‘Click Interview’ with Rector Scanner: ‘There Is No Longer A Total Work Of Art‘
Rector Scanner was the first project set up by René Nowotny. Known from his EBM project AD:KeY, Rector Scanner is driven by the sound and influence of Kraftwerk. Active since 1997, René Nowotny this year released the third album of his sonic brainchild on Alfa Matrix. “Radioteleskop” is a great and intelligent work, which became a conceptual opus inspired by René’s fascination for sci/fi literature. There also is a second disc featuring remixes by AD:KeY, Massiv In Mensch, Metroland, Merry Chicklit, Letal 30 and 808 Dot.Pop.
(Courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)
Q: We all know you from your involvement with AD:KeY although Rector Scanner was your first project ever. You don’t release new work at regular basis with Rector Scanner so what does this project mean to you and how does it feel getting back to your first love?
René: Rector Scanner is my very own ‘baby‘. On one hand, I made my first steps here in the production of Electronic music and, on the other hand, I was able to realize all those ideas that did not fit into any specific box. Here I was and am completely free; I can let off steam and do whatever I want. It’s a great feeling to finally have a new Rector Scanner album in my hands after a long time.
Q: I’m always fascinated by artists getting involved with different projects/bands. What makes the difference(s) to you between the projects and do you need any kind of preparation and/or mental spirit to work on it?
René: Actually there is not much difference to AD:KeY, only that I can implement my own ideas completely independently at Rector Scanner without having to take Andrea into consideration. Of course, she also influences the songs at Rector Scanner. After all, she contributed to a number of ideas, wrote the lyrics fort wo songs of the new album and is featured on several tracks with her vocals. But she has no right of veto. There are phases when I like to work alone in the studio -and sometimes I find it nice to exchange ideas about what I’m doing and ask for opinions.
Q: Over now to the new album “Radioteleskop”. What has been the ‘click’ to start composing this new album and tell us a bit more about the subjects, which seem getting back to the origins of human mankind? Is it a conceptual work?
René: Yes, “Radioteleskop” is a conceptual album. The idea for it had slumbered in me for years. There are two things that strongly influenced me with “Radioteleskop”: my love for science fiction literature and my admiration for the band Kraftwerk.
I have been reading science fiction novels since I was a child and I have a large collection of books in my private library. And I know that many people will immediately turn up their noses when they read these lines, because they immediately think of “Star Wars“; of lightsabers and spaceship battles and space monsters. But such stories don’t interest me.
Perhaps I should rather say that I like Social Fiction; great world designs that anticipate the future of mankind and deal critically with the present, such as the books by Neil Stephenson, Kim Stanley Robinson, or the great authors of the East: the Strugatzki brothers or Stanislaw Lem.
Above all, my favorite author Ivan Yefremov had a great influence on the Rector Scanner album. In his great novel “Andromedanebel” –in “Das Mädchen aus dem All”, he describes a future communist society that, despite all progress, is not free from problems. This novel was the template for some of the songs that can be heard on “Radioteleskop”.
We are constantly on the lookout; it is curiosity that drives mankind to the stars. In books and novels we long for discovery, for communication with other civilizations. In science we observe the sky with the same longing, hear and see into space with radio telescopes and send probes to distant celestial bodies. I wanted to put this passion into music with the Rector Scanner album.
Q: Tell us a bit more about the writing of the album; the equipment you used, the different stages of song writing, vocals- and global production?
René: A lot of synthesizers have accumulated in our studio over the past few years. I particularly like to use the Waldorf MicroQ and the Waldorf Pulse 2. The Waldorf STVC vocoder and the Arturia MicroFREAK were responsible for the electronic voices. Many analog synthesizers such as Behringer’s ModelD, the Deepmind 6 or the Neutron can be heard very often on “Radioteleskop”. But it would be going too far to name all the devices.
The work on the album was not a continuous process, but dragged on over several years. The oldest song on the album is track number 11, “Stories About A Blue Planet”. He is well over 10 years old. Other songs were created during a recording session for an AD:KeY album. Originally, “Maschinen Sind Treu” was an AD:KeY song. But we then added more and more playful elements, including a Kraftwerk-reminiscent snare drum ‘Tschakkk‘. So we gave the song new lyrics and it became a Rector Scanner song.
During the lockdown in winter 2020/2021, when we were stuck in the studio, we wrote the last 5 songs. I think you can hear that when you look at “The Girl From Space”, “Epsilon Tucanae” and “Utopia”. They belong together both in terms of content and music. I consciously say ‚we‘ because Andrea and I were stuck in the apartment -and we had to keep ourselves busy somehow. We worked on AD:KeY and Rector Scanner songs in parallel.
Q: Compared to previous releases there’s a noticeable evolution in the artwork of the new album -and the EP “Der Dichter Und Die Frau”. What makes this evolution and in, which way is there a connection between the concept and the artwork?
René: For AD:KeY we do the artwork completely ourselves. For the Rector Scanner publications we have given the artwork to an artist, Thomas Franke. Thomas Franke is a graphic artist, book illustrator and theater actor. I met him years ago at a vernissage where his work was exhibited and I was totally enthusiastic about him and his work. Without further ado, I asked him if he would make some of his work for Rector Scanner available to me. After he listened to our music, we agreed. Thomas Franke had already designed the artwork for the second Rector Scanner album “Herzschlag” -and since we had developed a friendship, we just continued our collaboration.
There is always a connection between the concept and the work of art, simply through the fact that one consciously chooses an image or a graphic. Thomas Franke’s work has a high recognition value, which is associated with the music. If you look at the artwork, you link it to the music -and vice versa. I think we made an excellent choice to give our music a fantastic image.
Q: The EP “Der Dichter Und Die Frau” is only available as digital work. What do you think about this ‘digital era’ wherein less physical productions are released? Does it have an influence and/or impact on your artistic work? What do you expect from the future and what are the further plans with Rector Scanner?
René: I am aware that modern times rely on modern technologies. Digital publications are very efficient. You have instant access to music anywhere, anytime, anywhere in the world.
However, I love physical records, which is possibly due to the fact that I am still a ‘Stone Age‘ collector and hunter deep down. We humans want to own something, touch something and show it as a trophy. Actually, this is no longer necessary. We have everything on the smartphone or in the cloud and on the web. But I still feel that way.
However, it is also a fact that music is consumed differently through digital media than it was in the days of CDs or vinyl records. Albums in the classic sense follow a structure and have a dynamic like a play. While listening to the music, you look at the artwork, turn pages through the booklet, read texts.
All of this no longer works like this due to digital consumption. It’s all about clicks and downloads. There is no longer a total work of art.
However, this has hardly any influence on my artistic work. I enjoy producing music -even if I’m my only listener.
This year there will be a double download EP “Das Mädchen aus dem All” with 7 tracks each. We are also working on a new AD:KeY album and you won’t have to wait 7 years for a new Rector Scanner album. (laugh)
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