Josephine Bosma on Sun, 4 Oct 1998 17:08:51 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> test department interview excerpt

Interview excerpted from 'Neural', Italian magazine about the digital
culture at large.
web:  mail:

Test Department are one of the most respected activist
industrial/electronic bands.

1. Your last album shows a different approach from your previous works.
What has changed from your previous medieval and industrial age

"We move in a new industrial age not necessarily based in coal as previous
ages as the basis of the newer age is silicon. To this extent our
workweeks use the new technologies in a more explicit way while moving
away from the "older" ideologies that were voiced in that period. (I mean
our confrontational group politics of the eighties: UK miners strike and
our use of "Marxist film techniques and more heavy industrial drumming).
In essence what has changed, at least in the UK is a transfer of the
belief in collective traditional politics into a personal revolution

2. What's the actual role of technology in your music composition?

"Technology allows us to write music in such a way that compositions can
be rewritten and updated with ease. It allows us to have an affordable
quality studio." 

3. You say: "Technology is the material realization of ancient thought".
What do you mean exactly? 

"Example: Ancient thought believed in telepathic communication and
technology expresses this in a material form." 

4. What'd be a strategic use of the Internet? 

"Undermining the grip that massive telecommunication companies have on the
cost of global communication." 

5. What do you think of net strikes (strikes on the Internet, in which a
lot of people connect at the same time to government sites, blocking them)
recently performed to support the Zapatista movement? 

"Blocking them from whom? The basis of the net is communication based on
the assumption that I as an individual know what is good for me. I do not
require someone else to do my thinking for me. We fail to see the point of
it. Why use traditional "strike" methodologies that work well in the real
world (trade blockade, picketing and so on) in a modern communication
medium? We would have to have some further info on this!" 

6. Are you still involved in other media projects? 

Yes. Hardest problem of all is funding the studio so that we can produce
work and keep our equipment up to date. Several projects this year have
failed to get of the ground due to funding changes. We are looking to next
year to realize some ideas. Individual members do their own thing. 

7. Describe your actual and ideal live show. 

"Actual: Instruements are hit, several home-made, some sneaked out of
decaying industrial sites in the old steel mills of the north. Music,
rhythm pounds out, visuals fire up.. still images, graphic, abstract,
text... then they move... energy of event rises and falls. Finish: some
people go home others stay on." 

"Ideal: Huge360 degree panoramic projection screen raised stage in the
centre, various sculptures sit towering meters into the air at the
epicentre of this giant stage. These sculptures look like the three
monkeys see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. A single image runs
round the room projected from above the statues. Pounding dance music
fills the space...gradually band members appear on stage beating out
complex rhythms to the music, gradually it becomes clear that all the
music/rhythm is being generated from the stage. Rhythms change, sounds
come unexpectedly from objects on the stage (some objects tiny in size
produce howling Banshee noises...others barking roaring bear like
sounds...each becomes interwoven in the complex shifting sounds/ rhythms
from the stage. Around on screens images are projected. Where ever you are
in the space you can see sections of animation, read excerpts from Hackers
handbooks, see the pictorial evolution of the world. As the performance
progresses the sculptures are modified, rebuilt by various "technicians"
their form changes from gun toting terrorist to mother cradling baby
through to monster type machine through to mask of medusa to modern
political leaders (all this achieved through lighting as well as changing
the physical shape of the sculptures) As a "finale" a huge geosidic dome
is generated with green laser light above the space gradually band members
leave the stage and the DJs keep the whole thing going until the sun

8. What could be the human tactical evolution in a metropolis more and
more 'city of bits'? 

"8.1 The city has always been fragmented, what has changed is the number
of people who have access to this knowledge through the media and how this
knowledge is presented. If you have a heavy investment in the old belief
that everything was coherent, well and ordered then you are forced to
re-evaluate your whole belief structure. This can create fear, as change
usually does... hence the media's presentation of the state of things
(this is most clear in the descriptions of modern financial market
crashes.. often described with the naturalistic language of virusses or
catastrophe in an attempt to make the markets out to be what they believe
them to be.. that is free from human intervention as is the natural

"8.2 Human tactic would be to become aware of what you are capable of
changing, working on and doing that (whether that be in a trade union,
green activist, net provider, street cleaner.. whatever). You have the
choice of doing what you want to do or not. Blah blah blah" 

9. Which, in your opinion, are the most underestimated risks in our social

There aren't any.. always take risks and let others tremble at your
audacity. We would rather look at what is overestimated or even ignore
what the experts tell us is about what will happen over the next few
years. Invariably they talk a load of crap and merely express their own
neurotic obsessions. 

10. What's your actual relationship with the traditional media? 

None.. well: not much people still interview us, review our stuff and
print it for us, unlike this one where we have to do our own typing! The
traditional media won't be replaced by the internet just yet as only a
small percentage of people have access to a phone, can afford a computer,
can afford to pay the extra bills and can be bothered to log in (think PPP
or winsock and how awkward they can be). 

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