Monday, June 21, 2010
As long time admirer of the incredible Mutant Sounds Blog
So naturally I was delighted when Eric Lumbleau one of the founders of Mutant Sounds and a member of the wonderful Vas Deferens Organization offered me to master this EP. I have always been fond of this "right" type of pop music and this was so fun !!
Ariel Pink-Vocals, Casio Digital Guitar, Farfisa
Jim Lehnert-Soprano, Alto and Baritone Sax, Trombone, Farfisa
Aaron Gonzaléz-Upright & Electric Bass, Bowed cymbals
Stefan Gonzaléz-Drums, Vibes, Percussion
Guest Musician: Tamara Cauble-Violin, Backing vocal
Eric Lumbleau-Backing Vocal
Production, Engineering and Sound Design By Vas Deferens Organization
Recorded at Klearlight Studios, Dallas, Texas, February 2010
Mastered by Udi Koomran, Tel Aviv
Mutant Sounds :
"Featuring the first new recordings by Ariel Pink since Haunted Graffiti's Before Today sessions, this self titled five track 12" EP launches the debut of his newest unit, Ariel Pink With Added Pizzazz. Issued by Free Dope And Fucking In The Streets and with a release date of July 9th, this limited edition EP will only be available in it's current form on Haunted Graffiti's upcoming American tour.
As I mentioned in my last announcement about Vas Deferens Organization's work together with Ariel, "Hot Body Rub" the VDO-produced and Added Pizzazz-enabled sleaze funk opening gambit from Before Today (available for the first time in its unedited form here) was merely a tease of things to come, and Ariel Pink With Added Pizzazz represents its lurid fruition.
Recorded during February of this year at Dallas' Klearlight Studios, Ariel is accompanied on this EP by Jim Lehnert on sax and trombone, Aaron Gonzalez on electric and upright bass, Stefan Gonzalez on drums and vibes and legendary free jazzer Dennis Gonzalez on trumpet and midwifed by the production team in Vas Deferens Organization of which I'm a member and which those that have been around Mutant Sounds for a while will know about from the many VDO albums and productions that I've shared over time, including collaborations with Brad Laner and Mercury Rev members and our productions for Denton/Dallas scene legends like Ohm and J. Bone Cro."
Opening doors onto multiple facets of Ariel's muse you were never privy to before, the first track from the EP "In The Heat Of The Night", can be listened to Here
and can be downloaded Here
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Being a huge Canterbury scene fan since a young age I never had the chance to work on anything related to that special style of progressive music -well maybe besides recording and mixing for Brainville 3 's (Daevid Allen Hugh Hopper & Chris Cutler) Trial By Headline cd.
Anyway I was more then delighted and thrilled when Steve Feigenbaum of Cuneiform Records and the legendary Wayside Music mail order asked be to take part and work on restoring and mastering Soft Machine's NDR Jazz Workshop -Hamburg, Germany 1973 cd+ dvd.
So this was kind of like making a full circle for me since most of my knowledge about all things Canterbury came mostly from reading those colorful Wayside Music catalogs .
The original audio that came with the broadcast video left a lot to be desired for(the problem was it had only a part of the audio content and the fidelity was a bit low). Knowing there was also a stereo radio broadcast of the show So Steve set out on a mission to locate these tapes and after a few weeks of searching negotiating and nail biting (audio files caught in a massive snow storm) I was delighted to finally receive the fresh transfer of the master tapes.
Working on the audio of this concert was a pleasure -The performance of the group is extremely good the playing was energetic and gave a strong sense of liveliness On my part:Some enhancing of the stereo image a bit of work on retaining the dynamic range of the original performance ,making sure the tonal balance is optimized and voila !
The last task was converting and laying the audio from the radio broadcast on the video (which looks fantastic btw) and making sure its fits the picture with 100% accuracy (utilizing the latest software programs).
So this is one of the projects I recently did that i enjoyed immensely - Thanks a lot to Steve Feigenbaum ,Aymeric Le Roy and Joerg Reinicke !
