Mike Wingfield, Progression 98

Ulf Knudsen and Per Platou are two of the net's musical pioneers. Along with the pioneering internet band Resrocket Surfer (of which both are members), Ulf and Per have been pushing forward the boundaries of new music of the internet. This is not just music made in the conventional way and simply put up on web pages (as is now quite common around the net), but music actually made via the internet, with realtime contributions from people all over the globe.

With their band Nood, they have done numerous recordings, live gigs and TV programs, all using sounds musical interactions from musicians on the net. A typical gig involves live musicians and dancers on stage, CU-see-me projections on large screens (live "video" of musicians at other locations playing at the gigs), and live contributions from musicians around the globe.

They're recordings are strikingly original and inventive, unique music that could only have been produced as a result of the internet. Here Mark Wingfield talks with Ulf, Per and friend and collaborator David Gosnell (Dreamer) about recent and past recordings and gigs, as well as some of the philosophy behind what they do.

Mark: So tell me a little about the history on Nood, when did it start?

Ulf: Nood started beginning of 1995

Mark: How did it form?

Per: About 3 years ago, when we first started using the net (via lynx (text browser) and a 14.4 modem.

Per: Almost no sound files out there, anyway hard to find and even harder to download.. It seemed like a good idea to try to find the true sound of the net.

Ulf: Just fascinated by reaching that far so fast....

Ulf: Then maybe fascinated by the expression of netsound....

Per: And bringing in a new kind of random element, lo-fi, unexpected, a global mixture.

Ulf: Working with sound on the powerbooks ...moving along ....finding new expressions when we put it all together...

Per: But then again its not only internet...also bringing in sound from irl networks/people, sound from dictaphone etc... and mixing it with acoustic instruments like guitar and Indian pump organ.

Mark: What was the first things you did?

Per: The first thing we did was to write an application for touring support from the Norwegian government... (smiles)

Per: We got it!!! first ever state supported internet tour.

Ulf: (laughs at Per)

Per: Like the first RRS (Resrocket Surfer) gigs at Earls Court.

Ulf: Peter Gabriel was there.

Per: And Joey Ramone and Courtney Love as well.

Ulf: Yeh I managed to lure her with me on a CU session.

Per: Mostly people from RRS.

Mark: What was next?

Per: Basically we just brought our powerbooks and some instruments down to a summer cottage for a couple of weeks...

Ulf: We just baked everything every happening we took part in, into our own concept. Kind of ...sampling.

Per: That's why we support MACOS so much...great thing. (smiles)

Mark: What is MACOS?

Per: Musicians Against Copyrighting of Samples

Ulf: You know Mark, how we do it...

Ulf: Like when we did the Meel etta meel (Nood's last single). All samples are downloaded from various sites. Then we get in contact with contributors.

Per: Its all about chaos anyway...that's the beauty innit?

Ulf: Created because of the net.

Per: The net as internet and samples from real life (w/dictaphone).

Mark: So what happened next?

Per: Well as we got things more and more together we did a trip to London and one to Cologne, adding things together.

Mark: Then more recording?

Per: Then spending a couple of weeks last winter do mix it all together on an old Trident mixer, adding lots of warm tube sound to it . Breaking all rules about digital/analog in/out .

Mark: What did this set of recordings result in, when you finished them?

Ulf: The Nood CD, Hettylettynetty.

Ulf: Actually Billy (Willy Henshall from Resrocket Surfer) produced a track on the CD.

Mark: Willy's son???

Ulf: Yeh.

Mark: But Willy's son is very young.

Ulf: I guess 3 years old.

Mark: So you are kidding bout the producing.

Ulf: Nope ...

Mark: Nope??? How did Billy, being 3 years old, produce?

Ulf: Billy produced it by pointing at system7 sounds on Per's powerbook.

Mark: ahh....!

Ulf: And we used it. (smiles)

Mark: I see!

Per: (smiles)

Ulf: Its again about open mind and structures of chaos.

Ulf: Just letting things happen... give away control.

Per: But at the end, we're having the final word in the producing and editing.

Ulf: For so many years I've seen musicians trying to do the perfect work. Not being open towards errors and mistakes that are actually bringing essence into the music.

Per: I like to think of the CD as a snapshot from cyberspace at that particular time.

Ulf: Its the control shift 3 of 1995. (screen snapshot command on a Macintosh)

Per: Right Ulf!! (smiles) But then after the CD things started to happen more live, and we started to get involved with the M@ggie dancers.

Mark: what has Nood done since then?

Ulf: We did gigs on our own but missed another element... The M@ggies.

Per: The whole idea is to do a conceptual thing, involving who's there at that and that time. So the dancers had a great success w/us and vice versa.

Mark: When you do the gigs do they involve things happening online?

Ulf: Yeh its almost entirely based on the online communication.

Per: Most of the stuff is online, even though we have downloaded quite a lot of sounds before the gig.

Mark: Can the audience see the people contributing online?

Ulf: Contributors are projected on a large screen.

Per: Using programs like Realaudio, CU-seeme and IRC.

Ulf: IRC with speech manager so audience can hear what people are saying. And the telephone.

