Ein Soundtrack ohne realen Film - mit Interview
J.G.Thirlwell oder auch Foetus, Clint Ruin, Steroid Maximus, Manorexia, Wiseblood, Frank Want: wenige der vielen Namen, die sich der in Australien geborene Künstler während seiner mittlerweile über 25-jährigen Schaffenszeit zugelegt hat. Ende der 70er und Anfang der 80er zu den bekanntesten Protagonisten der Gegenkultur in London und New York zählend, überschreitet er schon seit Beginn an jegliche Grenzen herkömmlicher Musiktraditionen, auch wenn er lange Zeit in die „Industrial“ Schublade gesteckt wurde. Seine Musik folgt jedoch keiner wiederkehrenden Formel.
In stilistischer Hinsicht zeichnet sich Thirlwells Schaffen von Offenheit aus, formale Grenzen lässt er hinter sich: Mal arbeitet er mit Bigband-Elementen, mal mit Stilmitteln der Musique concrete, des Minimalismus oder mit Orchester-Parts, mal wechselt er zwischen World Music, Balladen, Punkrock, Hardcore und industriellem Noise und verpackt all dies nicht nur in eine einzige Platte, sondern oft auch in einen einzigen Song.
"Der Liebe wegen"
Mittlerweile hat Thirlwell an die 50 Tonträger geschaffen, als Ein-Mann Band als auch in Kooperation mit anderen Musikern wie JF Coleman (Cop Shot Cop), Lydia Lunch oder Marc Almond. Als Produzent und Remixer von Bands wie Coil, The The, Front 242, Nine Inch Nails und Red Hot Chili Peppers aktiviert sich Thirlwell auch in anderen Bereichen. Daneben kreiert er seine Albumcover, schreibt Soundtracks für Filme und Cartoons, werkt an Installationen und komponiert ein Auftragswerk für das Kronos Quartet für 2006. Und mit LOVE hat Foetus, diesmal mit Vorname Jim, nun die Liste seiner einsilbigen Vierbuchstabenalben (Gash, Null, Boil, Void, Blow, Flow) erweitert.
Sein neuer Streich füllt unsere Ohren mit Soundlandschaften, die viele seiner Alter Egos vereinen: von Steroid Maximus die orchestralen, von Manorexia die instrumentalen und die auf Gesang basierenden, monströsbrachialen von Foetus. Auf LOVE überbrückt er die Gräben zahlreicher musikalischer Felder, hüpft mit geschickten Arrangements von Stil zu Stil, mit andauernd ändernden Geschwindigkeiten. LOVE strotzt vor Ambiguität und tonalen Allegorien, es ist gefüllt mit Streichern, Schellen, Piano, Bass, Saxophon, Perkussion ... – und dem omnipräsenten Spinette. Im Vergleich zu früheren Foetus-Alben klingt LOVE jedoch fast schon besänftigend, wenngleich nur vermeintlich: Denn weniger die Liebe an sich als vielmehr ihre Schattenseiten werden besungen. Seine Stimme erstreckt sich in Angst, Ehrfurcht und Zynismus, rau und heiser durchlöchern Geheimnisse und Lügen, Gewissen und Zeit die Texte.
Foetus lässt uns an einem musikalischen Film teilhaben, der entlang einer sich stetig ändernden Landschaft verläuft, geprägt von carnevalesquen, oft chansonesquen Melodien (Mon Agonie Douce), apokalyptisch-gotischen Elementen (Blessed Everything), wütenden Metall-Riffs (Aladdin Reverse) , düsteren Atmosphären, die in Thrush mit Glockenspiel und "Clicks & Cuts" durchbrochen werden. In Don’t Want Me Anymore begegnet uns Foetus mit seinem teilweise versteckten Klagen heulend wie der Wind - einzig die Harfenklänge schaffen es, die Agonie zumindest musikalisch zu lockern. Ein leidenschaftlich repetitives Piano schafft in Time Marches On den Hintergrund zur Kurzlebigkeit des Daseins. Und der "alte" Foetus findet sich ganz im letzten, white-noise getränkten, Stück wieder: How to Vibrate.
Sein eindringlicher Gesang sowie die Vielzahl an Genres garantieren für Ohrwürmer. Und dennoch verflacht das Album nicht, es laugt sich nicht aus, da selbst bei außergewöhnlich oftmaligem Zuhören die Vielzahl an geformten, wirren und atonalen als auch versteckten Tönen und Resonanzen das Album neu erklingen lassen.
