27-09-2012 | 16.30
This Saturday Les Enfants Terribles invites DJ Sprinkles (Terre Thaemlitz) to De Verdieping to play a three hour deep house set during their hosting night at Imprint. We thought we keep it short and were planning to ask Terre three questions. But Terre was so kind to take the time to answer every question in detail. Something we seldom see nowadays. We decided to split the answer, so here's part one. The two other questions and answers will follow in the next days. Take your time for once and don't click back to your Facebook, 'cause this is interesting stuff.
Les Enfant Terribles: "Hi Terre! From what we’ve read in other interviews you seem to have a very outspoken opinion on the state of (electronic) music today. Please allow me to set out a small summary of your opinion on this matter to make sure I fully understand your arguments, before asking you a few questions related to it.
If we understand correctly popularity of records is often determined before it’s even on the market due to, amongst others, the production & distribution mechanisms of capitalist political economy. This severs actual productional quality of a record from its popularity. This then leads to the situation where music sold to the public is worlds away from the music that would be on sale if people had a real choice in the matter. As opposed to these pre-determined taste "preferences" and prefabricated identities that are pushed on us.
Apart from that you state that house music is affected by a conservative backlash as it went from a free and experimental environment to a very traditional one due to the sheer scale of todays market and the resulting pressure on producers to cough up tracks like machines.
All of this seems to point in the direction of an unfriendly enviroment for contemporary music, both for the artists and the consumers. It could be argued that this is leading to a radical drop in artistic quality of musical output: A pessimistic conclusion about the state of electronic music.
This situation leads me to the following question(s): Would you say above statements are a more or less accurate reflection of your views on the subject? In case I misunderstood, could you kindly elaborate? And more importantly, related to the issues above, how would you describe your own music? Seeing as it’s not very realistic to disconnect yourself completely from the current production system, you must have thoughts about how to position your music within the framework imposed by our current capitalist "zeitgeist".
Terre Thaemlitz: "Yes, this is all very old news, and completely documented by mainstream media itself. It’s not conspiracy theory. It’s SOP. In the ‘70s there was the Billboard scandal, where it was exposed that record labels had been purchasing chart placements for decades. It is also easy to understand that tracks or producers with major financial push and promotion behind them will receive more press (which goes hand-in-hand with labels and PR firms buying advertising space in magazines and online), get their products prominently placed in all the major shops, etc. This is standard capitalism – money talks. Then there are more subtle things, like when online shops list their “best sellers.” Often times this does not refer to what records the shop has sold the most of, but what records distributors sold to them in the largest quantity. Many “best seller” records would be more accurately described as “biggest stock influx records.” It’s similar to the way that first-edition books come from the printer with “#1 Best Seller” printed right on the cover – it is not a “legal lie,” but certainly a misdirected quote of the fact they are talking about sales from publishers to distributors, or distributors to shops –not the actual number of consumer purchases from stores. Of course, store buyers bring in what they expect to sell, and they also have an invested interest (literally) in recouping their expenses by ensuring they sell the items they bought in large quantities, so this is all considered acceptable hype to move product and pay the rent. And for sure, there are buyers who go out on a limb to support unsellable projects they like, despite their bosses’ opposition. But what defines a “best seller” is not simply consumer purchases. It is more about everything leading up to the consumer’s “choice.” Yes, there is consumer choice – but it is not an idyllic choice born of free will amidst endless possibilities. Our choices are crafted and limited both economically and culturally. We choose within a generally small range of available possibilities. That’s all. And those possibilities generally tie back to a business model of some sort – even for small shops.
Within this setting, I would describe my projects – hell, myself as a person – as “referential.” I am not at all interested in authenticity, uniqueness, originality, etc. If I concede that my own subjective tastes – even seemingly perverse or deviant ones – emerge from my exposure to culture, then originality is no longer a possibility. Originality is only a representational fiction, which is ultimately either in the employ of metaphysics or capitalist enterprises – none of which appeal to me. So once all that bullshit artistic rhetoric is thrown out the window, I think it is a little easier to think about how audio and other media are really affecting us on a socio-material level. How they support or subvert certain systems of domination – often hypocritically doing both at the same time. And this affects my modes of production. For example, sampling is not just a way of copying some other author’s original riff – it is a way of constructing sonic footnotes, and creating social traces. It can be a way of constructing histories. However, we clearly live in a cultural environment where it is unsafe for audio producers to talk openly about what samples they used if they were unable to afford the legal clearances. This severely limits the depth of discourses around sample-based audio, and binds us to the privilege of authenticity. Most people tend to internalize this limitation of discourse, and feel it makes sense to discourage sampling in favor of every “artist” developing their own “original” sounds and compositions – unless they have a massive budget like Puff Daddy, then all’s cool, right? But through my projects I am interested in revealing that this fundamental internalization of belief in artistry is, in effect, the very internalization of a cultural domination that severely confines audio production, distribution, and consumption."
End of Part #1
By Daan Akse & Kolja Verhage
Les Enfants Terribles