Hauschka - Interviews - Soundblab


by Rich Morris Rating: Release Date:

Anyone who's heard the music of Hauschka (aka Volker Bertelmann) will find it instantly unforgettable. An artist who takes classical and modernist music into new realms inspired by the techno, hip hop and dance he loved as a youth. Salon des Amateures, his transcendent new album, takes his sound further than ever, using prepared piano (customised with gaffer tape, aluminium foil, bottle tops, ping-pong balls - even vibrators), sparse orchestration, drums and synth to recreate and transform electronica into something else. It's intelligent dance music, played by a Regency dandy with access to a box of futuristic sonic tricks. Soundblab caught up with him to talk about collaborations, future projects and why silence is the best kind of music.

You new album Salon des Amateures is something of a departure. What was the inspiration for that?

It looks from the outside as a departure but for me it was just a logical step to intergrate my musical past into my contemporary compositions in using patterns from dance music and as well bass. I was always listening to danceable music and I liked hip hop , drum 'n' bass and techno. So in a way it was for me the inspiration of getting slowly in a position where I can go in this direction without loosing the strength of the piano music.

Do you usually have a concept for your albums?

I have an initial idea and then I start throwing things into the pot. I try to have as few limitations as possible to see where I am at and to find my position. I think that is the best way to feel free and comfortable.

What are your musical inspirations? To what degree are you inspired by other artists?

This question appears a lot and I have to say I am rather inspired by life and experience then by music from the outside... I think I pick up new influences very quick and I feel always a kind of attraction and at the sametime a distance to other musician's music because I dont want to have it influencing my work too much. I am a big fan of sShoenberg especially before the 12-tone music phase and of course minimal composers like Steve Reich but at the same time I danced to music by The Neptunes and their minimal hip hop and to music from the Cologne-based label Kompakt.

How did you get started making music?

I was nine-years-old when I started piano lessons and I knew allready at that age that music would be a big part of my life. I started the first rock band at 12 and from that time onwards I was constantly writing songs and compositions with other musicians and for myself.

How do you choose your collaborators? Who would you like to work with in the future?

I think I choose my collaborations like they come to me in a natural way. I meet musicians , film-makers or other artists on my way and we are sometimes inspired from each other. I am not a big fan of saying, 'lets do something together' when I can't do it. So mostly it is growing into a possible collaboration. I would love to collaborate with Owen Palett at some point or with Imogen Heap.

What music are you into right now?

I am right now listening to no music as i am touring a lot and i like the quietness. So if you count silence into the music spectrum then I am into silence right now.

How do you go about preparing the instruments you use? Is it trial and error or is it more methodical?

It is a mixture out of both... I have a standard set up from which I start of and then I try to modify it for each piano as every piano is quite different.

You compositions are often highly emotional but also very structured. How do you balance those two extremes?

I think these extremes are in myself... I have a passion for formulas and mathematics. As a kid I was allready into these long mathematic solutions that you have to find to solve a problem.I loved matrix calculations and programming computers. On the other side I loved dancing and adventure and I think my life is only complete when I can see the advantage of both things in my life. So in my music I have the passion for structure and repetition but also the melodies are involved as welll as a beautifull major or minor chord. So it is the abstraction and the richness that makes my idea of music complete.

Your previous album, Foreign Landscapes, was something of a travelogue. Do you have a favourite place to visit? What sort of places inspire you?

I love here as well places that have a sort of abstraction, clarity and purity like mountains, silent places in nature and at the same time places like New York or Berlin, London or Madrid where you have the whole spectrum of life and energy of people living together.

What's next for Hauschka? I've read you're planning to record with Kenyan musicians. Can you tell us more about that?

I have a possibility of recording maybe a record in Nairobi next year and I am looking forward to that. We are still planing but it seems like it could happen. I am also working on a filmscore for a German feature film and I will compose some music for a theater piece. So all in all, there is a lot to do.

Salon des Amateures has more of an electronic edge than Foreign Landscapes. Is that something you will continue to pursue?

Foreign Landscapes and Salon des Amateures somehow reflect a left and right spectrum form me which I want to shape a little bit more in the next years. The electronic and the composed music are hopefully growing simultaniously in myself so that it will be at some point a whole musical world rather then the poles. So these two records are representing somehow the starting point for a musical development.

Salon des Amateures is out now on Fat Cat Records

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