Sunday, January 3, 2010
A personal introduction :
In my last year in high school when the new wave post punk storm was raging I had the nagging feeling as if I was scraping progressive music's empty barrel. One day I happened to finally lay my hands on a copy of a re issue of Faust's So Far album (which was rare as gold dust in those times circa 1980) inside the black record sleeve I found a small yellow note titled "A Bottle In The Ocean" revealing information on a record label and mail order service called Recommended Records. This note was my little keyhole to the secret path and doorway to the logical evolution and next level of progressive music. After receiving their little catalog booklet (hand written by Chris Cutler himself) and ordering their Recommended Records Sampler I was overwhelmed by the abundance of new bands and sounds coming from all over Europe. Different cultures different languages different aesthetics but all sharing the philosophy and determination of expressing themselves freely defying the rules set by the mainstream music industry and pushing themselves to new musical frontiers.There I found about Art Zoyd, Univers Zero, Art Bears, Stormy Six, Aksak Maboul, The Black Sheep,and more and more and more...One other notable factor that these groups shared was a distinctive characterized sound.From inspecting the notes on the sampler they mostly seemed to have been recorded at the same studio: Sunrise by engineer Etienne Conod mmm...As time passes I got more and more immersed in the music and intrigued by the sounds on these albums.In hindsight these sounds seemed to beckon and point me to the path I have been walking in for over 25 years. In later years I had the chance of meeting some of the artists who worked at Sunrise like Roger Trigaux and Chris Cutler & Maggie Tomas Cedric Vuille. They shared some first hand experiences and stories about working with Etienne Conod. As much as I have wanted to get in touch with him there was no available contact. Rumors had it he was in Australia or New Zeeland making a career in agriculture or something...
Fast forward to 2008 I was approached by Radio Village Nomade to take a part in an Sound Art project,with contributors like Fred Fith (who actually made the connection) and while casually browsing through the different works I bumped into one by yes you guessed it Etienne Conod -so...he was back ! and active. I immediately wrote to Mr. Conod a hello and thank you note for all the pleasure inspiration his works gave us. This interview is to shed some light and knowledge of the life and times of Sunrise Studios and the man behind it Not enough artists and music fans know how much recognition he rightfully deserves but I guess the fact he is such a truly humble man( "I was just the person who put mikes and tried to reduce hiss") has a lot to do with this.
How did you fall in love with music ?
EC: When I was a teenager and my parents were away abroad, I injured both my knees in a skiing accident and was thus unable to walk for a few days. Confined to the living room I got terribly bored. (We did not have a radio and those were the days before TV). We did have a record player though but the only records we had were either classical or hymns. Ugh! Out of sheer desperation I put on a classical record. It was Beethoven's 5th piano concerto played by Clifford Curzon. At first I got drowsy, but somehow, what I heard was much different and smarter than expected and when I got to side two where there is this very romantic cadenza, I suddenly felt a strong tingle up my spine (a bit akin to the sensations of my first orgasm I came to enjoy a few years later). When the record had finished playing, I put it right on again and again and started to feel light and strangely happy. I also had a deep sense of gratitude for this so far unknown pleasure. It was then that I first came to experience the 'magic' of music. I'm still hooked.
What was in your background and upbringing that lead you to chose the path of taking part in making this peculiar type of music ?
EC:Being born into a very Christian-religious family my first exposure to music was Christian hymns, sung at home and in regular gospel meetings. The hymns usually come in a four-part form and I quickly learned to read music and sing 'my voice'. At six I was sent to take piano lessons. My teacher was an aged woman and I found what she thought very uninspiring and soon developed a desire for improvisation. But it had to be in the classical meter! A 2-4 swing was not permitted in our family (my grandparents lived in the flat under ours and my grandfather was a church minister with very strange views on life, stating for instance, that jazz aroused dark, sinful desires in man). I therefore began to improvise on classical themes in a way that my mother, who was usually nearby, or my grandparents, who took a keen interest in my musical studies, would not notice.One day a friend played a Jelly Roll Morton record to me and I was off. I knew this was it. Whenever no one was nearby I tried to emulate the chords and rhythm of these early jazz pianists like Fats Waller and Lil Hardin and of course Jelly Roll Morton. The problem was that I was not allowed to play this sound at home. So, when I was fourteen, I joined a band 'Les Copains'. We practiced in the heating cellar of a pub and whenever the turbine would start, we smoked a cigarette. My instrument was the pub-piano which we carried down the stairs for rehearsals and up again when finished. We played in dance halls, at parties and the like. The first tune I learned was "Hello Dolly". Later they got me an organ: A Farfisa Compact. Later still a Vox Continental. When I was eighteen I had my first Hammond L100.
Were you interested in experimental music and did this lead you to be involved in it or did it happen by chance?
