Hello and welcome to Magazine Sixty, Solo Collective. Let’s start by asking how and why you first started to play together, and about the origin of the name?
Seb – We first met through the Berlin music scene. Anne and I worked on one of my tracks (Holy Island) together, then came up with the idea of performing together with Alex, and Anne came up with the idea of Solo Collective, of us being three independent artists, who support each other musically in turn. Our styles and methods of music making are quite different, but complimentary.
Alex – the coming together of the collective is quite mysterious to me, as I started working with Seb as my publicist for the UK without knowing him in advance and than noticed that he had collaborated with Anne, who grew up in the same quarter in Berlin as me, but we had never met or worked together before, although we play cello and violin and obviously should have done that earlier than meeting via Oxford based Seb…
Anne – At first the two words (solo collective) were meant to be a description for a flyer I made for our first concert. Sebastian initiated to organize a concert in Berliner Volksbühne based club “Roter Salon”. He asked Alex and me to play each a solo set and asked us to join him in his set. It was very interesting to finally meet Alex because I already knew of him – we had both been playing in the same Berlin music scene band for 10 years, connected through the music collective and label “Sinnbus”. Sebastian and Alex were very keen on the term and concept “solo collective”, it is neatly self explanatory. We recorded the Roter Salon concert, and decided to compile a record featuring a live track from each of us “Solo? Repeat!”, “Don’t try to be” and “Ascension” on a record (Part One), alongside a studio track each.
Your debut album, the stunning: Part One feels very much Classical in nature yet resolutely contemporary in feel. How, for you, does the past inform the present, and is it more (or less) important to concentrate in creating new sounds and music?
Seb – I think all three of us have a very open and direct approach to music making, it’s about finding a creative vehicle for what we want to express musically, that is reflected in the process. Whether it is a piano trio arrangement of one of my pieces, or a track of Anne or Alex’s that involves a solo performance with a lot of looping. Live looping is an interesting musical tool, because it appears to be a very new technology, but it also connects very much to the ancient tradition of group singing, where one voice repeats and echoes with repeating melodies, and of course Steve Reich and the minimalists further explored this, which then fed into the birth of Techno and modern electronic dance music, which is based around ever more simplified repeating patterns, what we’re doing is another chapter in the exploration of what a repeated idea is, Solo? Repeat!
Alex – lucky us, that we are alive in the modern age, and aren’t stuck with just classical music and its numerous limitations! I think, it’s very important to each of us to create music, that hasnt been done yet, and to be part of the present and future…it makes me happy to read that you find the album contemporary…
Anne – In university as a classical cello student I was trained just to perfectly interpret already existing written music. But we forget sometimes, classical composer like Bach and Beethoven were also soloist and were playing there own music in concerts. It is not such a long time ago when composing and being an interpreter split into separate professions. In jazz and rhythmical music this separation didn’t happen. So I was very interested as a classical musician to express in my own way, how I feel the music. It makes me happy to play around with sounds, using electronic devices to help develop new creations but with already known sounds, too.
Solo Collective “Part one” to be released on November 10/ 2017.
Could you describe the writing process involved with one the tracks from the album. From where ideas are found, to how you record together and then realising the final production?
Seb – All three of us have very different working processes, I tend to be quite conceptual. For “Holy Island” (one of my pieces on the Solo Collective record), the main melody is a cyclical, repeating pattern that first repeats and adds a beat, then alternates between growing and shrining, then for the ending repeats and loses a beat, birth, life and death, and the electro ambience and cello tones were crafted around it to bring out the sentiment of the track. I invited Anne to contribute her vision for the string arrangement, and to help shape the structure. We generally write and record separately, then invite each other to collaborate on the live performance of particular tracks.
Alex – I wrote “Cell to Cell”, while I was preparing for the first live show with the collective at Roter Salon Berlin…I started with an harmonic pattern, that looped in and built up more voices and the electronics around…the piece is pretty much inspired by the art of Mariechen Danz, with whom I was working for her contribution to La Biennale di venezia 2017…”Cell to Cell” is a part of her lyrics, that cycle around the ways of communication inside and outside of the human body…
Anne – Writing music is for me more like painting with different colors. A little dark sound here, a bright dark melody there. In the end I draw a picture but in sounds. In “Silbersee” for example I finally had in my mind even a concrete picture of a landscape with a lake, dark but shimmering water waiting for something or someone.
Your current tour sees you performing across the UK. Are there any challenges in recreating what you have recorded on record in a ‘live’ setting? Or does each night suggest its own path?
Seb – We’ve all performed a lot prior to us coming together as Solo Collective, so it’s more a case of working out how we structure our evening of music so that it is a satisfying experience for us as performers, and for the audience.
Alex – Actually we play at least 2/3 of the material from the record , which is quite a good result I guess…as the structures of most of the pieces are quite free in time, it can differ from night to night in length and intensity…also depending on the reception.
Anne – Yes, I agree. And it’s a lot of fun to get on this journey.
Can you tell us about your most important influences?
Seb – One of my biggest inspirations is Bleeding Heart Narrative, an incredible band from London who are sadly no longer together. They had a really amazing way of mixing up orchestral arrangements with lo fi distorted ambience and piano melodies.
Alex – I am influenced by the light darkness of my grandpa Leonard Cohen and most of the contemporary electronic music from Berlin and the UK mostly…too many names to list…
Anne – Oh if I would mention all names, the list would be too long. Like you can hear in “Solo? Repeat!” I’m a huge fan of J.S.Bach. I literally grew up with classical music in an opera house where my father worked. And my parents are both music scientists working closely with contemporary composers. I think there is a lot of influence from classical music I listen to and played myself, but also of minimal music from composers like Steve Reich and Philip Glass I was very into when I was a teenager. And of course in current modern music I’m very interested, too. Not to forget to mention the inspiration I get from my Erased Tapes label mates.
What for you can be created via instrumentation that can’t be achieved through use of vocals? Would you describe Music as a physical force, political or purely emotional – or even all three!?!
Seb – I don’t have singing in my music because I can’t really sing, and am not particularly good at lyric writing. But I do have a track which is based around a reading from Joseph Heller’s novel Catch 22, and I am very interested in using the voice, and thinking about it, my track Ascension is based on loops of my voice and another, so they are hidden in there!
Alex – Music is everything to me , political, emotional and a must-do… but most of all : it’s a way of being alive and to leave emptiness…
Anne – I have a kind of same problem like Sebastian. A lot of my music friends are amazing singer songwriter and that’s unfortunately not my talent. I really would love to. But using the voice like an instrument and including it in my music is very interesting to me. I see the voice as an instrument that is always available to us, and the cello is very close to a human voice, too. Even when I don’t use words I’d like to create an emotional physical experience, make the listener feel happy or sad, sometimes even uncomfortable, too.
Music generally can be everything of those three things and much more. It’s just naturally, deeply human.
And finally. If it’s not too soon. Do you have any forthcoming plans for the project?
Seb – we are touring the UK again in February, and hope to be touring in Europe also, and all three of us have solo records coming out, so plenty to come!
Alex – the Solo Collective Part one states, that there should be a Part Two, and we have already recorded new material , that might be part of part two…
in terms of time, Part one was the initial moment to establish my label Nonostar Record, and to continue releasing new and uncommon intense music for open minded audiences… see you soon!
Anne – working with Seb and Alex inspires me to write new music. That’s definitely challenging because I’m very slow and my ‘creations’ take a long time to finish. I’m looking forward to Part Two.