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
The Candy Coated
1. Many critics speculated as to what sort
of musical upbringing might have been responsible for the Hans
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
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
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
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
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
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
The Happy as Pitch CD
14. Do you pay much attention to what critics write about your
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
conducted by Michael Tau
published October 2009