German band formed in 2006 by Nils Ottensmeyer and Dennis Melster
Interview: Elena Savlokhova
Every person has a void deep inside. How would you describe yours?
Nils: Tough question. The one essential thing that always connected us was that we continuously enjoyed deep and peaceful melancholia. To us, it never has been something frustrating. We love the imagination of being in a very personal sphere, where no words are needed to explain emotions or specific feelings. Something like a tacit agreement to music, film-scenes, and emotions. That’s how it stayed until today. You could describe our awareness of life as a soundtrack, which is dark but also combined with much beauty inside. Think of Samuel Barber who did this great song called „Adagio for strings“.
Mel: Once you’re in a flow and then you stop it because of reasons. It is always a huge hassle to get the „creative ship“ rolling again. The whole struggle that comes along with it is definitely not worth it as well. It is always better to maintain certain productivity to avoid the actual void.
Why do you think music is such a vital element to (y)our existence?
Nils: Music is one possibility of several other ways to express feelings and let them reflect while listening to them. Making and listening to music can affect you in a very special way, maybe painting pictures or building something with your own hands can lead to similar results.
About 6 years ago you’ve made an announcement that you’ve decided to go your separate ways and pursue other things. How did you change over these years and what did you discover about yourselves during that time?
Nils: The moment for a time-out in 2014 was totally necessary. We had come to a point where we felt somehow burnt out in many ways. We’ve always created our music on a highly affective-emotional combined level which always made it, on the one hand, very special and intense for us, but very hard to deal with on the other. We have always struggled with the transition of developing a primary art-project into a „rock band“-theme, course we never felt like that. We rather understood creating music „like painting pictures“ or so. We felt like, our music is too melancholic and inward-looking to play it live on a typical rock show. We never saw us as musicians touring all the time, we felt more like artists creating their stuff in a familiar environment.
I think today, Mel and I have somehow understood, that our main focus is creating moving, deep-going songs with soul, people can listen to on a rainy day and maybe have the same feeling about it. Another point ist that we love it to be free on what we’re doing and don’t want to depend on something. I started a job that fulfills me in a different way. We don’t want to tour around only because we have to. I think that’s what’s most important to us.
Looking back at the beginning of your music journeys, what do you wish you had known back then? What were you naive about?
Nils: We did the mistake, many young bands have done.
Only because you have a myspace/Facebook account and a little record label and maybe some positive critics, doesn’t mean you’re going to be the next big thing.
We should have lowered our expectations earlier and focused more on the main point, that is doing it as you love it, not for anything else.
How was the concept of the recently released music video ‘Final Fate’ born and how did it come to life? What was the most challenging part of the process?
Mel: It was nothing really hard about it and it actually got made fairly quick. After we’ve released the video for „Wounds“, a friend wrote to us that he would like to direct the next video. At that time we just had a rough live demo of „Final Fate“, so we`ve sent him that. He immediately started to work on the video while we began recording the song. It was a totally separate process. We had a couple of conversations on the phone and we gave him 11 words to work with that were a key part of an art exhibition I was working on while quarantining. Other than that he had total freedom. No one really knew what the other one was doing. It was a really exciting process and full filling to put both things together in the end.
Do you think it’s possible to judge music objectively?
Nils: Hard to imagine that this is possible. In times where it is already hard to agree on how mad and low German pop-music is, you sadly find out that music can be judged only in a subjective way.
Mel: On a superficial level we mostly agree on certain musical aspects all the same. Depending on the cultural and sociological background. But the technical and sociological aspects are not really interesting at all. There are no rules in music and art in general. Therefore, you can not judge and teach art to a certain extend. Whatever feels right to you is right. But sometimes you can sense that people are definitely not doing what they like or they do what other people are doing. That is pretty much the case with a lot of musicians and artists nowadays. But everything else is pretty much subjective. I suppose it would be pretty boring otherwise.
What disappoints you the most in your field of art and what do you think could be improved?
Nils: First of all, people who think too much about what is disappointing them the most in their field of art! Thinking about that all the time keeps you from proceeding artwise and steals your time. If something is uninteresting or seems irrelevant to us, then we don’t deal with it. We don’t deal with bands that celebrate their rock n roll lifestyle and external effect but are low in their substance. We don’t deal with people keep asking us why we don’t sound like on our first record anymore (Over twelve years ago, time to wake up). We find it hard to understand when people want to make a big deal out of their band or themselves but actually lose the feeling.
If your success ruins your art, better go and get a job.
What is the best gig you’ve ever attended as part of an audience and what made it so memorable or special?
Nils: Watching Thom Yorke playing his ANIMA in cologne.
Mel: Well, I usually don`t go to concerts that often but the once that stood out to me were two Swans shows (back to back) at Berghain in Berlin. They are most certainly the only band I really want to experience live. Michael Gira is a pure artist who explores many different things on his own.
How important is friendship for those in a band?
Nils: Friendship in a band is everything. Friendship means trust. Trust and knowing each other are the basics to make moving and fascinating art. We never could imagine playing in a casting-band or changing the band every single month to get a „cooler“ or more lucrative opportunity. If your band is not running well financially wise, go and get a job, but never leave your band and fellas when the music feels right.
In an interview from 2012, Theo notes that one can find unbelievable beauty in moments of darkness and sorrow. Do you think that the mind works best creatively under a certain amount of pain and suffering?
Nils: Of course! Real art is closely connected to feelings and trembling emotions. Until today emotions are the engine that pushes our ideas forward. Suffering and longing for something always have been helpful companions.
No feelings – no songs!
What we’ve learned in all those times is to stay a little more constant and try not to get overwhelmed by our emotions, which maybe is a result of having grown up in a way. We’re not that sensitive and naive like in our early twenties anymore, which is a good thing and helps us to keep up the songwriting process.
Do you think that truth is ultimate or is it open for interpretation?
Nils: That is way too esoteric and stressful to think about. Maybe I should read some smart books, becoming a deep-minded person;).
Mel: Truth can be defined in multiple ways. Again, truth is what feels right to yourself. Whatever that might be. So yes, truth should definitely be open for interpretation. Especially in art. German director Werner Herzog calls it the „ecstatic truth“.
There is a deeper truth beyond facts. Slight modifications and aestheticizations can provoke new perspectives and questions in a much greater understanding.
What are you certain about in life?
Nils: Maybe to give away something that stays.
Things you can’t unthink.
Nils: Music, art, love, work, good food, friends, family, nature.
What is coming up for you?
Nils: If we read all the offerings that are coming in once, maybe something in the nearer future. But for now, we are just interested in recording and doing new stuff. We don’t care about anything-else much right now. If you want to do something good, play our music. Thank you!