The Viennese trumpeter and composer DOMINIK FUSS is known as an extremely busy musician who has worked successfully in a wide variety of musical environments in the past. Just think of his duo project with the pianist JÖRG LEICHTFRIED or his FAMILY SEXTETT AFFÄRE DERYFUSS, with which he was able to attract attention not only in this country. With his new project VOID, DOMINIK FUSS is now entering new musical territory for him. Together with the guitarist, electronics and improvisation musician MARTIN SIEWERT and the filmmaker MELANIE HOLLAUS, he weaves experimental sound work with the medium of film to create an atmospherically dense and visually powerful work of art. In an interview with Michael Ternai, DOMINIK FUSS talks about his urge to create something truly his own, the additional time frame he had available to him for this project and his goal to elevate the trumpets from the dusty “traditional” musical contexts.
You are known as a very busy musician who knows how to move well in a wide variety of musical contexts – from jazz to pop. In your new project VOID But you present a musical side of you that is still relatively unknown. How did this project even come about?
Dominik Fuss: I’ve been traveling a lot over the last few years with various projects. Among other things, with my duo with Jörg Leichtfried or with my family sextet Dreyfuss affair. It can be said that these projects are going very well. Last year I from BMKÖS then received the starting scholarship and thought to myself that I wanted to do something completely on my own, something that had never been heard of before. I had the idea of experimenting with music and film and that’s how I came across musician and producer Martin Siewert and the filmmaker Melanie Hollaus, who was supposed to make a video for each piece. I’ve never worked so closely with a female film director before. And that was really very exciting, because their views and approaches are completely different.
This project is completely different from what we know from you so far. And the connection with video art also really makes sense, if you listen to it through the music, because it has a very cinematic character per se.
Dominik Fuss: That was also the basic intention. Especially to accompany something with electronic music. I started with the duo with Jörg Leichtfried about a year ago Reactor “Nosferatu” set to music. And it occurred to me back then that these two media could be connected or interwoven even more closely. I then worked towards an interdisciplinary direction.
I also commissioned two compositions for the project, to two artists who have become very dear to me over the years. One goes to Christof Ressi, who changes the sound aesthetics and style of his composition every three or four bars and mixes everything with midi sounds from the 1970s. I gave the second composition commission to the saxophonist and composer Viola Falb, who works with sound interaction and improvisation elements in her piece. I think both are really successful but completely opposite.
How can you see the collaboration of Melanie Hollaus and introduce yourself? Did you send things back and forth to each other and see what came back, or did you really work on things together?
Dominik Fuss: I have Melanie, who I know from her work Dan Studios In the course of the process she repeatedly sent material and ideas, which she subsequently developed ideas about in which direction it could go. These ideas then in turn changed the timbres in my head. The pictures that she submitted to me or painted were then incorporated into the compositions. Of course, this wasn’t possible with the two composition commissions. they were a fixed thing. But they also developed over the course of a process. It wasn’t the case that Christof came straight away with a finished piece. But especially in my compositions, she intervened strongly and provided impulses through her visual vision. In the end, we actually shot the film “Trainwreck” together. Among other things, I cast the location, the Kledering marshalling yard.
What is the basic idea behind this project or what stories do you want to tell with your music? If you look at the first video (“Solitude in Space”) that you released with this project, you are somehow reminded of Stanley Kubrick’s space epic “2001”…
Dominik Fuss: Interestingly, you’re not the first to say that.
The inspiration came from this corner, experimental sound work.
Dominik Fuss: Naturally. At the beginning I looked at what strengths Martin and I had as instrumentalists and then basically aligned the project with these. Martin in particular is very well versed in experimental sound work. He also gave a lot of inspiration that ultimately led to this overall sound. I sometimes went to his studio with little handwritten sketches, where we actually produced them, as is actually the case in pop music. And we were able to really take our time with it because I also had the financial resources because of the start-up scholarship.
“I want to show what you can do with the instrument and in which different musical areas you can use it and how.”
The music follows a very experimental tone. How difficult was it to actually translate the ideas in your head into music? Did you already have certain ideas about what direction you wanted to take musically?
