I want to keep electronic music AS I LOVE alive
Michel : I know this can be read in details on your blog, but could you please introduce yourself in a few words?
Bernd : From the early 70ies I am a fan of electronic music. First I listened to Kraftwerk and Pink Floyd, than to all that Krautrock stuff, of course Berlin School too and internationally to Jarre and the master himself: Vangelis. They all influenced me and brought me to the decision to make electronic music. This happened in the early 80ies. Many CD releases, concerts and 3 labels for electronic music followed. And here I am today…
M. : When we met in Berlin, before going to that nice restaurant you so kindly choosed for us, you described with passion the area we were in. Is living in Berlin important for you, or could you live in another city? I asked that because of Un Viaggio attraverso l'Italia where it seems to me that the cities you passed by have had a nice influence on your music.
Bernd : To be honest, I can imagine very much to live anywhere else but in Berlin. I have lived too long here and today this city is more exhausting to me than “cool”. At the moment, I would more prefer to be “on the road” again to discover other countries, other cultures and other people. There is so much to discover in life and I feel a little bit, that time is running too fast. Also I think, the more you discover, the more you can tell; also musically. This is the most important influence for you. You only have to do it.
M. : What are your musical influences? And what are you listening nowadays? Or do you prefer to preserve yourself and look only in your heart and dreams and don't be distracted? And, if you like something, I guess is it more the sound than the song, or the fashion. Am I right?
Bernd : This is not easy to answer. Of course the strongest influence came from Klaus Schulze. His music touched me deeply and helped me to decide to become a musician too. Mirage and Moondawn will be my all time favourites. But today I am more into earnest and maybe contemplative music. I play more and more piano. Influences today comes more from the technical than musical side. What I mean are developments in recording techniques etc. Most of the so called pop-music bores me. Sometimes I listen to some independent musicians like Ian Brown, Muggs, Mutemath for example.
M. : You owned labels. Was that to control the business around your music? I know (and allow me to say that I deeply regret, for myself and the other fans you have) it didn’t go that well. Now you promote your music with MySpace, your blog and all that stuff, but what do you think promotion will be in the future? And if somebody would suggest to create new label with you, would you try it again?
Bernd : To begin with your last question: No, definitely not. I would never do it again. Basically there were three ideas behind the decision to found an own label for electronic music (over the years Timeless Sounds, Musique Intemporelle and finally MIRecords). The first one was the idea to set my existence to a broader economic base. The second one was the consideration that you can get more importance and influence on the market, if you are not “fighting” for yourself. It was important to me to ensure more diversity in this segment. The third reason was more emotional. I wanted to keep electronic music as I loved alive. But nothing worked really well. Sometimes I was too naive, sometimes the market was too difficult.
M. : Looking into past, you have worked with other musicians and friends. Who asked and would you like to play again with musicians? Is there anyone that you would like to work with?
Bernd : Well, the artists I decided to produce were not the same which I worked with musically together. I produced them, because they were good or talented in their genre. And I thought that there could happen more with them. The artists who I invited to work with me were interesting because of musical reasons. For example Harald Grosskopf. I ever loved the combination between electronics and drums on stage. We did some interesting concerts and productions and looking back I must say that it really worked in those days. Today I would like to have more percussion and choir on stage for a “bigger” sound.
M. : Listening to what your "big brother", Klaus Schulze does today with Lisa Gerrard, I wonder if you ever wanted to work with a singer?
Bernd : I have no experience in doing this. But of course it is a challenge that I would like to make.
M. : Where would you like to play? What is for you the ideal atmosphere for your music?
Bernd : I ever liked to play in big rooms like a church or a big theatre for example. I like rooms with this special kind of “magic”. I like the classic “concert situation” with a sitting audience which does nothing else than listen to your music. Concentration and contemplation. This is what I like. I am not very much into festivals because the atmosphere is too hectic for me. But as I said: everything is a challenge.
