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Baker's Dozen

No Music: A Baker’s Dozen with Alva Noto
Ollie Zhang , February 21st, 2018 10:30

From Laurie Anderson’s United States Live to Meredith Monk’s Dolmen Music, Carsten Nicolai tells Mollie Zhang about 13 records that shaped his musical backbone. Photo by Andrey Bold


Einstürzende Neubauten - Kollaps
This is one of the few German bands that really inspired me. For many people, Kollaps was an icon for industrial music. I was really drawn to the lyrics of Blixa [Bargeld, lead vocalist] and the way it was non-music - they worked with unconventional instruments in an anarchic way, using found material, garbage, metal, and anything else.

Of course today, you’d say it’s music. But back then, it was very radical non-music that broke with traditions. Now that’s become its own tradition - for example the label that I founded later, Noton, literally means ‘no sound’, and it adopted a similar approach.

Kollaps wasn’t exactly a ‘hit’, though I think they had some radio plays. I think they were working with Peter Zadek in Hamburg around then, and they were basically part of a theatre performance. This crossover between media, or the lack of limitations on certain genres, I found really interesting as well. I didn’t see a Neubauten concert until the 90s, but I read about what they were doing.

There’s this story where they tried to destroy the ICA in London - I don’t know how much is rumor and how much has become mythology, but the story spread throughout the scene. It was such a radical starting point for making music, and I liked this kind of energy. This kind of ignorance, maybe. Destroying classical music genres to develop a radical approach to what can be a musical instrument - a screen, a drill, or whatever. Of course, this record was a big trigger for me, that’s why I always wanted to work with Blixa Bargeld. A few years ago I recorded with him and performed together; we’re still working on new music. In this period though, I was just a fan.