Ezekiel Honig

Noncoinsidence music of Ezekiel Honig
Even if he doesn’t know so much about İstanbul and Turkey, he has so much to say with his music.

Ezekiel Honig is one of the most inspiring contemporary musicians. His sound scape may be named under the spectrum of ambient, post, glitch, minimal or what else you would like to name it. The thing is he is a sound magician. A gifted field recording/sound collage artist A wizard who turns every day sounds into a soft, gentle lullaby.
A long, eclectic musical journey, experimenting, deeply through guitar riffs, harsh beneath everyday walks, talks and thoughts.

Being head of Microcosm and Anticipate Recordings has already showed us the mission he has taken over. The label keeps on releasing really promising and out of the orbit sound sculptures, wrapped with utmost intimacy and craftsmanship. Art brut, mixed with musique concrete.

I am introducing you the true words and sounds of the man behind the album “Surfaces Of A Broken Marching Band”. A wide ocean that you will be lost deeply in the abyss. A musical journey that you have rarely encountered. Here is the noncoincidene music of Ezekiel Honig.  

Are you happy with your  "Surfaces of a Broken Marching Band" so far?
I've been happy with the response to it so far.  I didn't expect it to necessarily get more attention than past releases of mine, but it seems to be that way, which is amazing.  It's interesting because I've gotten some emails from people who have not known about either me as an artist or Anticipate and were introduced to both through this album.  That is exactly what I was hoping for, and is a good thing, because hopefully they will keep paying attention to my music and the label as a whole. 

Musically, I always approach each project, song, album as its own thing and my goal is to approximate my intention as closely as possible.  There's no way to exactly transfer the idea in one's mind into a piece of music, if you think of it not in terms of a melody with specific notes, but in terms of a more complete sound, with all the nuances involved.  So, the closer I can get to that abstraction it began with, the better.  I want to always be aiming to do that while leaving it open to a clear path for what comes next. 

I want each album to connect to the one which immediately preceded it, while moving into a new place, continuing into the next project.  I do think that this album has satisfied more of that, for me, than my previous ones.  That just means that it will more difficult to figure out what comes next.

How long did it take you to finish the LP?
I was working on it slowly for two years.  It wasn't full days of working on just this album, but finding all the time I needed to get it together added up to that.

How was the production and selection process? Did you include all pieces you have worked on?
I always have a lot of false starts, tracks which I begin that don't go anywhere, or I get about half way done and decide it isn't good so I don't continue with it.  A lot of times, there are one or two smaller ideas or sounds from a track that never got finished which I take and turn into something else or include them in a different piece I had already started.  So, I don't usually finish a song unless I already am happy with it.  I think I only finished one song that was intended for this album which I ended up not using. 

When I'm working on an album I know that I'm working on an album, so it's always a situation where I might make a track or two in the beginning while I'm trying to find my way through what the project will turn into, and then that begins a process where I work on individual tracks with a clearer idea of the whole which they will be a part of.  Knowing about a larger group of music which a new song will need to complement changes how I work on it, thereby changing what it turns into, which makes the entire album a more important context for any individual song. 

I think this is what any album should be, but of course you need to think about how people listen to music, and how one plays what they want to, and maybe don't even own the whole album, and so have less context for any one song because some are missing.  I do hope that the tracks hold up on their own, but I feel that each one is less effective without the rest, especially because of the nature of the music.  Dance music or pop or hip hop lends itself to the single format and the idea that one song should be a hit and have as much impact on its own even if you never hear the rest of the album.  I think my music works better cumulatively.  The sequence of the tracks is its own song in a way, because it is intended to maximize the impact of each piece.  The ordering of them is as important to the album as any individual part. 

Probably the clearest example is the tracks Material Instrument 1 + 2, which on the CD, flow directly from one to the next with no pause.  It's obvious they are meant to be together, both by the title and the sequence, but more importantly to me, the second track only exists because of the first one.  If I hadn't first made #1 I wouldn't have thought to make the second one, and I think it is more consequential in relation to the track which precedes it.  That being said, I encourage everyone who listens to get what they can out of it and listen to it how they want.  I am merely stating my perspective on it, but my perspective is obviously skewed, because of my relationship with the material.  I have always wanted my music to affect people in a way that is individual to each listener.  I want it to be personal and there's no way to account for each individual personal experience when you’re working in a studio.

