exclusive interview with Genetic Drugs

interview by vijay
date: 02.12.02
transcribed by vijay
listen: Streaming MP3 40kbs mono
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ET: This is Ethnotechno's interview is Genetic Drugs, your audiopharmaceutical travel agent. You know, I see that audiophamaceutical travel agent name in every album you create. What's the story behind that name?

Genetic Drugs: It came out as an explanation for [the name] Genetic Drugs; lots of people ask me what is Genetic Drugs and why you use the plural for it. Genetic Drugs is some concept where I like to create tracks with some kind of drug effect. As I am involved in world music, and traveling, I'm interesting in collecting and catching sounds from different cultures. And I realize that these sounds I taped can cause effects when you listen to it, just like religious sounds, just like ceremonies, traditional music music and sound which is happening. I don't prefer people in a recording studio, I prefer to tape people and musicians.

ET: As shown in your Karma Club and Karma Pharma records.

Genetic Drugs: Yes, exactly.

ET: To start off, what is the whole ethnic electronic scene like in Berlin, or say the whole of Germany?

Genetic Drugs: The scene in Berlin is changing rapidly, the former Berlin, west Berlin, was some kind of island, and now its open, Berlin is united and is a very multicultural city. So we have a lot of ethnical groups here, especially the Turkish people, Arabic people, we have a few Asian people, we have people from Vietnam, and so on. So all these tribes and cultural groups have their own music also.

ET: So do you work with their stuff generally?

Genetic Drugs: Sometimes, yes, sometimes.

ET: So aside from the people, the local people, the Turkish people, the Vietnamese people, you've sampled various people from all over the world where exactly have you been in your recording escapades?

Genetic Drugs: I've seen some places, I have to admit. When I was young I traveled in Europe, so I know most of the countries in Europe and in 1992 I made my first Indian trip. And in 1994 I was in Western Africa visiting a few countries, accompanied by musicians. Two years ago, I was in Brazil; last year I was in India again for the second time. So that was it.

ET: What part of India do you go to usually?

Genetic Drugs: I know the north a little bit, but mostly I stay in the south. I prefer the south of India.

ET: You like the south of India.

Genetic Drugs: Yes, very much.

ET: Yeah, it is nice, the beaches of Kerala...

Genetic Drugs: Kerala is very nice and Tamil Nadu is very impressive. What you can see the culture is amazing. The big temples....on my first trip I made a whole Tamil Nadu temple trip which I can really recommend everybody.

ET: You know you sampled many electronic artists in the US and UK; how would the German, or say, the whole European scene be different in the US or the scene in the UK?

Genetic Drugs: It always depends what kind of culture is available and the place where you live and somehow you're influenced by that. So in Berlin there is a big Turkish tribe with Turkish music and there are people working with the Turkish culture, and there is a Jewish community also which is very big so there are a lot of bands playing that stuff. I was drawn into the Asian field; I cannot explain, it just came to me like an impulse, also to realize I am a different person in another culture.

ET: On your latest album, Spacecake, there were a bunch of instruments, such as the bansuri or the Kamantcha or the oud, and plus the Egyptian pop star Mohamed Mounir was featured. How did the whole process of recording and sampling instruments happen? Was it done all in Berlin or elsewhere?

Genetic Drugs: All over. All over Europe let's say. I made lots of recordings last year in France when I was invited at the festival Les Orientales. There I had the opportunity to meet hundreds of musicians and a few of them cooperated, we prepared backing playbacks at the festival like the Kamantcha player from Azerbaijan he plays along a CD I prepared and there were lots of other who liked the concept of just jamming on a prepared playback, and afterwards I cut out the sequence I needed to compose the song or to finish it.

ET: And I've also heard you have done a couple of video installations all over the place. Can you tell us something about that?

Genetic Drugs: I started 1989 with my first project World Radio which dealt with TV footaged news material where I combined news material with music and voices from a world receiver. And then I went to India and discovered my project Karma Club while I was traveling with a camera and made little portraits of people I met, wrote down stories about them, about their life. And after that I came back and edited the film and I had my first album being published. I had no band, so I just made video installations of the hundred of people I met and it turned out to be a travel documentary not only on the monuments but also in the people: how they look like, what their dreams are, if they work, rich people, poor people, pop stars...any type of people. I mixed them all up in the first album.

ET: Are these documentaries published anywhere or are they just personal?

Genetic Drugs: The documentaries are very personal; I tried to find a publisher for it, but because I am a musician, I don't care so much to get a publishing deal. But on the first album [Karma Club, on the sleeve] you see all the pictures from the people I intervied and recorded. You see their names, their ages, where they live, and their professions...there is a map also. So this is the coverage I did in 1992.

ET: On Spacecake, whenever I play it, my friends would ask me who's this drum 'n' bass track by, but some other people say, "This is not drum 'n' bass, this is lounge." There is always an disagreement. When you start an album, or when you have an idea for an album, does it work around a theme or is it just independent tracks put together? Do you have a label for your music?

