Name: Joke Lanz
Occupation: Sound Artist
Current Event: Joke Lanz just performed at the Bezau Beatz festival. Sudden Infant's latest release is “Buddhist Nihilism” on Harbinger Sound UK
Recommendations: Book: “The Electronic Revolution” by William S. Burroughs; Song: “Franky Teardrop” by Suicide
If you enjoyed this interview with Joke Lanz, check out the Sudden Infant homepage for everything you ever wanted to know about the project.
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 with music in 1986 as a bass-player in a Hardcore Punk band. Later in 1989 I founded my Noise-Industrial project “Sudden Infant” which has developed throughout the last 30 years into a 3-piece band with voice/electronics, bass, drums. My early influences were Blondie, Jacques Brel, Django Reinhardt, Sex Pistols, Blondie, Ramones, The Cramps, Suicide, Throbbing Gristle, Birthday Party.
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?
Igor Stravinsky said: “A good composer does not imitate; he steals.” It's absolutely normal to pick up ideas and inspirations from others. Life is a constant process of learning, developing and exchanging. I moved from Punk to Noise, from Noise to Improv, from Improv to Art and from Art back again to Punk. My own creativity, my own expression is driven by an existential force of survival.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Instant composing and experimenting with primitive and simple gear like tape recorders and contact microphones in my early years changed slightly to more complex tools like sampling and computer editing which makes things a bit easier but not necessarily better.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your setup evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
I never had a proper studio. Always worked at home with the cheapest speakers which I mostly found on the street. This hasn't really changed. Except my Boss samplers, my turntables and my laptop as mentioned above, I still love to bang two cobblestones on each other and record the sound.
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?
I'm not a Techno producer neither a proper club DJ. I hate technology therefore I only use it in the simplest possible way. I like things with only one knob!
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?
It's a waste of time to spend hours and hours with complex software and lose yourself and your creativity inside a computer program. I'm definitely on the other side of this.
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?
The best collaboration is still the human real time one: Musicians coming together and play music, exchange ideas, work on songs and drink beer. That's what I prefer to do with my friends. File sharing makes you very
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
Normally I get up late in the morning, then watering my plants, checking my emails, shower, breakfast, phone calls, writing down some ideas, practising some turntable-playing, working on new collages, organising my next travels, then visiting my girl friend and her dog, going for a walk, eating dinner at my favourite Italian restaurant in Berlin, drinking red wine and discussing the latest news in politics and culture. Sometimes I go to the park or any other public places to watch people and observe situations in order to create new stories and lyrics.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
For instance “Hong Kong Nursery” by Sudden Infant: I wrote the lyrics while spending a week in Hong Kong during my travels in Asia in 2017. Back in Berlin I met my band mates Christian Weber (bass) and Alexandre Babel (drums) in the studio. We took a scrap metal rhythm played by two kids as a basic loop and tried some rhythmical elements on top of it. After a while and several takes, the song was finished!
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
I don't think there is an ideal state of mind for creativity. Every human is different and has different energies. “Some are born to sweet delight some are born to endless night” (William Blake). Personally I'm most creative early in the morning or late at night. Maybe because in the morning I'm still not completely awake and late at night I'm already a bit sleepy or dreamy. Both states are kind of in-between zones. A glass of nice red wine can help especially in the night.
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
Playing live on stage is definitely the ultimate experience and royal discipline of it all. Writing music and composing songs is the process to bring your ideas and philosophies into a form, to make it ready for the final presentation in front of an audience. Improvisation is one form of presentation, a very courageous one, without any safety net. There is also a combination of both with leaves some interesting spaces within a structure to improvise.
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
If sound and timbre are not expressing a colourful energy the best composition is useless. I like raw and dirty sounds and I get many impulses from environmental noises in daily life. For instance you can hear birds singing, a dog barking and squeaking breaks, all within a few seconds in a perfect random moment. This already has a highly compositional quality.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
My favourite combination is hearing and touching! When I play turntables the haptic touchable aspect is extremely important. Similar like playing a traditional instrument (i.e. violin, percussion, trombone) there is a fusion of body and instrument which creates the sound you can finally hear. Music stimulates your senses and your senses stimulate your mind. My music is an extension of my body!
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
Art and music play a very important role in this society. As an artist you are responsible to deal with all sorts of problems and situations nowadays, to reflect and question them. Being an artist means to be part of an opposition, an opposition to the mainstream society. We create specific culture to activate people's braincells and extend their horizons. This eventually leads to personal revolutions and starts the discussion. Art is a weapon!
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
The majority of music nowadays is produced to satisfy and lull the customers in all life situations. Music has become a product, created in laboratories (studios) by scientists (producers) and is mostly controlled and distributed by multi national companies. I prefer the primitive aspect of music, the ritualistic basic form of music. Everyone can be a musician and we don't need a producer! “We're interested in information, we're not interested in music as such.” (Throbbing Gristle)