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Rene Hell is one of Jeffrey D. Witscher’s many production aliases that came into existence in 2009 with a couple of limited tape releases on his own Agents Of Chaos label. In the following year, his techno-influenced synth gospel debut album ‘Porcelain Opera’ dropped on John Twells’ Type Records a half-hour, six-track suite journeying through an abstract, surreal and increasingly distorted sonic landscape, reflected in all manner of creaking and metallic textures. Since then, he’s shared a split album with noise-techno purveyor Pete Swanson for Shelter Press, and returned to Type in 2011 with full-length ‘The Terminal Symphony’, which showcases a completely singular territory, submerged in those distinctive, reinterpreted classical compositions. 2012 saw Rene Hell on remix duty, providing a sumptuous re-imagining for Blondes’ Amber from their debut self-titled output on RVNG Intl.
Shining through Rene Hell’s productions is its high level of sensory awareness.
His sound is complex, but also possesses a sense of tenderness both drivingly forceful and emotionally evocative, quite flawlessly shown in his latest offering for Burlington cassette label NNA Tapes, which united Daniel ‘Oneohtrix Point Never’ Lopatin and him last year, releasing the split album in which explores hallucinatory sonic reworks and electronic piano blasts.
Rene Hell aside, Witscher is incredibly prolific, recording under various names including Abelar Scout, Marble Sky, Secret Abuse and Impregnable. He is also a part of Deep Jew, Trash Dog, Mandelbrot & Skyy (with a release for Brad Rose’s Digitalis), Foot Village, and Cuticle (with notable releases out on Amanda Brown’s 100% Silk and Not Not Fun labels), and many more.
This Saturday 20th April, Witscher will be playing at BleeD in London, in which features the special appearances of stellar performers such as Morphosis, Objekt, John Heckle, Call Super, Container (UK debut) and NHK’Koyxen. Ahead of the gig, Witscher has delivered a lovely Dummy mix – a half-hour collage of ambient, avant-garde and classical compositions – while also having a chat with us about his approach to music and forthcoming release on PAN.
Hi Jeff, are you excited about your gig in London this weekend?
Yes, I’m very excited.
What’s this mix gonna do to our head?
It’s quite ambient so it doesn’t require your full attention. It’s a bit reassuring I guess & I was listening to it while playing chess, so it’s not too distracting. It’s collaging a lot of different moods as well & some ideas re: distance, foreground/ background etc.
Have you always gravitated towards the experimental/ambient kind of sound? What drives you to make music?
I enjoy everything, complicated & simple etc. though I listen to very little traditional band, rock music. I am definitely pulled towards more abstract or innovative music. music that requires your full attention & can be very irritating if you’re trying to focus elsewhere. I don’t know what drives me to make music, I just do it & someday I’ll stop.
A major part of your music was released on your own labels, though you’ve also had records out on NNA Tapes, Type, Not Not Fun etc. Are you careful with who you work with?
A bit. I mostly end up working with people I’ve developed a nice relationship with one way or another. Obviously aesthetics need to be similiar in order for the projects to go smoothly.
You’re not classically trained but your production often reveals a hint of classical instrumentation, how did that come about?
It’s deceiving & I wish I possessed some skills for playing, writing or reading music. I just enjoy those processes & in my own way can relate to them.
You have various aliases and collaborative projects going on, do you have different inspiration behind them? How has your approach to music changed over the years?
Yes each one serves a different purpose, aesthetically & some are more serious than others etc. I’m trying to be more patient with music now, taking my time & reviewing the sounds more thoroughly. Being more selective & clear with my ideas.
You run Callow Gold and Agents Of Chaos, how do you choose what records to put out? Do you reach out for a specific kind of sound?
I would release projects that I found inspiring or impressive or interesting. Mostly from my peers & there was definitely no boundaries to the sound or style.
What preparation goes into a Rene Hell live performance?
At this point I’m focusing on the room as their is little physical action. There’s not much to watch so I’m thinking a lot how this room will treat people, the pace of the set, dynamics etc.
You’ve shared a spectacular split EP with Oneohtrix last year, can you tell us what inspired the making of it and would there be more?
I don’t think I’ll return to that style of music again & I was just recording some pieces I’d play on the piano & then adding some minimal electronic elements. It’s quite moody & that can be tiresome.
Can you tell us more about your forthcoming full-length on PAN?
It’s all finished we’re just figuring the art out. It’s all pieces are done with the computer & some various instruments, which were recorded & then redesigned in the computer. It may be a more difficult listen but I think it’s interesting.
If you were to soundtrack a film, what would it be?
I’d do something slow, almost boring or tedious.
Favourite artists/records at the moment?
DJ Rashad, the new Ben Vida & Greg Davis record, Sean McCann’s self released LP, Lambkin & Rowe “Making A”.
Music aside, where does your heart lie right now?
I’m spending the majority of my time focusing on chess, though it’s quite a challenge as it goes against my nature entirely. That & I enjoy basketball, playing & watching but mostly chess.
Eliane Radigue – Vice-versa, etc (1970) mix 1
Djivan Gasparyan – Look Here, My Dear
Evol – Untitled
Francis Dhomont – Antichambre_
Gordon Krieger – 01
Jeremie Grandsenne – Dix-huit Piano
Meredith Monk – Do You Be?
Michael Pollard – Material Study 02 (Cello and Jacket)
John Adams – Berveuse Elegiaque
Nuno Canavarro – –
C Spencer Yeh – Voice
Oskar Sala & Harald Genzmer – Musique Stereo Pour Orchestre Electronique En Cinq Parties Pt.1
Roberto Cacciapaglia – _Skywaves
Trevor Wishart – Tongues Of Fire (Example 1, 2 & 15)
Franz Schubert – 02 Piano Sonata No.13 in A-dur, D.664 – II. Andante
吉村弘 – _Clouds
Voigt & Voigt – Akira Mantra
Curtis Roads – Nanomorphis
Bernard Parmegiani – Natures Éphémères
David Behrman – 201 Interspecies Smalltalk, Part 2
Harold Budd – Coeur D’Orr
Ryuichi Sakamoto – Parolibre
Inga Copeland – So Far So Clean