sansculotte Interview about Breakcore Visuals and Parties in Berlin – Full Transcript

Sansculotte are a collective working in graphics, multimedia and animation who are closely involved with the development of breakcore in Berlin and made many contributions to Praxis and Datacide. This interview was conducted by Christoph Fringeli and linxi in Summer 2022. Excerpts were featured in The Molehill Report #8 in August 2022 and the full version was uploaded to the Noise & Politics YouTube channel 15-03-2023.

CF: You moved to Berlin from Austria in 2000. What prompted your move from Austria and how was the situation in Berlin at the time?

Sansculotte (Uli): Basically, I think we were looking for stimulation. There was not much going on in Graz at the time. So for cultural events, you had to go to Vienna and other places.

Sansculotte (Sandra): When we moved to Berlin, everything was just super. It was super easy to find an affordable flat. Food expenses had been still moderate. Lots of cultural things were available for free or a very small amount of money. And people seemed to be much more open than in Austria where everything was so restricted. When you were young and wanted to do something, it was always like border, restricted, not allowed. While in Berlin, there was so much space and so much free space or available space.

U: And also, there were people who were doing similar things and had similar interests, and we were soon connected to a bunch of people.

S: Yeah, it was also open people-wise. In Austria, it was always like you know each other for 10 or 20 years, and it’s all more closed circles. While in Berlin, people came from everywhere, and it was just easier to connect.

CF: And what led to the formation of the project? What were your activities in the early days?

U: In a way, we have been doing this before, just the two of us. But when we were in Berlin, we met other people doing similar things. So we thought we would bundle our activities and sort of under one umbrella, one name. And we were searching for a name for quite some time. You know how it is, it’s like a hundred suggestions but none of them click really. And then Sandra came up with the name sansculotte, and everyone liked it, and that was that.

S: Yeah, like in the beginning, we were mainly three people, Uli, me, and Billi Pixelbauer. Me and her are graphic designers, and Uli is a programmer. She really started early on with 3D animations, and so we experimented for me at least the first time in the animation field. But we were working on party flyers, mostly print projects, posters, record covers, etc. And as Uli said, we wanted to publish all this under one name, and that was sansculotte.

Linxi: And what does the name mean, where does it come from?

U: Two main streams of meaning. One is of course a reference to the French Revolution and the non-nobles involved in revolutionary activities, and the other just means without underpants. It means like standing there bare-assed.

CF: And how did the project evolve in the early 2000s?

U: Yeah, so as Sandra said, Billi came on board, and we were expanding into this whole animation and stop-motion and 3D thing. I remember I was walking home with Billi once, and we were talking about this. This was before we actually started on it, but she knew all the people, they were doing motion design, they were doing trailers, and we looked at a lot of this stuff together, and we thought we can do this too.

S: Yeah, and we were sitting on this pile of material, like we had a box of photos we took in the 90s and early 2000s and illustrations or comic scribbles, like thrown away graphic stuff, and that’s when we started with frame-by-frame animation, stop-motion-like. So the first animations we did have been done in Photoshop, like really one frame, then save, one dot JPEG, second, like move the element in the image, in the Photoshop file, and then two dot JPEG, so we did that quite long. I think the first two years were only with this technique.

CF: You’ve done projections and live video at many parties. What technical setup are you using, and how did that evolve?

U: Yeah, so the idea was because we were going to parties mostly in order to dance, the idea was a bit to have the images dancing to the music, and the setup evolved around that. So I’m a programmer, I’m using this real-time multimedia thing, it’s called Pure Data, and it lends itself very well to the job because it has these inbuilt tools for sound analysis and beat detection, which are very good and on the point, so we built a bit of software around it using like, I don’t know, like MIDI, and later we built it in Pure Data so we could load clips and switch them around, half automatic and half with intervention.

