Filed under: Interview
Interview by Laura Brown (ArcTokyo)
HRFQ : You played at the SonarSound festival this past weekend in Tokyo. You did a DJ set? How was your experience there?
Akufen : Incredible as usual.Playing Japan is always overwhelming.Each of my experiences was very unique and memorable on japanese soil.Really I cannot think of one disturbing memory over there,my hosts have always been more than good to me and the audience is just fabulous.Japanese people never seem to get bored aren’t they (smile).I wish everywhere I go everyone was as generous and appreciating as these people.Much respect.
HRFQ : How did you initially get started in electronic music? What insprired you initially?
Akufen : I got started around the age of fourteen.As we were entering the 80’s I was quite young and not so impressed with a lot of the pop and rock music I was hearing.So I guess the alternative for many of us was the blossoming new wave sound that was combining pop and visionary modern thinking.At the forefront of that cultural revolution were standing Kraftwerk,Telex,Devo,Cabaret Voltaire and Sakamoto’s YMO which by the way was my highlight of Sonarsound in Tokyo.Their music is still fresh and these men have aged like a fine wine.There is hope (smile).It’s only a little while later,around the age of sixteen, that I was introduced to Steve Reich and Philip Glass’s work which was I believe THE turning point in my life and than it all became clear that music was now a choice,a way of living and thinking.
HRFQ : You’ve gotten such rave reviews from your Fabric album. Can you tell a bit about how this project came about?
Akufen : It was quite unexpected.I was invited the very first time to perform live at Fabric by local dj Craig Richards who has been responsible for getting me and many other artists known in the UK.The first appearance being a success I was reinvited within only a few moths to perform at the prestigious London club.From time to time my business relationship with the Frabric people became a healthy friendship and then one day the Fabric 17 was kindly offered to me.Not only these people were giving me the chance to release a mix cd without even knowing my djing skills but they were also giving me absolute freedom in regards to the musical selection.I am greatful to that.I didn’t want to do just another over-edited mix cd with the usual names featured.I wanted it to be my gift to those artists and friends who helped me in many ways to get where I am today.Their music has been and will always be very inspirational.Let them be heard!
HRFQ : Can you talk a bit about your other projects, for example Anna Kaufen?
Akufen : Anna Kaufen was a one hit project and was never meant to become a regular alias in my mind.It was a joke to start with….and a damn good one apparently (smile).It’s fine like this.I think aliases are meant to diversify and try other directions but I believe they should remain restricted zones.My only alias at the moment is Horror inc. and it is more of a schizophrenic one.The mr Hyde of dr Akufen let’s put it this way (smile). It really frees me from that sound signature called micro-whatever and which I’m forever being associated with.An artist sensibility is sadly often in the shadow of the sound or the technique he has developped.Anyway we’ll see what happens when mr Hyde kills dr Akufen (smile).
HRFQ : What else are you currently working on?
Akufen : Being a good father and a better person (smile). An album.I’m working on a new album,the second one.It’s been three years almost since My Way but I like to take my time.Besides that I’ve been remixing artists and traveling regularly to perform.I have also taken care of my record label Musique Risqu?e which is my top priority at the moment.When you look after artists you want to give them what’s best and it tkes time to get to know them right.Every relationship has to be special.
HRFQ : Sometimes your music is described as Micro-House. How do you feel about this categorization?
Akufen : Micro-house was XLR8R journalist and friend Philip Sherburne’s quote and it resumed pretty much what it was from Herbert to now.On a more technical and political aspect I prefered to coin it myself micro-sampling cause it is a sampling based music and whoever knows me also know that I will always be a sampling junky.I feel the importance of recycling sound matter as much as recycling our natural ressources.Now there is a whole debate as to know who’s doing it ethically but that’s another story in itself. Can we avoid categorizations?I don’t think now but in the future music should be classified from A to Z. Personally I don’t see much difference between what Bach, Serge Gainsbourg or Atom heart are doing.All three of them give me that same uplifting sensation when I listen to their work.We’re reaching that point where music will be so complicated to identify that any categorization will become confusing and obsolete. Music will always be music.