Mark: What do you mean exactly by the telephone.

Ulf: Analog telephone - a climax in the show is when a guitar solo is played via the telephone.

Mark: You use telephone as well?

Per: Not to forget the telephone yeah! That's what the net is really...its telephone-space, not cyberspace.

Ulf: You can see him on CU lifting the phone and then the phone rings ....and out comes guitar.

Mark: Wow.

Ulf: We tried out like InternetPhone NetPhone and stuff, but wasn't reliable enough. So like Per says... Its about telephonespace right ...not about computers. So why not use the first long distance private app.

Per: Or even better, about people, communication...interaction realtime.

Ulf to Per: Right ...I was on my way.

Ulf: Nudges Per

Per: Ulf sorry (smiles)

Ulf to dreamer: Hey the stuff you folks did that day was great! (refering to a recent gig)

Dreamer: it was pretty crazy.

Ulf : You made the whole thing work.

Dreamer: (laughs)

Ulf: The thing will be sent on TV this month.

Dreamer: That was very much about Nood etc wasn't it?

Per: We're kinda melted together with the M@ggies, and it was a collab thing, with a strong RRS (Resrocket Surfer) element too.

Mark: tell me about the M@ggies, what do they do?

Per: they have explored the whole concept of doing body work over the net .

Mark: Via CU-seeme? (live 'video' over the net)

Per: CU-seeme and everything else, its about how to make a multispace performance realtime.

Per: I mean, one performance is the one locally (with us, dancers, projectors etc). Then on CU its a totally different gig, and Realaudio, and the moo, (midi with Resrocket) and IRC....

Mark: this all happens at the same time at one of your gigs? Per: Yes, all of that... that is what makes the gig. The dramatisation is really about how to connect on several levels; technically, mentally and musically - whatever.

Ulf: Which is very much the essence of this kind of netuse - express own dreams visions feelings. The beauty in chaos.

Per: keeping the flow going is important too, you can never really stop too much to polish things, rather use the qualities of live connection and improvising. It's basically impossible to fake a Nood gig, since its so much about the flow of feelings going on there and then.

Mark: OK tell me about the TV stuff you've done.

Per: This is the second time we're on national TV. First was last years Nood/M@ggie gig at the Electra show, where they tried to connect live and just show the computer window... it looked really flat. This time they wanted us to do a compact version of that show (15 minutes), where we had the projectors and stuff, and they filmed the whole thing with 4 or 5 cams.

Ulf: We were also engaged to do background/sound for 9 TV shows from September till December, based on the same elements, netsound.

Mark: so what's next for Nood?

Per: well....

Per: looks around

Ulf: look around

Mark: WELL??

Ulf: We need to go through the material from the TV shows see if there's anything there and make new stuff for a new CD.

Per: No seriously, we're probably gonna do a new CD this spring/summer, and a couple of shows with the M@ggies.

Dreamer: music is just organised noise, some order within chaos.

Ulf: Well....as you can see from fractals... chaos and order is connected.

Dreamer: Indeed.

Mark: So you like to incorporate an element of chaos into your recorded tracks in terms of the samples etc...

Ulf: I guess its impossible not to incorporate chaos when working like this. Its very much about trusting a good vibe. Were not trying to get a number one hit.

Dreamer: It's inevitable, chaos.

Mark: But you obviously have a lot of creative input. You make decisions.

Ulf: Yeh but decisions are based on trust in peoples input not only on a calculation from a producer.

Dreamer: Away from a rigid formula.

Ulf: Meaning I could even accept something I don't really understand on a track. Because I like the person who did it , and trust that persons vibe and that vibes importance for the track .

Mark: so the actual choice of samples etc... to some extent at least, is left to what presents its self: at the time? That's interesting, I like that idea.

Ulf: Mostly what happens is that in some odd way or another - things do fit in ....with its own logic.

Mark: syncronicity (concept of Carl Jung the psychologist) in a way? Or maybe syncronicity is related to patterns in chaos?

Ulf: What do you mean by syncronicity?

Mark: My understanding of the idea, is that coincidences are not necessarily just random or based on chance, that chance is not necessarily as random as we might think.

Ulf: Ahhhh. Yeh even things that don't sync... Its about daring to step out of preprogrammed opinions of what sync is...

Per: Personally I think chaos is so much more than the mandelbrot/fractal thing...

Ulf: I agree.

Mark: Maybe syncronicity and patterns in chaos are related?

Ulf: Probably ....

Mark: You do trust in the chance, chaos coming together of things in your music so in a way you are trusting in syncronicity and chaos both.

Per: Yes in a way I think its the only strategy nowadays. I read an interview with the Ninja Tune people in The Wire last spring... they talk really well about these things.

Dreamer: I don't believe anything really happens by chance.

Mark: Yet syncronicity it not determinist. Its says that coincidence can have a connection other than what you might think.

Per: Right.

Ulf: Coincidences is our friends.

Mark: Its about connections within chance things that can't be explained rationally, but are still a function of reality.

Dreamer: Nods.

Ulf: Yeh that's exactly what we been experiencing with Nood.

Per: ...and still is hopefully.

Original interview here: