Rudolf Eb.er needs little introduction; except to those not yet privileged enough to be a witness to the madness and discomfort he creates.
But maybe Rudolf Eb.er’s work represents the segments of life that most of us chose to ignore or pretend that we are unaware of their existence.
Yes, Rudof Eb.er’s work as a performance and sound artist is evocative, visceral and downright bloody frightening at times. He’s not simply a noise artist, an experimental musician or just a performance artist. He’s all of those and far more.
And we are extremely honored to present this interview today. Moreover, we are very grateful to Mr. Eb.er for taking time over the past weeks to answer some of our questions.
Note: apologies for the format errors.
You have spoken recently about an upcoming 3 CD set that you are working on. It seems like a massive undertaking so what can you tell us about it?
Itʼs a 3 CD series, probably later also available as boxset edition. Om Kult 1-3. These are works from 2016 to 2018 mostly. Taking it from the 2014 “Brainnectar” occult researches, to the darker realms. Glimpses are to find on “How to Die” and “Conscious Dying”, what is also the overall thematic here.
Your recent release, “How to Die” was limited to 25 copies only and was “Signed and handmade by Eb.er using a twig, roots, human hair, nails, glue, pigment and wire.” It also had dried leaves and seeds in a bag. It seems like a lot for such a limited release. But
will listeners be able to get the digital album any time soon and what can you tell us about the album?
“How to Die” is a 7” with the tracks “Spell I-IV” on Dead Mind Records from the Netherlands. I think 125 copies were made. But another 25 copies of the 7” came in a wooden box, together with a double cassette. On the cassettes are the additional tracks
“Phowa I-IV”. The whole package is complemented with a doll. Sort of fetish or ghost-dolls I made from twigs, roots, nails, human hair etc. The bag with leaves and seeds as well as the accompanied inserts were not from me but added by the label, who also sew special bags for those dolls. This box is a very rare beauty, but I was sure glad when the work was done. A digital album of it will not come out any time soon.
What initially drove you to move to Japan?
After my first tours in Taiwan 1995 and Japan in 1996 I packed up and left Switzerland for a larger Japan 1997 tour, with continued stay in both Japan and Taiwan. Living alternately in Tokyo and Taipei and also as farmer far from any bigger city. I do appreciate live in Asia. Despite all modernity the old animist and shamanistic mind is kept alive and interwoven in everyday live.
Reflecting on past titles of your albums, what do you think your most successful work has been in terms of illustrating the point of what you, the artist were motivated by?
Each album reflects the time it was made in and my first album – under the moniker Wash Your Brains – was released 30 years ago. Sure some albums have a special meaning to me. “Lieder zur anal.ytischen Selbstverkrüppelung” released 1991 under the name Institut für Psycho-Hygiene is one of those. It marks a step from the early and well known abrupt tape cut-up works to aktionism. Or the 1993 album “Morx und Kotschlag” for the german Selektion label, that was done under my long term moniker Runzelstirn & Gurgelstøck. A legendary release is “Asshole/Snail Dilemma” that was released as CD (with human hair) first, later as LP on Tochnit Aleph. It has the complete “For Stringquintet and Asstrumpet” Tokyo 1997 performance on it. Drew Daniel reviewed it as “a Mount Everest of musical misery. ”A download of the performance alone is available on my Bandcamp page. 2010 marked an important change from the aktionistic to a more psycho-magick and psycho-spiritual work. Starting with the “Meditations on a Broomstick” CD, the “Brainnectar” 2CD to the actual works done at Om Kult, some under the moniker Conscious Dying.
Very roughly said I moved from the tape cut-up and field recordings to aktionism to mind altering psycho-spiritual work. But an underlying mind is kept and runs spiralesk: forgotten ideas grow on in the unconscious mind and bubble up in new blooming at some point again. And newly gathered knowledge seems to have been always here, just occulted.
The “Paris Aktionen” LP from Schimpfluch-Gruppe documents a noted performance in which there was something referred to as “the infamous Spaghetti-Action.” What exactly is this?
For an England and France tour 1996 I created a piece for three people. Two persons, in white shirts and necktie, would sit at a dinner table. A third would stand discrete nearby playing violin by single long strokes. At the table would be me and Dave Phillips.
No equipment visible, just dinner plates. The violin was originally played by Helena Greter, on GB tour by various guest players. I had constructed small switches to be hidden underneath the plates. The performance starts just by sitting and strong and stronger breathing, after a while resulting into an oxygen-high. We then abruptly begun banging our foreheads into the plates in front of us – triggering additional loud noise by the switches under the plates.
The performance would get more and more extreme to the point where chairs break and the audience gets mad in total chaos. All while still having the violinist scratching carefully single long strokes. I remember a guy with blood all over his head came after the Paris show to me. He was hit accidentally by my chair but expressed with shiny happiness his total excitement about what just happened. We never called it “Spaghetti Action” but you can guess why it got named a such. We had it with Bolognese and Ketchup to get it stick on our heads and elsewhere.
In 2016 you did a show with Alice Kemp in London. First of all, what the hell was being poured on top of your head? Second, the show leaves the impression of some sort of ritual. I know in certain works (like Brainnectar) you note a Shaman influence. How
important is ritual to you in performance. Or do you lean toward improvisation more?
