interview: MARSEN JULES

A few weeks after the release of”Beautyfear“, Martin Juhls talks about his peculiar approach to music, the upcoming releases as Marsen Jules and his projects as artist and owner of the Oktaf label.
marsen_julesWhat has been your musical training? How did you come to electronic and ambient music?
The instrument I started with was the guitar, but I always looked for ways to use the instrument against the manual to create new sounds. I loved Sonic Youth as well as Neil Young and his ecstatic feedback orgies on the “Arc“ album. Creating a whole world of sound was something very fascinating. From there I got interested in the music pioneers from the first half of last century. I listened a lot to Stockhausen, Ligeti, Luigi Nono and Penderecki and then I accidentally jumped over to Autechre and Aphex Twin, which was completely mind-blowing for me at that time. Instead of playing guitar I started to work with 4-track recorders, minidisc-loops, midi sequencing and field recording to create first tracks and collages. Also I created mixtapes using 4-6 decks and several minidisc loops at the same time.

Is there any artist you consider important in your musical formation or at least someone you feel close to your way of making music?
There is some direct influences for sure. Listening to Stockhausen’s “Gesang der Jünglinge“ and “Studie 1“ had a big influence on my own understanding of silence. It is said that Andy Warhol made all his pictures on the basis of a canvas which was painted black before. Somehow like that silence has become the basis for all my compositions and it is present in every moment. Another influence are the phasing techniques of Steve Reich – to let patterns of different time length run against each other. I use this idea in a very slowed down version and even on different level of the composition. This technique was also the basis for Brian Eno’s generative music.

How would you describe the meaning and the goal – both personal and artistic – of your music?
An expression of the unconscious in a language beyond words.

Which is your ideal condition for creating music? Where does your inspiration usually came from (both technically and emotionally)?
It simply just happens. But the most important condition these days is to have the time for doing it. If the time and inspiration is there, then also a good green tee on a quiet rainy morning or a bottle of red wine in the late night can help a lot.

Most experimental artists have rich discographies and it’s not unusual they release many albums in few time, while the latest Marsen Jules albums took quite long to came out. Is this because you need longer time to set all the details of your music?
No, I work very fast and intuitive. But after the bankrupt of Hausmusik (distributor) and the end of CCO (label) I had so many unreleased material, that I didn´t even feel inspired to make new music at all. Making an own label was a good idea, but it also took some time. First I made the rereleases of “Lazy Sunday Funerals” and “Yara” to establish the label. Then we had lots of work with the Harold Budd compilation. Unfortunately a lot of things went wrong promoting the Nostalgia album, which is in my opinion my most personal rough and emotional album. Then came the Trio album (“Présence Acousmatique“) and now “Beautyfear” and I still have material for four Marsen Jules albums and a brand new cooperation with piano player Bruno Sanfilippo in the pipeline.

Anyway, still in the meantime of your latest albums you kept releasing records from your other projects, krill.minima and the Marsen Jules Trio: when composing a track, how do you choose which project it will be released under?
Marsen Jules is my main project right now. Other projects are cooperations with musicians. The krill.minima project is pretty much on hold and the released material was a collection of old material. There has always been clear differences between my projects. Marsen Jules is simply about exploring acoustic material in a very poetic way. The idea to create a whole universe just from a few particles of sound. The idea with krill.minima was to take a lot of different sounds and create one thing out of it. Unfortunately I simply don´t have the time to focus on a project like krill.minima any more.

While “Nostalgia” was a somehow romantic album, “Beautyfear” seems much more darker and focused on an “orchestral” sound: how did you come to the sounds of the new album?
It simply just happened. Creating music for me is a very intuitive and unconscious process. I simply stay with what I feel comfortable with in the moment. Like a painter who is intuitively choosing the colors from the feeling of the moment.

Is there a conceptual meaning of the album title and a reason why you left all the tracks untitled?
Yes there is a conceptual meaning and a big relation also between music, artwork and title. It´s a very personal album.

Do you think that electronic music can work on its own to sum up the sound of a whole orchestra or that acoustic, “real” sound are anyhow needed?
I cannot say anything about this. There is simply no relation to the work I do, as my work is always based on the recordings of unique acoustic moments.

For what definitions might mean, what do you think of the expression “modern classical”?
There is a lot of music under this genre which is simply good composed cinematique or soundtrack music. There is not much difference between some so called „avant-garde“ electronic composers and a good Hollywood soundtracks. Even if a lot of my music has a big relation to classic and orchestral sounds it has never been a goal for me to simply create nice and emotional music.

Your music often sound much “cinematic”: is there any link between it and images, places, etc.?
Yes, my music has a very poetic and narrative approach. But I also like to keep it open for personal reception. That´s for example why I work with filmmaker Anders Weberg. His images are very subtile and surrealistic and when playing with him I even try to make the music as abstract and reduced as possible, so that the viewer/listener can dive into his own reception and is not so much distracted by fixed concepts.

It’s easy to think that most of the music you listen to is experimental and electronic-based, but generally speaking, what music do you enjoy as a listener?
The aspect of quality has become very important for me. I´m really touched by very deep and rich professional produced music. For example the soundtracks for “Million Dollar Hotel“ (by Wenders) or the TV-series “House of Cards“ and the compositions of Cliff Martinez belong to that kind. Maybe this can be related to a very good Japanese green tea. If you are just drinking for the caffeine, then there is no big differences, but if you have a good sense of taste, then it can be a completely different world.

Other than writing music, you also run the Oktaf label: what made you start a label in the nowadays difficult music market? How’s been the label experience until now?
I simply wanted to be able to have everything in my own hands. We are getting good feedback for the label so far and as I mainly use it to promote my own music it´s worth even if there is not so much money generated from this. Also I invest some of my own income in other artists releases such as Gastón Arévalo or Lufth.

What do you think about the way music spreads nowadays through the web (including streaming, downloads etc.)?
It´s wonderful how music can spread easily around the world and reach so many people. But it´s also a pain in the ass, that it is very hard these days to be an artist moneywise. In my opinion the society has to take more responsibility for art and artists in the future. For me being an artist these days is a luxury that I allow myself.

What else can we expect from you in the near future, and what do you expect from music?
There will be a couple of releases coming this year: a limited one-track album on Dronarivm and a full length conceptual album for Glacial Movements. Also I will release my works from a residency at the GRM Studios in Paris and a collaboration album with piano player Bruno Sanfilippo. Regarding live shows I will play a couple of shows with Anders Weberg on several international festivals.

(italian version)


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