Interview: Christian Prommer
Interview: Christian Prommer
A l’occasion de la sortie de son premier album solo « Übermood » sur Compost Records, notre équipe a eu la chance de pouvoir interview Christian Prommer. De ses Drumlessons à ce nouvel album, voici une chance de découvrir plus amplement un artiste de très grand talent.
For your readers, who don’t know you yet, could you introduce yourself in few words?
I am a composer, producer, drummer and DJ. I live in Munich, Germany. I started to play drums at the age of 12 year. Since that time I am devoted to rhythm and beats. I play, write and produce records between jazz and electronic music. For my own projects like Trüby Trio, Fauna Flash, Prommer and Barck or The Drumlesson and for other artists like Dj Hell or recently Kruder & Dorfmeister.
You start your career in 1995 under the alias Fauna Flash. Since you had a lot of different aliases and a lot of musical projects. Why to use so many alias and create so many projects?
I love to collaborate with different people and that brings all these aliases and new projects into my life. Every project has its own, distinctive voice. I always write a lot of music, so it’s great to have different channels to get it out of my system.
What are the key moments of your career before the release of this first solo album? We will talk about it in few minutes.
So many great moments. I am very blessed to have this kind of life in music for such a long time. The music made it possible for me to travel the world a play in so many different surroundings and meet so many great people. From jazz festivals like Montreux and North Sea to dance events like the Winter Music Conference in Miami or the Sonar Festival. Also in tiny clubs and weird locations with enthusiastic people. Besides that, it’s a key moment for me when I work on my music and it opens a door into a new world that was not there before. That happened with my Drumlesson project when my jazz roots came together with the club aesthetics. I played some great improvised concerts last year with jazz and crossover artists like Bugge Wesseltoft or Joshua Redman. Also I did a concert with the Zürich Tonhalle Orchestra and my Drumlesson band. That was a great experience. I had some great studio sessions in Vienna with Kruder & Dorfmeiser, in Berlin with Alex Barck (from Jazzanova) and here in Munich with Tony Allen. Music keeps me busy.
Before speaking about your album, could you speak us a little about the « Drumlessons ». Indeed a lot of people discover you thanks this project even if you made already a lot of tracks before this one. Moreover, those two albums are still in my favorite albums.
Thank you, that’s great to hear. The Drumlesson project started way back in my head when I played a Manfred Fest Trio Records next to a Carl Craig track. Jazz on one side and Detroit Techno on the other. It struck me that these two are very similar; the energy and the drive. I kept thinking about this concept from then on. After the Trüby Trio took a break in 2005, I started to do my first solo project. I played a lot of drums and piano to find a voice for that jazz meets club project. I arranged the Derrick May song « Strings Of Life » for a jazz trio in 2005 with my Drumlesson partner Roberto Di Gioia. Who was a big influence and major part of that project. We recorded it and left it sitting on the shelf for almost two years. It got released in 2007 on the Sonar Kollektiv label and got very good response. That gave us the opportunity to record a whole album of Drumlesson tunes. The album was released in 2008 and we have been touring and playing since then all over the world. The name comes from a feeling that I had while working with all these amazing musicians. I felt like a student and got a great drum lesson every time I could be in a room and play with them. It’s still like that when we perform. We will start with the third Drumlesson album this spring.
Now let’s talk about your album. Why to wait so long to release your first solo album? Almost twenty years after the beginning of your career.
I know, it’s kind of crazy. But when I started write and produce music, there was always somebody who I had a great time with doing it. I never felt the need to do this. Now for this record I went for the whole project on my own. It’s a different way of working and creating if you do it like that. It was a great experience for me to find this voice for the ÜberMood record. I wrote a lot of music in the past two years that led to this album and I had some great singers and musicians to collaborate. It’s my first solo album, but I did the two Drumlesson albums also under my own name and vision, but had a great band to work with on the music.
You call it « Ubermood », a mixed words between English and German. Why do you use those two languages and also why did you call it so?
I am an American that grew up in Germany. So I have the two languages and feelings inside of me. And you need some ÜberMood to do an album on your own. It fits the music very well, I think.
Your album is a real invitation to journey into your universe composed by a lot of influences like Jazz, Folk, Classical, Soul and Electronic Music. Who are the people who have influenced you and why?