S: Yeah, and we used like at some point, our idea was to control the visuals while dancing, and we tried out different gaming controllers. We did try out the Wii first and really have been on the dance floor controlling it, and it worked really, really well, but only one time, and then we always lost the connection or something, so this was a one-time thing, but we still play with other gaming controllers, and I think it feels more organic, or it’s more like playing an instrument, and it’s easier to react live on the sound that is coming from the musicians.

CF: You did several music videos and trailers in the early 2000s in collaboration with musicians. How did you approach these collaborations?

S: For the videos we develped some restrictions. First there was a colour restriction. We’d only use black, white and red. That was an aesthetic approach but also a practical approach, because we worked with different people, and the material produced by different people in different styles would still match together because the colour matches. So when we planned for a music video or a trailer, we always had a story in mind. So the narrative aspect is quite crucial to us, even if the story is in an abstract, surreal way, we follow some hidden line, and then we lay this out and it somehow comes together.

And I think the party trailers is something different. I really like doing them because before we did already a lot of, or we still do party flyers, which is very static and the party trailer there you have a music snippet from music you will actually hear on the party, you can illustrate it in a, I don’t know, freaky way, you can experiment, it’s little, very quickly done videos and yeah, I like it.

L: You said that you listen to a track and then get an idea for a story to animate, how does that whole process work?

U: Yeah, I think we get clues from various places, the title or some sort of sound bit or sample that’s in the track.

S: Or like for example with the Zombieflesheater video, I mean Mario is a character on itself and we had this, I don’t know, roughly computer game and Mario is saving some princess.

U: Yeah, but it just developed, I think it developed later, we had this Mario character and we started from the character and we imagined what like…

S: Yeah, we had a photo shooting with him and then because we’re working in collage, we cut his face and stick him to several body parts.

U: And make him do all sorts of jigs and dances and singing action and just messing about.

S: Sometimes the music, just listening to the music and then suddenly a story pops up or like parts of stories and then it’s always not a proper story from A to Z, it’s like a snippet, like cut up.

U: Abstract, surreal or…

L: Like music, yeah.

S: Yeah, like music, but it’s easier to have something in mind to animate after a rough plan than to animate into the void.

L: Okay, so you’re always collecting images and taking photographs and stuff and collecting pieces of things that could be used for…

U: We always do that and yeah, and so if we do a music video, we sort of go from the story and see what images it attracts and then we layer these images on top of each other until it’s all flickering and flashing.

S: But we also work with, we worked with Luke Hekate, for example, and he draws all these robots and that’s actually a very nice fit with us, so we can, we cut the robots in all single elements and animate them. So this is the same story, bringing a still image to life.

CF: You were also involved with organizing a lot of parties as well, which included seminal Breakcore events in Berlin with Clash of the Titans, as well as Praxis/Datacide.

What drew you to Breakcore?

U: I think it was the energy, mostly, of the music as well as of the people. So in the 90s, I was going out to hardcore and punk gigs a lot and like dance Pogo and just be wild. And I was, end of the 90s, I was missing this a bit. And I mean, there were things like, I don’t know, Atari Teenage Riot, which tried to make the go from punk to electronic music. But when Ron Assimilatah came to us with Breakcore, I was like, yeah, okay, that’s exactly what has been missing. And so we went for it.

And I totally love this, that it’s like unstable and chaotic, and you never know what’s coming next. And it sort of keeps you on your toes all the time. Like when you’re dancing, it’s sort of totally energizing. Because with techno, it’s so predictable. Maybe you get into this trance from the repetitiveness, but it’s a different sort of trance you get into from being constantly overexcited. And I enjoyed the second type more.

S: I have to add that at the time, minimal techno was quite big in Berlin. And indeed, that was very boring. Sometimes parties or events, you think there’s one record spinning for hours, and then no changes. But there is, of course, things in techno or kinds of techno, that is very interesting and not too predictable.