EC: I have been involved with traditional jazz and later with pop music and have had a rather conservative taste for harmony.Through meeting musicians at Sunrise, who defined the term "music" in a broader sense, I came to respect a variety of musical stiles and the years spent engineering have opened my perspective on the field of melody, sound and time a great deal.
Are you self-taught or did you acquire any training in audio engineering?
EC: I am self-taught. Early on I had a desire to record music. Mainly my own songs. I did my first recordings on a Sony TC630 in 1970 with sound-on-sound. Today I am a bit ashamed that I did not even read up on recording at the time. I just worked my way around the gear. Fortunately I had a friend, Otto Wymann, (Otto died of leukemia long ago) who had a job at the Swiss Radio, who explained the importance of phase relationships to me. But the ultimate judge has always been my ears. At that time the aim was to get still more tracks and better gear. As a studio owner I tried to get the best possible results at a most reasonable price. My first mike stands were green bakelite pots made to hold Xmas trees in which I rammed two-by-fours with a 5/8" thread at the end.
What led you to decide to start your own recording studio?
EC: Initially I had the chance to buy the house which became Sunrise in 1975, when I worked with a band called 'Sunrise'. We all lived there and dreamed of going on tour with our music. 'Sunrise' was Tony Partch on Hammond organ and synthesizer, me on Hammond and Clavinet, Kurt Guggisberg on drums and Marc Pierroz on guitar. Tony and I both had Hammond M-3's and we had much fun creating a thick analog sound in stereo. Unfortunately we did not succeed as a band and after a while the members of the band and their mates went back to Zurich. I was left with a big house and a strong will to make it in Kirchberg somehow. I would not go back to the city, my mind was with music and with what the rural setting had to offer: gentle green hills, quiet and no hassles. For a living I went off to nearby town of Wil and found employment as a taxi driver. I had written a couple of songs and thought I might be able to record them. Eventually I took mortgages on the house and invested in a Sennheiser dummy head microphone cum Revox tape machine. Later I bought the Ampex 16 track from the Studer company, which they had taken in exchange for their brand from the band Queen, when those got their studio going in Montreux with the best gear money could buy (Studer A-80).Word got around and soon I was busy recording other people's music, not mine. I found that at the end of recording sessions I didn't have the energy needed to do my own stuff. I had become a musical taxi driver and still getting farther away from being a musician.
Can you give us a brief description of Sunrise Studios (the location,rooms,gear,etc.)
EC: Sunrise used to be a small textile factory, in the first half of the twentieth century very common for that region. The design allowed the owner and another household to live and work in the same building. In the basement was the factory room of 100 square meters. I was told that three huge looms once were operational there. Above the factory, on the first floor, was a 3 room flat and on the floor above, the same again.For a recording studio this was an almost ideal setup. The factory became the recording part, the residing musicians could stay above and my pal and me lived under the roof.
There were three consecutive phases in the actual studio space design. Initially I recorded music in one large room with no separation. Then I built one simple wall across with a small window. Eventually, the space got divided into three rooms. One, across the layout, was the control room. Next to it we built a live room, with marble floor and tiled walls. The main studio had an acoustic property that could be varied by means of elements, that could be lowered from the ceiling if needed.The gear was the 16 track Ampex MM1100, at first a Soundcraft console and later one by D+R. Mastering was done on an Ampex ATR 100. We used no noise reduction but had noise gates when needed. Mikes were U87 U47 KM184 421 441 Re20 SM57 SM58. Limiters by UREI, reverb was first homemade, then Masterroom and finally Lexicon, flanging and delay by Revox-on-Revox.
What were your goals when you set up Sunrise Studios ?
EC: As mentioned, I felt I could make a living from recording. Then I wanted to get on with my own recordings und last but not least I wanted to make a statement against the commercial music industry, where I felt that musicians were cheated of their creativity and freedom. The situation for an artist at that time was that, in order to put his music on a medium -vinyl - he needed to spend a certain amount of time in an expensive studio environment. For this, he made a deal with a label who put up the money and recouped it later through sales. The musician was at the mercy of the record company and I had heard many sad tales of rip-offs. So I came up with the idea to offer the bands themselves adequate, affordable means of production to make it unnecessary for them to have to sell out to the industry. For a few customers I was also able to offer my pressing and printing know-how. Thus someone was able to record an album and have it manufactured to his ideas for little money whilst keeping total control over the process and the revenues.
