Expressionism, drone and The Golem — An interview with Mark Lindhout of 900RPM

Expressionism, drone and The Golem — An interview with Mark Lindhout of 900RPM
»Der Golem« Album­co­ver, 900RPM 2020, Erschie­nen bei Sub­li­me Retre­at

Das Wort, das furcht­ba­re leben­spen­den­de Wort, ich habe es den dunk­len Mäch­ten ent­ris­sen!

Paul Wegener’s Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam

Hap­py Bir­th­day Golem! Near­ly 100 years have past, sin­ce pro­du­cer and actor Paul Wege­ner along with Carl Boe­se released their dra­ma­tic mas­ter­pie­ce Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam on the 29th of Octo­ber 1920. Back then, the audi­ence at the UFA Palast in Ber­lin was over­whel­med by the sheer expres­sio­nistic force from which Wege­ners silent film obtai­ned its fai­ry-tale like fasci­na­ti­on. The movie was such an enor­mous suc­cess that it found its way into Ame­ri­can and even Chi­ne­se thea­ters. After almost a cen­tu­ry sin­ce its release, one can only deter­mi­ne that the work of Wege­ner and Boe­se pas­sed the test of time more than well. The Golem rai­ses fun­da­men­tal ques­ti­ons, which are still not pro­per­ly ans­we­red till this day.

This could be one rea­son why 900RPM, an expe­ri­men­tal dro­ne pro­ject from Ber­lin, spent years on crea­ting an con­tem­pora­ry, alter­na­ti­ve sound­track to this stran­ge and somehow sinis­ter mas­ter­pie­ce of the sil­ver screen. We were able to see 900RPM per­form live in a base­ment in Ber­lin, not far from the place whe­re Wege­ner direc­ted his »Golem« and whe­re Poel­zig and Rich­ter crea­ted the dream­li­ke and weird sce­ne­ry for the movie. Dream­li­ke and weird, like the sound­s­capes 900RPM are crea­ting, with DIY dro­ne instru­ments in respon­se to the strong visu­al lan­guage of the moving pic­tures.

We tal­ked with Mark Lind­hout about the pro­ject, the movie, and the sym­bo­lism behind that age old myth about the ser­vant made of clay.

The movie was filmed a hund­red years ago, at the UFA area in Ber­lin-Tem­pel­hof. The for­mer set is not far from our rehe­ar­sal room whe­re we wro­te and recor­ded Der Golem.

Mark Lind­hout on the con­nec­tion bet­ween Der Golem and 900RPM
Hi Mark! First of all, it is a gre­at plea­su­re for me to see that all the efforts you put into your first full length album are final­ly avail­ab­le in phy­si­cal form. Just orde­red the tape!

I spent some time with 900RPM’s Der Golem recent­ly and was drawn direc­t­ly into that age old sto­ry on waves of hum­ming sounds while I dis­co­ve­r­ed almost catchy dro­ne vibes and felt like wal­king the sinis­ter set of Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam.

I won­der, how many times did you and the guys wat­ched the ori­gi­nal movie to crea­te such an inten­se con­nec­tion bet­ween your sound and visu­als?
Thanks for this inter­view, Johan­nes, thanks for sup­por­ting us!

Yes, the release of Der Golem is final­ly avail­ab­le. This is the first time we released some­thing with Sub­li­me Retre­at, and it has been gre­at!
I do not think we could have pul­led it off wit­hout Taras, the label owner. He found the sound-engi­neer, Sion Orgon, who mixed and mas­te­red the album. Having a lot of expe­ri­ence in crea­ting and pro­du­cing expe­ri­men­tal music, he real­ly lifted our music to new heights. He added his own details, and allo­wed for strong cohe­rence throughout the work. Espe­ci­al­ly on such a leng­thy release, hol­ding an atmo­s­phe­re is hard to get right. Thanks Sion! Noi­se and dro­ne are not par­ti­cu­lar­ly well-known for its popu­lar appeal, but we must have done some­thing right if you call it ›catchy dro­ne‹. That is a good gen­re name right the­re. I love it!

