Strotter Inst. is Swiss turntablist, Christoph Hess. The tools of his trade are a conglomeration of specially modified and prepared turntables and woefully distressed vinyl. With them Hess creates dense fields of mesmerizing crackle and hum, propelled onward by woozy, trudging beats. Strotter Inst. is currently touring the eastern US and will perform live on Rare Frequency on Thursday, April 1. He answered a few questions by email while on the road.
What is your background (musical and otherwise)? When did you first start making music? Do you come from a musical family?
Actually, I do not have a musical background (no instruments, no one in the family, nothing). But I always liked to listen to all kinds of music.
What were your musical activities prior to Strotter Inst.? How did you first become interested in working with record players?
During the eighties I was especially interested in power noise and industrial music. Due to lack of money, I was unable to buy all these limited-edition and expensive records, so I tried to cut out the grooves from “bad” pop-albums by replacing the stylus with sewing needles. That didn’t work of course, but in doing that I realized that there were different sounds coming out. So I started using prepared and manipulated turntables as a kind of instrument. It was a kind of work in progress. First, I played just together with a few friends in a rehearsal room. Later, I joined Herpes o Deluxe, which still exists.
I started my solo project about 10 years ago. Besides that I always like improvising with other musicians and for the last two years I have also played with the group Sum of R.
What was the genesis of Strotter Inst? What inspired you to start working with prepared turntables?
Well, there was no moment of inspiration just (see question above) good luck… I started Strotter Inst. to figure out more concretely what is possible to do with turntables as a instrument. I like to play with other musicians, but I needed a space where I have to make all the decisions on my own.
In the bio section on your website, you mention that you are an architect. Does your work as architect inform what you do as a musician?
No, not really. There are probably some links to “working with space” or to a kind of conceptual way of thinking. But as most buildings are not really beautiful, there is hopefully not too much influence….
Could you talk a bit about “Lustmolch,” the piece that you’re currently performing? Will you be playing that on the program?
Whenever I do a new set-up for a show or a tour I look for a name. The names are more a working title to me. I like language but Strotter Inst. doesn’t work with text. So in the end the word Lustmolch isn’t important. It just works in English and in German if You take “lust” and “molch” but together it doesn’t work in english. In German it still works….
What kinds of projects and/or recordings do you currently have in the works?
I will be on tour here in the States until middle of June. In autumn we have plans to record a new Herpes o Deluxe album. As I did a cd and a 10” last year with Strotter Inst., there is nothing planned at the moment.
I’ll think about it when I’m back in Switzerland. Hopefully, I will have a lot of ideas after traveling around North America.
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