Interview: Operation Offbeat
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What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
Although it would have been the last thing she would have wanted me to do: My mum. I started playing the guitar that I had found in my parent's cabinet, at roughly the age of 5, went on to take lessons, and whenever I didn’t want to practice, my mother would play me Elvis records and the like and say „You need to practice if you want to be like him someday!“. Seemingly an unreachable goal; but when I’m looking at the pictures I’d rather be late Max than late Elvis.
If I wasn’t a musician, I’d be properly educated and wealthy in the first place. Second… I’m pretty much into history and politics; also I’m a news addict. Journalist maybe? Unlike a politician, you wouldn’t always be forced to support whoever's on your team- if someone you’re supposed to support does anything stupid, it might be easier to tell them they suck…
What do you like to do when your not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
Quality time! Spending time with my family, especially my little one, who is a very energetic and positive little person, distracts me from the 7 orchestras that are constantly playing in my head. Also, it keeps my feet on the ground an reminds me that my heavy drinking days are a thing of the past- the boozing went hand in hand with music for me for ages before.
Also, like I said, news- I think I began writing less abstract and more concretely about my views in recent years… I reckon our next album will be rather direct in that connection, and lyric-wise leave a bit less up for imagination, but I’m in the process now…
And I watch loads of British comedy. I like it for both being able to go much further than any commercial comedy that is popular where I live, yet take most things with a grain of salt. A joke is a joke, and that’s it. I wish that attitude was more
widespread. I made the experience quite often -online and offline- saying something I consider openly and blatantly nonsensical resp. sarcastic, yet reaped a miniature storm of disgust… Lord in heaven! Laugh or don’t, but don’t whine about
something we both know is just banter!
How long has your band been around?
If you don’t count in auditions, which have taken us ages, we’re in this line up now for one and a half years. But: Before that, there’s been an OO line up in London for about three years, which again had succeeded something called the Crooners. So
actually our live set shows my learning curve as a songwriter over the past 15 years…
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I myself was born and raised in Hamburg, the band as it is today is a bit spread over northern Germany- I moved further south a few years ago, but I still do the 200km commute for rehearsals, partly for the sake of keeping a foothold in merry old Hamburg!
After the years in London, I don’t know how much of an influence it still is today- but we seem to have a reputation not to be too talkative (yours truly!), and if we say anything at all, getting straight to the point. Maybe that? Leaving most unnecessary sophistication out of both words and music? Not up to me to decide though probably!
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
That name is still a reference to the UK years; that ‚Operation Offbeat‘ was me cheap flying and couch surfing, for the benefit of gathering other musical maniacs and going places. Which hasn’t worked out too bad- I’ve met and played with folks from almost everywhere, some of who are still mates of mine, others who I irreparably fell out with, but that’s what it is I reckon! Worth it.
Tell me about the best and worst shows you have played?
The worst shows I ever had the displeasure being part of where each final London gig of The Crooners and then Operation Offbeat. I must explain: when I was sort of new on the scene there, I couldn’t cope with how fast-paced the music scene there is. Everything has to happen right away; you’d join a band and expect to earn money with is right the next week, or you’d leave again. Until then I was used to practicing months and years until you’d start gigging.
Long story short; we’ve done shows with too many guys in the line up who weren’t willing to put in enough work, up to the point where they came on stage, not even knowing the songs. And we paid the price. I shiver a bit thinking of it. The best UK gigs we’ve done where clearly in The New Cross Inn / London and The Asylum / Chelmsford, the best gigs so far have been supporting Chico Trujillo and Roddy Radiation, both in Hamburg.
Tell me about your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you haven’t already?
My favourite german venues would be the Monkeys Music Club / Hamburg, and SO36/Berlin- favourite UK venues would be the Dublin Castle and the New Cross Inn, both London.
One of the things I love most about making music is the travelling, hence the London commute by the way… Now that we look ahead, Paris would be nice, and a life long dream of mine would be a show in New York. I wouldn’t mind where exactly, anywhere they’d have us, as we might come back!
If you could play any show with any lineup who would be on the ticket?
Oh- the Offfest? Hosted by Offy Offbourne, singer with Black and white Sabbath…
That would clearly be bands I like and would like to meet, as I’m a fan in the first place, and I am in music for the encounters… (Bands and other fans though!) If this was heaven then, and I was free to book anyone- Madness, The Pogues, Bruce Springsteen (who likes to do features, so fingers crossed!!), and the best live band I have ever seen in my life, Jason And The Scorchers.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band?