Tell us how you met and started working with Henry Cow were you familiar with their music before meeting them?
EC: In 1977 Dieter Meier (Yello) had been working at Sunrise. He encouraged and commissioned a musician from England for a mutual project: Anthony Moore. Anthony knew some members of Henry Cow and so they booked the studio for a session for what would become the Western Culture album. I wasn't familiar with their music and enjoyed the high quality of their work and standards. We enjoyed one another and in later times we worked on several albums together with Fred Frith Chris Cutler and many other fine artists from Rock in Opposition..
What was the common factor that attracted groups from different countries cultures languages to travel to Sunrise and record there?
EC: I don't know, really. Apart from what I mentioned with regards to the studio setup and my philosophy, the musicians from the various locations mostly knew each others work and often shared some principles in the field of politics, aesthetics and lifestyle. Fortunately, besides German, I spoke English, French and Italian and was thus able to roughly understand what the customers needed.
Did working with artists who were writing music that was defying conventional structures rhythm harmonies and balancing different aesthetics like rock,21th century contemporary music,folk music etc. etc. force you to come up with a new modus operandi? Did you have to adapt new techniques or ways of thinking to be able to address the different challenges this music was proposing?
EC: We didn't have any Modus Operandi. Every time a band came to Kirchberg, we started from scratch. We held that every band is unique and deserves a unique approach. Of course I was a bit dazzled when I was first faced with a bassoon. But usually the musicians were very kind and patient and encouraging. They knew where to put the mikes to get the best sound. As a matter of fact, the role of engineer is to be a partner who can understand what it's all about. With giants like Fred Frith, Chris Cutler, Marc Hollander or Gérard Hourbette you can learn a lot.They point the direction and you do your best to get us there. Sometimes they would say: "Can you come up with something?" Then I would show off my toys (odd compression/expansion gadgets, metal steel plates, loops, varispeeds, vintage microphones etc.) and they would do some great music with it. Or we had a breakdown and sought how we might use it to achieve a new sound. This happened on the album Hopes an Fears in The Dividing Line, when the capstan on the Ampex developed a freak failure. We recorded an organ with it wobbling, and got a cute sound file.
And in the same line of thinking a lot of these bands like Art Zoyd, Univers Zero,Henry Cow,were using a rock type of instrumentation with with instruments like bassoon,cello,oboe,harmonium,hurdu gurdy etc. etc. Can you tell us if mixing these different require different techniques and approaches then other genres of music you were used to record.
EC: I found mixing to always be a new challenge. Because you want to give each musician maximum attention but you can't really because the song requires a certain sound and most of all, there is not an unlimited space for frequency and volume available. Actually I would try to allocate to each instrument a certain space in the frequency spectrum and try to avoid having two overlapping. Democracy vs dictatorship often was the issue. The former resulting in weak mixes and the latter (if the dictator(s), had a clear vision) often in strong ones. There is also always the age-old question: "Do the EQ now or in the mix?" If you don't know where you are going you record with to lot (?????). But each later modification results in alteration of the material. To get the best result, you want a musician who knows the studio and its capacity. Also he is experienced in production and will already record as close to the final requirements of the mix as possible.
What happened to all the multitrack and master tapes recorded in Sunrise were they all retrieved by the bands ? Did you keep any of those tapes or archive them?
EC: At the end of a project, we offered to all artists to take their 16-track tapes along. Some people did not bother and just paid a rental fee for the tapes. When I handed over Sunrise to Rob Vogel there were numerous tapes in the archives but I have no idea where they might be at present.
I'd like to focus on some of my favorite sounding Sunrise recordings
Art Bears - The World As It Is Today
Maybe my favorite album recorded at Sunrise. Always sounded to me like musical presentation of an intense suffocating apocalyptic vision of life. The sound enhances and projects these emotions and atmospheres in a unique way. Can you tell us about the drums on Democracy (drum sound from hell )how did you achieve this? Anything you can tells us on recording the end Freedom? There is a chilling dialog between the incredible vocals and the guitar were they recorded simultaneously or overdubbed separately?
EC: I think that Dagmar did her thing as a solo and Fred added the guitar later. (But to be on the safe side you should ask Fred). The drums are played with enormous vigor and timing. With Art Bears we often overdubbed the drums. We had sessions where Chris and I would invent, alone, until the wee hours. I can not precisely point out how we did the drums in Democracy. Most probably I used distortion with sharp expansion and compression. Maybe I had the reverb distorting and then gated.
