If you like raw, harsh sounds from the intersection of the music of ambience and noise, you are already familiar with Daniel Menche. For the last decade this American artist has remained faithful to his aesthetics derived from the sounds of music's margin. The consistency resulted in being considered a reference point for describing the works from younger artists who, like himself, deal in the exploration of cold soundscapes...
- Daniel, it's been 10 years now since your first release, 'Incineration'. With anniversaries like this, one tends to look back. Do you feel satisfied with your achievements so far?
I do in fact, so much has happened in my life in the last 10 years that my music has taken me. First off I'm more than satisfied; I'm incredibly thankful and filled with great reflective happiness to be able to meet the amazing people I've met and to go to incredible cities and countries. I'm so lucky and grateful for all of the friendships I have acquired. Also in reference to my first CD "Incineration", I was 23 years old at the time and at that young age my perspective was of course very different and now I'm 33 and I now realize that my music has grown with me and I'm confident it will continue to grow with me.
- Also this year you've managed to release two full-time albums, plus a 12" LP and there's still six months of 2003 ahead of us. It is the most prolific year, isn't it? Where do you get so much energy from?
Around 1998-2000 I stopped doing music and thought I would never do music again for many reasons - mostly personal, and then in early 2001 I had an intense realization that I really need and must continue doing music and how important it was for me to have this creative outlet. Also, it was apparent that in order for me to continue making music I needed to break a lot of rules that I've used on myself in the past and use sound sources that I would never use before. I realized the important concept in creating music is to constantly challenge yourself intellectually; this is the only way to progress within ones self - to go against your own rationality and to follow your own blood so to speak symbolically. I firmly believe in this, to be as vehement as possible in creating music.
- Interestingly, you record in a studio with the help of a sound engineer. It's a method used by traditional musicians who entrust their music to the producers. Is it because you aren't able to simultaneously make sounds and take care of recording them? You are one of the few artists who haven't fallen in with the latest technologies of both making and recording sound. As far as I know, you don't even use synths. Why is that so?
It's true that any musician has to embrace technology to a certain extent, especially of course electronic music, and since technology is always changing and progressing very rapidly. It's very wise to follow it that best one can yet it is really overwhelming and that's why I rely on sound engineers to guide me a bit and show me the best way to mix and record so that I can get the strongest sound possible to present. Though I do love lo fi recordings and I still do a lot of very dirty sounds and use very old mid century equipment to make sounds yet also using any of the highest technology possible to record. I do embrace technology but I don't rely on it to fuel my music - I just feel that there are much more important priorities in creating music and technology should be used simply as a tool and an amazing overwhelming tool it is. To quote Zbigniew Karkowski "The method is science, The aim is religion" And that is an superb way to phrase this point. And as far as keyboard synths - nothing against them and appreciate it when other artists use them creatively but I haven't seen any opportunity to use them before though I have used a lot of synthesis processing in the past especially a lot of vocoder use in the mid nineties.
- Are there any people who used to contribute, or still do, to your recordings?
Recently I have been very open to collaborate with other artists to challenge my own sense of music making - it's a great challenge and very progressive I feel. I have finished some exciting collaboration recordings with Kiyoshi Mizutani that will be released soon. Other recent collaborations have been with Damion Romero (Speculum Fight), Randy Yau and there are others that are in the works that I'm really excited for. I'm very excited to work with any musicians within and outside this music area.
- I've come across a literary interpretation of what you do. Somebody wrote that your works recall those of a writer, even the structure of your recordings is similar to that of a book - they have introductions, the main parts and the finales; and are to be understood accordingly. What do you think about it? I can't see anything like that in them.
Some of my earlier work reads like that but I do agree with you - that can be questioned. And I do wish to challenge that way of composing. I really don't have any set rules any more or any form of composition to set my music to. Some recent recordings just go on and on without much development and some have a lot of changes and edits. I used to have strict ideas about composing but I realized my own rules must be thrown out. There's a CD recording with myself and Kiyoshi Mizutani called "Garden" that is an hour long continuous multi textured recording of cicadas in a garden in Japan that just flows naturally without any edits or breaks. Sort of a complexed object of sound that is devoid of any intellectual composition, just natural and pure. Kiyoshi and myself are very pleased for this recording. Much different than anything himself or myself have done.