Thirlwell zu seinen Arbeitsweisen und musikalischen Einflüssen, neuen Alben und weiteren Projekte, seinen Erfahrungen beim Donaufestival in Krems, über Publikum und Security - Weiter klicken zum E-Mail Interview (im Original)
derStandard.at: Considering your huge "programme" for 2005/06 in a lot of different fields like music, cartoons, installations, recording, graphic artist, re-mixing, producing - where do you take your time and energy for all of that from?
J. G. Thirlwell: You know time is a precious commodity...that's one of the themes on my new album. Sometimes I have to work 16 hour days and then it lets up.Like many artisis in my position a lot of time is spent organising the business side of things. I keep a lot of plates spinning in the air at once but my projects are often staggered at different stages and I tend to work along way in advance.
As for energy,I love what i do for the most part. I have a lust to keep building this legacy of mine.I like to create fetish objects and sublime moments in time,echos into space.There is a point to that beyond counting down backward to the white light, I hope.
At the moment I am playing with some new ideas and a commission for Kronos Quartet,which premiers next year.Production on the second season ogf the cartoon series the Venture Brothers begins in the early fall. I am also pulling together a collection of remixes from the LOVE album inc contributions from Mike Patton,Matmos,Fennesz,Jason Forrest/Donna Summer,Tweaker and others.
derStandard.at: If you shortly reconsider the time since you have started making music: If any, which were the biggest breaks in your thought and action?
Thirlwell: By biggest breaks do you mean revelations? I think that many of them have been by technologically driven,which have reflected in my work and composing process.
For me production and composition have been linked and intermingled,each informing the other. That and experience-both in work and life- in general both broadens what i can do,what i want to do. And at the same time gives me more baggage.
Shifts in my approaches like making pre production on my own equipment,for example, instead of going directly in recording studios (I was itinerant for the first few years of recording so did the pre-production and composition on paper). The move from 8 track to 24 track studios made a difference,since i recorded all the instruments myself. Then the advent of affordable sampling technology have been impactful on me. Now its about more powerful computing.The more you have the more you want.
I tend to work in technological plateaux,getting all i can out of a particular set up that i have and then revamping it; one foot in the stone age,one foot in the space age.
Then starting to work with charts on live arrangements for my recent live ensmbles with Steven Bernstein has been quite reveletory and exhilerating.
I quit alcohol and other foreign substances some years ago .Re-learning to live then had a big impact on my life.
This is an exciting time for me,but i have always been pushing in many different directions at once.
derStandard.at: In an Interview with Wire you have emphasised early influences such as John Cage. Would you consider his ideas and approaches to music still influential to your work?
Thirlwell: I think i have my own processes which are kind of informed and enlightened by themselves and the roots of whatever i encounter and find inspiring. Cage has gotten into my bloodstream, also some of his later progeny like Tony Conrad,Phil Niblock,Lamonte Young,Pauline Oliveros,Terry Riley. Then again so has countlless soundtracks, hi and lo culture of all types,from glitch to TV commercials,schlager to glam!
Recently I read several of David Toop's books which were very stimulating,particularly "Haunted Weather".
I reach my conclusions thru a twisty type of JG Thirlwellian logic which has its personal idiosyncracies.
The way that it manifests in my music may be far removed from others results but i like being exposed to different processes and forms and open thinking. I am not always in control of what influences me, but one hopes that the end result is an individual expression from within. Sometimes im not even so sure about that!
derStandard.at: Your music can not be referred to one single genre. And you, yourself, have always defied categorisations. On the latest record "LOVE", you have incorporated a part of Foetus, a part of Manorexia, Stereoid Maximus. Can one expect such a mixture for the third part of Manorexia? Has there ever been a distinct delineation in your work, as the different names and musical predominance might suggest?
Thirlwell: No, actually Manorexia really runs off into a universe of its own. Im afraid I dont have catchy ways of describing these things always,cos my muse is elusive. I have been toying with some ideas which may reference something like minimalism for want of a better word, But i wont know what course the third Manorexia album will take until its done.
