Sampling & Computers...
- Interview by Akinobu Oda
In Sound & Recording (Japan), November 1997.
Terre Thaemlitz: Samplers & Computers...
Interview translation by Miki Nakayama
'The Sound' created by Terre Thaemlitz is beyond description. Based in NYC, this
electronic music creator's career has been unique and original. On his new album
"Couture Cosmetique," his music - 'electro-acoustic' is the only description I
can think of - provides gentle stimuli everywhere which are generated from electronic key changes.
All I can do is recommend that you listen to
this album in order to get the sense of what I am saying.
It positively shows the limitless possibilities of electronic music.
Q: What was your first musical experience?
T: The first records I bought were by people like Gary Newman and YMO. I only
listened to synthetic music. It was unusual for a small town boy in Missouri,
but I couldn't fit in with typical American society. Then, in '86, I moved to NYC
and became a deep house DJ. But I got fired the month after I won an Underground
Grammy for best DJ because what I played was not major label stuff. One of the
reasons I wanted to make music is that I got tired of the politics of the
Q: Did you have a certain vision for music at that time?
T: No, not at all! But groups like the Orb came into the NY scene at that time
and their music coincided with my favorite type of music. But I wasn't doing
Techno and the scene was very Heterosexual, so the scene was a gloomy place for me.
Q: Is there an obvious concept for the new album?
T: It shows the social positioning of the transgenderism and the strategical
ideas for surviving in the social changes. For instance, 'Silent Passability'
comes from my experience. It's based on the fear and the paranoia when being a
drag queen. People think I'm a woman when I don't talk. There are various
elements in the music on this album such as the attitude to the society,
catharsis, personal desires and they all support my identity.
Q: Why did you start making the completely computer based music, rather
T: Computer is the most comfortable thing for me. I can create all the sounds I
need with it. I didn't use any sampler for "Couture Cosmetique," everything was
made inside the computer.
Q: It's almost impossible to analyze how you made "Couture Cosmetique."
How did you actually do?
T: The thing I like best is: load someone's sound, about 3 seconds or so, into
the computer and analyze it playing with software. Then the sound file is
transformed to numbers and I recreate it with a new line of numbers. My platform is
Power Macintosh with Studio Vision Pro, but I don't trust it that much. I also
use Csound. PPC, Hyperprism, AudioSculpt... and various share ware.
Q: Do you sometimes use synthes?
T: Sometimes when I make textures. My main synthe is a worn-out KORG M1 - have
done too much editing on it [laughs]. 2 CASIO FZ-10Ms which have great
filtering. For mixing, I use a MACKIE CR-1604. I used a KORG SDD-2000, a DIGITECH
TSR-24S, a Vintage Keys module before.
Q: Why do you think your music makes us feel the groove though there's no
obvious rhythm in it?
T: There's no rhythm because I lost the interest in it. For me, groove comes
from the composition of music..... everything is in the method of composition.
Q: How do you see the relation between melodies and noises?
T: I'm interested in the fusion of melodies and noises. Western music relates to
the politic/social hierarchy so I make the statement that my music is not in the
traditional form by having the melodies secondarily or making the noises function
just like the melodies. And recently, people like OVAL and Ryoji Ikeda, they
make music which has similar feelings to mine... their music is difference from
mine but I think the collapse of Western music exists at least in their process
of making music.
Q: What does technology mean to you?
T: The first thing comes up in my mind is LIMITATIONS. If you misunderstand it as
freedom, you will resign the power to control yourself to the bands of
developers. You are using someone else's products and it's not your own power.
So you should not take technology for the factor to be free. It's a tool to make
your life better.