Do you have a favorite track in the LP or a special one with a nice story to tell?
One of the things I like about using field recordings is that there is often a specific personal connection to something which also happens to work musically.  For instance, on “Material Instrument 2” the crowd of people you hear was recorded at the opening for an audio-visual art show in which I had a piece with my friend Chris Jordan.  The space was very cave-like in its acoustics and felt nice the way the sound was traveling through it, and I got some good recordings of my friends talking, though you can’t really pick out too many coherent words, which is even better.  So, I hear a voice and know who it is and remember that moment, but for the listener, it’s just a sound, a human sound, but still a texture in a song.  It was lucky that the space itself added some effects to the sound which removed it from too much reality, and left it incoherent enough to work in that way. 

The track entitled, “A Brief Visual Pattern,” is something I started working on a little over two years ago, right after my Scattered Practices album came out.  It was initially meant to be a remix, or rather, a third version of “Fractures and Fissures,” a track from that album which had two parts.  It was intended for a remix 12”, which never ended up happening, but I returned to it months later and liked certain elements but wanted to strip it down a bit.  I had some piano sounds I was working with that I recorded at my girlfriend’s parent’s home (they have a nice piano), which just worked well in the context of what was left of the initial song.  So, I had these piano clusters which I was working on by themselves and they happened to make sense in that rhythmic track.  It needed some more work, but I was happy to find an already completed skeleton of a track to hang them on.

Another one is the last track, “Epilogue,” where I started recording with the internal mic on my laptop while I was on a plane, and caught some of the conversation of the two people sitting behind me, and the general ambience of the plane cabin, and I began tapping out some rhythms on the computer itself, right near the mic, which are those light taps you hear for a bit in that song.

You are very into field recordings, micro sounds or any related soundscape which you conclude in your musical collage. Is it your way of musical thinking?
I have chosen to use these types of sounds and approach to gathering/making sounds as the frame in which I like to work.  I love the idea of capturing sounds which I didn’t plan, whether it’s the nuances of the sound of an object or the random sonic incidents which are happening outdoors while I happen to be recording.  Delving into the sound files and finding and editing out the parts which resonate with me, and turning them into an arrangement, is central to my practice and one of the things I love most about making music.  It comes from the sample based musical background which is at the beginning of most electronic music.  I am just making my own sample material rather than sampling or using a drum machine.  This is what excites me and gives me the widest range of opportunities for finding the right sounds.

Can you talk about the Anticipate label? How did it start and proceeds now?
I first tried to start Anticipate in 2003, and released my first album, Technology is Lonely, but it was more like a false start.  I then began Microcosm a year later and had some more support for it and it became what it was, leaning a bit more in the minimal techno direction.  I finally had the right situation and was in the right place to begin Anticipate for real in late 2006 (with the first release in early 2007).  The intention was and is for it to incorporate some different approaches to the balance of acoustic sound and the digital processing which can be used to make the most of that acoustic sound.  I was at the point where I was moving away from the techno scene, but am still influenced by it, and I wanted to make a label that could embrace artists that come from an electronic background who find new inspiration from acoustic instruments, and artists who come from an acoustic instrument background who find the inherent possibilities in electronic treatments.  This then includes cross-pollinations of different kinds of warm, textural, experimental music which can be influenced by anything from ambient to techno/house to jazz to classical to post-rock to minimalism to musique concrete, and hopefully, by all those ideas and more.

I have an amazing group of artists I’m working with now and I hope I can find more new friends in the future who have a similar musical practice and work diligently along these lines.

What about you being quite close to the minimal and micro house and techno producers and community. Do you still like the scene and sound?
I will always love techno and house in one form or another.  I don't personally feel very close to that community at the moment, but I think of what I'm doing as being just on the outskirts of that.  I wouldn’t be making the music I am if it weren't for techno, even if what I do ends up being classified as ambient most of the time.  I haven't been paying a lot of attention to what is happening nowadays in the scene, but there are some producers and labels which I look out for because I expect there is a good chance that I will love what they're doing.

