There is as certain level of class the German ensemble of Brandt Brauer Frick possess both in their musical style and personalities that sets them apart from their contemporaries. Their mutual respect for classical, as well as modern production lies at the heart of their original sound. Their new album Echo is a contemporary fusion of two periods of music separated by years of evolution. In it, they create a bridge between the two. Not a collision, but a playful waltz through time, style, nuance and taste. In their words everything is an echo of something. And the album is an echo of all their influences. In a way, their own personal homage to the act of creation itself.
I got hold of Daniel Brandt And Jan Brauer from the band and picked their brains on the personal and creative mechanisms behind their collaboration amongst other things.
MM: Hey guys, how are you?
Daniel: Hi, we just came back from South America where we played in Bogota and Lima.
Jan: Hi, I’m ok, a bit tired from traveling.
Was the trip just business or was a bit of pleasure involved? I know South America has great food!
Jan: To be on the other side of the word is always quite exciting, my journey was so short and so quick. It had all kinds of aspects.
Daniel: We had some fantastic food in Peru. The Cerviche!
I haven’t see you guys live, how is your set up?
Jan: Daniel on drumset and electronic drums, Paul plays Piano and I have a sequencer, keyboard and synthesizer. At the same time there is another version where we get people on stage playing classical instruments, strings and brass, percussion, harp and moog synthesizer.
How did you guys end up making the fusion of classical and electronic music that you do?
Jan: We started trying to imitate minimal house that we liked, but we have always been open to all styles of music and instruments. We started recording instruments and noises and since then we have just kept on doing that. We record instrumental sounds on the microphone and base the tracks off those microphone recordings instead of making stuff on the computer, it’s much more intuitive to produce a sound with your hand.
A more organic and natural process...
Jan: Yeah, we discovered this way of making sounds is much more dynamic and rich.
I think that’s a really healthy way of making music, being inclusive to all sounds and instruments and not putting yourself in a box.
Jan: In the end you're sitting in front a pair of speakers and everything is a sound right, who cares how you started the sound, how you produced it as long as it’s an interesting sound.
Daniel: Yeah but I think everyone has their own set up and some people only really enjoy, for example, moody synthesizer records, that wouldn’t work with our approach. I think any way you make music is alright. Someone can just be making electro and it can be fucking amazing.
Very true! How does the process of you making a new piece of music start for you?
Daniel: We set up the microphones for an easy recording process and then we are basically able to record everything at the same time. We kind of jam, but don’t really jam together. There will be one person at the computer recording the other person. We create loops and then at some point we put these things together and maybe have the basis for a song. We forget it all and come back to it later. It will be ongoing for some time without a proper song structure and when we have enough interesting elements and it has the potential to be finished, then we go and arrange it.
Jan: The structure needs to come out of the material itself.
You don’t want to force it?
Jan: It has to be forced by the material. I mean the material forces the structure in a way. When you have enough material at some point you have to structure the material.
Do you make music to elicit some kind of response out of people, is there an emotional charge to the music?
Daniel: Its definitely emotion-based, we don’t have an emotion in mind that we want people to have but we have our own emotions and they are all in there, so its defiantly emotion based and not just a technical thing. Moments and feelings all go into the moment when we record.
With Echo, did you get together with a plan to create something new and exciting or did it just naturally happen?
Daniel: I would say it was both in a way. The first two records were more instrumental and less song based and we kind of wanted to go back to that approach in a way. And in another way, everything came out naturally. We couldn’t do that stuff anyway, we were in a totally different mindset then, interested in different things.
So, do you think you have matured creatively as well as people in the new record?
Jan: Yeah, I think when we made our old music, we were much more narrow in what music we liked, what we consumed and what we wanted to do. We were putting a more minimal aesthetic together, we don’t necessarily want to do that anymore. This time I think it was important for us to transfer some positive energy.
It’s definitely full of positive energy. Was there an overall concept to Echo?
Daniel: Thanks. The concept came while making it. We knew we wanted to make instrumental music again and in a way something danceable. Everything is an echo of something else. So basically, nobody makes music by themselves. Basically, we are taking all the energy and all the feelings from our experiences and putting it in the music.
What’s the album cover about?
Jan: The album cover is based on an old painting of a rugby team from the 1900’s. We saw a show from Nicolas Godwin from Air. He was using glitchy photographs of nature and transforming them with crazy pixillations. It was a crazy effect and it has something to do with Echo -- like the left is the past and the right is the future.
Do you have a routine between yourselves, do you meet every so often to get some ideas down?
Jan: Absolutely not. No we don’t have a routine, everybody is well engaged with doing solo things. We are all doing stuff all the time, because of that we have to find out time when we can work together. Except for the gigs and promotion, which we spent more time on then making the music itself.
