Music journalism – especially these days – is a lot like gambling…
You never really know if the artists that you’re betting on, and putting your own precious time into helping them, will actually make it anywhere in the long-run. In fact, if anything characterizes the current cultural climate, it’s that we’re living at a time of one-hit wonders. (BTW, Lets say that we did some pretty conclusive research. Yeah?) Music consumption nowadays, even as a process, is set up for quick content turnover in short stretches of time; whether it’s Spotify with its playlist meat-grinder or the majority of media celebrating a seemingly endless stream of newcomers. I’m well aware that we’re also guilty here! I’m not sure if there is a way out of this particular predicament. Probably not. We sure as hell can’t turn back the hands of time, nor can we reverse our technological achievements in communication and media. Having said that, it’s always a great joy to see artists who you’ve championed from the jump-off, or maybe just helped them somewhere along the way, take it the full-stretch and make sustainable careers for themselves off the back of great music!
Just the other week, we received a new remix of ‘Isometry’, a song from Daniela Weinmann’s ODD BEHOLDER project. It was one of those tracks that you rinse till you completely wear out that Soundcloud wave-form flickering on your screen; smooth, melodic, with a nice bounce to it and hooky-as-fuck! (See Below and Press Play) But the most amazing thing about it, was that the re-fix was put together by another group who we’ve been supporting from the get-go (since 2014, in fact!), Berlin’s own HUNDREDS (the sibling duo consisting of Philipp Milner & Eva Milner). Both of these projects are perfect examples of the fact that if you stick to your guns and make quality music, everything else will eventually fall into place.
To celebrate the fact that we put our money on a couple of winning horses, we decided sit down with the ladies fronting both projects and have ourselves a proper little chat. Enjoy!
ODD BEHOLDER’s full remix EP will be released on March 29th courtesy of Sinnbus Records. It will feature remixes by Fejká, The/Das, Alessandro Giannelli (of Egopusher), Kalipo, Thomas Atzmann and, of course Hundreds.
Do you guys make music to be able to play live shows or do you play live shows to get people to hear your recordings? Is there a difference?
Daniela: My first thought was: ‘that’s an easy one’ – I play live to present my recordings, and I record to develop my songs. I am all about the process of writing and producing songs with people I find interesting. This is where the creative process happens. I’ve always cared about the listener, but I imagined him or her listening to my records at home. On headphones, actually. Before sleep. Haha, now I realise I had very specific fantasies about my dear listener. But then again, being on the road with Odd Beholder naturally raised new questions and with the questions, my interest was stirred. Nowadays I catch myself thinking in the studio, ‘wow, how this song must feel when you perform it on stage…’ It’s a new way of thinking about music for me. I’ve also grown curious of other musicians and I feel like playing live with them on a stage. Maybe I’ll suddenly show up with a drummer. A real drummer. I would love that, actually.
Eva: For me playing live is the reward for everything else you have to do as a freelancing musician. Being on stage and performing is the thing I love most (sometimes there is much hate, too). And as Daniela said, we often think about the live versions of the songs, while producing it. So, it’s two different pieces of art. The album is more of a still life, where you freeze your state of the art. The live show is changing and moving and works with the energy of the audience.
Would you still be touring heavily if, lets say, basic income for artists and content creators was introduced? I guess, the reason why I’m asking this is because I’ve talked to a lot of artists that only play out live as a means of survival, but not necessarily by choice. For others, however, it’s all about the joy of traveling.
Daniela: I really wish there was a basic income for artists. It would be a huge relief. But I would still play live. When we toured in China and in Italy, I thought a lot about the power of a show. Especially nowadays, where physical places seem sort of out-dated. We need to meet in real life, we need to see each others’ bodies, listen to each others’ voices without any technological barrier or carrier. If a listener shows up at a concert, that’s a different commitment than a Like on Facebook, than a play on Spotify. It validates your music more, and differently. It makes it real. It even makes it political. It is not only communicating ideas, but also creating a crowd that recognizes itself as a crowd. These people share a moment in time. That’s powerful. Children have been born because people have met at a concert.
Eva: Touring has normally nothing to do with joy and/or traveling. When you are lucky, you like the people you spent so much time in a tiny space with. But in my opinion, it really belongs together. Sitting in the studio, craving for ideas, creating a a piece of music. Not moving physically for months. And then after that’s finished, you bring it out into the world. And Daniela is right. When a listener shows up at a concert, its something completely different and I am very thankful, that there are actual people showing up. And they seem very nice! Also, a basic income would be very nice!
Would it be good for culture and music?
Daniela: I don’t know. How can you know such a thing. But frankly, when I look at the people in Switzerland I sometimes wonder how little space for imagination there is left in their lives. They sit in an office and do something they don’t understand for someone they don’t know. And they seem to be fine with that. In contrast, I often work for free. I consume less than them. As musicians, we have no choice to uproot the capitalist order with our logic. But what can I say? Maybe we are at the forefront of a change. Individualism and consumerism might not be the appropriate answers to climate change. And a work ethics from the fifties might be risky in times of automation. The amalgam of late capitalism with a liberal hippie mind has presented us with problems hard to solve: pollution beyond imagination, the potential of total surveillance, the unsolved aftermath of colonialism resulting in wars and mass migration… I don’t know. We have one too many problems to face, and we can’t face these problems if we just study in order to get on someone’s payroll.
