Deer on the Sofa
German experimentalist Christoph Heemann performs October 21 in L.A. for the first time in his prodigious (and prodigiously left-field) music career. In 1983 Heemann, with Achim P. Li Khan, co-founded the duo H.N.A.S. (Hirsche Nicht Aufs Sofa, which literally translates as No Deer on the Sofa, but has been more commonly mistranslated as Moose Without a Sofa). The band produced legendarily limited-edition LPs that, before the Internet, were as rare as snow leopards and, after headphone listening, just as dangerous.
Natural heirs to the mantle of Krautrock, H.N.A.S. interwove strands of musique concrète, field recordings and sound poetry — so many different sounds that shouldn't work together but somehow do. (A great place to start is the constitutionally brilliant Willkür Nach Noten from 1993.)
Since H.N.A.S. dissolved — though reissues and remixes will claim otherwise — Heemann has become a catalyst of the experimental scene, working with Nurse With Wound, L.A. locals William Basinski and John Duncan, experimental supergroup Mimir (with Jim O'Rourke) and drone merchants Mirror.
There's a long-standing rumor that he bootlegged a lot of Whitehouse LPs, rumors being first cousins to mysteries. In an era of total transparency, art and music are the last strongholds of mystery and secrets.
When asked if the change from making noisy music to creating a calmer quality of sound was either a conscious decision or a natural change over time, Heemann reflects, "My work has almost always been very intuitive. The inspiration for a piece usually comes from certain sounds, textures and shapes that I experience/imagine in my head, which I then try to re-create with the means at hand. Thus the change of direction reflects a natural evolution of interests. However, I will not promise to not make harsh/abrasive music again as I can't foresee where my intuition will take me next. I would really like to compose and produce orchestral pieces eventually."
As the L.A. appearance winds down his seven-date U.S. tour, what does he miss most when he travels — and does that longing factor into the music he makes on tour? Heemann replies, somewhat wistfully, "When I am on the road, I somewhat miss the privacy and convenient comforts of home — minor things like my favorite music, coffee, etc. I don't think any of this affects the music I make when I am traveling very much, though. I believe that the change of scenery and the people I meet when I'm abroad have a more significant impact."
Christoph Heemann performs at 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 21, with the Vinny Golia Sextet and Grex at ResBox in the Steve Allen Theater at the Center for Inquiry, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood.
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