After some 30 years making music and over 60 albums to your credit, what do you think Jack Hertz can offer to the ambient aficionado? Read the full interview and find out the answer to this and other questions at http://synth-caresses.blogspo…
PART II – “An Interview with Jack Hertz”
…time to mend the mistake. A chat with Jack Hertz.
“Generally, I am working on 5-10 albums at any one time.”
Synth-caresses: After some 30 years making music and over 60 albums to your credit, what do you think Jack Hertz can offer to the ambient aficionado?
Jack Hertz: “When I started working in the early 1980s. The original idea behind electronic music was to explore alternate forms of composition and timbre. I admired how artists like Stockhausen, Klaus Schulze, and Bill Nelson embraced this philosophy of exploring new avenues. They have been some of my biggest influences and why I feel compelled to incorporate alien concepts when I am creating sounds.
In this sense, I hope to bring what is my own private view of the ambient (electronic) music landscape. While I don't set out to be different for the sake of it, I do want to offer an alternative to what I see as the white washed ambient sound that is most commonly found. I like to think I am there for the adventurous listener who wants to be challenged with something obscure, yet familiar enough that it is still accessible.”
Synth-caresses: I think one could describe you as a sort of sonic shaman: you conjure up sounds/noise, throw them in the cauldron and make up a trance-inducing concoction with them.
Jack Hertz: “That is Great! I may have to quote you on that. My work with sound is a sort of vehicle that I use to commune with the Logos. Connecting with the universal intelligence that powers the mysterious gears of reality is what really excites me. I am invigorated by everything from the quantum to the godly to the mystery of the end of the universe and beyond. My goal is to find ways to tap into that kind of energy and bring some of it back to the music.”
“Intelligent Ambient Music […]is not a genre in this regard. It is meant to encourage artists to expand their approach to sound on a more intellectual level.”
Synth-caresses: You’re the administrator of the Facebook Group “Intelligent Ambient Music”. The term “ambient”, in my humble opinion, has become such a humungous melting pot that these days it actually means nothing and describes nothing, musically. Hence the need to add to it yet another adjective: dub ambient, dark ambient, techno ambient, intelligent ambient, tribal, industrial… you name it. What does “Intelligent Ambient Music” should have intrinsically to set it apart from the other sub-genres?
Jack Hertz: “Intelligent Ambient Music (IAM) is a response to many of the deficiencies you mention that have impacted music that is based on fashion. IAM is not a genre in this regard. It is meant to encourage artists to expand their approach to sound on a more intellectual level. To move away from cookie-cutter fashions by integrating ambient concepts with traditional music structures and/or imposed concepts. Much like books, sound can evoke a plethora of human feelings that can and should be used to tell stories, transport to others places, and go where no visual has gone before. I believe in the future, music up till the 20th century, will be seen as a stepping stone to something more intimate and exciting than we can imagine today. This is important, as I think music needs to evolve to stay relevant. Else, it will drown in its own dogma.”
Synth-caresses: So, what I understand is that IAM is not a musical subgenre, but an approach to music from the musicians themselves. Like a sort of reminder to the artists that their approach to ambient music mustn't be shallow, but a bit off the beaten track whenever possible, right?
Jack Hertz: “Correct, basically the idea is to not just make nice sounds without relevance to anything. But to make something conceptually engaging for the listener. "Sonic story telling" is how I like to think about it.”
Synth-caresses: You’re very active both as a musician and as a catalyst in the ambient scene, with webs such as Encyclotronica, the Aural Films Netlabel, or the Intelligence Ambient Music group in Facebook. What’s that driving force that keeps you so active in the scene?
Jack Hertz: “It seems to me, we are on the eve of some kind of great salon gathering of sorts. The opportunity to contribute to this kind of inflection point is a rare and special thing to be part of. To many, this looks like a disruptive time that is bringing an end to what they love. For those who see above the status-quo. This is a new beginning. My feeling is no one needs to settle for the limitations of industrialized music.
I have always wanted to do more with music and feel that part of this paradigm shift is one's work can help to enable others as well. I want to understand and cultivate this aspect of being an artist in the digital age and just doing what I can to see what works. The only way to do that is try and see what works as everything is brand new. Projects like Encyclotronica have been a good learning experience. People are still coming to terms with going online as labels and artists and there is still much to learn about how to establish, promote and grow an audience in a free access “pay what you like” model.”
“I like to think I am there for the adventurous listener who wants to be challenged with something obscure, yet familiar enough that it is still accessible.”
Synth-caresses: You’re also very prolific, in compilations and, especially, in collaborations with other musicians (the list is endless). Why do you think so many people want to work with you?