- Do you leave any room for chance in your works or is everything pre-planned?
Mostly it's all preplanned yet sometimes with all the layering there will occur some harmonies and tonalities that are by chance. It is really exciting for me to layer many sounds not knowing exactly how it will sound and there have been some personally favorite sonic moments due to chance. Sometimes my preplanned intentions fall apart and chance takes over. My live performances definitely rely on chance occurrence of how sound and noise will react to each other.
- The 1990s witnessed a short spell of fascination with a human body as a source of sound. Albums containing recordings of such experiments were released by yourself, The Hafler Trio and some other renowned artists. Do you think it to be an exploited field? How do you find the results of using human body as an instrument now?
I don't think any sound source could be exploited though the technological use of that sound certainly can. As long as imagination can be applied more than technology can then there's no end to the possibilities to use any sound source in creative means. When I use my body as sound source it's mostly in live settings for my more physical performances. As a live experience it just feels natural to me to use contacts on my throat or chest and get loud long sounds and its free me from being bound to a table of electronics or hiding behind some equipment. I still use contact mics on my throat in performances and am very physically intense live. The past 2 years I have done some of my most physically extreme performances I've ever done. And I get audiences constantly complimenting me for not using a laptop or hiding in the dark behind electronics (though I have nothing against and appreciate that style of performing from others). So to answer your question- the results of using human body as an sound source live feels the most natural to me and the audience gets a performance that hopefully puts technology out of the spotlight and physical sound in the forefront.
- Could you elaborate on the term 'vehement beauty' that you once applied to your music?
It's a metaphor, so to speak, of the intention and goals of my music. The definition of vehemence is split between applying to forceful nature and intense human emotions, and I can certainly relate to that word "vehemence". The forceful emotion found externally in nature and the deep internal emotions of humanity being interpreted and conveyed through pure sound and music is my main focus and intention. I absolutely love sound and all of its subtlety and intensity, it's in my blood and I'm very passionate about presenting sound in my work as intense and beautiful as possible. Loud or quiet I want my work to convey a strong sense of vehemence, and "beautiful" as the end result - as subjective of a word it is and hopefully my music can challenge the listener in perspective of what "beauty" is.
- You've collaborated with artists, who like yourself, don't prop themselves up with advanced technologies. Would it be possible for you to collaborate with people who are at the opposite extreme of the approach to technology? Do you think you would find a common language with them?
I'm absolutely open to work with artists like that; I won't close myself off to anyone with a sense of advance technological electronic music. There is some talk now of a remix album of "Beautiful Blood" on Alien8 Recordings that will be entirely from progressive abstract electronic artists and I'm very eager to hear those mixes or interpretations.
- Tell us something about your live performances. Are they based on the released stuff or do you prepare different works for that purpose?
Live performances are mostly based on what I'm focusing at the time in recording but conveying it live as opposed to playing "songs"; it's all very live and usually very loud and intense with much improv with noise and sound from my mics and body. But there are some performances that are very low volume and sonically subtle mostly due to smaller PAs and those are less physical. Soon I will do a live soundtrack to a film in a large movie theater and that will be a rare performance where I'm hidden in the dark making my sounds while the film is playing and that's a great change for me. I really like diversity in where and how my music is performed.
- What should we wish you for the next decade?
I hope to simply grow and branch out my work - diversify my music as wide as possible yet stick with my original artistic goals, intentions and convictions. I see no end or limit where sound can go. I'm incredibly excited for future recordings and performance opportunities. And with the amazing and supportive people I have met in the past 10 years I'm looking forward to working with more incredible people and interesting artists for the next 10 years and beyond. As far as where or what will my music will progress towards to I really can't say for now because I only work with one foot ahead of the other. I always remind myself like a mantra "It's all about blood - so amplify your blood - amplify your blood amplify your blood - amplify your blood - make the speakers bleed!" certainly a metaphoric allusion but it does sum up my drive to make music and that drive will continue to grow. I see a fantastic next decade and I intend to continue creating music for anyone with their ears open.