Interview: Ulrich Schnauss
Published on February 11th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Rocksucker digs A Long Way to Fall, the fourth album from acclaimed Berlin producer Ulrich Schnauss, so we sent him over some questions in the hope of finding out a little more about it and were pleased as Punch himself to receive back the following set of replies. First, though, check out this choice cut from the LP…
Congratulations on the release of your new album. It all holds together very well: do you think about how the tracks will all sequence together while you’re composing them, or do you think about that after they’re finished?
Thank you. The album was definitely written as an album – for that reason I also ended up not arranging a couple of pieces that I initially had planned to record for A Long Way to Fall. I think it’s important that tracks on an album do not only work on their own but also form a coherent narrative.
How do you decide upon your song titles? Titles like “I Take Comfort in Your Ignorance” and “A Ghost in Your Own Life” are interesting, for example…
I don’t write about anything too specific – however, a piece of music does capture a certain mood or atmosphere. Usually I try to find titles that reflect those once a song is finished.
Would you say you share the same influences and motivations now as when you started? In other words, do you still seek to combine the worlds of shoegaze and electronica? Or is that too simplistic?
Generally, over the last twenty years I’ve been trying to move closer and closer to a situation that will hopefully eventually enable me to recreate a music I was hearing in my head as a child: a music that’s symphonic in the way that many different layers of sound interact with each other and one that has an overall ‘surrealist’, otherworldly impact.
In the ’90s I started using electronic instruments and recorded drum & bass tracks as a first step to educate myself how to use such a setup – then, around 2000, I switched to ‘shoegaze’-flavoured electronica to use a frame that would challenge me more on a songwriting level as well. A Long Way to Fall probably marks the beginning of phase 3, which would be about finding a path without relying on the guiding restrictions of a genre-record.
Do you still live in London? What attracted you to the city? Do you still go back to Berlin often?
I still do enjoy living in a truly multicultural city that always has something new and interesting to offer. I don’t miss berlin and haven’t been there much – maybe about once or twice a year.
How did the “Public Rehearsal” with Nat Urazmetova at the Hardy Tree Gallery go?
I think we were both really satisfied – at the same time, it’ll probably take us a number of shows until we reach a level that will allow us to fully develop the potential of this set up.
So much great electronic music comes out of Berlin. Why do you think this might be? Are you a fan of artists like Modeselektor and Mouse on Mars?
Not many artists are actually native ‘Berliners’ – but Berlin has a music scene that’s big enough so that you can work in a reasonably professional environment should you choose to try to make a living as a musician. Germany doesn’t provide a situation as it exists in the UK for instance where it’s natural for teenagers to play in bands – you’re pretty much an outsider if you have a more serious interest in music in Germany. That’s why it’s hard to find other people to play with. Electronic music is an easy solution to that problem: you can realize your ideas without relying on other people.
In your interview with Synthtopia, you said that you felt electronic music to be “coming of age”. Where do you see it going in the future, or is it impossible to predict something like that? Do you keep your eye on all the latest technological innovations for use for your own work?
I don’t think there actually are that many true technological ‘innovations’ – a lot of it is more like optimized versions of something that has existed previously. The same almost applies to music (not just electronic music): it’s difficult to come up with something genuinely new and groundbreaking, but it’s certainly still possible to achieve interesting results by combining ‘old ideas’ in a way that hasn’t been tried before. Obviously I don’t know what the music of the future is gonna sound like – but it’s safe to say that it’ll be made by people that are willing to ignore genre boundaries rather than purists.
Do you think you’ll work with Jonas Munk or Mark Peters again? Are there any other collaborations or projects on the horizon? Or any remixes?
I’m just about to complete a second album with mark – and I’d certainly like to continue recording with Jonas as well. Hopefully we’ll have a chance to get together at some point this year.
Out of all the remixes you have done for other artists, which are your favourites and why?
My favourite is the “Setting Sun” mix I did for Howling Bells. It’s a very subjective choice: I simply think that in this case something new and interesting appeared out of the combination of our (rather different) approaches. It’s something that’s not calculable or predictable – it either happens or it doesn’t.
Are there any obscure and/or up-and-coming acts that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to? Or are there any albums that you are particularly looking forward to in 2013?
I already know that Synkro’s Acceptance on the revived Apollo Records label is gonna be one of my favourite albums of 2013.
Finally, if you were forced to spend the rest of your days in solitary confinement, but were allowed to bring the entire works of five different artists along to tide you over, whose would you choose?
1) Edgar Froese/Tangerine Dream
2) Andreas Vollenweider
3) Jean Luc Ponty
4) Pat Metheny
5) Ryuichi Sakamoto/YMO
Ulrich Schnauss, thank you.
A Long Way to Fall is out now on Scripted Realities. For more information, please visit www.ulrich-schnauss.com