The con­nec­tions bet­ween our work and the movie are mani­fold. Most obvious­ly, the­re is the direc­t­ness that you men­ti­on, the per­for­mance being able to hook into the visu­als so acu­te­ly. The­re is an explana­ti­on for that. In cinema’s ear­ly days, visu­als nee­ded to speak clear­ly. Becau­se the­re was no gua­ran­tee that the peop­le see­ing the movie were get­ting the same sound­tracks, sin­ce the­se were always play­ed live. The big­ger cine­mas used thea­ter organs of an almost orches­tral size, smal­ler cine­mas only used a pia­no. The repro­du­ci­bi­li­ty of film music was the­re­for low in terms of tim­bre and tone. Some­ti­mes, not even a con­sis­tent score com­po­si­ti­on exis­ted. Thus, a movie nee­ded to be very clear, both visual­ly and nar­ra­tively. It nee­ded to stand on its own. This leads to the­se movies often being a bit too on the nose for our con­tem­pora­ry tas­te. But this obvious­ness means the movie is well-sui­ted to per­form live to. It has abundant cues, a gre­at help while play­ing. This is how we we wri­te, prac­tice, record, and per­form live. We take our cue from the movie every sin­gle time we play, and we watch the movie each time we prac­tice or per­form.
How many times have I seen it? To be honest, I lost count a while ago. It must be over a hund­red times by now.

Ano­t­her con­nec­tion is the the loca­ti­on. The movie was filmed, a hund­red years ago, at the UFA area in Ber­lin-Tem­pel­hof. The for­mer set is not far from our rehe­ar­sal room whe­re we wro­te and recor­ded Der Golem. In the cen­tu­ry sin­ce, the city has under­go­ne seve­re chan­ges: A world war; Two tota­li­ta­ri­an regimes; Nine­ties fashion. Tru­ly hor­ri­ble things. Yet its core remains sta­tic. Roman­ti­ci­zed con­jec­tu­re, of cour­se. Still, the two cities, old and new, are more simi­lar than one might expect. Against a simi­lar, if not exac­t­ly iden­ti­cal, glo­bal back­drop of insta­bi­li­ty the city is gro­wing fast. That is not­hing new, peop­le have always moved to cities to do things that were impos­si­ble some­whe­re else.

That might have sound­ed too posi­ti­ve, too for­gi­ving. Let me rephra­se. Cities are vast, inhu­man machi­nes. Their lub­ri­cant is power, their fuel peop­le. They pro­vi­de dis­trac­tions, but sever the con­nec­tion to ever­ything natu­ral, dis­con­nec­ting the human sca­le, sub­duing our inna­te indi­vi­du­al spi­ri­tu­al power. They are oppo­si­te to all that natu­re can mean to humans. Cities are con­fu­si­on and ugli­ness. Out­right suf­fe­ring next to will­ful igno­ran­ce. They are the quint­essen­ti­al human com­pro­mi­se to the lowest com­mon deno­mi­na­tor. Ever­ything half-done, half-deca­yed, half-beau­ti­ful, instanta­ne­ous­ly fil­thy.

Then again, ever­ything in a city is a pro­jec­tion. Its hate­ful inele­gan­ce is, perhaps, only a reflec­tion of con­tem­pora­ry cul­tu­re and Zeit­geist. Yes, that reso­na­tes, becau­se the­se pro­jec­ted ide­as are always pre­d­ato­ry. I per­cei­ve the­se ide­as as a direct attack on my sen­ses and inner balan­ce. They grasp with hund­reds of tiny hands after your resour­ces, after your body. After your soul. Cities are dan­ge­rous pla­ces for the mind, if perhaps less so for the body. In that spi­ri­tu­al sen­se, a city is an inver­si­on of natu­re. Whe­re natu­re punis­hes if you act stu­pidly, cities will do so when you act smart­ly. Natu­re rewards balan­ce, whe­re­as in cities, self-pre­ser­va­ti­on and balan­ce are punis­hed unrelen­tin­g­ly. A city —Ber­lin in par­ti­cu­lar— tru­ly is an enor­mous, never-ending altar of sacri­fice.

So, every time I con­si­der the movie, I ack­now­ledge this aspect. The machi­nes and sys­tems we build around us, see­min­gly hel­pful, reveal them­sel­ves to be death-traps upon clo­ser inspec­tion. How can it be other­wi­se? You can­not crea­te bril­li­ant food from infe­ri­or ingre­dients, as you can not crea­te intel­li­gence from stu­pi­di­ty. The Golem is a meta­phor for this. Com­bi­ning demo­nic power with human flaws can never crea­te an obedient ser­vant.

