Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
Hm, my work over the years has been a pretty constant thing with just minor ups and downs, yet a constant line of change in terms of genres and emphasis. Maybe the transition from my 2015 album By accident to 2017s Riverside Burrows and Herbert’s Archive is most depictive for this development from (instrumental) hip hop and electronica to more experimental approaches and my keen obsession with field recording nowadays.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Of course I have some little rituals, like most others I guess. But these are probably just disposable habits and don’t actually help. The only thing that really supports this ideal state of mind in my case is having enough time. Even just the feeling to have the possibility to work as long as I want, without actually needing that much of it. And that’s already a rare good in these times.
Gladly I never experienced anything like a creative crisis – if I find a decent amount of time I quickly can dive into something, even I’m regularly switching from project to project to find the suitable work for the day.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
It’s probably just the word, but “healing” sounds a bit presumptuous to me. At least I believe this is a very subjective topic, as there are studies showing that there seems to be only a very basic universal understanding of sound correlating with specific feelings, like harsh sounds reminding us of thunderstorms indicating danger. But most of our relation with sound (especially as there are so many new ones and changing ones in our lives over the last decades) is a very subjective topic, and particularly in our “Western societies” here the relation to hearing is pretty stunted. So the main thing would be to get able to pay attention to sound first, and then it’s still a highly complex structure of highly personal connotations.
But of course I think it would help specific people and societies to learn to pay more attention to their sonic environment again (and do not accept all the hazardous sonic waste around us anymore), and dissolve the human-made distinctions between noise and music (as well as nature and culture).
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
These are really hard questions and very thin lines sometimes – especially when I think of my hip hop background and often weirdly appropriated codes and wordings by white european middle class teenagers trying to copy every aspect of their role models often having totally different backgrounds and realities they live in.
Cultural exchange and various influences getting mixed up often leads to exceptional art, but of course it’s a huge difference who’s saying and adopting something. And different aspects such as the specific topic, the quantity, quality and reasons for copying and appropriation can totally change the meaning of things, actions or words.
The only basic rule should be: If someone feels hurt we should shut up and listen to the affected people first and try to learn, talk to each other and make progress not hurting, offending others.
It may sounds weird (with all the questions and problems within humanity already), but simply because I have tons of recordings from inside this beaver lodge I’m thinking about animal rights in connection with personal rights a lot these days – Why do I release their personal conversation (and moaning or singing?) from within their private space but hesitate to do so with a recording of a young one obviously having bellyache and diarrhea? Is it just accepted because we are not able to understand them – will this change once we understand more (or at least more people know about the mesmerizing, already existing knowledge) and improve interspecies communication in the future? And shouldn’t other species get at least way more recognition for being copied for ages and recorded nowadays – or even earn some kind of royalties?
But yeah, even without this kind of utopian ideas, copyright, intellectual property and personal rights are topics we should talk about way more anyway, affecting so many parts of our lives in inconsistent ways …
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
It’s a main part of my work with (walk-through) installations, soundwalks and audiovisual projects, but I’ve never experienced a specific connection to one specific sense (similar to how some will have pictures in their heads for their works).
The interaction with all kinds of senses is enormous and highly underestimated I guess. But probably I would have to say the sense of touch, being deeply connected to our hearing sense and other parts of our bodies in a direct, physical way as well as triggering associations and emotions and making us shiver for example. And the act of making music being connected to touch in the first place, too.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I just can speak for myself as a creator and listener (which is sometimes the same as a field recording enthusiast): Art is one of the main things shaping my life and influencing the way I think and act. Also economically, as I don’t have any formal education.
But as I’m highly privileged, being born in one of the richest countries on earth, making it possible to do what I do without big trade-offs, I honestly feel some kind of responsibility out of reach – a two-edged sword: on the one hand, art is an important thing in human existence (and probably non-human too), influencing peoples' lives even if it has no obvious or just subtle political and social impact (like mine most of the time). And it’s what I want to do, trying my best.
But on the other hand it sometimes feels pretty senseless in this world full of inequality and destruction. And within art there’s already this huge dominance of income and wealthy, Western societies and their (male) proponents – even if you look at the differences of media coverage in Europe, or even within a small, rich country like Austria where nearly all media is residing (and only focussing on the already famous ones) in its capital and socioeconomically deprived people are far off having equal opportunities.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
I don’t know, probably words alone or other forms of expression can do this too for others, but for me, sound has an unique ability to trigger personal memories of very basic, but strong feelings I never could describe with words. For example the feeling of this kind of raisin-like, permanent contradiction of your heart and overall dizziness due to severe grief, particularly the death of a person you love – I’ve tried to capture here.