A shaman enters altered states of consciousness through rituals and returns with knowledge. Thatʼs what I try to do at my performances with obvious psycho-magick elements. Iʼm not 100% happy with the word “ritual” but consciousness altering or
expanding exercises is sure what I aim for. Improvisations on the other hand happen when they happen. They come with the circumstances or bubble up from within. Prepared improvisation is rather not my thing. The heavy liquid stuff that was poured was carefully cooked earth, eggs, excrements, milk – whatever was good to get the needed color shades texture and thickness
Speaking of another show: You did one in 2012 with Joke Lanz, GX Jupitter-Larsen & Mike Dando where (at least in the Youtube video) all are remaining seated and silent with the noise playing via speakers. But you are doing some convulsing. I was hoping you could talk a little bit about this show.
For this performance the four of us was wearing EEG (electro-encephalograph) headsets. They pick up our brainwaves and wireless send them to a receiver in the back, next to the pa mixer. Prof Mick Grierson from the Goldsmiths University of London lent us those EEG headsets and developed a program for the sonification of the incoming brainwave data. The resulting sound was forwarded to Rashad Becker who mixed that for the 8 speaker surrounding system in the hall. This really remarkable performance took place as finale of the Schimpfluch “Extreme Rituals – 3 day carneval” at the Arnolfini art museum of Bristol.
The performance was never tested or rehearsed before being actually performed on stage. While the other three kept a rather passive role, me as practicing meditator was determined to try controlling the sounds by my thoughts. During the performance I did
just that – I played by thinking. Thinking the sound and feeling the excited feedback from the audience to the thinking was truly a most extraordinary experience. Maybe “thought” or “thinking” is not the exact right word. Itʼs brain activity without an articulated thought, a movement of energy I pulled spine upwards to a frontal part of my brain where I felt to have located a controlling spot, an imaginary handle or joystick. It felt like being a psychic pilot.
Some shows you are seen with these huge gloves with wires attached to them (or at least one glove on your right hand). What’s the story with these?
Iʼve built those gloves to control sound without having a table between me and the audience. Both gloves control several channels and the whole thing was originally made for a quadraphonic sound-system, having four separate speakers/channels on four corners, surrounding the audience. I used them for the 2011 “Purification Ritual” performances in Switzerland and France. The first of those “purification rituals” was performed in Berlin, completely acoustic without gloves. I used simpler gloves and similar home built tech before and after.
Some of your performances have been deemed provocative and pretty controversial. Have you ever received any trouble from authorities in certain countries threatening to ban or shut-down the show?
Indeed, indeed. The “For Stingquintet and Asstrumpet” performance is one example. It shocked. And I was literally on the run from authorities afterwards. Today this performance is a legend. Thatʼs how things turn around with time. I had the power cut, police raids, bans, website shutdowns, you name it. Today it gives good laughs under friends when remembering back. Me and my fellows do our art because it is our very natural live. We donʼt do that for pure provocation. That the confrontation with our work makes some mindless jerks feel provoked is a normal side dish. They learn itʼs good – they donʼt… never mind.
Is your ultimate goal as a performer to disgust, provoke thought outside of the proverbial box or what?
C.G. Jung said, to reach the mountain peak you have to cross the deep, dark, demonic river first. That certainly was my way. From the beginning of my art-live it went deeper and deeper down. Through the scatological obscene part of the work. The disgust as strong motor. First of all to see, feel and eat my own disgust. Now I see that all misery I went through was necessary, that this was the river crossing – or the climbing out of the box – to actually raise knowledge, skill and power to climb up the spiritual mountain. As long you are inside the box you not even see a mountain to climb. You see nothing but your monthly paycheck.
How is your motivation different as a solo artist than that of say, Schimpfluch Gruppe?
I need to do my own thing. If needed I build groups, like with the three japanese girls who performed my “Vomit Orchestra” (or “Gero Tsunami”) in Kobe and Tokyo. A rare duo I had with Kubikukuri Takuzou, the hangman. This 70 year old man hanged himself by the neck on stage, while I played my decomposition to our performance. We did that in Tokyo and our last performance was in a big cinema-hall at the “Kill The Silence” Festival in Hong Kong. I played and he hanged from the ceiling, gently swinging at the gallows like a dead in the air in front of me. It creeped the shit out of people. He was hanging himself everyday in his backyard, as this was the main element of his work as dancer. A very stringy, strong poet and good friend who recently died, but not from hanging.
The Schimpfluch-Gruppe is a special thing. We found together by the Schimpfluch Label I started in 1987. Mainly Joke Lanz, Dave Phillips and me. Also but rather rare with Marc Zeier (G*Park) and Daniel Löwenbrück (Raionbashi, Tochnit Aleph). We all have our own ways and projects, but work together when it happens, doing something special.
You are offered a massive commission payment to participate in a performance with other artists. The plan is to record it live in a venue next to an insane asylum. However, some of the patients have escaped and begin to invade the performance space. While
some stay a safe distance away, others take to the stage. This includes a patient with Tourette who shouts curse words, another who strips naked and covers himself with whatever liquids you have on stage and one who starts creating some brilliant noise with your set-up. Do you allow this to continue without interruption hoping that it makes for a more interesting recording or do you stop the show which may jeopardize the continuity of the recording and your commission?
Sure thing – I keep ʻem going. As said, improvisation happens when it happens. And the situation you describe – you said “insane”, not “stupid” – is far to beautiful to intervene.
Many many years from now in an old abandoned home, a very distant relative locates an old box. Inside the box is a collection of Rudolf Eb.er recordings and something to play them on. What do you hope this person knows about your legacy simply from
listening to your work?
That there are many signs leading your way to enlightenment when you just walk with an open mind.
It is impossible to show all of Rudolf Eb.er’s dynamics within one Soundcloud or one or two Youtube videos. You are best to do some research on Youtube at least to get a glimpse for many of the sides of this extraordinary artist.