The Kaje talks Musical Magic to Hauschka

hauschkaIt was with delight that I was able to grab a few moments with Germany’s premier prepared piano Master in the Presidential Suite of The Lowry Hotel, a few minutes before his second performance of the night. For it was in that venue, to a small group of just fifty people who Hauschka was going to entertain his small but hardcore fan base with his latest experimental sounds. This performance, broken into two parts and with two different audiences, was in support of Hauschka’s latest album “Foreign Landscapes” (see The Kaje review on October 2nd). But unlike on the album, Hauschka wouldn’t be playing with an orchestra, but playing solo and taking the audience through an experience, indeed an experiment of sound which was so unlike that which is heard in any mainstream medium. Here is what he had to say for himself…

You’ve cropped in conversation a few times recently, quite independently with friends. Have you some new genius PR? Why are you suddenly coming so much more into the fore?

I have no idea, I mean I have worked now, I wouldn’t say since ages, but I have worked so much for the past six years. I read a book, I’m not sure which American author was writing but he was writing about how people have success at a certain time that maybe, he made the point, that it is depending on the amount of hours you invest and I am getting the impression that my investment of hours was last year and this is coming to the point where I cross the line into the area where suddenly everything starts to rise. I mean, it is more like the effect of when people tell you something and you’re like, ‘Oh I heard about this guy’ and then I’m thinking there is something happening, something going on. Something like a social network or something. I have the impression that this works right now, at the moment, in a positive way for  me. I’m not sure how long it will take.

So I guess your fan base was a lot smaller, more limited, previously. Do you regret having to give anything up to have a larger crowd?

No, not yet. I think maybe it will come at some point whenever, maybe when I am writing film soundtracks or when I’m getting into the area where there is rich and famous people. I’m not there. And so in a way I am very happy for everyone who is gathering at my concerts. I mean concerts like tonight. It is a small audience but if you have 50 people there who are really convinced of your music,  then next time it will be 100. And if you have 200 or 400 who are not really convinced because you are supporting someone and they don’t pay much attention, then you haven’t got as many people as you had before so in a way I’m thinking it makes a lot of time to invest time to build up a fan base.

Obviously your niche is prepared piano. I’m just wondering what preparations you have made for tonight? What materials have you used?

I’m using mostly a bag full of stuff that is mostly not changing when I’m on the road. I got yesterday in Coventry a bag full of aluminium pieces which were around tealight candles and so I took the candles out and I use the tealight candle packages which sound beautiful and they are very light and so they fly in the piano. I was even thinking to get me a full bag of these tealight packages. This is for example something that you throw away but if I put them on the piano suddenly they start to create this rattling which creates this very wonderful atmosphere and everyone thinks, ‘whats going on?’

So the latest album “Foreign Landscapes” is a collaboration with the Magik-Magik orchestra. I’m wondering with the collaboration, if you’ve had to give up any creativity when working with Mina, orchestral leader?

No, not at all. It was more like a life really because they are wonderful people and amazing musicians and this combination makes it even easier because you just like hanging out with each other. When I started to work with them, for me it was quite an intense process because I would just have written something then I would give it away to people and they record it which is different because when im sitting on the piano and trying to improvise it is different because everything flows through my body and into my hands and then I’m performing. I put all my insecurities, rage, sadness, everything is pouring out into my hands. And with an orchestra everything is conceptually written and I was a little scared that I might lose some of this edge or some of this spontaneous momentum, but not at all. It was a wonderful experience and they performed it with so much passion. I don’t know if you’ve seen these movies on YouTube where I am working with them but you can see on their faces how much they are into it and ‘get it’.

