Rutger Zuydervelt doesn’t really need any introduction: if the family name of this Dutch prolific (he’s so prolific that I cannot rule out the possibility that he had other releases between the moment he answered our questions and when we’ve put them online!) and protean sound artist and graphic designer might maybe sound unfamiliar to some of you, I’m pretty sure his nom de plume Machinefabriek will not. I received it from Baskaru and listened to his self-signed release “Stay Tuned!“, which the label defined as “a walk through the orchestra” because it was made with the contribution of 153 different musicians (including more or less known names such as Dirk Serries, Richard Pinhas, Benoit Pioulard, Steve Roden, Erik Skodvin, Stephan Mathieu, Sarah Kemp, Andy Moor, Vic Rawlings, Takashi Ueno, Stephen Vitiello, Morten J.Olsen and many more….) who just played an A note on different instruments or by means of their own voice. These compositions later got assembled by Rutger. We decided to have a chat with his brilliant author.
Chain D.L.K.: Hi Rutger. How are you?
Rutger Zuydervelt: I’m good, thanks. Just returned home after recording another schoolyard with screaming kids, for an installation I’m working on.
Chain D.L.K.: We recently introduced a collection of your music for the fans on Zoharum, in the guise of Machinefabriek yet. It’s quite rare you use your real name to sign a record as you recently did for “Stay Tuned”, on Baskaru…should we assume that you are going to finish with Machinefabriek step by step by offering some residual scraps…?
Rutger Zuydervelt: Nope, that’s not the case. Sometimes I use my ‘normal’ name because I think it’s more appropriate. When I’m in a collaboration, it feels strange to use Machinefabriek while the collaborator uses his/her real name. Or when it’s more of an art project. But I’m not so strict on this issue… But no, Machinefabriek will continue.
Chain D.L.K.: As I consider your collaboration with Peter Broderick one of the best musical acts, as well as one of my personal favorites of the decade, satisfy my curiosity…any chances to “reprise” that astonishing collaboration?
Rutger Zuydervelt: Nothing in the works, I’m sorry! And I’m so busy with other stuff that I’m not really thinking about it. Also, despite the fact that I also really like that collaboration, I’m not sure it’s the kind of stuff I want to do now…
Chain D.L.K.: Regarding collaborations, is there any of them which left undeletable traces on your artistic and musical soul?
Rutger Zuydervelt: One of my favorites is definitely the one with Stephen Vitiello, especially live. We did two performances in Canada, for which we both gave each other a box of (not necessarily musical) objects at the start of the gigs. So it was a surprise for the audience but also for us, what we would find in those boxes. And we improvised using these ‘gifts’, processing the sounds, looping them, etc. It was great fun, but also liberating.
There’s also my collaborations with choreographer Iván Pérez, for whom I did a few scores, and I am starting a new one this month. The processes of these projects are incredibly rewarding and inspiring. From the early stages of the pieces I was involved in, with the choreography and music growing simultaneously, we fed of off each other.
Chain D.L.K.: Could you introduce your recent ones – Shivers and DNMF -?
Rutger Zuydervelt: Shivers is a trio with drummer Leo Fabriek (Julie Mittens), my regular collaborator Gareth Davis, on bass clarinet, and me doing editing, processing, etc. The project started because a mutual friend of ours, a filmmaker, asked us to collaborate to make the soundtrack for a documentary. Leo and Gareth did some recording sessions, sending the result to me to play around with. That worked really well, and we wanted to continue making music, so we started with what is now the Shivers album. I’m quite fond of that one, because I think it doesn’t really sound like anything either of us did before. It started as a fun experiment, trying weird juxtapositions of cheesy synth sounds with the free-jazz drumming of Leo and moody lines of Gareth. And it worked! That was sort of an ‘eureka’ moment.
DNMF started because we got in contact, and I got the idea to do a remix or something similar. Quite quickly we decided it should be more than that, and the idea of DNMF was born. We sent each other some recordings and started adding things. It all went super quickly, to our surprise. And actually, now that I’ve said this, I should also say that we are discussing, and making first steps for the next DNMF album!
Chain D.L.K.: You mainly followed the DIY philosophy to spread your music out. Would you say that it was the best possible choice?
Rutger Zuydervelt: I try to do a lot of things myself, but also release stuff on labels. Both have advantages. But I try to do as much as possible myself. I do my own cover designs, deal with live requests myself, etc.. And I think it worked out quite well. It’s a lot of work, but it paid off. Also, because my music is like ‘my baby’, I can’t easily let go of it…
Chain D.L.K.: When you don’t work under commission, how would you describe your eureka moments while making music?
Rutger Zuydervelt: When the result is unexpected, in a good way. So surprise is the most important element. Especially when combining things, either audio layers, or audio with video or dance, sometimes miraculous, unforeseen things happen. Those are what I’d call ‘Eureka-moments’.
