Under the influence: Kreidler

Under the influence: Kreidler

May 8, 2014

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Dragoș Rusu

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The sound adventurers

The minutes spent on waiting for the legendary German band Kreidler seem an eternity. Each 60 seconds weirdly dilate into minutes, and, at certain points, even into hours. But my watch announces me that I have a wrong perception of time, at the moment; it might be an emotional thing, based on the fact that very soon I’m about to meet a veteran band that has been making music for long enough for this status to become fully relevant and justified.

Kreidler is a four-piece band with a clear understanding of roles: a drummer, a bassist who can also reach for the guitar, a keyboard player and a man for the electronics. Their story starts in Dusseldorf, back in 1994, when they began the band – the first Kreidler appearance was on March ’94, at a bar in Düsseldorf's old town. Kreidler was founded by Thomas Klein, Andreas Reihse, Detlef Weinrich and Stefan Schneider, who was to leave Kreidler in 1998, in order to form To Rococo Rot; his place on bass-guitar was taken by Alexander Paulick (Coloma, Narrow Bridges) until 2001, and again from 2008 on.

In these two decades there’s been hundreds of live concerts all over the world and a dozen of albums, EPs and remixes. Besides their consistent effort under the band umbrella, each member has worked on side projects, as well. Thomas Klein works with his partner Petra Bosch as Fauna, solo as Clyne and has recently released the album Sølyst. Andreas Reihse and Detlef Weinrich produced techno under the name of Binford. He creates under Toulouse Low Trax a slow, rhythmic electronic music; he is also responsible for the artistic/musical program of the Düsseldorf club Salon des Amateurs, a forward thinking institute of music; (I’ve heard from different people about the amazing vibe out there, that kind of seriously established place, the real-deal music wise, where people can dance on the weirdest stuff played out loud and the artists in charge go even further. While in Dusseldorf, don’t miss this.) Andreas Reihse released music under the moniker April, Herkules Dreigang Duo, together with Thomas Brinkmann and as BadFrench with Kiki Moorse (from Chicks on Speed). And the list of different collaborations of each Kreidler’s member goes on.

We met the four members of Kreidler for a café-late interview on a sunny Saturday, before their concert in Bucharest the very same night. While their music is frequently described on the world-wide-web as an harmonically blend of electronic music, leftfield, post rock, experimental, new-wave and other music hybrids that just don’t fit in a standard category, I still hesitate in describing what I’ve heard for over 90 minutes of their concert. It might be the best electronic music concert I’ve got in a long time, an intriguing, demanding and hypnotic listening experience. The German mavericks created an intimate atmosphere in the club, throughout their concert; each of the songs was demanding full attention. Once caught in their mesmerizing sound, one could embark with them on a heavy boat (or a small German motorcycle, since Kreidler is also a german mopeds and small motorcycle manufacturer) and start an exciting and thought provoking musical journey.

Kreidler is that kind of band that doesn’t monkey around, doesn’t go for big exposure, publicity and masses. It is not like any other band; it stands for making a difference in music. Meet sound adventurers Thomas, Andreas, Detlef and Alexander.

While we’re still waiting for some cups of café late to arrive, Detlef tells me about his future plans with his personal project Tolouse Low Trax. I find out about a few new releases already scheduled for the next upcoming months and another one for Nation, with an unknown yet release date. Based on his debut album called ‘Mask Talk’ (released on Karaoke Talk in 2010) and a bunch of other incredible releases such as ‘Dweller / Second Trip’ or the EP with Noblesse Oblige (the French-Caribbean performer Valerie Renay and German producer Sebastian Lee Philipp), any new of Tolouse Low Trax music should definitely worth getting excited for.
A strong thing of Kreidler - we use the moment and create the maximum of energy possible.

First intentions

Andrei Crăciun: One can say that Kreidler appeared in the frame of a more social engaged context. Tell us about your intention from the very beginning of Kreidler. How do you think it has been shaped into what your band is now?

Andreas: We’ve been asked by a spoken word artist, and had a project together with a Dutch band, it was about making a statement, as an artist, against new right wing mentality from the Netherlands and Germany. So we organized different events and work with spoken word artists. But the actual beginning of Kreidler was when one spoken word artist asked us to accompany a show of him. And at the same time we met Detlef.

Detlef: Yes, because I wasn’t in the band at that time.

Andreas: He was DJing on the same day under the name DJ Sport–during the 'Rundgang', the yearly presentation of the works of the art students. In the beginning we worked quite often with different spoken word artists, it was 1994; they could write quite nice, but they couldn’t really speak their poems. It was a lack of quality at that time. It changed everything now. So it didn’t really add up to something interesting in music or spoken word artists, so at a certain point was much stronger going instrumental.

Detlef: At that time was much more interesting to make instrumental music, as a statement, it was felt kind of more new then; with organic voices or text.

Alex: Maybe also the strange mixture of playing records from record player and adding music to it, or maybe changes from one track to the other with the help of Detlef djing gets you into a certain atmosphere or a certain focus on what we were doing next. So this was maybe a new influence to get a different approach to the music we were doing.

