Could you give us some information on your music background -- when did you first
start creating music? What prompted you to go into music and how old were you?
Rothkamm: I was 11 years old when I
started composing. I remember the first time I sat down at the piano and my
feet barely reached the foot pedal. I pressed the pedal down and hit as many notes as I
could. The effect was overwhelming. It was like a door opened up and I could see
beyond this reality. That's when I started putting sounds together. Of
course, I was duly educated in the arts of the piano, violin and science of harmony and my
very first written piece was like classical 18th century music. But ever since that moment
I also moved on and forward and changed styles with every piece, however I saw fit.
When I was 16 I bought a reel-to-reel machine and started my own electronic studio.
Last Sigh: Where did you grow up? Europe ?
Rothkamm: Yes, I was born in
Guetersloh, a small town in Germany where BMG has its headquarters. It's not far from the
Teutoburg Forest, where the Roman legions were slaughtered by Arminius and German history
Last Sigh: What bands or music
were you interested in while growing up?
Rothkamm: Here are the 7 magic records of my youth: Pink Floyd
-- "Atom Heart Mother"; Caravan -- "For Girls who grow
Plump in the night"; Bee Gees -- "Spirits
Having Flown"; Jean Claude Eloy
-- "Yo-In"; Karlheinz Stockhausen --
"Hymnen"; John Cage -- "Roaratorio"; Frank
Zappa -- "Studio Tan". The first cassette I bought with my own money was Pink
Floyd's "Atom Heart Mother" when I was 12. I went into the
record store in the small town of Nuertingen where we were living, and asked for something
electronic. The woman behind the counter pointed to the shelves of cassettes and said:
"Over there, the one with cow". I opened it and the cover smelled like
grass. I mean real green grass, and I thought this is part of the whole package.
Last Sigh: Was there any event(s) in particular you remember that
caught your interest in music?
No, but I remember I thought I'd be an airplane pilot before I wanted to be a
composer. I was very certain about what I was chosen to do. It took years
before I realized that what I'm doing has precedent in Alchemy; it's the same procedure,
methodology and objective. Through a transmutation of the prima materia (which can
be absolutely anything) the alchemist also reaches transformation -- he's changed through
the activity, the objective being to reach the elixir of life or the philosopher's stone.
This is the tradition of the "secret art" and one knows it when one sees
it. In this sense the word composer has to be understood from the Latin componere to put
Last Sigh: What type
of machines or instruments do you use in creating your sounds/music? Can you give us
a *gear list*?
Rothkamm: Sure, here's my gear list
Last Sigh: Do you use
all electronic machines or do you also incorporate *organic acoustics* in your music?
Rothkamm: I'm very interested in
applying natural principles to technological processes. In that way all my work is
"organic" as it is done algorithmically in bionic fashion. However, all recorded
or transmitted sound can be "organic", just as anything can be the base for
transmutation. I find the radio or CD more natural than somebody playing a traditional
instrument, because we are surrounded by electronically generated sound. I mean, I watch
more "Nature" on Public Television than I actually go to the woods. Nature
on TV is Nature in New York. By now this is my primary nature. This is organic.
Last Sigh: Do
you also create your own percussion? If so, what do you use and how do you make them -- I
am particularly wondering about the percussion on Planet Genius, Track 4,
Rothkamm: All sound is either
synthesized or sampled. On "Tribe 251" you can find the two approaches sampled
percussion phrases from African sources plus Frequency Modulation (FM). I use a lot of FM
since my first digital synthesizer was based on this. I implemented this synthesis
technique for a Canadian software company for use in computer games. One day I wore
make-up to work, so they fired me, and to this day I have no idea what they are doing with
Last Sigh: Do you
ever play live? If so, is there anything you particularly enjoy about playing live?
Rothkamm: I used to do live
& occult performances of body manipulation and sex-related rituals (see Playboy, Feb.
92) and did some raves in San Francisco. But ever since I moved to New York I became very
weary of doing public spectacles. I also developed some chemical imbalances. On occasion
reality becomes overwhelming and I have the impression my soul leaves my body and that
seriously freaks me out. Since I'm very sensitive to the weather and atmospherics, things
shifts around me sometimes . However, I did play at the Knitting Factory for Elliott
Sharp's "Gigantor Dub Out" and I've DJ'd. The last time was at
the vOID, where I set up a sonic environment with web-projections (which you can see on
the Flux Web Space) and spun some original '50s Mood Music.
