Paul Frick talks about the latest Brandt Brauer Frick album, his musical plans, solo work, exciting collaboration with electronic music pioneers Tangerine Dream as well as much more
Brandt Brauer Frick is one of the most interesting bands in the field of forward-thinking music. Founded in Berlin around ten years ago by the Three Musketeers of contemporary sound – Daniel Brandt, Jan Brauer and Paul Frick; the band achieved the reputation of being a musical project that can always amaze the audience with a fresh, unusual approach and new concepts. They are a perfect example of how so-called “intellectual” music is not at all boring, (as many people think) and it can be playful, challenging and always changing.
Brandt Brauer Frick’s first two albums “You Make Me Real” and “Mr. Machine”, (released by the legendary record label !K7 in 2010/ 2011) were made with a newly-invented and self-developed method of making techno-oriented sound using mostly only acoustic instruments. This unique and groundbreaking method in composing and performing nightclub vibe music with a 10 piece acoustic ensemble made Brandt Brauer Frick widely noticed, and they were soon on tour around the world. During these tours, the band performed as a 10-piece Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble, as well as a trio with their three main members – presenting a more electronic and clubby side of their musical souls.
Their next two albums “Miami” and “Joy” ( released in 2013 and 2016) were much more experimental and highlighted the rich musical background of the band’s members, which incorporated their interest in John Cage’s indeterminacy composing theory, Steve Reich’s minimalism and Dada’s aesthetics. The latest album “Echo” that came out a week ago, goes back to the band’s roots and contains mellower and danceable music forms, compared to their first two albums.
Brandt Brauer Frick’s passion for experiments and finding new forms of self- expression even got them involved in a contemporary opera “Gianni”, whose underlying story of which is the murder of Gianni Versace.
However, all the Brandt Brauer Frick members have a lot of individual work under their belts too- like solo albums and theatre music and sound production for other artists. We had a chance to talk with Paul Frick about the musical vibe and concept of Brandt Brauer Frick’s new album “Echo” which was released only a week ago, his solo work and exciting collaborations that he did recently.
Interview: Dmitry Tolkunov
Hi Paul! It would be great to know what you have been up to recently. We guess that probably the main thing on your plate right now is Brandt Brauer Frick’s new album. Is that right? Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Yes, indeed. Brandt Brauer Frick recently took over most of my time again. But in the last three years, each of us did many other things too like solo projects, collaborations… We needed that break after so much touring.
Amongst others, Daniel Brandt made two solo albums on the label Erased Tapes, Jan made a lot of theatre music and mixed albums by people like Max Graef, Josa Peit and Wayne Snow. He also mixed my first solo album ‘Second Yard Botanicals’ that appeared last year on Apollo/R&S Records.
Daniel Brandt made two solo albums on the label Erased Tapes
So, back to the Brandt Brauer Frick album… It felt great to get together again after each of us had tried a number of new things on our own. Before, we would usually try to integrate all our ideas into the band, whereas now we felt like focusing on our core approach.
You just released a great video for one of the songs from the album. Do you have any plans maybe for some other videos?
Yes, we are working on another video for the album. The video for ‘Masse’ was an insane job, also with the interactive website masse video – https://masse.video/. Also, there’s a much simpler video/visual for the opener ‘Rest’. It has more of a retro computer game vibe and was done by Max Parovsky, who also co-directed ‘Masse’ with Daniel Brandt.
The video for ‘Masse’ was an insane job
Is there a specific director that does all the videos for Brandt Brauer Frick or do you work with different people on the videos?
Not necessarily, but most of our videos have been directed or at least thought up by Daniel, who has actually studied film-directing. In the case of ‘Masse’, the whole idea came from him. In general, we are always happy to work with new people as well.
Most of our videos have been directed or at least thought up by Daniel Brandt
What is the musical direction of the new album? Is it, (as the impression is after listening to a couple of tracks), closer to your first releases, with mellower forms and a little less weird and experimental than the previous album?
You’re right, we wanted one foot into the past, back to our roots of repetitive acoustic dance music, and one foot into the future, a place where we can feel free and discover things. Actually, we were a bit disinterested in dance music and especially 4/4 beats some years ago. And now it just felt good and fresh again to get back to it.
We couldn’t have made this brighter new album without the darker and more apocalyptic albums before like ‘Miami’ and ‘Joy’. It works a bit like a pendulum for us it seems.
We couldn’t have made this brighter new album without the darker and more apocalyptic albums before
So, after 10 years of our band’s existence, we revisited what we wanted in the first place, but could use our knowledge way more in order to make it exciting for us. And unlike ten years ago, we could also record the other members of our ensemble, which is why the album is full of brass, strings and also the harp.
Brandt Brauer Frick is known as a band that likes to experiment with different setups for their shows – sometimes you perform as a trio, sometimes as an ensemble, and sometimes with a guest singer… What kind of setup you will have for the new album tour?
On our album tour, we’ll play as a trio, but with a new technical setup. Compared to before, I will play more piano and keys, which I’m happy about. Basically, we play more ‘dancey’ now than we ever did. With our ensemble, we plan a tour for autumn 2020 and we have a few single shows before that.
On our album tour, we’ll play as a trio
What kind of shows you do personally enjoy more – with an ensemble, guest singers, or with a trio set up?
If I/we knew that, we would probably stick to one way, but in reality, it’s hard to say. Right now, playing as a trio is the most fun, because we love to play our new set. But to play with our 10-piece ensemble is always special too because all these people contribute to a collective experience. It’s generally about freshness and not repeating the same thing over and over again.
