Livelooping in California

In late October 2023, my The Absurd band colleague Michael Frank and I travelled to California, for fun and especially to perform on the 20th anniversary of Rick Walker’s Y2KLoopfest, an international gathering of musicians who use livelooping as a central element of their music.

San Francisco! We spent three fab days here. They say that the city is not what it used to be but … this short time was enough to make us feel sad when we had to leave.

After this: a week in Santa Cruz, hanging out with the crazy livelooping tribe. Rick Walker was the organizing hero again. The private accommodation he found for us was amazing (big thanks to Philippe and Ruth for having us !!!).

Intense three festival days – very diverse half hour sets of almost 40 musicians from the US, Europe, and Japan. What an incredible collection of talent, and all just for the love of it – not for money! This is a nonprofit thing and nobody got paid.

Liveloopers Tim Thompson and David Tristram created the psychedelic video backdrops during the festival, and several of us worked hard to create a good sound and to keep the festival running.

On the evening of the first day, Rick Walker (drums + percussion) jammed with Michael Frank and me under the name of „Third Wave“. I wasn’t quite convinced of my own contributions, but it was fun anyway, and the audience seemed to like it.

I started the evening of the final festival day with my solo set. (Sorry for the video quality – the main view was taken from the live stream which was great to have – thx to Bob Amstadt – but for some reason the images stuttered and didn’t run as smoothly as the sound, the other view is from a little camera in front of my feet.)

The music is mostly sonically demanding (with harmonious interludes) and experimental. Listen loud if you love experimental music!
I used my old Hohner GT2 guitar with a midi pickup, just an iPad as guitar processor, running virtual instruments, sound processors, and loopers (such as Loopy Pro with four unsynced loops this time, and Hainbach’s Gauss).

Michael Frank performed after me. He played a combination of his compositions for The Absurd, rearranged as solo pieces, plus loop sound improvisations. I loved his set and many other people did as well.

It rained on the Monday after the festival, and it was sad to say farewell to everyone, old and new friends. The livelooping community feels so much like family, and who knows when we can meet again !

After Santa Cruz, I went north to Santa Rosa to meet John Tarrant, my favorite Zen master, then south to La Jolla (near San Diego) where I stayed with my old friend Doris, her husband David, and their cat Buster for a few days. A hike up a mountain with spectacular views. Beach walks. The Pacific Ocean. Pelicans. It was warm and sunny, in mid-November.

I still felt California sun in me when I came home to cold Germany.

Solingen Viertelklang

On the last day of September 2017, shortly after my trusty old Mercedes had died an unexpected death while on a music meeting in Czechia, I loaded a rental car with my gear and headed for Solingen, a town 40km north of here that is world famous for its cutlery industry.

The Solingen culture office had invited me to perform at this year’s „Viertelklang“ (quarter sound) festival. Two dozen very different musical acts performed during one evening in five places in the beautiful old „Wald“ quarter of town – a school, a church, a bookshop, an old factory, all in walking distance of each other. Visitors could come and go and experience many kinds of music during that evening.

I was the only act who had a location for myself for the whole evening: an abandoned radio/television shop (Radio Schippers), empty except for the electrical installation, the wall panels, and some old tables. This was possibly the strangest location I’ve ever performed in.

My partner in crime was Florian Zeitler, a musician and prolific video artist whom I had not met before. He created beautiful improvised abstract computer video projections, midi-synced to my improvised music. Before we started, he even programmed sequences that highlighted the white vertical rack mounts on the wall that he projected his images on – we couldn’t take them off that wall, so he turned them into a feature.

There was no real stage – I sat in one corner, Florian sat in another corner, and visitors could walk around the room while we performed. It was dark, the room was lit up by the video projection. It did not really feel like a concert – more like a light and sound installation involving live music. I think we managed to turn the abandoned and somewhat sad location into a magical place for an evening.

The music that I played mostly consisted of experimental sound collages, involving some of my field recordings, ambient, psychedelic, and minimalist livelooping music, guitar, synthesizers, granular synthesis, artificial voices, speech fragments (some of my dear friend Rick Walker, I used them without asking him, oops). I had set up four speakers for a quadrophonic setup and could make all sounds move around the room in various ways. This was a new experience for me and one that I quite enjoyed.

We played three 30 minute sets with 30 minute intermissions. Not a lot of people showed up unfortunately – the shop was a little further away from the other locations, and maybe the experimental/avantgarde description in the flyer did not attract as many people as the jazz, blues, folk, and classical music that was performed in the other locations (which seemed to be much more popular). But Florian and I quite enjoyed ourselves, and as usual, several more adventurous people showed up and told us afterwards how much they had liked this.

I wish I could do things like this more often!

Here is a 36 minute mix of the evening. My cheap camcorder does not do Florian’s videos justice but maybe you get an idea what it was like. Lean back and listen loud.