.Interview of Bernd Kistenmacher En Français !
celestial movements

© B.K.

Bordeaux / Berlin : 16/12/2008 - Questions and translation : M. Le Stum
We met in Berlin... I know his music since so long... So, discover how kind that man is... Back home, in the day to day life, desirous of keeping the friendly feeling alive, and to share my affection for him, I decided to prepare an interview. The very first time I do such a thing... I'm nothing more than a fan, so, please, reader of that page, accept my apologies if it is sometimes... naive.
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…

© B.K.

I'm happy to see that the Electronic Music scene has woken up again

M. : I'm very interested to know in which ways the GenoQs Octopus helps you today and, if it does, in which ways does it influence your composing process?
Bernd : This is a very technical question and I don’t know if all of your readers want to hear so much about but this. But in short: the Octopus is a new hardware sequencer which was developed by the Germans Gabriel Seher and Marcel Achim approx. 2 years ago. Both are also the heads of GenoQs, the company who sell this machine. The sequencer is very complicate to understand and if you look deeper inside you’ll maybe see the most complicate and the most versatile instrument in the world (at the moment). You can describe it as hardware based software sequencer with unbelievable possibilities. Once understood you can start to “play” with it and you can create interesting structures with each Synthesizer which can be controlled by MIDI. After years of working with software sequencers I wanted to return to my roots and looked for actual hardware solutions. I was not looking for a Moog or ARP copy but something new and interesting. I found the Octopus. A real beauty and unbelievable expensive. Very sophisticated.

[> to read Bernd Kistenmacher opinion about the Octopus :]

M. : Have the technical changes (software, direct-to-disk and so on) helped your personal musical evolution? And life even?
Bernd : Beside my life as a musician I am an absolute fan of any kind of electronically gadgets. Today you have possibilities were you dreamt of 10 or 20 years ago. Look at the possibilities of a mobile today. Pure Science Fiction. The same is with hard disk-recording or sound-synthesis. You can have a recording standard at home today which you could find in past times only in the biggest high-end studios. So good music today does not longer depend on technical possibilities. Modern and payable techniques bring more attention to your composition. This is a positive development today.

M. : BTW, why do you choose electronic? I mean, for me what is essential is the music, whatsoever instruments you use to play it. It could be the voice alone, a set of tibetan singing bowls or the most sophisticated device. Did you ever tried other instruments?
Bernd : In my childhood I started playing piano. My father did this too. I ever loved to play keys. Maybe playing guitar would be more “sexy” but anyway, this is what I like to do. Trying other instruments is only for finding the right sounds which I can later play on keyboards or synthesizers.

M. : When we met us, you said you are recomposing your studio. What instruments you had did you miss more, and why?
Bernd : Some years ago I turned to digital recording because I had more possibilities for a smaller budget. Everything can be stored and you have better options to control a sound like total-recall for example. Also I ever hated noise problems during the recording-process. The stuff which I had was too old and it was the time to change. That was no wrong decision.

M. : What do you think of the present Electronic Music scene?
Bernd : I am happy to see that the E.M. scene (I mean everything beside techno or electro) has woken up again and is also very vital. Also E.M. has become more international than ever before. Since MySpace or YouTube, you see people producing electronic music all around the world. Also the heroes like Klaus Schulze or Jean-Michel Jarre are active and successful again. In my opinion the fascination in this kind of music is bigger than ever before. In Germany as well as in the Netherlands, England or France or other countries, the E.M. scene was really never “dead” over all past years; maybe a little bit inactive. But nowadays many young and old fans or heads of E.M. labels or fanzines try to put new energy into the idea of making E.M. more popular again. The only problem is still the same since the beginning of the popular E.M. I mean the acceptance by official media like radio or TV. Would they broadcast E.M. as well as pop music, the artists would become much more known and popular as they are today. E.M. has still no lobby. That is the main problem. But many people are fighting for to create one. It does not look bad at the moment.

