Ina: How did you start in visual terms?
Eye Scratch: At film school I made a documentary, 'Blood Tastes Like Steel Taste', about the squatters in the lower east side, and they have these drumming escapades...
Ina: What do you mean by drumming escapades?
Eye Scratch: They call it 'metal jams' and its just a free form. 'Sun-Ra' used to perform exclusively in the squats on 13th street, and so this kind of 'free fusion music' has filtered down to the squatter kids when they expressed themselves. They have these metal jams where everyone sits around a bonfire in one of the open lots and bangs or blows into anything they can think of or found in a dumpster dive.
As the east village has developed, it's gotten very commercialized recently, a lot of cyber-cafes opened up...
Ina: It wasn't like that before?
Eye Scratch: No. We hung out in Tompkins Square Park where these futurist structures made of aluminum and plastic stood under the trees and bushes, and you look inside... that's where the homeless people were staying.... It's completely different now. There used to be fires burning in oil drums, it was a landscape. There were characters - some of the most incredible minds were out there. Artists that you might know stayed in the park. That's props. KRS-One used to perform in that park every Friday at a thing called 'The Speak Out.'
They stopped all that by closing the park for more than a year. They totally rebuilt the park - erase everything. The erasure is still going on...
Ina: Did that film turn out to be important for you?
Eye Scratch: It is a finished project, although parts of it are still floating in my head. Later that weekend, after the Rodney King Riots, at the in Washington Square Park, we were again interviewing some squatters. A kind of 'breakthrough' happened, when a guy called 'Straight Arrow' said: 'Stop interviewing me, let me go interview somebody!' It was like 'wow', they've grabbed the Technics... what film would that be? A propaganda film?
'StraightArrow' looking at his punk-self, wearing a ripped T-shirt of the Union Jack walks up to this posse of Homeboys listening to the new release of 'Das EFX' distorting on a boombox and started talking politics.
Immediately we run out of film, but we still have the sound for like 2 hours of this discussion between 200 people going at it. All the energy of the Rodney King riots that never really happened in New York, all the anger came out.
It became a media event. Right now I'm still working on a project about that conversation.
Ina: When did you start combining film, video and computer-animation?
Eye Scratch: (...) I started working for this company to run their Avid Media Composer 8000 which is a sleek digital editing machine. At night I got to use the machine for my own projects together with Karl Franke, a friend from my Williamsburg days who had been to Tanzania. We started editing the video footage he shot in the village of 'Muchadzia'. When Karl first arrived in the village he was welcomed by the chief, who had been drinking '7-days-palm-beer'. It's a kind of beer, that ferments in the hollowed out hub of a palm tree. The chief climbs up and sifts the beer out of the stump top. The chief danced an elaborate welcome dance for Karl, with one of many crowns - a white plastic construction helmet. He begins the dance by holding the construction helmet low with both hands, moving it rhythmically. Then he brings it higher until finally he's swinging the helmet above his head.
The dance lasts about three minutes. So I had loaded it into the computer and I started searching for particular points to cut it down. In the computer you do this by shuffling back and forth and it gives you the frames instantly - non-linear. At the same time we were listening to the new Jungle compilation CD that had just come out and I started moving and animating the Chief of Muchadzia by scratching this shot to the music.
A lot of rave kids and jungelists dance in a loop. The Chief was not dancing in loops, but I could create these loops by moving him back and forth over the same place in the shot.
I realized that within this dance that is usually quite slow and random the Chief had programmed a thousand different dances into the shot and that, to Jungle, I could now find them by employing every different movement as a different dance and so this was the idea for the Eye Scratch.
Ina: You talk about rave, Eye Scratch sounds somehow more like hip hop?
Eye Scratch: Yeah, the name is hip hop but Jungle has the stretched beats. Check it. First of all, I do it all live, that's why I don't really create loops. Say you have a record and it has a beat on it, and by dee-jaying and moving your hand you can create so many different beats out of it. Just by cutting it up, using different pieces, even by just using one beat by itself you can create any beat - simply live.
This is the same thing I do. I have a looping program, which I use at a lot of dub and ambient shows, 'cause it needs to be slower. But for Jungle and trip hop I do mostly scratching ('Konkrete Jungle', every Monday at 'Wetlands') , just a live scratch by running the image back and forth. So it might be a loop, but it's never the same loop because I'm controlling it completely organically and I can never hit exactly the same frame twice at the same interval. So it flows and with Jungle's stretched beats that works well.
Ina: So its most of the time switching between two sources in a riddim?
Eye Scratch: That's the thing I don't have yet - two sources - I would need two computers for that - right now it's all in one...
Ina: Art Jones, who is also a video DJ, does it by switching between different camera and recorder sources. Yours is more like moving the mouse, clicking in different sections?
Eye Scratch: Right. I scratch with the mouse and then on the keyboard I have all my movies programmed to each key, the whole keyboard is just a simple way to shuffle to another movie, so there are no menus or buttons...
Ina: That's how a lot of housetraxs-performers nowadays do live performances too.
Eye Scratch: I don't really use the computer as a computer, so I would say I try to turn the computer into a turntable.
Ina: So what was that you told me before, that you try to develop a kind of laptop ball to scratch with...?
Eye Scratch: Right. I am actually trying to develop this big thing where you can scratch by moving a basketball, so the crowd at the party can do it... kind of extra-active idea...
Ina: Do you feel privileged to use the equipment you work with?
Eye Scratch: I feel, though, that the real culture is still contained in the streets. That's where I do my filming. And it won't be contained on the internet until the streets are there on the computer networks. I believe, coming from a visual point of view, that hip hop is montage, pure and simple. And it's about the process of techniques. Now it's just a matter of bringing the innovations that hip hop gives montage, such as scratching, to the visual domain.
Ina: What is the project you're working on right now?
Eye Scratch: I'm writing a script around the images I've collected while doing this show for a film based on the scratch technique. I will release the software so other people can start using it. I want to try to set some sort of precedence with that film, something that's permanent, something that's not floating in a club. Rave kids forget what they did last week, so the film would be there. By doing these parties I met incredible artists, DJ's, Poets & MC's, so a big shout out to: Olive, Jae 'inflight slide' Byun, Spooky, Tim, FPU, Toshio MK, Asiaday, delMar, Darron, Byzar, Jamalski, Ras, Carlos, Honeychild and much love to Ligeia. They are all incredible people. I will do it like a live LP, filming it off the screen.
Fotos: Ina Wudtke
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