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One Of A Kind [2014-09-26]

Z'EV is a highly respected & influential percussionist, sound-artists, conceptual artists, scholar and poet - his work blurs the boundaries between different experimental genres, and it’s really difficult to even attempt to pigeon hole his work into a single one.  His lengthy & highly prolific discography stretchers back to the early 80’s- with his work over the years touching down in early industrial, noise, percussive improv, dark ambient, avant grade compositions, sound-art, experimental ethnic percussive sound-making dark ambience,  doom jazz and beyond. In his lengthy career he has collaborated with many artists from many different genres & sonic disciplines, taking in names such as: Genesis P-Orridge, Francisco López,
KK Null, Chris Watson, Lydia Lunch, Nick Parkin, Charlemagne Palestine & Boyd Rice. So it’s a  great honor to present the following lengthy & fascinating interview with this truly unequal artist’s & experimental legend.

m[m]: What are some of earliest musical/ sonic memories?,
Z'EV My earliest memories confirm I was a big fan of watching clouds and listening to the wind and the rain.
From 1955-8 I was living only 10 miles from the Rocketdyne company test sites for the rocket engines which eventually went into space.
So, at different periods, and on a regular basis in the evening, the house would start buzzing  and one could go outside and look to the west and the sky would be lit up in yellow through orange to red light and you could hear and feel the roaring.
Besides that, as southern California was at that time a center of the aero-, and so soon becoming the aero-space, industry, over flights by high and fast flying test aircraft, returning to a desert base north of Los Angeles, was a fact of life
The gift of which were their accompanying sonic-booms - which  both shook the house and rattled every one of its windows
Now THAT was a sonic experience, as the booms generate sound levels of approx 200 dB By way of comparison, the average factory clocks in at apex 80 dB


m[m]: do you think any other these set you on the path to create your own sonic works?
Z'EV My father was a big Dixieland jazz fan so it was their syncopated rhythms that permeated the house when he was home.
Then when I was about 5 years old my mothers' youngest sister and a friend were at the house and playing radio station KFWB - an early Los Angeles rock and roll station  and then in 1957 when I was 6 she was baby-sitting me and her and her girlfriend took me with them when they went to see a matinée performance of the movie Jailhouse Rock --  and it was one of those times when the kids in audience got up and danced in the aisles.
So that was a REAL eye and ear opener

Z'EV Here is a little list of early/major aesthetic moments:
Seeing a show at the Los Angeles County Art Museum of Abstract Expressionism in 1963.
Reading Naked Lunch and Kenneth Patchen's The Journal of Albion Moonlight in 1964.
Hearing John Coltrane with Elvin Jones in 1966 and then seeing and hearing Jimi Hendrix in 1967.
In 1966 I also first experienced a Christopher Tree/Spontaneous Sound performance
which began my drift from drummer to percussionist

In 1969 I abandoned Music and concentrated on producing poetry, sound poetry and visual poetry

The primary MAJOR influence to ALL following sound work was in 1973;
listening to the nonesuch record of Javanese gamelan under the influence of pharmaceutical Phencyclidine

And then in 1974 I saw percussionist Guilherme Franco perform with McCoy Tyner
and he completely blew my mind and so he was for sure one of these two biggest influences on the path of my percussion development which definitely led to the 'launching' of  Z'EV at the end of 1978

m[m]: Where did your interest  of  drums & percussion matter originate from?
Z'EV First touch with drums/percussion would have been around 1954 when I was 3 years old  when my mother would put my older sister and I into the kitchen
and put the pots and pans and forks and spoons out for us to play with
My sister would 'cook' with them and I would drum and make noise on / with them

Then at around 5-6 I put together a sort of mock drum set and would play at that
I then began formal drum lessons from the time I was 8 until around the age of 14 when I stopped them
From 13 to 15 in school I was in the marching band [playing cymbals] and in the orchestra playing mallet percussion
And in 1964 when I was 13 I first started paid performing with a band playing tunes learned from off the radio.

