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06/14/2005 |
From: Benedikt Weigmann
To: mother@hyperreal.org

this is the first part of the AtomTM interview in the German "Raveline"
magazine. I´ve been translating it and it´s very long. Please tell me if
it´s too long for you or you want to read the second part too. Sorry for the
translation mistakes... I hope you´ll get it anyway!

regards, Benedikt



Sounddesign-Sorcerer, MPC-Magician, Timing-Torrero - you could build many
words to describe the production qualities of Uwe Schmidt. For a long time
noone could hit the basslines deeper, noone built the groove-sculptures more
lasciviously, nooens soundscapes were more delicate. Very early he was
amused by the Warp sound "Artificial Intelligence", so he countered
ironically with his own "Real Intelligence" compilation. He was allowed to
do that, cause he could do it. If one wants to list the many releases and
projects of Uwe Schmidt nowadays one should feed his printer with an XXL
size batch of paper. From Pop to Hardcore everything was possible, and
before he moved to Chile in 1997 to start a second carreer as "Senor
Coconut", the alias he was best know for was "Atom Heart". This project name
has been shortened to "AtomTM", his new Mini-LP is entitled "iMix". What
else has changed since his last solo album "Shellglove" (1996)?

After we´ve found out it is very hard to contact Uwe Schmidt directly, and
even eMail contacts have to be made via "Laboratory Instinct" - one could
come to the conclusion that it´s not in your sense to be shown in the dance
context anymore.

"Concerning the contact to the press it´s only for practical and not for
ideological reasons that it´s made via the record label only. After years of
intensive work with the press I´ve come to the conclusion to make contacts
via third persons, because I don´t wanna give my mail adress to the whole
world. After I´ve been subscribed many times to mass mailing lists I have
become careful. For me it´s important that the interest of the press and the
journalist is true. If this interest happens in a dance magazine or a
fashion magazine - I don´t care. Now this doesn´t mean that I´m uncritical
about every media."

How do you rate the importance and the quality of the dance press in
general? There´s the common reproach it would be just the servant of artists
or labels of the one or the other party. So you´ve been critical about the
lack of motivation for enquiry in the past.

"I wouldn´t critizise the dance press only. It´s a problem of the fast life
we live, that we don´t have any time to get into things deeper and intense.
Unfortunately this is also true for things that are interesting for us. The
same for musicians! Which musician has time to really listen to music?
Especially if you give a lot of interviews you will find out that certain
information and very often even wrong information come again and again. Many
times people don´t require for real and the first information one gets is
what one thinks is the truth already. The internet as an enquiry medium is
part of this misery, cause here you can find everything what human brains
can
imagine. Facts get mixed with inventions, the truth gets mixed with wishes.
At this point the dance press is not better than the others!"

You seem to like playing with the media as we could see with your project
"Stereonerds" for example, where you seem to be an australian duo. What´s
your aim with giving people fail information? Most artists are outraged when
even the smallest detail in their biography is being told wrong. It seems
that you want to give a diffuse picture!

"I´m likely to say that the fail information doesn´t mean anything... At
least nothing such as a facade. For me it´s just a possibility to realize
different projects. I develop fictive persons, define their characteristics
and imagine how these people would do music. This thing is far more than
only doing music... I do the artwork myself. Every project needs to work and
function for the consumer. In the moment of creating things I need to find a
point of disaffection with myself, which I don´t really find, so it´s always
only kind of an approach. For me that means to invent things and to act just
as
I for myself couldn´t see them. I admit this is kind of schizophrenic. But I
would lie if I wouldn´t admit that the so created fail information wouldn´t
make fun. But it is not the center of my work, just an effect. I like
fictive biographies more than real ones."

Is your view on the German dance scene cynical?

"I wouldn´t say there´s a "German" dance scene. I see the dance music - as
many other things - with a critical distance, but not cynically. Therefore
I´m just not bitterly enough - thank god. But one would exaggerate if one
would say dance music is the most important thing of my life. For me it´s
not more important than a photoshop plug-in or an operating system upgrade.
But sometimes I see strange artefacts of this scene and want to work on
them."