Thought and language

Andrei Crăciun: Especially in the last years, with the boom of small independent labels and massive quantity of electronic music production, one can say that the gap between sound and lyrics is wider. What do you think should be the role of text in the relationship with sound and music, now?

Andreas: We sometimes worked with vocalists, throughout our career, but it was a decision for certain songs, which felt the need for it. For other songs we thought it was not necessary, so it was a decision from song to song. All of our songs have titles, the records have titles, there’s a color artwork for some records we had linear notes, there was always a connection to words. There’s a relation with words and stories; maybe sometimes it is only a hint in a certain direction or open a certain feeling, different feeling.

Detlef: It is also inspired from so many different mediums, like literature, movies, everything. There’s always a connection to text.

Andreas: Actually, the new record, which is coming out in May (n.r. ABC, on Bureau B) uses voices more than any of the previous records. There are recordings that we made with a choir, two men, two women, use the human voice as a texture and also as a rhythmical tool. It’s a kind of abstract take on language, understanding the importance of language, the direct relationship between thought and language.


Dragoș R:: The album was recorded in Georgia. How come?

Detlef: It’s a long story. We have a strong connection with Georgia, family, Andreas is half Georgian. I was in love with Georgia since more than ten years now. Yes, fifteen years. When I was there for the first time, I was really impressed about Tiblisi and the people out there, the culture and everything. It’s a very emotional thing, with Georgia; very emotional.

Andreas: Not that it really matters, but it’s been 20 years since we’ve been together, so we thought to do something special. First we had the idea to record 4 EPs, which in the end will be an album together and each of us would be responsible for the sound of each EP. It was initially Alex’s idea, because we work really quickly in the studio. Then we spoke to the record company, and they came up with cities all over the world with connections to studios. We had a camera team to accompany us to record this trip and tend to play concerts at those places. But it suddenly became too complicated, logistically and also too expensive to coordinate everything.

Detlef: And too much concept.

Andreas: Yes, maybe too much concept… this idea to record in special places and get input from these places. You can’t just do it in two days; you have to stay there for a while, to have an impact on you. I knew a friend from a film studio in Tbilisi and he told me about a nice recording facility, which was unused. I traveled there in the summer and seen the place. There was an amazing place, we though we have to do it at this place. And then Heinz (n.r. Heinz Emigholz, a german filmmaker, actor, artist, writer and producer), called me and accompany us for a movie.

Alex: ABC is the first record that the band has recorded it outside Germany. And it’s a sort of experiment to take yourself out of your daily cultural context and be who you are, somewhere else. The band travels quite a lot, and we know the feeling of being somewhere else for working, like today playing in Bucharest. But the idea of actually going somewhere else to record is a little bit like creating the situation that you experience while traveling, when you reflect on yourself and your surroundings in a different way because its unfamiliar and somehow refreshing. This time was actually a specific attempt to take the band and put it in a different context for recordings. In most ways it worked, but it’s also interesting to think what was different or what was actually exactly the same, as usual. Sometimes you realize is less depending on surroundings than you think.

Dragoș: The album comes with a film, made by Heinz Emigholz.

Detlef: Yes, it is about the recording of the ABC album, a little gift that comes along with it. It’s an art movie.

A little bit deeper

Dragoș R.: Do you feel like you’ve reached a certain level of maturity in 20 years, as a band?

Detlef: I think it feels really relaxed after 20 years. Our friendship together, how we are working together is really relaxed, its not hysterical, this is very good for music.

Andreas: After 20 years we are still below the radar. Maybe above, into certain scenes.

Alex: I think it’s crucial that its been a constant slow progression without any extreme peaks or lows, I think it would be very different for a band that suddenly becomes very successful for one record and everybody knew, but it feels like afterwards it’s a long way, downwards to. A kind of consistency has been established by working that long and a kind of diligence.

Andrei Crăciun: You also approach different mediums with Kreidler and you keep a special relationship with visual forms of expression. Your collaborations with Alexandra Sell for Remote Area, with Andro Wekua, your videos and so on, are proof of your appreciation for graphic and visual material. Why is this strong association of mediums so important for you?

Detlef: Because it makes everything a little bit deeper. Sometimes it’s like coming by accident. I started art at the academy in Dusseldorf and Andreas is in Berlin very connected to a lot of art people, a lot of our friends are artists. It’s very easy and normal for us and very important for our music.

Thomas: We had a rehearsal room in Dusseldorf for a long period, which was in the same facility as a new Dusseldorf artist collaboration and there was a lot of exchange, meeting people by accident, openings, there was also a club at the top of the building, with techno and house parties every weekend. We met a lot of people and actually some people put some vocals on our records and this was part of the fact that we came in touch in a short period of time with different people, trying to create something out of the situation, partly with them, or partly just be influenced by them in a different way, like listening to their concerts, going to their opening, talking with people.