Yes, there has always been distinct delineations in my work which are prescribed by the different names. Some are more complex and subtle and hard to articulate. But basically Foetus is a vehicle for song based and vocal based music,but what it sounds like changes from album to album,song to song. It charts some of my obsessions. Steroid Maximus is an instrumental project,and is similar to Foetus in that it is maybe meticulously and densely arranged. Perhaps loosely cinematic in sound and arrangement but also encompassing strange out musics that sound like invented ethnology. Manorexia maybe bucked against that meticulousness, and allowed a more spatial element,now i am bringing elements of those parts i introduced to myself with Manorexia back into some elements of Foetus.So it's all me,but different parts of me,using different vehicles for different things i want to express with different moods and identities.
A hallmark that probably runs thru all my work is an element of intensity and drama.
derStandard.at: Your co-operations with other artists, musicians and bands consist of a broad range. Apart from that, you have nevertheless for long been considered as an artist who prefers to work on his own. So somehow it is a bit surprising that you now also work with orchestras, which often exceed the number of people to work with quite a lot. And in Krems you cooperated with quite a special orchestra, whose musicians came from a variety of different backgrounds. How was that going on? What were your experiences there?
Thirlwell: Yes the writing is a usually a solitary process, but the performing is not. Since for a show like the Donaufestival you are rehearsing 22 pieces of music,and refining them as well,in three days,it is a heads down process for me. we were lucky to be blessed with such great players who played the music so well. Advance communications in a project like this is always a challenge as we line up the musicians in advance,and they are from the place we are going to play. So far we have also undertaken it with ensembles in France and in Los Angeles. My orchestrator and trumpet player Steven Bernstein's has a good reservoir of contacts that we use,and spread the word. Some people hear the music in advance,some see charts in advance, and some come in cold. Usually in rehearsal we have the ensemble listen to the track once,then go straight into it,and adjust nuances and changed notes etc as it goes. Thomas Zierhofer at the Donaufestival commmissioned us to create the charts for the second set of material which was a world premiere. As a result we hadnt heard the way the new arrangdements really sounded actually played until we got there. Sometimes the playing has to be different to what it is charted with initially.
derStandard.at: How do you perceive the outcome of such orchestral transformations of your music? Like with Love - for example - which was, from how I understood, originally not recorded with a real orchestra.
Thirlwell: We revoice it for the instrumentation, based on the way that it was on the original recording, given the instruments we have at hand.For example sometimes I may have a whole orchestra playing one part with various counter melodies on different instruments,we might replace a low orchestral part with two trombones,and switch off other parts between trumpets and bass clarinet,with strings replacing a vocal part.Then strengthen with a keyboard part. Its all arrangement and rearrangement,or backwards engineering. I had felt for some time that i wasnt getting satisfaction out of realising my music in a "rockband" format as it got dumbed down and a lot of the nuance and subtlety and timbre got squashed out.
derStandard.at: During your orchestral performances you have mentioned in an interview that you like a sitting audience. In Krems, for example, this was the case. But during the performance of "LOVE", it also led to some quite "acute" situations, when those amongst the audience - immersed in and enjoying the concert - where not allowed near the stage neither to stand next to nor even near to the chairs. Did you realise during your performance, that there was nobody "near"? How in general do you approach such obedience to sitting orders, often generated by "security bulls" in situations like there?
Thirlwell: That was the first time i had performed that Foetus set. I think the seats could have been closer. I havent reconciled that with venues and performances,and sometimes a venue is perfect,sometimes it doesnt work so well. Im not so conscious of obedience and security factors! They werent really discussed in advance. People acting like assholes at a show like that are often all too aware that they are acting like assholes.Believe me I have seen them at my shows. Personally I dont like being at shows where people's behaviour infringes on my enjoyment of the show,but i have had this discussion before with other artists,how can you ask to regulate how people express their enjoyment of your show?I have seen bands stop shows when the mosh pit gets too violent, I have personally physically attacked people who have spat at me,and i know at least one performer who has stopped a show because someone in the room was talking! If someone decides to pull their pants down and stick their ass in your face, it can somehow distract from a spell you are trying to cast, maybe they should stick with doing that outside at the bar and see how many friends they make.
derStandard.at: That huge chair with the TV on the top of your flat (which can be seen in Wire as well as on your webpage): is it meant to be a kind of "answer" to the Watchtower opposite, or is it a place for inspiration?
That was originally built as a prop for a scene in the film version of J.G.Ballards "The Atrocity Exhibition", for which i was the music supervisor and did some scoring. It stayed there after the filming some years ago and has become something of a landmark in Dumbo,the neighboutrhood I live in in Brooklyn. It is quite nice to climb up into it. The TV doesnt actually work but you do feel like you are the pilot of something...if not your own destiny. (cra)