Before anything else- be creative and do your own thing. Skip the covers. Trying to reproduce someone else's music is a half-baked attempt and will hardly get you further than the pub around the corner, and even then you’d be the trained monkey
playing „Summer of 69“ for a pint and maybe a tip.
Second, speaking of a tip, avoid any financial dependency if possible. It’ll kill all creativity if you’re in it for the money, let alone there ain’t that much money anymore. There’s nothing wrong about funding your love for music with a day job, contrary to popular belief you’ll be rather independent as an artist that way. And if people out there want you to do a world tour, they’ll let you know online.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
Basically the above; except from the covers as I’ve never wanted to do that. Also: before I decided to only play in bands and write songs, I thought it was clever to learn a proper profession, so I went on audio engineering training and was later self-employed with a small studio. From today's point of view I’d tell myself that I have no technical talent at all. My place is the recording room, and the mixing booth should always be occupied by someone higher than me.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
Fire! For three reasons- one: It came about as a complete accident, when I had just bought a mandolin and acoustic guitar and wanted to try them out, so I improvised a little until the main riff came along. Second: It’s the first lyrics I’ve ever written that are unironically meant to cheer someone up, and I want to write more of that sort. Third: We’ve done it live on every gig we’ve had since then, and to me, it hasn’t
worn out yet, I still enjoy it.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
Apart from ‚Fire‘, which doesn’t need to be requested as we always do it anyway, I like the rocking ones- ‚Karma vs. murphy’s law‘, ‚Me Me Me‘, ‚Marry me‘. Because 1. I’m a man of simple pleasures and I like to rock out, and 2. there are pretty nice melodies here and there. Also, ‚No discussion‘ seems to be a. live favourite… Due to the plague we haven’t gigged since „Your idea of luck“ came out, so we have to see what people like- I could imagine the title track to go off quite well though!
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
The usual way is that I write a song, record a demo in my home studio, and dropbox it to the others- the first sign of whether they like it or not is whether I get any response… In the worst case, we silently forget about it, in the second-worst someone says ‚let’s try that‘ so we do. We would then play it until something decent emerges from all the chaos! Also; our guitar player Eike and I spend a lot of time in the home studio together, fumbling around on the guitar parts.
How a song idea essentially comes about is something that, I reckon like many other writers, don’t really want to know- simply because you’d then try and force it and I couldn’t imagine how that’s supposed to work.
What happens pretty often though, is that a melody comes to mind late at night shortly before I fall asleep- I then get my phone, record myself whistling it so that I can remember it the next day. My wife thinks I’m insane, but I’ll have to live with that.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
Losing doesn’t make you a loser, that’s one of my core topics. I’m not saying ‚be strong‘ or anything thing like that, no one is always strong, but find the humour in bad news. That doesn’t work on the big screen though; there ain’t that much fun in the worldwide news today, but then again- if you have to have enemies, at least know the enemy, and be aware of at least the little you can do. Almost everybody in the world just wants to live in peace, there’s just to many people being fooled and we tend to think of them as evil too often.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
In the past, there have been disagreements in the band about if and when to release music, and how much energy should be put in the band- sadly making me leave and start all new at least once. The way things are as of today, I think we’re just glad that we can do anything at last- I myself would not look for trouble at the moment! What I also wouldn’t expect is a major style discussion, as our sound and songwriting will always be improved and worked on, but never fundamentally change. Overall; the current situation has given us the opportunity to focus on ourselves without any pressure from outside if you want to find anything positive in the lockdown and its aftermath. We managed to put new music out, and work on loads of new stuff right afterward so that we can make use of the time and instead of gigs come out with another album quicker than we’d usually have- I reckon, next spring, or whenever the world fully reboots, and there’s going to be gigs and road-trips and all that, we’ll see what the stress does to us and talk about disagreements again!
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that’s coming up?
In the immediate future, we have a video for „Me Me Me“ coming out on August 21st, and another comic style video (once again by the amazingly talented Mary-Lou Ploss) for „Cross the line“ later this year. We do also have 12 tracks finished in writing, and are planning on hitting the studio in fall this year, so that we can come up with new music around March/April 2021.