Our interview series »10 Questions with…« will introduce several of the acts from the lineup of this year’s Pop-Kultur festival that have earned a place in your playlists and hearts. This time, Viennese artist Conny Frischauf gives insights into her work and her approach to music. Even if her album »Die Drift« has sonic references to genres such as krautrock, her work is above all remains an open process. A conversation on the similarities between water and sound, about hardware and the appeal of the unfinished.
During the pandemic, there was often talk of solidarity. But there was also talk of artists being left on their own. How did you experience this tension?
At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a great deal of uncertainty, which affected everyone, including artists. The hesitant reaction of politicians led to voices demanding a solution to this extreme situation. Fortunately, this led to subsidies, among other things, so that at least existential threats could be largely prevented. It is often forgotten that many artists were already working in precarious conditions before the pandemic and that nothing can really change as long as we move in a pool of competition and the constant maximisation of profit. I see the support as a first step to move out of this spiral.
For me personally, the time during the first lockdown was quite exciting: uncertainty also holds potential for things to change. However that may turn out. At the same time, many people have suffered, or are still suffering, from this situation. Social inequalities have increased and become more apparent; precarious conditions have become even more precarious. Covid has made the weak points of our society (more) visible. These vulnerabilities have always been there, but the lines of vision have changed. I can’t say exactly how these views will change or where they are headed but I hope that in the long term, we will find a critical approach to ourselves, our environment and our actions.
Do you think that the experience of lockdowns and curfews will change your artistic practice?
I think that that’s already happening and will continue to have an impact, just as change always has an impact on what we do. Whether it’s in an artistic or everyday form, for me, it’s seamless.
Let’s talk about krautrock. Your album was released by Bureau B, a label that handles not only reissues but also new music in the traditions of this genre. How did your partnership come about?
It was quite uncomplicated: Bureau B asked me to contribute to a compilation, and in the course of this cooperation, the possibility of releasing an album also came about. At that time I was working on »Die Drift,« and it all worked out quite well.
Daniel Jahn from Bureau B will host a discussion at Pop-Kultur on the topic of krautrock. The term has various dimensions: historical, aesthetic, even national… What is your own relationship to krautrock, and do you place your music in its wake at all?
Besides historical, aesthetic and national aspects, one must not forget the gender-specific ones. Krautrock is a genre in which, from a historical perspective and with a few exceptions, mainly men were active. For me personally, krautrock is a genre name that, as categories are prone to do, makes it easier to talk or write about something. But with the term »krautrock,« I think one must also consider the possible effects that go along with it. National dimensions of a genre, once exploited for a specific purpose, can also become problematic.
I don’t necessarily see myself as being bound to a tradition of a specific genre. Rather, I think it’s about an attitude that can reveal itself in very different ways. I am interested in forming something without prerequisites or guidelines. Not having or needing to do something as a possibility, so to speak. But there are certainly elements in my music that can evoke associations with various genres. It always depends on what you have already been involved with and how these sounds are perceived. For me, music is simply what happens when I use the instruments or sound generators I find and like to play with. I see genres as a fragmentary attempt to verbalise something that cannot be put into words. Sound is on a different level than descriptive language; other senses come into play. At any rate, I am already looking forward to the panel discussion.
What other movements, perspectives or sonic developments in pop music are you interested in?
There are so many different movements, artists and people who are important to me and whom I appreciate and respect for their work. As soon as I would start with a list, I would be excluding other things that were important to me, are important now and will become important. My work thrives on process and attention. A cycle that is always expanding or moving beyond f itself through the practice of acceptance, staying open and dealing critically with past, present and future developments and movements; perhaps sometimes collapsing. It depends. But what is pop music? I never know, and yet I do, and I don’t.
I read that you use almost only hardware when producing and that you even do without MIDI. Is there an idea behind that? And what implications does that have for your live performance?
At the moment, I mainly use hardware and meanwhile also a little bit of MIDI, because it has become necessary for my concerts. There is no specific idea behind the use of hardware, but rather it has just turned out that way over time. This is simply my approach when I work with sound. I like the feel and the sounds that come out of these devices unexpectedly and can never be completely controlled. In concerts, this gives me the opportunity to improvise within a more defined framework, which is always a challenge, but at the same time very exciting. Because I can’t predict what will happen next. »Mistake« and »failure« are part of the whole. Both terms have negative connotations, but still hold incredible potential. I like that.
Your current album is called »Die Drift.« I was wondering, do you see a connection between working with synthesisers and sound synthesis and the element of water?
If you look at moving water, at waves, you notice that there is never a wave in itself. There is no closed form. Within the wave lies the next wave and large waves are made up of small waves. And small waves consist of even smaller waves, and so on. An infinity of waves, you could say. That’s how I see sound, too: sound can never be completely finished – it keeps resonating. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in rooms or in heads or somewhere else entirely. It’s very natural for things not to be »finished.« Recordings are fragments of a time, they are part of a past.
How have you experienced the hype around modular synthesisers in recent years?
I worked for a few years in Vienna for a shop called Wavemeister, which specialised in electronic audio equipment. And for a few more years I was an employee at Elektroakustik Wagner, a workshop where we mainly restored old electronic studio equipment and instruments. So I was inevitably aware of the latest developments. I still follow them now, but with a different intention and very irregularly.
Your music sounds very open to me. That’s true for the lyrics as well. They are very catchy at some points, but there is also something associative about them. Can you describe how your lyrics come about?
I don’t have a specific answer to that, just more questions. I like language. And I like words and letters and pauses and space bars. What’s more is that I like linguistic twists and distortions. I also like the sound of words and non-words and space bars. Paper and pens are good inventions for which I am grateful. I am also grateful for the voice and the body. Also good inventions, I think. So maybe my writing comes out of gratitude for the invention of the human body in this world and its follow-up inventions. Perhaps. By the way, someone – perhaps unintentionally – once wrote »Dir Drift« somewhere. In German, that sounds like wishing someone a drift, which I think is a nice thing to say.
You also work as a visual artist, and – if I read your homepage correctly – in the field of sculpture. Also as a DJ. Is there interaction between these fields, or are they separate things for you?
I think the separation of these fields is mostly a formal matter, that is, referring to a form. What unites them in my approach is the improvisational-compositional approach and the desire to be and act with and in spaces. These can be physical, mental and unknown spaces. For me personally, there is no separation. Trying out and being interested in materials of any form (visible – invisible, audible – inaudible…) results in a media-specific feel. But independent of questions of form, I think all my works are social in the sense that they like to spend time with people.
Conny Frischauf is playing on August 28th 17.00 at the Pavillon. Buy your tickets here!