INTERVIEW WITH BERND KISTENMACHER
Updated: Feb 28
“Bernd Kistenmacher in 31 Questions” (V.F.)
S&S Question 1- The Year 2009 marks the return of Bernd Kistenmacher on the scene of EM, with the release of your 16th opus; Celestial Movements as well as some concerts in France and Germany. Can we say that Bernd Kistenmacher is really gone out of its den? If yes, what we may expect for 2010
B.K.: All those years I was never completely away from music, but after many years of work in my studio, I started in 2009 with the return on stage. This concert in Paris was initiated by the French association “Cosmiccagibi”. At the same time the German label MellowJet Records released my first solo-album Celestial Movements after 8 years. So the concert in Paris was also the world-premiere of my new music.
S&S Question 2-Why is also a so long silence between 2001 and 2009? Was Bernd Kistenmacher always active artistically and\or musically?
B.K.: Yes. In the first years after 2001 I felt very comfortable with doing things which had absolutely nothing to do with music. For example I visited a university again to make some studies in economy and IT. I really do not know when the moment was, but one day the longing for music returned. I felt that I was missing something. And so I returned to my synthesizers. Indeed this return wasn’t so easy as it sounds because my whole recording stuff was full analogue…and it was old. After a move into another apartment I learned that most of the equipment was electrical dead. This was the moment where I decided to switch on digital recording, and I rebuilt my studio step by step. I also changed a lot of synths. The technology had not stood still in this time. Anyway, most of the time I was thinking about music. This was a good sign! In 2007 I was ready to do new recordings.
S&S Question 3- Why did you feel the need to make a comeback? Did you think that you had something to prove, to go deeper in your musical perspective or you are simply avid to retie contact with your public?
B.K.: At first it was not my aim to comeback because I was never really away from the music (emotionally). But honestly 8 years are a long time and I learned that I had changed (my mind) and the things around me had changed too. I had got some distance – also to some people. And this was not the worst. I had freed myself from a lot of things. One consequence of this was a deeper concentration on my music. I had nothing else to do but making music. Wonderful! But of course others must judge if the result satisfies enough.
S&S Question 4- Were you nervous in front of the reaction of the media and your public toward this comeback? Did you think that your public had forgotten you?
B.K.: A difficult question! I tried to expect nothing and to do my best. Of course I was nervous. It is not easy to return after 8 years. Much more had to proved: the technique, my presence on stage, my music. The event was successful but there are some points which must be optimized in future. I think this is a normal process.
S&S Question 5- Celestial Movements is rather unexpected, in the sense that the album borrows musical approaches very different from what you were used to offering, but you still embrace the cosmic ambient side, with Colliding Stars, but not the Berlin School style. How did you approach Celestial Movements composition?
B.K.: Well, when I had decided to produce a new album, I had only two approaches, the first one was to sound as versatile as possible. The second one was not to produce another Berlin School album again. Not longer doing endless nodding. I had done this in the past too often. And I had recognized that it depends on the musical ideal, on the theme, how long you can play it. If it is good enough for 2 minutes, play it two minutes. If it is ok for 10 minutes, play it 10 minutes and so on. It makes no sense to stretch a short theme endless long. You destroy the idea behind it. One fan told me after listening to my music that I should have played some tracks longer. This is a good reaction. He wanted to listen to more of it and was not bored by the recent material. Fine!
S&S Question 6- How was your state of mind during the writing of Celestial Movements?
B.K.: Well I wanted to sound as perfect as possible, but you should not hear the stress behind it. It should sound in a kind of fresh and interesting and unusual. So this was pressure. But a kind of positive one, because I was very concentrate and creative.
S&S Question 7- We feel a clear Vangelis influence on Celestial Movements, particularly at the orchestrations level, percussion movements and the dramatic approach. Would Bernd Kistenmacher go to soundboard music?
B.K.: Unfortunately I was never invited to write a film score. So especially Eternal Lights should be a kind of virtual business card. I wanted to show that I can do it. Emotional and concentrate. Maybe somebody in Hollywood is listening to it?
S&S Question 8- Let's talk about Eternal Lights; one of the most moving musical pieces that I heard. Is Bernd Kistenmacher as much melancholic as its last 2 opuses (Eternal Lights, Journey Throught Italy Part II, Dreaming of B. and Celestial Move) let hear?
B.K.: I like the idea of concept recordings, of an idea behind something. So I try to open a ring with the beginning of an album and to close it with the last track. That means musically that I come back to a theme which was played before, with another mood or expression. Like an echo from the past. In concrete does this mean that I opened this ring with Un Vaggio… and closed it with Celestial Movements? Within Celestial Movements I opened another ring with Eternal Lights and closed it with A Celestial Move. I will definitely continue with the idea. And yes, it always sounds melancholic, because being melancholic in music is on of the strongest ways to touch somebody's soul…
S&S Question 9- Between Celestial Movements and Un Viaggio Attraverso L' Italia, 8 years gone by. For each of the albums we hear a different musical orientation. The 1st is very melodious, even dramatic with a strong melancholic side, while the 2nd has also a melancholic side, but exploits more the Berlin School shape, with a progressive approach which you exploited at the beginning of the 90's with Live and Studio Types' 92 and later with the powerful Totally Versmold. Did you turn your back to Berlin School style?