Dominik Fuss: Yes, I already had that. It’s just that my ideas have developed in different directions over time. Some ideas or compositions were very concrete, others left a lot of scope for possible experiments. When I performed in a public space, I was able to try out some sketches in advance as part of a festival to see how they were received and what might trigger and move people. One of my goals in this project is to lift the trumpets out of this dusty “traditional” context. I want to show what you can do with the instrument and in which different musical areas you can use it and how.
So the sound now shows itself as a hodgepodge of different genres. I also tried to bring variety to the album. The intention was to create as many contrasts as possible from the combination of music and film. Also about my last album, which was very solemn and solid in its style. I wanted to counteract this with an electronic and more experimental one, to also say that I am not just what people know me to be, but also many other things.
VOID (c) Maria Frodl
The music you hear with Martin is not something that was created overnight. How long did you spend working on the pieces?
Dominik Fuss: I can’t tell you exactly right now. Each piece took a very different amount of time to complete. For example, Christof worked on the piece “Shapeshifter” alone for three months, and then together for about as long. He had to do special programming so that I could trigger the sounds and drum sequences with a foot pedal so that I could do it live or in the studio. With my own pieces, it happened that I wrote them for two months and then half recorded them, only to then completely rewrite them. Of course, that was also time-consuming.
The story behind the piece “Metamorphosis” is exciting. This was created during the Corona period. I had tinnitus back then and it was in G. Thank God it’s rarely noticeable now, but when I was playing the trumpet back then, chords suddenly came. The vibrations harmonized the tones and I perceived them as chords in my ear. That was quite exciting but also very stressful. Fortunately, he only appears occasionally now. In order to process the situation at the time, I wrote this piece, which moves further and further away from the G and morphs into new sound worlds.
It sounds like a lot of mental work went into this project. Is that perhaps the biggest difference from your many other projects?
Dominik Fuss: Absolutely, although of course a lot of work goes into the other projects as well. With my duo with Jörg Leichtfried we played a lot internationally, and sophisticated compositions were created and matured there. At VOID I ventured into new territory. The entire production process and the fine-tuning of the sound concept were very time-consuming. It wasn’t as if we went into the studio with finished pieces, as is often the case in jazz, where you record in the studio with the band for two, three or maybe four days and then the album is finished. For us, we first recorded two or three pieces and then refined and worked on them for two months. Then it was the turn of the next two or three pieces. It went on like this for a year.
How did you personally feel about being able to work like that? And have new perspectives opened up for you?
Dominik Fuss: Working like that was of course extremely exciting. I learned that you can give yourself more time to reflect. Because there were different phases of work, I also noticed that I was hearing things completely differently one and a half or two months later than perhaps a week later. Humans continue to develop and our hearing also reacts differently. This is exciting.
Don’t you run the risk of getting caught in a loop somehow? You hear something different after a second time and want to do it again straight away.
Dominik Fuss: Yes, of course, I almost slipped into this loop too. But you need competent people, like Martin, around you, who can catch the madness and get you back on the path. You can’t do this alone. Martin simply has the experience to always steer things in the right direction. And that’s what he did in our project.
How did you come across Martin? Was it clear to you from the start that you wanted to do the project with him?
Dominik Fuss: Yes. I actually submitted the project with both of them. When I decided to apply for the starting scholarship, I presented my concept to Martin and asked him if he wanted to take part. By the way, it was the same with Melanie.
I have appreciated Martin for years. I kept running into him in contemporary projects. And I also attended some of his concerts. I’m particularly impressed by Martin’s years-long routine in electronics in combination with the guitar. The sounds he gets out of the instruments he plays are absolutely amazing.
Where do you want to take this project further? What about the possibility of live presentations? And is it even a long-term thing?
Dominik Fuss: We are currently in the process of planning the next steps. I now know that the thing works well live. For the CD presentation we are now looking for locations where there is a projector or, theoretically, you can take one with you. What we are also aiming for are film festivals and film competitions, where we can submit the films in combination with the music. In any case, we already have plans VOID to perform next year.
The thing is that the CD medium can only play 2/3 of the entire project. But I really wanted to release a CD too, because 2/3 is a lot anyway. The third third can only be experienced live because the films are never published in their entirety on any video platforms. In combination with the pieces, some of which use a lot of improvisation, the live moment is preserved and it remains exciting.
Thank you for the interview.
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