INTERVIEW: MACHINEFABRIEK: TOKAFI (2008)
An Interview with Rutger Zuydervelt is always in danger of going out of date quickly. Since conducting the one you're about to read in late Summer of this year, thirteen more entries were added to the Machinefabriek discography and who knows how many more are still to follow in the fruitful final days of 2008. Collaborations have been an essential ingredient for developing and honing his style and yet, it would be a fatal falacy of throwing Zuydervelt in with the usual bunch of prolific and promiscuous artists incapable of stopping their waterfall of spontaneous sound emissions. For one, each Machinefabriek CD is still a lovingly and carefully designed work of art (Rutger works as a graphic designer), even though his print runs have by now increased from a mere handful to 200 and more - and are mainly (albeit it not exclusively) distributed directly to his listeners by himself. And then, next to his regular album releases, Zuydervelt has focussed on expressing himself in the EP format and on formulating pointed ideas as clearly and precisely as possible. Using diverse source materials, often relying on acoustic instruments for their organic timbres, inner movement and emotional associations, his music is a cohesive conglomerate of many different approaches and prefers hinting at a hidden truth above making momentous statements just for the sake of it. This tendency awards his entire catalogue a timeless quality and connects his earliest albums with his most recent output. Some of Zuydervelt's interviews may by now be out of date, but the music of Machinefabriek will never be.
Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Hi. I’m doing good. Busy as ever, but a lot of nice stuff going on. And the weather is extremely good here. A shame that I’m in the office, working (as a graphic designer). A terrace would be better.
What’s on your schedule at the moment?
Oh man, so much. First of all, a lot has just, or is about to get released. Like a new cd on Dekorder, called ‘Dauw’, a 7-inch called ‘Huiswerk’, on Ketchup Cavern, a live cdr on Sentient Recognition Archive and some more. As for what I’m working on… There’s a project with Mariska Baars (a.k.a. soccer Committee), in which I’m digitally treating folk-songs she’s playing and singing. An exciting project. Another one is a filmscore I’m doing, together with Peter Broderick. The ilm is yet to be shot, but we started working on the music already. It’ll take some time before you can actually see the movie in the cinema. I guess summer 2009.
An interview with “The Wire” and a full-length on “12k” – how are you enjoying your 15 minutes of fame and stardom?
It’s nice, the attention. Getting that album out on Type and the interview in the Wire fele like some sort of trophies, a proof for me that I’m doing the right thing. I’m enjoying it.Your recent collaboration with Stephen Vitiello started with a CD order.
How did you get to know about his music in the first place? And: Had the thought of working with Stephen crossed your mind prior to this contact?
When I started to get more into experimental music I red quit some stuff about the subjet. Vitiello was a name that was mentioned a lot. It took some time before I decided to start listening to it (there’s just too much that I have to hear, you know). On his website I picked a couple of records that I found the most interesting, but those were hard to get. That’s when I mailed him. He said he heard my music and liked it. That was good to hear. He actually proposed a collaboration…“Box Music” was realised by sending objects between the two of you. How did the idea come up?
I was thinking about how we could do this. I did some collaborations before, sending digital files back and forth. I didn’t really feel like doing that again. I wanted to do something more original. So that’s how we figured that actually sending eachother ‘instruments’ was better than sending pre-recorded digital material.
How did you go about selecting the objects for the collaboration?
Anything that might make an interesting sound. And some stuff I was curious about. Like “let’s see what Stephen can do with Stephen do with this”….
After unwrapping the boxes, did you ever come across a moment that you thought: “I will never be able to produce a track with this”?
I must confess that the book (some cheap pocket) was an object I didn’t at once had an idea for. But it ended up somewhere in the mix I believe.
How important was it to you that the objects used for a track were still recognisable after the phase of processing and editing?
Not. It’s most of all a nice, new way for us to make music, but the end result is what counts. Still, how this came about was interesting enough o still give the tracks titles describing the objects used.
While the press release talks about two solo tracks and one collaborative track (also indicated as such in the track list), the liner notes read “All recording and processing by Rutger Zuydervelt and Stephen Vitiello”. Could you clarify this? How, in general, did you go about evaluating the material the other had created?
Well, I made two tracks with the materials in my box. Stephen did the same. Then we decided to do one track together, so Stephen started that, using the objects I sent him. Then I got his soundfile and added some stuff with my objects. As for our solo tracks, we both found we did a great job, so that was easy….
Despite the very different materials used in the compositional process, “Box Music” has turned out an extremely homogenuous album. How would you explain this?
I guess the way we make music and what kind of sound we want to achieve is so strong that whatever we do sounds like ‘us’… I odn’t really know… it’s how it comes out… We actually never discussed what we wanted it to sound like. So it was a pleasant surprise to have this coherent outcome.
Did this participative work teach you something about the personality of your musical partner – even though you’ve never met him?
That’s a hard one. Well, I did find out that I’d really like to meet him. He seems like a nice guy. And I learned that he’s actually more into analogue manipulation then the digital wizardery I excpected.
While almost none of the objects for “Box Music” were instruments in a traditional way, “Dauw”, your album on Dekorder, relies heavily on Acoustic and Electric Guitar. Would you say your approach to composing differs greatly depending on the tools you use?
Yes, for sure. For box music, the music is more austere, while for ‘Dauw’ I decided to make it sound more ‘free’, more radical in some sort of way. Using the drum sounds (more scraping and bowing then actually hitting) as a basis of the album was a bit new to me. This really feels like I did something fresh.“Dauw” is marked by a very organic flow. Were you consciously looking for a “live feeling” for this release?
Not a live feleling, but a more ‘lively’ feeling I would say… Yes, after Box Music it was time to expend my borders some more, instead of making another really quiet, ambient-album.Both “
Dauw” and “Box Music” were mastered by Giuseppe Ielassi. How important is his contribution to the Machinefabriek sound at the moment?
Both records demanded a crystal-clear sound. I had just bought some cd’s from the Die Schachtel label and they sound great. Besides, I’m a great fan of Ielasi’s music and I met him one or two times and he seems like a terrific guy. So I didn’t had to think long about whom to ask…
With its epic build-up, careful and intuitive development and deep layers of sound, “Singel” has turned out the natural highlight of “Dauw”. Would you say it sums up what Machinefabriek stands for in the year 2008?
No it doesn’t. But I think the album as a whole does a better job in that. I hope more people think so……