beating / ear drumming book, in terms of a composition that I believe will resonate through the centuries.

shake, rattle & roll (1981) fetish
Z’EV (1981) vinyl magazine
salts of heavy metals (1981) Lust/Unlust
production and decay of spatial relations (1981) backstreet backlash
auf uit b/w element L #9 (1981) remlin product
wipe out b/w element L #6 (1982) fetish
elemental music (1982) subterranean
titan nite (1985) dossier
my favorite things (1985) subterranean
schonste muziek (1986) dossier
the hottest nite (1987) decay international
the old sweat b/w the invisible man (1988) Coercion
open in obscurity (1988) Touch
bust this! \ Z’EV (1988) dossier
opus 3 (1990) helmholz theatre
direction ov travel \ ptv3 (1991) Magic Music
wheels on fire #’s 1 & 2 (1991) Temple Press
rhythmajik PRACTICAL USES OF NUMBER, RHYTHM AND SOUND (1992) temple press
thunderdome (1993) ID&T
marshmallow exteme (1993) Makkom
HYPERcussion – heads & tales v.1 #’s 1-19 (1996) avaunt/disc union
ghost stories (1998) Soleilmoon
opus 3.1 (1998) Soleilmoon
the chemical dependance (2000) Makkom
direction ov travel (2000) coldspring
face the wound – heads & tales v.2 #’s 20 – 38 (2001) Soleilmoon
3 fold ear (2002) Grannary Press
sapphire nature (2002) tzadik
live 1993 (2003) CIP
organ music for organs (2003) TOUCH
tinnitus vu (2003) TOUCH
live 03.01.86 (2004) CIP
untitled (2004) Die Stadt
headphone musics #’s 1-6 b (2004) Touch

(Source: http://www.tokafi.com/15questions/15-questions-to-z-ev/)

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