Name: Claudia Lippmann
Occupation: Drummer, composer, improviser
Nationality: German
Current release: Claudia Lippmann's duo T:W:O with saxophonist Esther Klever has just released its debut EP What If, available via Stringkiller.  

[Read our Esther Klever interview]

Recommendations: Jimmy Cornett and the Deadmen - Heal your Soul; T:W:O - What If

If you enjoyed this interview with Claudia Lippmann of T:W:O and would like to stay up to date on new releases and tour dates, visit her on Facebook, and Instagram.

When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/ or sound that drew you to it?

The guitar was my first instrument followed by drums and percussion. I played in a West African percussion group for 5 years and the African rhythms influenced me a lot in my drumming.

I started writing music quite late in 2017. I just wanted to try it out and I quickly found it easy to let my creativity run free. I bought a midi keyboard and learned writing music by doing.

In the beginning, I did a lot of things by ears when I was producing because my theoretical knowledge was not yet fully developed. I'm hard to pin down musically, I like a lot of different styles and I also find extraordinary instruments exciting. As a result, none of my songs sounds the same. I let things flow and do what feels right in the moment.

For most artists, originality is 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?

For years I played as a drummer / percussionist in various bands and projects that couldn't be more musically different. Traditional African drum music followed by a metal band and a funk / soul band. As a result, I was able to get to know and try out many styles of music, I also incorporated many influences into the production of T:W:O.

I think there is still a lot to come. Music is far from being exhausted and constantly developing.

How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?

A few years ago I couldn't even imagine writing my own songs because until 2017 I was “only” the performing musician in bands. Until then, I didn't trust myself to produce and let my creativity run free.

This step towards writing and producing my own material was also a change in my identity as a musician. I was no longer just the person operating an instrument . I was also a creator of new music.

What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?

As already mentioned, I've only been writing and producing my own music for a very short time. For the most part, the challenge was the lack of theoretical knowledge which limited me at the beginning. Having ideas wasn’t a hurdle, but I didn't know how to implement them.

That's why I'm more than happy to be able to write together with Esther now. She is an incredible musician and can directly implement my musical ideas and we just complement each other so well.

As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?

I taught myself how to play the accoustic guitar when I was 13 years old. One year later I started playing drums followed by percussion when I turned 18. Since 2017 I have been writing songs which I have produced manly with Garage Band from the beginning, because I get along very well with the program and it is completely sufficient to me for pre-production.

I usually do drum recordings separately in a recording-studio. For mixing and mastering we are working together with well-established studio.

Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?

When I started producing I worked with a midi keyboard for the first time. It was a completely new instrument for me and gave me the opportunity to try out creative things in a new way.

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?

Exchanging ideas creatively is very important to me. While I was studying drums, I went to every available jam session. This made me grow a lot as a musician because you get to meet so many different musicians and receive a lot of input. A large network is also important. Without my connections, I would never have played for [German national TV program] ZDF Magazin or [blues/country/southern rock band] Jimmy Cornett and the Deadmen today.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. 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?

I don't have a set routine. Without coffee, however, nothing works at first. When I have time, I sit down at the computer shortly after getting up and start producing because I am still fresh and clear in my head.

As a freelancer I pursue various activities. I teach drums, play percussion for a television production company (ZDF Magazin Royale) and mostly in the weekends I play concerts with the band Jimmy Cornett and the Deadmen. Therefore, every day is structured very differently. Music is a big part in my everyday life.

Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?

It was also quite late that I decided to make music my profession.

Back then in 2007 I put everything on one card and broke off my training as an event manager in Chemnitz to study drums in Düsseldorf. Without knowing whether I would be accepted yet, I moved to Düsseldorf. My decision paid off and I've been living in Düsseldorf since then and have been able to make a living from music ever since. I always follow my heart, even if in life you have to accept disappointments. I am glad I took this step.

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?

For me there is no such thing as the ideal state of mind. I like to write early in the day when my head is still clear. If I sit down and want to write something, 90 percent of the time it works. Sometimes it also works quite well under time pressure when something has to be finished. But that always depends on my daily form.

Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?

I would like to quote our singer Jimmy Cornett because he has put it very nicely: If you have physical pain, you go to the doctor who can help you. If you have psychological problems you go to a psychologist. But there's only one thing that can heal your soul - music.

Working together with Esther on our T:W:O project brought me personally through the difficult time of the corona pandemic. Without the project I wouldn't have known what to do with myself. It really pushed me to work on songs with her and to be able to stay creative despite the forced break.

There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?

Everyone copies from everyone in some way. We all have different influences that always flow into our own work, whether that happens consciously or subconsciously. You can't reinvent the wheel.

But I don't think that’s a bad thing. It is nice to know, that we can all learn from each other and inspire people with music.

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?

It has been proven that, for example, people without a sense of sight have better hearing. When I listen to music I often close my eyes to be able to enjoy it better.

The most moving experience I had, was when I gave a concert to deaf people with my band Jimmy Cornett at the Deadmen. They only experienced the music through vibrations and that touched me deeply. Music is vibration and you can feel them without being able to hear or see them.

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?

There are artists who act politically motivated. Used for a good cause, I think that's a great thing. For me, music is for everyone.

Personally, I want to give something that is good for others, something you can enjoy for the moment you hear the song. It's a fine line, because art can also be misused to spread political opinions and thoughts.

What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?

Music decouples feelings that can be so strong and overwhelming, that they cannot be put into words. Maybe that is the reason we write mostly instrumental songs.