I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

Ignaz Schick's Turntable Is An Acoustic Microscope (or: How To Freak Out Villagers)

by Jason Forrest
July 13, 2011
The first time I met Ignaz Schick I was convinced he was a genius. As you'll see in this Live Music Show collection, Ignaz uses a turntable like no one else. He's able to extract sounds out of everyday stuff that you'd normally throw away. In his hands they become vibrant, evocative noise-makers ready to tell a hidden, forgotten story.  I've been honored to play music with him, travel with him and get incredibly drunk with him. I mean, I still think he's a genius.

NA - Can you tell us a bit about your musical background and how you started to work with the turntable as your instrument of choice?

I basically come straight out of free jazz and from there I dived deeply into all kinds of experimental music. I bumped into Don Cherry when I was a kid and by trying to understand what he was doing I got exposed to all kinds and different forms of avantgarde music: from Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Art Ensemble of Chicago or Sun Ra to John Cage, Terry Riley and Lou Reed. From there I just went deeper and deeper into the topic and besides practicing hard on the saxophone I also got exposed to four track cassette and tape machines and started to use self-recorded, found and stolen sounds. Besides a cheap walkman and a radio, record players became an important and financially accessible tool with which I could play pack sounds and manipulate and cut them up strongly. The record player as a very cheap manual sampler. I soon got a second needle & started using flea market records with the intention of using the machine somewhat harder than when I was playing my precious collectibles of old free jazz...
from there I went through all kinds of phases in development, both stylistically but also technically. At some point I returned to the record player as l always liked the raw, direct and manual approach, especially the crunchy & noisy attack when the needles hits any kind of material, be it a classic vinyl, or any kind of other materials or surface.

NA - You use the Turntable in a remarkable way that I've never seen before, focusing a part of your work on the rotating platter itself.  How did you come to focus on the Turntable as a rotational device for making sounds?

Through many detours and and some random incidents I guess. For many years I have been collecting strange objects and trying to reach into their inner core, to find the sounds which were deeply hidden inside. In a way I was always looking for a sort of acoustic microscope that could really look into the material and bring out its own resonances. Many years ago when I got introduced (by composer Josef Anton Riedl) to the piezo based contact microphone a whole new world of sounds opened up for me, but over the years I got a bit frustrated by the sharp and midrange sound of piezos and I dumped them.  Several times over the past years I had already experimented with motors and attached wire and rubber beaters, but through a simple turntable accident I found that amazing possibility of using rotation and friction and different surface qualities to animate materials to vibrate. From there is has simply been a long and never ending process of experimentation, observation, studying and refinement.

NA - Your penchant for making amazing sounds from extremely unusual objects such as a plastic fork or a piece of Styrofoam is incredible, how do you find strange new objects to play?

it is a mix of intuition, curiosity, childishness and experience, but in the end it's trial and error.  if I see an object I sometimes wonder what could be hidden inside, sometimes it is a complete surprise and blast, often nothing spectacular and new or even pure disappointment. Sometimes it needs a long time to crack an object and find the right treatment, approach and technique;
other times the possibilities within an object are very clear and obvious. in the end, all objects need a certain persistence and patience.

One general rule: the thinner an object is, the more and faster it can resonate; the smaller it is the softer it will sound, so basic physical laws play an important role. In general I have my eyes open for new stuff all the time - but at the end of the day it is pure intuition...

NA - I'm sure you've had some odd experiences with extremely weird audience members - can you hit us with an amusing story?

I think I have had pretty much everything as a reaction: from simple amusement and fascination, respectful questions, stunned open mouths to totally annoyed shaking of the head or complete ignorance.

There are many anecdotes, but the nicest one was here in Berlin: some years ago I was performing in Electronic Church with a good friend, Max Bauer, who is a classic old school and a hands-on Foley artist. During the set (which actually was a very interesting meeting and clash of a very narrative approach of noise making and my very abstracted sound world), I noticed a very young African lady in the audience who was completely stunned and shocked. Her facial expression was constantly shifting from total fascination, disbelief, disgust to hysterical laughter. After the set I went up to her table to talk to her and her German friends she had come along with. She had just arrived a few hours before the set from a tiny village in South Africa which she had never left before and the first thing she sees in Berlin is a concert of a guy playing weird noise with plastic spoons on a turntable. When I wanted to excuse her Berlin host for the culture shock I might have caused he just started laughing and thanked me with the words: "No, no, don't worry. This is a perfect revenge and she has to handle this!! When I was visiting her village, I had to eat all kinds of strange worms and horrible insects which are considered as a delicacy there. No one had any pity with me then, ... no no, this is a good experience for her!!!"

For more: http://www.zangimusic.de/

Jason Forrest is CEO and Creative Director of Network Awesome. He's been an electronic musician for over 11 years and has traveled almost everywhere in the world.  He invented and developed the iOS app Star6 and aided in the development of both Buddha Machine apps. In addition to that he runs 2 record labels, Nightshifters and Cock Rock Disco - so he's a busy guy.  His new album "The Everything" was released in April 2010 on Staatsakt. Grab it here and Follow him on Facebook here and contact him via the Network Awesome About page!