Konzi-Tip Interview with Flux and Dero
Two years have passed since my last interview with OOMPH!, and now it was high time for a new inquisition. Before the concert in the Live Music Hall in Cologne I spoke first with Flux about recording, production, and sound; as the interview shifted to the realm of text, Dero promptly turned up and sat down as well.
Konzi-Tip: If everything that you make depends partially on computers and the technical possibilities that are available, must you not only consider the music every time you start something new, but also relearn the very latest in regards to computers, programming, and synthesizers?
Flux: You don’t have to, but we do it automatically, because it’s always interested us. We’ve always been integrating synthesizers and, in the early days, drum-machines into our music, and the whole technical aspect has always interested us. I can remember, when I was just starting out I had a guitar that I sold so I could buy my first synthesizer, and also a rhythm-machine, because this world of sounds that was opening itself up in the late 1980’s…that was a new dimension that I wanted to experience; and the technical possibilities were constantly introducing people to new cultural pathways with which they could express themselves. I always found that exciting. Since then it’s not a must or a burden that you have to say “ohh, now I already have to learn new techniques again.” You don’t really have to. You can also keep working with things you have that are still functioning ok.
Konzi-Tip: Would it limit you in your possibilities if you didn’t go keep up with the technology?
Flux: No, it wouldn’t really, but we’d always stay at a certain level. And we don’t just have state-of-the-art equipment everywhere, we also have older equipment that we utilize just like before. We have synthesizers, like Minimoog for example, one of the first synthesizers we could afford, that we still use sometimes. I think you have to get to know each machine first, so that you can master it in-and-out, and then find out for yourself: what are the advantages of this machine, what is unique about it, what are the special features of this machine, what kind character does it have, and what can you do especially well with it, and what should you use a different, more suitable machine for. That’s the art of controlling your equipment and knowing exactly where the strengths and weaknesses are. That’s what we always try for. It requires a certain amount of time messing around with the machines, but it’s always worth it. If you only think “oh, what’s the new synthesizer, I’ll buy it” and then just use the pre-settings, then you’ll never discover what possibilities the machine really has, and you’ll just sound the same as the next idiot who did exactly the same thing, and didn’t concern himself with the machines and is only thinking “pre-setting 10 is pretty nice, I’ll take that one…”
Konzi-Tip: Are there also technical things that you’d like to do, but would be too hard to put into practice? Do you already have an idea in your head of how it should sound, but you still have find out which things you’d need to utilize?
Flux: It’s usually the case that when you make a sound or mix an album, you have a pretty clear concept of where the journey should go. Sometimes it’s just possible to reach it 100%, and sometimes you don’t get so far, but still a good distance, you get maybe 90%, which is also usually good enough. Or you don’t get there at all, and then you have to rethink it. But that’s also part of the interesting side of producing, when you realize: what I had in my head, the coherence, it doesn’t work at all, because the picture that you had in your head isn’t conveyable in reality, and you have to find another solution, find new paths, but really that’s also what makes it so exciting. You just always have to find a path, from which you can say afterwards: I’m sticking to it 100 percent. There’s not just one solution, and the beauty of it is that we work as a trio, and one of us or another always has an idea when someone’s in a rut. So we can help each other.
Konzi-Tip: You each have a studio at home and a studio for all three of you, is that right?
Flux: Exactly, each of us has a small home studio, and then a big studio where we all work together.
Konzi-Tip: And let’s say you planned to meet in your shared studio in three weeks, for example, does it sometimes happen that it nothing occurs to you right away, or do you make it a point to go into the studio when it’s already clear that you’ve at least got some material?
