THE DIE KUNST INTERVIEW
with Victor Mount
|MARTIN VINCENT||RICHARD HYLTON||DAVID MACKINTOSH||Victor Mount|
The Manchester based art rock trio Die Kunst are the best in the world at what they do. They share a terraced house in the shadows of Salford's Lowry Centre where they run a sandwich making and delivery service to the local factories; the income subsidises the cost of making art and running a band.Given the choice they would rather spend their time at a local disused army base, fishing for sticklebacks with bloodworms tied to lengths of cotton. But art is a cruel master and must be obeyed.
Fast and Loud and Slow And Quite was conceved by Die Kunst after a visit to an anachoic chamber and a reverberation chamber. Such rooms exist in universitys and usually only get used for testing industrial ear- guards and the noise washing machines make. An anachoic chamber is a room with all surfaces covered in high density foam pyramid like cones, these absorb all the sound so a person can only hear the sound of blood rushing around there head. In this room they made a song called Slow And Quiet. A reverberation chamber is a room where no two walls are parrallel and huge sheets of metal hang from springs at accute angles, in this room all sound moves about, if you click your fingers the sound lasts for about 4 seconds. In this room they made a song called Fast And Loud, both recordings are live.
Die Kunst have also released a CD album called 'Sweden' for Boss Tuneage but it is available at a reduced price through their website
VM Some people say that it's impossible to know only one thing about any subject, further information is a necessity to allow one to recognise receipt of the original fact . What one thing would you have people know about Die Kunst and, perhaps more importantly, what information would you have as the signifier?
DM Fear us because we are different, which we articulate through our actions, issues, ideas and hegemony
RH Expensive clothes worn badly are what Die Kunst like, but don't necessarily wear. This would be the punctum. Finely crafted suits by Clements Ribero. I'm not quite sure how this would eschew the ultimate sense of loss that some of our less smarter audience would experience. Perhaps the resultant sense of alienation would consolidate our mythology as a supreme art rock trio.
VM I wouldn't lose any sleep over faux bohemians. If they know they are less smartly dressed then it's through choice.
RH This woman said that listening to us was like having her thighs gently rubbed, I think. She wasn;t sure if it was pleasurable.
VM Talking of which, I dreamt that the greek Goddess Of Love had a daughter called Monica . You of course have your own monicker, albeit with a different spelling and meaning, so why haven't you written any love songs?
MV All our songs are love songs, except the ones that are protest songs.
VM I thought they were songs protesting about love. It can be a very negative emotion
DM Hate is much more interesting than love; all the best songs are about hate, it's just that nobody has heard them.
RH 'Oh Baby' you sound dissapointed.
VM On the contrary. That's why 'Oh Baby' is such a great song: the lyrics consisting of the title delivered in a way which could be construed as the spontaneous declarations of a frantic sexual activity or ,alternatively, cries of exasperated despair as in, say 'Oh baby, you've set fire to the chip pan again'.
RH . Perhaps we should try harder. Maybe a love song about St Monica, mother of St Augustine of Hippo. According to my dictionary, St Augustine of Hippo is "regarded as the model of Christian mothers for her patience with her son's spiritual crises, which ended with his conversion in 386." This sounds like a love song to me.
VM Sounds like a wind-up to me, for a start the numbers in most streets don't go up to 386. Some of your shortest songs have the longest titles - it seems like a reversal of the biggest things having the shortest names, like 'ocean'. Do you subscribe to the theory of inverted magnitude?
MV The reverb chamber is much louder than the anechoic chamber, when you're in it. But when you listen to the recording, the Slow and Quiet side actually sounds louder than the Fast and Loud side. This is for the same reason that large objects look smaller when they are further away from you.
RH This would imply that Die Kunst subscribe to the philosophy of 'less is more'. Sort of not 'over cooking the pudding'. Invariably, this could be said ,perhaps paradoxically, to 'push the envelope' in terms of what may constitute a song. Just when you might start tapping along it's all over.
VM That makes sense, more or less. More is better though, especially when the audience shout it at the end of a gig. Interesting that the question of 'tapping' should arise. One might tap a left or a right handed thread and getting these threads crossed when tapping into an idea can make a good one seem bad or vice-versa. Is the band totally democratic when pursuing ideas - I notice all compositions are credited equally as simply 'Die Kunst'?
MV As artists we each make our own work. When considering the possibility of collaborative practice, the popular music group seemed a viable and potentially rewarding model to pursue in creative terms. Hegemony of the art band art world is one thing DK is proud of. But within DK there's no such thing as hegemony , merely ripples, bossiness and waves of indecision - and torrents of apathy.
DM The quietest place in the world is recorded to be somewhere in the middle of the Goby Desert on a still day with a negative db reading of -74, in the anachoic chamber Die Kunst made a negative db reading of an astonishing -53; conversely, when an aeroplane takes off the sound reaches a staggering 170db, in the reverboration chamber the Die Kunst sound reached a non too shabby 165db
VM No, wise to leave shabby sound to the Playboys. Reversal and inversion seem to be a common theme here.Have you ever done that thing where you learn to speak a phrase backwards, record it and play it forwards and you sound like a Balkan peasant on nembutal? In the past, some people have simply used a backwards version of the 'A' side for the 'B' side. what is your 'B' side and do you think it's possible to play a song backwards live - or a whole set, beginning with the encore, and if so should you play left-handed?
