The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Scanner On His Jochen Arbeit Collaboration
Luke Turner , October 20th, 2010 10:57

Robin Rimbaud speaks about this past weekend's Evening With Neubauten show

One of the highlights of the Sunday night leg of the 30th Anniversary celebration of the wonderful Einsturzende Neubauten was Robin 'Scanner' Rimbaud's collaboration with the group's guitarist Jochen Arbeit. Stood behind a Macintosh and a plate of gizmos, Scanner & Arbeit stretched idea of the advertised "soundscapes" to breaking point, instead playing an entirely improvised set of music that kept in the EN tradition of stern but groove-heavy noise. We had a wee chat with Scanner on Twitter, and asked him the following questions about this one-off event:

Can you tell us a little about how you encountered Einsturzende Neubauten?

Anything from Berlin when I was a teenager appealed to my sensibilities and in particular music that was an antidote to media-friendly musak played on the radio and listened to by school friends. I'd picked up a copy of their feverishly dark Kollaps LP on import from the Rough Trade shop in around 1982 and fell in love with this frighteningly unsettling sound and of course the image of the band, their logo, the artwork. In January 1984 I was fortunate enough to attend this almost legendary Einsturzende Neubauten live show, Concerto for Voice and Machinery at the ICA in London, where they quite literally tore the stage apart with power drills and hammers. I'll never forget the anxiety and excitement of this night!. Since then I've attended countless shows in Germany and London and somehow as life progressed befriended the band, in particular Jochen Arbeit, who was a member of German group Die Haut who I later remixed. Then after an especially surreal dinner in Brick Lane London some years ago where certain members of the band danced on top of the tables, assisted by alcohol and a lack of inhibitions of course, I became friends with Andrew Unruh and Alexander Hacke.

Do you have a favourite LP?

Of all their releases I'm most keen on Zeichnungen des Patienten O. T. which combines cinematic soundscapes, found voices and percussion, which I now realise on reflection played a large part in the make-up of much of my work today.

You references juicers backstage on twitter. What was being juiced? Was EN back in the day really such a chaos to be around

Well I found it very amusing that the tiny backstage area at the venue contained a huge juice blender and when I enquired as to why I was told so that the band could have fresh orange, banana, apple and ginger juices before the show. Given the transgressive status of such a band with a mournful back catalogue one might have imagined something rather more sinister but far from it!

Have you worked with Jochen Arbeit before?

I've been friends with Jochen for many years now, through a combination of haphazard connections. Christoph Dreher was a constant member of the band Die Haut since 1982, and outside of the band was also a filmmaker and he interviewed me on film back in the mid 1990s about my work and career. We became friends and I ended up remixing Die Haut for their Springer album release, alongside Atom Heart, Jim O'Rourke, To Rococo Rot, Oval and others. We'd spoken for years about making recordings together but until Jochen invited me onto this Neubauten tour date we'd not found a strong enough excuse to really finally work together !

How was the dynamic between you when you were creating the music?

We met about two months ago for lunch and didn't talk about the concert at all, apart from agreeing to making it happen. We met again after the Neubauten show at The Forum the previous night and simply agreed that we would perform in the key of C and I would take care of all rhythms, that's all. A remarkably simple and scary game plan indeed. I couldn't have been more surprised or excited about how it turned out together though. Every now and then I'd shout across to Jochen '80 BPM' and that's all, we just listened to each other and hoped that it might work okay.

Were you trying to create something in isolation from en? I felt you could hear references?

I wasn't conscious of trying to create anything beyond what he and I could actually do. I knew I wanted to use some low grinding pulses and rhythms, something sensual influenced by dubstep and more exploratory electronic music. I guess it's inevitable that there might be a connection in sounds given that Jochen is a member of EN and I've been listening to their music for twenty years or so now. These kinds of collaborations are very much based around trust so that's rewarding and reassuring.

What were the theremin things (apologies for the layman nature of this question)?

It was funny really when we both unpacked our suitcases that we discovered we shared the same playful tool for performance, the Alesis AirFX which has an X,Y and Z axis over which you wave your hand and you can produce both percussive sounds and filter and treat other sounds that pass through it. Mine is accidentally customised in that it's broken so manages to do things that I can't anticipate which I also enjoy. I joked that we'd look like we were Kung Fu Fighting if we used them too much for the performance though.

The idea of 'soundscapes' to me suggests something very washy, perhaps not very dynamic. You were really making an enjoyable racket to dance to right?

Absolutely. ‘Soundscapes’ does indeed suggest something more ambient and Jochen alluded to that fact afterwards that usually these performances are more abstract and floating in spirit whereas I was clearly in the mood for some energetic pulsing industrial rhythms! We had to laugh together afterwards as we had no idea as to how it might have turned out. Thankfully it was recorded too so we can take a listen back and see if might want to do something with this show again.