1. Who are you?

James Hoff.

2. What do you do?

I’m an artist.

3. Where do you often create/produce?

I have a painting studio in Brooklyn, but I make most of my music on airplanes.



5. Why do you play music?

Unlike painting, it’s typically more immediate and more social. It’s hard to pump your fist to painting.

6. When did you start making music?

When I was a kid. It was the usual teenage-boredom-lets-start-a-band kind of thing.

7. Which track defines you the most?

The ones that I lose when the computer crashes—those are always the best ones.

8. How would you describe your own music?


9. Any track of the moment?

TCF’s 54 C6 05 1C 13 CC 72 E9 CC DC 84 F2 A3 FF CC 38 1E 94 0D C0 50 5C 3E E8

10.What influences your work?

Hard to say—it changes from project to project.

11.What’s your academic background? Are you an autodidact?

I have a degree in political theory but for the important things in life I’m an autodidact.

12.Favorite designer?

George Maciunas.

13.Favorite book?

Books are my first love so this is very hard question. Here is a list of books I keep in the studio for distraction and inspiration: Geisha This by Destroy All Monsters, Dieter Roth’s Gesammelte Werke Band 8, Miami Blues by Charles Willeford, An Anthology by Jackson Mac Low/La Mount Young, Hollywood Babylon 1 & 2 by Kenneth Anger, Secrets by Douglas Huebler, Everybody’s Pixilated by Russel. Arundel, A Pickle for the Knowing Ones; or PlainTruths in a Homespun Dress by Lord Timothy Dexter, and Digital Contagions by Jussi Parikka.

14.Favorite classic movie?

Bruce Nauman’s Stamping in the Studio.

15.Favorite music label?

I’ve never been a label guy, oddly, but Slowscan, Algha Margen, Radiotaxi, Creel Pone all figure prominently for me.

16.Your dream collaboration?

Beyonce (vocals) and Keiji Haino (guitar/vocals), me (Electronics), Cameron Jamie (Producers), Kim Fowley (Manager), Dan Graham (Astrological Guide).

17. Are you analog or digital?

Both, but with the virus stuff it’s mostly digital. Last year though I was producing some work for French Horn and Tuba, the combination of which produces some seriously valiant downer trips.

18.Which softwares/tools/ instruments do you use/play?

Hex Editor, Ableton, Sound Hack, Max MSP.

19.Describe your creative process?

Usually it starts with an idea/concept that gestates for months or even years and then I  plug a creative mode into it, which these days is music or painting. From there I start composing and editing. I usually scrap/sabotage my early efforts in order to create something that sounds or looks new to me. It’s laborious but I long for surprises.

20.When are you the most prolific (creatively)?

In the morning for sure, between the first and second cup of coffee.

21. Any favorite record stores? (Real/virtual)

The Record Grump, Fusetron, Gelb Musik (RIP), Mimaroglu, Experimedia.

22.What’s your life philosophy? (Optimistic/pessimistic)

I think of myself as a realist but most people read this as pessimistic.

23.Do you have a healthy lifestyle?

Classically speaking yes: four good groups and moderate exercise, but these days without a standing desk, yoga ball, kale obsession, or gluten free diet, I feel like I’m living with one foot in the grave.

24.How do you manage your time effectively? (Job/hobby)

Lists. Lists. Lists. My only hobby is books, reading and collecting them, which is easily done on the fly or while commuting.

25. Any secret skills?

I speak Norwegian.

26. Any future plans?

Live shows, new records, and a commission for Deutschland Radio (pay attention to those station breaks folks).

27.What’s your life motto?

When I was in high school all the athletes would say B.T.T.W., which meant Balls to the Walls. I don’t know exactly what it means, but they always used as a way to get pumped up before a big event. In lieu of never really having adopted a life motto, I think Balls to the Wall could work (especially now that Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die no longer applies).

28. Any “mot de la fin”?

French was always something I meant to learn.


|Discussion| This Interview was conducted by email.


1- In both, “Blaster” and “Skywiper” you are using the virus as medium to infect material. How did the idea of using this notion of infection came from?

Prior to this, I was working with syndromes and earworms as a subject and (to some extent) mode for my visual and sound works. Computer viruses were a logical next step with the bonus that they have the potential to activate digital media. The early Trojan Horse Pervade was an inspiration as was Elk Cloner and the Morris Worm. Once Stuxnet hit the news as a politically manufactured weapon, it became more of a mission to incorporate computer viruses into my practice.

