Interview in Audion magazine, issue #18.

Interview in Audion magazine, issue #18.

June, 1991

“The Changing Skies of Jeff Greinke”

A name that has regularly cropped up in the pages of Audion, Jeff, despite having a number of releases to his credit, is still a largelly unknown musician. His music which bridges synth, the avant-garde, ambient and industrial styles, can also be simultaneously accessible and challenging, a music in a no man’s land for which no journalist has yet coined a cliche. If anything, Jeff’s music is all about atmosphere, a power through subtlety.

But, let’s not just take my opinion, let’s see what the man has to say about the music himself…

AUDION:
Well, first Jeff, I’m sure we’d all like to know something about your musical upbringing, training, early discoveries, etc.

Jeff Greinke:
I started making music in 1980. I was studying Meteorology at the time and had been, for several years, involved with music through radio programming and concert promotion. I then met Rob Angus who was studying music at the university. He passed along some of his work to me and I was rather impressed! We became friends and he invited me to join him in the studio.

AUDION:
Who is this Rob Angus? Has he made any records himself?

Greinke:
Rob Angus is a composer and visual artist with a great deal of talent. His studio work involves similar instrumentation to my own, in fact we share the same studio. His music is generally darker and stranger than my own. It’s full of texture and powerful crunchy sounds, often consisting of driving, complex rhythms. I like his music a lot. Unfortunately, very little of his work is available; he has yet to realize any albums. He’s also quite a xerographer, using found objects and layering them on the copy machine, sometimes moving the objects. He creates very spacial and textural abstract pieces by constructing three dimensional sculptural collages. They’re quite unusual and attractive. Certainly, if I had never met Rob my world would not look or sound the way it does to me.

AUDION:
Could you name a few influences, maybe something which changed your perception of music?

Greinke:
It was this coinciding with hearing a record by David Moss called TERRAINS which awakened me to the notion it was possible to make music without prior musical training. Not that Moss hadn’t any training himself — I’m not sure. But this record inspired me. Using just a 4-track, his voice, and a few percussion instruments, he constructed pieces that to my ears are rich and beautiful; quite static really, through constantly changing internally, like a river, full of texture, motion, and depth. I was taken. And it occurred to me how immediate the voice is as an instrument. With Rob’s invitation to join him in the studio, I now had an instrument through which I could express myself. So I started vocalizing, and Rob, having rather adept hands in the studio, processed and manipulated my vocal sounds. Our work was largely improvised and interactive. In the meantime, I began to learn how to use the studio as an instrument.

AUDION:
Yes, Moss’s techniques on TERRAINS were very interesting and inspiring. But whilst he’s remained doing much the same since, your music developed in a very different direction. You must have had other influences/notions that you followed?

Greinke:
This is a hard one for me to answer. It seems to me that Moss’ work has changed more than my own, at least with respect to the music I’m thinking of – side 2 of TERRAINS. In fact I wish he’d spent more time exploring those kinds of soundscapes. My music, on the other hand, hasn’t changed that much in direction. So I’m curious as to how and what you mean. The changes as I see are in a greater use of rhythm and melody and an almost total abandonment of industrial sounds. But texture, space, timbre, harmonics, and an interest in creating a sense of place has always been my focus. Over time I feel I’ve developed those elements onsiderably and perhaps my work sounds different as a result. Many people detect a world music flavour in what I do and possibly this is one direction you’re referring to. I’m sure this quality is more evident in my more recent work. I suppose from all the years spent listening to ethnic music records it inevitably has found a way into my music. Also I spent six months travelling through South East Asia and spent a considerable amount of time in Java and Bali where I heard and recorded a lot of music. I can now detect some influences from that period on CHANGING SKIES giving those pieces a different quality in comparison.

AUDION:
My assumption about David Moss was actually based on the collaborative work I’ve heard him do since. If he’s done any further innovative solo work I’ve yet to hear it. So, you then went on to making your own music. How did you go about this?

