Peter Rehberg: “Dissonance and resonance have to co-exist.” Interview by Innerversitysound


Peter Rehberg is an Austrian electronic musician. He is best known for his solo work as PITA, his collaboration with Jim O’Rourke and Christian Fennesz (Fenn O’Berg) and his long running groundbreaking label Editions Mego who have released albums from Hecker, Anthony Pateras, Fennesz, and Kevin Drumm.

Innerversitysound: So a new Pita album: Get In. Is there any way of thinking about your overall concerns in the development of this album that you would like to expand on for us?

Peter Rehberg: It’s basically something that I have been working on for the last five years, but more intensely last year. As you know I didn’t really do any records for the last twelve years. But it didn’t mean that I wasn’t doing anything, I was just doing other things; like work for theatre and work with Gisèle Vienne and playing with Stephen O’Malley and in KTL, and of course running the label. Then slowly, I even stopped playing live solo in 2010 for various reasons and then stepped gradually back into the process of making music for my own project, last year doing gigs again and then off we went. Slightly changing my setup. I am more hardware based now, not so much software. So that changed my approach a little bit. But still the basic way I make music hasn’t really changed.

Innerversitysound: There are aspects of this album, specifically Line Angel which hark back to the days when you were an ambient Dj in your youth. In some sense it’s like a fragment of the past albiet in a much more advanced form. Do the sound images of your past reoccur for you in different forms and present themselves as pieces reformed and remodelled?

Peter Rehberg: Well they always do, yes, yes. Everything you do is based on something that you have done before, that you have experienced before. It’s true, yes this album isn’t just your classic glitchy noise extravagance. So there are textures there for want of a better word you could call ambient. That wasn’t something there that I kind of deliberately did. I didn’t sit down and write the album and say that the album was going to have this, this, this and this on a track. I work on music all the time. I record a piece of music every day basically. Just keep it in a folder to return to, to edit or to mix later. When I finally decided to finish the album at the end of last year, early this year, I just went through the files and just curated the album then. Not with an idea that I would have to have an ambient track here or a noisy track there. Just using the pieces of music that I thought were valid and fitted well into that little hole that I thought was missing. So it wasn’t like a deliberate plan to sort of hark back to some 90’s ambient vibe, although there is nothing wrong with doing that. But that wasn’t the plan, no.

Innerversitysound: You have described this album and the Pita guise as being concerned with ‘the paradox of intimidation and beauty’. The twin inclinations to ward off and to entice in. However you ascribe mental states to these sounds it is likely that you will come across some who have a completely different set of categories by which to describe the reception of your sound. Can you tell us a bit about how you conceive of the, as you describe it ‘multi-headed hydra’ that is Pita nowadays either in terms of these purported mental states or what you are actually trying to convey to the listener?

Peter Rehberg: It’s just the fact that much music these days is very much sold in it’s own little box, if you know what I mean. I have always been not very interested in that. Everything is very much compartmentalised, especially things like magazines, they always sort of put you in a little folder, or a section of the record shop. I have always found that if you want to make something noisy, you have to make something that is harmonic as well. Dissonance and resonance have to co-exist, for the other to work, I think. I have come across a lot of harsh noise records and all they are is harsh noise. Which isn’t really that interesting. I am much more interested in trying to place things in a place that they are not supposed to be and see where that takes you and where that takes me or the listener or whoever. Whether I achieve that with successful results or not, that is probably not for me to say.

Innerversitysound: You said that you have changed from a software environment to a hardware environment. Can you tell us a little bit more about these specific changes to your musical practice?

