Thomas Köner is a German multimedia artist who excels in combining the visual and auditory as a whole. Somewhere in the intersection between sound art, ambient music and installation is where you’ll find Thomas Köner.

In his early years, Köner attended the Music college in Dortmund and later studied electronic music at the CEM-Studio in Arnhem. Rather than focusing on traditional elements of music, such as melody and rhythm, he finds it far more challenging and exciting to the explore the possibilities within sound colour. To enforce the elements of abstract sound structures, Köner has included other forms of media-based outputs. This has resulted in a collaboration with film artist Jürgen Reble for the live performance entitled “Alchemie”. Furthering the improvement of his own artistic abilities, Köner have produced film soundtracks and performed live accompanying the visual aspect of old silent films for the Louvre Museum, Paris. His work with installation and kinetic sculpturing(the art of presenting perceivable motion illustrated technically in a painting or an installation, which is actually moving )artist Max Eastley. “List Of Japanese Winds” was one such result and this installation piece that was commissioned by the Hayward Gallery, London. Yet another obvious scenario for Köner, is the pulsating and ever propellant environment of modern club culture. From Köner’s point of view, this is the perfect place for intensive and physical listening. Last not least the collaboration with Andy Mellwig as Porter Ricks, has gained Thomas Köner a solid reputation and base in the Techno world.

Köner has certainly come a long way and this obviously calls for an interview, which is to be read below.

You recently re-relased the self-released “La Barca” compilation. Could you please elaborate over the ideas that constituted this release and why you decided to put it out yourself?

The music on “La Barca” is in many ways my most personal, as it builds on the very acoustic situations I found myself in during two years of travel around the world. Although on the surface it appears to be a examination of the topic of fieldrecording, but in fact it is not. It is about “being” that resonates and reflects the surroundings, and in that process becoming more porous and gradually more transparent to blur the border between what is “me” and the location.
I did this as an experiment, and like things you write in a diary, I did not think of publishing at all. But then I was talked into it by friends and I did the 2009 under-the-radar release on Fario, that had only about a half of the pieces. Then later the 2xLP vinyl had four more tracks and it was sold out pretty quick. Now this digital re-release finally has all 22 pieces together, nicely bundled with visuals I think this is the ideal way to publish this kind of collection.

How did “La Barca” differ in comparison to the artic-referencing “Novaya Zemlya”?

The 22 pieces on “La Barca” were recorded and composed/produced on 22 different locations, around the world. “Novaya Zemlya” is about that very island in the arctic sea. Naturally these 2 works use a different colour palette and so they sound very different. But they share the rhythmical approach and dive down to the root of the groove. You are surprised to hear me talk about Novaya Zemlya and rhythm and groove. There is silence and gravity and events that either stay or disappear, with timing and precision. This is at the core of Novaya Zemlya. It is very difficult to develop a sense of groove which flows under the threshold of perception. I still need to learn a lot and I slowly develop a language and the skills. Novaya Zemlya is Russian for New Land, this album was the first part of a trilogy that explores the notion of New Land, its aspects, the (mental) desire for it, the physical facts of the matter. All three parts ‘play’ in Russia. I believe that the remoteness you can reach is not the true remoteness. Parts of Greenland for example are very reachable, you just go to the next airport and within a couple hours you are there. For Russia you need to apply for and obtain Visa, one cannot just ‘go’. There are other obstacles, too. Obstacles are good for the explorer, as well for the composer. On “Novaya Zemlya” the listener is expanding into the vast space, while on “La Barca” the listener is experiencing a verticality, a standstill, while the space moves, is moving through you.

“Tools are useless if there is no purity of vision…”

Going all the way back to 1990 and looking at your debut album “Nunatak Gongamur”, which was released on the Barooni label, what has changed over the years, if anything, in terms of composing and creating music for you?