The initial results were noisy and chaotic and very different. One day while listening to them on the subway I was gifted with some teenagers who were dancing to loud breaks from a boom box. When this happened, the noise from my headphones combined with the breaks and BLASTER was born.

2 – Viruses present no truth or falsity, as unexploited territory they remain full of creative potential. Do you consider the neutrality of the virus as an asset or a boundary in your artistic practice?

I’m glad you see them as neutral—most people I speak with only see them as destructive.

On a practical level, my interest in the virus lies in their ability to function as active agents (that can change sounds/images). They are highly functional tools in the studio that can activate an image or sound file in unpredictable ways.

On a conceptual level, my interest lies in their role as an agent in communication and distribution networks. Viruses and illnesses (in general) are parasitic and inherently tied to the act and modes of communication. Since they are already part of the communication process/mechanisms/apparatus I decided to use them in the creative process as well.

3 – Is the use of raw data in your work intentional? 
Are you seeking to represent the notion of transparency through this approach?

For the most part, I’m taken by how the media we consume these days is created through code—language and syntax. Much of my work in the past has engaged the relationship between language and sound or image. The process I’m engaged in with the computer virus allows me to create works by subverting the underlying code of ubiquitous sound or image files—it allows me to use language as a creative tool in a different way than a writer and in a different way than a programmer and with completely different results. I could also do this by traditional data moshing, but such an act would only partially fulfill the work’s conceptual mission, which also places high value on the computer virus as a parasitic and politically loaded cultural phenomenon.

4 – Your approach of using creative means to denounce current political and social issues in the digital realm, reminded us of the work of the studio Metahaven
Is your work “engaged”? If yes, what are you trying to denounce?

These days, I feel that creative means are always engaged, whether an artist seeks it or not. In regards to my work, one could not use a computer virus like stuxnet and not have it be politically engaged. That said, I’ve never encouraged a clear 1:1 reading/explanation between my political motivations and my work. To a large extent my sound works have sought composition by pushing the tenuous relationship between political and cultural arenas. The work seeks to open a space between the tension of the two. I also believe firmly that artists should liberate military tools/applications whenever possible and employ them to creative ends.

5 – “Blaster” and “Skywiper” are illustrating the same concept but in two different ways. Whether you are sonifiying or visualizing data, which process did you find the most surprising to work with? Is the notion of unpredictability important in your work?

They both present their own challenges and their own limitations, but I think the visual side was more surprising because the range of images that I was able to get through the process was so large: from geometric abstraction to classic glitch aesthetics to abstract expressionism; it sort of ran the gamut. The sound stuff was more fun however because it’s just a little more immediate.

Fundamentally, I’m not interested in chance operation as much as I’m interested in the deployment of the virus as a compositional tool, though chance and unpredictability are very large part of that process (perhaps even welcoming so).

6 – Is “Blaster” meant to be felt as a “musical” composition?

Not “musical” in the Broadway sense, but yes, I always wanted it to function as music as well as a concept. The means by which it is produced is important but it is equally important that it be heard as music. I could have used the virus to create noise driven soundscapes (or other forms that would have targeted a smaller audience) but I chose to create dance music (however compromised) because it already exists as a popular and distributed genre form. It seemed that this gave the work the potential to be heard by more people (for the virus to spread if you will through a larger and more codified network).

I also want to see people move to a computer virus; to make the computer virus physical in some way.

7 – In the future, are you interesting in exploring other mediums?

Yes, I have begun working with an architect and a programmer in an attempt to infect 3D forms, mostly small sculpture but perhaps, eventually architecture.

8 – According to Deleuze, “the act of art is an act of resistance”. Do you agree? Do you consider viruses as art? 

I definitely think it can be but  I am always skeptical of such a narrow read of what art is or should be. I think Deleuze sounds like a romantic looking for heroes here. I prefer art that challenges (formally, aesthetically, socially, politically, etc) rather than simply resists—art should do more than react.

9 – Do you have any utopian projects?

I don’t think so; I’ve never believed in any specific utopian ideal. I have a degree in political theory, which (classically speaking) could be read as the study of utopian models. I think it soured me on the notion.

10 – What are you working on right now?

I am working on a new sound project for Deutschland Radio. They commissioned me to create several new virus works that will play as sound beds between radio programs. It’s a new platform for the virus project and it ensures that many people will hear the work not knowing its conceptual pedigree, which is definitely appealing. There will be more live sound shows in the new year as well.

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