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March 24, 2006
Upon beholding the cover art to Schneider TM's breakthrough full-length, Zoomer, it's difficult to imagine Dirk Dresselhaus any differently. It depicts the project's core and mastermind wired to what could only be described as futuristic techno-specs, presumably being injected with the sonic beat-passages that by due process would find themselves captured to disc with Zoomer. Dresselhaus seemingly, and wittingly, likes to play on the German stereotype that the world cannot help but attach him to.

But this is a guy that takes a surprisingly unsystematic approach to creating music. His latest album, Skoda Mluvit (due out in a few weeks), documents his least planned, and subsequently most diverse outing yet. LAS staffer Mike Wright caught up with Dresselhaus via telephone to discuss the direction in which his latest electro-jams have thrust him.
(Photo by Gerald Von Foris)


LAS: How did you get into computers and electronic music?

Dirk Dresselhaus: It was around 1996 or something, when I used to play in indie-rock bands. It just came by itself. I was fooling around with drum machines, putting them through my guitar pedals, and then in 1997 I quit playing in my old band.

LAS: That was Locust Fudge, yeah?

DD: Yeah, that was my second main project. My other band was called Hip Young Things. We released a couple of albums on Glitterhouse Records. Locust Fudge kind of still exists but we didn't do anything in the last ten years except a few live shows just for fun. Then I had an offer from City Slang to record an album as Schneider TM. I did one 12-inch before on Payola Records, and City Slang really liked the stuff and offered to put out a whole album. It somehow just developed by itself. It wasn't really a decision like, "from now on I'm going to do electronic music" - it just happened. From my side, it was more like curiosity.

LAS: So, initially you were putting a drum machine through guitar effects? What did that sound like? I'd imagine it to sound quite bizarre.

DD: Distorted, with a lot of delay. But basically, somehow, the same as I still do, but with different tools. I would try combinations that are not really usual.

LAS: Do you miss being in a conventional band whereby you'd jam out ideas, and that kind of thing?

DD: I kind of miss it, but I have several projects. But I don't have a main band. We play the Schneider TM stuff live as a band and we toured quite a lot over the last couple of years, and that was kind of like playing in a band, but somehow I also miss just being a part of a band. But bands are always so difficult personality-wise, and you always have big discussions, and I don't really like talking about music actually.

LAS: No?

DD: Not really. That's why I do music! You can say much more and you can go deeper than you can with words. That's what I really appreciate about music. I also have a noise project with Ilpo from Pan Sonic.

LAS: Yeah, Angel?

DD: Yeah, Angel. And we were recently joined by Hildur Gudnadottir from Iceland on cello. That's a drone kind of thing, and that's very kind of band-like somehow, because we don't have a master plan and we don't talk about it. It's really fantastic to do.

LAS: How about singing. Had you had much singing experience before Schneider TM?

DD: Yeah, in the Hip Young Things and Locust Fudge.

LAS: You sang in those bands?

DD: Yeah, I was singing and playing guitar and drums. Locust Fudge was a two-man project and we basically played everything. I played more of the rhythm parts and Christopher Uhe - he's a really good piano player - he played the keys. The singing was accidental actually, because the lead singer in Hip Young Things in the late 80s quit because it wasn't her style anymore, so I started singing all the songs because we didn't have a lead anymore.

LAS: So about your new album. It's called Skoda...?

DD: Skoda Mluvit. It's Czech.

LAS: It's out in April, right?

DD: Yeah.

LAS: So what can we expect from it?

DD: Do you know the one before?

LAS: Yeah, Zoomer.

DD: It somehow goes much further. It's not so electronic anymore, but it has an electronic appeal, though most of the stuff is played live.

LAS: It's more organic then?

DD: Yeah, more organic, and with more wooden sounds, and a little bit more guitar than on Zoomer. But it wasn't like, "now I'm going to combine guitar music with electronic music, ha ha ha." It went with the flow, and it took me to different places than before. I was listening to a lot of African music over the last couple of years, and that really influenced the rhythmic part. Since I started as a drummer in the 80s, I've been interested in interesting rhythms. There are different rhythmic patterns shifting against each other, and it's a bit tricky here and there, but all of the stuff is basically first take. I didn't really work hard with my brain, it just happened.

