NOTE: This is an interview from 2010 I did - this time with the amazingly talented and wonderful Hanne Adam. Her music (and art and photography) have all evolved and grown so much - I'm a huge fan of hers. - Apr 11, 2017 - John
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Interview with Hanne Adam / adamned.age
June 17, 2010
Earlier this year I discovered the music of Hanne Adam, recording as adamned.age through a release called "Whiteout" on Public Spaces Lab. It was such a great album to me that I tracked down more of her music and discovered her photography and artwork. She is truly talented. Hanne currently lives in Berlin, and grew up in Hamburg.
For the interview, I wanted to treat it more like a conversation. Each question has us going back and forth via email several times. I hope you enjoy this interview, I know I did.
Below the interview are links to Hanne's websites as well as her "Whiteout" album and a gallery of her photography. If you enjoy the photos and art - be sure to look at her flickr link as the photos can be viewed in a much larger format with more detail than shown here.
Thank you for reading!
john koch-northrup: You have a theme of urban exploration ("urbexing") in your photography and artwork. What fascinates you so much about the abandoned places you explore with your camera? I also find it so interesting that you do not want to reveal where these buildings are to preserve them in their current state, so they are not ruined by others...
hanne adam: the most fascinating aspect in old and abandoned places is the feeling of absence, the past, the time and the history of the old and mainly forgotten buildings, everything that is gone now is leaving something in the walls, strange feelings for e.g. and it will be always present in a very special way. it remains as feelings of what may happened and you just start to visualize the stories in your head... when we enter, we feel like "home" when we walk into an abandoned building, we know there is NOBODY, NOTHING but emptiness - except some other photographers sometimes - but mostly we are alone. all those feelings we try to banish on our flashcards (in form of photographies and sometimes film and field-recordings too) are the feelings of being on our own and in a real different world - kind of fantastic. To be without noises, traffic, and people is a huge and undescribable feeling and the decay all around is just so beautiful and aesthetically. I think you can imagine how peaceful it can be, although it is spooky sometimes and the rush you get is unavoidable. it's an integral part of "urbexing", of course...
john: I've somewhat had this feeling of discovering places or things that have mostly been forgotten. My wife and I like to take photos at a large cemetery in Peoria near where we live - it's in the middle of a city, but surrounded by trees and wildlife, hills and valleys. When we're there we only run into a couple people usually. I also have gotten that feeling when I have my headphones on doing field recordings. I like to get right up close to sounds of insects or machinery - sounds that are always there, but buried in the background clutter of everyday life. Bringing the microphone up to them - and focusing. It's almost like macro photography, but in sound. I've rarely been in old abandoned buildings, but I find the timeless beauty, the lost worlds in these buildings fascinating through photos by people like you.
hanne: Yeah, this sounds interesting. We too record sounds sometimes... it is like "recording the silence as the most important sound we can take". We like to achieve what you said, we try to transport our personal experiences into our art (pohotgraphy) to make it sensible to others.
john: With EXurban - you have a partner - how did you two form the partnership?
hanne: EXurban is a project formed out in 2007. Tanja and me always got the same interests in urban exploration, music, lyric poetry, same kind of films, nearly everything... and we both are musicican and photographer so our project-work was almost obviously. Beside my solo-work, "EXurban" is the most important project to me.
john: This sounds like a perfect partnership.
hanne: of course, it is!
hanne: I live in a relationship and two cute cats in a typical old building in Berlin. I love children but haven't any...
john: My wife and I have been married 18 years next month. Same on children, love them, but don't have any. We've adopted rescue dogs from shelters over the years. Our current dog, Peanut, we adopted last November. She's a blind 8yr old short hair dachshund. She's wonderful.
hanne: wow, this sounds so great! Love animals often more than some people and I am a vegetarian ONLY for reasons of ethic aspects. I really admire real help for all treated animals!
john: Formal training? Did you go to school for photography, art, music, etc... Or, are you simply natural at what you do?
hanne: I studied graphic design (for many semesters) in hamburg/germany and I learned a lot about audiovision, drawing, painting and design. Other things like web design or photography for example, I taught myself, there are many things I learn as an audiodact because I love to keep on learning new things. I started playing piano at the age of 6 but 8 years later I was more interested in a more rhythmic instrument like the drums, so I start learning it and played it for many years, also taught it later. Parallely I learned playing guitar and really like to play it and sing. In 1996 I started to integrate the computer into my musical work, since 2002 I mainly produce computer-based music.