"...The second rule was to get the sound first and then play to tape instead of leaving (as had become usual by then) the detail of the sound to post-production mixing.By designing the sound first, the parts played would grow with and be inseparable from it. This method depended upon the skill and imagination of studio boss and engineer Etienne Conod in this regard an indispensable member of the group. Chris Cutler -Henry Cow,Art Bears
Universe Zero - Hérésie
La Faulx -As I understood from Roger Trigaux this piece was entirely overdubbed. Parts of it sounding very tightly structured while others especially the introduction sounds very atmospheric and open. Was this recorded in sections and then later separately mixed and edited or was the entire piece recorded on one time-line. No doubt a piece of this nature with such huge dynamics was extremely challenging to record on analog tape how were you able to plan the mix's dynamic range so the intro would not drown close to the noise floor and still have enough headroom for the more dynamic full range parts of the piece.
EC: I don't think that we recorded the whole song in one go. It was recorded in sections and spliced together. But the musicians were very competent in planning the album. They masterminded the whole production. It was recorded in 1979 and to me now sounds quite different than Phase IV. Rather dark and dry. But it seems to match the overall message of the record
This was my first recording in a real studio, knowing this would be the very first record I appear. We didn’t have any experience of this environment, but we were lucky to have done it with Etienne Conod who had some incredible patience and psychology. We were for sure not conventional, and now, years later with the experience of many studios and engineers, I can appreciate the open mind session Etienne offered us. He found the way to have us as one brain when we had to mix all together with lots of hands on the desk, or to keep things cool when we had to play the first part of “La Faulx”, each of us separated in different rooms of the house (bathroom included). I sometimes think about it, knowing we had to be extra synchro without seeing each other and no automation to correct....... There was no minute out of the music, we had a relay of musicians to be with Etienne, but he had no relay for himself, long hours...The last recording (Ceux Du Dehors), we finished in the morning when already Fred Frith, Chris Cutler were ready to start their session !!! Guy Segers -Univers Zero
Art Zoyd -Phase IV
For me This is might the best sounding album to be recorded in Sunrise. This album has an extremely wide three dimensional stereo image mix,great dynamic range,plenty of attention to timbre and small details. A deep physical sounding bass sound you can resin on the violin and cello bows, the trumpets are sharp and distinct the pianos open and wide. There is a unique mix of dissonance angular energetic parts with more warm mellow lyrical passages.Truly an inspiring sounding piece of music.Can you shed some light on what made this album sound the way it does.
EC: Listening back to the album I think: The guys knew exactly what they wanted and were arduous, keen, almost obsessed with it all.Dynamics! We worked very hard to make use of all the headroom possible. Trying to make something objectively quiet sound loud. Thus when it finally became loud it sounded LOUD. Try to get as much impact with the least volume! Volume is a precious thing and you want to use it sparingly.Pick up the sound as close to the origin and mix it to later representations. For instance, use a Barcus Berry, and a mike, and another mike still farther away from the source. Make sure the phase correlation is correct. Than add room in the mix by doing the same method. Add a bit of time to the signal, and a bit more, and finally reverb. Thus you may theoretically come up with a serpent with 6 sections: The head is the event and the tail is the soundbit farthest back. You carefully trim the lot and you come up with a nice sound.Recording with maximum edge! The sounds that went to tape were already shaped with the mix in mind. Gerard insisted on an extremely crisp violin sound. Thierry used an octave divider to get extreme punch in the bottom end. On their own the sounds would sound crass but if you have vision of the picture you want to paint you had the courage to work accordingly.Creativity! To achieve a desired effect one has to resort to sometimes unusual methods. A grand piano is also a drum or a reverb chamber or a heap of steel.Mix extremes! Because severely chiselled elements were combined, depth was the result.Imagine space! We tried to allocate to each event a place in the frequency and in the timeline of the actual sound. Simply speaking, "dry" means close, "wet" means distant. "Bright" is up, "dark" is down.Perform the unusual with conviction! The actual performance of the musicians is full of guts and raw sensuality. There is not a shadow of a doubt perceivable in their performance.The writing is sublime. The authors knew how to use musical intervals and harmonies to produce certain effects und used their knowledge to the max.Gerard