To play with our 10-piece ensemble is always special
Have you been friends with Daniel and Jan for a long time? And how do you organize the roles in the band – do you all make music together or some of the band members come up with an idea and then you develop it into a track altogether?
I met Daniel and Jan in 2008, actually through Myspace, cause we liked each other’s music. They knew each other from their school band.
The way we make our music is always changing but (with a handful of exceptions) it always starts with us three in one room just pressing ‘record’ and starting to play. Sometimes there’s a vague direction or some other music we listened to together, but mostly we just start and trust our vibe and our subconscious. After that, one of us will start arranging and then pass it on to someone else to continue. At some point, we invite other musicians from our ensemble to add their ideas too.
We do pretty much the opposite of most bands: Most people write songs and then record them, we just record them without any rules and that sets the starting point for something that will likely become a song.
What about the musical background of each band member before Brandt Brauer Frick. Had you studied music previously?
All three of us played music since we were kids. I’m the only one who studied it at a music conservatory – composition at Universität der Künste Berlin – but the others played in many projects too and each one of us has a different angle and ideas the others wouldn’t have.
Going back to this aspect connected with experimenting with different forms – a few years ago Brandt Brauer Frick was involved in an opera – can you please tell a little bit about it, was it an interesting experience, is this opera still on?
We did the opera ‘Gianni’ at the end of 2016, at Deutsche Oper, Tischlerei. The director, Martin Butler, had approached us some years ago with the idea: An opera about Gianni Versace and especially about his murderer, a story about the horrors of fashion, star-cult religion, a society becoming more and more narcissistic, the impacts of Instagram and so on.
We did the opera ‘Gianni’ at the end of 2016 at Deutsche Oper, Tischlerei
We liked the idea a lot and ended up writing 21 songs for it plus their transitions. So far, we only did those 8 sold-out performances in Berlin. There were various talks about exporting it, but at that moment we all needed a break from touring, so we haven’t yet followed up with those plans. It’s still likely that we will do it again though.
Right before Brandt Brauer Frick’s new album, you released your solo work –“Second Yard Botanica”. Can you please tell us a bit about it? We had the impression that the sound of it is much more experimental than all Brandt Brauer Frick’s music. Does it reflects your musical preferences and is an album in which you did everything according to your personal taste?
To me, ‘Second Yard Botanicals’ was a bit of liberation. I simply didn’t care about how it would fit into the music landscape and industry, which I was very tired of.
‘Second Yard Botanicals’ was a bit of liberation
I guess I’m a very eclectic musician and I also appreciate schizophrenic and disturbing approaches, so that was really for myself and I was rather surprised that Apollo Records actually released it.
I wanted that album to be dedicated to my workspace and to my studio neighbors, so many of my friends played some parts. I needed a free and secure space and to escape the opinionated and ‘professional’ music world. Also, it was important for me that it didn’t sound like Brandt Brauer Frick of course. In retrospect, the album gave me new ideas and energy. I also asked some amazing artists to rework it, so there will be a new light shone on ‘Second Yard Botanicals’ soon.
What about your recent collaboration with Tangerine Dream? Was it an honor for you to work with them and are they an influential band for you?
Oh yes, that was and is such an honor. I met Thorsten Quaeschning , their band leader, last summer at the 1000th ‘Radio Eins Elektrobeats’ program. After talking a bit, we found out we actually knew each other from our composition studies, like 17 or 18 years ago. And he liked BBF too. We got along well, met a few times, and at some point TD invited me as a session guest. I think it’s fantastic how they end every concert with a long improvised session. At first, I felt rather shy, cause I didn’t want to destroy the great vibe they have going on, but we ended up harmonizing really well.
The highlight so far was playing at a sold-out Barbican Centre show with them. We plan to collaborate more and Thorsten and I also just recently played our first improvised duo show at Superbooth in Berlin.
Tangerine Dream are definitely influential for me, but like other German electronic pioneers, I actually discovered them quite late. In the light of today’s production methods, it is simply breathtaking what Tangerine Dream came up with and what developments they foresaw and inspired. To my ears, the current line-up is actually among the best ever.
Tangerine Dream are definitely influential for me
What kind of activities inspires you most of all in music? Working with Brandt Brauer Frick in the studio on new music, working on solo things, remixing or doing live shows?
My main occupation in the last few years has been sitting in the studio and that’s probably where I feel most at home and most durably inspired.
Live shows kind of pull me out of my comfort zone and I appreciate that a lot as well. At times, it can also be frustrating though, because I am a bit of a control freak. But whenever a live show feels really great, that’s still the most intensely compressed inspiration and it also gives me more confidence to get back to the studio and do my everyday things.
This year, it changed a bit cause I’m suddenly playing the piano a lot, which I didn’t consciously choose. Currently, I play in ‘Steve Reich – Six Pianos’ with Daniel Brandt, Gregor Schwellenbach amongst others, in Tangerine Dream, in Ketan Bhatti’s band and in Brandt Brauer Frick. So performing live has a new, fresh aspect for me.
You have probably been in a lot of cities and countries with your shows – do you have some favorite places where you like to perform most of all?
It’s a big privilege to see so many places… It’s almost impossible to choose, but if I have a favorite place, (except Berlin) so far, it’s probably Mexico City.
Have you ever been to Andorra? Do you know anything about the country and what do you think about the option of performing there if there would ever be the chance?
I’ve never been there, but have, of course, heard about it from friends. I love the Pyrenees and speak a bit of Catalan, having lived in Barcelona in 2003/4, so I would love to explore Andorra and assume I would have a good time there. So yes, I’d like to come!