Published by Alessandro Violante on April 21, 2017
The story of HANDS began in Fürth, Germany, during early ’90s, and continues still today. It’s an underground story, also considering it inside the industrial music scenario, fed by the passion shown by musicians and fans, who buy its albums and who yearly participate to the festivals in which its artists play live. Among them, FORMS OF HANDS is the official showcase of the German label, yearly held since 2001, this year held, in 28th and 29th April, at Bönen’ Förderturm, located in Western Germany, in the Ruhr region.
That of HANDS and of Udo Wiessmann‘ project WINTERKÄLTE (together with Eric de Vries) is a story voluntarily being out of the spotlights and critical “of the music business”, to cite one of its songs, which has developed its particular trademark, creating its personal sound. A journey similar to that of Peter Weibel at Karlsruhe’ ZKM or at Linz with Ars Electronica and by Stefan Alt with Ant-Zen, never following “next big things” and trends. HANDS become known for its typical variation of rhythmic noise music, sometimes called rhythm’n’noise, but the label has always explored all sorts of electronic music styles, ranging from dark ambient to drum’n’bass, IDM and techno, always doing it adding a personal touch, so that its approach can be clearly perceived in each release.
Influenced by electronic and industrial music of the late eighties, such as that of Esplendor Geométrico or Skinny Puppy, Udo Wiessmann, mastermind of the label and of WINTERKÄLTE, has reinterpreted and, it can be said, “invented”, a genre, which sonic vocabulary has been defined together with Ant-Zen, operating in the same geographical context. HANDS has become also more than a label, a part of a “subculture”, and this is important too. It also should be recognized that this label survived through more than twentyfive years of trends, crisis and music business rules.
In order to understand something more about this festival and to let you have a clearer idea about what this music is, we’ve thought to let the artists talk about the festival, their music and the social and geographical dimension of their music, as it is also linked to several variables, and that’s what we’ve tried to make here. What follows isn’t a simple interview, but a series of contributions. The goal is to give to the reader an idea of what will be played live, or listened at home with the earphones, as during FORMS OF HANDS several new releases are released.
UDO WIESSMANN / WINTERKÄLTE
The idea about a label-exclusive festival came up during my visit of a Laborneun event in the year 2000. Michael Pfefferkorn and I had the idea of a HANDS only showcase and so we started with FORMS OF HANDS 01, which was a two day festival in 2001 with nine artists. Nowadays we offer 14 artists and two DJs, but we have remained faithful to the original concept ever since. After the concept for festival was clear we were looking for a name. I wanted to combine HANDS with something label specific. Eventually I came up with the idea to refer to very early HANDS tape compilation releases from the early 1990s with titles like “Forms” and “Different Forms I+II”, and so the festival name FORMS OF HANDS was thought up. It works as a connection of the past, the present, and of course the future; HANDS is a very history-aware label, and long-term relationships are very important to us. As Karsten Plewnia of Labor Neun and I had to find a new location in 2012 – yet again, we were able to arrange a shaft tower – the Förderturm Bönen – as new home of the festival. It’s a great spot of industrial history with an awesome atmosphere and vibe, and sound.
Is it by chance or not that FORMS OF HANDS is held in Ruhr area, as well as Maschinenfest, to make an example?
I think I’ll have to say yes and no. We started FOH in Arnstadt in Thüringen in a historical locomotive depot. When our promoter was looking for a new location the best industrial related location available was the Maschinenhalle Gladbeck. So the festival moved to the Ruhr Area and even when we had to change the venue again, we found new locations in the region. The for that is that during the structural change of this originally industry dominated region many old factories became venues for concerts and art exhibitions. I think that the Maschinenfest also moved to the Ruhr Area in 2009 simply because they found the perfect location for them placed in an old plant.
The first edition of the festival was held in 2001. Since then, 15 editions were made. I think one should be very passionate about this music to keep doing festivals and releasing records over so many years. Do you agree with this?
Of course you need to have, and develop a vision about music to run a label like HANDS, which is a platform for many different artists. Since 1990 we had over 300 releases and our new festival compilation FORMS OF HANDS 17 carries catalogue number 250 (HANDS D250) – and that’s only counting the regular CDs. And also, a festival going for 17 years needs a good amount of passion. On the other hand if you see how the label, the scene and the festival have been developing and growing over the years and if you’re receptive of how much energy and positive feedback you get in return, it’s more than worth to invest all that work and passion.
One curious thing about your label is that, during FORMS OF HANDS, several new albums are released simultaneously. Do you want to explain if there’s a particular reason for this?
Whether it’s for my own project WINTERKÄLTE or for the other artists on HANDS, the main intention to curate a festival like FOH is the possibility of the live event as an exchange between artist and audience. And especially if you have an audience from many different cities and countries a festival is the best way to meet and exchange. Therefore FOH or Maschinenfest are the perfect dates to present a new album to its potential audience, to take it directly to the people who are the most appreciative.