Do you enjoy promoting your music?
Daniel: Interviews can be interesting to hear what people say, because we are kind of in a bubble, its nice to see the questions and interesting moments our music creates. For us the music has transformed so many times its hard for us to listen to it in a fresh way and to understand what we would really think about the music if we hadn’t made it ourselves.
Is making music starting to feel like work or do you still get a kick out of it?
Daniel: The making music part is always exciting, maybe in the arrangement stage when we have to be really careful of all the changes, that can feel more like work
Do you guys do anything on the side apart from music?
Daniel: Yeah, I also direct videos but we all mainly make music
You have to invest a lot of energy making music, I guess it takes up most of the time.
Daniel: That’s one thing and the other thing about making music as opposed to film is that you can just make it, you don’t have to run the script and get a budget and get all these people together and make this crazy production. With music it’s a much easier process and you can just get started without planning ahead too much.
You have more creative control over the final product.
Daniel: Absolutely. Because we can always change everything, we don’t have a budget where every moment counts. In music you can have bad days where you don’t get any cool stuff recorded but it doesn’t matter.
I guess you have to be in the right state of mind to make music. It must be difficult for three people to be in a good mood at the same time?
Jan: Exactly, it doesn’t have to be necessarily a good mood but it has to be a focused mood, because you can be distracted from so much ignorant stuff. You have to get into the zone somehow and then it can work.
When you find people you can work with so well for so long that is a very special thing.
Where does the creative chemistry come from with you guys, you all have the same general outlook on things?
Daniel: We have different personalities, but in the band there are certain things we have to agree on. If someone has a concern about something, we take it seriously.
There’s no leader then, you are a democracy?
Daniel: Its not really a democracy because we don’t go two against one, we try and convince the person that has something against the idea, we can’t go two against one, its more of a three way dictatorship.
You all share the crown!
Daniel: Haha, exactly
That’s a virtue in itself because so many musicians want their music to be personal, just theirs.
Daniel: we also do that, that’s the good thing, since the last record we released solo projects and got that energy out, so then we can actually focus on what we want to do as a group. Paul made a really freaky electronic album called Second Yard Botanicals. I made two guitar focused records going in a rock direction.
There is something about Germany that breeds such exciting electronic music. I mean it all started with Kraftwerk.
Daniel: It was Stockhausen. He was a crazy avant-garde composer.
Jan: He made electronic music in the fifties and was the first one to call it electronic music.
Was that electro-acoustic music?
Jan: No, he only made electronic music. Making music from electricity. He used electric generators to make noises, there was no human soul involved except for the composer himself
Daniel: There were others who experimented with synthesizers before, but he was the first one who thought of it as a new kind of music.
It’s a shame he doesn’t get as much attention as Kraftwerk.
Daniel: Definitely. In Germany he does, he is one of the most influential post-war composers. He made very avant-garde music, but Kraftwerk were more pop. They definitely brought in some other elements with the future and technology thing and the whole popular culture aspect, which Stockhausen was totally unaware of or avoided. Kraftwerk also worked really well as a German band. It would be weird if Kraftwerk were a Spanish band because they are so German in a way with the robotic thing. Very serious, very efficient.
Why do you think Germany played such a vital role in the development of electronic music?
Daniel: In general, we had these companies that made microphones and speakers and recording equipment. UK and Germany were always at the front with those technologies and that’s why we developed that music.
More of a practical reason then, I was thinking more of a cultural reason for Germanys footing in electronic music
Daniel: That became a cultural thing, the technology that people use is part of their culture.
Am I correct in saying that the Germans had a lot of pent up energy during both the second and cold wars, were they couldn’t express themselves?
Daniel: Absolutely. Absolutely. That’s why the music scene in Germany in the sixties and seventies was super strong in a very interesting way. I don’t think its like that anymore. The same as the UK there was a lot of creative energy at the time.
You don’t hear of anything amazing coming out of the other European countries during those times, I guess because they hadn’t had the same level of political and social upheaval that Germany had. It was an ugly time but in a way a catalyst for all this super exciting music.
Daniel: Yeah totally. I mean Europe in the nineties had a totally different thing going on but it was still very important.
I know you are based in London and Berlin, what city is inspiring you the most right now in terms of music?
Daniel: Well I recently discovered Black Midi a rock band from London, they had a bit of an edgy New Order type of style with a bit of jazz. They made it work. They had crazy live energy. They haven’t released any music yet, just one song. You have to check out their KEXP live session.
Do you have any more gigs coming up?
Daniel: Well we are going to play Somerset House in London on 19 July