Vancouver-based prodigy Szam Findlay is a master in the creation of dark and densely layered industrial orchestrations. His debut, and subsequently only album, Die Hautfabrik was eight years in the making before it arose from the murky depths of the Canadian music scene. It is an album without parallel in the current musical climate. Defying categorization, Die Hautfabrik is equal parts Wagner, Vangelis, Autechre and Einsturzende Neubauten, resulting in a compelling display of contemporary classical music underpinned with minimal, glitchy electronics. Szam manages to create some of the most grandiosely cinematic music you’ll ever come across, using analog synths to create cold harsh metallic soundscapes.
Though criminally over looked, Szam now plays with Dandilion Schlase’s musical project, “Dandi Wind”. This interview was conducted by email in September 2006.
I’ve always been fascinating with noises, going back to my earliest memories. Though my family dislikes music of all types, bizarrely it somehow seems to be in my DNA, and I’ve being writing little melodies since I was just a tyke.
I love loads of different stuff but the impetus for die hautfabrik probably goes back to when I was about 8 or 9 years old and my uncle gave me some old records; “Oxygene” by Jean Michel Jarre, a Tangerine Dream one and Tomita – “Snowflakes are Dancing”. To hear dramatic electronic music really blew my mind, and I liked the idea of creating music completely on my own. Later on I was into stuff like Skinny Puppy, Goblin and Einsturzende Neubauten.
It was really painstaking. The album took 6 or 7 years to make and throughout it all I only had a 486 with under a gig of hard-drive space! The main thing I’ve always done is to not use any preset sounds from my keyboards and also to layer many variations on the same melodic line throughout the stereo spectrum.
I had only played piano music as I was classically trained. Die Hautfabrik is really a distilled collection of every good musical idea I had from the age of 12 or 13 years old to about age 19 and then held together with production ideas I came up with over the years.
Fabrik is actually Factory and the title means Factory of flesh insomuch as everything to do with the music/artwork was a piece of me with no outside assistance.
I’ve known Dandilion for years, we met doing theatre. I don’t think artwork has anything to do with my music necessarily but thought it would be fascinating to see the themes of the music portrayed in a different medium – I wasn’t however conscious of the visuals before finishing the recording.
It was TREMENDOUSLY expensive and time consuming. It cost around 7 dollars a CD to make and took about 20 minutes per package, as everything was hand assembled. Resonant wasn’t involved with me until a year after the Canadian release whereupon they just bought some copies that I didn’t sell, and put their sticker on them.
The album got no acclaim – it was an incredibly depressing time for me in the aftermath of Die Hautfabrik’s release, as I really can’t imagine a single person putting more of him or herself into a single release. Too many copies of the album were pressed, in fact as I’ve still got about 500 copies in my basement that were returned as unsold from distributors, so the edition was far from limited… I don’t really want to see the album re-released, as the whole experience was so utterly unpleasant and it’s sad to reflect on myself at a time when I was so idealistic about art and I don’t want to share my personal music with anybody any longer.
I’ve never played live as Szam Findlay because I always despised laptop “shows” and couldn’t imagine any other method of performance. I do play in a band currently called Dandi Wind and generally dislike doing it as it takes so much waiting around just to play shows, and then you’re at the mercy of sound guys who can destroy you with their incompetence. Also once I’ve recorded something I don’t find the urge to retread it endlessly in a live setting.
As I said I’m in a band called Dandi Wind with Dandilion who created the artwork for Die Hautfabrik. We’re releasing a second full-length album on Alt Delete Recordings in the UK and recording a 3rd this fall. As I produce the music there is a vague similarity to Die Hautfabrik…
In the future I’d like to do finish some of my other Szam Findlay recordings but this time do them with full orchestration instead of relying purely on electronic sounds. However currently Dandilion and I do collaborate on animations, where I do solo music post Die Hautfabrik that you can hear if you buy the Dandi Wind video album “Concrete Igloo”.photos by Eden Hemming Rose
-- James Clarke (18 December, 2006)