Flux: Of course we call each other up, but sometimes there are phases where one of us says “so, do you have a song already?” – “Nah, I have an idea and started on a second one,” because of course it’s not worthwhile if we already meet, so what else is there…of course we talk to each other beforehand, and also it’s not three weeks before we come back, but more like one or two months, so that we really have time to collect our thoughts and we don’t turn in any fast conclusions, or so we don’t have to work under pressure, so we never think “I have to have a song, because otherwise I’ll be the only one that doesn’t have anything and the others will already have two.” Of course with us there’s always competition, each is always trying to outdo the others with ideas and of course that goads us on, but I think it’s a positive effect. Afterwards all three of us always work together on each song, and each of us applies himself enough that we can each identify with the songs.
Konzi-Tip: As for the samples, have you heard about how Depeche Mode came out with their older albums, like Construction Time Again and Black Celebration for example, and would gather industrial noises and babbling voices that were later used as samples? Where do you get your samples from?
Flux: For the most part Depehe Mode did that because at the time there still weren’t such things as databanks with a bunch of sounds on DVD or CDs/CD-ROMS that you could buy. There were only a few basic samples that were provided with the sampler. So they [DM] were of course pioneers, who were influenced by bands like Einstürzende Neubauten, who had already been working with such sound-collages for years, and they just pulled free and sampled their sounds themselves.
Konzi-Tip: And nowadays you can buy everything?
Flux: Now you get any sound you want. Of course, if we can’t get it, then sometimes we make it ourselves, or sometimes we’ll make it by mouth, for example, when Dero has an idea “now it should make this sort of noise” [Flux demonstrates a chilling screech], at this point, before we look for a machine that makes that sound, we simply take a mic, and then edit the sample a little so that it doesn’t sound exactly like what was just recorded.
Konzi-Tip: And then you’ve got something original, that no one else has.
Flux: Exactly, then it’s something completely independent, and also organic, because it’s made from a man and not from a machine, and it has the exact rhythm and sound that you had in your head. Before you sit down for a long time and try to get it somewhere else, you can also make it yourself.
Konzi-Tip: In regards to editing, I can imagine that keyboard sounds are edited endlessly, but how about the guitars? Before, in the last interview, you said that you like guitars so much because they sound organic. Are they altered a lot during or after the recording?
Flux: Sometimes more, sometimes less, it depends what you want to achieve. If you want to have a guitar that’s supposed to sound, for example, very rhythmically exact and computerized, if it goes well with the song, taking “Menschsein” from the new album for example, which starts out with a very strict, fast EBM-tempo baseline, and then also has this old, electronic-body-music feeling throughout the entire song, then bringing in a soft-fluffy blues guitar as well wouldn’t work. That’s why the guitars are brought in very strictly, and not quantized afterwards, but instead they’re played with exact timing, and the ends are cut very precisely, so it doesn’t resonate afterwards, so it’s really trimmed precisely, so that even this computer/ staccato effect that the base makes isn’t destroyed.
But then there are also songs that are more organic and bluesy, like “Ich will deine Seele,” so it works better when the guitar sounds as if someone just took it and “hey, let me play that.” As a producer you have to decide what you want. We don’t have a master plan that’s always working, but you have to decide from song to song which feeling the song needs, and then implement it accordingly.
Konzi-Tip: So if you’re saying that guitar sounds are cut by the computer, how do you do it on stage?
[in the following Flux points out that obviously during a concert you also need the live-experience, and don’t want to hear the CD exactly correctly. The question doesn’t target that, because that’s exactly how I see it, but it’s about how they would convey the technical editing overall]
Flux: Of course on stage you can only simulate it partways, you can really adjust the noise gate at the end of the string so that any sounds will get sharply cut off.
Konzi-Tip: So that only the first sound is carried over?
Flux: A noise gate opens up a certain volume, that is to say, if I only played the chord lightly it wouldn’t open it up, not until I hit it really hard, and then at the end it would close it, so that the guitar isn’t playing back slowly, it eventually breaks off, depending on how you’ve adjusted the noise gate. But I have to say, playing live it’s again somewhat different. Of course you try to stay halfway true to the original album, but when playing live the atmosphere first and foremost is vital, the audience...some also want to hear a version that’s different from what’s on the record, because otherwise you could just leave the CD running and we could just thrash around a bit or something. You have to find a balance.