Chain D.L.K.: Your music has often been reasonably labelled as “enchanting”, “beautiful” and so on…Have you ever felt “contempt” for your music?
Rutger Zuydervelt: If I don’t like it, I wouldn’t release it. So yes, I like it. Basically, I’m making the music that I want to hear (at that moment). Not that I play my own music daily, but there are not many things I regret putting out.
Chain D.L.K.: I’ve noticed that the inspirational source of many of your own records by comes from retina. How do you turn a visual impression into sound?
Rutger Zuydervelt: Did I say that? Because I’m not sure. I am a trained graphic designer, and there are similarities between doing visual and audio work. And I’m sure that everything I do has an influence on my music, so also visual information can have an impact, but still, for me, the main inspiration still comes from the ears, listening to other’s music, the environment, etcetera.
There are exceptions… like when I did the soundtrack for a film about Sol LeWitt… that music was very much inspired by his visual work. It’s almost a literal translation of it, to audio. And when doing scores for dance, the movements are, of course, also important, for me to react on…
Chain D.L.K.: Have you ever experienced alterations of perception of time while making music?
Rutger Zuydervelt: Oh yes, especially live! If a gig goes well, I can lose track of time easily. Like when I performed in Moscow a while back, I was pretty sure I played for 40 minutes, but it turned out to be 20….
Chain D.L.K.: What are the worst compliments and the best criticisms you received?
Rutger Zuydervelt: I made a sticker with a sentence that was in a review: “I’d rather have my hand slammed in a car door than listen to this”. That was pretty brutal and very funny, I think. Maybe that’s the worst and the best at once?
Chain D.L.K.: Have you ever imagined a world with total absence of sounds? If so, have you ever tried to turn such a figment of imagination into sound?
Rutger Zuydervelt: That’s hard to imagine. I guess it would feel claustrophobic. And you mean if I tried to translate the idea of the absence of sounds into sound? Ehm… don’t think so. With my music, I do try to create environments, like immersive spaces where the listener can dwell in. A bit like an alternative reality maybe. But that might not answer your question.
Chain D.L.K.: I really appreciated “Stay Tuned”, your recent release on Baskaru, a sort of mosaic with 152 different sonic terraces from 152 musicians…could you tell us something about its birth? How long did you work on it?
Rutger Zuydervelt: I started thinking about the moment when an orchestra is tuning their instruments. The last moment of that ritual, when they’re in tune, all playing the same note, that sounds amazing. Basically, I wanted to freeze that moment, and make an installation that ‘simulated’ the effect of walking through the orchestra, past the different instruments, and hearing the individual characteristics of the instruments that make out that big drone.
So I started compiling my ‘dream orchestra’. Just anyone I could think of, that I admire, that I have music from, or that I worked with before. I e-mailed all these musicians and singers, and I was surprised with the positive reactions. Practically everyone agreed to participate! Wow! That e-mailing and waiting for the recordings took quite some time, a few months. I also applied for some grants to use for the project, which also took a lot of time. Then there was the mixing of more than 150 parts… yup… a lot of time…
Chain D.L.K.: Have you checked that each contributor recorded an A for real before assembling them? 🙂
Rutger Zuydervelt: Okay, I don’t think I’ve told anyone yet… but there were a handful of contributions that I slightly pitched, in order to have them more in tune… But that’s a minor detail… in general, I didn’t change anything, and kept the recordings as they were delivered to me.
Chain D.L.K.: Some essayists who focused on the consequences of contemporary capitalism on people’s life often portray people as puppets whose driving force is uncertainty and whose lives got completely fragmented in almost not so meaningful sketches where people are no more the “authors” of their own life… does your music mirror such a state of “civilization”?
Rutger Zuydervelt: There’s a truth in that, but I don’t think it is apparent in my music. At least, I’m not deliberately trying to communicate a message like that.
Chain D.L.K.: Have you noticed a change in the tastes and expectations of your own audience over years?
Rutger Zuydervelt: I don’t really know… I think my output is more varied than in the years before, and so are my life performances. Maybe now it’s a bit more of a surprise, what to expect? To be honest, I’m not really thinking about it much…
Chain D.L.K.: What are the last new entries in your equipment? Is there any piece you’d never change or resell?
Rutger Zuydervelt: Never say never, but my dear friend the Philips tone generator will stay for a long long time… I actually have two of the same, but they’re wonderful. Especially for live performances, this machine is essential. I actually just designed a sticker, based on it [see image]. And the last thing I bought was a second Freeze effects pedal. It simply freezes the sound that goes through it. Fantastic stuff.
Chain D.L.K.: Any work in progress?
Rutger Zuydervelt: Always. As I told you in my first answer, there’s an installation I’m working on, it’s for the children’s museum Villa Zebra, here in Rotterdam. And the new dance piece by Iván Pérez. Then there’s an App for which I’m doing the sound. I also started with the soundtrack for a documentary about photographer Edward Muybridge.
visit Rutger Zuydervelt online at: www.machinefabriek.nu