I am Artur Tadevosyan a.k.a. Spielwiese. Composer, even though more sound designer during recent years. During my daily job, I write music for TV and films. The rest of the time it is electronic music, to balance it out. I am getting tired when I do a lot of commercial music. I need to turn on the polivox synthesizer when I am back to make some noise music, to clear my ears up. Sometimes I go for field recordings, that a different project. I produce when I have a story to tell, like my last album.
I started playing guitar when I was 5. I wanted to play football outside rather than practice. I reapproached it when I was 10 when my father started playing with his friend. He is a bass guitarist, which inspired me to play as well. It got serious for me. I realized that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I wanted to be the best guitar player.
Furthermore, I was 13 when we left Armenia for Poland. We moved again in 2 years to Germany. I was playing in different bands at that time, was teaching guitar lessons, everything was serious. But then I met Obee, who later became my mentor, and everything turned upside down. When he introduced John Cage to me, playing guitar became useless for me (laughs). I haven’t recovered from that shock since then.
Who influenced your musical taste?
When I was 10 it was mostly guitarists. Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Garry Moor. I was on the path to becoming a guitarist. But everything changed in Germany. Karl Heinz Stockhausen was living 100 km away, and that idea that such a legendary composer lives in cologne meant a lot to me. I remember Obee once took me to the city library and got me 7 books and told me to read them all. I was in Germany for only 3 months and was mostly speaking English, didn’t know German at that time. So I started reading. He also introduced me to electronic music. When I was visiting him, we were watching Viva 2. It was an alternative TV channel. You could watch Merzbow, who was making noise in front of his notebook and destroying music. Obi was always pointing out some interesting things, he was widening my perceptions. He could mention that, for example, the sample used in this hip hop track is actually was written by composer Bernard Herman for Hitchcock. And as I had no idea who Hitchcock was, he was sending me to watch Hitchcock as well.
He was educating me. He was a guitarist, even tho he told me that he didn’t like it. He had a studio. I first saw a sampler there, it was very impressive. So I got into contemporary classical music. A. Schönberg, Alban Berg, Anton Webern all Students of Schönberg. Then I got more from the library. The little town had a wonderful library. I got more electronic music from there. Iannis Xenakis, first compositions of Stockhausen,70s synth music of Klaus Shults. I started reading and listening to everything I could get.
I was 18 when I bought my first sampler, Akai S 2000. That was a life-changing moment in my life. After one week, I suddenly realized that I haven’t played guitar. It was an extraordinary thing, as I have been practicing guitar almost every day for an hour since my childhood. The guitar was not primary for me anymore. I started listening to Apex Twin, Squarepusher, drum’n bass.
I got to play guitar again though, as I had to earn money somehow. I was giving guitar classes. But when I was back home, it was electronic music all again. I got into MaxMSP, was making plugins for my self. Then I discovered Basic Channel. I started playing live electronic sessions as well. Back in 2005, I was jamming my tracks, as I didn’t like copying and pasting in Ableton. I hate copying tracks like that, I got tired very quickly. Then I was recording the result on another computer and the result was my master track. I produced many tracks like that.
You like improvising, huh?
I can work on one sound for hours, but get tired very quickly when there must be a change every 8 or 16 bars. When I play live, I get into the flow, and it doesn’t matter how many beats later the kick will hit. When you are using DAW, squares on the interface remind you that all the time. But I like it to be on the flow, however, it progresses. When you hear, you see that it’s not structured as “it is supposed to be”.
Who inspires you as a musician?
I hardly listen nowadays. I take my inspirations from films, fine arts, art in general. I don’t like direct inspiration from music. On the contrary. I can listen to things that are contrary to what I do. It gives me much more. During the last years I am more inspired by visual media. They inspire much more, than music ever did.
So you translate from image to sound?
It depends. It can be the story of the film, even the color from it. I can notice the character of the color in film. Ask me why is this character in red while the others are black. I start imagining how it would be in music to have such a vivid element. My, though, the process is something like this rather in musical genres.
So who inspires from visual arts then?
If I could name one director, it would be Stanley Kubrick. But I don’t limit myself. I am open to new things. It can be Blade Runner 2049. I immediately think how could that color pallet sound. I see things while I am composing music. And the ones that I see very clearly become my best compositions. I visualized patterns while creating my last album.
Nah, I don’t have that talent, even though I developed my sense of imagining the sound. I paint pretty much my entire life, and started to paint even more 3-4 years ago. It opened me up to what music can be. I try not to approach music with music. I am more interested to understand how is my music for a person who has no connection to music. Still, my music is very specific.
