Q&A with Zanshin
Keepin´ it simple at the beginning: Are you ready for some challenging questions?
Well, the whole concept of „zanshin“ is about being ready anyway, so I hope i´m ready, or maybe ready-made.
Ok, so let´s start with influences apart from music. You have preferences for visual arts, japanese culture and verbal acrobatics. Can you tell more and also about other influences that accompany you through your life?
Well, aside from being a person who tries to stay open and conscious about all sorts of impressions from aesthetics to emotions, I am very interested in the art of food as well, since I find a lot of parallels between cooking and making music. Books are a huge factor too, I always have been immersing myself in sheer heaps of letters from early on and a good novel still propels my imagination to very interesting places.
Apart from that I really do like swimming, especially in the sea and lakes or ponds, but an indoor pool will work fine as well when nothing else comes in handy, and a hot bath is the best remedy for nearly everything from colds to hangovers to days in a hole. I guess I just love being drenched in good old H20.
You are a versatile producer who loves to oscillate between bass-heavy stuff designed for the floors and melancholic fields. Sometimes melancholic without using any pop appeal. It seems like Squarepusher-esque vibes and Boards of Canada type harmonies got lost (without a suitable replacement) more and more of a wider reception in the subcultural building. What is your view about that?
Well, I wouldn’t say that they have gone altogether, but the combination of certain sounds and more moody and melancholy vibes certainly had reached a peak during the mid- and late nineties, maybe a side effect of the Generation X thing and the lurking turn of the century. But I mostly reckon that during this period there was a specific openness and crossover vibe going on between the areas of independent rock and electronic music.
Artists like Aphex Twin and Squarepusher were hard to pigeonhole and did definitely not fit a standard Techno producer cliché identity. Whether intentional or not, I think a lot of the music back then was very introvert as well, letting out feelings that are not necessarily connected to a club or party situation. Also the press had seemingly more interest in this kind of development of the „bedroom producer“ scene. Since nowadays 90% (raw estimate) of producers are operating out of their bedrooms or flats this became rather obsolete.
But I am sure that there definitely was maybe a higher tolerance for mixed feelings on dancefloors back then. It all turned upside down when electronic music and especially dance music started to be a huge mainstream factor. Commercial pop music rarely has this special melancholy, challenging or even uncanny vibe, it just doesn’t fit the shopping mall background soundtrack purpose. I rarely visit those temples of madness, but last time I had to, the music they played was really nerve wrecking, it’s just so much in your face or rather, ear. I am more of a Satie person when it comes to music in the background. But playing DJ-Sets I soon noticed that you better keep an uplifting vibe on the floor if you want a crowd indulging in mating rituals, which keeps most of them happy for the moment. Maybe melancholy is just more of a home-grown feeling.
Pundit Zanshin – any guess what the future could bring? More micro-scenes? Back again to really big movements like in the 90s?
Well, I am not a huge fan of prophecies since they have a rather self-fulfilling leaning anyway but history teaches us that everything tends to appear in waves. As a producer I am very thankful for this fruit of the laws of thermodynamics on various levels. Without waveforms I could practically do nothing, and on the other hand every stupid hype will find a natural heat death sooner or later. But I am quite positive that cultural diversification will be ever increasing, at least in the underground, while there will always be major trends. My biggest fear though is a development like a kind of „fascist“-mainstream that only allows artists to stay inside very narrow aesthetics during the peak time of a fashion in order to be able to survive. So you would have to go along with the latest Opera-Gabber-Squaredance fusion fad, or whatever.
But as long as there are words to give them names, people will invent new genres, that’s for sure. Also dancing is deeply rooted inside our behaviour, but you never know, maybe things will take a turn towards the more political again regarding all the developments in modern societies that make you feel like screaming out loud.
Now back to the real world. How did your production tools and methods changed over the years? And can you give an insight about your actual set up?
It certainly expanded from crouching on the floor in front of a single ROM-based workstation in the very beginning to operating a full fledged studio environment, featuring a computer and various outboard equipment like synthesizers and other analog gear. Things like having a vocal/recording booth can seem like a luxury when you start out, but once you have it you wouldn’t really want to miss it anymore. My approach to production itself is certainly an ever changing, morphing beast, and it feels like I am still always learning new things while doing it, but that only means that you don’t reach a dead end, so I guess it’s a good sign.
At the moment I focus a lot on drum sounds and a more minimalistic approach, working on the core. I have a tendency to throw too many elements into the mix in order not to get bored while working on a track. This can backfire easily, so that’s why I strive to limit myself these days more and more.
Admittedly thin ice to throw compliments right here but as a DJ you are known to keep it extra fresh. What does that kind of drive as a DJ mean for your work as a producer?
Well, thanks for the compliment, but I wouldn’t really call it extra fresh. It’s more a love for combining music I enjoy like good food and wine, maybe, and playing long sets with an open ear for surprise and a relaxed attitude is what I like best.
So it´s pretty obvious to discuss also the “Vinyl vs. Digital Thing”. It´s really easy to gather a certain smell of a neverending religious war out there when it comes to music formats. Your two and a half cents?
Discussing formats can be really tiresome, I use what suits my needs best in a certain situation, but if weight and wear were no issues, vinyl discs are just the best when it comes to feel the music. But there are a lot of upsides to a software like Traktor as well, so no dogmatic approach here, sorry.
The tune in your bag that always works at 03:30 a.m?
„2562 – Dinosaur“ is likely to push all the right buttons in a more broken set, whereas in a more straight setting I just the love vibe of „Sound Stream – Julie’s Theme“
The biggest urban legend in music business is….
Theo Parrish being thrown out of Panorama Bar for playing Busta Rhymes…
The most breathtaking collaboration of two living artists would be…
Very personally speaking, the idea of Autechre teaming up with Ryuichi Sakamoto has a very high percentage of mind blowing aspects for me.
My Twitter account is…
…very calm most of the time, as I am rather reluctant to post things about my lunch or the state my nerves are in at any given airport…. but once in a while I drop a shot of self indulgent foolish wisdom.
Famous last words…
Emptiness is an attemptiness is an attemptiness is an attemptiness….