The folks that crea­ted the movie a cen­tu­ry ago, they also lived in Ber­lin. The same city I see every day. The trash, the junk, the dis­tur­bing ugli­ness of its coun­ten­an­ce. It is ever­y­whe­re. In the water, in the food, in the air I brea­the. It is in me, as I am in it. The movie’s crea­tors chan­n­eled this know­ledge as well, con­scious­ly or not. That is ano­t­her con­nec­tion I feel stron­gly. 
«The Aural Alche­mist — Mark Lind­hout at work« Foto: Der Eiben­rei­ter 2019
How do you keep your inner balan­ce in that night­ma­rish moloch as you descri­be it?
That is a good ques­ti­on —to which I am not sure I know the ans­wer. Pro­bab­ly, in the long run, you can not thri­ve in such a place. The only ones that deal suc­cess­ful­ly with the insa­ni­ty a city offers are peop­le that accept it as nor­ma­li­ty. Most of tho­se capa­ble of doing that are dis­con­nec­ted from their huma­ni­ty. To see aspi­ra­ti­on or spi­ri­tu­al unfol­ding vio­lent­ly des­troy­ed does not faze them. Which is ano­t­her way of say­ing that they too, are ins­a­ne.

But, let us get back to inner balan­ce, if even just for the short term.
Like all ships at stor­my seas, you will need an anchor. Some­thing that grounds you, gives you ener­gy, and refills the spi­ri­tu­al fuel tank. For me, it is crea­ti­vi­ty and my con­nec­tion to direct fami­ly —be they such by blood or choice. For others, it may be some­thing else.

Crea­ting keeps me sane. The act of crea­ti­on brings us humans half­way to being gods. It shapes our world, and direc­ts our sen­ses. It is aspi­ra­ti­on made real, and the only true way to com­mu­ni­ca­te our real human natu­re.

Sin­ce I men­ti­on human natu­re: Dest­ruc­tion is a part of the crea­ti­ve pro­cess, too. In art, it is an important tool. Dest­ruc­tion is a way of clo­sing, unbin­ding, and fina­li­zing. Howe­ver, it must be con­scious­ly app­lied. Too often we see peop­le arguing for dest­ruc­tion out of incom­pe­tence or an ina­bi­li­ty to see what is being lost. This insti­tu­tio­na­li­zed (and thus blind) dest­ruc­tion of spi­rit and envi­ron­ment is neit­her the way to balan­ce nor to ascen­si­on —Anyo­ne who claims other­wi­se should lead by examp­le.

The thing I do know —and the­re is not­hing new in that state­ment— is that vani­ty does not faci­li­ta­te sta­bi­li­ty. Living super­fi­ci­al­ly, indul­ging in plea­su­res wit­hout bounds, that will dis­sol­ve your spi­rit. You will end up being just ano­t­her pie­ce of trash on the side­walk.

So, could we exist wit­hout the city? I think we could, and we would do rather well.

Mark Lind­hout on living the city-life
Could a pro­ject like 900RPM exist under other, more shel­te­red con­di­ti­ons? Every time we are on vaca­ti­on in Ber­lin, I sen­se that same fee­ling of dis­gust and alie­na­ti­on, but at the same time I am also awa­re of an end­less stream of crea­ti­ve ener­gy and pos­si­bi­li­ties. 
Ah yes, the hum­ming of the city. Smo­ke and mir­rors. It is just a num­bers game. The more resour­ces in one space, the more pos­si­bi­li­ties. When you are here, you look for the­se things, and you will find them. Sub­jec­tively, in gre­at num­bers. Howe­ver low the rela­ti­ve rate is. This is a big place.

To be more spe­ci­fic: It is very hard to find afford­a­ble rehe­ar­sal space here, and if you are crea­ting the more invol­ved kinds of art, such as sculp­tures or instal­la­ti­ons, you can for­get about fin­ding a stu­dio, full stop. This city is sel­ling its­elf to the hig­hest bid­ders, who only care about their return on invest­ment. They will choo­se some­thing that makes money: Offices and luxu­ry apart­ments. Not art stu­di­os.

I am not try­ing to play the vic­tim of gen­tri­fi­ca­ti­on here. The fault lies as much with the hedo­nistic cir­cle-jer­king bunch that call them­sel­ves artists in this town. What weak spi­rits we are. Ger­ma­ny offers so many ways you can join up and get funds, loca­ti­ons, and events. You just need get tog­e­ther, and do it. Unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly, most ›crea­ti­ve‹ folks can not even look past their ego. They can not com­pro­mi­se in any mea­ning­ful way. So not­hing hap­pens.

Who can bla­me them? How could they act in any other way? This is a place of hedo­nists. It feels like a play­ground, made just for you. Why would you go through all that trou­ble, why would you take respon­si­bi­li­ty, if your next high and new sin­gle-ser­ving fri­ends are just around the cor­ner? Bet­ter think about the future some other time. A fit­ting quo­te comes from this arti­cle: »I spent a lot of time tal­king about the arts over beer or cof­fee, or at 4 a.m. over a mir­ror, but I didn’t see a who­le lot actual­ly being crea­ted.»

