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Interviews

Markus Reuter: (R)Evolutionary Touch Guitarist

By Published: October 19, 2010
AAJ: Why did you and Pat reissue Totem?

MR: We reissued it because the first edition was sold out quickly and we wanted to make a couple of small changes to the mixes.

AAJ: Please describe your work with Ian Boddy. How would you best describe the sonic and ambient constructs that you create? How have your collaborations with Ian changed and evolved over the years? Can you select three specific pieces in your work with Ian and explain these pieces reflect your best ideas/execution with him and why?

MR: Ian was introduced to me by our mutual friend, Sid Smith, in September 1998. Ian's become a dear friend and very reliable business partner over the course of time. He has released lots of albums and other products that I was involved with in one way or another in the past ten years and contrary of common practice in the business his reports are always on-time, which is a quality that says a lot about a person.

When Sid introduced us, I sent Ian some of my soundscapes, which became the foundation of our debut album Distant Rituals (DiN, 1999). Ian and I first met in person in early 1999, to finalize the album together. Our first album was mostly Ian's idea, almost entirely based on my Touch Guitar loops, which in and of themselves were already complete compositions. He further shaped the forms and the sound, and we recorded only a few overdubs. Pure (DiN, 2004) entirely draws upon compositional miniatures I came up with [compositions from the same batch also appeared on Totemand on Tim Bowness' solo album, My Hotel Year (One Little Indian, 2004]).

Our most recent release, Dervish (DiN, 2009), is our most successful collaboration to date. We both let go of our past and using a very loose concept we came up with this work, which some reviewers have called the "state-of-the-art" in electronic music. The sounds were almost entirely sourced from my Touch Guitars U8 guitar. By the way, there is also a stripped-down companion album called Unwound, which focuses on the original guitar textures. It is available as a digital download from Music Zeit .

AAJ: How much of your collaborations are based on spontaneous improvisation? How much planning do you do separately or jointly on the compositions?

MR: "Spontaneous improvisation" as in "playing together" --- none at all. For Dervish, we had actually prepared samples and also some musical ideas before meeting up at my studio in Innsbruck. I had sampled my touch guitar (single-note ambient pads sounds, straight and looped) and Ian turned them into software instruments that could be played with a keyboard and/or with from within the sequencing software. Ian also brought a sample library of the Hang Drum into the mix. Once we met and came up with the concept for the record (each piece is based on one of the seven 'modes of unlimited transposition'), we dropped most (if not all) of the musical ideas we had developed at a distance and started from scratch. The process of composing the pieces was entirely improvised with equal input from both of us, and the aim was to always find common ground.

AAJ: What would you say is your ambient music benchmark? How do you measure your own work against it?

MR: I don't think I measure my own work against a specific "ambient music benchmark." There are general musical and sonic ideals I'm after nowadays, but some of David Sylvian
David Sylvian
David Sylvian
b.1958
vocalist
's and Brian Eno
Brian Eno
Brian Eno
b.1948
author
's works were certainly very influential. By the way, Dervish is not an ambient album at all, at least not in the traditional sense and from my point of view.

AAJ: You and Ian work jointly on the rhythmic structure of the pieces, correct? "Joker," for example, has a few Crimson-like odd-tempo elements, but it is played with a lighter touch.

MR: Generally, I suggested the rhythmic structures. There are usually two or three different cycles/time signatures running at the same time in each piece.

AAJ: Please tell me about the string arrangements you created on "Angst." How challenging was it for you to go back after the performance was already complete and fit a suitable accompaniment?

MR: The string arrangements were written and recorded last: The three-part guitar melody I had written in the studio in Innsbruck, and the string parts were overdubbed in order to create dense clusters within the octatonic scale on which the piece is based. It is supposed to sound "awkward and wrong."

AAJ: So is the Unwound download actually the recordings you gave to Ian to start working with?

MR: No. Unwound is based on the soundscapes (i.e. guitar loops) I recorded in my studio whilst we were composing the pieces. It was Ian's idea to isolate the textural elements of the compositions (including some of the string quartet performances) and turn them into an ambient album. I think Unwound came out great. We were even considering putting it out as a CD since we like it so much, but then decided for the download route.


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