4-8 March 2001
Alt.music: New Music Festival
Pan sonic (formerly Panasonic), Makigami Koichi, John Rose, Tony Buck, Florian Hecker, David Watson and others
Curated by David Watson
With support from Asia 2000, the Goethe Institut and the Adam Art Gallery, Wellington
New York based expatriate David Watson - guitarist, bagpiper and founding member of Wellington's legendary Primitive Art Group - curates a festival of new music. He joins Finnish electronica duo Pan sonic, Japanese vocalist Makigami Koichi, violin polymath Jon Rose from the Netherlands, Australian drummer and longtime Berlin mainstay Tony Buck, German powerbook subversive Florian Hecker, and others. These eccentric, innovative instrumentalists perform solo and in various collaborative groupings. Watson says: "These are wonderful artists who are genuinely ground breaking and never stop exploring."
Finnish clubs throb to the scary extreme techno of Pan sonic, named after the giant electronics company. Mika Vainio and Ilpo Vaisanen mix ultra-minimal electronic fuzz with brainmelting distortion overload. One of the great electronic acts working now, Pan sonic cite as influences the legendary proto-techno duo Suicide, industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle and Einsturzende Neubauten, the French "musique concrete" composer Pierre Henry and the eccentric cult rockabilly musician Hasil Adkins. Their sound is increasingly moving away from the regular 4-4 techno, and is now inspired by old Jamaican dub reggae and ska. They are also informed by rockabilly, which they give a late 1970s Eno-ish twist (they have been dubbed "horsemeat rockabilly"), and Japanese noise - they recently gigged with Yamatsuka Eye of The Boredoms.
Makigami Koichi is an accomplished film and stage actor as well as a bizarre, often hilarious, improvising vocalist. An early member of Ground Zero, he is best known as vocalist for Hikashu, one of Japan's longest-running underground groups. As a result of Hikashu's evolution from electronic pop into a fusion of world music, improv and noise, Koichi began collaborating with John Zorn, who produced the all-star Makigami solo record Koroshi No Blues. Makigami also performed with Derek Bailey and Yamatsuka Eye and was the organiser of Zorn's monthly Tokyo-based improvisational forum Cobra. His first album for solo voice, Kuchinoha, was released in 1995. His recent CD Electric Eel, a collaboration with Swiss virtuoso Anton Bruhin on jaw harp, shows evidence of Makigami's study with Mongolian throat singing masters. Koichi plays with and subverts Orientalist stereotypes, taking his own culture to task through comedic exaggeration as geek "Number One fucking butterfly Boy". Though astute in employing technology, his performance is primarily based on his body and his voice. A staple of television talk shows, Makigami is a celebrity in Japan; he defies the traditional position of experimental artist.
Throughout the 1970s, in England then Australia, violinist Jon Rose worked in a bewildering variety of music genres, from sitar to country and western; from new music composition, to commercial studio session-work to bebop; from big band serial composition to sound installation. He became the central figure in the development of free improvisation in Australia. In 1986, he moved to Berlin in order to realise his on-going project, The Relative Violin, a total art form based solely around the violin. He has made over 25 deconstructed violin instruments including the legendary double-piston, triple-neck wheeling violin and giant bowed instruments up to 15 metres in length. Rose has appeared on over 50 records and CDs and worked with many of the innovators in contemporary music, including Derek Bailey, Butch Morris, Fred Frith, Shelley Hirsh, Connie Bauer, Toshinori and Alvin Curran. In 1989, in co-operation with Berlin's New Music Festival Inventionen, he directed the first Relative Violin Festival with violinists from around the world. He is currently performing The Chaotic Violin, for violin and interactive software. Current group projects include Violin Music in the Age of Shopping; the infamous Berlin Noise-Impro-Rock Band; and the interactive Badminton game Perks, based on the musical innovations and perversions of Australian freak composer Percy Grainger.
Drummer Tony Buck is best known as the leader of hardcore improvisation band Peril and a member of Australian trio The Necks. Graduating from the Sydney Conservatorium, Buck spent his early musical life experimenting with rock and jazz. He did all kinds of work, performing with visiting American jazz stars, appearing on TV with leading pop bands, and mixing noise styles in underground clubs. Since 1990 he has concentrated on personal projects. After a year in Japan, where he formed Peril with Otomo Yoshihide and Kato Hideki, Buck moved to Europe and became deeply involved in the European music scene. Now he is focussing on the integration of sampling electronics and percussion within an improvising context. He has developed a personal virtual MIDI controlling instrument at Steim in Amsterdam, which he often uses in solo performances. Buck has recorded over eighty of his own compositions and composed pieces for dance and theatre. His music has featured in several films, including The Necks' soundtrack for the Australian movie The Boys.
Germany's Florian Hecker is the enfant terrible of the audio file and boy genius of Vienna's Mego clan. The world's hippest laptop brigade, Mego are notiorious for the pranksterism; their acts include Fennesz, Pita and Farmers Manual. Influenced by computer linguistics as well as his autodidact's view of contemporary music, his albums have helped redefine the contemporary sound culture by creating perverse relationships between volume and silence, articulating a new vision of sonic beauty in the process. As a Mego member he was awarded a Prix Ars Electronica Award of Distinction for Digital Musics in 1999.
David Watson has performed and recorded with Sonic Youth's Lee Renaldo and Thurston Moore, his own group Endgame (which includes Philip Glass' percussionists Jim Pugliese and Christine Bard), John Zorn, Ikue Mori, Shelley Hirsch, Mark Stewart (from Paul Simon's and Steve Riech's ensembles), John Cage collaborator Chris Mann, Christian Marclay and others. A regular at The Knitting Factory and Tonic, he's also appeared at Experimental Intermedia, Merkin Hall, PS1, Roulette, Greenwich House, The Cooler and CBGB's. Playing bagpipes since the mid 1980s, Watson has set out to take this typecast instrument beyond conventional boundaries. John Zorn calls his new bagpipe CD Skirl "the great bagpipe record from the downtown scene." [image Pan sonic]
David Watson interview