Peter Rehberg: Well instead of me moving a cursor across a screen on a Mac or a Superglider patch, I am sticking cables into different modules. And that’s it. It’s the same thing , synthesis has still existed. People think there is magic in laptop music but really there isn’t. It’s just synthesis but inside a computer. I find the approach slightly more interesting, because doing things on a computer you can do probably more way out things but to get to those things is probably a much more complex route than with a modular setup. But you are physically doing it. It’s much more using your hands to move things around and you just try that or try that. With a computer setup you don’t just try something and see what happens. Because if it sounds like shit on a modular, you just unplug it, the cable and put it somewhere else. That’s just a much more intuitive workflow I find. Of course the downside of this is that you can’t save anything. You have got to keep recording things. So you have hours and terrabytes of audio gunk, which you have to somehow put into a useable form of music.

Innerversitysound: Are you programming along with this?

Peter Rehberg: I have never programmed in my life. Except for coding a few things. I hate computer programming. It bores me to tears. I like to use some software and some applications and some patches which other people help me realise to make the noises that I make. But I am not really interested in programming. Like I am not very interested in soldering bits of modules together either. I am interested in making noises and using the devices and tools that are at my disposal to do that. That’s all it is. Just like any other musician. It’s like asking a guitarist; ‘Do you make your guitar?’ Most of them say no. They just go out and buy one and buy their pedals. You don’t ask a pianist; ‘Do you make your piano?’ Well you could do,… but.

Innerversitysound: Well some do.

Peter Rehberg: Yes some do, but that’s prepared piano. That doesn’t count. It’s not quite the same. But no I don’t, but I do set up my own personal rig or whatever you want to call it. Which is done in my own personal way and if someone looked at my rig they would probably say, ‘well why have you got it set up like that?’ And I usually can’t answer the question because that’s my own personal way of doing things. I like the way now that everyone has their own personal setup. It’s not so unified as it was, say in the ‘old days’, which is the wrong term but now everyone has a different sound, has a unique sound, which I think is very important. Another of the really beautiful things is I am making music here every day and a lot of it I don’t even record because I forget. So you are making music that only you have heard and only you will ever hear. I find that is quite refreshing as well. It’s been in my head so I have heard it. That could be the future of music in general because the music business or the selling of records is turning into a bit of a non-starter at the moment. So that could be the future. People just make their own music and sit in their room and that’s it. It’s just for themselves. Yeah I have made a few records, but you haven’t heard them, so what.

Innerversitysound: Concerns in terms of knowledges to know or to master. What directions are you going in in terms of your technical or conceptual development with your music? What is the driving direction that you’re thinking in terms of strategies in the creation of your music?

Peter Rehberg: Well half of it’s having the knowledge of how to set up a sequence or pattern or a sound. Getting to that point. The other half is the complete random element. Completely not knowing what is going to happen next. And that is it. With most of my music you get to the point, ‘oh, where that sounds good’ and then and then you add your knowledge about how you can manipulate those kinds of things and you take it a little bit further. There are lots of kind of random ‘Eureka’ moments. That’s basically how it works now. I don’t sit down and say I want to make a piece of music that sounds like this now or I want to do this. Or if you do you end up going somewhere completely different. If someone said to me, well can you make a hip-hop track; well what I would end up doing, it won’t be a hip-hop track. It will be something else. I mean nothing is written down for example, so there is no score, it’s basically, half improvised, half chaos. There’s no…, well I really don’t know, I don’t give a shit. It’s just music I make. I don’t sit down and think about it. That’s what your job is. I don’t go ‘well how did I make that technically’, in fact most of my music I don’t know how I have made it. Most of the music on the album, I can kind of know how that was made. Or I know when that file ended up on my computer but I couldn’t tell you how I made it. So when I play live I don’t actually play the tracks on the album. I might play some sounds and sample them and manipulate them. But you are not going to hear tracks from the new album at my concerts. You might hear something that has a tone or a character based on those sounds but you are not going to hear the new album, like ‘here’s the second track from the second side of my new album’. You’re not going to get that. I could load all the tracks into Ableton Live and just Dj my music, that’s what more or less everyone else does nowadays and they get gigs everywhere and that is called a live set. But it’s not really, it’s called a Dj set, but that’s picking hairs.