"We worked in Kirchberg 3 albums with Etienne Conod between 1980 and 1982. It remains for me a memory rooted in the best moments of Art Zoyd, even after almost 30 years! I loved Kirchberg, this isolated village and the great house of Etienne, in the center of other houses, as ready and open to all.I loved his way of working, meticulous, organized, attentive.He knew what we wanted, he listened (patiently), he left us at the mixer, then when we were up everywhere, a little "stuck", he threw a little amused smile, then he proposed. Sometimes, often, he was as excited as us.It worked - slowly and surely-on every detail. At one time, he interrupted the work. We all met in a kitchen at one of the floors, sometimes with Etienne. It was far from towns and noise. Morning and night we heard the bells of the village.There was a small cafe on top of a hill. We loved being there.We would reinvent the world and dreaming of new musical spaces." Gerard Hourbette - Art Zoyd
In the sonic brutality we were developing at the time with Art Zoyd both in our concerts and studio recordings - it was a major discovery for me when I first encountered Etienne Conod (Sunrise Studio - Kirchberg CH) and his unique way of recording and layering sounds, our sounds, which were then becoming electric, hoarse, acoustic, clean, symphonic, exactly right for what we were pursuing as artists in those days, and the attention to detail in his work was a great influence for my future compositions and recordings. In my view, this was the best production Art Zoyd ever got.Thierry Zaboitzeff (ex Art Zoyd)
Debile Menthol - Emile Au Jadin
A new different type of sound for Sunrise.Punchy crisp almost new wave type of production. A more tight separated drum sound chopped guitars bright sounding horns etc. Was this style of production and sound requested by the band or did it take shape in a natural way in the recording and mixing sessions?
EC: This is how we probably wanted to be seen from the perspective of pop recording at the time. Many of our not Rock-In-Opposition customers wished to sound like the bands on the radio. This record is a lucky punch because it was unusual to find musicians with such humour, imagination and craft in Switzerland.Here we adopted pop-standards to avantgarde music writing. Somehow naturally.
"That was our first studio experience and the Sunrise studio was great. Working with Etienne was a gift ! We were so young, hyperactive, and experienced. He was able to stay so cool with nine full testosteroned kids. And... what a producer !!! and the sound...Wow ! Hats off, Monsieur Conod !!! See you soon !!" Cédric Vuille -Debile Menthol
I think The Work only recorded 2 or 3 songs at Sunrise. I do remember that it was one of the first 'serious' studios I had worked in at that time and that even before we went there I had heard a lot about the studio and Etienne. He was depicted by Chris and Tim as being an exceptional and innovative engineer and somehow quite a legendary figure.He did his job very efficiently, and the sound was great For some reason I always had trouble bringing in my guitar exactly at the right place at the beginning of a song called 'Houdini'. And, after many takes, I finally got it right - but there was some extraneous noise on the track just before the guitar came in. This noise was so close to the guitar entry that Etienne didn't want to risk dropping the track out of record at the critical moment, but he said words to the effect: 'No problem, I'll just back-wipe it'. Meaning that he turned the 2" tape over and put the track into record (adjusting the track number of course) just after the (good) guitar part started (i.e. ended, because the tape was going backwards). He had another trick for removing very short unwanted noise on specific tracks -he would use a razor blade to cut a small window out of the track in question. That impressed me. Bill Gilonis-T he Work
Any interesting stories anecdotes about recording sessions ,mixing etc.
EC: Well, the mixing process was always an adventure at the time. After analyzing and honing the material, we memorized the various changes in level, effects etc and when the final mixdown happened, a whole bunch of musicians stood around the console, each with a fader or knob between the fingers and when it was "..running!!" a feverish succession of actions took place, each participant keen not to blow it. Fortunately we soon learned the technique of splicing the tape. Thus, for complicated tracks, we mixed in sections and put them back together by physically cutting the tape at a certain point and glueing it back together. Mixing was then rather nerve-wrecking. Much of the work of an engineer then had to do with skill, imagination and karma.
Which albums would you single out as the most rewarding or best sounding to your ears?
EC: The album I had most fun participating in was 'Gravity' with Fred Frith. Concerning sound design, the Art Bears records were probably amongst the more sophisticated ones.
Do you ever re listen to the works you have done at Sunrise?
EC:Hampi Schlumpf, a friend and music enthusiast from St. Gallen, who is familiar with much of the Sunrise recordings, invited me to a public performance at the Soundstube Restaurant Splügeneck on Feb. 13th 2008 where we played Sunrise music all night long to an insider public. In the past I had also spent a considerable amount of time recording punk artists. There have recently been punk music revivals and gigs. I have been invited to radio broadcasts. Sorting the material made me go back in time. Some of it still sounds interesting today..
