Interview with To Hell With Tradition
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I always felt the urge to express myself in creative ways even in the earliest years of my childhood. For as long as I can remember, there has been this universal force about certain music coming, for example, from the speakers of my parents‘ yellow, old BMW whenever we took a ride and listened to random mixtapes. A force that – if only for a moment, for the duration of a couple of bars – made me feel a soothing oneness with the entire universe and yet a bittersweet ancient longing born out of the knowledge about the general volatileness of this sensation.
Ever since then, I feel, I have been on a spiritual mission to create those precious moments with my own music. This is why authenticity, depth and genre-independence are such important pillars for me. I never set out to create music based on considerations what people might want to hear, or what might be of the best commercial success. I selfishly create music that gets me into those spaces I have cherished so much for all my life. Whenever I notice that my music seems to do the same (or similar things) for other people, it’s all the more rewarding. Because it’s real. It’s art. Not business.
The second question is not even hypothetical for me, as I went through a 10-year phase in my life where I was off-track and almost completely neglected my creative nature by trying to live a conventional life. That was not healthy – mentally as well as physically. So, without music, I most likely would have dissolved by now.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I spend a considerable part of my life in my thoughts and imagination. This is where I draw energy from and where I am able to connect to the flow of inspiration. Hence naturally, I pursue activities that promote this. I meditate twice a day, work out 6 times a week, go for long walks contemplating life, death and the universe. Also, aside from music, I practise videography, photography, acting, card and coin magic…no, I am not a hermit I do value and maintain a couple of really close friendships and do have my very special person.
How long have you been making music?
In my head? For as long as I can remember. I eventually picked up the guitar and started writing songs when I was 16. Seven years ago, in the midst of having lost my way, I started playing piano.
Where are you based and how has that influenced your music?
As a child of an army officer, I was relocated all over Germany every other year during the first 13 years of my life, until eventually I was sent to boarding school in Heidelberg, where I was finally able to form long-term connections for the first time. Since I have never lived anywhere else for nearly as long, this is the closest thing to what I can call home. I wouldn’t say that this place itself has influenced my music. It’s rather the journey that brought me here which has an impact.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
With To Hell With Tradition, as it has been purely a solo studio project so far, I have not played any shows yet. However, I played quite a number of shows during my 10 years with Mellow, a indie rock trio from Heidelberg. My most memorable show was at a small club in Heidelberg, set right after a nerve-wrecking Germany-Poland match during the 2006 World-Cup. Due to the suspenseful match, the three of us completely lacked the slightest bit of stage fright and played with unprecedented confidence. We were in the middle of one of our emotionally most captivating, yet quiet songs, which is usually a moment you would notice at least a couple of people in the audience using the subtlety to have random chats, when I suddenly realized that it was completely silent. Every single audience member was mesmerized and fully immersed in this perfect setting with the gentle red lighting and haze from the stage. A true connection. That was amazing.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
My favourite venue unfortunately had to close down a while ago. It was called Schwimmbad Club Heidelberg – an iconic small(ish) club that featured many great artists on their way to bigger stages (Nirvana, The Lemonheads, NOFX, Green Day, Henry Rollins, Soundgarden, Monster Magnet …). Having had the chance to play there a couple of times was a blessing.
There are so many great venues in so many cities all around the world, I couldn’t possibly pick a single one that stands out. But one thing I can say is that I have never aimed to eventually fill stadiums. I have always loved the intimacy of small to medium clubs, say 250 to 1500 people max. I love begin close to my audience.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the line up?
That is a good one. Presently, I’d love to play a show with Spoon, Alabama Shakes and The Tallest Man On Earth
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into making music and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
That depends on this person’s mindset. If it is on the craftsmanship or business side of things, I am the wrong person to ask. That is a completely different universe. If we’re talking artistic, then the most important and only advice is: Be authentic. Not in a re-inventing the wheel sense. Just tap into the flow of inspiration and trust in what you receive. Do not forcefully try to adjust it to what you think is more accessible or expected out there.
As far as the advice to my younger self is concerned, I would actually keep quiet and not intervene. Whatever detours I have taken, however I have meandered, whatever pain I have suffered – my music would not be the same without this life experience. Hindsight should never make us worry about so-called mistakes or missed chances. Hindsight should merely help us to make the best of the present moment. We should be grateful rather than regretful.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
This is like asking a parent to choose a favourite child. At the risk of sounding presumptuous: the sum total of my songs – past, present, future – is the sum total of my authentic self. No part is more or less essential than the next.
What is your creative process for writing your music and what inspires you to write your music?
Nowadays, I am writing almost exclusively on my piano – it used to be the guitar. I am simply jamming, and sooner or later, I am attuned to the flow of inspiration. Suddenly there is this short chord progression, accompanied by this involuntary humming, and it all falls into place. I continue this process until eventually I have 10-12 song structures. Usually by that time, the involuntary humming will have given birth to scattered individual lines of lyrics, and while I keep playing those structures on a daily basis, I slowly begin to form a contextual concept for an album and start writing corresponding lyrics. In those concepts/lyrics I process my personal struggle and progress on the most primeval, existential questions I have continuously contemplated.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
The questions my music is based on – as encrypted as the lyrics might come across at first – are as old as humanity itself. I love the idea of people out there listening to my music and feeling this universal connection, feeling understood in their longing, their search for answers – be it on a conscious, subconscious or emotional level.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
I know that Blurred is barely released, but I am already at a point where I am finalizing the structures for my fourth album, and I am very grateful for the continuous inspiration. Somewhere on my future path, I really want to bring all this to the stage and finally play live shows again, but given my arrangement I need to headhunt a couple of fellow musicians first