E-mail interview conducted with Frank Metzger April/May 1999
1. What was your role in Oval? How did each person participate?
On the one hand, I would say that we all did the same things, we all produced, selected and arranged (data management) the sounds. On the other hand, Markus really promoted the theoretical part (which, to be honest, never really interested me), Sebastian was more involved with the technical aspects, and I, for example, wrote and sang most of the texts. Maybe one can illustrate it in terms of characters: the strategist, the nerd, and the one who protected the peace.
2. When/How did Oval come together?
We met in the summer of 1989 in Darmstadt (30 km south of Frankfurt/Main).
I donít remember exactly when we made music together for the first time, it must have been 1990. At this time, about 8-10 people meet regularly at Markusís house to make music. It wasnít a band, we actually always just improvised. We recorded whatever seemed interesting to us at the time. At that time, Markus played guitar and bass, which he did later in various groups, for example in Berlin, together with Patrick and Mei Lin (who are now "surrogat"/kitty yo), in the group "Kramwelt." Sebastian played keyboard and percussion, while I, along with various other people, sang. Among others, there was also someone who played the violin. Markus bought himself an Atari and a Sampler, with which we let samples run alongside as we played. Gradually oval developed out of this group. For the first demotape, Holger LindmŁller was still present. At that time (1991) we were already working with the first CD-Hšnger and fast-forwarded CD samples. One of the first CD-Haenger came from a defective jazz CD that I borrowed from a library, it was pure coincidence. We then attempted to achieve the same effects with various methods, for example, by putting adhesive tape on the CDs. Water-soluble, felt-tip markers turned out to be the easiest method, which you can read about on Sebastianís webpage.
3. How would you describe your working methods? (software, studio, etc.)
Personally, I was never really interested in the technical aspects, but for the sound, the music. It didnít matter to me which sampler and which synthesizer. For that reason, I really canít say much about the hardware we used except that all of the equipment fit into Markusís small, Japanese car.
As for the software: from the beginning we worked with Cubase, first on the Atari, then on the Mac (Quadra 660 and 840). On "systemisch," we brought in Cubase Audio for the first time. Unfortunately, HardDiscRecording was not yet so well developed, you can hear the record skips in many pieces. Later Markus and Sebastian worked with Max and SoundDesigner.
After Wohnton we really concentrated on the defective CDs and fast-forwarded samples. Whatís unique about these sounds is that they are as rhythmically pregnant as they are melodically. Therefore, you can only work with them in a very restricted way. For a long time our work only consisted of trying out which samples worked with which, a very protracted and frustrating task. I believe it was from this experience (and because of his studies in media theory and publication) that Markus developed the theoretical side of oval.
4. How would you describe the transition from vocals to instrumental?
The music on Wohnton was really narritival, the music told stories that I had only to write down, as it were. systemisch was really indeterminate, more open, more fragile. Among other things, we attempted to put vocals to "textuell", which did not work, because they took a lot away from the pieces themselves (which is the reason why Markus spent a lot of time refining the titles of the pieces, so there could at least be a space for information). For me, that was not an issue, there was enough to do musically. In the time between Wohnton and systemisch, a number of pieces were written, of which only a few were produced (on various compliations), in which you can really trace the change in the music. The pieces on systemisch were fairly worked over several times. By the way, the rumor that a good number of the samples (on systemisch) were generated from Aphex Twins "Selected Ambient Works II" is correct.
Piece number nine on systemisch is a complete Aphex Twin piece, which was scanned backwards through a CD Haenger. We put a ten second delay on the stereo tracks and then added an effect on top of that.
5. How did the installation happen?
The installation originally consisted of eight modules connected by a brown cord, each approximately 2 meters long. Depending on the situation of the exhibition space, the modules were suspended by poles or wire rope at ear height, so that one could walk between them. In each module we put up 16 speakers (128 altogether) directed to an eight-track playback system. There were three pieces, special versions of "wohnton" pieces, which were each 21 minutes long.
a. "Hallo drauŖen"
b. "Alles in Gedanken"
c. "Kardamon" (the version of the installation of kardamon formed the basis for "dowhile" on 94diskont.
Originally, a series of mini LPs were planned, on which each piece from the installation was going to be produced. )
The sounds of the pieces were divided into eight channels, in order to produce a kind of extreme spacial sound quality. Depending on where one stood, the piece sounded different. The whole installation had a rather provisional appearance to it, especially the poles on which the speakers were attached. That is why, in later versions, we configured the installation with eight Bose boxes that were distributed around the room on the floor.
6. Why did you leave Oval?
Strictly speaking, neither Sebastian nor I actually "left" oval. In the summer of 95, it became clear that Markus had very different goals for oval than I did. Increasingly, he wanted to professionalize oval.
For him, it was no longer so much about the music, and the fun that went along with it, than it was about strategical condsiderations and marketing. I wrote a letter to Markus regarding this, which he has not answered to this day.
With Sebastion, the situation was similar. He saw on the television that he was no longer an oval member. In a piece on the Japanese tour of mouse on mars/microstoria/oval that was broadcast by the German music television station VIVA, there was a subtitle in a video clip of one of the oval pieces, which read: "This video was generated on the computer by Markus Popp and ex-oval member Sebastian Oschatz." Itís pretty likely that Markus was responsible for this subtitle. And Sebastian also no longer has any kind of contact with Markus.
7. What are you doing now? (I notice that you have an Austrian address.)
In 1997 I got my degree in Fine Arts, and, together with Wiebke GrŲsch, I have been staying for a time in Vienna. At the end of June, we will return to Frankfurt/Main for the first time. At the moment, we are primarily working on video installations. Like before, I am making music. Among other things, I created music for a few short films by my friends. In the fall, one or two of my pieces will appear in a compilation on the mego sublabel, "falsch," which is actually an internet label.
It is also possible that there will be a collaboration with hecker of mego.
Have you ever seen the TV commercial for the perfume "aqua di gio" by Armani? Markus sold pieces from systemisch to Armani. A good-looking, young, probably naked man dives through crystal blue water to the sounds of "textuell." I couldnít believe it the first time I saw it.
Portions translated from the German by AP