EPITAPH FOR JOHN
In late 2000, I received an e-mail from John Watermann. It was rather out of the blue, since we hadn't been in contact for maybe ten years. I don't have that e-mail anymore, but I remember that it started like this: "I hope you remember me? I have been diagnozed with cancer which is incurable", and then he went on to propose that I buy the remainder of his self-released CD-Rom, "A Rose Is A Rose". John also proposed that we do a musical collaboration together. I mailed him a CDR of field recordings that I had made in the summer of 2000 in Sweden, and he mailed me a CDR called 'Toowong Cemetary'. During the next year and in early 2002, John and I e-mailed about how we should approach this collaborative work. I did a fair share of processing on his sound material, but it seemed hard for me to finish. In my various e-mail communications with John, I didn't dare ask what would happen if he would die and the work was not completed.
In the afternoon of April 3th 2002, I got an e-mail from Shannon O'Neill, telling me that John had passed away. Afterwards, I got in contact with Barbara Heath and Malcolm Cones, who were both dealing with John's estate. They send me a couple of CDRs containing all the recent soundwork John had been working on, but they contained nothing of our collaboration. I left my music unfinished, until mid-2003 when I thought of inviting Asmus Tietchens to do some work on John's original sounds. I knew that they were in close contact. After Asmus had finished, and I still wasn't ready with my piece, so I invited two more people, Ralf Wehowsky and Masami Akita. In the previous years Masami worked on an extensive collaboration with John and Ralf Wehowsky mentions Watermann as one of the few artists he was keen follower of. Once I had their contributions, I decided to start from scratch and take their finished works as new raw sound material, which is why my piece is now at the end of the CD.
Over the course of his life John Watermann worked with almost every conceivable artistic medium. In many ways, he was the epitome of the "total artist"; almost every element of his life being in some way his own artistic project.
As a young man in his native Germany he worked as a photographer and documentary filmmaker, also etching, painting and writing. His experience as a youth in Germany in the Second World War influencing his work from then right through until his death.
Following his move to Australia Watermann worked as jeweller, opening a number of shops in Sydney with his longtime Australian partner Barbara Heath (an accomplished jeweller in her own right) and meanwhile continued to write, paint and even sculpt. Eventually, after traveling the east coast of Australia in a self-built sailing boat, Watermann settled in Brisbane and began to produce his music.
He first released his music in 1989 in the form of the album "Warmth is the Fifth Room". Like most of his releases, the cassette appeared in a run of very few copies on his own label "Nightshift", and was consequently almost impossible to find.
Over the next 10 years he released numerous albums and contributed to a number of compilations, both under his own name as a solo artist, in collaboration with others (such as Merzbow) and under a number of pseudonyms (including Radio Mull, Spinal Machine and Total Disease). Also, apart from his music, in the 1990s he created an interactive cd-rom work "Rose is a Rose" and published the webzine "Lean Yellow Supporting".
Sadly, on April 2nd 2002 John Watermann
died suddenly of an infection resulting from his ongoing treatment
for cancer. Having in the final year of his life returned to painting
and writing (alongside a burgeoning interest in cooking), he still
had vast plans for future
Among these unfulfilled projects were plans to collaborate with Frans de Waard on a new release. Although only preliminary discussions on the collaboration took place and Watermann never completed any work towards the project, Watermann's source material that was to be the basis of the work now serves as a basis for this tribute release.
Despite his vast artistic output, Watermann has been known almost exclusively for his music and even then his work remains largely undiscovered, perhaps for no other reason than its sheer unavailability. In many ways Watermann could be considered a classic example of the artists' artist, his work influencing many far more prominent sonic alchemists. And perhaps then this release serves as a record of Watermann and his influence, documenting the respect he reserved from his peers and, hopefully, introducing his work to a new audience.
- Ben Byrne