Ulrich Schnauss interview
With a collection of his re-mixes due on the 22nd of March we caught with German electronic pioneer Ulrich Schnauss to see what he’s been running through his sequencer.
Hi Ulrich, thanks for chatting to us at the music fix, how are you doing?
I'm ok - thanks. a little tired maybe - just finished a longer session; been working on a soundtrack with Mark Peters from The Engineers.
You've got an album of remixes coming out soon. Do you get a lot of requests for remix work or do you hear certain tracks and seek out the artist to work with?
I do get requests in every once in a while - if I like the original song and scheduling allows it I’ll do it.
How do you approach the remix process? Do you ever draw a blank on hearing a track and not know where to go with it?
I usually remix music that I like and therefore find inspiring anyway - in most cases I try to leave the source material untouched from a song writing point of view and provide an alternative, electronic arrangement.
Do you work with the artists as a shared vision of how the remix will sound or do you have complete creative control?
It differs from case to case - if I'm remixing a friend's song I usually have full creative control if it's a project that happened due to a record company requesting a mix there's always the risk of them not being happy with the result and rejecting it. I’ve mostly had positive experiences though.
Has anyone ever been unhappy with the result?
Yes, it happens occasionally - mainly when mixes get commissioned by bigger labels and they were hoping for a more commercial, streamlined result. I’ve never had any bad experiences dealing with musicians directly though.
Do you have a favourite track on this compilation?
It's probably the opening song - a mix I did for Howling Bells. It’s hard to come up with a straightforward explanation for it - I just think it's a good example for a beautiful collision of different musical approaches and the end result is a perfect blend of their and my sound - rather than those two elements remaining separate and incompatible.
What were your early influences that drove you to make such wonderful ethereal music?
I always liked music that has a dreamy escapist sentiment - luckily there was a lot of stuff like that around when I actively started investigating pop culture - in the late 80s and early 90s. Whether it's melancholic shoegaze songs or the euphoria of the early rave scene - all these different sounds had one thing in common; it was music that was supposed to take you to a different place - an element that I always hope my music's carrying as well. Further on discovering Tangerine Dream and other classic electronic composers has taught me a lot about the fascinating possibilities of synthesis and sequencing.
I'm not sure if this is urban legend or not - but the story is the The Aphex Twin was asked to remix a track for a band and completely forgot about it. When the courier turned up for the package he quickly grabbed something else he was working on and gave them that. The track was released and no-one batted an eyelid. Do you ever feel like going crazy with a remix and moving so far away from the original that it becomes almost completely your own work?
When AFX did those things they were revolutionary and brave - nowadays I think it would be a bit pointless to repeat stuff that's already been done - and probably done a lot better.
I find it more challenging to stick to a respectful and constructive approach treating the source material - if I don't manage to achieve some kind of interaction between the original song and my contribution I might as well work on my own compositions straightaway.
If you could re-mix any track from musical history what would it be?
One of the great privileges of remixing is that you get access to the individual tracks featured in the song - I’d be thrilled to have the opportunity to listen to the individual elements that when combined become Tangerine Dream's 'Force Majeure'.
What are your plans for the rest of 2010?
I’m hoping to finish my next solo record by summer, (as mentioned at the beginning) right now I’m also working on a soundtrack, a collaboration album with Kirsty Hawkshaw as well as playing keys in The Engineers.
We thank Ulrich for his time and look forward to these remixes and all of his future material.