Daniel Menche has released a series of enigmatic powerful recordings throughout the nineties on such varied labels as Soleilmoon, Side Effects, Trente Oiseaux, and Ash International. His music straddles many hard-to-define boundaries and genres as indicated by the labels that have released his work. His music could be described as "noisy ambient" or "dark ambient" along the lines of Aube though much less clinical but with the same exploratory flair and rigor. Interview conducted by e-mail, summer 1998.
1. Could you explain your interest in making music, or your intentions, and how these intentions are reflected in the final musical product? I'm interested in how you get from thinking about a sound source or a technique, to the final product, say a track called "Fist Full of Hell" or a CD called "Legions in the Walls".
I approach sound similarly to how someone would write a book or maybe even a movie - first I find the intent I want - the feeling or mood I'm looking for in a full release or track - and then I create or find the sounds to fit the "story" of the recording - just like in writing. I focus heavily on the beginning, middle and end - and make sure there's a good relationship of the three - I can't just put together a bunch of noise or sounds and just say to myself this sounds good - it's more like "are the sounds telling a story on their own", so from that approach - this determines the titles of recordings and the style of art and the overall mood of the release or track. It's very difficult to explain or interpret what my music conveys - so that's why I work hard so that the music can speak for itself - no matter how vague the message or imagery - the energy of what it's communicating is what remains most evident.
2. What are your thoughts on how your music is perceived by the listener, and does it matter to you if your music is misunderstood or "misused" by the listener?
It's not much of a matter how my music is percieved - I hope people get something out of it so they can be inspired to do something personal and creative - I get some really sincere people complementing me for my work - I can see it in their eyes that they really get something special out of it and that inspires me a lot. But to be honest I really hate record collectors - they buy the music but dont really listen to it - this I consider a good example of misuse, I wish this genre of music wasn't so dominated by record collectors, because I really doubt they care about the music - this bothers me a lot - the concept that most people interested in this genre of music are into it strictly for the collectors aspect - it's sad I think. There's a small ratio of people who are into it for honest and sincere reasons, and those people "understand" and "use" music and art in general.
3. I'm thinking of you being (mis?) perceived as a "noise" musician, or an "industrial", or "ambient" musician with all the baggage that carries - what is your relation (as fan or musician) to those genres? Or does it not matter as long as you're music gets heard?
I realize this is an opinion many don't want to hear but the words "noise", "industial", "ambient" and especially "experimental" are very inaccurate descriptions for the music I make - I know many people are loyal to those terms but they're just names for musical "fashions" and have nothing to do with actual music. But the term "noise" is appropriate for music that's truly being "unmusic" but I really don't think I create "noise" purely - so that descrption would fit for other people but not for my work. I'm definitely mispercieved greatly - many listeners don't know where to place my music, everyone has a hard time describing it and especially trying to market it. It's really weird - any label I'm on I'm out of place - at any show I perform with completly different style groups - its always weird for me. Compliations are also weird for me - I'm on harsh noise comps and ambient comps and I definitely don't fit in with the rest. Maybe that's a good thing - but yes I do agree - it really doesn't matter as long as the music is heard - I really dont care about genres - so many people are so dedicated to genres and fashions of music - I really don't care at all. And I think it's funny when people dont like certain music if it isn't an exact genre - if it's good music then great - no matter what genre. When it comes to listening or creating music I got no pride in any genres.
4. Do you find it difficult to talk about your music or performances to people who are not music-makers themselves?
Oh, yes, definitely but I keep it rather secret from people - especially in the city I live in - a lot of people know me personally but have never heard my music - I keep it very quiet because it's impossible to explain to people who are easily confused. Some people would say - "oh, is it like Tomita or Tangerine Dream or New Age??" and i would say back: "um...sort of, but recorded using steroids and only pro wrestlers listen to it," then they look at me confused and don't ask any more questions.
5. What are your non-musical (books, films, etc.) inspirations for making music?
I have a lot of influences - possibly to many to explain but - I saw "Eraserhead" when I was very young and that did a lot to me as a child - and I remember when I saw the movie "Jacob's Ladder" that it struck a raw nerve with me - I imagined doing my own soundtrack to it - so that movie really pushed me to put deep emotion in my music at the time it came out. Recently the T.V. show "Millenium" is one of my favorites and i like the music to that a lot. I'm inspired by the dark emotion of it a lot, and recently the movie "Gummo" is my latest favorite flick - and I'm an enormous B-Movie fanatic - got a collection that's endless - but mostly the main inspirations are my personal experiences - I remember sounds almost photographically and these memories become inspirational - for instance when I worked at a slaughterhouse in an meat packing factory - I experienced some really fucked stuff there - i was 14 at the time and worked a full summer and i got so many crazy stories to tell, I could write a book about the storires - and yes I am a vegetarian and I can thank that job for making me into one. I remember a lot of the sounds from that place - another experience is that I lived throughout my childhood next to the airport - so the bass from the jets would shake everything. I always loved that at night - so that probably explains why I use so much bass in my music-as far as books I really don't read much any more but I plan to start reading a lot more in the near future. I like a lot of photography artists like Joel Peter Witkins - his work instantly inspires me greatly - the philosophy behind it and everything. Also i am inspired a lot by Butoh dance - any time I see performances i get a lot of sound ideas.
6. Did you select the paintings for the "Screaming Caress" CD booklet? They seemed (to me) very appropriate.
Eric Stotik did the paintings - he's done a lot of my other releases - he lives here in my city and he's a fantastic artist - really excellent attitude about everything - definitely an inspiration to me - for "Screaming Caress" I had to fight to have his paintings on it - I wanted a "Comic Book" look to it - sorta comical yet confusingly dark - not your usual Side Effects release - I definitely wanted a unique look to confuse the listener a bit, and Eric's artwork is always perfect for my releases - his work confuses the viewer with horror and humour - but always very beautyful.