I think what I'm doing personally as an artist, and what I was aiming to do with Microcosm as a label, was to intersect with dance music in a way that allows for the influence without being a strict adherent to the form.  I've always been interested in the more subtle, pulled-back versions of dance music genres, because I like the structure and the sound design and the grooves, but I'm a pretty relaxed dude, and the functional dance-oriented part isn't what I like most about dance music.  It's all the other pieces that come out of It, that aren't necessary to make It dance music, but make It more Interesting to my ears.  Those are the elements that you rarely find in any other music.  I guess that's why I'm making rhythmic ambient for lack of a better term.  I love the drift with a more grounded sound that keeps it from getting too far in any direction.

What do you think about the current electronic music's progression, looking from a more artistic and conceptual side? (Considering the positive and negative aspects. For instance having plug-ings which sound the same in the end or getting lost in the software possibilities and loosing the end...)
There is always going to be a push and pull between technology and the art which is enabled by that technology.  The balance between the concentration on the art and where the technology obscures that goal, by enticing someone with all the gadgets and flashing lights, and diverges the path towards techno-fetishism, is certainly something to be on the lookout for.  However, I think that overall, electronic music has come far enough that it is returning to less of a reliance on software tricks and less of an excitement about the idea of making music with technology, and a greater acceptance of, and even desire for, some traditional ideas in there.  I am speaking in the most general of terms of course, but basically, I think as a culture, we acknowledge that making music with machines is not exciting for its own sake or for the sheer nature of how it was made.  It’s exciting because the machines can open up another world of possibilities that aren’t available through traditional means alone.  The more we take advantage of that aspect, the more we take advantage of the wealth of sonic opportunity in the world around us, the further we can explore our music and create something new and fresh.

I am hesitant and concerned about too much reliance on sample loops, sounds and plug-ins, which are available to everyone, because it threatens uniformity.  Wasn’t that part of the excitement behind electronic music, that this was something different, and didn’t sound like “normal” music?  It was weird and exciting and opened up a new world.  Of course, the DIY aspect is a giant part of it too, and the fact that one can just begin making music, without any real training, is exciting, even if it does take a lot of effort and thought in order to arrive at something good and unique.  There is less resistance against beginning.  This is a positive aspect of the widely available built-in effects and sounds, and what it affords the beginner.  It is easier to move forward and make something that can feel “finished.”  I think once one gets used to working within their software of choice and comfortable with things in general, is when they should move away from these presets and put more work into identifying a sound of their own and customizing what was immediately available, unless of course, the goal is to remain anonymous and make genre music without any specific individual stamp on it.  I think that’s a valid choice, but it’s still difficult to accomplish.   

What are your plans for the future regarding music?
I’ve been getting ideas together for whatever my next project will be.  I want to keep along the same trajectory, but take it further along that continuum than Surfaces…and build up a greater repertoire of weird instruments which I don’t know how to play.  I would love to work on a project that involved more visual material and was less concerned with a strict album release type of scenario.
I have a couple collaborations in the works which may come together soon.  I want to keep this spirit going and look forward to performance collaborations as well. 
In terms of releases, there’s a 3” CD coming on Smallfish in early 2009 with a live set I played in NYC.

How is life in NYC after the election? Did you also "Love your mama and vote for Obama"?
I, and most people I know, are so excited.  Yes, I voted for Obama for sure!  NYC had a palpable positive vibe to it in the days immediately following the election.  It was like everyone had a smile on their face and there was even more energy than usual.  I think a sentiment in a certain percentage of the population, of which I am part, is that we deserve this after the last 8 years.  We deserve to have a different kind of president, administration and view of the world.  We also deserve to have the world view us differently, and hopefully see the great potential in the USA, which other countries used to see more of in the past.  We can be more of a positive force now, which makes me happy.  I just hope that Obama and his administration will live up to that potential.  I think they will.

What do you know about istanbul and Turkey? Would you like to play here live?
I really don't know much about Turkey.  I have a few Turkish friends who live in NYC, but they haven't told me much about it.  I would definitely like to play there live sometime. 

Is there any thing you would like to say for your Turkish fans?
THANK YOU! for listening and your support.

Photography: David Last
Interview: Christopher Çolak
26 January 2009


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