You’re considered a pioneering example of the merging between techno and industrial music. Do you consider this phenomenon as an “exchange” of sounds and music approaches or as a merging between two very similar music genres?
We see the combination of techno and industrial music as an exchange or fusion of ideas and techniques. We began Orphx as an industrial music project but our love of techno soon began to influence the music and we were consciously combining these styles and ideas by the mid 1990s. While they are connected to each other and have influenced each other over the last thirty years, techno and industrial are two separate strains of music with different histories and origins. Industrial music emerged as a response to specific cultural and economic conditions in the UK and Europe during the late 1970 and early 80s, and then spread and mutated around the world. Ideas of resistance to social control and consumer culture were central to the music, building on the more simplistic revolt of punk. Techno emerged soon after in the United States, taking some influence from the dystopian visions of industrial music but combining this with more cautiously optimistic conceptions of the future that stressed the liberating potential of dance music and community. We continue to be excited about combining the propulsive sound of techno with the harsh and experimental techniques of industrial music, as well as exploring the connections between futurism, hedonism, spirituality, politics, and social control. In recent years, so many artists are combining and rethinking musical genres to produce new music, and this is wonderful to hear!
Assuming it seems to me difficult to put a lot of different artists under the same umbrella, do you think a genre linking all their approaches does exist?
I think we all have an affinity with electronic music in general. For my part, I come from the noise and my first tests were very influenced by Premature Ejaculation and Nocturnal Emissions. Then I was naturally attracted to Esplendor Geométrico, Sonar (with Patrick Stevens) and Hypnoskull. Others come from electropunk, techno, etc. so yes, I think that unity and richness comes from love for synthetic music.
Does a connection exist between the music you make as Le Moderniste and Kaibun and your country? With the country in which you live, for example?
Le Moderniste is a reflection of my rugged pathos. From my sick psyche … it is an introspective job … fueled by human nature. What could connect Le Moderniste with my surroundings is the fact that I left human abundance to live remote and isolated in the middle of the countryside. The first sounds were very Belgian (album a part of me), my influences very marked by the Belgian artists.
So we can think of a Belgian sound or approach with its trademarks
Yes exactly… i love the belgian touch… there is really something unique in the sound of The Klinik, Sona Eact, Front 242, etc… following the second question, Kaibun (especially the new album Gloomy Alice and Sinister Jack) is an appointment with my partner, alcohol and strange feelings. The first album is a reflection of the unbridled parties of the 90s in the techno underground environment of Brussels and Belgium in general.
For example, Belgium gives a great project on a sidelabel of Hands: 220N. The project name is Eisengrau… I love it so much! i think it’s one of the powerful stuff in rhythmic noise. Now they are on Cold Spring records with the project NDE (great too!).
What are your influences and what should we expect from your album?
I was inspired by 70’s/80’s Industrial, Harsh Noise, and Avant-Garde. Nurse With Wound, Nox, Esplendor Geométrico etc…
You should expect rusted noise and metallic rhythm.
What are the main differences between Eastern and Western electronic music?
As far as Western electronic music is concerned, I have the impression that both an audience and an artist have many youths. There aren’t a lot of young people in Japan.
When have you played at FORMS OF HANDS for the first time? Which atmosphere can be perceived there?
The atmosphere is very specialiced. The public of FOH know the label and the different projects/artists, so the people wants exactly that. I think that the most relevant characteristic of FOH is the quality and power of sound. Massive. And those points are fundamental to get a deep and sonic FOH atmosphere.
What’s the current underground electronic music scenario there in UK? Is it easy for you to play your rhythm ‘n noise there?
Apart from Infest and Slimelight, there is nowhere to play. This is why I used to put my own events on but, as the years have gone on, all the small events and promoters have vanished, because the overheads are too much. Has for it being easy to play Dirty K, here I can easily put my own events on being well known here.
What should we expect from your live performance? Talking about “new frames” make us think there are “old frames”.
As New Frames, David and I try to incorporate all our musical inspirations, ranging from dark ambient electronica to power noise and so-called industrial techno, into a live-setting that is more multi-layered than what you come to expect. we thrive to overcome rules and regulations most sub-genres usually dictate.
New Frames means new perspectives / to shift your perception.
The fourteen artists playing live during this edition of FORMS OF HANDS will be WINTERKÄLTE, Geistform, MS Gentur, New Frames, Hysteresis, Tomohiko Sagae, Dirty K, Orphx, Greyhound, S.K.E.T., Heimstatt Yipotash, Last days of S.E.X., SaturmZlide, and Kaibun.
FORMS OF HANDS 2011 documentary directed by Christoph Grothe, Ina Peters and Wolfram Bange