Occupation: DJ, Producer
Current Release: Hal, Still So High, First Blood with Taiga on Ipso
Recommendations: Franz Kafka-The Metamorphosis. Just an incredible tale. So well written. Perfect illustration of inner conflict.
Steely Dan-Aja. My absolute favorite album of all time. Perfect balance of irony and poetry and everything just sounds so amazing.
Website / Contact: If you enjoyed this interview with Kölsch, do visit his facebook- or soundcloud profile for more information, news and plenty 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?
I started writing and producing music very early on. First in bands as a drummer, and then on my Amiga 500. My Mom had gifted me the computer to do my homework on, little did she know I was making music all the time with it. First I was drawn to electro and hip hop, then to breakbeats, and then to housemusic. For me it was all about expression. Being able to create something out of nothing seemed like the perfect way to spend time. From there on it just developed.
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?
Early on in the process of learning how to produce, I found out that what I perceived as sounding like something else, was completely different to what others heard. I would try and emulate a piece of music I was fascinated by, and then something else came out of it. Some of it was due to not having the right sounds and equipment (the Amiga only had 4 tracks). But most of it came from my brain just being different. My ears have always been wired a little different. I remember my friends used to call me whiskers, from all the syncopation I was programming. In hindsight it was a little much.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
In the beginning my music was limited by my lack of funds. I just did not have money to buy any equipment. For my first 3 releases from 1995-1998 I worked on my Amiga 500, and then I bought a PC. From there on slowly I collected more hardware, but at least until 2000, I only had a computer and some software. Since then a lot of different challenges have come along, but the one I thing I can take away from those early days, is that I can produce on a laptop anywhere. It's a very productive habbit.
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?
As stated my first studio was the Amiga. I think the first outboard gear I bought was the Alesis midi verb 2. I used it on everything. As I was running mono tracks, it help me widen the sound. Then I slowly accumulated some terrible equipment. I got an akai eq that sounded terrible. It was all very ghetto.
Now I think my most important instrument is the laptop. I've been buying up a lot of the stuff I couldn’t afford back in the days, so in the last 2 years, I’ve added a 303 and a 909 to my collection. They just sound so amazing. My most prized synth is a Korg M1 that my dad gifted me before he passed away. I still use that a lot.
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?
Technology has no function without human input. Any studio is like any other instrument. If you play it badly, the music sounds bad. It's very simple. That being said, I do really enjoy having machines randomize and “sing” together. Ableton has these amazing randomizing features, and I use it a lot to find inspiration for leads and chords.
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?
I pretty much use the same synths a lot. I realized that most software synths do the same thing, so I decided to learn how to use a few and stick with that. As long as you can program something you will find the sound you need. A lot of times I will demo a piece of music and then have the strings re-recorded by a quartet, so the original sound is lost anyway. I'm a creature of habit, and I believe that if an idea isn’t good within 30 minutes, it wasn’t good from the start. It has to have a certain emotional clarity from the beginning, so I need to be able to realise the idea quickly.
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 prefer physically to be in the same room. Music comes from sharing ideas and visions, and this works best together. I spent 2 days with Michael Mayer in the Kompakt studio for dogma 1 and 2. In the end most of what we did came about very randomly. Michael was playing something on the organ that I could hear work and we recorded it. Tiga brought some recordings with him he had made, and that was the basis of our ep together. It's all about spending some time together for me.
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?
Other than coffee first, I dont have much of a routine. With all the touring in my life most of my days are spent at airports. My schedule is usually get up, coffee, shower off to the airport. The productions fit in everywhere they can. Maybe on a bench before the flight. During a flight or in the car to the venue. I would love to spend more time in my studio, but these days sadly there is just no time.
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?
All albums I've made are very dear to me, as they are autobiographies of my childhood and early teens. For this particular talk, let's take my latest album 1989. All tracks where originally demoed on the road. All tracks are references to certain situations in my life. I made at least 10-20 different versions, and tested them out to get the arrangement right. after that I went and re-recorded a lot of it with Gregor and the heritage orchestra. It was such a great experience to hear my own music played by a 24 piece orchestra. The last and final part of the process is the track listing and the artwork.
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?
I don't really believe in an ideal state of mind to be creative. For me it is such a therapeutical thing, that it just happens. I don't have any certain requirements for it to work. It's like eating when you are hungry.
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?
If it wasn’t for the albums, I don't think my songs would ever get finished. It's such an organic and ongoing process that I feel that the albums are just a snapshot of that particular time. In my live sets a lot of my music has taken on different shapes. They have kept evolving after an album was released. It's a little dissapointing for some fans, as the music doesn’t always sound like it does on the albums. But I think that's the most exciting part. Music can only exist in a constant movement.
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?
I believe in melodies and compositions. You can’t overproduce something into being fantastic music. At one point you need some composing in there. There are so many amazing pieces in the world, where the production is terrible. I've yet to find a track where the production overshadows the melodies.
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?
Emotions and music are a given, but I think there are other connections. Sight and music is obvious too, but smell and music have a strong connection In my opinion. When I smell that cheap disco fog, I'm immediately transported back to my first nights with techno music in the 90s. Sunday morning. Only strobe, fog and techno. Incredible how little it took back then.
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've not dared to engage in political art yet. I believe one should be very aware of the expression and the purpose before getting into such things. Also since I dont see myself as an “intellectual” artist, I prefer to work with emotions. My ambition is to transcend language barriers and tap into those primal feelings we all have, regardless of religion and culture.
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?
Pairing music with visuals and such have been endlessly explored already, so I think that's over. I guess the real development over the years has been sonically. When comparing how clean everything sounds now to even the early 2000s, it's mind blowing. I try to shy away from excessive add ons, as I still believe in music as a pure art form that doesn’t need anything extra. Cross genre art collars would be amazing. I would love to try and work with a painter for instance. Maybe make music in real-time while the artist paints. letting ourselves be inspired by the process. That could be fun.