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Matthias Holländer

Before I was born in September 1954 in Heidelberg, the US garrison city, at the time of the ‘Age Of Young Wonder Women’, I had already got to hear a lot of things in my mother's womb. For example, from May 1954 onwards, the legendary title track of Bill Haley and the Comets' ‘Rock Around The Clock’ had an electrifying effect not just on me lying in my amniotic fluid - but also marked a musical turning point, which was to have a long-term formative effect on me and my generation.

A young musician discovered joy in the Land of the Swiss

From when I was 4 until I was 15 (from about 1959 - 1970), I grew up in a good, middle class way in Switzerland - however, it has to be said, near to psychiatric institutions, at which my father worked as a psychiatrist and which exercised a strong drawing power. At this time, it was still seen as natural that every nursery nurse and every primary school teacher would be able to play at least four instruments quite well. This went hand in hand with their expectation that they would make use of their throats every day to sing along with the choir made up of the child in their care. I really enjoyed this.

My father's records by Piaf, Brassens and Becaud, which filled up all the acoustic spaces of my childhood, also call up happy memories, just like the Christmas oratorios by Orff, which my mother used to direct with tremendous effort and enormous numbers of performers. Being able to embody small or medium roles in these musicals allowed me to experience my first appearances on stage and, as a by-product, catapulted me into the exciting pandemonium of the tone generators of Orff - my first exotic worlds of sound...

Ambitions and reality go down the drain

To my sorrow, my parents also made some more sophisticated attempts to educate me: I greeted the news that, as a 7 year old, I would from then on be receiving piano lessons from a very nice lady teacher in Meilen near Zurich by breaking out in despairing floods of tears....  That did not however help in the least. The piano disaster was then continued at 10 in Kreuzlingen on Lake Constance - only this time with a male teacher, who loved nothing better than to grab my infantile thighs in their short trousers and then tenderly dictate the rhythm there. Music lessons as a whole, really: taking away any fun, e.g. through those hated individual renditions on the recorder, which the teacher (understandably) found so boring that, while I was playing, he would finally deign to grab his flute and initially come in with a second, accompanying part in order then finally to inject a bit of fire into the offering with a wild, baroque improvisation, which then regularly left me completely confused and forced me to give up. Da capo in front of the entire class, simply to make me feel ashamed - a public execution of my modest recorder skills by a shameless public exhibition of virtuosity...

New passions

But even these sufferings had mercifully soon passed as well: I was reckoned to possess only limited musical talent and was able to skip my hated piano lessons and also make a quiet departure from the school choir due to my voice breaking (‘Holländer, you're droning!’) and finally devote myself without any disturbances to my newly discovered passions, including painting. In the meantime I had become 15 - and a stripling who spent most of his time with electronics and chemistry sets - when I then took up an instrument once again (this time, though, by my own choice in 1969): an extra cheap little western guitar. I still like it; a real case of Lorenz's theory of 'imprinting' in action! I soon enough discovered that sticking the microphone of my father's dictating machine onto the guitar could produce unimagined levels of sound, if the control level was adjusted to the right hand hinge... Didn't that sound just like the ones made by Jim, Jimmy, Janis and the others?

Electronic or what?

I was now clear about one thing: the only way forward was with electronics. This was absolutely clear to me not least as an 'old' radio tinkerer, who at 12 had already unsettled the local area with his self-built, very private VHF transmitter - which however usually only broadcast Mozart's ‘Eine kleine Nachtmusik’ as test transmissions.  At the time, the main thing I was after was 'coverage' in terms of kilometres. Together with a friend, we jointly bought my (our) first e-guitar (guitar-sharing!), a semi-acoustic special offer, which was so cheap for a good reason: an extremely, and irreparably, distorted neck, which meant it could hardly be played: BUT it was electric! We did not have an amplifier, but an additional input was soldered onto father's valve radio, making it nice and loud. I also managed to discover a wonderful resonance register: the hated piano could always be used as a reverberation chamber if you jammed the pedal and kept the soft pedals permanently poised... Just a few months later, we added our first effects device: an MXR Stomp Box, a real distortion pedal. Really good! Then, however, the second device was really of cult status. An Electric Mistress from Electro Harmonix - a real ‘Ahhhh’ experience on an unforgettable scale: now that really showed who knows what's what! A purchase - no, more like another imprinting, which has left not just psychological traces all along the way, including up to our current Wonderlake productions.

