Members: Alexander Hacke, Danielle de Picciotto
Nationality: German (Alexander Hacke), American (Danielle de Picciotto)
Occupation: Musician, artist, author, filmmaker (de Picciotto), guitarist, bass guitarist, singer, musician, record producer, writer, film maker (Hacke)
Current Release: Hackedepicciotto's The Silver Threshold is out via Mute.
If you enjoyed these insights by Hackedepicciotto and would like to find out more about their work, visit their official website. They are also on Instagram, Facebook, and twitter.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
Alexander: It’s an urge, almost like a physical sensation, feeling obliged to create. It takes preparation to get into the state of mind, where it is possible to receive inspiration and then it’s just doing, mostly a very rewarding process. When I am in this mode, I would be unable to do anything else.
Danielle: Personally creativity is my way of understanding and processing life.
As an introvert it is my main vehicle of communication. My inspiration is everything that touches me. Be it a book, an idea, a tree, a sound, a dream, an encounter. During the pandemic it has mainly been nature and its grandeur. My studio has a garden and to watch it change during the seasons is fascinating.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
Danielle: For our hackedepicciotto projects we usually have themes that are tightly knit to our personal situation. During the years that we were nomads the theme of “home” or “ homelessness” was one of our main themes. At the moment our main theme is “standing on a threshold. Be it a personal or global one. That is why our new album is called “The Silver Threshold”
Alexander: The music becomes an entity of its own, which has its unique demands. I’m just happy to serve.
Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do 'research' or create 'early versions'?
Alexander: I like to prepare something like a “mis en place”. That’s what a chef in a restaurant does, a collection of pre-chopped herbs and spices, fermented and marinated vegetables. In our case that is field recordings, electronic patches, new percussion instruments and notes or ideas, which have nothing to do with music whatsoever. But that collection often accumulates itself and is miraculously available when needed. Then we start playing and I can reach into this “bag of tricks” and pull out things deliberately or at random.
Danielle: We usually have very little time to prepare and record a new album. We do not have any side jobs and need to survive off of our artistic output so time is luxury. We usually just jump right in. But I do write poetry, lyrics and texts all the time so I have that to fall back upon.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
Danielle: Our rituals for creating are also our rituals in general. Many of them we do not speak about, otherwise they would lose their magic. But an important one is meditation.
Alexander: We stop being interested in, or available to the outside world.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
Alexander: Sometimes it is important to make a bunch of mistakes at first, to fail at the initial aim in order to find the golden solution.
Danielle: We often start with percussion.
When do the lyrics enter the picture? Where do they come from? Do lyrics need to grow together with the music or can they emerge from a place of their own?
Danielle: Our lyrics mainly grow with the music that is being created but sometimes the music fits to something I have already been wrangling with lyric wise.
Alexander: Mostly its either spoken word by Danielle, or it has to work as a choir for the both of us to sing.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
Alexander: They have to be authentic. That is the one parameter in my humble opinion (and the ultimate “tall order”).
Danielle: I mainly work with spoken word in my solo work. Like on my albums The Element of Love or Deliverance. With hackedepicciotto I usually write short lyrics because our music is based upon our musical interaction. But if I do I usually try to have the words paint a specific picture to pinpoint a certain idea, which then interacts with the music as in a sort of collage.
With hackedepicciotto I also often use biblical stories taken out of context. These texts are universally known for centuries and although I was not raised religiously I have thought about them very often because of the impact they have had on our society.
On “Menetekel” for instance the track “Prophecy” has lyrics in that style. I wrote it because I had a phase where I was so struck by natures beauty that I suddenly thought “we are still living in the Garden of Eden. This IS paradise. So maybe we are only now in the process of being kicked out or kicking ourselves out via global warming”. The thought shocked and saddened me incredibly and I had to integrate it into our music.
On “The Current” we have a piece called “Petty Silver” in which I follow a similar train of thought and on our upcoming album as well in the piece “Babel”.
I have noticed that these passages always have a strong effect on our audiences. A lot of people want to speak about this after a show, so I guess my thoughts resonate an echo which is wonderful of course.
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
Danielle: Almost everything we do with hackedepicciotto is done in a playful, experimental way. Our interaction is the main catalyst. We take turns adding on to a song and I love the way Alexander always does something unexpected through which I am inspired every time
Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?
Alexander: Its all about resonance. We get feedback (not in the literal sense, unless that’s what we want to aquire) to our ideas as they are manifested in sound. By this means the piece starts speaking to us and if we are atuned to it we will act accordingly.
Danielle: We just follow the music.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
Danielle: Spirituality is in everything we do. It is very important to us.
Alexander: We are spiritual beings with a human experience, not the other way around. Being incarnated is a bit of a burden of course, as the scriptures of all religions state, with all the responsibilities and the general sense of entrapment, that goes with it. But it has it perks to have a body, as the angels would agree, since they lack the means for all sensual information.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
Danielle: This is a very hard question to answer. I do not know why but we just know when a song is finished.
Alexander: The biggest enemy of “great” is “good” and the piece will tell you when it refuses to be worked on and our ideas or attempts to make it “better” are rendered moot.
Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practise?
Alexander: The creative process is one thing and then there’s administration and scientific measurements to apply, which is rather boring.
Danielle: After we have decided a piece is done, we send it off to the mastering engineer. We never second-question it and we have never regretted not doing so.
What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
Danielle: Arranging and mixing is extremely important for me. It forms the piece into what it should be. If mixed incorrectly a piece can be completely destroyed. To be honest I am super critical in that phase and can become slightly anal.
Alexander: The studio is part of our creative weaponry, so we utilize it in any way we can.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
Danielle: We are always racing from one project to another, so we rarely experience this sense of emptiness. Once in while we are so burned out that we completely collapse and are depressed for a couple of weeks. But in the meantime, we have recognized that this is also part of the process.
Alexander: Big words, I know, but there is no reward to be expected. Just practicing the sacred art of creating music and the realization of the privilege to be able to do it, is all there is to it. Well, at least that’s what I am working on …
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
Alexander: It’s not what you do, it’s about how you do it.
Danielle: Everything should be done with love.