Name: Jochen Rueckert
Current Release: Small Favours EP as Wolff Parkinson White on Nonplace
Recommendations: Venetian Snares- Huge Chrome Cylinder Box Unfolding - My favourite and probably most abstract Venetian Snares album. Reminiscent in style and title of Morton Subotnick's Silver apples of the moon. Absolute Masterpiece. It's about as intense as 2 albums or books so I'll leave it at that.
If you enjoyed this interview with Jochen Rueckert, his detailed, informative website is the best place to start your journey into his intriguing work.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started programming electronic music around 2005. My main gig is being a jazz drummer, I picked up the drums and piano around age 6 and have been a professional musician my whole life. Discovering Venetian Snares, his use of odd time signatures, intense non-repetitive sounds and all around innovativeness drew me to electronic music. Hearing a distinct lack of melodic and harmonic language in the genre overall gave me the impulse to start programming and adding more of those components
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
Well, in the field I am in, obviously there is no formal education and you learn mostly by trying to figure out how certain sounds are constructed. That, and a fair amount of experimenting. Fortunately, I already know a lot about rhythm, harmony, song structure, you know – music - so I really was all about learning the "engineering" side of things. I am still totally clueless about some of the techniques used, and discover something interesting and new to me all the time. So - this holds true also in the jazz idiom - without learning the tradition, i.e. studying other artist, there can be no innovation.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
My biggest challenges in the beginning were fairly simple platform problems. Finding the right VSTs. It took me a while to figure out how to program a quintuplet. Now, since I settled with Ableton, they have been adding a lot of those features, seems like they're listening to the comment section. When I first started, a lot of my music was poorly mastered and in general the sound quality could have been better.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
Ha - my first studio was the basement in the house I grew up in on the outskirts of Cologne, when I was like 13. My brother and I had drums, a Fender Rhodes, a 4 track, an Atari 1040 and a huge (monophonic) hardware sampler.
Since I started programming for real though, I have only been using a Windows laptop. All I do is in the box.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
Great Question. The music I program and the music that fascinates me in this genre uses a great deal of technology, often in a way it was maybe not intended to. You know - a lot of the sounds we're familiar with - samples cut off weirdly, the Cher auto-tune thing, the amen break, those grainy time-stretched reggae vocals in jungle music, compression side chained to something not in the mix, snare rushes, stuck buffer effects - "glitch music'- all that stuff, were basically fuck-ups, somebody pushing an effect or sequencer past the limit and creating an unnatural or "broken" sound. It's humans finding ways to manipulate sound in every which way possible. It's still evolving.
Every now and then, you hear a few bars of some programming stuff that was introduced by Squarepusher, Aphex Twin, or later championed by VS, Vytear, Binray, those kinds of people, in the bridge of a Ke$ha, Beyonce, or even back in the day in a Britney Spears or Back Street boys song. It's crazy. Anyway. Often I enjoy what I call the "automation - olympics" aspect of this music, and I participate as well. Probably coming in last.
But of course the human element in this music, for me, is to gauge how far you can push it without losing the listeners interest, or how to best glue it all together, how to get away with things. I like how this music can not be performed, it's all just a lot of effort and time and work crammed into a few minutes, and only possible with a computer. That's what I like about it.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
Unfortunately, I am not really experienced enough to be in the same arena software wise as some. Autechre comes to mind, or some "new music" people I grew up with in Cologne, that use custom built things. Or the recent renaissance of using live modular synthesizer hardware, like Richard Devine, VS or Datach'i. Just looking at MAX makes me dizzy.
It does interest me a lot and there is great music made, but it's simply too much for my own stuff. I am still catching up.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
In the case of this new album "Favours", I asked a lot of my singer friends, that have very little connection to this type of electronic music, to contribute. The work process was different in each case. Some people sent me pretty much finished songs (like Clare and Becca), which I then rearranged, re-harmonized and mangled into some strange odd meter. Some were co-written, the song with Natalie for example, I sent her a chord progression and some suggested melody notes and she came up with the lyrics and some other parts. Norah's song I wrote all myself, only my second song with lyrics I ever wrote. ("war or romance" being the other)
In general, engaging with other creatives - every now and then I ask somebody about their techniques and they have been helpful. Vytear for example told me a few tricks I have been using. Apart from that there is little interaction, maybe I have to reach out more.
I would love to be more in contact with those electronic musicians I love. In my jazz world, that's no problem, I live in NYC and you just go out and hear people's concerts, and everybody is an alcoholic so that works well for a community. It's different with this stuff, where the main part is somebody spending long stretches in front of their computer/ gear by themselves and doesn't perform much.
I plan to do some more collaborations in the future, I have a few songs kicking around my drives with Hayden Chisholm singing, it's what started this singer-album actually, And I hope to record something with Pete Rende sometimes, also I will ask Ben Monder for a duo record one day.