Namlook's name is legendary and his release schedule phenomenal, with 325 releases over the last 10 years.
In the early FAX years he was releasing a new CD every 2 weeks!!! For 2002, he has been more leisurely, only releasing a CD every 2 months and yet the quality control has always been high.
Namlook's brand of ground-breaking electronic music, through his label 'Fax records' is now celebrated by a new anthology Ė The Ambient Cookbook II, which combines both his music with various collaborators from his label.
As the title suggests, it also includes recipes of some of his favourite food dishes, demonstrating he can compose just as well in the kitchen as the studio.
So its been ten years of Fax records, recently celebrated with the release of the second Ambient Cookbook. What have been the releases that stand out for you? Silence: As it was the first Ambient/Chill Out full length CD in Germany and the release was bearing a great risk for my distributor in 1992. Air: The beginning of Ambient/Jazz/Ethno. Sequential: The start of the typical FAX sound - besides: The Mission/Sonne was a track that I did 1985 and released it in 1992. 4Voice: The beginning of melodic HardTrance. Namlook: The series that was unique in the Techno environment. No one in this scene composed live at that time and released the set afterwards on a CD. Namlook afterwards mutated to the experimental Studio - project. Sultan: First CD to connect sufi/arabesk music with technoid sounds. The Dark Side of the Moog: Old school space music meets new school chill-out. Psychonavigation/Outland: Ethno/Dub meets Techno for the first time. etc... if you let me .. this list would continue endlessly .. in the end I am proud for each and every release/collaboration that I did. It is the same thing as if you would ask a father which child he loves most... forget it..
What impact have new electronic music instruments and software had on your creativity during this time? Which ones stand out? I would rather say, 'what impact have new and vintage electronic instruments had'. I guess the sounds that I use are very important, they inspire me to create new music, new harmonic and melodic structures. As Schönberg showed with his composition 'Farben' within his variations for Orchestra Op.16. Sound 'matters' .. you cannot say that the harmonic structure is more important. It is the sound in connection with the tones that bring music to its highest beauty Schönberg called it 'Klangfarbenmelodie'. This idea I used for my compositions a lot. He himself only used it when he was young in his pre-twelve-note music era. Most important to me have been the following instruments: Oberheim FourVoice, EMS Synthi AKS, OSCar, NordLead 1-3, Roland JD-800, Moog MiniMoog, Moog System IIIc, Waldorf Wave, Sequential Prophet 5, Sequential Prophet VS, Sequential 2002, Sequential Studio 440, Fairlight II, Akai DD1000, Hartmann Neuron (for which I did some Sound Design) and of course Cubase for MAC.
Comparing the two ambient cookbooks that have been released, there has been a sharp decline in releases on fax records by other artists. Do you have plans for releasing more CD's by other artists in the near future? No, not really. There was a time in the middle of the 90's when the sub-label releases (that mostly have been done due to my idea to help other artists that have been recording music with me) nearly brought my label down. I lost my distributor NEWS at this time for that reason and from this time on I was very, very cautious with the PS releases. In the recent time, only Oskar Sala (who died this year), Wolfram Spyra and Jochem Paap have been candidates for PS releases. Also I would like to now officially tell you that Rather Interesting is and always was a Sub-Label of FAX. So you see I concentrated on some main acts instead of taking too big risks on this end. Nowadays when nearly everyone has a CDr-drive it is hard enough to survive with music that is not marketed in a commercial way.
Much of your output has been in the form of collaborations with other artists, which does not seem to happen much outside of Fax records. There is clearly something special about bouncing off ideas with other artists. Can you describe the best and worst aspects of working with other artists. You may not want to answer this, but what have been, for you, your most successful collaborations? Best is to work with one collaborator. As it is easier, faster than being alone in the studio and asking myself if this or that idea is good enough. Also there are a lot of ideas coming from the collaborator as well and then I am as well the person who says.. this yes.. this no.. it is a game of give and take. More than one collaborator leads to discussions ..and .. I hate discussions in the studio. It is not possible to say this collaboration works better than the other for me. Every artist is different and each and everyone is working different. So every collaboration has its own dynamic.
