© t thaemlitz/comatonse recordings
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In Expatriarch (Germany), March 28 2011.
Today Skylax Records is giving a wider release to Terre Thaemlitz’s 2006 album, Routes not Roots, originally released under the alias K-S.H.E (Kami-Sakunobi House Explosion) on his own label Comatonse Recordings.
As with much of his theoretical writings and lectures, the album is infused with politics, dealing with a range of issues from nationality to transsexualism, woven together with intricate house grooves and a wide spectrum of timbres, plus a few spoken word interludes and moments of reflective ambience ― it’s a success both conceptually and musically.
You can purchase the CD via Kompakt or at your local endangered species, ye olde record shoppe (but you won’t find it at digital retailer Beatport, who admitted to illegally selling Thaemlitz’s work last year).
To mark the occasion, Thaemlitz will visit from Japan to play in Berlin, this Thursday at Cookies, using his DJ Sprinkles moniker. All these different pseudonyms may seem a bit convoluted, but are actually quite fitting for someone so invested in identity politics. He’ll be joined by Skylax boss Hardrock Striker from Paris.
Terre graciously offered to discuss some of his non-musical influences, below, including Spinal Tap, Dr. Katz, roller disco and religious bigots.
This film, which came out in 1988, remains one of my favorites today. It lost some of its appeal after I moved to Japan, because the gender dynamics that make it so interesting in the West are utterly diffused of queerness and feminism within this country. However, Shusuke Kaneko is an openly queer Japanese director (which was no small feat in the 80s), and in this film he offers a Foucault-inspired narrative of the construction of gay sexual identities.
The cyber-Victorian setting ― in addition to being a favorite Japanese backdrop ― also refers us to that historical era when the Western Heterosexual/Homosexual paradigm came into being. Sexual deviance was no longer about "evil temptations" that could affect anyone at any time, but became about the body, science, etc.
Within this setting, four boys (all played by young women) struggle with the homoerotic tensions of heterosexual male bonding, jealousies, loves, suicides… The main character successfully commits suicide numerous times, each death symbolizing the assassinations of character we inflict upon ourselves in the process of "discovering" our sexuality, and also how those "deaths" affect the people who know us, including if they can accept us afterward.
I can relate to this idea of identity emerging through suicides of character, and trial and error (emphasis on error); rather than through more common, positive concepts of the self as always growing exponentially through "education" into self-realization. The fact that the story is set at a boarding school, but while on summer break (i.e. a period of non-learning), is also a bit poetic.
The premise is that Jonathan Katz, who is a comedian in real life, thinks there are parallels between the comedian/audience relationship and the patient/therapist relationship. So in this show he plays a therapist, and all of his patients are comedians who sit on his couch telling their best bits. Although the drawings are really clever in what they choose to illustrate, the show is wonderful to listen to like a radio program as well. This show really keeps me company, and in that way it's an influence.
Clearly humor is a big part of my own projects as well, although in a much more underhand fashion. I envy the people who made this. Actually, I got Laurence Rassel hooked on it, too. We watched it quite a bit when she was here in Japan working on The Laurence Rassel Show around 2005.
The documentary format totally had one of my former partners believing the whole thing, if you can imagine! One day we were watching it for about the millionth time, and she finally bothered to read the notice at the end of the movie where it says it's all a joke… It turns out that for years she thought I was cynically laughing at a real rock documentary, and that I was a bad person for laughing at the band! [Laughs]
My trademark move, which in hindsight is totally asinine, was when trying to help someone who fell get back up on their feet: I would literally charge at them full speed, then at the last second jump over them doing a spinning butt kick while in the air, landing on my toe stoppers, skidding to a stop with my hand out to help them stand up! [Laughs] What was I thinking? I scared the crap out of some adults who thought I was going to run them over like that, but I cleared ‘em every time. People, do not try that at home! [Laughs]
I remember when I was around age ten, pissing off some high school students because they challenged me on the floor, and I put them to shame. Well, I got lucky… but stuff like that was tons of fun. It was a rare place where I was actually good at something "athletic."
The rinks were where I got to hear disco, new wave, Sugar Hill… I can still remember that feeling when the intro to Gary Numan's "Cars" would start playing - "wawawawawawawawawawawa…" - the mirror ball and disco lights would go crazy, and everyone just went berserk. Skating was the one thing I truly loved doing as a kid. I still skate, although these days outdoors with inline skates, since the disco rinks have pretty much all closed down. I miss them.