a brief interview with Roel Meelkop
dutch composer and member of legendary live electro-acoustic units THU20 and Kapotte Muziek and lately also the 'minimal techno'-project Goem.


1. ok the obligatory first question: tell me something about your background - have you been involved in any other musical projects before Kapotte Muziek and THU20? When did you start composing music of your own?

My first musical enterprises date back to 1981, playing around with some guys in a typical rock setup. I played the bass guitar (well, i tried to...) and played in several bands. Mostly we tried to play new wave (the softer version of punk). In 1984, together with Jac van Bussel and Guido Doesborg, i founded Club Rialto and we had our first gigs. In 1985, i couldn't make it to a concert and Jac and Guido invited jos Smolders to join them. Instead of the usual wave thing, they played a tapeloop and noise concert under the name THU20. After i heard a recording i found that this was far more interesting than new wave. The others did as well, so Jos permanently joined the group and we went on as THU20. We did live gigs and also started recording studio works. In the same year Peter Duimelinks joined and THU20 released some tapes, records and CD's. I started working solo in 1985, working with two tapedecks and a small mixer. Today i work with sampler and computer.

2. do you have any particular influences, references in your works - music, art,philosophy?

I would have to say that THU20 has had a very strong influence on my work, obviously. Not only in the way i learned how to listen to music, but aso in the way how to produce it. We used to have a lot of talks and discussions about the things we were doing. That has shaped my way of dealing with sound and music. Besides this, the early new wave years have left their mark on me (Cabaret Voltaire, Birthday Party etc.), together with very early electronic pop music (Kraftwerk, DAF etc.). Later i also started listening to contemporary and classical music. As far as art is concerned, i have always had a preference for minimalist work (Robert Ryman, Carl André etc.). This is defenitely not the case with music, BTW. But there is so much art and music out there that it is really impossible to tell what has influenced me and what hasn't. Generally speaking i would say that i have a very broad interest in all directions and that this openness for diverse influences is in some way reflected in my work (at least i hope so). I have read some philosophy, but somehow i don't seem to be able to keep it in my head. I have read two articles by Adorno that made a great impression on me, but please don't ask me to explain them to you. Lately i have seen some photographs by the japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto and somehow i have the feeling that he must know exactly what i am trying to do. This is probably the closest i can get to an explanation of my work.

3. i know that you are also active as a visual artist - what medium do you use?

I used to make sculptures for a couple of years (when i was still in art school) and later i made paintings/collages. I gave up these activities about two years ago, because i wanted to have more time for sound and music.

4.do you want to separate your visual art with your sonic or do you think that they complement each other in a way? are they equally important to you - i mean, if you were forced to give up one of them which one would you choose?

Well, the last question has been answered i think. I do still make sound installations, which always hace a visual element of course. But i am trying to restrict myself as much as possible to sound. Working with sound makes me happier than working with images.

5. i visited your 'just about now'-website and was kinda puzzled of it - tell me what it's about.

Ah yes. The website has been designed as the catalogue for a sound exhibition that i organised in april 1998 in a villa in Rotterdam. Presented there were sound installations from Carsten Nicolai, Peter Duimelinks, Francisco Lopez, Frans de Waard, Ryoji Ikeda and myself. This villa had six rooms, so each of the artists had his own space, in which he was free to do what he liked. The exhibition had a kind of serene atmosphere, very open. I wanted to express this atmosphere in the website as well. No introduction, no explanation, just the work. And of course we had to work with the limitations of the serever... It has turned out to be a somewhat enigmatic site, but that's what i like about it. A CD of the exhibition has been released as well on V2_Archief.

This might be an obvious question but is improvistaion and important element in your live performances (with KM or THU20) or do you have some agreements before the concerts about what kind of sounds you are going to use etc.?

With THU20 we always improvised, but on the basis of sessions we did before each concert. We would make a soundtrack that could be used by everyone during the performance, which also served as a guideline. Then we discussed what everyone planned to do live. This worked very well, especially in the setup where each of us had his own sound unit (amp and speaker) and we were all interconnected through some patch boxes that we made ourselves. These were basically quadrophonic concerts; each speaker had its own sound quality and by walking around the space, the audience was able to participate in final result. With Kapotte Muziek we do pure improvisations, although we practised a lot before we did our second concert (the first one was not so succesful). By now, we are so well 'tuned in' on each other that we can play without rehearsals. Recently i did my first solo performance in the Hφrbar in Hamburg. This was no improvisation at all. For weeks i have been working on the piece (lasting about 40 minutes) and rehearsing it at home. Now i have made three CD-R's that i mix live. Every detail has been worked out in this case.

