Name: Frederik Schumann
Occupation: Producer, drummer, multi-instrumentalist
Recent release: Frederik Schumann's Come Home & One in Body EP (including a DJ Rocca remix) is out now via 0G2N.
Recommendations: I will recommend two Danish artists. The visual artist Jacob Hunosøe. He works primarily with photography, simply amazing in a very understated way.
The painter and illustrator Kristian Funder. Both very talented in very different ways. Check them out.
[Read our DJ Rocca interview]
If you enjoyed this interview with Frederik Schumann and would like to find out more about his work, visit him on Instagram.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Playing music started with the drums when I was 11. Somehow they just spoke to me.
Writing was probably initiated as a teenager, when I played around with an old guitar and an old synth we had at home - naturally playing other people’s music at first. So I only properly wrote music many years later.
My intro to music was electro pop, which I discovered through my older brother. Especially Depeche Mode, Human League, New Order and Erasure were appealing to me. Simultaneously I was into Prince, Michael Jackson, very early Hip-Hop (I actually also did a little break dancing), and a lot of straight up pop music. At a much later stage grunge totally blew my mind, and trip hop did the same.
I used to be in a band, where our primary goal was “making it”. For my own music that was never the case. I make music for my own sake - because in can not not do it.
At some point I started playing around with an Atari 520ST running midi based Cubase, controlling an Akai s3000XL sampler and a Roland JV2080 rack synth. Later I added a Roland D-50. When I used vocals back then, I recorded them with the Akai sampler and triggered the vocal samples in Cubase.
To this day I like to explore and discover new music, and I guess I have a fairly broad musical taste. When music really hits, there is a sort of magical connection. I think it’s that magic we keep seeking, both as an audience and as creators.
When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?
Definitely connected to the body, but it’s more an emotional reaction for me. When I listen to music I usually instinctively know if it appeals to me or not - but I don’t always know why at first. I simply try to listen with my gut / feelings / instincts first. Then later I analyse.
When making my own music, I do the same. I start with something that feels good, a groove, a beat, a chord progression, a bassline, a bird sound, a heart beat, a line of poetry … whatever sparks my curiosity. Then I work from that for some time. Only later when I listen to it again, do I know if it works for me.
Essentially that process is then repeated many times, adding new layers / sections etc. and analysing those layers retrospectively.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
The music I prefer is melodic, gritty, subtle, repetitive, melancholy, sometimes also groovy. Some of that probably also describes my personality, and maybe even my music.
I am a little introvert, not extremely, but somewhere on the spectrum. So I lean towards music for reflection and relaxation when I am home. But when going out I like a groovy beat and a catchy melody. It all depends on the context.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
My main ambition is to make music that stands out - if only just a little. Always looking for a little twist. I not only write my own music, I also play in a few very niche projects that exemplifies this point.
With Detekt we made an album where heart beats with different heart arrhythmias is the foundation for each track. It is very minimal and dark, and a project I am very proud of.
In the very lively Dans & Lær where we combine groovy / funky live music with bird song and sampled ornithology talk.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
I would fall in the “music for the future” category, but I wouldn’t call it that myself. I know that revolutions in music happen extremely rarely, and I believe in natural progressions of most things.
But for things to progress naturally we need to aspire to making music a little differently every time. So that is my goal.
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
Overall my strategy is to find a few very good tools that work for me. I try to apply the same principle when writing and producing music; find a few good elements that work really well together, and let that be core.
My laptop is my main tool. I make music in Ableton Live now (left Pro Tools behind years ago), which has made it much easier, more intuitive and enjoyable for me to write music.
Regarding instruments; I have some amazing old synths that I love (Oberheim OB-8, Moog Opus 3, Korg Mono/Poly), some old and not very fancy acoustic drum kits, plus a nice 90s Fender Telecaster Japan model.
I use a few standard mics like the SM57, and record through a Universal Audio interface. And I use a TubeTech summing amp for mixing.
A few very high quality tools for me are much better than a tonne of so-so stuff.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
I start slowly every morning if possible. Wake up, lie in bed for a while, get up, drink a glass of water, take a shower, get dressed, drink black tea (english style), take a walk. Then I start working.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
I work with both music and design, I do and love both and believe the two areas inspire and cross-pollenate each other.
For both, the process is basically endless iterations. I zone in on whatever problem I need to solve; make a more interesting bassline, add something extra to the beat, find the right effect for the vocal etc., and work on that for a while. Then leave it, and come back and listen later.
The difficulty is knowing when something is finished. I find that playing a track for someone you respect and trust helps in two ways.
1. You get that person’s feedback (which you can then agree with or not).
2. You suddenly listen to the track differently yourself, hear things you didn’t before.
Then you know if it’s finished or not. This is how I worked on my latest release “Come Home / One In Body”.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
For many years I only created music privately, it is a space and a process I truly love. So when I started creating music collaboratively at a later stage, I found it extremely uncomfortable at first but ultimately extremely rewarding.
Both those creative spaces have their advantages. The solo process gives you complete control over everything, full responsibility, and also more work - there is more pressure. The true collaboration relieves some pressure on the individual. It forces each person to give up some control - you need to learn to disagree and to pick your battles.
And potentially - in a true collaboration, where everyone respects everyone’s opinions and skills - you come up with things that would otherwise be unimaginable. I love that.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
I my opinion music (and other art forms) connects people.
Personally I try not to think about how my music relates to others - or what it does for others. I make music because I enjoy the process - and because I can not not do it.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
I definitely feel that good music is different from making a cup of tea or coffee. I would rather compare it to building a house, designing a chair or painting a picture. It requires thoughtful consideration, skills and direction. In essence much more experience.