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Sampling & Computers...
- Interview by Akinobu Oda

In Sound & Recording (Japan), November 1997.



(Japanese text)

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 underground scene.

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 than Techno?
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.