What were the challenges of working with an orchestra as opposed to writing prepared piano, alone. You said you lost a bit of spontaneity…

Yes it is a big challenge to create something that you are trying to put on something external which can be played wherever people are aware of playing instruments. They can actually perform this without me which is great and a nice idea that you have compositions out there that people can perform and it was my first try at working at making stuff which was out of my control. So yeah that was a challenge and it was a challenge to travel somewhere in order to record instead of recording in my house where everything is under my control but you know having control of everything means that after a while, in a way, there is no challenge. The only thing that I am really aware of now is that I am a big fan of losing control. Yes, a big fan.

So John Cage, the pioneer of prepared piano, apart from him, any other musical influences in your previous work.

No, not even John Cage, I had never heard of him. I was in a hiphop band and it was totally coming from the rock/hiphop whatever. Like, everything that is all to do with the physicality of the music, the stage diving/dancing or whatever is all that I really liked and John Cage was not on my map, at all. And he came onto my map after my first record of prepared piano which I released in 2005 and I asked the writer to make a spreadsheet for the album sleeve about the history of prepared piano and he actually wrote down that it actually started with Henry Cowell who was the teacher of John Cage and it was around 1900 and there was already a kind of punk movement and he was raging against the establishment.

You said the album was influenced by foreign landscapes that you had seen on tour, like Madeira and Aleksandersplatz. Are there any sort of identifiable sounds in the performance, I was trying to pick out some sounds, which might remind us of a certain nationality or folk or indigenous roots?

No, I would say that the only connection between the title and the music is actually me. Because in a way I wrote pieces, they were all written. Then I wrote titles on one page and then I said ‘This title fits to this one, and this title fits to that piece’, in my imagination. Which means, I think, that the direct connection to the place, for example Madeira if it sounds like the island or the water is for me, not so important., not so necessary because Madeira can mean for me something that is different from another person on Madeira. His impression of the island is a completely different one so I think for me it is more important that I have a very deep inner connection to this island and that was my purpose and so I haven’t chosen intuitively, for example, the piece “Aleksandersplatz” it was more like for the German steady movement. But you know the typical boundaries or characters of country’s are more and more fluid and I would say there is not any more this typical German attitude or typical English attitude. I have the impression that things are somehow changing more. Young people are much more open, they are much more influenced by the foreign or the strange because they watch completely American television or they listen to a completely Ukrainian radio station or whatever. So in a way I have the impression, which I totally appreciate that these nationalities are maybe disappearing. But is my impression.

One thing I did want to bring up: a dance album for 2011? What is this about? Obviously I don’t know enough of you to be too surprised but what I do know is that I am surprised.

Which is great because maybe you would expect that I’m doing my next album with a symphonic orchestra because I am whatever, mister bigshot composer, but I’m not because I think, you know, in a way I did these two albums at the same time and I was finished with both albums at the same time but I wanted to have – first of all I thought we mix them, but that wasn’t working – and I am interested in both, even interested in composing big pieces with symphonic orchestras, stuff like that. I’m totally happy with that and I would love to do this job which doesn’t mean that im suddenly sleeping in only 5 star hotels and always living in this exciting world of theatre and funded culture. I love the club and I love the physical movement of bass drums and so I think it came a little bit when I played in Roskilde, a festival in Denmark – I played in front of five thousand people and next door was the big stage and Gogol Bordello were playing this Gypsy Polka in such a loud way that me and the strings were really struggling to level. It was there I said ‘fuck off! I shall come back next year and I shall blow the tent, I shall BURN the tent with sound’ which I did earlier on. But it does not mean I am a show-off it is something I always had in my blood and in my veins. I mean it is about being diverse and it is good not to be always in this very fragile, you know when you start piano, you’re already constantly giving over emotion and I am not the pianist who is sweet and where the mother of your wife is saying he is so lovely, you know, that is not me. I can be lovely but I can also be such an asshole, so I am both.



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by FatCat Records, Gacougnol and Volker Bertelmann, The Kaje. The Kaje said: The Kaje Talks Musical Magic to Hauschka […]

  2. Great site, though I would love to see some more media! – Great post anyway, Cheers!

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