Asmus Tietchens is a name that requires nointroduction for those who have been following the evolution of the mostexperimental spectrum of electronic music for the last three decades. Morethan an interview, the following conversation is a brief voyage through thecareer of one the most important German sound artists.
Chain D.L.K.: What can you tell about your latest work, Zeta-Menge?
Asmus Tietchens: Zeta-Menge is the sixth album in an ongoing MENGEN series. On this CDI tried to create spatial structures without being “spacy.” There is anacoustic foreground and an acoustic background. My main interest is the inthe room between foreground and background.
Chain D.L.K.: You developed the Kontact der Jünglinge project with Thomas Könerwww.koener.de. What was the concept behind it? Was it an homage toKarlheinz Stockhausen, or did it go beyond that?
Asmus Tietchens: In a way the name Kontakt der Jünglinge is an homage to the Big Karlheinz.But musically, it absolutely is not. We never aimed to make electronic musiclike Stockhausen. Thomas and I enjoy improvising live with preformedmaterials; we like to surprise each other in a live situation. So themajority of our performances does not sound like typical Köner or Tietchens.Much more we try to step beyond our own stylistical borders. By the way, wejust began to record our first studio album.
Chain D.L.K.: Going back into the past, you started working during very prolific periodsin contemporary German musical history. Although having always a very strongidentity, did you ever feel, in any way, affiliated with any movement oraesthetic, like — for instance — the “industrial” one?
Asmus Tietchens: Yes, in the early ’80s, after my “Sky Period,” I felt connected with theindustrial movement. Remember, my first post-“Sky” records have beenreleased on industrial labels like United Diaries and Esplendor Geométrico. But soon I found my own path, whichdiffered more and more from the typical industrial attitude. Industrial wasa very important and thrilling starting point for further developments inthe direction of musique concrète and advanced electronic music.
Chain D.L.K.: On the other hand, you also were in contact with the Krautrock generation,isn’t that right? Did you have any kind of relationship with it?
Asmus Tietchens: Not really. I never prefered that acid stuff à la Klaus Schulze, ThrobbingGristle, etc. But there is one exception: In 1976 I was part of the groupLiliental with Dieter Moebius (Cluster + Harmonia) and others. We recordedone album at Conny Planck’s studio; that album was released in 1978 on theBrain label as Liliental
Chain D.L.K.: With such a long career, how do you see the current production, regardingelectronic and experimental music? Has hedonism replaced conceptual thought?Does the avant garde still exist?
Asmus Tietchens: The avant garde still exists, but luckily it is not the old avant garde. Alot of new composers/musicians developed the genre of experimentalelectronic music very carefully. I do not think that hedonism has replacedconceptual thinking. Of course there is a lot banal electronic stuff around,but in the same way serious approaches increased. The ratio of both is thesame as it was in the early ’80s, but nowadays we have more from both ofthem. These immense quantities make it difficult to separate the chaff fromthe wheat.
Chain D.L.K.: Electronics have passed from the “laboratories” (including at universities)to mass production. Do you find any significant changes in composition, fromthe technical point of view?
Asmus Tietchens: Of course digital tools changed the compositional approaches of manymusicians. As it did in the ’80s when cheap synthesizers and cheapmulti-track recorders became available. Now everyone can buy good computersand useful software for a handful of Euros. That’s really democratic. Andstill you and I (the listeners) decide what we want to listen to. Maybe thisanswers the question of quality.
Chain D.L.K.: What are your projects for the near future, concerning artistic and/oracademic work?
Asmus Tietchens: Besides the above mentioned studio album with Thomas Köner, I am preparingthe next MENGEN album, Eta-Menge, to be released by Line this fall.And after a 12-year break I started again to experiment with the sounds ofdripping water. So far I already recorded three new “Hydrophonien.” Earlynext year Seuchengebiete 4 will be released on Die Stadt.
Chain D.L.K.: You were a professor of Sound Installations at the Hamburg Arts School,right? Do you still teach?
Asmus Tietchens: I am not a professor, but a lecturer. I taught sound design and audiotechnology at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences. I still do so.
Chain D.L.K.: In an interview once given to a Portuguese publication (Monitor,issue #1, June 1993), you stated that the Marches Funébres album was”total kitsch,” which is a rather curious thought. Is that still youropinion?
Asmus Tietchens: The whole album isn’t kitschy, oh no! Just “Grünschattiger Nachmittag.” Yes,this piece is still big-time kitsch, it should have been a joke. The conceptwas to let Django dance the Bolero with schmaltzy strings and patheticdrums. Didn’t it work?
Visit Asmus Tietchens on the web at:
[interviewed by Nuno Loureiro] [proofreading by Benjamin Pike]