The taper

By 17 I had just taught myself to play the guitar and had also established this as a built-in daily ritual. I used to jam and improvise a lot with friends. That was also really needed to prevent myself being overwhelmed, not only in a passive sense, by the revolutionary sound material coming from England and America and shaking our young ear drums. It poured out of ever more channels, heard through more (Radio Luxembourg) or less (Austrian radio Ö3's 'Music Box') static. This period saw ever more 'tapers' being born - and I was one of them. We used to 'tape' what these days you would 'download'; we 'taped' like mad, even outside the home, a live session or a concert, a secret sample from classes, favourite tracks from favourite stations or an open microphone placed under the bed in the room next to where a party was going on: the sound of your own voice and of the lives of others were objects of fantastic curiosity. What this generation of tapers got up to now comes across as a precursor of today's digital and webcam cultures (and lack of culture!); swap exchange posts sprang up in every school playground and this trade was of course a very personal affair. Really committed tapers, like me, had however already acquired 'proper' spool tape recorders, while the rest of the team had also long ago swapped over from the dictating machines of their parents' generation to the cassette decks which had evolved from them and which really allowed 'taping' to become a mass phenomenon. These 'spoolosaurs' had the advantage for creative types that they could cut the tapes like a film, a feature which was only to become re-established as something entirely natural again in the mid-90s for the computing generation. This is how, from the early 70s and far into the 80s, I managed to produce ping-pong multi track recordings on my fantastic Revox rape recorder. As well as many improvisations, from 1980 onwards, songs of my own with German lyrics also began to appear, rather tending towards speech songs and inspired by the new German Wave, but also by Austro-Pop.

Acqua Alta

In the mid-70s, an alto saxophone emerged from this to provide an interlude - I had just fallen hopelessly in love with the sounds of Gato Barbieri. I preferred to play into the resonance chamber of what was still left of the piano lacking its soft pedal, which had almost killed off music for me as a child (yes, it had still been dragged along with every move I had made and hoisted by cranes into flats where the stairways had been too narrow for it to get through).

What happened when you also sang another sound into the mouth piece at the same time could hardly be believed: floods of sound waves, which broke against the indented coastline of my smashed up piano... - unfortunately, however, I soon had to day goodbye to this wonderful wind instrument for health reasons.  The parting caused me more pain than I would have expected, given how I had apparently coped well with my trauma experienced through the incident with the recorder (see above)...

Vienna was not calling

Prior to this, I had fallen under quite new influences in Vienna, where I enrolled to study painting at the Academy for Visual Arts in the autumn of 1973: Miles-Davis-Electro-Jazz, Fusion, Free Jazz; Stockhausen, but also the first stirrings of the aforementioned Austro-Pop were met with everywhere in Vienna in the 70s, and a chance meeting in a night time bar with a certain Herr Hölzl, who was dragging a bass case around with him, did not actually lead to his becoming a friend, but certainly left a permanent memory of the man who was to become Falco, the first 'white rapper' to achieve world-wide success.

No, in musical terms, Vienna did not really bring me much further, no strengthening of contacts on the music scene, no jam sessions, only solitary improvisations for my guitar fingers, as fast as weasels in the meantime, which often drove even those friends wishing me the best to the edge of a nervous breakdown after a short time... But it must be said that I was also long gone in any case as well.

Painter of sounds

By 1980 I was back on Lake Constance from Vienna; here for the first time I was more than just a member of a loose jam club, meeting up now and again to surf on and sink into enormous sound breakers: a genuine project to launch a band was begun, with something like definite members, a repertoire of songs by ourselves and others, a practice cellar just for us and ambitions of appearing live. Our ensemble was only afforded a few experiences of appearing on stage before we split up in 1984 - but these confirmed the suspicion I had long had: I really was not born with a love of wallowing in the limelight like a hog on heat and screaming out my pain in public while torturing a guitar... In addition, when all was said and done, I was a painter. I painted one picture after another. Repeating anything would have been a waste of time. I also came ever more clearly to the same conclusion with regard to what I had produced musically alongside my real profession: once the piece, the song, the sound had been produced successfully and was in the can, there was really nothing more to be done in musical terms for me - why should I have to paint this picture in sound again? Especially in circumstances which were hard to control on a stage and while under public observation...

At this point in my musical biography, the course definitely became set for me to move in the direction of becoming a producer and sound mixer (after all, as a painter and colour mixer, I could count myself as being well on the way to having the necessary skills for this). Of course, I still love to record a guitar or bass phrase instrumentally - so as then to forget all about it afterwards, if it has blended in well.

Virtual Drifter Incarnation

In 1983 I bought the first freely programmable drum computer I could afford, a primitive device from today's perspective with just two dynamic levels and 12 bit samples which needed getting used to. Still a revelation nevertheless, which really put every beat box and drummer known to me personally in the shade. I could finally get the drummer to play exactly what I wanted! This was later succeeded by a further model (first used on ‘Broken Hill’), which already allowed us to set considerably more refined parameters (including Human Touch etc.) and which already sounded beautiful. I had been shown the way to musical virtuosity.

That alone, though, was not enough: around 1993 I acquired my first 'proper' computer second hand from a business studies student, an Atari 1040 ST, a model which was very popular in musician circles due to its built-in MIDI interface and the good music software specially adapted for this and which, entirely coincidentally, was also to change my life as well as that of many others. Due to the fact that I had no idea whatsoever and just jumped in at the deep end on my own, I had some really basic experiences. It was therefore my musical form of existence, which was of course always somewhat overshadowed by my profile as an artist, which provided me with an introduction into the world of digital virtualisations - an inspiration, which also increasingly stood in opposition to the 'first' life as an artist in terms of digital inputs and then became an everyday way of doing things. Only an apparent deviation, as I would perhaps have found the way forward even without it.

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