Wednesday, June 28, 2017

interview: hans johm of antlers mulm

here is an email interview i conducted with another persona whom i hold in highest regard as a musical genius, an intriguingly unique artist, and a friendly presence. antlers mulm is a project from leipzig, cherished by admirers of new wave and electronica. after 15 prolific years, it's still a relatively 'well kept secret' of those lucky to know it. some of his albums are on bandcamp. check them out if you already haven't and enjoy hans johm's answers which are just like his music - illuminating, concise and crystal clear.

i discovered your music through industrial music websites. it seems industrial scene is where your fan base is. and yet, antlers mulm's style is so gentle that it 'demilitarizes' the industrial genre. any thoughts on that?

i guess it’s a story about distribution and promotion, the channels who make the music “visible”.  the “big” mags doesn’t take any notice on the demos i sent. the “underground”/indie/industrial mags did.  if i could choose, i would like to know my music appearing on wine related blogs and spread in utopian society science circles.

your previous label sonderübertragung! is one of those labels with a very strong and recognizable style. most material on sonderübertragung! sounds, looks and feels homogeneous, like it could have been made 'in the same kitchen', or generated by the same initial spark of inspiration. so i wonder, what is for you 'a piece of work'? is it a single song, or a full album, a band's oeuvre, a band's identity or perhaps the whole label as an entity, gesamtkunstwerk?

a very difficult question, but very easy to answer. everytime i was following my taste. i always knew what is possible to appear on SUE! and what is not. i love to make things look and sound the right way. for me. it is like a light you see before you – you’ve just to follow. the difficult part is if one could call such a ego/taste-based complex a “gesamtkunstwerk”. the hardest thing for me was to hurt nobody who was involved because of my despotism in general concerning to the label. and i know i did.

when i discovered your musical universe, it struck me how closed it seemed. today it's rare to find a band who doesn't strive to spread its music to other labels, and prefers to stay on its own private continent of diy releases. what is the reason for this reluctance to spread?

it’s not easy to like other people in general. and i don’t like to make agreements and such things. i feel heavily disturbed by having “contact“ and such things. i like to watch plants growing . e mailing and all this technical stuff is very hard for me, very unsatisfying. so it is a better way for me to make covers/artwork by myself, also the cutting and folding. ...but the last a.m.-album was also released on a lithuanian label (autarkeia) and it was a good experience to me.

this self-sufficient policy also reflects in your music. antlers mulm is very focused on your calm style, and although each new album brings surprising new developments, you never stray away from your trademark palette. it feels blissfully self-contained in there, as in a musical womb. do you think you are in any way limited by the confines of your deliberate style, or you revel in freedom to explore it endlessly?

the thing you describe, the style, is something you can see/hear from outside. i just act. and so i embrace your picture of the “musical womb”.

for me the most mysterious thing about your songs is your ambivalent voice. at the same time it sounds passive [like voices of the deceased in philip k. dick's 'ubik' who are quietly uttering the words of spirit] or suggestive [as a voice of hypnotist]. are they addressing someone aloud, or are they the voice of your inner monologue? if they are an introvert's monologue, in what relation to the listener do you regard them?

i speak to you. sometimes i have the feeling to have to explain a situation to the others. sometimes i just want to tell something. but i speak to you, to you who listens. who is able to listen. that’s all.

i'll give you another impression of your voice: although it sounds intimate, it lacks any aggression. in that regard your meditations seem quite buddhist, ego doesn't manifest there, to the extent that it even seems impersonal. impersonal intimacy, now there is a paradox! i wonder, do you ever privately raise your voice?

i hardly do. but sometimes it has to be. for instance while a band is playing and i want to say something to my companion. all other possibilities i want to leave out of account here. ...i love cats and birds...

the music surrounding, as a scenery around your voice, sounds quite hermetic - no big spatial effects nor delays, opened filters nor sweeping phasers; it's got a dry, close sound. it amplifies the sense that you turned yourself inside out - we are inside the narrator. i wonder, how open are you to the influences of surrounding? do you sing about the world at all, or is it just soul interior?

i guess it is a reflection. the pictures and sounds around are in constant change. sometimes i need to arrange, regulate and organize things, otherwise i would explode or just disappear. not a big thing, but necessary.

and a question to finish this inner interrogation: i think that no matter how introvert, private, buddhist or escapist one's work may be, it always has a political potential [in broadest sense]. would you agree?

100%. everything one does or not does – it has a political dimension.

i was positively shocked when i found out about your involvement in boytronic, a band in many ways opposite of introvert - party music for clubs. and i was surprised to hear that 'dependence' album sounded more like antlers mulm [or rather beachhead] than boytronic. as a huge fan of boytronic, i am curious - what was the point of aesthetic connection between you two, and how did holger open up his 'romantic clubbing' band to a whole different style?

it all started with a boytronic interview for the taucher mag. holger asked me what i do beyond interviewing people. he suggested to do some music together, beachhead was born. i invested a lot of time and worked countless hours on both the beachhead release and the boytronic cd. beachhead was “o.k.” – i remember the endless recording of holger’s voice... but the “dependence” release was  a complete waste of time. the only true boytronic song “little italian feeling” was not written by me. there was one more song, that was also not. all other material, text, music based on my sleepless nights thoughts. once i moved away from berlin it was taken by thirds and drained into the abyss of insignificance. this process was called “producing”. i’ve got 5 cd’s for all the work. big business...

recognizable sign of antlers mulm is the ingenious simplicity. are those astonishingly simple arrangements the result of reduction, i.e. stripping down the fuller arrangement, or is it that you just insist on keeping them simple from the beginning?

it is a kind of arrangement i prefer. and it is always the result of reduction/selection.

which musical instrument would you bring to the desert island [or a hermetic cabin]?



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