john: We have some parallels... I started piano at 5, trumpet through school, and started playing bass when I was 19. Started tinkering with audio on computers around 1996, and then switched entirely to recording on computer in 1999.
hanne: Yeah, sounds quite similar. We both seems to start in the end of the 90's with our computer recordings. It was just THE time...
john: Do you have a day job?
hanne: I fall ill since 5 years now. I suffer from a rheumatic disease and a chronic pain syndrome, so by now it is impossible for me to work in an ordinary job but if I had the choice, I am sure I would work as a web-designer, a video editor or a sound designer maybe.
john: Wow. That's very sad to hear. I hope at some point medications come along that will enable you to live with a lot less pain. That must also make it difficult to explore abandoned buildings. I've been doing IT work - mostly making data into useful information - since the early/mid 90's. I've lived with asthma all my life (and hope they get some new medications out for that also!) - and have problems with my hands/wrists. Fun fun fun!
hanne: asthma sounds bad too, I guess in summertime it is hard! For me the cold weather is a more painful time. Yes, I am happy to have such a new medicine, like the biologica against my rheumatism, although I must inject it by myself every day. Unfortunately this don't work against my pain syndrom and so I have to keep on taking morphine too, to bear the pain. I also had to grapple a lot with psychologic trauma I was constricted of additionally my whole life through, so it was never easy to me. Once I said that the music saved my life in very authentic way...
john: You release a lot through netlabels now, have you released any music commercially prior? Did you release in other forms before your netlabel releases?
hanne: my forthcoming release, planned for summer 2010, will be a digital release and thus commercially. In the past I just released on commercial compilations but not more than a track or two. With "EXurban" we released a cd-r but it was an "on demand" release. All other releases were under creative common license yet I always like to release my music for free. For the future I think I will try both, trying to sell my music but also keep on sharing some parts of it...
john: I think you're heading down a perfect balance of commercial vs. creative commons. The collapse of cd's as the way mass numbers of people get music now makes it almost required to go digital if someone wants more than a few ears to hear their work.
hanne: yes, that's true, I must say that I love the pysical media like CD's. We grow up with records, tapes and later on CD's and today almost the CD's dies out.. a little bit sad to me, I think music deserves an appropriate medium, like a CD or so, something you can take in your hands but I know I must let this idea behind in our times, although I am also hooked by all the technical possibilities of our modern times and love to use it. I almost like to release a little CD edition sometime, just a heart thing, you know??
john: Yes, I still very much want to release a 12" vinyl - even though I know it won't sell enough to break even. But still - it's a goal. I love the convenience of an mp3 player with a large and varied collection of music on it - but I do miss the physical process of looking through the spines of a bunch of records or cds, pulling it out, looking at the artwork and liner notes while it's playing. It's more of a nostalgia thing now.
john: Were you in a band when you were younger? What instruments did you play?
hanne: Yes, I played drums in bands but it was not really intensive. We got a few gigs and all in all it was a big fun but as I gave out my ideas on the songs, I realized that I love to arrange and compose whole tracks by myself, so I started using a simple 8-track-recorder and began recording my own trip-hop tracks. I had fun playing together with others but admittedly I am more the "loner" musician.
john: Very similar for me - I loved playing in bands and I had a great time doing it, but for me - a band is around 10% great and fun and 90% challenging - with band member egos, getting gigs, hauling gear. I far prefer working in my studio and occasionally getting together with a few people and jamming. All of my collaborations have been long distance. Fantastic you had an 8-track recorder - I had access to 4-tracks only until I switched to recording on computer.
hanne: Yes, that's it, I am just the person who likes to tinker on all my stuff nobody would catch on and so it is really mine. I also work in collaboration but this is a different work for me. For example, I love to sing but I only can do this alone. So, a bit difficult if I try this in a band... it is so personal to me and singing is the most individual instrument everyone owns.
john: What are your all time favorite books? Did they influence you in some way?
hanne: This question is not to be answered easily... it is less "the book" that take influence than the whole lyric poetry. for example I like the melancholical and more profound context in the media, in every case it is the abstract, the deep, the experimental and the thought provoking ways of artistic statements I prefer.
john: Very interesting. I have to admit - I like books as more of an entertainment and escape sort of thing. I love to open a book and explore a new world.