Just tell me something about your latest(?) project Goem and the Audio Nl label, how all that came about.

Goem was initiated by Frans de Waard, who made some tracks with a device called the Student Stimulator, which i found in some second hand shop. It is basically a pulse generator. After hearing his recordings, i asked him if it was ok if i added some synth sounds. He said yes and we started recording together. We got invited to play in Barcelona and Peter Duimelinks joined the group. Goem is a project that is full of irony for me, but i take that as seriously as my other work. At the moment we're kind of wondering what to do next with Goem. We have still got loads of recordings that we have to edit and so on. We'll see what happens. Audio.NL is a organisation that we started to be able to organise different events (concerts, festivals, exhibitions etc.) and to release music and other media if we want to. Untill now, the emphasis was on releasing music within a minimal technoid sphere. However, at the moment i am also working on 'just about now II'. This will be part of the activities of Audio.NL as well. And there are more plans.....

During performance, is there any project that you find more enjoyable than the others? you talk about Goem being full of irony for you and i couldn't help noticing that during the Goem concert in sthlm you and Frans looked rather bored (you just quickly programmed a new sound on your synth's between the tracks and then sat with your arms crossed staring at the table while Peter was doing all the work with mixing)- was that intentional? i mean a common problem with live electronic music is that it's rather boring to watch - it all looks the same; some guy behind a mixer smoking and twisting knobs- were you toying with this problem?

I don't have a real preference for one of the projects, live or in the studio. They all have their specific qualities, which i like very much. Part of the irony of Goem is the motionless attitude that Frans and i have on stage; the beats are pretty heavy and we sit there quite still, doing very little. But that is also one of the essential features of Goem: its minimalism (musically and visually). So yes, it was intentional. As for electronic live music it is ideed considered by some to be a problem that there is nothing to watch. But i don't see it as a problem myself. Most of this music is meant to be listened to anyway, so the visual aspect is not that important to me. I have been regularly to classical concerts and there is not a lot more to see there i think. There are just more people on the stage and maybe they move a bit more, but that's all. I hear no one complain about that. Nevertheless, Goem may change in the future; we have now developed a 'travel light' version for two for example and it works quite well. We may also start investigating the use of video or computer graphics during performances. We will see what the future holds for us......

discography:

1999       THU20 - Elfde Uni - CD, Flenix, JPN
                GOEM - dertig cm, 12”, Mego, AUT
                Roel Meelkop - 7(PERCEPTIONS), CD, Staalplaat, NL
1998      GOEM - reduktie, CD, Noise Museum, F
                Roel Meelkop / Frans de Waard - GLAS, 10”, Korm Plastics, NL
                Roel Meelkop - 1(VERAMENTE MORTO), 7”, Korm Plastics, NL
                THU20 - Derde Schijf, CD, Staalplaat, NL
                GOEM - goem, 12”, AUDIO.nl, NL
                Roel Meelkop - 2(BLAUW PLAATJE), 7”, Meeuw Muzak, NL
                Roel Meelkop - 3(STÜCKE IM ALTEN STIL), 10”, Korg Plastics, NL
1997       GOEM - stud stim, CD, Raster/Noton, D
                Kapotte Muziek Mort aux Vaches, CD, Staalplaat, NL
                Roel Meelkop - 2(KYOKU), mini-CD, Staallaat, NL
1996       Roel Meelkop - 9(HOLES IN THE HEAD), CD, trente oiseuax, D
                Kapotte Muziek - Kapotte Muziek sind.., 7” picture disc, Korm Plastics/V2_Archief, NL
                Kapotte Muziek - ADD, mini-CD, Staalplaat, NL
1992       THU20 - Tweede Schijf, CD, Midas Music, NL
1990      THU20 - Bordeaux, LP, Midas Music, NL
                THU20, Eerste Schijf, CD, Midas Music, NL
1987       Mailcop - Muzak, C60, Midas Music, NL
1986       Mailcop - Music for loud parties vol.3, C44, Midas Music, NL
                THU20 - Live in..., C30, Midas Music, NL
                THU20 - Live in..., C30, Midas Music, NL
1985       Happy Halloween - To all the leaders, C20, Turntable Tapes, NL
                Happy Halloween - The speed of mind, C20, Turntable Tapes, NL
                Happy Halloween - Four days in monotony, C20, Turntable Tapes, NL
 
 
 
Roel Meelkop
Van Brakelstr. 68
3012 XZ   Rotterdam
The Netherlands
tel: +31 (0)10 214 11 64
e-mail: meelkop@wxs.nl

visit:
http://www.v2.nl/justaboutnow
http://home.worldnet.fr/kaon
http://www.earlabs.org