B.K.: No not really. In 2000 I was still in that Berlin School style because this was expected by my fans and by me too. But I was no longer satisfied with this. It was musically not enough. Also another reason for making a break…
S&S Question 10- Speaking of Totally Versmold, can we expect to see again your out of prints records being release some day? Also My Little Universe box set? A bit as Schulze and Tangerine Dream made.
B.K.: I can't say yes or no. It depends on the interest in my older music and the concept around it. At the moment I have no plans towards it, but this doesn't mean anything for future decisions. I am more interested in new projects and will force my actual music. This is really important to me.
S&S Question 11- Beside this, what do you think of all these re-releases that fill the record shops tubs? Do you think t they answer a need for a public who is discovering EM?
B.K.: Beside the fact that I don't listen so much to the music from others, I must say that I would never judge about there works. Finally it is a question of your personal taste if you like something or not. The point is that too much other music in my head would stop me from being creative. For example when I produced Celestial Movements I did not listen to other music for weeks and I was able to keep my own thoughts as well as I could. Now I am working on new tracks and recognize that I have again no fun in listening to other music (sometimes a little bit if I drive my car). So I always try to suppress what bothers me. This helps me to concentrate on my work.
S&S Question 12- Celestial Movements innovates at the levels of the tones of mellotron flutes and chords of acoustic guitar, producing more than reality the impression to use these instruments. What equipment did you use during the recording of Celestial Movements?
B.K.: I mainly work with equipment from Roland. The Phantom G Workstation for example. But I also play some Moog Synthesizers or the Memotron. Using samples from acoustic instruments is a good basis to lift these sounds on another stage just by modification and modulation. For example the opening trumpet sound on In Face Of Saturn has got a totally different meaning just by playing it into a large reverb. From one second to the next you have that feeling of space.
S&S Question 13- Do you think that the purists are outraged to hear a so surprising resemblance between these electronic equipment and the equipment of origin?
B.K.: I think purists will ever by outraged if something destroys there view of the world, but honestly that doesn't touch me. I am not interested in thinking about which reaction could happen and which one not. If I would do this, I could never play only one single note without having the fear about possible reactions. Imagine that!
S&S Question 14- How was the reaction of Medias and fans towards Celestial Movements? And during concerts? Did you notice younger faces or were they old nostalgic fans of Bernd Kistenmacher?
B.K.: I noticed that the audience in Paris was very different. A mixture from old fans and interested outsiders. Maybe it is easy to get this audience in a city like Paris, where you can get cultural offers at any corner.
S&S Question 15- Let's talk about Bernd Kistenmacher, the artist; did he evolve since Un Viaggio Attraverso L'Italia or does he follow the tangent allowed by the new technologies?
B.K.: I think yes because it was my approach to evolve. The typical Berlin School style – which I still like – was at least too one-dimensional to me. There is musically so much more to discover out there and it was time to go into other directions. Personally I evolved too of course. I'm older and I'm fulfilled by a little panic thinking about the time, which is past and the possible time, which could be my future. I have to hurry up. And this motivates me to do my best – now!
S&S Question 16- Did your approach on composition level and sound conception follow your personal evolution, or rather the new technologies?
B.K.: I think these points depend on each other. On one side I must try to transfer my ideas into sound. That means an intensive examination with my equipment. You have to learn and try out a lot. This brings me on the other side to sounds which I didn't expect before. So it is sometimes possible that you musically go not in the direction which you wanted to go first. Anyway the result should show your musical evolution.
S&S Question 17- And the man? How is Bernd Kistenmacher? We imagine him taciturn, dreamy and melancholic. Are we rather just in our description?
B.K.: Maybe not as dreamy as you might expect but it is true, I attend to suffer from most of what's happening out there, and this makes me sometimes melancholic and influences my music.
S&S Question 18- Do you consider yourself as a studio freak?
B.K.: The name of my studio is Ivory Tower. This speaks for itself, but I also like to do live-performances if there is a special environment or idea for.
S&S Question 19- Do you believe that your works were ignored, sulked?
B.K.: Being ignored sounds like an intention against me. Why should somebody do this? I think that there is another problem. There is too much music out there and everyone wants to be perceived. On the other side, the media are not waiting on you because the offers are so huge. So you must cry out very, very loud, if you will get perceived too. At least it is a question of self-marketing which seemed in my case not as perfect as it should have been. Maybe I shaped my own profile not strong enough. Anyway. Just sitting there and making music is not enough if you want to become known.
S&S Question 20- Do you think that EM is generally ignored too by Medias and radio stations?
B.K.: Oh yes, I really believe this, and I will never stop fighting against this. The problem is that nobody understands the classic EM as part of our musical culture. This is the reason why you cannot listen to this music in public radio. It is a shame. Also in Germany we have only a few (at least 2) programs which presents electronic music (away from Techno) in public radio. Without internet, this music would have no forum.
