steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

20 questions
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with hans grüsel

A video game sound designer by day, Hans Grüsel has an uncanny knack for creating experimental music that conjures up vivid imagery in the listener. His releases, which merge traditional noise with patented sonic weirdness and bits of orchestral detritus, often draw upon fairy tale themes and children's music. Sort of like a Disney movie set in Hell. Together with his Kränkenkabinet, Grüsel has released several poignant albums, a couple of which will be reviewed by Indieville in the upcoming weeks. Below are his responses to our 20 Questions, ranging from the incisive to the outright inappropriate.

The Candy Coated Terror cassette


1. Many critics speculated as to what sort of musical upbringing might have been responsible for the Hans Grüsel sound. What sort of music did you listen to growing up?

Disney’s Haunted Mansion was a huge thump to my earliest hankerings. “The Story and Song from the Haunted Mansion” record book was one of the first I owned. I also very much enjoyed the “Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House,” a collection of sound effects and brief "stories in sound" also on Disneyland Records, which were originally created for the vintage Disney cartoons.

2. What has most influenced the music you produce today?

Disney’s Haunted mansion attraction, the artwork of Bonnie Banks, the music of Caroliner, and in general the entire San Francisco Bay Area’s BrutalSFX.

3. I sometimes envisage your output as haunted circus music, although fairy tales are also a prominent component. What do you see as the perfect context for your music?

A spookhouse/dark ride type attraction. Basically a series of rooms each with a specific design of sound and visuals. A piece exists for what I call a “drag-through attraction,” where the participant is hooked up to a pulley system and is dragged through a series of rooms. The attention follows a somewhat standard storyline: a young milkmaid is brutally tortured and executed, and after a series of ritual events, her spectre is resurrected and seeks revenge on the murderers. Uplifting stuff. I have a sound design sketch I plan to release as a CD-storybook, but I doubt the attraction will ever see the light of day for obvious safety reasons.


4. What are some of your favorite films?

Early silent classics that may seem somewhat obvious: Nosferatu, Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Lesser seen works by Dr. James Sibley Watson and Melville Webber, 1928's Fall of the House of Usher and 1933's Lot in Sodom, which I was fortunate enough to marry live accompaniment to at Other Cinema in SF in 2003. All the classic Universal Monster movies are another staple. Also the more vivid 70s flicks Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Dawn of the Dead --- all pretty standard horror nerd fare. Another more recent work that has stood the test of multiple viewing is Rob Zombies’ House of 1000 Corpses, which kind of has everything I love in a horror film.

5. Your releases are far more elaborate than the average noise artist's productions, yet in some respects you fall under a similar niche. What are your thoughts on the noise scene in general?

Well I agree that my work may fall under the “noise” genre but it was not by any conceived design; the idea of noise has broadened greatly over the last decade or so. San Francisco is an odd place, sort of way out wild west; the whole BrutalSFX concept, to me, was born out of a bunch a misfit musical groups that didn’t fit neatly into any genre coming together to make their own thing happen. Such long-running series as “Noise Pancakes” and brutal SFX festivals offered a stage for many Bay Area and touring folks to make something that no one else would program. It absolutely helped to foster the Krankenkabinet.

6. What sort of fan base does your music attract? Do you have a considerable following in Germany?

I’ve always gotten a love it or hate it response to my work. I am constantly surprised at the response this garners. I am very surprised at the lovers, many people who in all respect have no connection or interest in experimental music; other haters many times seem to be purist of their specific genre. Ohrenhoch der Geräuschladen in Berlin featured two sound installation pieces this spring composed specifically for them.

7. What are some of your most cherished records? Explain.

“The Story and Song from The Haunted Mansion” original Ron Howard voiceover gatefold copy with picture book; “Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House”: I have three copies of this, one of each color it was released in, red, orange and white; Chinese water torture is still very close to my heart; every LP Caroliner has ever released---each is a gem onto its self.

The Story and Song from The Haunted Mansion LP

8. Would you rather have sex with a leopard or a leper?

Definitely a leopard I am a huge feline fan.

9. Despite often being abrasive and unapologetically experimental, I find your work is able to appeal to audiences beyond the typical noise/experimental scene because it incorporates melodic and orchestral elements. Do you ever see your Kränkenkabinet work branching out into the pseudo-mainstream?

I think for that to happen would need a gigantic push from some other unseen element. Currently am very happy as a studio rat, sitting back into the role of composer in the “classical” sense, but the Krankenkabinet is an constantly changing diorama, so who knows.

10. How long does it take you to produce a release? How much preparation is involved, and how much of it is improvised?

Easily 18 months or more of diligent work. Improvisation plays a large role in the initial idea---usually sitting down with a specific set of electronics and seeing what happens. This is distilled and orchestrated and repeated multiple times to produce a series of rings not unlike knots of wood. Eventually these knots are connected to form a trunk, and from there an outer bark is applied in the mix process. Collect a bunch of these together and you have a release.

11. What is your day job?

Video game sound designer.

12. Have you been back to Mecklenburg-Vorpommern recently?


12.5. What do you recommend to the aspiring traveler?

The sea.

13. Describe your strangest live experience.

Probably the musical theater rendition of the Brothers Grimm Maiden Without Hands. If you aren’t familiar with the story, a poor miller was offered wealth by the devil if the miller gave him what stood behind the mill. Thinking that it was an apple tree, the miller agreed, but it was his daughter. When three years had passed, the devil appeared, but the girl had kept herself sinless and her hands clean, and the devil was unable to take her. The devil threatened to take the father if he did not chop off the girl's hands, and she let him do so, but she wept on her arms' stumps, and they were so clean that the devil could not take her, so he had to give her up. The hand sawing blood splatter sequence was surreal even as I watched it happen from the foot of the stage. The fluid spew incensed, somewhat understandably, an number of folks and put a halt to my further delving into this sort of blood theater.

The Happy as Pitch CD

14. Do you pay much attention to what critics write about your music?

Sure. Again I tend to get a love it or hate it response.

15. What recent music has caught your ear?

Instrument builders such as Peter Blasser of Ciat-Lonbarde, Tom Bugs of Bug Brand, continuing improvements of Rex Probe and Sound Transform Systems on the original Serge designs, and Rob HorDijk and his amazing blippo box. The guys are creating not just singular pieces of music, but designs that contain a thousand symphonies.

16. How did you become connected with the CIP label?

I met Blake Edwards in 2001 when I went to Chicago to do the Püppenhorten Festival. Super guy in every respect. If memory serves, he originally wanted to release the hand-packaged CDR release “Ein Haunted Sommerplatz” but got “Happy as Pitch” instead.

17. What format do you prefer for your releases?

I love them all.

18. who is your favorite philosopher?

Not sure, I don’t read much.

19. What is your favorite color? Justify your selection.

Woodgrain; If you look hard enough, you can see every color somewhere inside the knots.

20. What's next for Hans  Grüsel?

New release “Woodgrain Transgressions” should be out late 2010 It will be incorporate more chamber music elements than the last two. I also have been honoured with an invite to play at the High Zero festival in Baltimore this September, where I will be collaborating with a number of other musicians in the four-day festival.

The Another Miserable Day LP, on clear vinyl

interview conducted by Michael Tau
published October 2009



all content copyright 2009