This article is part of The Avant-Guardian no. 8.
After having read about how the sound of crickets sounds like a sublime harmony of human voices if you slow it down multiple times, and after trying to decide which tea I should have after being overwhelmed by such sonic wonder I suddenly felt the urge to listen to Jeff Witscher his music. He came to Brussels on the 26th of september for KRAAK’s Yung Sheikhs series. If the name Witscher doesn’t sound familiar, his alter ego Rene Hell might ring a little bell. He aroused 10 years ago from the LA noise scene and hasn’t stopped making electronic marvels ever since. I immediately sat down and emailed him some questions.
AM Jeff, how do you feel about crickets and their sonic possibilities?
JW I think this recording is quite interesting and sounds nice. As for crickets I’ve never really thought about them but clearly there is some potential here to make a work out of this.
AM What is sound to you?
JW Sound is a medium and a difficult one at that. Due to its inherent ephemeral nature it’s played and lost quickly only to remain as a memory and a short one at that. When it’s heard there is a lot of energy spent trying to figure out what it’s a result of and it also relies on people to listen more than hear which can be problematic. Otherwise it’s quite nice to play around with and can be very effective in the live performance.
AM When I listen to your music, it really invites me into a visual dreAMscape, I almost automatically start thinking of all kinds of images, is that also how you compose? Or is this something you want people to experience?
JW No I don’t see any images. It’s more about creating an immersive environment with a palette I find interesting because of the original source of the sound or the timbre or character. However I do enjoy closing my eyes and simply letting sound transport me from whatever state I’m in, I suppose that makes for a successful piece. As far as images, they may inevitably arrive but it’s not something I’m aware of. The composing is mostly for live performances and what will work in any given setting eg taking into account the room, the nature of the show, the sound system etc. Also spending a lot of time trying to be clever.
AM Your music is described as melancholic. I was wondering what kind of things arouse melancholy with you? I for instance become quite melancholic of numbers and maths, doing maths, thinking of maths, recognizing maths in the everyday life and in music. How do you experience that?
JW The only things that arouses melancholy for me are thoughts of death, which I consider daily for better or worse. I’m not sure if that comes out in the music, I haven’t thought about that really.
AM In Brussels, you are going to be in the company of Eric Frye, who released on your label Salon Records. Tell me about your understanding; how did you guys meet? What binds you?
JW I had a peripheral relationship with Eric before I moved to St. Paul, MN & he was living there so we began to meet and talk. It was a terrible winter there so we’d stay up late and drink and talk and we’ve kept in touch ever since. We share sentiments on music and performance and process so we have plenty to talk about when we’re around each other and we’ve done some touring together for music which worked well.
AM By the end of my questionnaire I still had not decided which tea would suit the surroundings, so I asked Jeff, who did not turn out to be such a tea fan.
JW You know Amber, I don’t drink tea at all so I would recommend some coffee or white coffee especially.
AM Cheers Jeff, see you in AB!
— Amber Meulenijzer