Greinke:
The large studio process at the university, however, became rather tedious for me. So I started making music with much simpler equipment. I purchased a used 2-track reel-to-reel and devised a means by which I could multitrack ad infinitum. I did this by bypassing the erase head. It was crude but it worked. It also lent an inherent processing effect which I found appealing. With this simple set-up I was able to make music on the spot, in my bedroom, where I continued to compose for several years, slowly accumulating equipment.

AUDION:
What instruments do you use now?

Greinke:
I now use an 8-track reel-to-reel. My instruments include a Roland S-10 sampler, a Prophet monophonic synthesizer, guitar, turntable, trombone, trumpet, percussion, pre-recorded sounds, a few processors, and voice.

AUDION:
You seem to use a lot of “found” or “borrowed” sound. Is this so, or do you make these sounds and textures by your own means, and then mutate and disfigure them? A lot of the sonic textures yo uuse are totally unidentifiable!

Greinke:
With respect to my “borrowed” sounds, I rarely make these sounds by my own means, i.e. I don’t go out into the field and record. Many of my sounds which may sound borrowed, however, may actually come from one of my instruments. Anyway, many of my environmental sounds are taken from sound effects records and then sampled, looped, processed etc…

AUDION:
Many people describe your music as “Eno-esque,” obviously referring to his DISCREET MUSIC or ON LAND. I suspect this feel is created by the multi-tracking technique you referred to, which created an “ambient” ghostly atmosphere.

Greinke:
Yes, I think I’ve become rather adept at layering sounds. It was good for me to have begun making music on such crude equipment as it forced me to push my machines as far as I could to obtain the sort of depth and texture and ambiance I wanted. Through layering and a lot of attention to processing I’m able to achieve this quality. I didn’t even own a reverb unit until quite recently, relying on digital delay to help create a sense of space. I use the studio more than any other instrument to express myself. My tape deck, mixing board, processors, and various acoustic and electronic instruments are my tools.

AUDION:
Have you ever used souns from other musicians’ records? It seems to be a common practice nowadays

Greinke:
I have indeed–mostly ethnic records. I’ve also used sound effects records quite extensively. I think it’s great that more artists are creating music this way. Timbral variety is that much more accessible to us. Finally, it’s argued that any sound has potential to be an ingredient in a piece of music.

AUDION:
Do you try to say anything through your music, or is it purely for enjoyment?

Greinke:
I really am not trying to say anything with my music. As you suggest, it is purely for enjoyment. I am, though, interested in creating intriguing pieces for the listener to spend time in, places which fall between the familiar and the exotic.

AUDION:
CHANGING SKIES (his recent CD released on Multimood and reviewed in Audion #16 p.26) is distinctly more “polished” with a more symphonic type sound. Is the title meant to suggest this? Or is it a hint at a new style?

Greinke:
I agree, CHANGING SKIES is somewhat more polished than my earlier works. This comes from my ability to better use the studio. The title was chosen, however, through my visual interest in the sky and how it changes from day to day, minute by minute. In Seattle it’s cloudy a lot, though not just with a grey overcast; often, and particularly in the Spring and Fall, we get skies which are constantly changing, full of broken clouds, some close, some far, moving in different directions of various shades and colours, giving the sky a sense of texture, rhythm, space, and this I think is much like my music. So it’s not really an indication of any big changes, necessarily. Certainly, I hope my music will always be fresh and alive, but I’m not really thinking about any big changes in direction. Changes for me occur more organically than consciously.

AUDION:
Obviously you’ve listened to a lot of music in your life. Do you have any favourites?
Greinke:

Favourites include, in general, music from Java, Turkey and North Africa. Also, old jazz from the 1920’s and 1930’s, like Cab Calloway, Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington. In terms of more modern music, to name a few, I like Brian Eno, Steve Reich, Arvo Part, David Moss, Jon Hassell, Tom Waites… the list goes on.

AUDION:
Any plans for the future?

Greinke:
Future plans–eliminate having to work a straight job–I work 40 hours a week–so that I can focus more time on music.

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