M. : Are you a believer? I do not mean inevitably a religious one, but what is or are your credo?  I know you say we have to enjoy each day as it comes, because you are right of course, it might be the last. But do you really apply this to your life and still try to focus on the essential?
Bernd : The recent day could be your last. Try to make the best of it. There is nothing more to say.

M. : What are your limits?
Bernd : My biggest limit is my fantasy. Really. Sometimes I have too much ideas or needs or wishes. Sometimes I am like a child with big eyes. That can be sometimes a big problem.

M. : When me and my friends we speak about your music, it always appears that your music is for the spirit (even if some titles are "dancing" too!). Do you agree with this? Is this the feeling you want to transmit? And, btw, is there an emotion you want to transmit and to share?
Bernd : Finding the right title for a track is sometimes very difficult to me and the result is more a description of a mood. But this is my mood and I can and will not influence the listener. How could I do this? If the listener gets the same mood the thing went into the right direction. If not, I cannot change it. Transmitting something implements that you control something or somebody with your music. If you think you can do it, you are definitely wrong.

M. : Do you think we can trust Art? Does it have a real meaning nowadays?
Bernd : I don’t think that we can. Art can stimulate me in a positive or negative way. Or it can bore me. It is the same with all things in life. They touch me or they don’t. The reaction is really your personal thing.


À la Bernard Pivot !

M. : Some years ago, there was a literary emission on the TV, presented by Bernard Pivot, Bouillon de culture. At the end, he always asked 10 questions to his guests and, lucky I am to do that interview, I would like to ask you these questions that I think are quite lighting :

What is your favourite word?
  Cheques (just a joke)
What is your least favourite word?
  Invoices (another joke too)
What is your favourite drug?
  I like a lot of pleasures: a good red wine, a good Scottish whiskey, good cigars, a good meal or running 10 km to let anything out (no joke).
What sound or noise do you love?
  The sound of a starting Aston Martin DBS or of a Harley Davidson (that’s really sound, no noise)
What sound or noise do you hate?
  The sound of the city.
What is your favourite curse word?
  No comment.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
  One profession is really enough.
What profession would you not like to do?
  Everything I don’t do ;-)
The plant, the tree or the animal in which you would like to be reincarnated?
  An eagle.
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
  Heaven exists. I know that because I was too often too close to the other side. I hope that he would send me back into my own life with the knowledge and experience of today.

A new CD ! Celestial Movements...

M. : What are your upcoming projects, apart accepting our invitation to have a drink (or two) here in Bordeaux with my friends Olivier and Christian?
Bernd : I hope we will soon do this ! Beside this I am happy to announce the release of my new CD, Celestial Movements, on March 21st, 2009 at the German label MellowJet Records. Also there has been founded a new award for electronic music in Germany. Its name is Schallwelle. The ceremony will be also held in German City Dinslaken on March 21st, 2009 and I am invited as laudator for one of the awards. So for the first time in my life I will hold a speech. Beside this there will be a chance to speak about my new album too. The “who-is-who” of electronic music will be invited too.
Finally I hope that I will return on stage next year. I have been asked for concerts in germany and France, but nothing is fixed at the moments. Maybe we know a little bit more in some weeks or so. At least I hope that I will have some more news in the next year but everybody who wants to “update” his Kistenmacher news can look into my blog.

M. : Do you have a message for all your fans?
Bernd : First I thank you for all your patience and good wishes and your interest in my music and all over the years. I hope to meet you one day on a concert or in the internet or wherever. I wish you a merry and peaceful Christmas and a happy new Year 2009.

In love
Bernd Kistenmacher
Bernd Kistenmacher - discographie

© M.L.S.

Bernd Kistenmacher' releases

Head-Visions (1986)
Wake Up In The Sun (1987)
Kaleidoscope (1988)
Outlines (1989)
Characters (1991)
Live & Studio Tapes (1992)
Starting Again (1995)

Stadtgarten Live (1995)
Thoughts (1996)
Compiled Dreams (1997)
Contrasts Vol I (1998)
Contrasts Vol II (1999)
My Little Universe 8 CD-Box (1999)
Un Viaggio Attraverso L'Italia (2001)

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