M. : What was your favourite performance and why? What kind of feeling did you had there that you want to know again?
Bernd : Beside my answer before it was indeed my performance 1989 in Dresden at the “Electronics Live” festival. Many things happened to me for the first time. It was my first gig in the former GDR. It was my first meeting with Klaus Schulze, who was the main act there. And it was my first concert in front of 6.800 people. Really exciting. Of course I have also given some interesting and successful concerts for German broadcast, 3 successful benefit concerts for the Berlin Planetarium, my first concert in Belgium at the “Flanders Festival” and so on. But indeed Dresden was the biggest and the most impressive one.
M. : Which part takes music in your day to day life?
Bernd : My answer sounds maybe a little bit strange, but music helps me to survive. Music helps me to keep “flying”. Without music I would be empty.
M. : Do you find your influence in some music around us today? Do you think that, as "the door of perception" has been open (by KS and a few others) you also showed some other directions?
Bernd : You should ask this to people who listen to my music. Sometimes the reactions which I receive are, that I play the Berlin School E.M. with my own interpretation of this. That is not really bad because I ever thought, that you can much more “say” or express in this “style” than only copying it. But of course I want to say much more than this (musically). For a time I allowed some more modern influences to my music. Let’s describe it as Berlin School in modern clothes. But this was only a period. Now I am interested in more classical structures.
M. : We all know (and want!) you to do a Starting Again. We know you're already into. What dangers are you afraid of? I'm thinking, of course, to that nasty nostalgia feeling we are in. Do you think to get the public bored is a risk? Or is-it too late? Are you amazed yourself by what you do now and do you think the public will be amazed too ? Are you not afraid of, excuse-me, copy yourself?
Bernd : These are questions that an artist should never make. Too much self-doubt is really not good for somebody who wants to be creative. But I know, what you mean. The decision to create new music was never easy. Everything can go right or wrong. You have no influence on the reactions of your audience. You do it or you don’t. Everything happens with full risk. The thing is to ask yourself what makes you feel better: making music or not? I really feel better if I make music. The rest is fate.
M. : After producing so many albums, and after having left besides composing for some time, do you find it still easy to compose, to play, to find new sounds?
Bernd : No, I never did. Sometimes I let everything flow and play what I like. But to play something and release it on CD would be too simple to me. Since I try to catch the main idea of a “song” I do more think about the meaning of it. I try to concentrate and will no longer do what others described as “endless noodling”.
M. : You've been using sampling of music from time to time. How has that changed your work and do you still use it, and in which way?
Bernd : I use samples. That’s right. But I am not this kind of “sample-freak”, who runs with microphones and headphones through the nature to catch the unique sounds of whatever. The sounds of today are so perfect that you never could create better versions of them. For example piano samples. Only playing a real piano is more “original”. But how many pianos which a unique sound does exist? Every good instrument sounds different from the other ones. I want to make music and I use sounds. I try to find the right sound for the right moment. The only wish I have is to return sometimes to the so called old, original sounds. For example of old string synthesizers. They never sounded like a real string orchestra. How could they? But listening to them brought you to another impression; another imagination of something that sounded like a “string-orchestra”. That was the charm on that thing and that was the charm of the early electronic music we still love today. These sounds stimulated your fantasy more than the perfect copies of the original. I would like to bring some of these “fantastic” sounds back again.
M. : Does the keyboard influence your music or is it vice-versa that the music dictated which keyboards to use?
Bernd : You could also exchange “keyboard” with “sound”. Sometimes I have an idea because of an interesting sound and sometimes I have a musical idea and look for the perfect sound as long as it finally fits together. The process of creation works in both directions.
M. : I know it's another classical question but, what instrumentation are you using nowadays?
Bernd : Well, I don’t like to talk too much about my instruments because they often change and at least they are only (sometimes beautiful) tools. Of course I use Roland Synthesizers as well as an old organ from Yamaha, or a Moog Voyager for example. My newest “baby” is the GenoQs Octopus sequencer. An unbelievable machine. Telling you these names is only possible because I do not have an endorsement deal with the mentioned companies. So please believe me that there is no commercial interest behind. Just my love for some tools…