Con­si­de­ring that the popu­la­ti­on of the city’s metro­po­li­tan area is over 6 mil­li­on, I find its cul­tu­ral out­put tru­ly disap­poin­ting. Most artists are main­ly living the life, but not actual­ly put­ting in the hours. The ones that do are dis­con­nec­ted from the sce­ne, from the city. The­se artists can do their work some­whe­re else, just as well.

So, could we exist wit­hout the city? I think we could, and we would do rather well. I mean, the amen­ities are use­ful. Public trans­por­ta­ti­on is good, and we have our jobs here. The copious amounts of trash do form a sin­gu­lar com­pel­ling argu­ment in favor of this city.
In final con­clu­si­on, though: We do not need this exact place to crea­te stuff.

Let us be honest, and get back to rea­li­ty: 900RPM exis­ting out­si­de of the cur­rent con­struct is pure con­jec­tu­re. Things are as they are. We are not going to pack up our lives and move off to the coun­try­si­de to start a 900RPM-com­mu­ne. I appre­cia­te the city for offe­ring me the pos­si­bi­li­ties it has. I fear and hate it, for the influ­ence it might take.
In the end, though, it is always the peop­le you meet, the inter­ac­tions that ari­se, that make the dif­fe­rence. The oppor­tu­nities and pos­si­bi­li­ties are wit­hin yours­elf.
The­se are not bound to a place. You crea­te them yours­elf.
»Aural Alche­my II — David Mül­ler of 900RPM at the Cat­a­comb Con­cert« Foto: Der Eiben­rei­ter 2019
Could you descri­be the evo­lu­tio­na­ry pro­cess, 900RPM took from 2014 star­ting out with a joke about making noi­se music with a washing machi­ne, to such a big and serious pro­ject like Der Golem which kept you busy for a long long time now?
We surely did not start out as tho­rough nor as focu­sed. I remem­ber the ori­gi­nal con­ver­sa­ti­on: It was about noi­se dro­ne, and how a washing machi­ne had all the sonic capa­bi­li­ties nee­ded for that style. It was jokin­gly put for­ward that we could »make an album with just a washing machi­ne.« Wit­hin that same con­ver­sa­ti­on, we imme­dia­te­ly found com­mon ground and pro­duc­tive inspi­ra­ti­on.

David and me both agreed on the nas­ty rigid natu­re of most kinds of music pro­duc­tion. For examp­le: As soon as you announ­ce you play the bass, musi­ci­ans expect you to per­form a cer­tain way. They expect groo­ves, riffs, and all that. That has a place some­whe­re, but is not very con­du­ci­ve to expe­ri­men­ta­ti­on. If you use pre­de­fi­ned pro­ces­ses, you usual­ly end up with a pre­de­fi­ned track. Sin­ce the­re is a lot of con­ven­tio­nal music out the­re —oft­en­ti­mes play­ed bet­ter than we could our­sel­ves— we did not feel the need to add to that canon.

Uncon­ven­tio­nal instru­ments were thus always a stap­le for the band. They faci­li­ta­te explo­ra­ti­on of sounds, wit­hout pre­set expec­ta­ti­ons. As an added bonus, nobo­dy knows what the­se instru­ments should sound like, sin­ce they have no pre­ce­dent. A per­fect oppor­tu­ni­ty to focus more on sound, and less on vir­tuo­si­ty. It feels like a less tech­ni­cal, a more groun­ded way to make music. Becau­se it is still, after all, music. I mean, we are not extra­ter­restri­als. Howe­ver stran­ge our stuff may sound at times, we under­stand the need to con­nect aes­the­ti­cal­ly to peop­le. So you will hear reco­gniz­ab­le move­ments, build-ups, and pat­terns.

Per­so­nal­ly, I find con­ven­tio­nal music a gre­at delight to lis­ten to, but extre­me­ly cum­ber­so­me to crea­te. When I feel that that a per­for­mance requi­res a huge, fla­shing, pink ele­phant that you can hit with sticks, the­re is no con­ven­tio­nal way to take. Yet, this is an equal­ly important part of the total com­po­si­ti­on, for me.