 

m[m]: What’s the origin & meaning of the z’ev name?
Z'EV Having been born into a jewish family that was one of the names I was given at birth
although it was not the proper name but a middle name
Its origin goes back to the Akkadian / Assyro-Babylonian language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia
It was originally the name of a particular type of gazelle. But at some point and for some unknown reason  the word became identified with the wolf, which is now its definition

Z'EV Now the when & why of switching from using Stefan Weisser as my denominator to using Z'EV is as follows:
It was around 1977 that I first began to take my 'wild style' percussion performances out of  the west coast Alternative Art Space scene and shifted to presenting within the context of the San Francisco punk scene
And then a curious thing would always happen
If I mentioned to someone that I was playing somewhere they would immediately ask:
'What was the name of my band?'
And then I would have to "shift gears" as it were and start talking about how I wasn't a band and etc. and our interaction would grind to a halt
So it seemed like I definitely needed to do a little fixing here to remedy the situation.
And in thinking about it I remembered:
that when I was around seven years old I had wanted to start using the name Z'EV instead of Stefan
But what parents take their kids seriously?
So that desire never went anywhere 
But this memory came back to me and I started using Z'EV as the 'name' for the performances
And in fact it worked quite well
That is, if I met someone and mentioned I was playing somewhere and they asked 'what's the name of the band?'
I would say Z'EV,  and they would ask 'what kind of music?'
 and I could just get directly into discussing the performance
and no longer have to even get into the notion that it was a solo act
which at the time and in ANY 'musical' context was for all intents and purposes rare, if not non-existent
For example;
In 1978 while I was actively presenting in the Punk context, the Brazilian percussionist and composer Airto was asked in an interview in a San Francisco Bay area music paper if he thought that it would be possible for a solo percussionist
to forge a career, and he answered fairly emphatically in the negative

Z'EV And just to finish the answer in the context of the question;
I definitely believe that the use of the word/name Z'EV as the 'brand' for my work definitely assisted in  hoeing the row that took me from the west coast of California to having worked in over 200 cities in over 25 lands

 

m[m]: Are there any elements that have remained consistent through-out your whole career?
Z'EV I'll start off by writing that Phenomenology and Rhythm are the consistent woof and warp to be found in ALL of my work

That being said, I think that, bottom line?
The genre that best describes/encompasses all the facets that I deal with would be Conceptual Art. In terms of the home wherein my heart lies however, I am strictly from Dada.

As to an overlying ‘system’ I function through, and again, across all the various genres I engage in,  I would have to say it derives primarily from a sort of combination of:
the Duchampian/Dadaist notion of the ‘Found/Finding’
the Brion Gyson- ian notion of the Cut-Up  and I would wager that I have as particular and consistent relationship with Indeterminacy as did Cage

And note that this Found/Finding pertains not just to an ‘object’ but to 'objective' and 'subjective' states and concepts as well
So as it stands I live in a continual state of being open for the ‘Finding' of objects, phrases, phases, feelings and etc. and etc.
In fact, my nickname among certain people is ‘the Finder’.
And I give my total trust, and completely surrender, to whatever Process I’ve chosen for the creation of a particular piece.

m[m]: How do you think the way you make, record, and arrange sound has changed over the years?
Z'EV I would say that the primary determining factor is the width, depth and breadth of the,
in order of importance:
emotional, conceptual and technical experience I have to call upon has grown
And this growth has obviously both affected and effected the evolution of my work
That is, I have much more to 'say' and also have become much better at 'saying' it

For example with regard to my instrumental technique;
without question I think my playing is continually evolving
Specifically; it is getting simpler and simpler but yet more emotionally direct

For example; if you want a simple result, say having one atom hit one atom
well that requires the most intense technology in use today, i.e. linear and circular accelerators and so I feel that  from culture by culture the process for producing the most complex of results, ;
i.e., evoking and invoking the metaphysical / elemental /emotional / imaginal realms,
that the simpler and more direct the process, take shamanic ritual as an example, the more precisely one can be in the achieving of those ends

 

m[m]: Through-out your lengthy career your sound/ focus has seemingly bypassed  any one single genre definition, as your work has taken in elements of  industrial, dark ambient, noise, percussive improv, sound art,  various  different rhythmic ethnic disciplines, and beyond. Has this just happened by accident , or have you always strived to create something that is difficult to classify?

Z'EV I guess the short version is that:
its probably not the work itself but rather I myself  that seems to pose a difficulty in classification for probably many to most people

And a somewhat longer version:
Well there is my favorite Tibetan aphorism,'what you know you teach, what you don't know you learn' ,so what I have striven for is to keep on learning, so in that sense its no accident

However, what I have definitely NOT striven for was to necessarily worried about the classification
I do think the problem is that because I primarily earn my living performing 'music', people think of me as a musician, even though I have continually maintained that most of the sound I produce I personally do not consider music

Z'EV For example if people would take a few minutes to peruse my website, it would be clear that I'm an Artist who works in a variety of mediums and NOT simply a musician
For example your list in the question leaves out:
sculpture, sound sculpture, non-fiction writing, textual poetry, sound poetry, visual poetry, video, and live cymatic production