How did you end up collecting instruments?
I am like any other electronic music producer, I like instruments. When I first bought the soviet instrument, I realized that they have a different character. I had been using Roland, Korg synthesizers for years, but here soviet synthesizers have totally different sounds that I appreciated. Not good or bad sound, just different.
I started to buy them, play them and sample them. The thing was, as they are monophonic, you can’t play chords, which limits you. So I decided to fully sample one. The first one was Electronica EM25. It has no midi, as all soviet synthesizers, if it is not modified. So no midi to connect anything to hold the chord. I was duct-taping to be able to play sustained chords and have my hands free to turn the knobs.
The sampling turned out to be pretty good. I sent it to Sound Dust, who had been realizing really great libraries for the Kontakt Sampler since years. He liked it and suggested making a full tool out of it. So I immersed myself in making that tool for almost a year. That was hard, the synthesizer was losing tune all the time or one of the keys was not working. But in the end, it was magnificent.
By the way, sampling could be very meditative. You enter a zen state while you are holding 16 seconds for each key. It teaches you to focus. One blink and you lose it, it is out of tune again. You either invest into it 100 percent or you fail. Editing was tough as well. Cutting, naming, export, import. It was a very tedious process, but I like it.
Did it have an impact as a musician?
A lot. I noticed that I started to listen to instruments differently. When you listen to waveforms of oscillators for hours, your listening transforms. That waveform vibrations of analog instruments changed my perception.
Do you lean towards analog?
I always loved the analog sound. We are the generation that dreamed to have analog instruments. There was already digital, which was decent, but analog is different. I had good analog synthesizers. Korg MS20 is a wonderful instrument. But I am not a purist. I don’t care whether it is analog or digital. I like them both, for each has its own character. I avoid dogmas, be it genre, sound, or technology.
What about modular synths, I know you started using them as well?
Yeah, this is untapped territory for me. I didn’t like eurorack that much. I am more into banana jack synths. This kind of music is very specific. I listen to dear horn podcasts. They are very interesting. It is very niche and very beautiful.
Spotify is overshadowing all other musical platforms. What are your thoughts on that?
I have a problem with Spotify. They support the big names. The business model they have must be revisited. It is better to listen to artists on Bandcamp, and they buy them. In Spotify, you can listen them for a thousand times, and they will earn half a dollar. Also, in order to succeed in Spotify, you must invest a lot of money for promotion to get into the right playlists. No other way around, as the system limits you. But there are ways to manipulate the system, like many fandoms are doing. They collectively manipulate the algorithms, so their idol will put them ahead. That’s not fair.
Alternatives? Bandcamp, probably YouTube. We are returning full cycle. Artist start earning as they used to do centuries prior internet, touring and live concerts, as sales dropped significantly.
On the other side, lockdown doesn’t allow touring and concerts. So it is a tough moment.
One of my DJ friends says that the post-pandemic situation is vibrant, as a lot of wonderful music has been published. People were home and finally had time to create things. Big crises bring big opportunities as well. For me, the lockdown was helpful as I put enough time sampling the soviet synthesizer, I released my album the way I wanted to. I took my time, recording hours after hours. Where are we heading? I don’t know. But one thing I know for sure. Man, people did a lot of modular synth music during the pandemic (laughs.)
You started a new project called Spielwiese for live sessions. Where did that name came from?
I sent the photo of my studio to my German-based composer friend, who is also into electronic music. You made a spielwiese, he claimed (playground in German). It immediately clicked, he was right. Spielwiese became my studio name and later, my moniker. I created the character of a clone wearing a mask 🤡 and it (Spielwiese) completely embodies the philosophy of creative freedom, joy, positivity, and the idea of living the moment, being present.
As I play with analog instruments it is never the same session, no matter how much I try, it is always another outcome. And I like it. It is a challange for myself to find a unique sound. I also like the interaction with the audience. I like how they react and move. It is very rewarding when they enjoy both your performance and the music you create on the spot.
What is your setup for Spielwiese?
It is AKAI mpc 1, thats my main sequencer paired with РИТМ-2 also known as Ritm Dva or Rhythm-2, a direct recreation of the ’80s Soviet one-osc monophonic analogue synthesizer and VG Line BASS DRUM BD 9Q9 analog kickbox. As a result 9Q9 recreates and repeats analog signals from AKA in a very wierd way. I may also use Soma Laboratory’s Pulsar. I keep my setup as compact as possible.
The wonderful thing about this setup is that sequencing never ceases to surprise me. Suddly a high hat will occure, that was not supposed to be there.Some things may be as surprising for the audience as for me, and that’s wonderful.