Name: Boozoo Bajou
Members: Florian Seyberth, Peter Heider
Current release: Boozoo Bajou's "Lambique EP" is out March 4th on Apollo.
Recommendations: The late paintings from Pierre Soulages, and almost all dubs from King Tubby. Wayne Shorter – speak no evil.
If you enjoyed this interview with Boozoo Bajou, visit their excellent homepage for more information about their work and lots of music.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
At the age of 16, Peter started to make his first overdub recordings with a 4-track cassette recorder. Back then, bands like Azimuth, for example, were very inspiring: ayering these different percussion instruments, drum sets and keyboard sounds on top of each other and supplementing them with synthesizers which were still borrowed at the time.
Listening, recording, listening again, dubbing and arranging quickly became an inexhaustible cosmos and a great passion. By playing in many projects, in orchestras, theatre, bands and collectives, an important listening experience has also developed over the years. But also passionately listening to music, coming from any direction or time, plays an immense role, which we also enjoy very much, from which we still always unconsciously learn. The placement of instruments in different rooms always plays a big role for us.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
Copying and learning from others, or musical role models have always had their part, of course, you try to find out for yourself, what corresponds to your own character, that is not really defined in the first few years, but it often a long term development. Later it was important to select out all of the technology, ability and knowledge, to leave it behind, and to develop your own language … you have to be able to distance yourself from some things.
For example, if you only manage to concentrate on playing your own instrument instead of looking at the overall picture, you don't become a composer, arranger or producer, you are then an interpreter and, hopefully, a very accomplished instrumentalist ... but your own developing sound, an idea for the big picture, is another level of engagement with music.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Well, compositional and production-related challenges are two different things.
In the past, most productions also had a collective, but also a separate division of different experts in a large team; the producer, the composer, the technician, the instrumentalist, etc. Most producers/composers/musicians now do almost everything themselves and that has continued to develop over the decades; our many years of experience help us here.
We still believe that the greatest challenge is, and was to know what not to do! Because of the immense possibilities today, and the limited options back then it’s about knowing how we want to sound.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
A 4 track cassette recorder, a couple of acoustic and electronic instruments, a mixing board, a couple of microphones. In the late Eighties, an Atari 1040 ST was added, a revolution :) Midiequipment etc … sampling was a great tool early on, the first hardware samplers from Akai or Roland, drum computers … actually everything was tried out, exchanged, new synths were bought, others sold again ... we didn't accumulate much, except for a lot of acoustic or electro-acoustic instruments, what we didn’t need more often, was exchanged for something more interesting new stuff ...
Now we have a mac for recording, a small mixing board, good interfaces, a couple of microphones, Wurlitzer/Fender Rhodes - electric piano, a Buchla Easel-Ksynthesizer, and many others analog synthesizers and effects in our inventory, as well as first-class headphones and monitors for working, mixing and mastering ... we actually do everything ourselves.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
We actually always combine synthetic-electronic instruments or sounds with acoustic instruments and musicians, it always plays a big role to find a good mix and to integrate the creative input of the "played" instruments. For us that is elementary and often decisive, which vibe the basic sound of the track ultimately becomes.
Since we have a lot of good musicians in our circle of friends, it's a very natural process, and often in a very short term, all ideas can be implemented, of course, it is different with singers. It's a completely different approach, and it depends a lot on the voice, but also on the impartiality of the singers, whether a collaboration works well or not.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
Most of the time we do long-lasting sessions based on a basic idea. We add various instruments to try and test what sounds good over hours and days and weeks. It doesn’t really matter which source the musical ingredients come from - that can be a plugin, a sample or something from our collection of analog equipment.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
It's actually pretty simple. Through the creative process, these insights develop by themselves, where you think, "That would be great if XY would sing or play along with it." We have always done it that way and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Whether this process then happens in the studio or via data exchange is mostly due to the distance.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
The whole thing actually happens with us in a certain flow. There are such rough anchor points, but they are flexible. Before the pandemic, people usually met in the studio in the late morning. Depending on the mood, flow and weather, you dared to play the music. Often a lot happens spontaneously with us. If you realize one day that today is not our day, with the right weather you would rather go to a beer garden. But when we are in flow, the track runs non-stop for 5-6 hours. For us, this is a quality criterion.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that’s particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
There are certain basic moods that we follow. They are periodically dependent. We listen to different music and slowly get started. Ultimately, we must always feel comfortable with it. Otherwise, it's not Boozoo. Often our sketches then have a cinematic narrative character. That is best for us. From there the whole thing picks up.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
That's pretty easy to tell. No pressure, no expectation, enough time to let things happen. Listen to yourself. Where are you at home? It's all pretty down to earth. Wanting too much is not good for us to make music.
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
Both are crucial and important and ultimately interwoven. The composing of material that has already been played; sounds, atmospheres, licks or entire passages can already exist as our source material or exist in our sound libraries already. So after the first rough arrangement, they’́re supplemented with improvising various instruments … or vice versa … the improvising takes place first, and great moments arise, virtually from spontaneous creativity.
Now it depends on how much you curb the whole thing and want to get to the point … or whether you want to do a “free-open” music project … we like situations like that too … everything is important and exciting.
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
Good question! For us, this is the crucial point where a project either stands out for itself from other productions or becomes drowned in the swamp of irrelevance. The sound of individual, even smaller elements, can play a huge role in a piece, even be an important decision in which direction the mood of a piece moves at the end … Spaces, sound or also minor/major superimpositions, almost of which all of our music consists, have a high priority for us, and find their place in the composition or production from the beginning. If this vibe is not there right from the start, it rarely turns into a good piece of music afterwards.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
We believe our music is very much based on pictures. This is another quality criterion for us when we work on new material. Inner images can arise when that happens, the music is good too.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
Yes, art is a purpose of its own, and we do not see politics and/or social influences connected with it.
To make a clear distinction at this point - we are not lyricists or songwriters, that would be a completely different topic, and it would have to be linked to a very personal, and hopefully meaningful message! In this context sound etc. actually only plays a subordinate role. And arrangement or production is very indifferently possible, we're talking about our personal preferences as a producer team. Art, artist, but above all the music stands alone and for itself … value-free, unencumbered, independent.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
To be honest, absolutely no idea. Since music is something original, like a language of its own, and can move us on a very deep level, we don't know what it could look like. There are already too many distractions. For us nowadays it is more important to reduce distractions in order to get back to the essentials.