MV We have no B side, only an F side and a P side.
VM So alphabetically speaking, if A is F and the other side is P you're missing nine tracks.
DM Press the wrong button and it can happen.During recording sessions Die Kunst regularly sing in tongues, but strangly when we listen to the play back it always seems to just sound like shite, so we try to limit any singing
VM Bad singing is so much more egalitarian, and talent just hinders creativity -as D.C. Berman sings "all my favourite singers couldn't sing".
RH Victor , I almost agree. But I remember reading an obituary on Ella Fitzgerald in 1996. The writer claimed that she never sung a bum note on any of her studio recordings. This would presumably mean that the orchestras would never get pissed-off with having to go over a tune again because she fluffed her lines. In DK we always sing and play simultaneously and stop when we hit the right vocal note.
VM Coincidentally there's a woman called Ella who comes into my local bakery and screeches 'cheesecake' incessantly until the assistants have to give her a slice just to get rid of her, it's a great song and a great performance. Last time a group of builders set up a chorus of 'cheesecake' behind her and she ran away, furious . Now when she comes in the assistants just screech 'cheesecake' back at her and she leaves. It's a bit like being booed off stage - has this ever happened to you?
MV We've played in a Turkish bath house in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, but never in a baker's shop. Next February we're playing a lecture tour of academic institutions in the low countries. After that we're planning to play in all the 'ghost stations' on the London Underground.
DM At a recent performance by Die Kunst in Magnet Bar Liverpool Holly Johnson of Frankie fame was there chatting to Pete Whylie about the new scouse Psychodelic folk scene. Earlier in a pub next door to Magnet the Liverpool Poets had been discussing magic. Roger McGough was not among them.
VM Nor Adrian Henri, I suspect, on account of his death. Of course he was an artist in the vanguard of the sixties art rock movement, he formed and fronted 'The Liverpool Scene'. They supported Led Zeppelin at the Albert Hall once.
DM Didn't Cream play their farewell concert there? During rehearsals Richard and Martin often warm up by playing Cream songs, I tend to wait until they are finished. We usually play for about half an hour then have a cigarette. Richard favours Camel filter, I roll Old Holborn Martin doesn't smoke as much these days but the last time we rehearsed he'd just come back from Spain and we all enjoyed his duty free Fortunas. After rehearsals we always have a drink in the Dogstar.
VM The blue plastic pouch that your Old Holborn is in reminds me of a blue plastic carrier bag that has been snared high in a tree opposite my kitchen window for almost three years now. I originally considered it an eye-sore until it was obscured by leaves and forgotten Revealed this autumn for a second time, it has become an object of affection and I will be sorry if it breaks loose. Do you have any songs which fit this criterion?
MV By default there's always natural wastage with Die Kunst.. Hopefully we will remember how to play the songs on this record.
RH Fast and Loud, and Slow and Quiet in its totality is an experiment in aural symmetry.
VM Like having an ear on each side of your head. Experimental chamber music?
MV Hur, hur. Actually our music isn't experimental, it's instrumental, in the sense of denoting a type of learning process in which a particular response is alway associated with a reinforcement, the response then intensifying. Paradoxically, the songs with vocals are the most instrumental.
VM But the chambers are experimental, and for that matter instrumental in carrying out the experiments. Reverberation is a common effect built into most amplifiers which gives an illusion of space and was presumably developed to combat the absorbtion of sound which bands might suffer when normally playing in small crowded venues. As an art band this is rarely the case. Frequently you find yourself performing in cavernous concrete buildings with glass roofs to a gaggle of spectators at the far end. I would welcome the development of an amplifier with a built in anechoic device for just such occasions but you seem to have learnt to harness and control this element . Is this record the result of your experiences in differing venues?
RH Playing at a Flux magazine launch at the Lowry Hotel , Manchester, in a venue that was both canvernous and packed. A truly awful experience.
MV.Dave Hickey says arock and roll band is like a family: 'a collective endeavor in which the static rigor of single-provider patriarchy is mitigated by issues of competence and merit, by the exigencies of collaboration, and finally, by the ethics of the task in hand.' But which one's Mum?
VM Surely record vinyl must be the most sensual of all petroleum by-products; not only is the recorded sound superior to any other medium but it has a hypnotic perfume when slightly warm and the shape and blackness is visually stimulating. Unfortunately it has no taste, but run your tongue over the surface and with practice you can detect loud tracks and quiet tracks by the varying roughness of the grooves. Has anyone, to your knowledge, given your record this test?
MV No, but when she was on the selection committee for the Beck's Futures exhibition, Marianne Faithfull sucked our rock. Ditto, it was very satisfying. But it probably does explains why we did not get selected. I mean, how would you feel as a panel member if you saw Marianne Faithfull sucking the rock of some obscure Manchester art band.
VM Like the inside of my thighs were being rubbed?
RH It was obviously a copping off thing. I'm proud that we can make people want to mate.
VM I understand that 'the anechoic chamber was sometimes used for testing washing machines. Do you have any irrational feelings towards inanimate objects?
RH This woman said it was like that
DM What woman?
VM Christ, I'm going to miss the last train and I'm interviewing Craig David Gray tomorrow
RH Does he still teach at Goldsmiths?
VM I'll ask the questions
DM Go back in the morning. I've got a bottle of Black Sambuca back at the house.
Vic Oh alright.