schtum distills the spectrum of oscillatory rhythm, noise, and microtonality into an aesthetic lying somewhere between the organic and the machine. Processes are set in motion by the instruments, only to be stressed and superimposed, decontextualized and deformed, until – like an exhausted voice – they break. In this electroacoustic world of feedback loops, sub-bass interference and twittering noise, an outline emerges: the shape of the field upon which schtum plays.
What is the genesis of schtum? Manu, you are trained in jazz and classical music, for instance. Robert, you are a composer and have worked with other bands and ensembles (also theatre).
From the beginning, it was clear for us that we wanted to realize something special, something that we can’t do in other bands/projects/compositions. We started experimenting with different set-ups, routings, stacking of distortion/fuzz/overdrive & pink noise machines in the studio. We immediately found ourselves agreeing on this one thing. This certain kind of routing with the order of pedals bears immense potential for us as instrumentalists. Our prime motivation is performing our take on contemporary electronic dance/noise music live with instruments.
Can you talk about the dynamics of schtum – when you play live, you face each other, the feedback is probably not only musical but also emotional, personal?
Dynamics and awareness are keywords in our performance. The sound radiating from the speakers is always a combination of both of our signals. If one of us stopped playing, the whole sound would change dramatically, so we’re in a constant state of interdependence, always taking care of each other as well as the sum, the reverberation and reflection.
How do you craft your music, can you talk about the textures and structures of it, the improvisation part vs the controlled one?
All textures are combinations of guitar, bass and bass-drum trigger melting together or ducking each other in various distortion circuits. Ultimately, we design a reverb which we think fits to the specific song. Yes, we think most of our pieces are actually songs, „conjuring abstract movement in sound“ is what we wrote in our most recent press release. As a starting point, each piece has a certain kind of physical movement we find ourselves immersed in. Sometimes it is a complex rhythmical loop but it can also be a low frequency interference drone scattered by harsh guitar feedback of all kinds. Improvisation and coincidence help us to develop ideas or shape an arrangement. In the end, the whole live-set has a very clear structure in which we can still move freely and always without click or artificial sequencing. In our role as performers we rehearse how to interact with the set-up of each song, making it our own and stretching or compressing it as we like – which depends largely on the acoustics of the room we’re dealing with.
Vienna/Austria has a thriving improv music scene. Are you part of this scene? Where exactly are you based and can you talk about your city’s music scene?
Yes, there is a lot going on in Vienna these days. Bands, cultural collaborations, festivals etc. pop up here and there and over the years an interesting scene has been established. The scene is not huge but has a strong output, everybody still knows everybody.
Manu, you were also one of the co-founders of Laub Records. Can you talk about this Viennese label?
Laub records has been a great platform for us to be able to release music quickly and without complications. I have to admit that in recent years each member of the collective has gradually moved towards larger or more professional partners to release and distribute their music. We’re all live performers and I too found myself realizing that I simply enjoy the performance part of being a musician much much more than all the other things you have to do when you’re DIY.
What are you currently working on and what are you plans for this year?
2019 has been great so far. Our next stop is Donaufestival Krems on May 5th and the release of our debut album Feed in June. In July, we are playing Gamma Festival in St.Petersburg, in November at Vienna’s oldest contemporary music festival Wien Modern and in December we are going to Brazil to play Novas Frequencias.
Photo: Michael Fellner