Why is self-criticism so hard for the dance scene? Does the avantgarde scene
think they are too important or what´s the general reason for this
arrogance?

"I wouldn´t say arrogance. In my opinion it´s the problem that former ideas
and concepts are still seen as new although they´re just old. The so
called electronic music scene acts like 10 or 15 years before, especially
when it comes to topics just as "innovation". You need to see that since ten
years there´s no universal innovation. There are always individual
developments, but nothing that brings the music to another level. Maybe
there will never be such global trends again, which isn´t necessarily bad.
But the electronic scene seems to believe that their topics are still
actual. Techno has come to a point where Rock´n´Roll used to be too - behind
the peak. The only difference: the other music styles have never been about
innovation and development only, and without that you can live better with
in
pension. Techno, Dance and electronic don´t have to do anything with
development and growth anymore. I don´t like it anymore to see this topic as
the main point of musical creation. Not only in electronic music but far
more it could be important to care about other issues. Maybe then there
would be a real musical development again. The first stagnation I could see
was
in 1992 when many DJ´s and musicians had commercial success. It was obvious
that musical innovation means nothing to them and there are other aims for
them. So I don´t see that as a way of arrogance but as the normal way things
are going. Why should everything be so different in electronic music?"

Do you still follow the electronic scene? Everyone seems to look
backwards...

"To be honest I don´t follow musical tendencies. I don´t read papers, I
don´t
watch TV, I don´t have a radio, I use the internet only for certain things,
not to read anything. I get to know new music via friends and partners,
which are kind of information filters for me. Of course there are always
releases which I like, but these are more individual "breakouts" of
individual artists. The problem of the music scene reflects the global
problem of disorientation in society. You can´t generalize tendencies of
society, there are no common values and influences. The sound is easy to
manipulate, the simulation of everything is perfect, the horizon seems to be
reached, a revolution would be logical. But electronic music has the problem
that they´re still standing for innovation and this is why it´s not dead but
nowadays smells funny. The scene - in fact every scene - has a lack of
individuals
who create things because they must, not because they have to fulfill the
wishes of other people. The copying instead of inventing creates a mass of
information that makes eyes blind and ears deaf for other things."

Why AtomTM? One was thinking that the project Atom Heart is dead since
"Shellglove"...

AtomTM has never been dead. Especially on rather interesting I´ve been
releasing stuff as AtomTM, but also I´ve been remixing and producing stuff
for other artists as AtomTM. It´s not important that there has never been an
explicit "AtomTM" or "Atom Heart" album. I´m surprised by the comeback
effect you´re talking of. AtomTM is not dead and will last for a long, long
while.

How much Atom Heart is in AtomTM - musically seen?

100%

For the fans of your old works "iMix" doesn´t fulfill the expectations. One
can recognize the sounds are from you, but the the timing of your groove is
not perfect - it´s broken and delayed polymetrically! It seems if you wanted
to say: "Wanna have the old Atom Heart back? Here we go, but not in a way
you expect and know him..."

"It wasn´t meant to be such a statement. I think it´s the logical
consequence of my musical work, same with "Geez n Gosh", where delayed
grooves, strange shuffles and handmade quantizations did exist. "iMix" is
another step in research for new rhythms. Research that goes hand in hand
with its used technique. Of course "iMix" is a big step forward if you
didn´t follow my releases since 1995. It would be sad if it would still
sound the same way, wouldn´t it? When I develop music the opinion of other
people doesn´t matter, especially not the opinion of the music society. They
get relevant after I´ve finished the creative process. I´m talking about a
feedback which makes me understand my own projects."

Why did you change the "Heart" into "tm"? Especially you as a free working
artist can see yourself as something different than a registrered trademark,
can´t you?

