Interview with BlutEngel: ‘Everything Is Better Than Digital Music’
Chris Pohl set up BlutEngel in 1998. The project got rapidly signed to Out Of Line and became an instant success. More than twenty years later BlutEngel is a long-time leading formation from the Electronic underground scene. The German Electro/Wave Pop project has released countless hits and never stopped releasing great albums. The new album “Erlösung – The Victory Of Light” only confirms the leading status of BlutEngel. I even experienced the new work as one of the most accomplished productions to date. Chris Pohl answered a few questions about this new masterpiece.
(Courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)
Q: You’ve been extremely prolific during the ongoing pandemic. You last year released the debut album of She Hates Emotions and this year already unleashed two BlutEngel-albums. What has been the true impact of the pandemic on your artistic activities and how did you experience this situation as human being?
Chris: Well, my output would have been just as high even without the pandemic:-) I had planned the debut of She Hates Emotions for a long time, and it came about before the pandemic. The regular album was supposed to come out in February 2021, but without the chance of a tour, I pushed the cover album, which was supposed to be released at the end of 2020, to February 2021. I was hoping that when the regular album comes out in summer, I can go on tour in fall. But the reality is still different. Otherwise, nothing has changed for me as a musician during the pandemic. Not even in my private life, as I rarely go out and tend to live in isolation. The only thing I missed sometimes was meeting friends.
Q: Over now to the new album “Erlösung – The Victory Of Light”. How did you apprehend this new work? Did you’ve specific themes in mind and did you focalize on explicit elements in the writing and production process?
Chris: This album was created differently than the previous albums. I did everything alone. Since “Tränenherz” I have worked with producers who have been able to influence the songs a little here and there. A sound has already been changed and thus influenced the song. This time I finished producing everything myself, and the producer just made the overall sound a little nicer. It was primarily about the mix. Of course, there were small additions, but nothing was changed. That makes it so special to me, and it was somehow a very liberating process and reminded me of my beginnings.
Q: The title of the album sounds intriguing and rather metaphoric, so it can be understood in different ways, but what’s its deeper significance? And is there a possible link with the dark times humanity is actually going through?
Chris: This album is close to a concept album. It wasn’t planned in the beginning, but since I’m in a not-so-great situation at the moment, I wanted to write a very personal album. I wanted to describe my feelings and fears, but at the same time give me and my fans hope. It was a kind of self-therapy. Many songs are about loss, fear and hope. The light plays the role of redemption here. Everything gets better, brighter, friendlier or everything goes in the direction of eternity, so to death. You can see the light shortly before you die. Either way, it’s a release. Of course, the lyrics also fit very well with the pandemic. That wasn’t intended, but I don’t want to say that the situation didn’t affect me a little subconsciously.
Q: What have been the different stages you’d to go through to achieve the new work? Did you experience specific difficulties and/or challenges in the accomplishment of some songs?
Chris: No… As I mentioned before, it was the fact that I did the album all by myself that had a big impact on the result. What was very exhausting were the vocal recordings with Ulli. Not because she sang badly -on the contrary. But she was so busy because she works in the hospital and then that distance when recording… wearing masks in the studio (except when she was on the mic^^) and always having us tested before we could start… That was weird…
Q: The regular album features 14 songs, but you composed 13 extra songs for the limited/box format. What makes the difference to you between the songs of the regular album and the others? Do you handle specific criteria to know when a song is finished?
Chris: All songs are equally good for me. But when I put the main album together, I pay attention to the division and the variety. Not too many fast songs, enough ballads, the relationship between German and English songs… every song that doesn’t get on the main CD will find its place on the bonus CD. And I composed the 6 instrumentals especially for this little bonus CD, which is only in the box.
Q: I noticed the album is also available as cassette format. I know cassettes today are mainly collector’s items, but I can imagine it must have something nostalgic as your first Terminal Choice songs were ever released this format. What does it evoke to you and what’s your perception about technical (r)evolution?
Chris: You are absolutely right. This tape reminded me of my early days. I released 5 or 6 tapes before I got my first record deal. I just think it’s great that you can offer such formats. Unfortunately, I don’t have a cassette recorder, but the idea is just great and makes my old heart happy.
For me, everything is better than digital music. The soul is lost with it. You need to have something to touch, to look at… It all looks nicer, and so the music gets more attention. But I have to go with the flow even though it’s always with tears in my eyes…
Q: How much of the ‘young’ Chris Pohl releasing the first BlutEngel albums do you still recognize in the way you achieved “Erlösung – The Victory Of Light”?
Chris: When it comes to my music, I’m still the Chris I was 20 years ago. I still make music the same way. The technique has gotten better, but HOW I write and record songs -it’s the same as before. My mind and ideas are also the same. In fact, I don’t feel that much has changed for me. I only notice that when I look in the mirror^^
Q: Clips have been always a very important aspect in the work and career of BlutEngel. What did you try to express in the newest clips and what’s your own input in the creation and release of the clips?
Chris: We have always been a band putting a lot of emphasis on show and style. Our stage show, our artwork… of course that should also be reflected in the clips. All four clips are quite different. From beautiful and romantic to weird, disturbing, or sexy… Even if video clips don’t get the attention they used to, they should be made and fit the band.
Q: Live shows also are an important part of the band -and the fans, so how does it feel to go back on stage again? And how do you expect festivals and live events evolving because of the pandemic?
Chris: I am even more grateful to be on stage these days. We were never a band that gave a lot of concerts. Maybe 20 a year… Then a couple of festivals… But I’ve had 4 concerts since the pandemic and there are probably only 2-3 more to come. That’s weird. When I’m on stage now, I’m so happy and want more normality back. I hope that I will soon be able to stand in front of 25,000 people at a festival again and not have to worry about a virus… even if it is still there.
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