S&S Question 21-Knowing how capricious are the equipment and the audiences, is it difficult and risky to build an EM show?
B.K.: Not really. If you do a live-performance with electronic music in the way as I do it, you must not fear to get pelted with underwear of little, ecstatic girls! So I recognize my audience more as grown and concentrated. The equipment is on a very high technological level today and at least stable. Of course it is at any time an exiting moment if all machines work together. But this is part of the show because it keeps you always concentrated and awake.
S&S Question 22- How do you feel being alone on stage, with all this gear to manage?
B.K.: I wouldn't do this if I would not feel comfortable with this situation. I am more stressed by the organization, the endless talks before and the transport. But if the show starts, everything is fine.
S&S Question 23- What where your first musical inspirations?
B.K.: In the first half of the seventies, I listened to new sounds every month and I listened to the early Vangelis, Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk or whatever. The things changed rapidly in my life when I discovered the music of Klaus Schulze. This was in 1976 and the album was Moondawn. Later, when the musical taste changed rapidly and my personal heroes did no longer play this kind of Berlin School style, so I decided to continue this way more active. My first works were influenced by Berlin School. This was the music which I loved and which I wanted to play. But it was always my claim to develop this direction of music further because I felt, that not all stories were told. Then followed a period of releases of solo-album (on CD) and concerts. I felt that this was not enough. I needed another economic base and I also looked for a way to feature other EM talents. This was the reason, why I founded my own label (first called Timeless Sounds, then renamed in Musique Intemporelle and again renamed in its final period into MIRecords). The start was not bad, and I had signed a lot of interesting artists. But with the deteriorating broadcast and distribution situation as well as the increasing damage by illegal downloads, the economic situation became more and more week. So to tell a long story in short, my label was no longer a second economic foothold, but more a worry. In 2000 I decided to close the doors finally and to concentrate only on my musical activities.
S&S Question 24- What do you think of the proliferation of new artists who use new technologies and, without having any musical formation, compose music to profusion?
B.K.: Well a lot because I started in the same way too. I had no idea about synthesizers and recording in 1980. I just felt to use it and to work with. So this is always the way most artists begin. At least this says nothing about the grade of creativity, but the first step is enthusiasm for something. Ever!
S&S Question 25- Do you think EM is there to stay?
B.K.: This is difficult to answer because most of actual music is in its kind electronic today. So where begins EM and where does it end? I don't know and at least a controversial discussion.
S&S Question 26- About classical music; what is your biggest influence and why?
B.K.: One influence is surely Frederic Chopin, because of the beauty of his music. On the other hand, I ever liked to listen to artists around the concrete music.
S&S Question 27- EM?
B.K.: What can I say? On top of the mountain are Klaus Schulze and Vangelis, but I also listened a lot to Eno, Reich and others.
S&S Question 28- Do you find that EM evolved since your absence (2001) and since your beginnings? Is it always all so minimalism? Does it follow the technological currents or there are really creative and innovative artists, as at the time of Schulze, TD and Ashra?
B.K.: Innovation is always there. Technological as well as musically! But I will not talk about concrete names because the question would bring me again to criticize the work of my colleagues - what would be a kind of bad manner. I am convinced that there is a lot of really good music out there, but most of these artists will never get the chance to catch some attention because of many reasons.
S&S Question 29- For you, what is the main difference between Dancing Sequences and Celestial Movements? As well as the approach, inspiration and mentality?
B.K.: Each music was ok in their time where I did produce it. So I would never compare it because I can't. I also dislike questions about considerations, how your music from yesterday would sound if you would play it with the machines of today. This is needless to think about. So the crucial point is what did you feel in that special moment of composing and recording a track and where you able to express this emotions into music. The result depends on your own musical development. As more experienced, you are, as better is the result. So from this point of view I am much more satisfied with Celestial Movements. But that's only natural…
S&S Question 30- What are you doing these days?
B.K.: At the moment I work on my next solo-album. A very interesting project, which has nothing to do with space or stars, but with the deep of our oceans. The source of inspiration for my new music is the Science Fiction novel The swarm by German author Frank Schätzing. The swarm is one of the most fascinating books I have read in the past years! The release is planned for June 2010 on MellowJet Records, and I hope, I can fix this date, because I will also do my next live-concert on June 12th at the Planetarium in Bochum (actual info at www.bernd-kistenmacher.blogspot.com). For autumn is a cooperation with Roland scheduled. Some more concerts could follow this year. So I am always busy …again.
S&S Question 31-Thank you Bernd and what are you reserving to your fans in the coming years?
B.K.: I hope that I will be able to return to a more regular output (if my creativity allows this). I also think that concerts will ever be a kind of special and rare moment because I don’t like to play on festivals. Anyway I would be happy to meet you here or there.
So please let me finish with my personal motto: Never stop to burn for your ideas…!
Sylvain Lupari (April 29th, 2010)
Photos from the Bochum concert are courtesy of Christian Piednoir