Last Sigh: How about in the studio, what are some of
your favorite things to do in the studio relative to creating your music?
Rothkamm: I usually get up
around 6 o'clock in the morning and work for 12 hours, although I try to take a TV break
in the late afternoon (I don't want to miss the Simpsons when they are on). I guess
my day follows pretty closely the schedule of the monks I stayed with when I was in my
teens. I have to take care of the label, the studio and the web. I devote a lot of time to
experimentation & research. My tracks require a lot of mutations until
they are distilled and this usually takes a lot of time (a month or more per track & I
compose less each year), except when I am doing commercial work then there is no
prep-time. In either case I score it out very fast. I work on one track at a time and the
studio is configured and dedicated to this one track. The samplers are always on. I
don't recreate set-ups and I never use the same samples & sounds again. My
methodology is algorithmic, in ever spinning cycles of procedures that get reiterated over
and over again. I work in Cubase or Formula until the piece has a life of its own, then I
rehearse the mix-down and do the final recording into the digital domain. If I make a
mistake I will immediately record over it all tracks are recorded only once. This one copy
will then be cut & treated if necessary and stored to DAT. I have a catalog of about
Last Sigh: I have
heard two of your releases; Mystery of the
Leaping Fish and Planet Genius. I
found them to have a contrast in sound from one to the other. How would you describe and
compare the music of those releases to someone who had never heard them?
Rothkamm: I never repeat the
same piece twice. But the 2 CDs are my two areas of interest Working with beats and
working with pure sound. Two sides of the same coin.
Last Sigh: Who did
the vocals on "Planet Genius", or were they sampled from somewhere else?
Rothkamm: All sampled.
Last Sigh: On track 8 you have
Deborah Borchers listed as vocals. Who is she? Does she have any of her own work out? If
so, how can we find it?
Rothkamm: Yes, she put stuff out
with a band on a major.
Last Sigh: You also
have a record label Flux. How and why did that
come to be?
Rothkamm: The label exists only
because I wanted to put stuff out and nobody else would, you know, to form a complete
aesthetic. I realized that to get things done and to get them done right I simply
had to do it myself.
Last Sigh: Do you ever remix
anyone or is it all your work original?
Rothkamm: Yes, I did remix stuff
for Harth, that's out on 23Frankfurt, a vinyl imprint of
Cop International. I was commissioned a number
remixes although they were never released, because nobody knew what to do with them.
They are pretty trippy stuff.
Last Sigh: What was
the last book you read?
Rothkamm: "Gnosis: The
Nature & History of Gnosticism" by Kurt Rudolph, and also a new translation of
"The Nag Hammadi Library". This book contains the texts of a 4th century
library of papyrus manuscripts that were derived from Gnostic sects.
Last Sigh: Your last film seen
that you liked?
Rothkamm: I reckon it was
"Sling Blade" (except the ending was brutal).
Last Sigh: Do you create music
for other projects? Film, CD-ROM or?
Rothkamm: Since 92 I did a
number of commercials, in New York mostly for computer animated clips for Lucasfilm,
Philips, Sears etc. Most of them were done in DMA 3-dimensional format that is;
holographic projections without the use of glasses.
Last Sigh: Any new plans for
Frank Rothkamm and Flux in the future you would like to let us know
Rothkamm: By the time this
interview is out I'll be in the Colorado mountains & will marry my sweetheart. Then
we'll be off in our new and generic Toyota Corolla to live a new and generic life in Los
Angeles. I'm looking forward to hearing from anyone who wants to meet me out there.
Last Sigh: Any new releases you
are working on?
Rothkamm: Yes, I'm working on
two major releases right now, but I learned that talking about releases before they're
complete is talking them out of existence.
Last Sigh: Do you
have any words of wisdom for musicians starting out in the business?
Rothkamm: Western Paradise is
Last Sigh: How do you
feel about the use of MP3's in spreading whole tracks or entire CDs around the Internet
without the permission of the artist?
Rothkamm: I encourage it and
will help any hacker with a serious intent in distributing my tracks. Everybody
creates their own Karma.
Last Sigh: Thanks so
much for working with Last Sigh.
Rothkamm: You're welcome. Thank
you for having me.
Copyright Last Sigh Magazine