LAS: I think that Zoomer's quite diverse, and that you've got songs that sound quite different. Would you say that Skoda Mluvit is more diverse than the last album?

DD: Yeah. But there's a red line, though. You can recognize that it's the same project. A big influence was also all the touring, as we travelled so much and played so many different countries, and listened to so much music. And the whole touring thing - there were so many impressions that totally influenced the album. We did a six-week American tour with The Faint and Les Savy Fav, and that was quite mind-blowing. You really hear that on the record also. Somehow it sounds a bit like American folk, but that's also my influence - like The Velvet Underground and Neil Young and stuff like that. But I like to pride myself (laughs) when I do new stuff.

LAS: I've never seen you live, but I've seen pictures of you and two other people on stage. Are your supporting players ever part of the writing process?

DD: On the new record I did two tracks with Michael of Kptmichigan.

LAS: Is he one of the guys that perform live with you then?

DD: Yeah, we've been playing together since 1997.

LAS: Yeah, because you did that EP didn't you? Binokular?

DD: Yeah, that was us together. And there was also one with my friend Max Turner, who was also on Zoomer. He's doing this spoken word thing which reminds me of rap. And we did another really crazy Charles Manson-inspired folky kraut-rock song called "The World's a Cup" (laughs). He came around and we were hanging out at my place and we just started writing and recording. But that's also my idea for the Schneider TM future - just to keep it a little more open and not to only follow my own inspiration, and get together with people and just see what happens. Hildur also played cello on a couple of tracks. And Christian Obermaier, my live drummer, he was playing vase on one song, which is also quite an important element of that song. It's hard to describe - you can only get so close with words, you know. It's more about the vibe and the spirit and stuff.

LAS: What about visuals in your shows? Do you think it's important to provide a visual equivalent to your music?

DD: In the last period we used very minimal visuals with very elementary colours, so it was more like a light show or something. The new visuals are going to be more minimal. It's going to be like a chrome ball in the middle of the screen, and a very cheesy effect on my camera, and I just kind of walk around a bit.

LAS: So you do it all yourself then?

DD: Yeah, I do that myself. Before, I did all the visuals with Philip Geist from Berlin, who also went touring with us. But I really want to keep it basic. It's going to look nice because it also fits the cover artwork.

LAS: With regard to the cover artwork of your albums as well, is that something that you feel is important in order to generate a certain image, if you see what I mean?

DD: Yeah, of course. You have the opportunity to put pictures on the cover. We laugh at the Zoomer cover, which is kind of a joke, you know, the one with the glasses?

LAS: Yeah, it's brilliant, I think.

DD: Yeah, I still like it, but it's not really super serious.

LAS: Yeah, there's a tongue-in-cheek element to it.

DD: Yeah, the whole Germany, Kraftwerk thing, because I don't have so much to do with that, actually. I've never been a huge Kraftwerk fan, though I totally respect their work. The new artwork is very dark and is just pictures of plants - very spaced out plants. It's a bit like deep sea enema or little aliens, or something like that. We fooled around with some really great photos of friends of mine and that's what happened. There's one picture of me, but that's also kind of a joke.

LAS: So what can you see Schneider TM doing in the future? Are you just going to keep an open mind?

DD: Yeah. We're doing a UK tour.

LAS: Yeah, you're not playing Leeds though, are you?

DD: I don't know why not because last time was really fun. But we're playing some festivals during the summer, some in Germany, some in France, and Sonar in Barcelona, one in Naples in Italy, and we're going on a European tour in October for one month or something. Then probably a US tour early next year. We had an offer to do a South America tour about three years ago, but I don't know if that still stands. But we did so much touring after the last album - we did 200 shows in one-and-a-half or two years - and now everybody in my band has their own project. Michael has just released an album on Domino with his band, The Beautiful New Born Children. They're kind of energetic blues-punk, a bit like The Pixies. That's a really nice record. We want to keep it down a little bit and not tour our asses off. I really want to work at home and go over some new stuff. But it's really fun to play live. The personality of it doesn't really happen live, it's a recording project, and when you start playing live it comes to life. It's really nice to do.

SEE ALSO: www.schneidertm.net
SEE ALSO: www.cityslang.com

Mike Wright
A staff writer based in London, England, Mike Wright is eternally troubled by the American bastardization of the English language.

See other articles by Mike Wright.



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