Scanner (aka Robin Rimbaud) answers questions from Gazelle Twin (aka Elizabeth Walling):
EW: Is there one particular art form from which you derive the most inspiration for your work?
RR: I work ostensibly in sound but my interests, like many others, actually circulate around a myriad of different art forms and genres. I studied literature at University so words have always played a key part of my upbringing, yet visual arts has proven to be a massive inspiration for my productions and ideas, whilst cinema continues to intrigue and stimulate me. I buy and consume more books than CDs and vinyl, watch more movies than I attend music concerts so it’s a constant struggle between the art forms, none of which wins out.
EW: You seem to have collaborated with countless world-renowned artists, designers, directors and musicians from very contrasting backgrounds. What has been your most cherished collaborative project?
RR: I’ve been very fortunate to have opportunities to work and collaborate with some of the influential figures in creative arts so it’s almost impossible to choose just one project, but since you are probing me I would point to the Salles des departs project at The Hopital Raymond Poincare in Garches, near Paris.
Every year 450 deceased people pass through its morgue, and after 40 years of conducting autopsies and talking to bereaved families, chief pathologist Doctor Michel Durigon decided it was time to create a Salle des Departs, a place where families and friends could come to say goodbye to their loved ones without, as he said, “having to suffer sickly background music and a red carpet”. The result was a commission for a groundbreaking piece of art: a room designed by Italian artist Ettore Spaletti, who then invited me to design all the sound for this outstanding location. It’s likely to be the most difficult and challenging project I’ve ever produced but the responsibility to assist in creating a space whose sensibility would be a source of sustenance to mourners and help them through their pain and suffering, and still respect the memory of the deceased, was very rewarding.
Spaletti created a luminous and optimistic space but felt that it was not complete until I made the sound which was a genuine honour. I was able to create a work that banishes the sentimental and dramatic and attempts to radiate understanding and compassion for those visiting the morgue, spending their last twenty minutes with a loved one to bid farewell. Since 2002 people have been making a pilgrimage to this place and fatally injured patients now frequently request to be allowed to die in this beautiful space so it’s impossible to describe the kind of feeling that I’ve experienced knowing this.
EW: You also seem to work frequently in the fashion world. Do you think it’s important to resist fashion in music? Do you think it is even possible?
RR: I’ve worked on different occasions with Hussein Chalayan, Shelley Fox and Hermes. In the UK especially music and fashion have always been closely connected, particularly from the 1960s onwards with the wealth of art schools that seemed to pump out musicians like a factory. Image plays an ever more significant role in the way in which we consume today, and with countless tv and online services presenting us figures in entertainment it’s almost impossible to separate the two. There are some musical artists who play with image and change, develop and alter what a conceived perception of a pop artist is today, which is refreshing and suggests a way forward beyond the obligatory image that accompanies every genre of music.
EW: What are your thoughts on ‘contemporary’ British electronic and pop music? Are there any artists whom you particularly admire?
RR: Like most people I know I listen to a huge variety of music but it’s true that I’ve found reward in a lot of British electronic music, from those that I grew up with – Throbbing Gristle, The Human League/The Future, The Orb, LFO, Cabaret Voltaire, to the figures today that inspire and excite my ears – Andy Stott, James Blake, Clark, Jon Hopkins, The Black Dog, The Haxan Cloak, and countless others.
EW: This year, so far, you have released an astonishing 7 albums. You have described the CD format of some of your releases as “postcards” which you often give away for free. What is your philosophy behind making an album and releasing it to ‘the world’? How important is the physical format to you?
RR: You can choose either to work within the ‘system’ or not. I’m often struck how many independent artists today still continue to follow the traditional model of how a musician works – you write a series of pieces/songs, record them, release them, tour, then repeat every so often, usually with a two to years gap in between. Even the most exploratory artists seem to follow this pattern. I never had the intention of making a living from selling products and from my first Scanner releases in the early 1990s I still conceived of them as temporary items, postcards of that moment, Sound Polaroids as I termed them, images in sound of that moment in time.
The physicality of an item is still very appealing to many, myself included. Much of my work is also present online and available for download yet the substance and body relationship to items cannot be denied. Given the choice of a URL or a handsomely packaged CD for free, which would you choose?
This is a recent interview with Dan Lopatin, aka ‘Oneohtrix Point Never’, who in my view has produced one of the best albums of 2010. In the run up to the AGMR ‘best of’ mix coming soon, here is one of my suggestions for that list. Lopatin talks intimately about his synthesisers like family members, and towards the end, has a quite wonderful revelation on the power of controlled chaos. OPN embodies an optimism of future technologies that is contained in the fragments of luscious, aspirational and transgressive 80s video footage spliced into his own music videos. He has revived that optimism in me. Perhaps this is a real and great evolution in the future of electronic music.