By Justin Hardison
The Sofa Surfers first hooked up in 1996 in their
native Austria and brought together live instrumentation with studio
technology for their own heavy brand of downtempo, dub and breaks
held together by an underlining tension. Attention was first brought
to the group from their debut Sofa Rockers and then
following albums such as Transit and Cargo
which both received excellent attention from around the globe or
their unique writing and production skills. Cargo seemed
to throw everyone off because the Sofa Surfers introduced a more
avant-garde and gritty sound that made was a departure from the
downtempo sound of their first album. Their latest full-length,
Encounters, features with a varied array of vocalists,
MCs and musicians such as Junior Delgado, Dalek, Sensational,
Mark Stewart and LiL Desmond Levy for a inspiring and intense set
downtempo, hip-hop, rock and experimental tracks that truly represent
what the group is capable of. They push it one step further with
collaborations with visual artists during their live performances.
I had the pleasure of interviewing surfer member, Wolfgang Schloegl
about the new album and state of music and politics in Vienna.
What did you aim to achieve with Encounters?
Why did you decide to create an album of collaborations?
On our second album Cargo we developed
our sound vocabulary, but it was a pretty hermetic affair, which
was good at that time. On Encounters we take this sound
and explore certain styles. The vocals are a very important part
to do that on. One other issue was to make contact with other like
minded people. We had to open up. That was a risk, but also a chance
Are you happy with the results?
Yes. There are always details which you would
change in your current state of mind, but a record is always a snapshot
of a limited time of your life...even if this snapshot covered two
years of our lives.
I am interested in the technical side of the
album. Did you meet with the vocalists you worked with or do more
of a tape exchange?
Part part. Some got just a tape and sent the vocal
track back. Sometimes their interpretation was different than what
we assumed, so we sometimes made our playbacks to fit the vocals
in and make it a real 100% Sofa Surfers track. Others (DJ Collage,
MC Santana, Mark Stewart) worked with us in the studio.
Do you prefer to record live material and then
edit it because Sofa Surfers really seem to enjoy using more acoustic
Yeah, but there are many things just sampled without
us recording it before. After a while we simply forget the origin
of the sounds in our libraries. We don´t make a difference.
How did you go about selecting vocalists for
Except Junior Delgado every other vocalist we
met or got in contact though friends. I hope that makes the album
not rounder but more lifelike. DJ Collage we met in Dubmission in
San Francisco, because he had a Viennese girlfriend at that time.
I heard him on stage and I played a DJ set that night, so we stayed
in contact and work together since then. He will go on tour with
us through Europe. Mark Stewart read an article about us and when
Jeb told him he´s working with us we got in contact with him.
He came to Vienna and we had a very intense week in the studio.
MC Santana is a young Jungle MC from Berlin whom I´ve heard
on the radio one night I called the station, he was still in Vienna
and the next day we had a session.
Could you give me a run down of which members
Wolfgang Frisch- programming
Markus Kienzl - programming
Michael Holzgruber - drums
Wolfgang Schlögl - programming
We play different instruments, that doesn´t
mean that we can handle them.
Could you explain a little about the neo-conservative
backlash in Vienna and how it effected the outcome of the new album?
The whole backlash made many us far more politically
aware. The question rose, if you can produce music just based on
aesthetics rather than content? In the light of those thoughts we
decided to incorporate vocals more in the sense to represent a network
throughout political, cultural and geographical borders that creates
a group also defined through certain similarities. You can always
build a group based on one common factor. So in the most cases it
makes little sense to define yourself through a group. Encounters
is not our protest album. it just reflects our state of mind during
that period of time. The press really seems to be hyping the Vienna
scene as a neo-lounge type movement but your work and some of the
artists on Klein seem to really be pushing the music further. What
is your take on the way Vienna is being portrayed? From an outside
sight it´s always difficult to see all the nuances of a scene.
This neo-lounge or downtempo music is no doubt one part in the Viennese
scene, but there are many other producers around that are working
on different concepts for a long time already. And like after every
hype, those who have worked before will work after. The music may
differ in style, but I can see an emotional pattern throughout nearly
all music from Vienna, which grounds in the city and their people.
Any plans on touring the U.S.?
No. It´s too difficult right now. We´d
like to play there though. I play smaller dj sets in L.A. and San
Francisco from time to time.
Tell me a little more about your live show.
Visual work seems to be an important element in the performance.
We change our setup for nearly every tour we do
to keep it fresh and interesting. We like also to improvise, so
it´s good to be confronted with different gear and instruments
from time to time. (this also immanent for our recording work.)
For this tour we use a full drum kit, a bass and possibly a guitar
(We don´t know, we havent rehearsed yet.) 2 laptops:
one with Cubase5 controlling a Yamaha A3000 Sampler, the other with
Logic Audio and Reaktor with a midi controller, 2 16 channel mixing
desks,(Mackie, Studiomaster)2 Pioneer EFX-500, several bass guitar
effects. 1 Guest MC (Collage, a ragga MC from San Francisco) in
addition I do a little mcing, and we use stuff like steeldrums,
harmonica and several percussion instruments from time to time.
Our visual work is an integral part of our work. We collaborate
with a visual arts collective called Vidok. This collective is divided
in many little fractions, which many of them contribute to our work
in one or the other way (live show, video, cd, poster, t-shirt design,
etc...) The live visual work are partly synced via midi(if for example
there are vocal tracks with lipsync), partly live mixed the same
way our music is. (Our mixing desks on stage and mixing and dubbing
nearly all resources) Also Vidok tries to incorporate more narrative
Do you or any of the other members have any
side projects in the works?
Markus Kienzl has already released 1 EP and 1
12" on our home label, Klein records. Wolfgang Frisch is working
under the alias Humbucker on tracks between noise and movie scores.
He contributed two tracks for the Sincerely Yours score 12"
I, Wolfgang Schloegl have one solo track on the Sincerely Yours
CD Compilation and work on my solo CD (probably out in October)
as I-wolf. That project focuses on my personal interpretation of
Soul with a slight flavour of Dub. Michael Holzgruber, our drummer,
is working on web design.