The grammar of con­ven­tio­nal music is one you real­ly need to grasp befo­re you can stretch its bounda­ries. If you learn and excel, invest lar­ge amounts of time, it will deli­ver gre­at results. Howe­ver, it comes with limi­ta­ti­ons in medi­um, shape, tona­li­ty, melo­dy and rhythm. For me per­so­nal­ly, crea­ting music is a bit of a mix-and-match. While using some of the aspec­ts of con­ven­tio­nal music, I lea­ve others most­ly alo­ne. I am not very inte­rested in melo­dy, yet I do love tex­tu­re, and rhythm as a bypro­duct of that. To para­phra­se Bri­an Eno a litt­le: When I look at musi­cal nota­ti­on, the­re is no way to deal with tex­tu­re. Were I to wri­te down my music as notes, it would be a jum­ble of very com­plex notes, fol­lo­wed by ten pages of almost not­hing at all. And it would still be mis­sing the point.

Some very inte­res­ting work on musi­cal nota­ti­on was done in the 1950’s – 1970’s by Ian­nis Xen­a­kis, Krzy­sztof Pen­der­ecki, and John Cage. Howe­ver, I have yet to see a par­ti­tu­re that can reli­ab­ly descri­be a tex­tu­re, like two harsh dro­nes and their inter­re­la­ted build-up. Then again, perhaps that is not necessa­ry. Such vagueness forms an expres­si­ve inner space wit­hin the music. No need to crea­te a map with infi­ni­te detail. One accepts that only the work its­elf can tru­ly be its own descrip­ti­on.

My stan­ce on the sub­ject of con­ven­tio­nal music sys­tems is simi­lar to Jaron Lanier’s cri­tique on MIDI, from his book You are not a gad­get (2011). He descri­bes MIDI (a digi­tal music nota­ti­on sys­tem) as a strong influ­ence on music, making it rigid and sys­te­ma­ti­zed. On the one hand you are given a tigh­ter grammar with more pre­cisi­on and a bet­ter unders­tood voca­bu­la­ry of musi­cal expres­si­on. On the other hand, it is awful­ly one-dimen­sio­nal. The­re is a loss of fle­xi­bi­li­ty in play­ing, and an enor­mous loss of seren­di­pi­ty. Which brings us to why and how we, as 900RPM, build our instru­ments and why we work the way we do. It is half-plan­ned, and the rest falls into our lap by expe­ri­men­ta­ti­on and luck. No spe­cial com­pe­tence nee­ded. It goes wrong often enough. Just use what you find, accept what is offe­red. It is all part of the seren­di­pi­tous pro­cess.
»Play­ful Dro­ne« Foto: Der Eiben­rei­ter 2019

The expe­ri­men­tal moti­va­tor is always a fun­da­men­tal aspect of our work.

Mark Lind­hout on expe­ri­men­tal aspec­ts
We had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to catch you live in Ber­lin, while per­forming the ›cat­a­comb con­cert‹.

The stran­ge and unusu­al music instru­ments caught my atten­ti­on almost imme­dia­te­ly. All tho­se ana­log devices and cables, per­cus­sion parts and drums in frame­works along with the home­ma­de string instru­ments indu­ced a fee­ling of being in a sound-alchemist’s secret labo­ra­to­ry.

What skills whe­re nee­ded to crea­te that arse­nal of atmo­s­phe­ric stuff and why did 900RPM choo­se to crea­te their sound most­ly the DIY way?
Ah yes, that was a gre­at gig. Good atmo­s­phe­re. I am hap­py about how it tur­ned out.

I men­tio­ned alrea­dy that the pro­cess is one of seren­di­pi­ty, and that is what you see in our set­up as well. It took a long time for things to evol­ve as they are now. We had been buil­ding and expe­ri­men­ting for years befo­re we final­ly got to a point whe­re our instru­ments were per­for­mance-rea­dy. So inde­ed: Why DIY?

We have a coup­le of rea­sons for buil­ding our own instru­ments. As men­tio­ned ear­lier: Con­ven­tio­nal instru­men­ta­ti­on limits expe­ri­men­ta­ti­on. The expe­ri­men­tal moti­va­tor is always a fun­da­men­tal aspect of our work.

Then the­re is the manu­fac­tu­ring pro­cess. Buil­ding some­thing requi­res a deep dive into the mate­ri­als, the logic, the pro­ces­ses. It increa­ses your under­stan­ding of music, and the world in gene­ral. The under­stan­ding you gain by buil­ding some­thing yours­elf is deep. It is the clo­sest we as humans can come to gods, by sha­ping the world around us into a midd­le ground bet­ween our con­cept and base phy­si­cal rea­li­ty. You are in con­trol, you are crea­ting, and that is empowering.

The same goes for the ana­log devices you men­tio­ned. Tape recor­ders, self-built ana­log effect pedals and syn­the­si­zers. The­se are adjus­ted to my level of skill with a sol­de­ring iron. I dis­li­ke to use anything which I can not repair. To me, that feels unna­tu­ral.