Yeah, and we were both very much into dancing and going out. And when we found this, at the time in Berlin, several parties with Breakcore, noise, experimental music were happening. Some, such as Utterly Wiped Out or Information Wants to be Free, which was a two days party, Clash of the Titans.

They all happened in interesting locations like squats or other weird underground locations, not in official clubs. So they have been affordable and interesting. And we went to all of what we could find, basically.

U: Punk had this DIY thing, so you were invited to contribute always. Punk wouldn’t be produced and you’d consume. And I found the same thing with Breakcore as well. We were very much invited to contribute.

S: Yeah, and the scene was friendly. I mean, the people were really open and freaky, and it was not a closed circle… It felt natural that we switched to organizing these events as well. And I mean, I really enjoyed organizing these parties. It was really exciting times. The crowd was cool, the party was cool, the locations. Yeah, it felt really good.

U: Energetic without being too much of an aggro thing or something. Though we also went to Gabba parties, of course…

S: …of course…

U: …which is more of the aggro, but…

S: Don’t say this about gabba, I love Gabba!

U: Yeah, of course, me too. Okay. I remember at Information Wants to Be Free, they had the flyers for Clash of the Titans, and we went to the next Clash of the Titans. And I remember, I think we went there two times, and we thought that’s the best party we’ve ever been to, music and people-wise. And so we hung around until they sort of approached us and said, oh, you’re always here. Like, maybe you want to contribute. And before we knew it, we were part of it.

S: Yeah, and we met a lot of people through these parties. I mean, we met Christoph. And yeah, it was very well connected, everything. Yeah. It still is in a way.

L: So there was some scene for punk in Austria before you went to Berlin.

S: That’s kind of where it started. So there was a little bit of something, some like DIY culture. Yeah, sure. Yeah, punk, yes. Yeah. But yeah, there has been also an electronics scene in Austria. I mean, Pure was doing the Loop parties, and he started in the early 90s. But he was active in Vienna, and we are from Graz.

U: No, there were raves. I remember we were going to raves, but they were mostly about drugs, really. But we had, I don’t know, we had other things where we were driving to someone’s place in the country, and like everyone would, you know, put on music, sort of DIY party. But that was good…

CF: Uli, you are also producing music as Bombhead. Can you tell us a bit about that project? Are there others you are involved with?

U: Well, there’s not so much to it. Like I’m collecting odd sounds, and I’m programming stuff that produces odd sounds. And sometimes I glue them together into tracks. And I have a live set which evolves, in fact I’m really involved in other projects. That’s Marvette with Pat, and that’s NEIN. with Sandra. But these are going a bit at a slow pace at the moment. So maybe something will come up in the future.

L: So NEIN. is both of you? Yeah? Can you tell us a bit about the project?

S: We only published one track.

U: We published one track, and we found it’s a very cool name. And it was not taken, which is totally unbelievable.

S: And yeah, we plan to do more. And actually, I mean, I think we enjoy it, but it’s more difficult than the video stuff. For me, it’s more difficult.

U: We’re both not really like musicians. Like we’re not playing any instruments and not collecting vintage synths or this. So it’s a bit tricky. But we have, I don’t know, we can still make like sound collage, I think, both of us.

S: Yeah, but I’m always not so happy how it sounds. And I don’t know. We will see. Perhaps that’s something.

U: Perhaps, yeah.

S: Perhaps, perhaps.

CF: Well, that leads us to the last question. Which are your plans for upcoming projects for the future?

S: The future is cancelled. I thought so!?

U: Yeah, but we are prepared.

CF: And when is the sansculotte movie coming out?

U: Oh, this is, that sansculotte movie, I would not even want to promise that. But yeah, we’re working on things constantly. And there will be stuff coming out. Currently working on a documentary about Reality Asylum, which is the first single of the influential British punk band Crass. And it’s coming along nicely, but it will take some time to finish.

S: And in our pipeline is a music video for Kovert. Yeah, for Praxis Records. Will also come along.

sansculotte Links:

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