Jack Hertz: “I can only venture a guess that people are inspired by what I do as a community member. I get a lot of pleasure from being part of the community. Working with others seems to be a natural progression for artists who want to branch out. It appears to me that many artists find collaboration is as a sort of confirmation of the ideas they are developing. Being able to apply your ideas developed as a solo artist to other's ideas is very fulfilling. All the projects I have worked on have been a lot of fun and great learning experience.
Moreover, there's a special kind of bond that develops in these times. I cannot define it in terms of family, or friends. It is something only artists share. The recent passing of fellow artist Kevin Haller made me keenly aware of this. While we never met in-person, sharing ideas on music meant a lot to me and I was deeply saddened when I heard he was gone.”
“My work with sound is a sort of vehicle that I use to commune with the Logos. Connecting with the universal intelligence that powers the mysterious gears of reality is what really excites me.”
Synth-caresses: How does Jack Hertz approach a new album? Do you work from a preset idea to guide you or do you simply let yourself go and then decide where and how to assemble those musical compositions into coherent albums?
Jack Hertz: “Most of the albums I release are a reflection of the things I am interested in. It might be a place I am fascinated with, an artist I am enamored with, or something deeper like an interest in a mysterious culture or something nostalgic from my past.
Generally, I am working on 5-10 albums at any one time. Since, I record music almost every day. I am able to steer tracks I am working on towards one of the albums I am developing. At which point, I will start drawing on ideas from the concepts I have in mind as a way to cultivate the work for that album.
I do try to work quickly. I get my best results from recording and mixing the tracks while the inspiration is still fresh in mind. If I spend too much time tracking or listening to a mix, I tend to over think things and end up blurring the original intent. For this reason, I will very often record and mix an entire track on same day.”
Synth-caresses: How important is sound designing before the act of composing?
Jack Hertz: “It used to be paramount to my work. I stopped separating the two in recent years as my knowledge of sound design has become more intimate. Today, I tend to design sounds all through the composition process. However, I have become keenly aware that we have too many choices today. The design aspect can get out of control with always another synth or effect to try. The old saying "Less is More" is a personal rule for me. I try to work with a set library of sounds that I use wholesale or tweak as needed to help contain the number of variants that can influence what I am doing.”
Synth-caresses: The tribal ingredient is present in many of your works, but unlike other artists from the ethno-ambient scene, the outcome in your music is very peculiar, as if those tribal sounds were deconstructed and blended into the soundscape, rather than standing on their own.
Jack Hertz: “That is a very keen observation. Much of the tribal music I hear today is made with ethnic timbres replacing modern drum kit arrangements used for rock, R&B or dance beats. When I began with music as a percussionist in the late 1970s, I discovered from Asian, African and Middle Eastern folk musics that percussion has been used to create a diverse range of tuned and micro-tonal sounds including drones, bass, melody and trance patterns for 100s of years. What you hear are my attempts to carry on along this ancestral path of exploring micro-tonal music by mixing modern timbres with these ancient concepts.”
Synth-caresses: The “Fukushima Drones” project, at this rate, will most certainly set up a new world record as the longest album ever. What can you tell us about it?
Jack Hertz: “I often compose music in response to things I am interested in. As I was working on some drone music about the Fukushima disaster, it occurred to me that a collection of works made in this manner would be a new way to work with other artists to both document their feelings about the event and raise awareness about it at the same time.
On a whim, I started it as a living project with no deadline for submissions so it can continue to grow. The project was launched with my track and since has only accepted music composed specifically for the project. We have published 41 tracks and raised over $600 USD to support the disaster relief at the time of this writing.”
“It seems to me, we are on the eve of some kind of great salon gathering of sorts. The opportunity to contribute to this kind of inflection point is a rare and special thing to be part of.”
Synth-caresses: This is a more general question. Where do you spend more time: thinking which elements you’ll need for your next composition, designing sounds, or once you’ve got all of them, to improvising/composing/recording?
Jack Hertz: “I spend most of my time thinking about a high level concept for an album. A lot of meditation and planning is done at this level before I work on the sound portion. At which point, the music I make is more of a reaction to these ideas, and or unreleased material is re-evaluated for the project in mind. For example, I have been studying Terra Australis recently and developing some ideas on how to approach this as an album. Additionally, the "Cahokia" album will almost certainly be followed up it with a more specific focus on the American Pyramids themselves.”
Synth-caresses: I, as an ordinary citizen, have the feeling that politicians, on a global scale, are moving farther and farther away from the citizenship and, almost imperceptibly, lots of civil rights are being lost along the way. Maybe we are all losing our common sense. Do you share a similar vision?
Jack Hertz: “Globalization has affected almost everything we know today. With so many people on the planet, there is group consensus for anything they believe. This has created a lot of turmoil over what the truth is. I do agree that those in power are exploiting this situation to relieve themselves of the moral and legal restrictions they previously felt obligated to uphold.”
Synth-caresses: Thanks very much, Jack.