Leading on from that, which artists are you planning to work with and who would you most like to collaborate with - whether there was a likelihood of it happening or not? I don't like to talk about plans. A lot of energy fades that way. There will be some surprises in the future.
There seems to be an increase in electronica and ambient music being released over these last few years. Do you get to listen to any of it? If so, what has stood out for you? Personally, my biggest pleasant musical surprise recently is 'far away trains passing by' from Ulrich Schnauss. I don't listen to other Ambient Music these days. I have enough work with my projects. I even don't find any time to listen to demos. When I listen to music I tend to listen to other genres. Old Depeche Mode, Biosphere, Kraan, Passport, Eberhard Weber, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Bach, Chopin, even Madonna or Rammstein and a lot more.
What inspires you to write music? Films - either real or imaginary? Personal circumstances? For instance, where does 'Elle a du Shell' from 'Air IV' or say, the achingly beautiful 'Environment' from 'A New Consciousness' come from? Air - 'Elle a du Shell' is inspired by a film of the sixties. 'A New Consciousness' incorporates a lot of 'Frankfurt' Environmental recordings. The range is too vast to describe. Everything and everybody could be an inspiration. I am completely open towards all influences.
You said earlier that a sound is an important part of a composition, integral to it. Most electronic artists would say they prefer analogue sounds, that these are the most inspirational. What advances in sound and software design are you looking out for? What do you want to see coming from the electronic instrument makers? More innovative machines as the Hartmann -Neuron- as this is really something new and revolutionary. Then still a -brain to midi- interface is missing ;-) And on the control-devices front there are still no extreme machines like the 128/256 tiny switch/fader box for controlling each and every aspect of 'Live' and other great software synths. For 'Live' I had to build a box like this by myself.
What are you working on right now? Musically that is! Just creating sounds for the Hartmann 'Neuron' a new and very innovative machine. This will change the music for years in all sorts of music sectors, as the Fairlight by the beginning of the 80s did. Musically I am preparing some new recordings (solo) and the collaboration with Jochem Paap.
From what I am hearing, the Hartmann 'Neuron' sounds like it will be something special indeed. What else can you tell us about it and how is it going to change music for years? Please use the link: http://www.hartmann-music.com for official info. From my point of view: 1. The way the sound is being created is revolutionary; 2. The sound of the machine itself is incredibly good; 3. It integrates the maximum in flexibility and a computer based system 'inside' as well as instant control of all the important parameters in the best possible way. To have a computer system to create that you would need twice the money and a lack in portability, and; 4. It provides the possibility to create sound on a maximum intuitive level. Just these 4 points for a start.. there is a lot more.
How do you feel about the amazing prices your past work fetches on eBay? Recently, on the Faxdigest, someone posted the top 10 prices your Cd's have gone for. Does this mean there will be more re-releases? I guess you can never second-guess sales, but I find it sad that only 3,000 people can ever own each release. If you were in my shoes you would see things quite in a different way. FAX music has its value and so it should remain in the future. The re-issues donít really influence this development. Original releases are special. And why should someone who supported my label by buying this CD not be rewarded in the future by selling it on Ebay. The only thing that I hate is the CDr copyists. These people don't understand that they steal the basis of my existence and not only my existence also a lot of innovative labels as Minus etc. who are working in the independent business and are the forces who create the music of the future. The major companies can compensate their losses and there was never a major who came up with new ideas. They are specialized in jumping on bandwagons. The margins of the independent are very small due to low figures of sale and if then 30% gets lost due to CDr copying, it gets very hard for all of us small labels to survive. So all the people who love our music and copy it should face the fact that they are killing the music they love to listen to. This is a fact. I have nothing against MP3 and I am far from hysteria, but I guess for all I have done in the past 10 years I should have earned that little respect that people just donít plainly steal my music, burn it to CDr and sell it to a 3rd party.