In gene­ral, our extre­me­ly was­te­ful civi­li­za­ti­on pro­du­ces so much detri­tus, so many objec­ts, that it would be flat-out ins­a­ne to just throw it all away. This is the ›eco­lo­gi­cal‹ moti­va­tor, as I call it. 900RPM is —in that spe­ci­fic way— a state­ment against was­te­ful­ness: We show that, with effort and focus, it is pos­si­ble to con­ju­re qua­li­ty from found objec­ts, from trash. That state­ment is less about eco­lo­gy direc­t­ly and more about the phi­lo­so­phi­cal atti­tu­de asso­cia­ted with it. If you stri­ve for balan­ce, how can it be accep­ta­ble to use up the world around you, wit­hout rep­le­nis­hing? This is not only anti-soci­al and self-dama­ging, but it is hypo­cri­ti­cal. It dis­con­nec­ts huma­ni­ty from its­elf and from the world around it.

No love lost bet­ween me and any reli­gi­on, yet I do think huma­ni­ty has a respon­si­bi­li­ty simi­lar to the descrip­ti­on in Gene­sis, whe­re god crea­tes man to »work the gar­den and tend it.« The cur­rent wan­ton dest­ruc­tion of resour­ce and spi­rit by our civi­li­za­ti­on is tru­ly despi­ca­ble. It is wit­hout honor. It is a virus-like beha­vi­or which I have always asso­cia­ted with sys­temic reli­gi­ons, be they Chris­tia­ni­ty, The Free Mar­ket, or some­thing else.

So 900RPM uses that which is left behind by others. Trash, many would call it. Yet the things often con­si­de­red trash, are not. The won­der­ful Ger­man ada­ge »Ist das Kunst, oder kann das weg?« exp­lains it well.

Both trash and art are in the eye of the behol­der. Whe­re art is aspi­ra­ti­on to the eter­nal and trash the excre­ment of civi­li­za­ti­on, com­bi­ning them —even exch­an­ging their mea­ning— and still indu­bi­ta­b­ly crea­ting aes­the­tic qua­li­ty from it, is a true clo­sing of the cir­cle. It has a cer­tain ele­gan­ce and, I would say, a sen­se of com­ple­ti­on.

When I walk through the fil­thy streets of Ber­lin, I often see washing machi­nes stan­ding on the side­walk. For me, it is clear that the object is not trash. I see a collec­tion of elec­tric motors, steel bas­kets, screws, bolts, cop­per wiring, dri­ving belts, knobs, relays, rub­ber was­hers, springs, sheet metal, and stran­ge­ly shaped blocks of con­cre­te. The­se are all things I can do some­thing with, build some­thing from. This is not real­ly a skill to learn, but rather a chan­ge of per­spec­tive. An under­stand­a­b­ly dif­fi­cult chan­ge of per­spec­tive. Ever­ything else in this world is try­ing to con­vin­ce you that trash is trash, and art is art. And that is just not true. The­re is no line but the one you draw.

When it comes to sound, we have defi­ni­te­ly been gui­ded by our love for hea­vy music. 900RPM’s sounds are drawn out, atmo­s­phe­ric. Moving from soft and distant tex­tures, to shat­te­ring dro­ne explo­si­ons. It needs con­trast, spread out over a lot of space and time.

I have per­so­nal­ly been great­ly inspi­red by fel­low Ber­li­ner Aidan Baker, and the likes of Black Boned Angel, Locri­an, and Barn Owl. All tho­se won­der­ful bands that regu­lar­ly build songs over an hour long, that do not shy away from the right noi­se. Tho­se influ­en­ces are clear­ly audi­ble in Der Golem, I feel.
I read an inte­res­ting arti­cle about Edvard Munchs time in Ber­lin recent­ly and know that your vita also invol­ves art histo­ry. Is the­re com­mon ground bet­ween expres­sio­nistic art and dro­ne music in your opi­ni­on?
The obvious par­al­lel would be that both forms of art do not shy away from dis­tor­ti­on. Eit­her in color and visu­als, or in audio effec­ts and pro­ces­sing. It is more about the per­cei­ved shape of things, and less about the exact tech­ni­ques or mea­ning behind it. In expres­sio­nism this was done by chan­ne­ling emo­ti­ons into the work, some­thing we almost take for gran­ted nowa­days.