7. Which one of your releases are you most pleased with and why?
I think "Screaming Caress" becuase I worked so hard on it and put all my blood into it to make it what it is - because while recording it there was criticism and doubts flying at me everywhere - I really had to have a lot of faith in the recording and I had to fight for everything for that release - Side Effects had a lot of disagreements about everything on "Screaming Caress" from the music to the art to the text - even the title had disagreements - but it all worked out in the end. "Static Burn" was also another CD that i really worked on very hard because I wanted to have a release to "out do" my previous first CD "Incineration", which i still like but it was recorded very poorly (my fault) and now i am remastering "Incineration" for a re-release. The last two releases "Field of Skin" and "Vent" I like a lot but I approached them in a completly different way than the previous releases because I put more energy into the creativity of sounds and arrangements - they're less emotional and more physical, a more disjointed and rawer way to present my sounds but they are a good continuation from the previous recordings. As far as "legions in the walls" that was a simple documentation of live performances - but I dont acknowledge that release much.
8. I don't want to turn this into a "contact mic FAQ" but could you describe your compositional process, and the types of techniques used in making and recording your music?
I have a casual way of recording sounds and such - I use the worst, cheapest tape recorders - sometimes old portable reel to reel recorders - but usual always crunchy mono field recordings - I do this mostly because I like the sound but also I am extremely poor all the time and can never afford a portable DAT recorder. Then along with that I use cheap handmade contact mics - I make them weird so I can beat on them and fuck them up a bit so they don't break - and I put them on simple objects like stones, wood, dirt, whatever, anything I find on the ground that fancies me. And then of course I use a lot of recordings from my body using contact mics and other weird mics - so I got a lot of sound sources but all of them are simple and modest and most of all "cheap".
9. You said you're musical activities have slowed down considerably - does that mean you don't have any releases in the works? What about any live performances in the future?
Yes - I'm definitely slowing down - actually it's more like the brakes are being pressed now - just recently my new CD on Touch/Or called "Vent" came out and I recently finished a recording for the labal G.M.B.H for a 3" CD titled "Scourge, That's her Name" - I've reached a time in my activity that I really should stop for a few years so I can come back with something truly refreshing and new. I dont want to cover the same terrain. I dont want to be like the rest and release a billion releases that all sound the same - I'm always worried about each release having its own identity - and not being sonically redundant - oh sure I got a lot of recordings now from past years that I could release 3 or 4 CDs right now but why do that and be like everyone else - "quality" not "quantity" is important and if I need a few years or even decades to get one excellent CD then I'm doing that - and that's what I want to do - I want to wait for my name to dissapear and be forgotten and I'll come back with a new start and a new perception and record something really really good. And i feel the listener will appreciate this a lot also. I think it's a really wise decision for me - the listener will thank me for this decision in the long run. Concerning live performances - that's an uncertain issue - because I love to travel and my music allows me to travel - so if I get anymore invitations to travel and perform I still will do that - but my equipment is damaged and boring to me - nothing to really use live anymore - and I've performed the same style of performances for quite some time now which is rather abusive to my equipment and myself - so if I do perform live it must be something really simple and different - but again as i said before nothing is certain - but yes i'll always accept invintations to perform. And I'm always looking for soundtrack work - but hardly anyone has invited me yet. But I'm waiting.
1994 FURNACE FUCKER (C-46, G.R.O.S.S: GR-029)
1995 BLOOD SAND (C-60, Noise Recordings: NA 12)
1995 DARK VELOCITY (C-?, Banned Productions: BPDM2)
1994 MSBR/D.MENCHE collaboration (7", MSBR Records: MR08)
1995 THE CHROME HOMICIDE (7", Banned Productions: BPDM1)
1995 FURIOUS ECLIPSE (12" EP, Soleilmoon Recordings: SOLV 001)
1995 NAPATHE/D.MENCHE (split 7", Elysiam Recordings: ERR 001)
1995 VULGAR SCRATCH (7", Gender Less Kibbutz: GLK06)
1996 D.MENCHE/SMALL CRUEL PARTY (split 7", MSBR Records: MR13)
1996 HYMNS FOR SLICED VELOCITIES (12" EP, Tesco Organization: TESCO 027)
1993 INCINERATION (Soleilmoon Recordings: SOL 21 CD)
1994 STATIC BURN (Soleilmoon Recordings: SOL 26 CD)
1995 LEGIONS IN THE WALLS (Trente Oiseaux: TOC 953)
1997 SCREAMING CARESS (Side Effects: DFX 23)
1997 FIELD OF SKIN (Soleilmoon Recordings: SOL 58 CD)
1998 VENT (Touch/Or CD)
compact disc compilations (selected):
1995 PRECIPITATION (Partial Recordings: PART 006)
1995 MESMER VARIATIONS (Ash Int'l: ASH 1.8CD2)
1995 JAPANESE/AMERICAN NOISE TREATY (Relapse Records: RR 6930-2)
1996 A FAULT IN THE NOTHING (Ash Int'l: ASH 2.6CD2)
1996 INTERFERENCE (23five: 23FIVE CD 1)
1996 SHIROSEASONS (Shirocoal Recordings: COAL 001)
1996 MUSIC SHOULD HURT (Self Abuse: SAD 05)
1996 BUNKER ARCHEOLOGY (Noise Museum: NM 006)
1997 SCATTER (Ash Int'l: ASH 3.5)
1997 REGENERATION - DECAY (Cynistrose)
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