"..n a path of total robotic submission.."
Composer and designer Uwe Schmidt is one of experimental electronic music's most prolific and prodigious post-techno experimentalists. Issuing a flood of material under a variety of pseudonyms (from singles and compilation tracks to scads of EPs and full-lengths) and maintaining an almost daunting album-a-month release schedule through his own Rather Interesting label, Schmidt's discography has expanded into the hundreds despite the fact he's only been actively recording for just over a decade. Although his first instrument was a drum kit, Schmidt became fascinated with the possibilities of analog electronics early on, trading his set for a drum machine and borrowing a four-track and some keyboards from friends. His earliest tracks were dance music-focused -- primarily hardcore techno, acid, and trance -- but by the mid-'90s his sound had departed from the monochromaticism of typical dancefloor fare into dense, complex, multi-layered sound constructions not easily reducible to any one genre. Incorporating elements of techno, acid, ambient, jazz, funk, electro,'60 exotica, and psychedelic rock, Schmidt's current work, though highly rhythmic, is hardly classifiable as dance music at all, lying at the intersection of a sort of future-anterior auteurism and tongue-in-cheek experimentalism unique in contemporary electronica. Orange Although prolific since his first singles as I, Atomu Shinzo, Bi-Face, and Mike McCoy, Atom Heart began stepping up his production in the early to mid-'90s in association with the noted trance and ambient label Fax, also based in Frankfurt. Through a number of solo and collaborative outings with Tetsu Inoue and label-head Pete Namlook, Schmidt helped to formulate the melodic hard trance and techno sounds associated with the Frankfurt scene, and also had the opportunity to dabble in other forms of electronic experimentation, particularly ambient (to which Fax almost wholly shifted its focus). He released a handful of Fax titles during this period -- including Orange, Datacide, Softcore, and Coeur Atomique -- before Namlook established the Rather Interesting label as a subsidiary of Fax dedicated to Atom Heart-related projects. Although he continues to release material under other names as well (most notably as Lassigue Bendthaus and the Lisa Carbon Trio), his focus remained on Rather Interesting, releasing a somewhat bewildering (given the consistent quality) CD every month and forging a sophisticated, singular aesthetic. Although each title was limited to a 1000-copy pressing, many of them are among the most accomplished, original examples of post-techno experimental electronic music available, utilizing complex split-channel effects and integrated melodic and rhythmic shifts with an iterative, almost mathematical (though never simply derived) eclecticism. During 1999 and 2000, Schmidt earned a higher profile among American listeners with the release of several projects, beginning with Flanger's Templates (recorded with Bernd Friedman of Nonplace Urban Field) on the Ninja Tune sublabel Ntone. In 2000, two covers albums -- Pop Artificielle as lb and El Baile Aleman as Señor Coconut y Su Conjunto -- gained a comparatively wide release. The former, distributed through Shadow, featured synth pop covers of pop hits including Donovan's "Sunshine Superman" and David Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes"; the latter, an Emperor Norton release, focused on Kraftwerk songs, performed by Heart's Latin alias Señor Coconut. His Dos Tracks personality released it's debut album the following year, but it wasn't available outside of his website until 2002. Schmidt has also, with less frequency, given his hand to remixing, working over tracks from the likes of Prong, Pankow, the Swamp Zombies, and Resistance D.
Hello, how are you?
Pretty, pretty, pretty good!
What are you currently listening to?
Care to tell us a little bit about your latest release 'HD'; theme, favorite track(s), recording snags, etc.?
I have no favorite track, I have to admit. Throughout the process of making the album my relationships towards all of the songs usually oscillate quite a bit and at some stage I must have hated each single one of them. Once the thing was done and delivered I then finally could obtain some sort of neutral perspective on the album and have to say that until now I find it a pretty homogenic and "even" album to listen to. In general I find it very important not to have a single "mediocre" or "less crafted" track on any production. Mainly that's because I make the music for myself in the first place and therefore don't see why I should include compositions I'm not 100% fond of. The production process for 'HD' began a long time ago, when the album had a different name and concept. Throughout all those years I went back to the first batch of songs, decided to delete some, reworked others and finally composed 6 new ones for 'HD'. It's been an exciting process, especially because it took so long. Most of the initial tracks I turned totally upside-down, wrote new lyrics and more or less re-recorded everything. At some stage it felt like one of those Picasso paintings, that were started as a "flower" and ended up as "a woman's head". I like that fact that the final album now has all those "ancient" layers of sound. It contains 7 year old guitar recordings on one hand, while for example Jamie Lidell's recording was probably the very last one made for the album.
Did you find it "easier" to make a "Pop" album like this compared to your previous more noise/glitch experimentations?
Let's say, I have a gift for making any musical production a difficult one :) That's to a certain degree the fun part. I find relatively little entertainment in doing things the easy way. That is, I of course enjoy difficult ideas having simple and quick solutions, yet usually that's not the case. When I did, what then was to be called "glitch", around 1997 or so, there were no "glitch" plug-ins available, you know…making that music was a challenge, and complicated to a certain extend, because the aesthetic framework had to be invented from scratch and somehow "be done". Every type of music, may it be abstract or song oriented, a new composition or a cover version, a remix or something entirely improvised, contains difficulties and certain tasks that can be done quickly or "in depth". That said, I don't find "Pop" easier or more complicated than any other music.
How did you pick the guest spots for this release?
I think that each of those songs lacked some specific element, which I felt could better be contributed by somebody else. Hence I was thinking about who those artists could be and so that selection came about. Perhaps the only exception would be Jamie Lidell, since I had written "I Love U (Like I Love My Drum Machine)" specifically FOR him.
Will you be touring the US for said release?
I hope so. I will play 'HD' on the 4th of May at the Bunker in Brooklyn and the day before at the 'Elektra' festival in Montreal, where 'HD' will have its World premiere. The 'Bunker' show then will be the U.S. premiere accordingly. There is no "tour" planned, yet that may happen sooner as you think.
Got any other projects we should know about?
The only parallel project I'm working on right now is called "Bauteile". It's a collaboration with friend and colleague Marc Behrens. The "Bauteile" composition was initially commissioned and then transmitted for the "Deutschlandradio" radio program, but as well saw a small live presentation at this year's CTM in Berlin. The now 50 minute piece we are planning to expand into it's full and final version and we will continue to work on it around April/May, and hopefully complete the composition by then. A second radio transmission is planned for 2014. Then there are all kinds of small projects going on, more like isolated tracks I am working on with or for other artists, yet, in general I have very much reduced my collaborative works since I prefer to focus on my solo stuff at the moment.
What movie would work best on mute while listening to your music?
Any early Buster Keaton movie will do.
You can only keep/listen to ONE album for the rest of your life ..which album would it be?
What a terrible thought and ultimate nightmare! Probably that would be some field recording of insects or something alike...
Are you living your dream?
Let's say, I'm very happy with what I'm doing, and how I'm doing it. However, there is a certain amount of irrationality in it all, in the sense that one does not know why a path was chosen or how it proved to be functioning. It's all a big mystery to me and in general I believe that there are much more pre-determined factors in life than we want to believe. That said, I am aware of the fact that life may come around with all kinds of surprises, at any moment. It would be foolish to stick to a dream, apart from the fact that we use to live somebody else's dreams, rarely our own.
Atom™ is currently touring Europe (here and there) hopefully one day soon the US...