"I think "Atom Heart" is too long and I wanted to have something shorter,
catchier. So the "Atom" stayed. There was another release by me called
"monoTM". The joke is that you can´t register a trademark such as "mono" or
"stereo", but exactly this happens in the USA! Everything is being
registered there which seems to be useful to commercialize products. It´s
pervert! "AtomTM" was a joke about that. A joke that gets its charm by the
contradiction to sampling and its therefore created environment, so it
forces questions like yours. The other reason is that I like the
typographical charme of "TM". It´s very stylish!"

One could also misunderstand the album title "iMix". The album is not
related to the internet and it is not mixed...

"Well, on the one hand it´s a joke about the Boom of "iProducts" and their
hype. On the other hand "i" means "me". I don´t understand "mix" as a DJ
technique of "mixing records together" but as a thing that a sound designer
does - mix sounds. "iMix" stands for "I make music", "I mix sounds
together". Everything "iMix" is about has to do with these two levels. It´s
an album just about me where mystical, personal and intimate fragments
happens. It was not a concept album but a free and associative developed
work, where the result surprises me the same way it surprises its
recipients..."

How would you describe the change in your own words, how much is "iMix"
influenced by Senor Coconut or Flanger?

"I´d try to understand it like this: Every note that I´ve ever programmed,
every project I ever did builds a musical language, where new music can grow
out of again. This can be the work on latin rhythms such as Senor Coconut
or - in case of Flanger - the research of certain programming and producing
methods or maybe the simulation of truth. The positive experiences get on a
new level, so I can find elements in "iMix" which I´ve taken of brazilian
music as well as layered notes and rhythms which can be heard in the
background."

Once you´ve told us the wish you want to look on the world with the view of
an alien - free of humans and their musical context. Is it possible to
develop an own musical language out of this vacuum hole? And wouldn´t your
music lose its function as media to communicate, cause only you could
understand it?

"I need to correct this. I don´t wish to have the perspective of an alien -
I live in the perspective of an alien! I see Germany, electronic music, even
Chile from beyond, cause I´m not anymore a part of Germany and I´ll never be
a part of Chile. I see both worlds with distance. I don´t have a relation to
electronic music, Cha cha cha, Jazz or any music. This distance makes it
possible to copy and paste things without being subjective. I mean
references, musical languages integrated in my individual room to reconnect
them there. Logically I´m in a relation to reality because I release music.
And of course I don´t develop anything out of a vacuum. You can understand
it this way: I want to regulate the passive information flow myself - as far
as possible. As for an alien the information of human beings reach me only
if I want to. Cause the material of my music, the information I´m working
on, is a "universal" information, it is communicated universally and will be
understood. Good art is art that you can´t understand easily, isn´t it? The
one that transports something and touches us, speaks to us without we know
why."

If this is true your next step should be excluding ways of production that
are available for everyone (Software, MPC), cause they only give you the
possibilities that certain developers have designed for a certain market.

"Exactly! Therefore I don´t use any equipment no more. A small laptop and a
software. The easiest software of all, that only offers the basic musical
parameters: volume, position and frequence. The influence of developer´s
brains on my musical work tends to be zero."

Have you changed your opinion about "free sampling" meanwhile? Many people
think that sampling is the death of creative music!

"I need to make some things clear: I´ve never been pro free sampling or pro
giving up copyrights. With "MACOS" and "Cloned: Binary" there were totally
different ideas. MACOS was an experiment to build up a network where
musicians can exchange copyrights of samples. This shouldn´t have happened
as a logo which you print on products, to licence a recycling process.
Unfortunately people got it wrong and MACOS was being misunderstood. They´ve
put me in the wrong corner - as the protagonist of an "anti-copyright"
movement. I´ve quit MACOS after that - I´m not interested in "sampling"
anymore. When harddisk recording came up any record could and still can be
manipulated, simulated and modified without any limits."

What do we have to expect next, after CMYK and iMix?

"There´ll be an AtomTM EP on "Musique Risquee". I´m also working on a
complete album which will be finished at the end of this year. With Bernd
Friedman I´m sitting on the next "Flanger" which will be released at the end
of this summer on "Nonplace". There are also remixes from Stefan Remmler to
Tosca, as well as new tracks with my berlin friend Pink Elln"


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