Saturday, 24 March 2012

Interview: Edward Paul Quist (Embryoroom)

Yashar is proud to give you an exclusive interview with Edward Paul Quist, otherwise known as Embryoroom. Embryoroom is behind some of the most unique audio/visual art I have ever seen. For me, Edward creates visual techno, like H.R. Giger but in moving form. Dark, intense, hypnotic and beautiful. He has collaborated with Pan Sonic creating a state of the art live album 'Kuvaputki' which remains as one of the greatest pieces of video art I have ever seen. He continues to push the boundaries and the possibilities between our relationship between the physical and the subconscious.


(Q) What are you currently listening too?

(A) Krzysztof Penderecki, Lalo Schifrin, Bernard Herrmann, The late Conrad Schnitzler, Suzuki Keiichi's "A House on Fire and Massacres All Over". On the "Pop" end of the spectrum lately, HTRK, Boris, and the recent Apparat release.

(Q) How do you describe your work?

(A) It's a difficult question to answer in that broad a sense. The images almost always emerge from the subconscious. I sort out any meaning later on. The sonics and soundtrack follow suit, but those can fall into defined structures you could maybe apply a musical style to. Sometimes the sound drives the image and vice versa.

(Q ) What are the main influences on you and your work?

(A) The silent era of cinema made a strong impression at an early age. The imagery of the classic science fiction and horror movies. Abstract expressionism v.s. The figurative, Krautrock, The Radiophonic Workshop, Italian modernist cinema and Italian disco, to name a few.

(Q) Coming from New York and with the recent closure of the Experimental Television Centre, how do you find the current art scene there?

(A) Although I never made the trek to Owego institutions like ETC, they are vital for the development of new electronic media and as an archival repository. We need more of the like. In commercial terms only, video art / installation is still not quite up to speed with the other "fine arts". Once an installation breaks down, it usually goes away. The lack of physicality and permanence poses an obstacle. It's slowly changing. The challenge is finding a balance. Live performance is still very important.

Not long ago, I screened at the Eventi Hotel. That was an interesting venue and architecturally the space fit very well with the films. They almost looked made for each other. The new dome at MoMA PS1 was an interesting space to play and project onto with it's huge sound. I will be looking for screenings and live performances in architecturally compatible spaces.

Embryoroom: To Be Inside It / Electronic Terror @ The Eventi NYC

(Q) I have recently described Kuvaputki as one of the greatest things I've ever seen, can you explain more about the project? What where the main motivations behind it? How did you become involved with Pan Sonic? And how long did it take to complete?

(A) Thank you, that's quite something to say about the project. Kuvaputki had been in the works on and off for eight years and the DVD was completed in fall 2007. I met Mika Vainio in 1997 at The Tunnel in NYC. Later, at one of Alan Vega's shows, I ran into Mika again and brought up the idea of a documentary. We exchanged material and then it slowly developed. There were no rules or restrictions, only that it end up in black and white. The first version of the film premiered in 2000 at the Sonar Festival and the reaction was very positive. It was a very punk rock kind of film. I wanted to take it much further.

The film was altered the way I would other projects on a continual basis. With that process, three streams of video were created for the DVD release; generating 90 minutes of multi-angle imagery that runs parallel to the sound track. 14 live shows were shot from around the world. There remains enough unused content to fill two more DVD's. Forgive me, but t's an epileptic"s nightmare.

Kuvaputki / Cathode Ray Tube Set trailer

(Q) In Nova the film, ( artist Tofer Chin says that being an artist today is 50% business. Do you agree?

(A) To a degree, yes. From the cost of data storage to software to computing, actors, the financial aspects need to come into balance with the work output. If not, down the road you've got trouble for all concerned.

(Q) Who are your favourite artists working at the moment?

(A) Ryoji Ikeda's show at the Park Avenue Armory was interesting. I found it intense and immersive. I like fellow vegan, Masami Akita's Merzbow project. I liked Nicolas Winding Refthn's film "Drive". It was recently deprived of proper recognition here in the States.

(Q) How important is hardware and software in your artistic process and what kind of setup do you use?

(A) To compose and produce the sound tracks, I have used the same physical rig for years with few changes. The Studio Electronics Se-1, Atc-1, Deopher MAQ-16 -3, Ms 404, A-100, Lexicon FX and a few other old analog synths and drum machines. Logic was used for arrangement and treatments etc.

On the visual end, I use a number of cameras and formats ranging from super-8, Hi-8, mini dv and HD. Final Cut Pro, a mix of plugins and optical / practical sfx also came into play. Working in the physical arena is very important for me, whether it be shooting a subject, an environment, to turning knobs that control output. Short answer, very important.

(Q) "We are now living in a cyberpunk novel", do you agree with this statement?