Alex: I think its always inspiring to have a kind of exchange with different people creating different art products. We don’t identify ourselves with other bands.

Andreas: The music is made to stand alone, but that doesn’t mean that it has to stand-alone. The music can be always heard in certain contexts, so you can have the frame of what that context is. And then it becomes an extension of the music. But the music is also intended to exist entirely alone, if that’s what you want to.

Dusseldorf, Berlin and Kraftwerk

Dragoș R.: Slipping a little bit into the past, I am curious how was the vibe of your first concerts?

Thomas: When we started with this new musical approach, on the name of Kreidler, everyone was open and curious to hear something new, a mixture of analog instruments with electronic parts was not really the essence of our work, but our tools to make music with. After some times, there were a lot of bands doing the same thing, using electronica and analog instruments and creating some king of new pop or rock, deconstructed rock music or whatever, or electronic music involving some real instruments. Now I think its more like how we are getting our ideas or making the records, which is really different to how other people work, because we are separated, two of us live in Berlin, two of us in Dusseldorf, we have no time to prepare ourselves.

Detlef: We don’t rehearse.

Thomas: Yeah, we don’t rehearse, we just meet at some place and we try to build something on the moment; this is the strong thing of Kreidler. We use the moment and create the maximum of energy possible.

Dragoș R.: How is Dusseldorf? Was the city an influence for you, or projects like Krafwerk, or other Krautrock bands?

Andreas: Thomas is the only real Dusseldorf-ian from the band. Detlef moved there for some reason, I moved there for some reason, Alex lived in Cologne, I also moved to Cologne. When I came to Dusseldorf I was working there in a hospital, as a conscientious objector of military service. But I ended in Dusseldorf by accident. I thought, yeah, Dusseldorf is cool because it has this tradition with Kraftwerk, Neu!, and all the post punk from the 80s.

Detlef: It’s a very boring city.

Andreas: Yes, but I thought, maybe the strong stuff from Dusseldorf comes just from that reason. If you want something to happen, you have to create it. You have to really focus on it and make it really strong. I think that was the reason why really strong statements came from Dusseldorf, like post punk, photography. It’s not a city of nightlife, you have off course some places where you go, but it’s not like 24 hours parties or something like this.

Detlef: It’s not a hysterical city like Berlin, for example, where everybody is talking about making something, but at the end, which is a really cool project from Berlin? I don’t know. Yet! Off course, there's really good stuff in Berlin, like To Rococo Rot, Tarwater, and a lot of other good stuff. But everybody is talking about Berlin, and it’s mostly stupid parties. That’s maybe a little bit harsh (laughing).

Alex: We also like stupid parties, haha.

Dragoș R.: Did you meet Kraftwerk?

Thomas: Yeah, but they bunker themselves, like hidden somewhere.

Detlef: It’s really hard to get them. By the way, this is a very uncomfortable place for an interview, to sit like this here.

Dragoș R.: Sorry

Alex: I’m not uncomfortable, but maybe the lights are not so good.

The concerts

Back with some draft beers, we continue.

Dragoș R.: What was the worst concert experience of yours?

[after a pause]

Detlef: I think Prague.

Dragoș R.: What happened?

Detlef: Nothing happened. It was nothing, no energy.

Thomas: Yes, a bad point in our history. Didn’t know where to go, nothing was happening.

Andreas: We have really beautiful pictures, I think some of the most amazing live pictures of us, and everything was perfect. But we ran completely out of sync and everything was just a mess.

Detlef: But maybe it wasn’t the worst. I will have to think about it, because there were so many concerts.

Andrei C.: How do you prepare yourselves for the future?

Thomas: Being prepared.

Detlef: Now we’re going on tour in Germany and in September maybe some gigs around Europe, we will see how it goes. I really like to play live, we all like, and it’s a lot of fun.

Influences and music heroes

Dragoș R.: Who are your musical heroes?

Detlef: Heroes? There’s so many…

Alex: I never name my musical heroes. It’s a matter of principle. But they change on a daily basis.

Detlef: There’s not one hero, that’s impossible. The word hero actually is difficult; there are some really important, influential or respected persons, but not hero.

Andreas: We have influence from literature, art, film, architecture, and its not like our music is an illustration of it, but a translation or something, which is parallel. But since I play keyboard, if I would ask myself what are my keyboard heroes, I don’t know. There are strong statements in music which we, off course, really like, but not that we’re trying to copy any of them, that’s actually impossible.

Detlef: We never copy anything.

Alex: Never. I think sometimes musicians that I admire are musician whose music I don’t especially like. There are a lot of musicians, looking at their output or the way they are working, I could think that’s really good, really strong and yet I actually don’t appreciate their music on an emotional or aesthetical level. I was thinking about that the other day, much of the music I really like, I don’t especially respect the stands of the artist itself. It’s a paradox.
About the Author

Dragoș Rusu

Co-founder and co-editor in chief of The Attic, sound researcher and allround music adventurer, with a keen interest in the anthropology of sound.

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