The­re is ano­t­her cul­tu­ral­ly his­to­ri­cal par­al­lel at play here as well. Expres­sio­nism came into exis­tence in a time whe­re rigid art prac­tice was the rule, the sta­tus quo. The­se artist wan­ted free­dom of artis­tic expres­si­on, and star­ted brea­king the rules of art. It was an escape of sorts, into the realm of free com­po­si­ti­on and the abs­tract. The same goes for dro­ne. Some­whe­re during the 90’s the pro­duc­tion style in extre­me music star­ted to impro­ve. Very clear and high-end pro­duc­tion took over. It was often play­ed very fast, as well. I noti­ced that in the first deca­de a sort of fati­gue set in. Becau­se the­re was inde­ed some­thing to be said for tho­se grai­ny demo tapes. The­re were who­le land­s­capes insi­de the music. Pret­ty awe­so­me, inti­ma­te stuff.

Yet tho­se land­s­capes were gone after the high-end audio tre­at­ment. This fati­gue —this tired­ness of relent­less speed and dyna­mi­cal­ly squas­hed cla­ri­ty— mor­phed into the ear­ly out­crop­pings of dro­ne. It was a brea­king of the rules, in almost all aspec­ts of what con­ven­tio­nal music stands for. Melo­dy, rhythm, struc­tu­re, length: They are all mea­ningless when it comes to dro­ne. It was an escape from the shack­les of over-pro­du­ced music, into the swam­py yet adven­tur­ous thi­c­ket of not-kno­wing-exac­t­ly-what-you-are-lis­ten­ing-to.

Alt­hough this is my per­so­nal per­spec­tive, the cul­tu­ral pen­du­lum does sway. Then again, dro­ne is of all times, of all peop­le. The most fun­da­men­tal human expres­si­on that is musi­cal, hum­ming, is dro­ne. Almost all folk music in exis­tence incor­po­ra­tes it. So does most reli­gious music. So I think the­re a fun­da­men­tal need wit­hin us. A need for the laye­red, intert­wi­ning tex­tures of the dro­ne.
If you had to com­po­se a sound­track‹ to one of Munchs pain­tings, which one would you choo­se?
A sound­track to a Munch pain­ting, nice idea!

To be honest, I am not all too fami­li­ar with his work, but from what I know, I think I would pick The Sun from 1910. That pain­ting shows traces of roman­ti­cism, while heral­ding the abs­trac­tions to come. It holds a rigid com­po­si­ti­on, but is almost was­hed out in its strokes and ele­ments. That fits my musi­cal sen­si­ti­vi­ties nice­ly. The who­le thing gets bonus points for loo­king like a nuclear explo­si­on.

The sound­track I envi­si­on would be some­thing around twen­ty minu­tes long. It would be play­ed as a never-ending loop, with a gap-less begin­ning and end. Going with the colors and light­ness of the visu­al, the­re needs to be lots of space, a fee­ling of cold, but slow­ly war­ming up near the midd­le —just as the pain­ting does. I would base it off field-record­ings of twan­ging metal objec­ts, echo­ing empty streets, wind, and perhaps soft­ly brea­king glass. Tho­se will be laye­red atop a distant­ly spa­ced, dis­tor­ted bass dro­ne. Some­thing along tho­se lines.
The Sun. Edvard Munch, 1910.

We have been tal­king about some ide­as for the near future, vary­ing from a cover album of cul­tist hits, to field-recor­ded con­tact micro­pho­ne city-scapes, or the elec­tro­ma­gne­tic sky buri­al of our Face­book pro­fi­le data.

Mark Lind­hout on 900RPM’s Future Plans
»Aural Alche­my III — Matteo Gio­mi plays a stran­ge string-ope­ra­ted dro­ne machi­ne« Foto: Der Eiben­rei­ter 2019
As far as I have lear­ned, the­re is a lot of socio-cri­ti­cal con­text hid­den in 900RPM’s work. So, whats up next? Metro­po­lis may­be? 
Hid­den is the right word. This inter­view is pro­bab­ly the first any­bo­dy ever hears of it. We do not use vocals or lyrics in our work very much, and most defi­ni­te­ly not to con­vey a mes­sa­ge. The only voca­li­za­ti­ons we ever do are rhyth­mi­cal or tex­tu­ral in natu­re. So yeah, it is hid­den. Music like ours is not the right vehi­cle for soci­al cri­ti­cism. If you want to be poli­ti­cal­ly active you should wri­te a mani­festo, I think.

Your sug­ges­ti­on, to crea­te music to ano­t­her film. We have tal­ked about it, and howe­ver nice that might be, it is a very hea­vy workload to crea­te such a huge com­po­si­ti­on. Added to that, it is also rela­tively limi­ted, sin­ce you are tem­po­ral­ly and atmo­s­phe­ri­cal­ly locked to the film. I think we are done with the movie sound­track thing for now, and we are going to take it nice and easy for a while.

