Arikon is the solo project of Berlin-based percussionist and producer, Arik Hayut. Readers of Stray Landings may recognise the name from his ‘doom-tech’ project, Gainstage, with Pierce Warneke. Arikon’s debut release, The Prophet’s Blood is Boiling, is inspired by the ‘beasts of holiness’: mythological monsters that appear in the Hebrew Bible and Jewish Apocrypha. This historical context should give you some sense of the mood on this album. This is a serious, grand record.
The cover artwork also gives a clue as to its sound. Inspired by Baroque painting, the cover of The Prophet’s… presents a bowl of rotting fruit. Following a serious health-scare in 2004, and a very gradual recovery, Hayut has focused his work on concepts of time, decay and death. This is music back from the abyss. In anticipation for his latest release, we caught up with Hayut to talk about the shows that he remembers best, for better or worse…
I was living in London as an art student at the time. The ‘New Musical Express’ magazine chose the debut album of an unknown Swiss band as album of the year 1989. I bought it, played it extensively, and immediately fell in love with the trio’s unique sound concept – samples, drums & vocal. Their London gig that year took place at a big pub in Hammersmith, and was fully packed. I stood in front of the tiny triangular stage at the corner of the pub, which was inhabited by a huge Akai sampler-keyboard, a drum kit and a microphone stand. For that time, it was a very unusual set-up. When the Young Gods finally appeared on this little platform, they managed to transform it with their output and presence into a huge stadium stage. Imaginative and rhythmic, very original use of sampling, combined with killer idiosyncratic drum-beats, and a singer/front man Bono could only have dreamt of becoming.
The power and energy that this trio generated at this point in time, nearly thirty years ago, was simply overwhelming. The atmosphere in the pub was gritty and hard, rough and sweaty. At a certain point a man carrying a fainted woman, shouting “out of the way!”, rushed his way through the mass towards the door. It felt like a war-zone. I remember noticing a paddle of thick red liquid on the bar surface, which looked like blood. Since I don’t react so well to the sight of blood, I needed to go out for some fresh air, but after a very short while on the pavement, I was simply drawn back in by that amazing sound. One of the best gigs ever, and a huge influence.
One of my first collaborations in Berlin was with bass player & DJ, Edu Delgado Lopez (Caspar Broetzmann Massaker). Before we formed our band ‘Monoblock’, we used to play as a duo at weird parties in the strangest locations – of which there was plenty of in late-nineties Berlin. Edu was on the turntables, and I was playing a Wavedrum (the original electronic drum by Korg) with effects, in that set-up we reached some pretty ecstatic moments together.
When it comes to gigs where the groove is the main thing, I have a habit of observing the audience from the stage, and tuning in on one person - meaning that this person would become my barometer for the ‘grooviness’ of the occasion. Through the body language and generated aura of that selected person I can read the situation and direct my playing accordingly – push the beat, hold it back, drop out, etc. I simply let my energetic field connect to someone else’s. On one occasion, we played an all-nighter in a pretty scruffy club called ‘Gartenhaus’, located at the end of a huge backyard behind the old legendary ‘Tacheles’. Neither of these places exist anymore.
I remember the atmosphere being quite heavy that night. Most audience members seemed to be very high on a wide variety of substances, whereas the situation on stage was not that different. Then, soon after we started playing, I saw him, and immediately recognized my ‘groove-barometer’ for that evening – a really big muscled young man, bold head, Ray Ban shades, black bomber jacket, army boots with white laces, tattoos on his forehead, robotic movement. It was clear to me, that had we met in any other situation, things may have not been so friendly, or simply put – this guy was pretty scary… At a certain point he was dancing ecstatically in frenzy just in front of the small stage on which I was playing. We were staring at each other, and it was clear we were feeding one another with energy. I was experiencing a state of trance with a Nazi. Not necessarily a pleasant experience, but most definitely a memorable one.
I was invited to play a self-built-percussion solo as apart of an exchange festival between Berlin and Hong Kong. It was an open air stage located on a huge parking lot, beneath the sky scrappers of the Bank of China. The organization was quite messy though, the technical crew did not really speak English, but all was done with a good spirit.
The sound-check was long and complicated, the micing of the set-up was important for the instruments to sound good. After it was over, I repeatedly emphasized to the sound engineer how important it is that the microphones remain exactly where they are, and the mixer settings kept. He reassured me that nothing will be moved until the concert, a few hours later. Alas, later that evening, when back on stage, in front of an audience filled parking lot, I felt that something was not right. Only after starting to play, had I noticed that a microphone placed above a big mounted bass drum, was completely off, about a whole meter away from it’s original position at the sound-check. Then I looked up, just to realize the two overhead microphones where not even mounted, there were only stands. It became clear to me, that the long, painstaking sound-check was in vain, and what came out of the PA was very far from what it needed to be. I got so mad, that I stopped playing, went off stage, through the audience towards the soundman. “What the fuck is happening? Where are the mic’s? Fix this NOW!!” I yelled at him. The guy looked at me, at first clearly disturbed by my rage, but then he simply smiled, nodded his head with both thumbs up and said in a profound Cantonese accent: “Yes, yes, very good!”
The audience mistook this rather awkward event for a gag, some even started laughing, when I was close to crying. At the same time, this was a moment of enlightenment: ‘screw the mic’s, fuck the sound, it’s all about energy’ – so I thought to myself, went back on stage and just beat the hell out of my plastic pipes, metal sheets and bass drum with full intention. It turned out to be a good gig after all.
Scenic Panner was a live A/V performance, which I was a part of. The idea - developed by programmer Urs Hoffer and video artist Stefan Bischoff – was MIDI triggering of urban images through live playing of acoustic instruments. I had triggers on my small drum-kit, generating midi-signals, so did the other musician, Jayrope, through his guitar. The result was an ever-changing landscape, as one sees through a window of a moving train, only these landscapes were sometimes rather absurd.
We played for the opening evening of Ars Electronica 2007 - however the memorable experience from that occasion was not the gig itself, but one of the sound installations on the festival’s program I witnessed the next day. It was an ‘audiowalk’ through nature and a small neighborhood which was built on the ruins of the former Gusen concentration camp. Participants would receive an mp3 player and headphones, and simply follow the instructions as of where to go at their own pace, while listening to descriptions and facts about the premises as well as survivors’ memories in their own voices.
It was a grey chilly day, and walking the main street, amidst the little renovated family houses, the land upon which they were built was sold for a rather moderate price during the sixties - the same soil which witnessed sheer horror some 60 years before - that was a bewitchingly strong and eerie experience. The colorful silence of nature, a train passing by, mixed with dry instructions and vivid recollections of horrific moments in the past, contributed to a rare sensation of past and present over blending into one another. One of the best sound-art events I had ever experienced. More details here.
It was a time when Pierce Warnecke and myself were busy in the studio, working on a track of our ‘Gainstage’ project. I had tickets for the gig, so after a long day in the studio we headed to see and hear Swans. When we arrived at the beautiful Volksbuehne the show had already started, and since it was completely packed, we ended up standing just beneath the stage (yes, with earplugs, I admit…).
The amount of energy, volume and power this band generates is simply astonishing. Both Pierce and myself where so charged and excited after the gig, that we decided to dedicate our project - which was mostly electronic until that point - to live tracks of drums and electronics. The result was our debut LP release on Portals Editions in 2015, ‘Gainstage’, which was created under a direct influence of that gig.
Arikon’s new LP, ‘The Prophet’s Blood is Boiling’, is out 13th April, with Portals Editions.