There are many influences. I am a big fan of Ahmad Jamal. The way he plays the piano and the way he plays with time is amazing to me. He always has a very strong rhythmic concept and very good drummers. Joe Zawinul and his band Weather Report has a big influence on my sound. He is the master of electronic sounds for me. The synth sounds he comes up with and the harmonies that he found amazed me. I had a few drum lessons from the Weather Report drummer Peter Ersike and the percussionist Airto Moreira when I was younger. That tought me a lot. I also listened to some classical piano concerts lately. There is a pianist called Arturo Benedetti Micheangeli. His Debussy album on the Deutsche Gramphon inspired my track: Aturo. The way he plays is like ancient techno to me. And of course there is so much contemporary music out there right now. That’s great. I listen to a lot of podcasts and mixes on Soundcloud and all the other places.
What kind of approach do you have to successfully marry all these genres together? It’s really impressive.
I call this « decontextualisation »: taking ideas, melodies, sounds or samples and putting them into a different world. I just try to stay very open in the process. I play around with ideas for a while and this will lead to something most of the time. Sometimes an idea lies around for a few month before it makes sense with something else.
In a near future, will you continue to explore some new musical genres?
Yes. I will. I am working on movie soundtracks and music for small ensembles right now. And I am open to what new ideas will show up soon.
But let’s go back to your album. There are also different collaborations on your album? How do you meet those guys and how do you create those tracks?
A few of them I meet when I play live with my band or other project. Kelvin Sholar and Florian Ridl are in my current Drumlesson collective. With Kim Sanders I have a long writing and producing relationship. The song we did together is based on a writing session we had back in 2006. The singers on the album all came very naturally to the music. Whenever I had a piece of music where I felt that a voice would be good, there was somebody who told me about some new voice or I meet them accidentally in Munich. Like Thomas Hien, who’s sings and co-wrote « Wonders Of The World ». He is a longtime school friend of my brother. Most of the tracks had a structure and a sound that I found before I shared it with the other musicians and singers.
I will give you three tracks of your album. Could you tell us the story behind them? It was very difficult for me to choose because all the tracks are so good but I will start with my favorite one, « Wonders Of The World ».
I had a great time with this tune. I played the strings for that tune on an old instrument called Mellotron. It’s something like the first sampler. It hast tape loops inside for every note. The Beatles used it a lot in the sixties and seventies. It’s a bit out of tune but has a great vibe. I found this really nice harmony. At that time I met Thomas Hien again, He is along friend of my brother. He loved the harmonies and came up with this great vocal and guitar part.
My second one is « Shanghai Nights ».
I had a great session with sax player Florian Riedl in Munich. I tried to record a club track with real instruments, all reed instruments that we could find for this track. We have a range from tiny piccolo to big baritone sax and baritone clarinet. I love the sound of the Flutes in this one.
And my last one is « Tob, Der Bär »
I call it Rave Jazz. I played this tune for a long time in my live sets with pianist Kelvin Sholar from Detroit. We recorded the final version last summer in Berlin. This tune combines my love for jazz and house music. The trumpet melody is of course borrowed from a classic jazz tune.
Do you maybe want to choose a last one yourself?
« Aturo ». I took this chord sequence from a Debussy record some time ago and played with it, let it sit, play with it again, do some changes, play it live and so on. It stayed with me for a whole year and went through many changes. It combines the classical with cinematic and club aesthetics.
As we could also notice, your first release in 1995 was on Compost Records and your first solo album is still on this label. Your work with a lot of other prestigious labels but you seem to be very loyal. What is the story behind this very-long term relationships?
I just love the guys at Compost and the way they handle music projects. It’s a family. We have been in contact all the time. For 20 years. It was natural to go with Compost.
Have you already in your luggage some new projects or tracks?
There is a lot in the pipeline. I did some remixes and a few tracks on new labels. Like my new label Musica Autonomica, Wilde Records or Lola Tracks. I am touring my new live show and as a DJ into the summer. And the comes the Drumlesson.
You already played in a lot of locations around the world and with so many different configurations. What are your best memories?
It’s always special to share great moment with so many different people at the venues I play. There a many special moments. It’s impossible to name one. I am very fortunate to play in so different locations. I go to Shanghai in two weeks. The club in Shanghai is called Lola, that’s always an intense night. Or the Auono Mica Nights we do here in Munich. The energy is just amazing. Or playing live with a great musician and connecting to the audience. I had a great show with Bugge Wesseltoft in Genova last May. Two hours of improvised music that really moved everybody who was there.
And a last question before ending this interview, what kind of advices could you give to young musicians, DJ or producers?
Listen, learn your craft and the history of it, trust your instincts to find your own voice.
Thank you for taking the time to have answered to our questions.
Thanks you, my pleasure