Who knows what some journalists expect from an artist? I sometimes wonder if there's too much emphasis placed upon what they feel an artist should do. It's like critiquing a military strategy; it's really easy for the observer to say what the next move should be, but sometimes the easy, "obvious" answer isn't the correct strategy--one must wait to see what the ultimate result will be. That being said, I have yet to understand the logic behind the reviews for Goodbye, the latest album by German composer Ulrich Schnauss. Instead of appreciating that Mr. Schnauss has created another album of beautiful, relaxing instrumental album, other reviewers seem to focus on some indefinable negativity, or they focus on how he hasn't really done anything new. No matter, though; what others have missed, though, is that Ulrich Schnauss has simply improved on the qualities that made his last two albums so wonderful.
Listen To: "A Song About Hope"
Some songs, like "Einfeld" and "Never Be the Same" sound like the work of an individual composing by himself, yet other song, like "Goodbye" and "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" sound like the work of a full band. When you started writing Goodbye, did you start in one of these styles and gravitate towards the other, or did you simply write and compose songs without an afterthought about how they sounded?
Usually, I have an idea for the overall sound for a song. Most of the time, I start with a rough sketch of a song I have written on a piano, and I write those ideas. When I have those ideas completed and when I am ready to take them into the studio, I do have an idea for what the overall style should be and what the overall sound should be like.
Do you feel that the remixing that you do for bands has helped change your own notions about what you want to do in your own creative process?
I wouldn't necessarily say remixing that much, but working with other people in collaboration certainly does. If you collaborate with other musicians, whether it is singing or bands, or whether it's recording or reworking a track, you have the opportunity to be a part of the creative process as well, and you get to talk to them and interact, and doing that helps to educate you in ideas where you can take your own music as well. I think remixing itself is a bit more formal and a bit more than distant in that respect, because it doesn't really involve direct interactions with the creative process.
Do you try to work with people you like simply for that experience of working with them?
Yes and no. I generally enjoy working with other musicians and other people, but obviously the other criteria isn't just to work with other people randomly, but also that it makes sense in a musical way. I think it just kind of happens automatically. If something works personally and musically, I expect interesting things to come out of that relationship.
If a record label says, "We'd like you to remix this track" by an artist you don't like, then would you do it?
That's not really my priority. Well, I mean, you do have to do the occasional bread-and-butter projects to pay the rent, but I still do a lot of projects and collaborations that don't involve money at all, simply because I like to do them. The same goes for remixes as well. There are a lot of remixes I have done this year I have done for free simply because I thought the people who approached me had made really interesting music and I wanted to be a part of that as well. I think it is a compromise between both things, in a way, because you have to be able to survive, obviously, but also because you want to be able to do the things you love to do, which is not necessarily something that pay the bills.
Speaking of collaborations, I understand you've recently collaborated with Jonas Munk. How was that experience?
Wonderful! We've been working on that for quite a while, actually. I think Jonas has probably been a bit more efficient about things that I have been! (Laughs) I think most of the guitar work that needed to be done has been done now, but the songs still need some treatments. That's number one on my list to do when I return from my American tour. I want to concentrate on it for a few weeks when I get back, because we want to make sure it is finished and ready for release by the end of the year. I love Jonas' work; I think he's a wonderful musician, and I was really happy that the opportunity came up to work together.
On your recent EP, there were two remixes by Robin Guthrie. Are there any plans to work with him in the future?
I certainly would be up for it! He and I were talking about it but not in a serious way. Obviously Robin is very busy and I am about to be, so I don't know when we would have the time to do it, but I would love to work with him.
On Goodbye, all your song titles relate to themes of loss and of change. Does the common theme mean that you were trying to create something of a 'concept' album related to a general theme or feeling?
I definitely would agree. The word "concept album" is a difficult one, because if you say, "I've just made a concept album," it comes across in a real pretentious way, so I would definitely avoid that term, but there's definitely a common theme with these songs. That happened somewhat accidentally, though. I didn't sit down and say, "Oh, I want to write an album about my situation." I just realized that many of the songs, after I'd written them, kind of hinted at that, so to me it just made sense to allow the songs to keep following that path.
Do you enjoy playing live?
To be honest, until recently I didn't really enjoy it that much, because my live set, I always felt it was compromised because I was playing backing tracks from the hard drive with little keyboard bits. I didn't like that way of performing. But over the last few months, I've put a lot of work into more improvisation, developing things that are more open to improvisation, so it is a setup that can definitely and rightly be called live. I think I will probably start enjoying performing a lot more now.
Goodbye is available now on Domino Records
Labels: Domino Records, Interview Time, Ulrich Schnauss