Touring is pretty intense and you get to spend a lot of time with the people you travel with, what did you guys discover about each other and each other’s music, while touring?
Daniela: HUNDREDS are at a totally different stage of their career than we are. They were like a point of reference for us, we were very curious what life is like as a musician. At the time we were touring with them, we felt a lot of pressure and we were working like crazy. It wasn’t healthy, I felt uncomfortable, constantly feeling like I was not working hard enough. At some point Eva wanted to go to an art museum in Vienna and asked me to come with her, but I didn’t dare to go. I was too scared to take the morning off and go to an exhibition! I was very relieved to see that HUNDREDS worked a lot, they worked efficiently, but they did not live like slaves. I remember that they smiled more often than not. They had a calm aura around them and they were prepared for everything; they are truly professional. Eva struck me as an honest and real person with great depth. As we said goodbye, she gave me a present. It was a book by Kate Tempest. I was very moved by that gesture. It was as if she tried to remind me of my artistic self while I was just running around, trying. Trying anything. I was surprised and thrilled by the fact that Philipp was interested in my songwriting. We even had a small jam at some point where he played a cool line with his obscure synthesizer over one of my demos. I sense a lot of curiosity in them, although they seem so… you know, grown up. We were like nervous cubs compared to them. I also befriended their mixer Matthias Rothe and the light guy Stefan Ludwig. Good people. I remember drinking too much gin. Ah, whatever. I’m persevering.
Eva: The first few days of our tour, we spent in a venue in Jena, where we rehearsed on the stage. And that’s where we met Odd Beholder. It is a bit strange to meet and instantly hop on a bus and spend 24/7 together. But it worked really well! Daniela and I had an instant connection and we talked a lot about art and music and books. She is a great storyteller and has a kindred mind. I really love their music. It moves something inside you, with a soft, but very strong power. I am still listening to it very often at home.
From what I gleamed, both of your projects seem to celebrate longer music formats (like the EP or LP), so my question is, why are records, as a conceptual framework important to you? And do you think that the format will survive an industry model that seems to favour playlists and single songs?
Daniela: Often, I ask myself: ‘what world do I want to live in?’ I want to work for the future of my choice. Imagine the end of books, literature being just handed out in pieces like sentences on business cards. Loose thoughts, no coherence, no narrative, just pleasing words fitting your mood. It is not very contemporary to write a long story, to ask your reader to follow you down the rabbit hole of your artistic idea without giving him any applause, any certificate. Of course long records will survive. If I meet people that are smarter than me, I rejoice. It gives me hope when I realise I’m in the company of brilliant people and they, too, have not quit their struggle. Mankind, let me hang out with your best sons and daughters, with your poets, your writers, your painters, your musicians. I need great artists and I want to follow them into their rabbit holes.
Eva: Rabbit hole! That is such a great picture for an album. Yes! Follow me into the rabbit hole.
What do you think about the fact that a streaming portal like Spotify can have more influence on the musical ecosystem than the biggest music publications? And playlist curators, more than seasoned journalists?
Daniela: Considering the facts that in the beginning, the beta-version of Spotify was loaded with music that was downloaded from The Pirate Bay and that nowadays Goldman Sachs is one of their key investors, pushing the company more towards data mining and AI development, it’s probably not a very trustworthy player in the game. But it’s also true that the streaming giants at least stabilized the fall of the music industry. I discover a lot of music on Spotify, it would be hypocritical to deny that. But I find it interesting that most of the music that I really care about, I have discovered because of journalists.
Eva: I discovered a lot of music because of the playlists the algorithm creates for you every week. It is creepy, but I found so many great artists, I would have never listened to without the algorithm. But in the end, does it stick with you if you don’t buy the album? It is a fleeting moment if you click on it on Spotify. So, I try to buy records.
So what about this remix we are featuring here, how did this come about? And please share any anecdotes from the session?
Eva: I remember that Philipp disappeared in the studio for hours and came back smiling. He asked me to come with him and give it a listen. I started to dance immediately. What a floor-filler he made.
And for you, Daniela, what was your experience like hearing your song reinterpreted?
Daniela: I didn’t expect it to be so… funky. Philipp seems to have found pleasure in James’ one particular bass-hook and put it in the forefront of the song. Which I find very cool. The remix is straightforward, reduced almost to the beat and to the baseline. My first reaction was to listen to the Wilderness LP again. Interestingly enough the remix somehow changed the way I perceived THEIR music, not mine. I realised that Philipp really reduces the songs to a baseline, to some soaring sounds and the beat. As I understood there are often only four instrumental core-elements playing. Good stuff.
In closing, could you guys imagine a closer collaboration, like a song together or even a split EP?
Daniela: Ha. Yeah! I want to travel to that nice barn in the hinterland of Germany and work with HUNDREDS, I want to go to art exhibitions with Eva and drink a bottle of wine with her and I want talk about poetry all night and I want to learn everything about Philip’s synthesizers and I want to jam with Florian. If only there was more time! Can’t you make some time for us? Let’s talk about that basic income again.
Eva: I’d love to! And it is really happening. I will visit Daniela in Switzerland in April and we will work on some songs. So we’ll see where it ends… A new supergroup?
Thank you so much for your time and generous spirits! These type of interviews make the daily grind bearable, and they give you hope!
By FBell ©FM