Name: Christian Hornbostel
Occupation: Producer, DJ
Current Release: Christian Hornbostel's Liber Novus is out now on Form Music
Book: Fulcanelli »Le Mystère des Cathédrales« (1922)
Piece of music: Manuel Göttsching »E2-E4« (1981)
If you enjoyed this interview with Christian Hornbostel, visit him on his personal website or head over to his facebook account. Both will give you a deeper look into his world.
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?
Actually music has been accompanying me daily since I was a child. My mother was a classical-music lover, so I grew up listening to Beethoven, Mozart, Debussy, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, etc ...
I received my first musical education (solfège and transverse flute performance) from the local music school at the age of 11. I played with my first band at the age of 14, later becoming a professional recording studio session-drummer. During my college years I lost my mind for psychedelic, progressive & hard rock, for fusion & jazz, for funk & disco, for new wave & techno, starting at the same time to collect thousands of vinyls. At 18, I started deejaying and, shortly after, composing and producing my first tracks.
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 the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
To emulate means to copy, imitate, or reproduce and this is something that can bring a lot of troubles in certain cases. Let me clarify.
During puberty, I often performed in front of the mirror, singing and moving like the stars from that time. (laugh) But as soon as I started to compose and produce my own stuff and make it public, I wanted to avoid the risk of being labelled as a wannabe. Furthermore, as I became a GEMA member (and later publisher) I learned everything not only about composition & performance rights, but also about copyright law. Probably also for this reason, unconsciously, I have always kept myself away from any emulation thoughts and impulses, both in the recording studio and in the DJ booth, preferring instead to focus on developing my own style.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
In the beginning I had to dig deep into my pockets to buy great, but at the same time outrageously expensive instruments like the legendary Sampler Akai S1000 or the Waldorf Rack Attack as well as several effect processors from Lexicon. The main challenge was to get acquainted with all this external hardware (for me at that time extremely complicated) by myself and as quickly as possible.
In recent years, with the arrival of new, not only more affordable but also faster and more efficient technologies, and also thanks to many years of experience, my process of learning a software or plugin has become faster and more effective. Sound research and the compositional process have benefited from this technical development massively.
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?
Not a too pleasant memory probably (laughs). This is because, at that time, the price–performance ratio of the equipment was, as previously said, unsatisfactory. Today, I could never imagine having to invest that much time in order to import samples or activate plugins the way I had to in the old Power Macintosh 6100 era!
Regarding my DAW I was a Cubase, Logic and ProTools user for a long time. Since the end of 2016 I am working with Ableton Live. This is an extremely intuitive and efficient software. In conjunctions with Push 2, it offers even more effective possibilities for implementations.
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?
Having studied composition, I know very well how hierarchically important the role of melody in most genres of music is. Paradoxically, my style of techno-music is primarily characterised by complex grooves together with a bassline or/and sequencers. Of course, in comparison to a melody which you can play with several instruments or even sing or whistle, for a techno-bassline, sequencer or synth you need damn good and appropriate machines in order to reach the proper sound.
So my biggest achievement and accomplishment, during the composition and production phase, is finding the golden mean between creativity and technology.
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?
As I said before, my compositional process has massively benefited from ever-new, complex and overwhelming software instruments and tools. In comparison to their predecessors, the new models offer endless possibilities and extensive options for connecting to other devices. You can build custom synths, samplers, effects, and sound design tools, creating something that has never been heard before.
Furthermore, I have to admit that I often even change or adapt a melody or pad, in consequence of the new feeling I got in the meantime from a inspirational sound I am playing. In other words, inspiration comes from a harmonic combination between my mind, my feelings and exciting sound research.
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?
I started my professional career on the international techno scene in a duo, producing together with Mr. Marvin. Under the moniker of Virtualmismo and of VFR, we released - among many other productions - the singles Mismoplastico and Tranceillusion, that were hammered by Sasha & John Digweed and included by the pair on their groundbreaking Renaissance compilation. So it was an amazing, successful time in the studio where we really achieved creative synergy, putting together spontaneously and genuinely complementary skills.
But after Marvin decided to totally change his life (becoming later an aircraft pilot) and probably because of a psychological, emotional reaction to the unexpected end of our artistic collaboration, I learned to get my energy and inspiration from being alone in the recording studio and not around people. Nowadays I am happy with this hermit style (laughs).
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?
Many people think, that a music producer can work according to the motto I have a laptop, my studio is my bag and it’s irrelevant where I am. In my case that is only half the story because I run a company that is an organic entity of music & media productions, a recording studio and publishing and management, all harmoniously linked together.
In addition to my own productions and daily tasks, I regularly get several commissioned works. I normally work from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sometimes I can be more flexible, at other times I have to strictly observe my dates, which depends on many factors. Of course, when I am working on a special project, like for example an album, with extreme work ethic, high level of commitment and creativity, time plays no role.
But nobody can stick their nose in my time management which is a priceless feeling.