Click Interview with Akustikkoppler: ‘Our Music Is Timeless And Follows No Trends’

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Akustikkoppler  is the sonic symbiosis between two, legendary, German, Electronic, artists. Matthias Schuster (Das Institut, Bal Paré, Geisterfahrer, Im Namen Des Volkes ao) and Malte Steiner (Notstandskomitee, Das Kombinat ao) once met in Hamburg. Their common passion for electronic gear brought them to set up Akustikkoppler. They this year released the project’s fourth full length album “Alles Muβ Raus” which can be defined as styled, minimal, electronic music. The work has been released by Malte’s own label Block 4. I asked a few questions to both artists.

(Courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)

Q: You guys have been involved with numerous projects so what incited you working together and set up Akustikkoppler? 

Malte: We met when I was living in Hamburg, I think it was in the Hörbar, a place for experimental music which I founded with some others in the early 90s and that still exists. Our common love for synthesizers and experience of studio production alone can result in long conversations but also our shared preference of weird music and art. And then of course the whole history of Matthias and his role in German New-Wave / Post-Punk…

Matthias: Yes we met at Hamburg Hörbar and later on I have heard about Maltes projects and art installations and was amazed about the videos and music from Das Kombinat, Notstandskomitee etc etc

Q: What makes the chemistry and complementarity between the both of you? What did you learn from each other and how do you work together?

Matthias: At that time I was a pure hardware freak, I had so much vintage synthesizers like Moog, ARP, PPG, KORG, ROLAND etc so I was absolute excited about Maltes software instruments like PureData etc. He even programmed his own software synth, and the sound was amazing!

Malte: When I am in Hamburg we meet in Matthias’ Geisterfahrer Studio, switch on everything and start to improvise. There are no rules or conversations about what we want to achieve. It is just experimenting and then hitting the record button at the right moment, usually one of us yells ‘hit record, it can’t get better’. All is recorded mixed on stereo without any overdub, and I take the files with me into the achieve, and compile albums out of the best tracks and remaster them.

Matthias: I always was interested in making ‘realtime’ music I practiced in the past with Jürgen Weiss, my Geisterfahrer drummer so it was obvious to do that together and let surprise by ourselves and the machines who played us and we played them too.

Q: I noticed your new album “Alles Muβ Raus” features songs that were originally written between 2008 and 2012. That was right at the beginning of the project so why didn’t you release the songs earlier and how was it to work on ‘older’ stuff?

Matthias: Yes, there is no hurry. Malte moved to Denmark, so we only meet sometimes in a year to do one or more sessions and our music is timeless and follows no trends etc…

Malte: Since we both are busy with gazillion other projects, it can takes a while to compile and agree upon an album, years sometimes, and I think we’re living the “Theory Of Obscurity” by The Residents, we often forget the tracks and rediscover them. That and the fact that the vinyl required a year in the pressing plant lead to the perceived delays, but we are not in a hurry anyway. Everyone including the big guys are pressing records, in several editions at once, therefore the smaller labels are put on hold when a Major drops an order for 100.000 records. Anyway, “Alles Muß Raus” is our fourth album, plus there was a 7”.

Q: Tell us a bit more about “Alles Muβ Raus”? What is the work all about and what did you try to express & achieve sound-wise?

Matthias: There’s no concept, but it’s like a concept album I think… a concept album by random.

Malte: I still believe in the album as a concept and art piece and when I suggest a selection of tracks to Matthias, they have to form a journey, a development from start to end. I have access in our archives to material from many years, back to around 2004 when we started to work together so the meaning and overall vibe comes late in the process and not when we record the tracks. For instance the tape “Inspektor” which we released on the French label Serendip Lab I discovered that some tracks formed a Soundtrack to a crime movie in my mind, a very cheesy one, probably from 60s Germany.

Q: Akustikkoppler has this typical vintage sound DNA, which brings us back to the magic of analogue equipment. What’s your perception about the evolution of electronic equipment and the way of composing; from analogue to digital to the cheap software synths and -programs of today?

Matthias: When I started in the early 70s there was no Midi etc only CV/gate which I hated because of the different systems like 1V octave, or Hertz volt etc. Bands like Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, etc… ruled over Electronic music and of course Stockhausen, Pierre Henry, etc

After years of struggling with equipment it was so great to have the first digital machines like PPG Wave, DX7, Atari Computers… Today is best with the mix with software, computers (Apple now) and vintage analogue.

Malte: One reason might be that we both are vintage. It’s decades of music experience which comes together here, we each started long before Techno and even before Hip-Hop became something. I love the development of equipment, it’s amazing what is possible today, especially for a low price. Personally I don’t have any preference. I equally use analogue and digital synthesizers and all kind of computer software, partly stuff I develop on my own. I usually bring some device or software on my laptop to the sessions which Matthias don’t have -which is difficult- just to add another color.

It’s good to have again available all kinds of analogue, digital and modular synthesizers. One major development for me, apart from ‘Machine Learning’ which I use with projects like Notstandskomitee or Elektronengehirn since years, is the rise of resolution in the control-data and therefore improved expressivity.

Q: How do you see yourself as musicians/producers when it comes to self-criticism, perfectionism and eventually criteria and/or references you’re using? And what are the further plans?

Matthias: Of course we will stay in composing/recording process! But we are our own listeners, so the process of criteria is in our own hands, means we decide what will comes out and what not!

Malte: A speciality of Akustikkoppler is that we don’t allow ourselves to edit the tracks except a bit in the mastering process way later, which is complete decoupled from the composing process. Everything is recorded in one go played manually, only with the help of step sequencers and drum computers here and there. That saves us from the perfectionist loop which can destroy creativity, see for instance the latest remarks of Karl Bartos about the arrival of the computer at Kraftwerk’s studio. A story I heard often since the dawn of Midi composition, it is both a blessing and a curse. Something I struggle a bit with at Notstandskomitee, everything can be edited, rerecorded and processed endlessly, it’s difficult to decide to finish a track and let loose. With Akustikkoppler we don’t have that problem.

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Inferno Sound Diaries

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