Volker Bertelmann, the German pianist and composer better known as Hauschka, has carved out a career, making beautiful, inventive avant-garde music, mainly with pianos (he's classically trained). An exponent of using prepared pianos, he's also scored films and TV shows, and continues to be active in various other experimental music projects.
He talked us through his new album What If, another release that's a heady blend of minimalism, electronica, and classical music.
I Can’t Find Water
When I was recording What If, I was spending a lot of time in Los Angeles and I drove a lot with the rental car through the city. I saw very dry lakes and water reservoirs and I felt a little bit concerned that this multimillion city has a huge lack of water. I felt that this is one topic for the record that is leading to the question...where will the availability of water be in 30 years?
Constant Growth Fails
This track was recorded in my studio with a player piano. I recorded all the takes in a computer with a midi keyboard and then I played them back with the player piano and prepared those tracks at the same time.I recorded every theme on its own so I could mix them differently.
My Kids Live On Mars
This is another track that I recorded with the player pianos and I added a sinus bass to that. I processed a lot of sounds and I think this has a very nice sequential atmosphere.I also thought that to imagine visiting my kids on a weekend on Mars was a nice thought, just traveling with a rocket and coming back on Sunday evening.
I Need Exile
This piece has for me a gypsy vibe. I recorded this track in a single take with my live set up. Francesco Donadello and I found out that the bass drum with a Harmonizer H3000 becomes a really nice sounding 808 bass drum.
I Can’t Express My Deep Love
this song is the only song from a totally different session. I recorded around 40 pieces with unprepared piano and I think I will release them maybe after this record. This is the only piece that I wanted to have a little more pure piano than all the others. There is a deep, deep longing in this piece that, in a way expresses my feelings.
Nature Fights Back
This song is one of the wildest. I used a children’s tambourine and the percussion is made from a plastic cup that I pressed on the strings. The stronger you press the more distorted the sound is; it sounds like nature is fighting back and trying to get back in charge. All the muted detuned piano melodies are made by taping the keys with gaffe tape.
Familiar Things Disappear
This song is one of my favorites from the record because it is silent and then it slowly gets into this full-on synth sound which is a Roland Jupiter 4 from the early 80s. I bought this synth from an old studio near Dusseldorf and I had to fix the tuning problems. Now it is stable and it is a lot of fun to play with the modulation. In this track familiar things are swamped by sound and they disappear.
Trees only Exist In Books
I recorded the ver first loop in Berlin at the studio of Francesco Donadello. He is well known for his participation on Johann Johannson's recordings and also Dustin O Halloran's records. He is mixing a lot of records, and I was very happy how the mixes turned out. For this track, the Alma Quartett came to Berlin to record a whole day with me and these recordings are on this track. I love this monotone piano lick that sounds like a plugged git.
We Live A Thousand Years
This is my pop track. I think that the drums on this track work very well, and I also use some effect pedals to manipulate the sounds a little bit. This song was recorded last. I read an article that mentioned that humans based on our knowledge, can already live a thousand years. Maybe my children can choose if they want to be that old or if they only live 500 years...I don’t know if this is a gift or a burden. In the end, we will work on that I guess until at least people with enough financial resources can live much longer.
What If is out now via City Slang/Temporary Residence. He plays London's Village Underground on 30 May, and tickets and info can be found here. For more information about Hauschka, please visit his official website.