 


m[m]: Over the years you have collaborated with many projects & artists over a range of different genres- please select 5 or so of your favorite collaborative works & explain why they mean so much to you?
Z'EV First off, I think the term collaboration has become quite overused  and its meaning has been totally degraded in the process
And so here is an extension of a brief piece I wrote regarding the difference twixt collaboration and cooperation:

cooperation:
situations for making a one time only work arising in response to reasons
that while not necessarily arbitrary, for the most part they generally might as well be

collaboration:
collaborations are highly intensive learning experiences
and provide one with challenges and opportunities for discoveries arising out of
the shared desire of the participants to fully engage
And where the process, source materials and commentary result from and continue to be shaped by,
shared experience that would not be available to one working in isolation

Z'EV So going a bit deeper into collaboration:
For me authentic collaborations are always based on friendship, that is relationship
And as any mature person knows relationships go through phases, but as Wilma Askinas wrote;
"A friend is someone who sees through you and still enjoys the view"

And for me the point of entering into an authentic collaboration as opposed to a simple cooperation is that through the process I am given the opportunity to learn more about myself
In that through engaging with the /an other, aspects of my self that might heretofore been obscured are revealed As though the 'view' that Askinas refers to is in fact a reflection.

So unfortunately I'm not at all interested in subjecting my collaborations to a qualitative / quantitative / hierarchical ordering


m[m]: One of my favorites of your recent collaborative release was the Ghost Time project- Please tell us a little bit how this came about?
Z'EV First part
When I arrived in London in 2003 I was looking around for like-minded souls to work with.
So klikin' around on the Internet I came across Ken Hyder, an extremely like-minded soul
And as it turned out he was also based in South London,
So I dropped by his place and we soon began playing together in his basement studio
Eventually he brought brass and wind player Andy Knight into the mix and then bassist Theo Scipio
So at a certain point we did some live recordings, Ken titled the project Real Time and arranged for their release as an online Cd through Sweden's Ayler Records
Here's a review by Julian Cowley the appeared in THE WIRE:
In the improvising quartet Real Time, Hyder is joined by percussionist z'ev, trumpeter Andy Knight and bassist Scipio.
''Within the involving rhythm of this piece there are strange changes of tempo, unpredictable acceleration, unexpected slowing down, firm strides that veer irregularly into an intoxicated reel.
z'ev operates on wavelengths close to Hyder's own, fracturing pattern without sacrificing drive.
Scipio, currently bassist with Tuvan rock group Yat Kha, contributes eccentrically loping off-kilter funk.
Knight's blowing weaves through the cross rhythms, unforced and communicative, a distinctly vocal complement to Hyder's idiosyncratic wordless singing.
The music's pulse carries you along, but the way accents fall is often disorientating.
It's music that's readily approachable, but at a slant, from unaccustomed angles.
A combination of pleasure and disclosure that touches the core of what it means to improvise.''

Z'EV Second part
OK so the Real Time project had a release but proved to be TOTALLY unemployable
we were just too weird for ANY part of ANY scene
And not just in 'swinging' London, but various e-mail campaigns to attract interest on the continent went nowhere
So one day I was riding my bike past a pub and notice a sign 'LIVE JAZZ', and I laughed to myself because it reminded me of seeing men's clubs in Los Angeles that advertised 'LIVE GIRLS', like just to reassure their customers that they wouldn't come in and find DEAD GIRLS.
Which brought the idea of DEAD JAZZ, and what would that be?
And I figured maybe it could be as sort of Dark Ambient Jazz  that just might maybe spark some interest in some weird corner of the Goth, New Folk or Dark Ambient scenes
But at least there were 3 audiences to target
So I ruminated for a while about what form that could take, give the abilities of Andy, Ken and me
So first off I brought over a bunch of metal bits for him to incorporate into his set up
And thus began a slow process of getting Ken to completely change his style of playing, which eventually bore fruit
Andy is a natural, so once Ken and I were setting up the right context he fell right into it
And then I wrote some bass lines, adapted from the bass drone lines of Scottish Pipe dirges, and had Ken give me some tapes of his vocalizing that I messed around with
And then recordings of the bass lines and the vocals would get played back and we would play along with them
And then we did some live recording sessions --
1digital recorder with a stereo mike recording Ken and Andy
And 1 digital recorder with a stereo mike recording Andy and me
And the bass and vocals were picked up by both recorders as well
And then I took the sets of files from the 2 recorders and mixed them with the original bass and vocals tracks as well
And I found a reverb setting in my editing suite that worked well and drenched what became the final mixes
And then I titled the project Ghost Time [wit a bit of a nod to Albert Ayler]
And arranged for the release on Switzerland's Hinterrzimmer Records