Konzi-Tip: With the vocals, I have the impression that Dero sounds virtually the same on the CD as in a concert, or is something else also done there?
Flux: No, I’m not into alienating the vocals so much, because like I already said, guitars and singing are the only living instruments that we have, and otherwise it’s a lot of electronics, and the vocals really bring the soul into the song and really strongly support the textual message. For one thing, during recording we take care that we always find the right mood in the vocal expression, and for another thing Dero’s voice is very versatile, he can sing soft passages, but he can also sing hard ones, bellow out raw passages, really everything is possible. Very rarely do I apply effects, it’s really rare that we include distortion. But then it’s also a stylistic device, then you might also hear that the track has been distorted, for example just in order to set a bridge between the verse and the chorus, and have a stark cut there, then you’d distort the voice, or if you have a song with ad-libs, so like added vocals that are sung in between, like in “Augen Auf” [he sings: Augen auf ich komm – versteck dich, in order to make the difference clear] that this singing simply contrasts with the main vocals, and you as the listener can separate it better. That way, for example, a distortion or resonance is also adapted. Apart from that I’m not into really into vocals that are completely dependent on effects. I only make a little bit of resonance on the voice, so that it almost sounds as if the singer is right here singing in your ear. For my taste it’s always the most emotional aspect, to have the singer as close as possible, because if someone is standing over there in the back, if I’ve made so much resonance that it sounds as if he were standing really far away, that really doesn’t touch me, because he can’t reach me, when just by distancing yourself you make yourself unreal. And with a singer who’s really close to me, then I can’t distance myself from the action. And the same thing also happens with music listeners, with the resonance that you have on it.
Konzi-Tip: I had the impression that it wasn’t edited very much, but I still wanted to ask the source.
Flux: It’s really very little, only the usual: you condense it, you work an equalizer so that it’s consistent, you give a little atmospheric echoing, which you don’t think of as a echoing at all. That simply makes it so it doesn’t sound dead, because our recording room is really “dead” [echo-proof]. There are also recording rooms that already have a little underground hall, so like in here where we’re talking, there’s an echo, it’s not completely soundproof. But our recording room is soundproof so that I have the option afterwards to decide, I don’t know, that it should have this kind of resonance, or like it’s resonating on wooden walls, or in a bigger or smaller room, with the singer a little closer or a little further away, so I have all the possibilities because my recording room doesn’t have a particular sound.
Konzi-Tip: You guys are always pretty proud that you do your own producing and you’ve got no one between you and the outcome. The outcome is really always very good, so I wonder why other bands hardly ever do that, or how at the end you guys can take a step back and hear and edit the final product objectively as outsiders?
Flux: For one thing maybe it’s because all three of us are acting as producers and not just one of us is writing, composing and producing, that is to say, if the basic idea for a song was from Dero, for example, Crap and I have the chance to evaluate the piece “externally,” so to speak, and it then it turns around when the idea comes from Crap, then Dero and I can evaluate it externally, and aren’t as “married” to the idea, and not as partial as when you’ve written the song yourself and produced it yourself, as a person. We can mutually control each other and allow other points of view – that’s the important thing, that you also allow it.
Apart from that, we’ve learned it from the very beginning, we didn’t initially have options, because our record contract didn’t include the option of purchasing expensive producers, because we made our first four records with a small independent label [Dynamica].
Konzi-Tip: I know :)
Flux: We had to work by ourselves, whether we wanted to or not. It just happened to be that all three of us were interested in working by ourselves, but we didn’t have any other choice, we had to learn it, and we did learn it, and luckily to the extent that we can still employ it today, and of course our abilities have hopefully also improved over the 17 years that we’ve been working at it. Our studio and its possibilities keep growing, so luckily nowadays we can keep managing everything ourselves.