hanne: ah, that's interesting because I started reading again. For a long time I couldn't read really, cause of less concentration a.s.o. but now I can read again and to me it is also like in a different world, I can dive in and am away for a time....
john: My wife recently bought me a Nook eReader which has been wonderful to me. My hands make it difficult to hold a physical book for very long, but an eReader is light and can be propped up easily. She's opened up reading to me again - which I greatly missed. I love reading. I'm glad you've been able to start again.
john: You grew up in a divided Germany, what was it like for you when the Wall came down?
hanne: No, I think you get it wrong, because I actually lived my whole life in hamburg and not in berlin... for 30 years my home was in the north of germany and not in the east like nowadays. But actually I witness the fall of the wall and today I am very interested in the history of the DDR and to me Berlin is my hometown now because I never loved a town as much as this one!
john: Yes, I messed this question up. I was thinking that before 1989/1990 - there were two countries. I grew up in the US during the 70's and 80's and knew them as East Germany (DDR) and West Germany (I'm not sure what the correct abbreviation is, but I see FRG as the English abbreviation in Wikipedia...). I really just thought it might be interesting what your perspective would be of growing up in Hamburg - and then when you were a teenager seeing the two country's merge back into one. In all honesty, I think this question is probably out of place and difficult to answer. I do remember the news coverage of the fall of the Berlin Wall - and how much that image remains in my memory. Very iconic. Not sure if we should leave this question/conversation - or delete it.
hanne: no, I wouldn't delete this question but I let you choose. To me the devided germany is a big thing now. When the wall came down I was actually speechless, it was a very breathtaking moment to all of us in germany...
john: It was so amazing to witness it on tv here in the United States - I can't imagine how it felt to someone living in Germany.
john: You are happiest when ______________ .
hanne: ...I could be healthy and free of pain.
john: Such a good answer!
john: How do you write music? What is the process for a typical adamned.age song?
hanne: I do not "write" it actually.. It is more like an experiment to me. The whole process of the track development is like an experiment. It is hard to describe, I just let it flow, my feelings and my thoughts. I play around, primarily with software, I am not the kind of "hardware-junk". I use a lot of VSTi (virtual instruments) for my work and love to use "REAKTOR", the KONTAKT and KORE players and libs, MASSIVE and ABSYNTH by "native instruments" and many more. Also the effecting is a very important aspect in my productions, because a lot of sounds are just generated and formed out by effects. I do my work in a very practical way, no thinking about how things "must" be, just how it SOUNDS... I create sounds and in the next step I use them again for further sounds and I develop them til they are good for me. The drums are a very important aspect in my music and so a typical adamned.age track is a track with a quite wide range of variation in the percussive and rhythm section of the track. on the other hand I love to include wide pads, deep sounds, sweet tiny bells and groovy melodic lines. I hope that every track can stand as an individual track with its typical style.
john: This is a wonderful way to work. I also like to tinker with sounds and ideas and just let it flow. Exploring sounds and building or sculpting until I find the right feel - I also work heavily with effects and feedback loops to bring different elements into different effects to build a soundscape. I also tend to always start with drums (in the past old versions of Fruity Loops or Rebirth) - and my drums never stay the same - I'm always changing as I record - changing what drums are playing, how they're effected, etc... it's a "performance". Our main difference right now is I'm almost totally hardware - synths, hardware effects, bass, trumpet, piano - to me, tools are tools - and I love the feel of knobs and strings. I've recently bought the full version of Logic so will be diving headfirst into softsynths.
hanne: ok... yes, the feeling of an instrument is very comprehensible to me, because I started music just with them and still love it... but in the electronic music genre it is just that normal to use a lot of those "tools".
john: Why adamned.age? How'd the name come about, what does it mean to you?
hanne: the name "adamned.age" is originally a play on words with my real surname. You can read ADAM.H also like a damn(ed).age so you can image how it turns out to this... so thus it is a little ambiguous because it also meant as the "damned age" I am always in...
john: As soon as I read this I wondered why I hadn't thought of it?
hanne: haha, yes... I think a lot people wonder why I spell my name like this
john: What do you wish I had asked?
hanne: hm, don't know??? nothing in my opinion... thanks for your concern!
john: Fantastic - it's wonderful to get to know you a little better!
hanne: thanks, the same to you!
For more on Hanne Adam / adamned.age