Genetic Drugs: I can say I am happy if I fell in between so its a new sound. When I start making a track it is always depending on which type of samples I have in my head or which type of recording I like to work with and then I approach, here the sample again, invent a rhythm, and try to find instruments that fit that sample. It is always the sample which is the basis of the track.

ET: You also run a radio station, MultiKulti with the theme Drum & Tribe logo. What is the history behind that?

Genetic Drugs: I have a radio show called CyberJam for MultiKulti radio in Berlin. This is a Saturday evening show where I mix traditional sounds with new drum 'n' bass records or CDs I get. Lots of drum 'n' bass has no ethno influence, and as we like to feature this type of combination between electronic music and ethnic sounds for the show...we invented that brand Drum & Tribe. We also made some live shows in Berlin where we had all of different types of combinations with musicians and culture. That's the idea behind it. And, after all, we also get CDs from all over the world and then we hear them and select tracks that fit into to breakbeat concept. Then we separate and say, "Okay, is more Arabic, this is more African, or this is more Asia," and so the compilations were done.

ET: Yeah I just heard your selection on today's radio show a lot of interesing voices and samples: prophets from Africa, no-good scenes from other radio stations like Drunken Thomas...

Genetic Drugs: This audiopharmaceutical theme is accompanying me all the time, and at the moment my archive is so full with sounds I can use and publish and create tracks that I decided to release a sampling CD called AfroPharma to encourage musicians from all over the world to create their own dance track or any type of track with the material. These sounds came from Switzerland and are a 12-year research on Western Africa about healing ceremonies. This ethnological institute in Switzerland sends out students with cameras to make portraits from different types of healing ceremonies to find out what religious tribe it comes from, what the healer belongs to and to make some kind of map for West Africa. So we had about ninety hours of video material and from this I took out lots of samples, 69 tracks on the CD, which are free to be used for everybody. My archive is getting too big. First I though, "Okay, what nice material, I can make a whole album with it." But then I realized, when I made just two tracks, from it [African samples] I said okay, that's it. I'd like to switch to another culture and use other material. I want to give it to anybody to work with it. I like to encourage people doing the same thing I do. It's my main message.

ET: Any new projects you are pursuing? Future releases?

Genetic Drugs: We have the response from the sampling CD promotion very big. We sent out three hundred CDs so far, and we got fifty mixes back and discovered lits of new talents of people who would never dare to recreate tracks...it's amazing how people got ideas and imagination with voices and drumbeats and percussion and atmospheres. It is interesting. We will release these compilations very soon. Then there is a new Drum & Tribe compilation coming out in May called Oriental Breakbeats where we have a whole variety of oriental drum 'n' bass sound produced in Western countries, not only the Arabic countries. It's more like a diaspora thing. The Drum 'n' bass sound is not very spread and popular in the Oriental countries. It is still some kind of underground. It can be much bigger in my imagination, but it is a cultural thing. How you accept sounds and how you have been treated with music. If you are home, you listen to your own music, and if you are in Cairo you may listen to Egyptian pop music, and if you are in Berlin, there are records stores that have all kinds of different music. It's a question of what is popular and available. It's a market subject.

ET: I find your compilations a little more diverse in content. Other compilations are always skewed by the marketplace; record companies that don't try hard enough to get licenses from places where it's hard to get a license from. Like the African Breakbeats, you cannot find similar tracks.

Genetic Drugs: That's true. The difference between Asian Breakbeats and African Breakbeats is very simple. Asian Breakbeats has a community, it has people who dance on it, people who make parties with it. In the African Breakbeats, there is no community at all. There is no club that is addicted to breakbeats which is purely African. But we find a lot of tracks from different projects which we consider as being African breakbeat tracks. So I compiled all the tracks and created some kind of new style for African music. It is the same question of encouragement. Encourage African people to step over the border.

ET: What do you think the future of electronic music, taking into account the new technology and ever evolving consumer market?

Genetic Drugs: I have no idea. The variety of possibilities of music editing programs are so big. Sometimes I wonder that the ideas are not exploding, but this is a market thing because everybody who creates a track is influenced by others. But I think the possibility is dramatically changed. I would not say it depends on the technique you work when you create a track. I say if you record a nice voice on the Dictaphone and it has emotion and power, but it is a bad recording and you use it as a sample, if the emotion is right it gets through and be a big hit. I never care for technique or quality of recording. It is just like the emotion that's the main point. I don't care too much about editing programs; you can make a very nice track with just simple tools. So you just have to work with the tools, get use to them, and find your own tricks. That's the secret behind it. So you don't need big computers as long as you have ideas and can imagine your music and the way you can get it.

ET: Thank you so much for your time. Maybe I will see you next time. Thank you.

Fade into "Seat of Cosmic Dance (Part Three)" -from album Karma Pharma