Konzi-Tip: Would it be a possibility that when you have a break from Oomph! you could bring other bands into the studio and work for them?
Flux: Yeah, we’ve already had offers, like Joachim Witt asked us if we would produce an album for him, or Nina Hagen, that we should compose and produce an album. But we’ve always declined them because we just don’t have time. Because that would mean a year or a year and a half not working on Oomph!, and we really need one and a half to two years [for our band], and that would mean that there wouldn’t be any Oomph! albums for maybe three years or longer. Our own careers as musicians are more important than our careers as producers. What we’ve done now and then is occasional remixes, because then you get the material and say: we’ll work on it here and there for a week…then we go at it relaxed, we say: five days and no longer; and we’re really spontaneous in what we do. That’s always a nice break between work on your own stuff ‘cause…you always try to free yourself, but you’re always more tense with your own stuff than with a remix for a band that you really think is good – but it’s just not your own songs.
Konzi-Tip:Your own name isn’t on it [as a composer, I meant]
Flux: Well, it does say “remixed by”, and someday you’d like to get another remixing job ;D but it’s easier to throw things away that were there with the original idea. It’s harder with your own stuff, “they had a lot of guitar in it, but I don’t care, now I’m just putting in synthesizers.” It’s easier with a remix than when it’s your own creation.
Konzi-Tip: With “GlaubeLiebeTod,” I’ve also considered whether or not people like to have religion so that death isn’t so hard to deal with.
Flux: By all means. People escape into their religion and need something they can believe in. [Dero enters]
Flux: [keeps going with his answer] That’s why a lot of people believe in something up there that’ll protect them, that’ll help them along in difficult times. You always notice how people become the most religious when things are going badly for them. If they’re doing fine and have no problems, then they believe less, or concern themselves less with religion.
Dero: I myself have had the experience that a lot of people are religious because of mass hysteria. They have no mind of their own; they just do it because their neighbor’s doing it too, or their best friend’s doing it too, but they have absolutely no notion of the subject matter, not at all; if you ask them what they find better about the New Testament in comparison to the Old [Testament], they don’t know at all what to say, because they haven’t read either the Old or the New Testament, I find that so ridiculous and senseless. This group-pressure phenomenon: whatever my neighbor does, I’ll do it too “oh, my neighbor got their kids baptized – I’ll do it too. They’re going to communion – I’ll do it too.”
Konzi-Tip: A pretty empty reason, then.
Dero: Absolutely. But unfortunately most are like that. I’ve only met a few who claim to be Christian and who actually have a concept of the subject matter, very, very, very few.
Konzi-Tip: But if you don’t have any real connection to the content, then it’s just as easy to consider it differently in half a year, like it’s just a passing trend.
Dero: Yeah, that’s true, but opium can make you dependent after just one taste, and religion is opium for the masses, it makes them dependent.
Konzi-Tip: Before [in past interviews] you said that you leave a lot of room for interpretation in the text. Sometimes I think there’s…
Dero: Too much room!? [is glad]
Konzi-Tip: Yeah, as an excuse for “I don’t want to give away what I’m thinking” ;)
Dero: …or “I don’t want to force any opinion on you” ;) you can look at it either way. [Footnote: of course the perfect word choice occurs afterward =): He means that the listeners aren’t easily manipulated, and can debate the text and the presented opinions from their own viewpoint with their own opinions without getting something forced upon them.]
Konzi-Tip: I think if the statement doesn’t leave much room for interpretation the listener still has the freedom to say “yes” or “no.”
Dero: They still could, but maybe that again reflects my inner core, I’m an agnostic through and through. If suddenly I started flinging exclamation points around, aside from the exclamation point in our band name, which I can’t do anything about anymore, I would like to change it into a question mark. ;D But that would also be dumb, that wouldn’t be my nature at all if I suddenly said “it’s this way, and it’s this way…”I don’t know how it is. I don’t how life should be, technically, nor do I know if there’s a god, no idea.
