“Derek Holzer (1972) is an American instrument builder and sound artist based in Berlin DE, whose current interests include DIY analog electronics, field recording, media archaeology and the meeting points of electroacoustic, noise, improv and extreme music. He has given almost 200 experimental sound performances, created scores of unique instruments and installations, and taught over 130 sound art workshops across Europe, North and South America, and New Zealand since 2002.” [macumbista.net]
How would you summarize this past year on artistic and personal level?
This last year held huge changes for me in terms of direction and outlook. I still get a lot out of performing on a personal level, but I have always struggled with the avant-garde elitism I find throughout the entire experimental and new music scenes. My disgust with this elitism–coupled with the very realistic awareness that I will likely never make a living playing noise concerts–led me at first towards teaching people to build their own instruments in a variety of workshops over the years. But in 2013, I began producing and selling my own hand made electronic sound instruments in earnest, and the response has been fantastic!
I see most modern music technology (software or hardware) as being only partly “instruments” in the classical sense, and more like interactive compositions, where the designer has purposefully included or left out elements which shape the sound in very predetermined ways. By sharing some of the tools I use to make my own performances, I invite other artists (professional, amateur or otherwise) to collaborate with me in new ways and break down this tired, Romantic idea of the genius artist inventing themselves in complete isolation…
What album you listened to most often this year (not necessarily released in 2013)?
Swans – We Rose From Your Bed With the Sun In Our Head [2012 Young God]
What was the best cultural experience not related to music?
My cultural life seems inextricably tied to music somehow, so here I will mention living like a reptile on the high plains of Southwest Texas, experiencing a smoke sauna in the Estonian countryside, watching the leaves turn color in the north of Sweden and reading some of the biographies and journals of the great explorers of the 19th and 20th centuries.
And best trip? Most beautiful or magic place you visited this year?
I was lucky enough to get an invitation to play at the Tsonami Festival in Valparaiso, Chile this year. The invitation came early enough that I could book a whole month of workshops, concerts and residencies in Chile, and spent time in Punta Arenas (Patagonia), Santiago, Valparaiso and the experimental architecture community of Ciudad Abierta, in Ritoque just north of Concón. Patagonia and Ritoque in particular struck me. In both places, the nature was both incredibly beautiful and unforgiving.
What was your greatest disappointment of 2013?
Near the end of my trip to Chile, I was informed that my father was in the hospital with cancer. We have always been very close, and I am certain this wandering, mongrel-dog artist lifestyle I lead is due to his example. Realizing that someone I have respected so much my entire life is still a mere mortal came as a deep shock.
Did you learn anyting particular this year?
After turning 40 in 2012, I have been thinking a lot about how one can remain an independent artist in the long term, and in a sustainable way. When you are 27, all you care about is enough money to pay the rent, buy a few new toys and keep yourself in beers. But working outside institutional structures becomes more and more challenging after a while, when you aren’t willing to sacrifice your time, your personal relationships, your health or your future to play a few more door-money gigs in some stinking basement in Neukölln.
A sustainable way of working gives you a stable platform in the long term, rather than twenty bucks, a beer and a kebab in the short term. It’s there for those times when you are sick and have no inspiration, or when you have a huge idea that just won’t wait, or when you fall in love and want to build a cabin in the mountains together, or any other damned thing that isn’t the unrelenting grind of produce-produce-produce, book-book-book and tour-tour-tour to keep the bill collectors off your back.
Plans, hopes, expectations for 2014?
I will fly in some planes, see some new cities, play some gigs, build some new instruments and meet scores of new people. Like most years. And for this I remain thankful. Besides that, I hope to expand this instrument-building business into something which can better support me, without turning into one of the caricature trust-fund hipster start-up types who have overrun Berlin in the last 6 years. But more than anything, I hope to be able to wander the desert like a mad fool with my father again when he is well.
Photo by: Terje Toomistu Cece