(A) The "future" is over as we knew it. The miracles that utopian visions promised died off sometime in the 1970's. If we are living in "cyberpunk", then it's because the "future" has failed us to a degree, with the cyber end as order and the punk as chaos. This appears to be on the rise, so the answer is yes. It's a 4GW world. The romance of Futurism is another story...

(Q) Your latest project, Hazmazk has been on the cards for some time, with various “intersodes” that have been available on Amazon and iTunes. What can we expect to see from the forthcoming project and is there an official release date planned?

(A) "Untitled", which is what I'll call it for the moment, loosely uses the narrative of the abduction phenomenon, as it's sometimes called, for part of this feature anthology's structure. There's common ground with the phenomenon and it's intense sensory experience, but the film literally descends into a abstract nightmare odyssey. Locations in Washington D.C., San Francisco, Rome, specifically the Etruscan necropolis in the town of Cerveteri, and Coney Island, Brooklyn provided the film's sense of environment and texture.

Without giving away too much, it's an experimental sci-fi horror and "Hazmazk" is a chapter in the anthology and was the project's "code name" at times. The feature film and live multi media performance have a different title. The concept attempts to put the viewer as the central POV. It's also partly a "musical" filtered through psychosis. In theory, the live version is nearly infinitely variable. For now, I will be performing the live version as a forerunner to the feature's release.

The Intersodes ( The Third Rail and Chamber Of Aversion ) ran their course at screenings and over the internet, providing a glimpse into what might be next. Short clips of the feature film at various stages of production have been screened in micro bursts on social media networks. In addition, there may be limited edition intersode Blu-rays down the road.

Hazmazk teaser trailer II

(Q) Are there any other projects/collaborations/exhibitions you are working on at the moment? 

(A) There are several projects in progress and exhibitions in the works. The next feature has started production, which will take a new direction compared to what I've done up until now. Some of the material will be slightly more narrative driven and other elements more extreme this time. Im also keen as a vegan to make non-documentary film and record on the subject of animal rights.

(Q) I noticed that no release date was given for Hazmazk! Does this mean there isnt one at this time? 

(A) Festivals and the live show are in the project's immediate future, but it will certainly see release.

(Q) I am a strong believer in not selling-out, and that as an artist you compromise your integrity and your work by doing so. I have been told by Evan Grant of Seeper
 ( can still use big companies to make money by the use of 'clever branding' (ie. not plastering a logo all over the place). What are your thoughts on this? Is anything sacred anymore? 

(A) Nothing is sacred anymore it seems. As far as clever branding goes, I've always been interested in the idea of subliminal messaging/imagery. Can big companies be used? Yes, of course, but the reality comes down to being ever conscious of the bottom line. The relationship can definitely be mutually rewarding, but potentially parasitic as well. The question might end up who really ends up exploiting whom and to what end. You have to be conscious of how much of your work will ultimately become "art" versus product in that situation. What is the balance? Is there a difference? Mutual parasitic symbiosis could be the most optimistic outcome in that situation.


(Q) Blu-rays may very well be the last physical medium for video. What do you believe to be the future for the medium? Will people always want a physical product?

(A) Right now I have digital content out there, but plan to release limited edition Blu-rays as well. The specific material I have in mind likely won't find a better showcase in the immediate future. 1080i is the highest consumer resolution available and to date, the only delivery system for true HD exists physically in Blu ray form. I think ultimately, it will become data unrestricted by a specific shape or manufactured enclosure, but there will still be people who want a physical, tactile sense of what they're getting. Whether it be the media itself or the means of delivery, if it's designed well enough, there will be a demand for it.

(Q) You have collaborated quite a bit with Del Marquis (guitarist for the Scissor Sisters), he helped produce Kuvaputki, he acts in some of the intersodes and you made some music videos for his last album "Litter To Society". It seems like an unlikely pairing. How did you both get involved and are there any future collaborations planned?

(A) We've known each other a long time and have collaborated on and off throughout that period. What we could do next might be quite different and even surprise a few people.

(Q) What's next for Embryoroom?

(A) Preparing video installations and still prints as well as producing records and music videos with other artists. I'm also planning to bring some of the live experience to the internet in the form of performances captured in unusual locations.

Exclusive teaser clip for Yashar

Selected filmography

1993, Hands
1994, I.L.
1996, Clean Needle
1998, Surgery
1999, Kuvaputki
2000, Backroom
2001, Suicide (unfinished)
2001, Macca / Plague
2003, AXIS (unfinished)
2006, The Cathodites
2008, Kuvaputki / Cathode Ray Tube / Set
2008, The Third Rail
2008, Hazmazk
2009, Chamber Of Aversion
2009, Camp Thunderbolt
2010, To be inside it
2011, Revelation in the league of sin
2012 Untitled Anthology

All work in this post is subject to copyright. © Edward Quist.