A punch in the face
While Martin Juhls wants to hit you in the face with the power of his music, while he might be single-minded in his attempt to create the ultimate, universal musical experience, he splits his quest between two personas. The German musician and DJ divides his time between the Krill.Minima and Marsen Jules projects. One being a testing ground for sound, the other an exercise in discipline and abstraction. When he's not experimenting with sounds, Juhls can be found making improvised soundpictures with twins Anwar and Jan-Philipp Alam in the Marsen Jules Trio. The Trio's album Présence Acousmatique was released earlier this year on Juhl's own record label Oktaf. With a penchant for incorporating sound and image, Juhls often experiments with video and other imagery for his live performances. Increasingly fascinated with this sensorial marriage, Juhls has performed a live soundtrack for the classic Nosferatu film and is working on soundtracks for experimental film.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences?
I started with playing guitar at the age of 14 but more and more I became interested in sound art, avantgarde and electronic music. Releases like Aphex Twin´s “Selected Ambient Works" and Autechre´s “Tri Repetea" were mind-blowing for me. I also got intensely into the work and history of 20th-century avantgardists such as Stockhausen, Ligeti, Satie, Steve Reich, Pierre Henry or even into the work of the Italian futurist Russollo and his early “Art of Noises". Influences and ideas from the beginnings of “Studio für elektronische Musik" in Cologne, the “Musique Concrete" activists in Paris or the “Minimal Music" movement in New York are still influencing my music until today.
What do you personally consider to be the incisive moments in your artistic work and/or career?
The release of “Herbstlaub" was a very touching moment. It was my very first CD release after 10 years of creating music and I received feedback from all around the world. I’m still very thankful to Thaddi from City Center Offices, who made this all possible. It also was a big step to start my own label Oktaf Records. With the “Music inspired by Harold Budd" compilation, we then had a beautiful release and could even give something back to one of the most beautiful piano players in the world.
What are currently your main compositional- and production-challenges?
To make a single sound creating a whole universe. To have full control over every detail of sound, space, frequency and time. To create something which is so impressive, meaningful and full of expression, that it has the potential to directly affect and touch you like a hit in the face or the sweet releasing feeling of skin touching skin.
What do you usually start with when working on a new piece?
First I find some original sound material, which I feel could be worth closer consideration. Then I start working on it like a sculptor by abstracting, condensing, layering and arranging.
How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
I experience both as very direct and intuitive processes. The best moments happen if you are not only listening to the music, but instead become the music itself. If you are composing you are usually alone and can stick to an idea, while an improvisation happens with direct listening or recording and you have to be really open and aware of the moment. With that definition I would say that my recorded compositions are usually not improvised, while my concerts are always based on improvisation.
How do you see the relationship between sound, space and composition?
Do you feel it important that an audience is able to deduct the processes and ideas behind a work purely on the basis of the music? If so, how do you make them transparent?
In case of my music there is absolutely no need to make anything transparent on a technical level. For me, it is like magic. Knowing the tricks will not lead to a better experience. If one understands a poem only through its explanation, then the intuitive possibilities of the art form are quite useless.
In how much, do you feel, are creative decisions shaped by cultural differences - and in how much, vice versa, is the perception of sound influenced by cultural differences?
I’m sure that outer influences, surroundings, experiences and personal viewpoint are very important in all kind of arts.