Moving on to your live performances, it seems that they are now restricted to the studio. This is a shame. Do you plan or envisage playing live to an audience in the future? Yes .. but I am too expensive.. no one could easily afford that as I am known internationally but not especially well known in one place like London or San Francisco that enough listeners would come to enjoy the concert. Also I find that the music quality that I deliver from the studio is higher. To just play back compositions live is not interesting for me. Playing live was for me since the start of FAX, composing live.. this is the real thing.
"I am proud for each and every release/collaboration that I did. It is the same thing as if you would ask a father which child he loves most... forget it..."
Your music is listened to around the world. Your audience is truly global but do you have a strong audience in Germany? Most of the great electronic artists and bands are from Germany (I wonder why?) and yet their audience is often not strong there. Have you experienced this and if so, do you know why this is? As I mentioned before, you are completely right, my audience is global and I am not very well known in Germany. For me to operate on a global scale is more interesting. The Germans are only one tiny part in the global community, so they are to me as interesting as the Swedish or American's. I donít think it is important to be listened to on a big scale in the country where you live. For me it is relaxing to walk through the streets of Frankfurt and no one would know me. I couldnít stand fame.. it is too distracting.
I think every Faxhead will be very excited about your planned collaboration with Jochem Paap (aka Speedy J). His two releases on your label have been special indeed. Do you have an idea of the style and direction that this collaboration will go? Have you named this collaboration yet? Or do you name your releases, like 'New Organic Life', 'Virtual Vices'....on the spur of the moment in the studio? More information on the release of the CD. One thing for a start.. it will be on the peak of sound creation possibilities of these days and we both waited a long time for the collaboration to become true. It will be a 'special' release. A lot of stuff you never heard before.
From the Faxlist I heard that there is a video of visuals that go with your music from the two Putney releases. Do you have plans for more visual Fax releases? Your music can be very filmic and 'widescreen'. You have already released 'music for ballet'. Are there any other multi/media projects in the pipeline? No .. too much money involved.. music is our main business.
You are not only known for your innovative, groundbreaking and beautiful music but also for your good cooking!!! I have tried Chicken ala Namlook from your first cookbook and sadly also a lot of your pizza recipe :-). I look forward to trying out some recipes from your second cookbook collection. Do you have a recipe you can share with our Barcode readers and Faxhead visitors? I fear they are in need of some nourishment. Yes, this one is even not in the Ambient Cookbook II:
3 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions
2 cloves of garlic
1/2-1 cup of water
1 spoon of sugar
salt, pepper, majoran
250g gouda cheese
Heat the oven up to 200C. In the meantime peel the beetroot cut into chunks like an apple (not too big chunks). The thickness of the chunks should not exceed 1-1.5 cm (1/2 inch). Peel and cut the onions into small pieces. Peel the garlic and slice into tiny slices. Put everything in a glass-pan that can be heated in the oven. (If you dont own one.. buy one.. they are not expensive).
Add sugar, salt, pepper.. pour the water and the olive oil over the beetroot etc. Put the pan it in the oven for approx 40 min. now slice the cheese. Open the oven and be careful with the pan by taking it out... it is very, very hot. Open the lid. Pour majoran (fresh or dry) on top. Put the cheese on top.
Put the pan back in the oven (without the lid) and wait another 7-10min. Take the pan out... put some heat prevention on the table that covers the place you bring the pan to. Take the pan out of the oven and enjoy your meal with bread or potatoes.
Beetroot is very delicious and healthy.. another variation/addition to the recipes that I provided with the two cookbooks.
Lastly, from hearing your music for the last 9 years, much of it being deep, touching and at times downright stomping, I imagine you are pretty much a sane and together person. So what's your guiding philosophy on life? There is not just one single guiding philosophy. Listen to my CDs and you will find/found out.
Peter Namlook interview, Barcode 2002 ©
Words: Dean Clarke
No part of this interview may be reproduced under any circumstances without the written or verbal permission of the editor.