Improvised Music from Japan / Annette Krebs


(This interview was conducted on May 31, 2001 in Montreuil, France.)

Q: Where were you born?

I was born in Germany, near Saarbrücken in Saarland, and I've lived in Berlin for eight years.

Q: What year were you born?


Q: When did you start playing guitar?

I wanted to play guitar at four years old, but it was not allowed because I was small and the guitar was too big, so I had to learn another instrument first, and I started the guitar at 11 years old.

Q: Why did you want to learn guitar at four years old? That's very young.

I don't know. My parents asked me if I wanted to learn music. I said yes, and so I was in a group with three- and four-year-olds. I loved all the music. And we could decide which instrument to play, and I wanted to become a guitarist. I wanted to play flamenco guitar when I was four years old. I don't know why.

Q: When you started playing guitar at 11 years old, what kind of music did you play? Classical?

No, no. My teacher was, in fact, a jazz musician, and he taught me the notes, and also folk, and a bit of classical and a bit of jazz, and I made up my own songs also. When I was 16 years old I made peace songs, singing and guitar, like every 16-year-old--a bit of rock and a bit of everything. And then I wanted to study, and I decided to study classical music.

Q: Did you always take private lessons, or did you go to a music school?

It was a music school...but it was my own choice to go there.

Q: When did you begin playing improvised music?

This question is very difficult, because improvising is making music without anyone telling you what to do. It's like a game. I started when I was a child, in fact, doing what I wanted--but not with noises, only like children do, playing with instruments and recording things and trying things out.

Q: As a child, what kinds of things did you improvise?

It's not so good to say in an interview, but I was singing songs about my teacher in school, about whether I liked her or not. And I was improvising a lot of songs for myself, with poems and words, about school and life and everything. And I was singing and playing a lot.

Q: When you were 16, what time period was that?

It was the period in the small town where I lived when a lot of people were fighting against the cold war, and we made demonstrations against war and against atomic power, and we were singing songs for peace and these things, and I was just influenced by classical and jazz and peace songs and songs I did myself.

Q: Did you hear any jazz guitarists at that time?

No, I didn't listen to jazz guitarists. I just studied it and...

Q: How about Derek Bailey...

I didn't know Derek Bailey. It was very late that I discovered all the improvised musicians--in fact, in Berlin. Before that, I painted a lot--abstract painting. And I liked Dadaism and all these kinds of things. And I played what I painted sometimes. And I painted what I played. But I did it all for myself, and I didn't have connections to other people who did the same thing.

Q: So at that time, before you went to Berlin and got into improvised music, what style of things were you playing?

I lived in Frankfurt, and I started studying classical guitar at that time. At the same time I was making abstract paintings, and I tried to play the abstract paintings, but only a bit. Perhaps it didn't sound very good, like with melodies only, and abstract lines--it was not yet noises. It was always pitches. And I played a lot of baroque music at this time, to discover the European tradition. I made a lot of composed music. At the same time, I also visited the jazz scene a bit, to listen to it, and I went to a jazz course in the conservatory, given by a guitarist. But that did not inspire me very much. It's very hard to have to make one scale in every... on the sideboard, and for me it was a bit boring--the scales, up and down and up and down, and so I did not enjoy it so very much. I enjoyed the baroque music more. It was freer for me than the jazz music. I don't know why.

Q: So you moved to Berlin eight years ago, and then did you meet some musicians? How did you get into the kind of music that you're playing now?

I went there, in fact, to learn more about music, and also to meet musicians and to know what was happening in music. And I went to concerts there and contemporary concerts, and there I met musicians, of course, and I began to know the improvised scene. And we met and we had sessions and so on.

Q: When you moved to Berlin, were you still holding the guitar the conventional way?

When I moved to Berlin, I played guitar like classical, but I wanted to forget this--I wanted to forget the classical education, because it's not very free. And I tried out some stuff. First I was playing classical guitar in pubs, to get out of the classical--you know, it's very serious, and I wanted to put this music in another place--this was nice. And then, to forget the scales--it's in the hands, you have so many scales--at one time I preferred to hold the guitar like a cello, and to take strings off and have only a few strings. I was also holding the guitar in the "normal" way. And then I started putting the guitar on the table, I think it was only three years ago, because it's easier to have the guitar flat because the preparations don't fall off. I have many things on the guitar, and it's more practical.

Q: A few years ago you were putting the guitar on a table, and now you put it on your knees. Why?

Perhaps I'll change again in a few months. The reason for the table was that it's practical to have the preparation stuff around the guitar, so I had the table guitar, and here I had the mixing desk--all on the table. And at that time I wanted to find a kind of music very much like a statue--like something which stands here, like an object. Not like being a musician who is moving and making music, but making objects with two amplifiers. That means not being a musician, in fact, only being someone who makes objects. So the guitar was not part of my body; it was here on the table, and I was here. It was farther away from me. But then I discovered that perhaps the music is music and I cannot make objects, really, with music--something that's not there--so I took the guitar here on my knees again. I can do more with movements; it's easier. And I put the mixing desk on the table, which is the thing that makes left and right and high and low and all this. Perhaps also it's easier to play some stuff when the guitar is closer to the body and not so far away, for some technical reasons.

Q: But basically, are the things that you're doing with the guitar the same as before?

Yes, and... you can put the guitar on the table and make very great music--I'm only talking about my feeling now about this, because there are many guitarists who use a table and it's great. It's only feelings. And I think it changes all the time, a bit.

Q: So when you put it on your knees, does the music change?

Yes, I play a bit differently, because the distance between the instrument and the body is different. Technically, I can put the microphones in another position, and this changes the sound a bit. Sometimes I change the position of the guitar to find new ideas. But also playing the same--it's easier to do some stuff that is more complicated. It's only for technical reasons--to put it here or there or like this or that. And also, putting the guitar in a certain position gives you the possibility of doing a lot of things without much movement...with the body and the strings and the microphones.

Q: What projects are you working on now, besides the duo with Andrea Neumann?

I sometimes play solo, and I play a lot of duos, in fact. I play with Taku Sugimoto, Kirstin Fuchs, Alessandro Bosetti. And trios. There are also a few projects which we rehearse and which are developing, I'm not sure in what way. Also I work with a woman who makes abstract videos. I sometimes do the music for the videos, and now we're trying another new project. Her name is Sandra Becker. I play in a quartet with musicians from Vienna--Christoph Kurzmann and Burkhard Stangl. And also a big group in Berlin--Andrea plays in it, too--an octet. The musicians in the big group also play together in other combinations sometimes. There's Axel, Ignaz Schick, Robin Hayward...

Q: What's the name of the group?


Q: Does it have a CD?

We've recorded a CD. We now have a lot of material, and we may make a CD. We were asked for one. And also, sometimes there are quartets.

Q: What about CDs that are already released?

Not many. I only have two CDs, and this started last year.

Q: One CD with Taku...

Yes, and one with Andrea, because we were asked to do it by Charhizma in Vienna. I never asked someone to make a CD of mine, I don't know why. I'm not so good at asking people to make a CD.

Interviewer: Yoshiyuki Suzuki

Last updated: June 23, 2001