m[m]: Are there any plans to do any other releases under the Ghost Time project?
Z'EV Well not plans per se, but when last the 3 of us were together, which would have been early summer of 2013
there was a definite desire expressed to continue
Although it will happen in a much different format because each of us now lives in a different city
Ken still lives in South London, Andy now lives in the south of France, and I'm sheltered in Brittany
So for any new release I would first have to write some bass parts
Then send them to Ken for him to develop and record some percussion and vocal tracks for  which percussion tracks would then get kicked back and forth between us
until Ken would arrive at his 'finished' percussion tracks
Then I would do a mix of the vocal bass and percussion tracks and add my percussion
Then the mixes of those pieces would be sent to Andy
Then Andy would record his trumpet and or flute and or melodica tracks  which he would send
Then I would begin working towards a final mix that would be sent around for comment etc 
until arriving at a satisfactory-to-all actual final mix.
So as/if/when in fact this process would ever even begin, one can well imagine that it will transpire over a typically semi-geologic time frame

 

m[m]: Has Ghost Time ever played live?
And if not is this something you’d like to do?
no, ghost time has not performed for an audience
bu yes, it is a fervent desire on everyones' part
that should eventually transpire

m[m]: Your most recent solo work came in the form of A Handful Of Elements ( on Cold Spring Records)- to me all of this releases five tracks seem to have a very descriptive/ sonic story like feel to them. When you created this album did you script or lay out a story for each track?
Z'EV Simply put, no I did not 'script' a specific story, like for example I do when I am composing a vocal cut-up piece.
That being said, I can move into some not so simple putting.
First off there was the culling of source materials for each piece, and in the compositing of those elements I was guided by the desire to have the finished product elicit what I would refer to as ‘narrative potential’ and / or  'emotional resonance' in the listener

Z'EV Now one can also permute the four words of those two designations
And you end up with 'resonance potential' / 'emotional narrative' and 'narrative resonance' / 'emotional potential'
So I don’t think that non-representational ism is in itself - or has to be-  an absolute guarantee of an  absence of ‘meaning’
And by 'meaning' in this instance and context I would define as the ability to evoke an imagined state similar to that arising when one reads a book, and is seeing the action that the writer is describing playing out
So from your reaction above, it would seem that at least for you my intention was successfully realized-And that's rewarding to know

 

m[m]: You mention collecting together elements to create the tracks on A Handful Of Elements-how long did this process take?
Z'EV And from what period do the elements date back to
All of the source material is drawn from my cassette tape amassed from 1974-2003 or digital recordings made from 1990 to 2012.
The tapes include sounds and sound-scapes  that either I recorded or was present at the recording of or tapes that I've been given by various peoples on my travels or bought at thrift shops, flea markets etc
or have received through the mail from people  who knew i collected 'weird' recordings

note: if you go to this page -https://web.archive.org/web/20060613083129/http://rhythmajik.com/
then  klik PROJECTS in the website taskbar - then klik HEADPHONE MUSICS #'s 1-6 you will see the liner notes for that CD  that TOUCH released in 2004
It also was composed from out the collection - and perusing it gives an idea of the breadth of the collection

 

m[m]: What’s lined up next for the project?
Z'EV I've absolutely no fucking idea.
Since Dec 24 2011 I've been beset with some major health issues
And since august 2013 I've basically been homeless
So it's difficult to project into the future, other than attempting to get my affairs in order
Such I've become much more aware of one's mortality, or lack there of
And that has caused me to be working towards a position of being part of a solution and not part of the problem

So right now all I can basically do is to keep putting one foot in front of the other, 1440 minutes at a time.

 

Thanks to Z’ev for taking time out of his busy schedule to do the interview. A Handful Of Elements is available on Cold spring records, and Ghost Times Self Titled album appeared in 2012 on Hinterzimmer.  For all things Z’ev related drop into here


Credits: Pictures- main large front page picture by Deimante Dementaviciute. small menu picture vonberg.net.  first main interview pic vonberg.net. 2nd main interview pic Catarina M. Guerreiro. 3rd picture cover artwork from A Hanful Of Elements. 4th picture cover artwork from  Ghost Time.
Text: the quote from The Wire  review is used with kind permission of the magazine, and  for those wanting to read the full review you need to track down June 2008 issue 292.

Roger Batty
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