Photo by Evan Lorden
Berlin expat Jasmine Guffon AKA Jasmina Maschina started out as one-half of the Australian electronic duo Minit, alongside Torben Tilly, and has forged a prolific playlist of meditative re-wired records having worked with Organ Eye, Golden Disko Ship and others.
Recently returned from an extended trip to China, there's a new album, Alphabet Dream Noise (Staubgold), which you may experience live at the record release party, featuring an expanded band, at .HBC on Thursday, September 29.
When we were on tour with Minit in 2000 I spent a week here and I really liked it. Sydney, where I come from, and even Melbourne both have a really strong experimental music scene, but then what Berlin has given me is just this feeling of freedom and like I can do whatever I want.
I never really had a desire to make music by myself before – I was really into collaborations, and then I guess Berlin inspired me, giving me the confidence to do it myself. There's so many opportunities to play live, you can try out your ideas in front of an audience and get some feedback.
So then how have you developed from your Minit days?
I guess I just got quite obsessive about song and sort-of focused on songwriting and also guitar playing. So I guess the whole kinda guitar, singer-songwriter thing has developed since Minit. I'm going to New Zealand in October and there's talk of maybe a Minit show in Wellington where Torben is now. We have unfinished recordings from when we were both living in Berlin, like an album's worth of material; it would be great to finish those.
What initiated your interest in electronic music?
I guess I was really inspired by Fripp & Eno records and then Oval and the whole minimal techno thing as well, like Panasonic, and sort of experimental techno labels from Detroit.
You've worked on the Staubgold label before and now you're back for the release of Alphabet Dream Noise. Has it been a welcome return?
Markus Detmer, who runs Staubgold, is very open. I really didn't expect him to be interested in it because, to me, it was quite different than the other music, like less experimental and more song-based. Yeah, mostly I can do what I want.
Unlike the folks in China, where you recently toured.
I did, like, two shows in China: one in Beijing and one in Shanghai, and it was kinda interesting there. After the show all the people that bought merchandise off me were expats either from Europe or the UK. In a way, Beijing was quite odd because it was during soccer, so I had to wait quite late until after the soccer game to play and it was just before these electro DJs, so as soon as I finished playing, the electro DJs started and everyone was dancing and I actually felt quite out of place, in a way.
You've been touring recently with Bachelorette as a sound engineer; how did you guys meet?
I think when MySpace was still useful, I probably just sent her a message and then we kinda kept in contact. Last year she asked me if I knew any sound engineers in Berlin and I was like, "Yeah, me!" So I did a tour with her last year, and then one this year, and now its New Zealand and Australia.
Do you see yourself as an artist or a sound engineer?
First as an artist, but I probably earn more money as a sound engineer. I've always seen my music as strange and not as something I'd make money from. I never actually did a live sound course. I learned how to use a studio, then I would record my own music. Now I've been doing it in Berlin for four or five years.
I understand you still work in a lot of non-song environments. Anything stand out?
I'm more interested in making sound installations and performing my music in another context, where the lines between the audience and performer is a bit blurred. I did a residency with Theresa Stroetges from Golden Disco Ship in the South of France in January 2009.
It was this very small town that has announcement speakers, where the mayor makes announcements, or something like that. So we recorded on this 17th century organ they had in their chapel and water that was running through the streets and made these short two to five minute compositions that were played every half hour through the speakers.
How did people react?
I don't think everyone really liked it. When you work in a town that has got no interest or education in contemporary art, I think for them, it's horrible noise, I suppose.
Unloading anything similar at your upcoming release party?
I was hoping that I would also be making a sound installation but, to be quite honest, it's taking longer to realize than I thought. I'm making these machines that play guitar by themselves by triggering sticks to hit the strings and the idea is to fill the room with open-tuned guitars.
Will this give the audience an opportunity to interact with the exhibition?
Just as a listener because they can move around the space but, eh, no. They can't touch the guitars.
Jasmina Maschina record release party, Sep 29 | .HBC, Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 9, Mitte, U+S-Bhf Alexanderplatz