Konzi-Tip: So is it left open because you also don’t yet know exactly?
Dero: I don’t know at all what’s going on =)
Konzi-Tip: One theme that I keep finding is the mix between good and evil, for example with “Träumst Du” it’s like that: it sounds a little like a love song, but it also goes in the direction of taking someone along into death. And also with a lot of other songs, like for example “Niemand außer mir weiß wer du bist,” I always find that really fascinating that this “dark evil” has the good element. On the other hand you have these torn themes [in “Viel zu Tief, for example.]
The question is: can one see the darkness as an opportunity to celebrate in it, to lose yourself in the lyrics and escape from real life? Some people would like to kill themselves, or some people would like to have someone say to them: I know you better than you know yourself, but in a song it’s all just for fun.
Dero: I think that’s exactly the point, that as a musician you have the platform to act out things that people can’t act out with all the consequences. If I didn’t have this platform, maybe I would act them out, that’s why I’m thankful that I can be a singer, songwriter, and musician, absolutely. I don’t know what I would be like if I hadn’t found this outlet.
Konzi-Tip: Totally psycho ;)
Dero: I don’t want to rule that out ;)
Konzi-Tip: How important is the truth to you; is it sometimes better not to tell the truth in order not to hurt other people’s feelings?
Flux: You certainly do that sometimes. Sometimes maybe it’s also better. I think that’s always a matter of judgment and depends on the case. But I think a little white lie in order not to hurt someone else or to not make a situation worse than it is, should be told every time.
Dero: [teasing to Flux] You look really good today, by the way
Flux: [grinning] Thanks, you too...
Dero: Young and fresh ;)
Yeah, so I find that truth is a flexible concept. What exactly is truth?
Konzi-Tip: The whole “media church” is also condemned. Would you want to hear the truth from these people, for example not “we want your soul,” but instead “we want your spending money.”
Dero: Obviously if you’d openly adhere to it, they would be more honest. But then I’d have nothing else I could write lyrics about ;) If they were suddenly honest…that would be distressing. I would find that pretty frustrating if the Vatican, the catholic church, all of Christianity, were suddenly completely honest, then I’d be out of a job :)
Konzi-Tip: And with the temptation, when it says “lead us not into temptation” [both in the Lord’s Prayer and also in Oomph!’s song ‘Gott ist ein Popstar’]; what would temptation be for people in this crowd? What would be temptation for you, that you should or shouldn’t give into?
Dero: Puh, that’s a good question. There are enough temptations that it’s worth it to experience, but there are also enough temptations that are, for me personally, resistible. But everyone has to find that out for themselves, I couldn’t formulate a rule-of-thumb for it. “Do it this way and this way…and then you’ll live well”…I don’t know, it’s different for everyone. If someone likes hanging 10 Kilos of concrete on his Johnson each morning before getting up says, that’s my meditation in order to start the day off well – then that’s his way. And if he couldn’t do it anymore because there was some fascist regime in power that said: everyone who hangs 10 Kilos of concrete on their Johnson will get gassed immediately, then of course that would be a terrible, terrible thing. That’s why I’m for absolute tolerance. For everything that doesn’t hurt anyone else or is forced on anyone else.
Konzi-Tip: To the last question: in the first interview you said “mainly we want to give out energy on stage.” And what’s it like then when you’ve been touring half a year, or already two or three months, is the motivation still as high as it was at the beginning? Or how do you motivate, for example, the aggression in the music…if now during the day you’re totally relaxed, how do you get the mood for the stage?
Flux: I think only comes when you play the music. The music has this certain type of energy in it. If you listen just as loud as you play, then that with that alone you live it.
Thanks a lot to Flux and Dero! Hello to Crap :0 and greetings to the man-machine ;)
Original Source: konzi-tip.de