HRFQ : Can you describe your working process a bit?
Akufen : I’m fucking up with music’s genetic (smile).I dissect sounds from various everyday sources,whatever it is the radio,tv, answering machine or field recording and fusion those elements into one big organism. The main idea of sound collage has been existing for decades already.The surrealists, the canadian automatists, the beat poets.They all did it with sound, film, painting and writing.It is based primarily on intuition.At first it may seem like a lot of nonsense but subconsciously it takes all its sense.It opens a window to an imagery which vary for each spectator.Now am I going to use this method always….I would say as long as sampling won’t be recognized legally as a pure form of art.
HRFQ : Usually you work primarily solo. Are there any artists you’d really like to work with, but haven’t yet done soH
Akufen : I prefer working solo.I’m a stuborn bastard (smile).I’d love collaborating but I always had a problem getting along with other musicians which is why I ended up making electronic music.Because it made me self-suffiscient. Now are there names? Quite a few….but I’ll name three.Steve Reich, Negativland and Uwe Schmidt.
HRFQ : How has living in Montreal influenced your music?
Akufen : In many ways. Montreal is a muticultural village disguised as a city.That’s how montrealers see it. It’s the most european you can get in North America,culturally, gastronomically, artistically and aesthetically.The fact that it is an island kind of isolate us from the rest of the world and it isn’t bad at all.As a portuary city,Montreal have seen a lot of new things and tendencies coming in and out which is why the music that emerges from Montreal is quite special. Because it is a healthy combination of various cultures and compimentary colours.Let’s be realistic,breeding is our only hope.
HRFQ : Regarding the structure in your live sets, you are currently Fruity Loops? What other new technologies are you currently using?
Akufen : Well, for performing live I use Ableton Live 4 which is pretty much the standard for a lot of musicians out there.It’s simple,reliable and interactive like no other software.As for writing music Fruity Loops which is now called FLstudio is my main sequencer.I’ve been using it for six years already and I still can’t get tired of it.It’s a basic step sequencer that allows you to layer as many sounds or loops wanted which is exactly what I need for what I do.I’m not the effect freak since I think that too much processing is killing the dynamic, same as Robert Schumann who once said that using too much sustain pedal on the piano is just annoying and meant to camouflage mistakes.Beside the FLstudio I’ve been using Sonic Foundry Soundforge for six years also.It is my main virtual sampler,very powerful and intuitive.Not to mention the plug-ins and hardware such as the Elektron Machinedrum, the Roland MC-202, a Nordlead 2, a Doepfer modular system A-100 and a Fender Telecaster guitar.There’s no big secrets really,just a bunch of handy tricks and many hours of trying things out. It’s all about bluring traces.
HRFQ : What new labels and artists have recently caught your attention?
Akufen : New labels? I would say Orac from Seattle, Karloff from Cologne and the new Freude Am Tanzen’s stuff is absolutely brilliant. As for the award for best new producers I would give it to Robag Whrume, Steven Ford aka “Bruno Pronsato”, the not so new Matt Haines aka “the Rip-Off-artist and my boys from Montreal, Deadbeat, Steven Beaupr?, Mossa and Egg.
HRFQ : You just played in Japan. Generally, how do different audiences differ in their reception and acknowledgment to your music?
Akufen : As I said earlier, every experience,every crowd have been unique in many ways since I’ve started playing in Japan.The reception has been always very good because when you give your best,japanese people sense that and they give it back twice as much.I have to say I have a little something for Kyoto.The country side is breathtaking, the temples and the space,there si so much more open air in Kyoto than anywhere else.The streets and sidewalks are wide, the nature is all around.I’m a little claustrophobic and I feel a little more at home in Kyoto.But overall Japan is fascinating and I would definitely love to share this with my six year old daughter. She’s never been there but she always aks me, “when am I going to go to Japan with you”.
HRFQ : Lastly, any message to Japanese fans?
Akufen : Respect, many greetings and much love to all of you.Is there anything else really that could be said?
End of the interview
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