Mike Hansen – Q/A

Mike Hansen

A lot of my fondest memories of CKLN-FM involve an old friend by the name of Mike Hansen. We first met in the mid-1980s. He hosted an overnight show after my 12 – 2 a.m. timeslot. It was the noisiest, most gleeful radio program I’d ever heard. I’ll never forget the time I walked in on him stringing a tape loop (I’m talking about a real-live loop here) out of the booth, through the lobby and into the record library. Those were the days.

Hansen parlayed his radio adventures into a successful career as a multimedia artist. He and I talked about his new work Blues this week.

Describe what you do.

My work – in both my art and music practices – is based in noise. Noise is often defined as what it isn’t: soothing, calming, peaceful, pleasant, etc. I find noise to be misunderstood. I hear and see noise as the genesis of all sound. It’s like a dandelion; a flower with bad press.

Fitting.

My works question the standard rules of sound-making. Collected sound doesn’t have to have tempo, rhythm and the other tools that make sound flaccid. Philosophically, my art is based on Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guatarri’s thinking that we are not controlled by the Oedipus but by social and societal influences escaping both the Freudian and Lacanian ideals of the family. I’m also a firm believer in John Cagian notions of sound production and his ideas surrounding silence.

Artistically, my influences are born out of improvisation. The ear’s wide open. You play with your ears as much as you play with your instrument. My turntable practice started when I was a teenager in my bedroom in Bramalea, Ont. There I started scratching and messing with records and recording. I would scratch, spin backward, manipulate the speed, etc. while recording the conversations of my friends or the sounds of the television. Without knowing it, I was creating sound collages.

But my practice came to me when I bought my first Christian Marclay record when I was at CKLN, Record Without a Cover (now worth real money as Marclay is one of the world’s most important visual artists). I realized I had been doing this since I was a teen. That is when I put down the drums and started focusing on the record player.

I’m also a huge fan of the new jazz/electroacoustic improvisation coming out of Europe, especially Austria: Radian, Christian Fennesz, etc. But my main influence may be Marcel Duchamp.

My music is built on the ideas of electroacoustic music, and in some ways crossed with jazz improvisational ideals. Escaping the structured format of electroacoustic music, I’m contemporizing classical music formalities and then adding the improvisational freedom of post/free jazz music, a passion of mine.

Tell me about this new piece.

I play a slide guitar, snare drum and trombone. The vocals come from the intro to Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “I Don’t Play No Rock’n’Roll.” I took portions of all the tracks and played with them through looping and then processed some of them.

Why a blues-themed work?

It was something that has haunted me for about a decade. I was influenced by a Ralf Wehowsky and Bruce Russell release, Midnight Crossroads Tape Recorder Blues. They use a reel-to-reel tape recorder and a sitar. This is going to be part of a series of works that will examine different musical genres. I’m about to start a country-based experimental work. I’m learning old country drum patterns and I may use my daughter’s violin.

You can find more of Hansen’s work on Tumblr.

Kevin Press

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