SIP - SoundLAB Interview Project

Devens, Paul

Paul Devens
Dutch soundart artist

artist biography

example of soundart

Interview: 10 questions

1. When did you start making music, what is/was your motivation to do it?

My first motivation was the experiment. I wanted to find out alternative ways to produce meaning-full sound without using (too much) obvious or traditional paths. Repetition, a heavy use of rhythmical structures, minimal melodies and concrete sounds were pretty much the means to reach that. Probably I was also influenced by punk music, alternative pop and industrial music. I used whatever was available: modified children’s toys, home made electronic circuits, second hand gear (like a Watkins copycat, a mu-tron filter, an eight-track tape beatbox, lots of tape decks and later a 4 track cassette tape recorder)

2. Tell me something about your living environment and the musical education.

I don’t have a traditional musical background, I’d would say I have a fine arts education. Already in an early stage in my education I began to work in a multi-disciplinary way with a special interest in the form-related-, conceptional- and narrative qualities of sound. Music and sound is still integrated in my general work and research.

3.Is making music your profession? What is the context in which you practice music

Yes, its my profession, but I wouldn’t call myself a composer or a musician. As an artist I make installations, videos, I organize events and I perform. Sometimes I operate in the (alternative-) music scene, sometimes in the art scene. A lot of overlap occurs in both realms, but there are also significant differences; in the way of organization (formal / informal) accessibility, competitiveness, structures of diffusion / distribution and levels of discourse I am happy I work in both. It proportions each other.

4. How do you compose or create music or sound? Have you certain principles, use certain styles etc?

I have a bunch of ideas or vague leads on textures, tension, direction, concept. I try to follow them but on the ‘job’ I handle them freely, as ‘just’ material. I am critical on every transitory result. Intuition, improvisation as well as reflection and substantiation are my tools in the process. I make a chaos and then I remove as much as possible.

5. Tell me something about the instruments, technical equipment or tools you use?

Home made drums, Turkish-, Egyptian- and north African darbukas, Cymbals, bamboo-marimba, cither, Hohner Harmonium, Kalimbas, Saz, acoustic Guitar, modified electric guitar (stereo output), modified electric bass (stereo output), home made electric guitar (6 outputs), scrap metal, kids toys, Zurna, Selmer Clavioline, several analogue synthesizers (also home made ones), field recordings with contact mic’s, condenser mic’s and in ear mic’s, digital and analogue effect processors, and lots of virtual processing with modular software and multitrack-programs.

6. What are the chances of New Media for the music production in general and you personally?

As I understand ‘new media’ are affordable means for audio / video production and distribution, like computers, editing software, digital cameras, youtube, hives, flickr and myspace, new channels of exploring your talents are available. Yet, this is surely a positive thing. Ways of communication develop much faster and a shift from traditional media could be seen. Maybe the idea was even to undermine the push-technology of mass media by the omnidirectional power of the world wide web, by, for instance, personal homepages and independent ways of distribution, but basically the big investors have again, and still, a general influence.
For me though, it means an extension of possibilities but not a replacement of content.

7. How about producing and financing your musical productions?

I don’t earn substantially from my performances and cd-productions but with other jobs, grants and sells I’m able to finance my productions.

8. Do you work individually as a musician/soundartist or in a group or collaborative?
If you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?

Most of the time I work alone, although there are examples of frequent cooperation’s. each time I work with somebody else, or a group of people, its influenced by totally different dynamics. I cant mention a single general conclusion on this..

9. Is there any group, composer, style or movement which has a lasting influence on making music?

I like a lot of styles and genres. It goes from industrial-, punk-, electronic-, alternative pop-music, impro, jazz to contemporary classical music, experimental music, musique concrete, metal, blues, Americana, d & b, r &b, r & r, ambient, arthouse, noise, medieval, African drumming, Chinese opera, Japanese percussion, gamelan, Inuit chanting, flamenco, high life, cumbia, caseco, klezmer, Arab music, Thai-pop, rock steady, dancehall, ragga, raga, etcetera.

10. What are your future plans or dreams as a soundartist or musician?

Get my work out.