To give you a litt­le bit of insight: We have been tal­king about some ide­as for the near future, vary­ing from a cover album of cul­tist hits, to field-recor­ded con­tact micro­pho­ne city­scapes, or the elec­tro­ma­gne­tic sky buri­al of our Face­book pro­fi­le data. Or a pia­no com­po­si­ti­on based on delay effec­ts. Ide­as are never in short sup­ply. We shall see whe­re we go from here.
Thank you Mark for this thought­ful and inten­se Inter­view!

May­be one last and hea­vy ques­ti­on: Seems a litt­le bit like our soci­al and eco­no­mic sys­tems in Euro­pe are on the brink of col­lap­se right now and the par­ty is over, at least for a while…

What is your per­so­nal visi­on of »Uto­pia«? Could the cur­rent cri­sis mark some sort of a tur­ning point for socie­ty?
From a spi­ri­tu­al per­spec­tive, the pan­de­mic is a bles­sing in dis­gui­se. Occi­den­tal civi­li­za­ti­on needs to slow-down and intro­s­pect. Peop­le need to see whe­re truth and value lies: It is not your job, your money. It is not your pos­ses­si­ons, your looks, your sta­tus. You only ever real­ly have you. You must accept who you are, sin­ce you are going to be con­fron­ted with that per­son qui­te a lot, the­se com­ing mon­ths.

»I don’t like it!« they will say, to which I respond: »All medi­ci­ne is bit­ter.« Chips will fall. Rela­ti­ons­hips will break. Peop­le will go a litt­le cra­zy. Alt­hough that is not sur­pri­sing, when you sud­den­ly dis­co­ver a com­ple­te stran­ger living wit­hin you. Espe­ci­al­ly shal­low peop­le are going to have a very hard time, due to their spi­ri­tu­al inat­ten­tiveness. They ful­ly deser­ve it.

Eco­lo­gi­cal­ly, the mea­su­rements against con­ta­gi­on are alrea­dy pro­ving to be ama­zing. It is tru­ly one of the best things we could have ever done for our world. The tem­pe­ra­tu­re in the city is lower, the birds are more pre­sent, the air is of bet­ter qua­li­ty, the ski­es are clea­rer. I would pre­fer it stays this way. It shows that eco­lo­gi­cal chan­ge is very pos­si­ble. It is a ques­ti­on of wan­ting it to hap­pen, and being moti­va­ted enough to do it. Unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly, it also shows that only the fear of death real­ly moves a herd. Let us hope the poli­ti­ci­ans will not get all hor­ny becau­se of all that power, and then con­ve­ni­ent­ly ›for­get‹ to give us back our free­doms. It is so nice and quiet now.

Eco­no­mi­c­al­ly, I could not care less. The way we cur­r­ent­ly behave our­sel­ves in the name of ›The Mar­ket‹ is ridi­cu­lous. If that repla­ce­ment god gets des­troy­ed: Good rid­dance.

In time, peop­le will agree. Around me, some are losing their jobs after years of loy­al ser­vice. Most others are being finan­ci­al­ly squee­zed by their employ­ers. Forced to take self-paid vaca­ti­on. What ama­zes me: The­se peop­le are sur­pri­sed by this! Which in turn sur­pri­ses me: To expect mora­li­ty from an intrin­si­cal­ly amo­ral orga­ni­za­ti­on, that is plain idio­cy. The blind are tru­ly lea­ding the blind in this spi­ri­tu­al desert of a civi­li­za­ti­on.

My heart­felt hope is that this oppor­tu­ni­ty will be used by many to reflect and impro­ve: To beco­me a grea­ter, bet­ter ver­si­on of them­sel­ves; To use the time which is given; To think; To crea­te! I hope the cur­rent socie­tal chan­ges will put things in per­spec­tive and re-prio­ri­ti­ze humans. I hope peop­le will open the door to the free­dom and light wit­hin us all. Rea­li­ty will always throw you cur­ve-balls, so exter­nal pro­jec­tion of uto­pi­an requi­re­ments is doo­med from the start. It is the phi­lo­so­phi­cal equi­va­lent of the gar­den of Eden, which is a cage for imma­tu­re minds to final­ly escape. A rebel­lious action, requi­red to beco­me tru­ly inde­pen­dent, to be tru­ly a part of this world. All the tools to achie­ve human hap­pi­ness are at our dis­po­sal, insi­de of us. The pro­cess begins by loo­king at yours­elf, pas­sing through the fear, into the light. Uto­pia lies wit­hin us.

Now stop rea­ding, pull yours­elf tog­e­ther, and go make some fuck­ing art!