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Interview: FM Einheit

Published on November 4, 2011 12:50 Berlin Time

Interview: FM Einheit FM Einheit is probably best known as a founder of the group Einstürzende Neubauten. Over the years, with Neubauten and through other projects, Einheit has pushed the envelope of contemporary music, mixing electronics with found sounds, power tools, and archival samples. This summer he came up with International Moods – a new collaborative project with electro producer Zero Cash (Television Rocks) from Cologne, described as “an atmospheric roadbook through the transfer lounges of this planet full of monumental soundscapes, broken rhythms, cineastic adventures and minimalistic melodies”. The album, Frequent Traveller, features guest vocals from JG Thirlwell, alongside appearances by Saskia von Klitzing (Karpatenhund) and Khan. We invited FM Einheit to our office to have a chat about his current state of mind.

Electronic Beats: It’s a pleasure to meet you. Your new album has just been released and I am curious about the story behind that. How did you gather those people around you?
FM Einheit: With Zero Cash, I started working with him years ago, and through our relationship and the friendship with Dr. Walker I got to know several other people. It wasn’t a continous work in progress, we just met and whenever we felt inspired we started a new track.

Years ago you left Berlin for the bavarian countryside. Are there advantages to that?
Actually I’m always working on music. But there are other reasons, like the way of living. Most importantly I can be close to my family. I never wanted my kids to grow up in a big city. Life there seems to me to be strenuous and if you get used to start things slowly, any other speed drives you crazy. When I want to collaborate with other artists, they come to visit me – there is plenty of space.

You still produce a lot of music, theatre and film?
Yes, definetely. All parts of working with music are interesting, but staying with just one option would bore me. I can perform on stage and also be part of a bigger team when the focus is not on me. I need change and progress, and this is what I find mostly in playing live.

How do you assess your future?
Well, every artist wants as much people as possible to be listened to. My situation seems to be pretty convenient. Ever since I started making music, I could do everything I wanted. I don’t worry about loosing contact with the next generation. Neubauten have their age, and I’ve got mine. I have kids, so I am not that disconnected and so I don’t feel harrassed by the thought about my future.

What about your legendary work-shops?
They exist. For me education means a welcome alternative – I really do enjoy it, and also learn a lot, when I see how the students work on their own music. But the central question remains the same: how to make music and how to live as an artist in our society? In December I will start the next workshop in Hamburg.

Are you concerned about the questions regarding music sales, the digitilazation and illegal sharing of music?
The growing availabality of music is a great thing for sure. The illegal copying doesn’t affect me that much, because I am not part of the pop business. Your music gets more spread about than you can ever imagine. And the record companies still produce small plastic discs, so what!? With Neubauten as well with my own work we handled everything very independently, we started to release our own music in 1981, it was pioneer’s work, but we avoided editorial control and commercial expectations.

As we are talking about Neubauten: which political dimension of Neubauten and you still have?
We didn’t focus on one political process or strategy, we only wanted a different way of living for ourselves and couldn’t deal with conformism. My life has changed between now and the eighties, but my mind has not. The most direct transfer between the artist and his audience is happening during a live concert, experience and reaction as the central process. And if it finds a will, this can evolve into a political force. But at the moment I am taking a touring break. I have played several shows abroad. Now it is time to find a good tour promoter, which are very rare.

Speaking from abroad. Can you make out any difference regarding the perception in Germany and other countries?
Depends. I have just been to France and Italy, next week I will be in London. Maybe there people look at me a little bit different but it feels very much the same as the time with Neubauten. Anyway most of the time people didn’t understand the lyrics from Neubauten.

I didn’t expect us to be talking about Neubauten so much, of course I have many questions, but how much do you really want to talk about them?
Neubauten are part of my story. I spent half of my life as a musician with them. Some of them I am still in touch with now, and with Hacke I play live from time to time. But the atmosphere and the spirit disappeared. I honor this experience, because I learned a lot. And though I don’t listen to their albums and haven’t seen one show since the split in 1996 I am still following their activities. By tendering my resignation I made a long time decision, a decision for friendship.

And how did you get in touch with music in the very beginning?
I grew up in a big family with six brothers and one sister. Being the oldest I started listening to music during the early seventies. From the very beginning I felt connected and being surrounded by other people, who were into music, it was easy to learn and play. I never got a professional education. Maybe I have never been the “one band one love” kind of guy, for example while I was recording the album Computerstadt with Abwärts, I was also working with Palais Schaumburg as a drummer. In 1979 I moved from Hamburg to Berlin and one year later I got to know Einstürzende Neubauten, and so the story began. In 1986 after spending one year in London I was fed up by big cities and my daughter came into my life. So we decided to move to Bavaria, where I have been living ever since. Anyway I was travelling most of the time with the Neubauten, but when I got home I could concentrate on making music, which turned out to be a really good thing for my technique. Above all the first affordable Personal Computer Atari was released and I started making music on my own.

You are best friend with your machine?
For me composing and production are always a question of cutting edge. Within the Neubauten dogma‘s we did a pretty good job for quite a long time. During the work on our last studio album everybody just recorded their lines and sent it over to me, where I put everything together. Neubauten decided never to do this again. My further appearance simply didn’t make any sense and I wanted to experience more freedom. Now I like working on computers, because you can make every tiny nuance sound exactly as you want it. That is the most fascinating thing about music: not only the reproduction, but the creating of the sound
What will we be hearing from you in the future?
One album has been recorded with Hans Joachim Irmler from Faust at Klangbad and can be released very soon, maybe even this year. Beside that there is plenty of material at home I am still working on.

Finally listen to an unreleased FM Einheit track, exclusively for Electronic Beats below: