Name: Johannes Brecht
Occupations: Producer, pianist, bassist
Current Release: Johannes Brecht's Picture is available via Diynamic.
Recommendations: I recommend a book from a wonderful conductor, Sergiu Celibidache. It's actually kind of a transcript of a lecture by him at the University of Munich. „Über musikalische Phänomenologie“. The book inspired me a lot. „Music is not beautiful, music is true.“
And a very important work for orchestra by Georgi Ligeti: "Atmospheres". As a double bass student, I performed the piece with an orchestra, it is very impressive, especially in terms of sound, you can hear the orchestra in a completely unique form. There is no melody or rhythm or harmony - there are just drifting saturated chromatic clusters.
If you enjoyed this interview with Johannes Brecht, visit his official homepage. Or head over to his profiles on Instagram, Soundcloud, and bandcamp for recent updates, personal insights and more music.
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?
I started relatively early, already during school. At that time, my Casio Keyboard was my studio. I already had received classical piano lessons by then, so I was able to recreate the things that interested me relatively quickly.
In terms of sounds and production, of course, all my early attempts were a disaster. At that time I was mostly interested in more experimental stuff, like Mouse on Mars, Funkstörung, Aphex Twin, etc.
Of course, I couldn't get there in terms of sound with my Casio keyboard, which was fairly frustrating.
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?
I started professionally as an instrumentalist, I studied jazz double bass and piano. Since I had already very intensively dealt with electronic music during my youth, this also re-occurred later in my bass playing or first band projects.
I was also inspired by those artists who have built bridges between the genres. During that time, I played as a bassist in various formations. And as time progressed, I noticed that I felt like doing my own things more and more. A project just for and with me. I no longer wanted to be dependent on other musicians or make compromises musically.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
As an artist, I think it is extremely important to think about your identity.
I believe the identity of an artist is absolutely linked to his output. Everyday life, the place, friends, nature, all this plays a very important role in the musical output and my identity as an artist.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
In the beginning, I actually had relatively few problems getting enthusiastic about things or at least I felt a certain lightness or euphoria. Now life is much more complicated. I'm trying to keep developing with every record, to break new ground and also to find new ideas. And not to tell the same story several times.
Of course, this doesn't make it any easier over time.
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?
As mentioned earlier, my first electronic instrument was a Casio keyboard. I also remember the second very well, that was a Roland G800. With that, I also started working with the computer. At the time my software was cubase; later I switched to Nuendo and then to Pro Tools.
There were never many instruments or machines in my studio, because I try not to collect. So if I have used an instrument for a while and got creative output out of it, I change it and look for new options. I'm trying to keep everything flowing.
At the moment I am very enthusiastic about the synthesizer C 15, the drum machine ADX1, and granular effects such as the Mutable Instruments Beads. And I keep coming back to my piano.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Well, it happens a bit every time I get a new instrument and try to get involved in the workflow of the instrument. I think that's just a great creative situation: to be inspired by the idea behind an instrument or plug-in and thus discover new ways for yourself.
With each new device, a new idea and approach comes to the studio, which is why it’s so important for me to change frequently.
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 love to exchange ideas with colleagues, friends or other artists. A conversation is always a great thing. I also love jamming. That really depends on the situation. But overall, I love collaboration.
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 usually start my day with a delicious espresso. Usually I skip breakfast, but then I drink one or two more espressi during my time in the studio in the morning.
My studio is at home, which means I can blend my private life and studio work nicely. There is no fixed schedule, sometimes I start in the living room on the grand piano and improvise, sometimes I go directly to the studio and jam.
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?
I believe that for my career it was not so much an individual piece of work or event or performance that was a decisive waypoint, but rather individual people, who accompanied and inspired me at a certain time: From my family, to my teachers at university, to friends and colleagues.
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?
Yes, that's really a fragile situation. I think there are a lot of things that are important to me to be creative.
On the one hand, I need some pressure to finish things and on the other hand, with too much pressure nothing will work out at all. I really believe that balancing is something very crucial for me. For example, the balance between time in the studio and time in nature. Whenever I'm stuck in the studio, I make a cut and go for a walk in the forest, for example.
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?
Absolutely, an example for me is actually Bach's well-tempered piano or the Goldberg variations. The Aria from the Goldberg variations is pure healing for me. Or, for example, 24 preludes and fugues of Shostakovich.
Classical music feels like a wonderful balance, especially in this day and age where everything is so extremely fast and technological. It is so natural, such a natural sound, natural acoustics. That's really a very big contrast to many other types of music for me.
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?
Yes, that can be a sensitive topic. However, I think we should redirect the perspective of it and rather look at the advantage. We can all learn from each other. I don't think it's so important where something comes from, but rather how to deal with it. A loving and respectful handling of ideas, culture and people implies cooperation. If we treat each other lovingly and respectfully, we are less prone to creating so many borders between one another.
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?
Our hearing strongly influences our condition. Bad speakers that emphasize frequencies overrepresent an unbalanced sound image create an unbalanced irritated mood in the listener.
I am currently working on a project in the new Dolby Atmos sound format. It is really unbelievable how for example the position of a sound alone, i.e. front or rear, completely changes the perception of the sound. If a sound comes from behind, it can trigger goosebumps, while from the front nothing at all would happen. Our perception of temperature can also be influenced by certain sounds.
But of course, and above all, harmony and melody has the ability to put us in special emotions, in special states, superhuman states.
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?
I think it's important that as an artist I also represent a certain message.
With my pieces I always try to be in the context of society or time, or ideas or approaches that are important to me at the moment to communicate. Of course, this can happen with lyrics but also with song titles or with the music itself.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
Everything. Music is the strongest and most universal language in my opinion, perhaps also the most accessible. Music was there even before we were there and music will remain even if we have already left.