INTERVIEW WITH DAVID HAINES
1. I know a little bit about Rosy Parlane and Dion Workman and their work prior to Sigma - but what about yourself - could you give me an idea of your musical and personal background (past projects, releases, etc.) prior to Sigma releasing "blither"?
I work as a visual artist. I have been exhibiting mostly video installation for well over a decade, being an Artist is my passion. I have always had a great love of experimental music and sound.
In the early to mid nineties I was doing sound sculpture in the tradition of post - object conceptual art, but these days that has faded away and now as an exhibiting Artist I mostly show video and not always with sound... a lot of the works are silent - it depends on the ideas.
As for Music, the usual I guess. Played in a rock band in the mid-eighties the way every one seems to who goes to Art School and when there is a thriving scene... In Sydney it was mostly guitar based.
We improvised a lot and were quite high volume... you know the usual, exploring overtones, repetition and lots of layering... standard levels of experimentation, lots of live pub gigs and a couple of recordings on vinyl etc... Then at the same time and in parallel was the much more conceptual work in relationship to the video installations. Now I am thinking more conceptually about the Music so itís a kind of circular situation in some ways.
When the Rock band imploded I concentrated on the Sound Art side of things for a long time and then little by little I felt that I wanted to explore a more central kind of musical form... did a couple of limited CDR things and then was encouraged by Torben Tilly who went and played some stuff to Dion and Rosy and then the whole fantastic Sigma Editions thing started and it finally gave me a real and credible outlet for the music and so much more, great friends.
I love on the one hand the musicís autonomy and its independence from my work as an Artist, though of course its still a related approach... its just a much freer thing with less logistical baggage... a bit of my private world going out.
2. Could you talk about "blither" a little bit - I know it is a CD that uses piano sounds - what was the working process for making these pieces? Was there a specific reason why you chose to make a CD of music using the sounds of a piano?
Its hard to talk fully about the process since its undocumented, except to say that I used a piano module and many layers of a real time software sequencer that can be manipulated on the fly and then I added all the feedback and strange little electronic melodies on top of that... its great since the live translation is not that far away from the recording process, although there was some slowing down of some of the tracks in software but all the complexity of the pianos happens in the sequencer.
I did a piano record because in my context in Australia and experimental music in general it seemed in my mind just a little perverse. I am also not a piano player, it was composed totally by ear... as in close listening I am not sure, it always felt kind of a little bit bizarre to be doing a piano record... and then there was a return to listening to a lot of stuff that I had heard in the past... remembering, but not listening to again, people like Nancarrow or even Reich but not being academic and studying there method, but working from the memory of it... it seemed a pretty anachronistic thing to take on... kind of becoming a medium for a memory, very subjective I guess and then with that impulse the whole thing started to dictate itself, the form took over as it does since its not just about having a certain program but also about being flexible and responsive to what is unfolding.
3. For "emo" you moved a way from an obvious sound source, and produced a set of pieces that are much more 'ambient' - though i thought i could hear pianos in there somewhere. Could you talk about "emo" and how those compositions were assembled?
"Peak Communism" is a processed piano piece... just very buried - that track is like a second shot at blither because I had discovered a kind of romanticism and a certain melancholy that was really magnetic and it was longer and more sustained than those first pieces on blither that seem quite raw in some ways in comparison to whatís on "emo" and also a lot of them are far to short.
The other tracks on "emo" recall in a very indirect way the kind of textures I was exploring when I played guitar. People who know me as a guitarist swear its very recognizable... I just wanted to make something super charged, hence the processing and rising melodies and an over coding of the sounds and also something which was a much longer duration than before... It really is hard to say how those pieces came about... lots of different software and recording to DAT and then re-recording... I listened to some of the source DATS the other day... very raw and quite forceful beginnings on that record lots of stuff left out, how on earth it all came together... very slowly....
4. What about live performance - what would a d.haines live show consist of, music-wise, and gear-wise. do you get a chance to perform live often? How do you approach the idea of playing live?
Probably more dynamic than the CDís and theirs always a lot of variation on a certain layer, like Gibraltar is never played the same way twice. None of them are the same twice live. I do use a laptop but also CDR and laptop combined, sometimes external processors like digital delay etc, sometimes software that lets you change the pitch on the fly. I like to improvise live but I also like to have some structural relationship to the original piece... and most importantly to retain the feel of a recorded piece, for me playing live is an opportunity for a more intensive sound. Theirs a lot of processed based music around these days, some which I really love and admire, particularly what comes out of Mego, but I am also getting a little tired of the proliferation of pure process players, it can seem a bit arbitrary and tedious and unfortunately here in Australia it can seem like itís a bit of a fad or something. Stasis Duo in Australia are really fine players, they are young- you can tell itís really genuine since for a long time they didnít have a context which I think can be the best thing for an artist (at least for a time) and there work somehow seems really considered. Of course their are others but I single those guys out cause I admire the way they where just doing it in a garage somewhere in the heat blown suburbs of Sydney. I think thatís really great.
I guess then in my own Live work, I want it to be like chaos on top of and within a structure and for the performance to literally go off, on an emotional and intellectual level - and it helps when the sound quality is good - though I am no sound/techno fetishist either, sometimes a terrible sound system can be good to work with as well.
I do get to play in Sydney occasionally thanks to things like Impermanent audio and the occasional festival and we have done a couple of Sigma tours within Europe. The tours have been quite life changing experiences. I learn so much from everyone when I do these things on all sorts of levels... its good to be challenged in this way by your peers, it makes you extend yourself. It makes me perform better and think more critically about the music I am trying to make.
5. What are you working on now? Will you continue releasing with Sigma?
I am working on a new full-length CD and its getting there slowly. Sigma are like a family to me and I will always work with them while they will have me.
I have been working with Michael Morley, you would know him from Gate and the Dead C. We have a project called "Sun Valley" and we have completed a 2 CD work which is very honed back, a minimalist tone work, almost like the sound of electricity.
We have played live a few times with Joyce Hinterding who has a Sigma release coming out any day, Joyce plays a VLF antennae which picks up lots of electrical hum over the laptops and over the speakers of the PA. This is fantastic to do live, we look like a bunch of Russian Constructivists dragged into the 21st century. I have also been working with a person called Vicky Brown, she is a really talented Artist and our sensibility seems to match really well, so hopefully we can put something out someday. But right now the new Sigma solo release is a top priority once I have got past a new work for the Sydney Biennale that I am right this minute working on.