Name: Kostas Tassopoulos / Ekkohaus
Occupation: Producer, DJ
Current Release: Ekkohaus' "E for Ekko' (remixes)" is out now via Cenital Music
Recommendations: Can I start with a movie? You see it is a piece of art that comes from a script (book) and has music (soundtrack) and its name is: Le Planete Sauvage (The Fantastic Planet). It was written by Roland Topor and Rene Laloux and directed by the latter. It reverses our status as rulers of the planet and places us as pets of a superior kind. The soundtrack (Alain Goraguer) is otherworldly and was recently re-released and heavily sampled by Flying Lotus on his latest album.
The second piece is also a movie from Brazil. It is called Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus) and was shot back in 1959. A mesmerising celebration of live, love and eventually death, and the vehicle to explore every aspect of your life is music. A beautiful blending of Ancient Greek Mythology with Brazilian Culture, in the setting of the Carnival in Rio.
Website / Contact: For even more information about Ekkohaus, visit his facebook profile.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started recording at home (on cassettes) in the late eighties and my sound was more dirty, low fi, and everything was hand played and overdubbed. I was mostly influenced by bands like Tuxedo Moon and New Order at the time. Later I got into Tricky and Aphex Twin while by 97-98 I had also developed a taste for house music. In London I got introduced to all music styles and now I am located in Berlin, which may very well serve as the capital of electronic music since the last decade. I lived through many different music trends and survived them all (laughs)… The act of listening for me is the least explored sense we have, or maybe the most ‘unmapped’. Yet our ear is one of the most complicated mechanisms in our body. Our culture is visual, meaning, our senses are monopolised from the power of the image thus the possibilities of sound remain largely unexplored. This is what draws me into music.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
It may sound funny but I may have sounded the most original when I started. The limitations of technology and the luck of access to free music (no internet / infinite time to practice) were miraculous when it came to creativity. One may be influenced by an artist or a sound and sub-consiously copy an element and introduce it as his/her own piece. As for copying, a lot of this has been covered by Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol. Sampling is a part of electronic music and its development. hip-hop and house music were created because of samplers and you see how technology affects our approach to music. Taking this further, now with Virtual Reality and 3D printing, the discussion about creation / originality / copying may get taken to a new dimension.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
In the beginning the trouble was how to get the money to buy the gear in the first place. I was not preoccupied with postproduction because there wasn’t any. It was about fighting these limitations and being original while recording a stereo track. More of an artist and less of a scientist. Then as the studio gets bigger and one knows more, the sound gets polished, more perfect and clean and the compositions more complex due to the evolution of computers, which also led to everyone sounding more similar. More of a scientist and less of an artist. Right now, after years of exploring, discovering, getting influenced or experienced, I believe I am somewhere in the middle. I am not a perfectionist when it comes to production but I want to keep the level that the project or the idea dictates. I use computers but the process is still based on actual machines and there is physicality in it. So I value both technicality and creativity, both a scientist and an artist.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
The first studio consisted of a big Yamaha (The beast) synthesizer connected to effects and pedals I would sneak from my cousin when he was at work. I would make everything in this synth and over dub it again and again in a stereo track recorder to a cassette tape. A Roland drum machine and a Casio synth soon came and gave me midi … this was in the mid nineties. The studio has evolved or been minimised due to relocations but a few pieces that I adore are the Roland Space Echo, the LXR drumsynth, the Roland SH 101, and the Nord Modular, a crossover synth that allows you to create modular patches on your laptop and load them into your synth.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
Technology is what we make it to be to an extent. Technology should be creativity’s tool and not the opposite. I make use of technology but I also withdraw from it. With Virtual Reality and Robotics, it is clear that in the near future (if we don’t blow up the planet) we will have fewer tasks to do with our hands and mind. We need to find a new role for ourselves and creativity may well be the answer. We need to focus on activities that cannot be performed as good by computers. Computers may be powerful in calculating improbability but still the possibility of a human mistake is a creating force that should not be dismissed. Matthew Herbert covered this subject many years ago. The failure to establish our new role in the involvement of technology may result in us getting used by computers, which after all may not be so bad as we have failed on many levels as a species already.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
I like to start producing on a blank canvas. The studio is mainly comprised of hardware equipment so I spend most of my time with the machines before I look to the computer screen for recording or arranging and post-producing.
I work with my favorite sounds and I programm them from the beginning. I have used presets from a synthsiser or a plug-in but usually I modify them to my needs. It is always tricky when you get a new synthesiser and you tend to use it more than you normally would, for the first few months at least, until it really finds its place and balance in your studio set up. It can also happen that you put a synth on the side and a few years later you dig it up and re-introduce yourself to it. To your new self, with all these new things and tricks, sounds and references, you may have been exposed to, in the time in between.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
Discussions and ideas about music take place every day. Electronic music has replaced the other members of the band so one man / woman is at the controls and programs the drums, bass lines, synths, etc … and this is only the creative process. The same person has to be promoting, giging, being in social media etc. All these things are counter productive in the case of possible collaborations, experimentations, jamming. Personally I love jamming and always try to make some time for collaborations with friends (Santos Resiak, Rufus, J-Lab, Robert Wurz, etc.). I have released music with a few people and there is an on-going collab project that I want to publish soon (Miso Miso). Having said that, I am also a member of a 3-piece band (Keller Crackers) and co-host a radio show at Cashmere radio in Berlin (Hi Point Low Life) so I am really into collective engagements by choice.