Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
Rgm: I can very much relate to that. I really let things go where they want to go. I will not get in the way. It can be a super frustrating process as you end up ‘fighting’ with an idea that does not want to comply with your intention, and almost always I lose and let the idea go where it wants to go. The fucker …
EW: I work very precisely. I always aim to have strict control, and the medium always offers something unexpected. There is a back-and-forth with the medium, and between doing and observing. I need to be open to what appears. And then I need to know how to control it.
I maintain a kind of strict control by carefully shaping the results I get at each step of the process. Yet I am driven forward by the successive surprises. For example, I may end up with some unwanted marks on a film due to hand-processing – but after carefully watching the processed film I will discover that the rhythm of the marks is the key to the rhythm of the edit, and I will use them to guide my cut.
Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?
EW: I think that finishing any film (or any kind of art) involves a series of rejections. Along the way you have to reject 500 perfectly good films that you could make in order to arrive at the one that you do make. I find that process of rejection slow and painful.
Live performance allows more of those alternative roads to remain open than single-channel filmmaking does. The performance can change and evolve from night to night. I can even return to the studio after a tour and follow one of those alternative roads, creating new material for upcoming shows.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
Rgm: I do struggle with the notion of spirituality as I cannot disassociate it from many hurtful past experiences, so I chose not to use that word to describe anything I do. I am much more rooted in emotion and how to form it, and where to find it, and how to exercise it.
EW: When things are working well – when an idea forms – I have the sense of disparate ideas, images, etc starting to ring together and resonate in my head. As though the vibrations from one idea jump through space and cause another idea to ring in harmony. Suddenly a series of disparate ideas are ringing together. I “hear” connections that were previously untraceable. There's a kind of manic excitement in that moment.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
Rgm: I am so damn aware of that, as I can spend weeks at the studio on other artists' work. It drives me nuts sometimes to see people falling in that endless black hole of ‘never being done’. When I start, I am so anxious to get to the end that I make sure I’m on a very fast and direct path to that infamous ‘end point’.
EW: Either I run out of time, or I feel like I have exhausted a line of enquiry. The former is more practical, the latter takes much longer – usually years.
Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practise?
Rgm: I revel in the notion of finishing something, not touching it or working on it, sending it off and re-experiencing it once it is committed to record. From there, it will take on an organic life of its own in a live context and change so much that sometimes it will not even resemble itself anymore.
EW: Luckily deadlines usually get in the way of my perfectionism. Without external deadlines I will take a long time to evaluate and then refine work.
Live performance is great because the work is in constant evolution, improving and refining, and there is a certain chance element at play which means that we never know when the magical moments will emerge.
What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
Rgm: My ‘profession’ is a record producer, so naturally I am in complete control of the entire process up to the mastering. It’s all so much an integral part of the process, and for music like mine, it is often more about how to produce the material vs the material itself.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
Rgm: No emptiness. That I cannot relate to. I am happy that I am done, and am always so excited about where to go from there. I have a brutal relationship to the work where I feel I abandon it as soon as it is done. Like purposefully orphaning a child or something. It’s harsh I know, but that’s what my instinct is.
EW: I always have more than one project on the go, and always have more things I want to create or try than I actually have time for, so I feel like I am always rushing forward into something new. Often while I am making something it feels like a weight that is on me. When I finish, that weight is lifted. It’s a great feeling of accomplishment and freedom to move to something new.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
Rgm: I often liken making work to making food. I always have felt that. I enjoy literally nothing in this world more than making food. I love it way more than I love making art, as I find solace, joy and a sense of achievement in it that is so unique.
I am lucky to live a life that is for the most part devoid of anything mundane, and am perpetually excited by what surrounds me. I know it's a privilege to be in that mental state and so consider myself quite lucky.
EW: love that film and music, and other art forms, can transport us from our daily lives, can connect us to deep emotions, and can open us to new knowledge and perspectives. So I do see them as separate from more daily creative tasks. I like that they are not as “useful” as, say, preparing a meal, even if preparing a meal can be a creative act with aesthetically satisfying results.
Radwan, by the way, is a great cook.