TOBIAS PREISIG | Give The Violin A Chance

In the last few weeks, we found ourselves coming back to Tobias Preisig’s cinematic opus entitled Diver, quite a lot. On a busy day, when you feel like the city is literally grinding you down, playing it feels like the perfect respite. It’s as if you are transported somewhere else, a place much more serene than this one, even if it’s only for a brief moment. 

Diver is an instrumental record, hence outside of the conceptual framework offered by the title there really isn’t much else to go on. To find out more about this wonderful music, and the man who made it, we sent a short batch of questions over to Mr. Preisig. Here is what he had to say:

You are involved in a lot of different projects, like Colin Stetson’s Sorrow and Cinematic Orchestra. You also have your own band, I’m thinking of Egopusher here. Why this need to embark on a solo journey and why now? 

It’s an urge to create music, to find new sounds, dig into song structures, to be challenged by exploring the unknown. Working on this solo project forced me to rethink a lot of things. Playing solo is very different from playing with other people, you are quite literally faced with yourself. All these predefined roles you could fall back on before just don’t work anymore. I’m a violin player, yes, but now I’m also the band, the composer, the producer, the songwriter and, on some tunes, even the drummer.  

How is the way that you work with your instrument different on this project from how you normally use in other projects? 

I feel like my voice is always my voice, it’s actually my musical partners who make the difference. Someone recently said to me, after a solo show, that my music sounds a lot like Egopusher, and she didn’t know that I was actually the other half of the band. So, I don’t feel like I’m changing my personality while changing projects.

Do you have a need to compartmentalise your playing based on projects or does this happen naturally?

This happens very naturally, as I said before, it’s  the surroundings which change. My language and my vision always stay the same. I’ve been very lucky to get side project requests because of my distinct sound. But it’s important to mention that side projects only happen a couple of times a year. Most of the time I’m busy playing my own music with Egopusher and, of course, now this solo material.

An underlying motif or, let’s say, a narrative on this record is this idea of self-discovery – what have you discovered about your music and yourself while writing and recording these songs?

The world has become a very noisy and intense place. More and more I felt like celebrating small tones, the small gestures, this minimalism that has a massive impact potential hidden within it. I’m creating space in the music so that the listener can integrate his own reflections into it. I play a note only when it absolutely has to be played. Every single tone has its strong meaning. This leads to this minimalism. I’ve discovered musical tension through this reduction.

Diver was produced by piano player / producer Jan Wagner, how did this collaboration come about?

I had a hard time to get this music on tape. All my attempts just didn’t feel right. Alessandro, my musical partner in Egopusher, introduced me to Jan. He knew that Jan would feel this music. I wrote him from the airport and the next day I was already at his studio in Berlin. The day after that we started creating the recording setup for me and then we just started recording. These were three really intense and very fulfilling weeks. It was such stroke of luck, the fact the both of us were available at the same moment. It suddenly all made sense, it felt right and the music started to flow in an incessant and focused stream.

How did these songs change or evolve from what you had written originally? 

The music was created and developed over several live shows. I was basically fine tuning details so that it would work on a stage in a live setting. The difficulty I had was that I was always unsatisfied, that somehow recording this live moment in the studio just didn’t have the same impact. Jan helped me change this. The key here was to reduce everything. To get rid of the overplaying, to focus the music and define the core DNA of the album. 

Do you think that the violin stands a chance to cross over into electronica like the piano has? Do you think that it could eventually become more ubiquitous? 

It’s a funny thing, but as I’m concerned it’s the most obvious thing. I’m still very surprised that not many violinists are playing this kind of music. Sarah Neufeld from Arcade Fire has two very beautiful solo records out and I am sure that there are others out there was well, but I’m just not aware of them. People are still not used to hearing the violin in this context, but maybe my album can help change this, at least a bit. I’d say: let’s just give it a try.