Innerversitysound: There has been quite a proliferation of sublabels associated with Editions Mego. Can you tell us of what is happening on the other branches of your tree? Are there any new shoots? What’s fertile, what needs some tending? What’s good to eat right now?

Peter Rehberg: They have all been active this year. With the Recollection GRM, there was Jean Schwartz, which has just come out. We are working on the new one from Jaap Vink, hes a Dutch composer. The Ideological Organ, which is Stephen O’Malley’s label, he’s just done the Ragnar Johnson Sacred Flute Music from New Guinea. We are now working on Daniel Higgs, which has just been announced. And this last week we have just got a new album from the Necks. Which I hope will be out in Autumn. I am not totally sure but we have got the files and the button has been pushed. How long it takes for the thing to come out the other end is another matter. And Spectrum Spools we have got a new album from The Prostitutes and Woman and I think that’s basically it for the sublabels this year. I enjoy doing this because it’s like, instead of asking someone to do an album or a record for me, I ask them to do a label for me. Even though they choose the records and they do all the business and communicating with the artists and setting it all up, I still have the final ‘Yes or No’ thing. So it’s all still under my control but they take care of it. It’s quite interesting how it’s spread its tentacles into very different sorts of music. Which I probably wouldn’t have got to on my own. So I do think it is good.

Innerversitysound: I presume you will be doing some touring for this album. After some time off the road and with the concerns of running the label as the main focus of your day how is touring for you now?

Peter Rehberg: You can do both. Most of the office of the label is actually on the cloud somewhere, so I have just got to be online somewhere. The physicality of shipping records and mail order, that’s another logistic, that’s something else. I am not the kind of band that tours for six months and never comes home. I usually fly somewhere for a few days, do a few gigs and then fly back. I’m doing some tours, kind of a big trip will be in September, when I will be going to Japan, hopefully other places in Asia, hopefully New Zealand and Australia. But that’s a very slow process. I hoped that it would be one big trip but it may be split into two. Throughout Europe, but I have always been doing that, it’s not like I have stopped playing, its just that I have been doing things with Gisèle Vienne and touring with her for the last five or six years. But it’s nice to come and do things on your own for once in a while. You get a bit lonely travelling all that way on your own but it’s kind of interesting to have a kind of open stage and open palette for 45 minutes to do what you want. I think that’s quite exciting.

Innerversitysound: Fenn O’berg – it was a productive and well received touring act. Are there any plans in the wings for another road trip of the three of you? Or is it a Japan only event nowadays?

Peter Rehberg: Well we haven’t done anything for a couple of years now. We did a brief set in Japan. We only really play in Japan because Jim O’Rourke prefers not to leave Japan. So our tours tend to be in Japan. You can’t really call us a prolific touring band if we only go to one place. But yeah at the moment, Christian Fennesz and Jim are doing their records, which we are about to ship. Which is great and basically my record. Jim was joking the other day that I left Fenn O’Berg, I didn’t really leave Fenn O’Berg, but last year when we did a showcase for twenty years Mego I suggested I would like to do my own solo set and they played together. We probably will end up doing something together, but the logistics of that is also a bit tricky because Jim lives in Japan, I live here in Austria, as does Christian, so it’s not like we can just meet up and start jamming out every weekend like other bands can. Christian is also very bury, he’s the person I keep in touch with the most, but I haven’t seen him for six months. We try and meet every couple of months for a drink or something but it is not that easy. Because when he’s away I am away. So yes Fenn O’Berg would still be doing things. It’s not ruled out but not in the near future.

Innerversitysound: Get In, a continuation of your titling tradition from Get out, Get Down, Get Off. Will there ever be a Get lost, perhaps your Jazz album?

Peter Rehberg:
I was thinking about that but Mark McGuire made an album called Get Lost, so he’s already beaten me to it. Maybe I should, perhaps call it Get Away or Get Up.

‘Get in’ is available now through Editions Mego.

Pita photo by Magdalena Blaszczuk


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