Custom-built instruments, found sounds and many rather odd mangling techniques, both digital and analog, are an essential part of my music. I like to take you, the listener, on an unusual journey, and sometimes an unusual journey requires unusual vehicles...

A few custom-built or "found" instruments:

The tin can banjo (see photo above) is a fretless instrument with a cookie tin resonator. It has six strings and I usually tune it like a guitar. Sometimes I play it with a bottle neck. Sonically it's somewhere between China and the Deep South. Since it is fretless, intonation is a bit of a challenge, and the cookie tin makes for some very rich, inharmonic resonances. It can be recorded both acoustically or with a contact microphone. You can hear it prominently on the track ARTEFACT on CINEMATIC, as well as on the songs RELIGION and BÜLOWSTRASSE on the 1997 album SQUARE PEG IN A ROUND HOLE.

Other examples are the flower pot clay-o-phon, an assemblage of regular clay flower pots (they love me at Home Depot, I shop for flower pots by pitch...), the marbelan, a marble tile idiophone that sounds a lot like some Javanese Gamelan instruments, as well as long string instruments based on designs by my friend Volker Staub (he came up with the idea of using oil cans as resonators for a 20+ foot piano wire strung across the house.)

I also have two large bookshelves filled with all kinds of toys, cans, whistles, sheets of metal, paper and other materials, a singing water heater (no joke...), and many, many more geegaws and doodads which serve as instruments or sample sound sources. On the soundtrack to the movie THE KILLING GROUNDS, I played my trombone with a bassoon mouthpiece, and for CUPID, I played parts of the score on a large piece of sheet metal, bowing it with a superball stuck on a BBQ skewer.

Currently I'm building a siren organ, using electro-mechanical sirens controlled by dimmer switches, also inspired by an older design by Volker Staub. This siren organ will be a center piece in a "ballett-oratorio" I am in the early stages of writing.

Three random examples of unusual processing techniques used in past works:

Baldwin Electro-Resonator (I used this one extensively on SOUND CONSTRUCTION): Locking the pedal of my old Baldwin Electro Piano in the depressed position to let the strings move freely, I sent a track through the built-in amplifier and speakers of the Baldwin, then recorded the pickups of the piano seperately as the strings were sympathetically vibrating. After using a narrow EQ to filter out the massive schmutz, it ended up sounding a bit like memories of Tibetan trumpets.

Oil can resonators: placing a microphone inside an oil can (or any other vessel) while playing/singing next to or above it makes for a very unique filter. This also works really well using long cardboard tubes. Using a dynamic mic, one can even fill the oil can with water and submerge the mic for some truly otherworldly filtering/morphing. (Thanks to Marty Lopez who taught me this one.)

Double-Vocoding: Vocoders analyze the frequency development over time of any given recording and apply that onto a different signal. Famous of course are the "70's talking synths." Analyzing speech, the same frequency developments over time are then applied to a synth signal, and voilá, the synth is talking. I used a double-approach of this technique in JÛRMALA I: Using slightly slowed down ocean wave recordings I had made earlier, I first mimicked the ocean waves using a sampled choir crossfading from vowel to vowel ("ooooaaaaeeeeeee", always synchronized with the waves.) The finished choir track was then sent through the vocoder with the waves as modulators. Finally, I mixed in the original wave recording, resulting in waves that sing!