Monday, May 13, 2019
Interview Series #3: Frans de Waard
Originally scheduled on 02/15/2019
Frans de Waard has been active since 1984, as either a recording artist, label head, or, after 1987, main editor of review zine (now website with podcast), Vital Weekly. The self-proclaimed "grumpiness" you'll read below is characteristic of some of his reviews at Vital, but not always. People who have kept on running a noise label have come to know this man, not to mention those of us who struggle to keep up with all of the releases that are coming out now. His are the quickest reviews to come out of anywhere! As far as his own recordings go, well, I don't like all of what I've heard, but I do really enjoy everything by Modelbau that I've heard, some other moments from various projects come to mind (Kapotte Muziek, Tobacconists), and his label Korm Plastics has released some real gems, some of which I did get to spend time with during my tenure at WZRD: FâLX çèrêbRi, Autopsia, Asmus Tiechens, Illusion of Safety, et al.
1. What types of things have you been getting into lately?
Ah. My least favourite question first! It does imply that I do ‘different’ stuff all the time or that menu changes of my work, but I do what I always do. Listening to music, write about it, make music, find a label for it and play the occasional concert. Sometimes I try to write a short story, fiction. That’s what I always do, ever since leaving my fulltime job working for Staalplaat in 2003. There is no ‘lately’ as in ‘something changed’. But if you intend to publish in 3 years, things might have changed?
2. What you do, do you do it as an artist, or is it a hobby?
What I do is neither, really. I don’t consider myself an artist, nor is it a hobby. I do the things that I do and hopefully, find someone who buys it, so I can by food and pay the rent.
3. How would you describe what you do?
Depends who's asking. In general, I say I work on ‘music’, either by writing about it or creating it. My passport doesn’t list occupation, so that’s good. I don’t have to invent a job.
4. How would you describe your creative progression over the years, in a brief synopsis?
That is not an easy one to answer I guess and maybe something someone who has been listening to my music for years could provide you with an answer that. I have very little interest in learning proper technological stuff and I usually investigate quite a bit of different technologies, before deciding one I like to work with. Modular synthesizers for one is something that I, for now, decided is not really an area I should move into. I love various iPad applications to do music, one I mastered pretty well, if I may say so. Throughout my work I try to maintain curiosity, which is for me, trying to work in various different musical fields. I like to do lo-fi electronic stuff with walkmans as Modelbau, do laptop music as Freiband, deep ambient as Quest or techno as QST. I may even return to doing ‘dub’. Of course none of this, especially with ‘techno’ or ‘dub’, I am not well-versed in it, but I keep learning and trying, so I would hope there is some progression. Is there? Not for me to answer.
5. How would you describe your philosophy?
For a long time I would call myself an anarchist, but with the advancing of age, I realise I have very little interest in politics or think systems. I very much subscribe to humanism (Christianity without a god, I saw once, and I like that), but in a sort of nihilist way. You need a roof over your head, food and that’s it. You don’t need anything else, really. Basically, have that until the day you die. All your other interests are a mere luxury. Be kind to the person next to you. It is not that difficult.
6. Do you believe in psychics, magic, ghosts, or gods?
Not all. You walk the earth, do some things that some people care about or not, and you die (in my case I say ‘I de-compose’). There is no afterlife, no reincarnation, you simply fade away from memory. That’s it really. I am sure not everyone agrees, and why should they?
7. What would you say was your most definitive experience?
In the late 80s, Jos Smolders from THU20 said to the younger me: “all that noise you do is quite nice, but when will you start composing with all of this noise”. Can’t say I always ‘compose’ but at least I try to think about it.
8. Do you have any side projects that I am not aware of? If not, what is something you'd like people to know about you, that you don't think anyone would ever ask?
I know I said ‘be kind to the person next to you’, so in slight contradiction/grumpiness; how would I know what you are aware of what I do? I don’t. As for the other question… I am not sure what I think people should ask me, really. What is it you would like to ask me? Send me that!
9. Would you care to name any theoretical "desert island" records or at least releases that you think are approaching your concept of "perfect"?
I wrote this some years ago…
“I am always very much in favour of something weird in something we already love. One of my favourite all-time records is '8 time' by Gilbert and Lewis. It's a CD which compiles various bits of vinyl together, and it's where we have something which you could still identify as pop music but which is also highly experimental in nature. An absolutely great sequence of songs - but really anything solo by either of them together is great, and so is Bruce Gilbert solo. From the same period - mid 80 s - another classic for me is 'A Happy & Thriving Land' by Five or Six, which is the best in combining something which we could call pop music but then in a small orchestral setting with some moody tunes. Never reissued on CD, and back then the LP sold really badly. A shame for such a classic.
Slightly more off pop music I think my favourite Nurse With Wound album should be mentioned, which is 'Spiral Insana', an excellent album of ambient electronics and fine experimentation. And in the middle of the 80s industrial music, pornography and concentration camps images, The Hafler Trio's 'Bang - An Open Letter' stood out so differently with its pseudo-scientific liner notes, tape-loops and field recordings, it's still an album to hear something new in.
Another old classic which was a real eye-opener was 'I'm Sitting In A Room' by Alvin Lucier', in which the voice is gradually transformed by using the acoustics of the space. And I recommend Steve Reich's 'Come Out', although not an album, certainly one of the pieces that, technique-wise, have it all.
Recent favorites would certainly include the two albums made by Machinefabriek and Michel Banabila, anything by BJ Nilsen & Stillupsteypa, Visitors from Nijmegen with their robotic/alien synth pop, anything by Roel Meelkop but especially the album he did with Takanobu Hoshino, anything by Mirror/In Camera/Christoph Heeman, anything by Asmus Tietchens, Stephan Mathieu, Main or Zoviet*France. I can always play their music, any time of the day or night.
Finally I'd say, you can't do music yourself if you hate your own music, and in terms of experimentation, my favourite works of my own in recent years are 'We Bring Light' with Ezdanitoff and almost everything I did with The Tobacconists, from the 'Smoking Is Green' LP/CD to the recent, as yet unreleased material, 'A Secret Place' and 'Streetlight', which its strong influence by Gilbert/Lewis, to bring it to a full circle. I never can choose.”
Surely some have changed or added, but yeah, that’s it. Not sure if I want records on a desert island anyway.
10. What is the earliest childhood memory you can recall?
That when I was five it seemed an awfully long time before I turned six.
11. Are you able to appreciate other peoples' creative work regardless of their personal shortcomings or inherent flaws? To what extent?
I still think ‘American Beauty’ is a great movie. So yes, I can enjoy that despite personal shortcomings of one of the main actors. He’s great in ‘Se7en’ too. Knowing a lot of musicians, I saw a lot of flaws and sometimes it takes quite some time before appreciating what they do again, but most of the times it comes back. Sometimes it doesn’t but perhaps I wasn’t into their music in the first place.
12. Do you have any heroes or heroines? Who are they?
I never understood the need to have heroes or heroines, I don’t worship man nor god.
13. What would you like to have on your epitaph? Or what is your favourite quote?
Epitaph: I gave up smoking and see where I got?
Quote: Get a life, not a lifestyle