One would expect that the massive technological change (in 1990 you needed a real recording studio, or at least access to one, to do things that nowadays can be done on any laptop) would have had an impact on my work. But strangely, it did not. It had no impact, and now I know, that if you write a text, and change the pen (technological change) and continue writing, does it affect the text? It does not. I can safely say that the importance of the tools is often overrated. Tools are useless if there is no purity of vision.

When one is listening to your work it fairly often comes across as raw and possibly unwelcoming at first but reveals many different and emotional elements. What are your thoughts on this?

My works have a very refined compositional structure to give the impression of something that is unfinished – these are meant as invitations to the listener to fill up the gaps, the silences and open structures. To fill them with resonances that are based in your life, echoes, memories that are part of “your sound” and that can merge with the music I play. It is more a view from a high point, maybe a bit bleak, a bit windy first, but then you enjoy it, enjoy also the absence of meticulous details.

As for performing live, how much is prepared beforehand and how much is purely improvised during your shows?

Ideally all my concerts would be an encounter, a meeting of the verticality of time and the given moment, with the lateral flow of sound in the spatial situation of a indoor/outdoor venue, shaped by the resonance of a very specific unique audience. And that would allow for a completely improvised set. This happens sometimes. In not so ideal situations it has to be a gradual approach, making diversions from existing compositions, leaving paths, trying to get somewhere where I haven’t been before.

I attended the show at which you performed in Copenhagen as part of the CPH:Dox/LAK curated “Recordings” weekender on December 16th, 2012, How did you approach this festival conceptually?

As the event was staged in a cinema, and in a pitch-black one without movie or screen, I tried to act on this suggestion and make something evocative, that could have been a film soundtrack.

“These are meant as invitations to the listener to fill up the gaps, the silences and open structures…”

You seem to have a fondness for performing in pitch dark surroundings. Why is that?

Personally, I have the best experience with music when I feel relaxed enought to close my eyes. And as a single performer is not so much to look at anyway, I think it is a good idea to dim the lights.

Do you have knowledge of and interest in what’s going on in the Danish scene catering for different music?

Yes, big interest and not so much knowledge. Must come more often. Copenhagen is so beautiful, and sounds so nice! The water and the wind, delicious!

In your opinion and from own, personal experience, how come electronically crafted and music with electronic elements always has had such a good foundation in Germany?

Probably the boring cities and the bad weather make people want to stay at home and focus on something that is more interesting than their bleak surroundings!

Without sounding arrogant here, do you think it opens doors to galleries and installation-based outlets more easily, when doing this kind of music?

This would be something! Sadly, it is not like this. Art galleries and installation-based outlets generally do not like music, whatever music. To them music is not Art and should not become art, as it does not sell as art and creates no curatorial merit when a curator deals with it.

From reading an interview you did for The Quietus in late 2013 your old Porter Ricks project was brought to the table. Is there something to be expected from Porter Ricks anytime soon?

Yes, we are working on new material and a new album. Very exciting, very promising. We just released a remix on a EP as a warm-up finger exercise:
Listen to Ryo Murakami – Statical (Porter Ricks Change Of Tide Remix)

Speaking of collaboration, you worked with “absolut music” maestro, Asmus Tietchens as Kontakt Der Jünglinge. How did this project see the light of day and has Tietchens been an early influence for you?

Asmus has been my teacher in the 1980s and we stayed in touch. Naturally, to work with him now, is my biggest honour and a enchanting experience!

Finally, what’s in store for yourself and the people who follow your activities?

I am working on a cycle of piano music of which, the first volume has just been released on Denovali Records and the next part will be premiered in a three hour concert performance at MaerzMusik Festival in Berlin taking place on March 29th
In the work is a remix of Rolf Julius “Black(Inside)” for CD release,
Part 2 of the Novaya Zemlya CD trilogy
A DVD version release of my “The Futurist Manifesto”
And last but not least, together with Andy Mellwig, making new pieces for the upcoming new Porter Ricks album