Why did you stop Sunrise ?
EC: In hindsight I probabaly suffered from a burnout towards the beginning of the eighties. I had not succeeded in spreading the workload evenly and the long hours behind the console - along with a somewhat unhealthy lifestyle - took their toll. I had the feeling that if I continued indefinitely I would get seriously ill. A longing for a healthy lifestyle arose, whereby I could dig my hands in the dirt. First I went to look in Northern California but felt that I could not become American and went to Australia, where I found a wonderful, small farm in Goongerah, Victoria, near Orbost, and lovely neighbors. I had hoped that Rob Vogel, who was my successor at Sunrise, could continue the work.
Are you aware that music sound and aesthetic you helped to create has over the decades inspired and served as legacy to artists from around the globe up until this day?
EC: No. My feeling has always been, that an engineer is a facilitator for an artist and his needs. Performance, sound, time and interaction need to be in harmony for a good recording. I am flattered by your suggestion.
These days do you listen to music for your pleasure ?
EC: Yes, since I have taken up playing the Hammond organ again I like to listen to jazz music. I mostly enjoy fine recordings that were made in the fifties and sixties.I am not a specialist in any field. Up to now I chose to turn towards whatever has attracted my interest. Today I work part timein a charitable trust with particular focus on drugs and poverty. (For many years I had used drugs myself but these days I try to remain aware of what is real).
I know you did some recordings for The Radio Village Nomad Project, was this a one off thing ?
EC: Fred Frith told me about this project and I got curious. When I had an idea, I made a contribution.If they get off again I may give it another try.
Do you record your own music these days?
EC: I have been writing music for some projects in past years but have always found it very hard, to play and record at the same time.I prefer live performance. Active and passive.
What do you think of the sound made with current technology ?
EC: Modern technology is great in that it has enabled everyone to record their own stuff. In this respect it has brought about what we intended at Sunrise: Empower people and allow artists to be self-sufficient.
Sound? We do not know how sound really sounds. Our nervous system picks up vibrations and creates the illusion of hearing sound. Furthermore sound is perceived by each individual according to his/her biology, history and provenience. And our values by which we appraise what our sensory receptors feed us with are dependent on our cultural context and on the momentary location in the trajectory of our individual biography.
Any other views thoughts you wish to share regarding culture, arts music, technology,etc. would be most welcome.
EC: Maybe... people who were lucky to acquire a deep sense of self assurance will be able to explore new realms in music or in culture in general. On the other hand, where awareness, grounding, self- identity etc is lacking, people will resort to known elements and redundancy. This could apply to individuals and societies as well.
EC: We, as engineers, working as we did, were strongly involved in the sound being produced. I mean on the the level as a person being exposed to unusual concepts, in depth. This could at times be rather severe if you think of the hours we were exposed to the sounds. Particularly if dark, disturbing messages were crafted. After some periods of heavy work -and we worked long hours! -I sometimes came to the brink of exhaustion. You are vulnerable if you are sensitive and imaginative and devoted.
Thank you for asking me these questions. They have produced a few thoughts and reflections for me.
Art Bears - Hopes and Fears 1979
Some favorite Sunrise albums :
Art Bears - Winter Songs 1979
Art Bears - The World As It Is Today 1980
Aksak Maboul - Un peu De L'ame Des Bandits 1980
Art Zoyd - Phase IV 1982
Art Zoyd - Generation Sans Futur 1980
Art Zoyd - Les Espaces Inquiets 1981
Cassiber - Man or Monkey 1982
Debile Menthol - Emile Au Jardin 1981
Fred Frith - Gravity 1980
Fred Frith - Speechless 1981
Geoff Leigh - The Chemical Bank 1979
Heiner Goebbels & Alfred Harth - Indianer Für Morgen 1981
Henry Cow - Western Culture 1978
Stormy Six - Macchina Maccheronica 1980
Univers Zero - Heresie 1979
Univers Zero - Ceux Du Dehors 1981
Red Balune - Maximum Penalty 1979
The Work - Slow Crimes 1982
Etienne Conod's web site: here
Many thanks for all the good people who helped making this interview Aymeric Leroy ,Yehuda Kotton ,and all the artist who took part