I invite you to read the interview with Rüdiger, the man behind APOPTOSE, German dark ambient project which simply knocks me down with every another release – from “Nordland”, through “Blutopfer”, “Schattenmadchen” to “Bannwald”. “Bannwald” for me personally is one of the most impressive and touching albums of last years… But it’s not our only topic. We also talk about the condition of human society, Estonian movies, theatres in Legnica… Have a nice reading!
Hi Rüdiger, how are you? I hope the cold last weeks wasn’t very exhausting for you?
Thanks I’m fine. Cold weather is great in wintertime but I am looking forward to the summer right now.
Let’s talk about APOPTOSE. Honestly I didn’t know what APOPTOSE means, I had to check it in Wikipedia. It’s a biologic term, but in strange way it fits perfectly to your music – where did you find such name? Did you know since the very beginning that this is the perfect moniker for your music?
For those who don’t want to check Wikipedia: “Apoptose” describes the so called programmed cell death. It simply means that a cell dies when it is damaged or ill. This program works in nearly every living cell except for cancer cell that live on and on. When I was looking for a name for my musical project that was something that came to my mind. I especially love the literally meaning of the Greek word “Apoptosis”. It means leaves falling off trees. I still think that it fits perfectly to the topics and atmosphere of the music.
Were you a member of any other bands or projects before APOPTOSE was created? Did you always know that dark ambient is the music you want to create?
I’ve never been in a real band before. But from my early youth days after listening to Kraftwerk, Human League or Yazoo I always knew that I would record electronic music someday. It took me about 15 years until I could afford the equipment that I had in mind. At this time I was very much into dark ambient and felt that it was the right way to express my feelings rather than synth-pop.
“Nordland” is the mysterious journey to the North of Europe. “Blutopfer” deals with Spanish “Semana Santa”. With “Bannwald” you look deep into German forest. Three different concepts, yet all of them are somehow deep and spiritual, far from modern world, also connected with Nature. Are these aspects the pillars of APOPTOSE existence?
Yes, of course! All these concepts are/were very close to me when I worked on the albums, but when I record songs it is a quite unconscious process. I don’t sit down with the plan to write a track about “trees” or a certain ritual. I just begin to work on a new idea and it develops from there. That often takes a long period of time which makes sure that only those idea survive that are of a deeper interest for me.
The concept of “Schattenmädchen” is quite different. Soulless Asian metropolises, flashing neons, loneliness and fear in the overcrowded society… What was the cause of this conceptual “change of directions” from the forces of Nature to the modern Technologies.
Schattenmädchen is a change for sure. But it refreshes you when you leave the well known paths and try something different. A big part of this album consists of tracks that I recorded for compilations. They fit together very well because when I was planning tracks for compilations I always followed ideas and sounds that wouldn’t work on my albums. Those tracks all had a strong bond but it was years later that I recognised this.
To me Schattenmädchen shows the darker side of today’s society and human life in big cities. It has a somehow more modern and eastern approach than my other releases, but the feeling of loneliness and desolation is present as well. Both the untouched nature and the polluted megacities are actually two sides of the same coin. When you look a empty landscapes in the north or overcrowded streets you can get lost all the same.
Do you think this is the future of our planet? Will the growing technology, overpopulation and – paradoxically – decline of human relations cause some kind of global catastrophy?
Of course our planet will change much in the next 100 years, but I don’t believe in some kind of apocalyptic scenario. Maybe we won’t recognise our planet anymore when 100 or more years have passed but I am sure that people will find a way to live in even the worst circumstances. It is sad that only few people really care about the environment. The majority of mankind doesn’t seem to bother that soon all oil will be consumed, all fish eaten, the rainforest cut down and so on.
Concerning the human relations: I am not convinced that they really decline. I think they just change due to different and new possibilities of communication and travelling.
“On a Friday in September many years ago three girls went into a large forest in northern Germany. They never returned.” This is the concept of “Bannwald”. But could you enclose this story? Is it indeed based on actual events?
I really don’t know. It is a story that sounds like a fairytale or a legend but at the same time quite real. But all these old legends seem to have a true core or a moral or something like that. So everybody is encouraged to find it for themselves in the music or in a forest near you.
When I was a kid my grandparents took me into Harz Mountains. It was a small village near Wernigerode. Honestly speaking I don’t remember much except that when I walked into the forest even on the sunny day (it was Summer), it was momentary getting dark, because the trees, branches and leaves were so dense that they didn’t let much sunbeams. I have to tell you that “Bannwald” reminds me of that times and places. Do you have any memories related to that particular part of Germany which perhaps affected APOPTOSE music in any way?
When I grew up we lived near a forest. I spent hours and hours climbing the trees, collecting strange objects that I found on the floor or simply wandering around and enjoying the magic atmosphere in the twilight of the branches. There was always something new to explore so I have really fond memories to that forest of my childhood days. I still like to return there when I stay in my hometown for some days.
The older I get I recognise that the early years of life influence you more than you ever imagined. So I am sure that the topics of my music draw a big inspiration from that time. And nature still is an important part of my leisure time.
One of the things I particulary admire in APOPTOSE music is the sound which is very powerful and full of space – I wonder what kind of equipment do you use during recording?
My equipment isn’t very impressing. I am not a collector of vintage keyboards or analogue gadgets. And I am not a passionate sound engineer either. I don’t particularly appreciate to work with a computer or software and especially hate mixing and mastering an album. So when I find a keyboard or software that fits the way I work I tend to use it extensively. It makes work much easier for me.
From the beginning of Apoptose I use a Kurzweil K2000 sampler. This instrument is very characteristic for my sound. Field recordings are also very important in my search for unique sounds. Once recorded I alter those sounds with regular commercially available software and plugins. For arrangement and mixing I use Cubase. So this is the basis of the music. Now it depends on the skills and the creativity of the musician to achieve the sound that you have in mind with this setup. That’s the fun with electronic equipment. Everybody can create completely different things and musical styles with the same tools.
In 2000 you took part in “Solaris Collaboration” released by Polymorph Records. Honestly speaking I’d never identify APOPTOSE with Sci-fi moods (even taken from philosophical/spiritual side). What was so inspiring in Stanislaw Lem’s novel that you decided to join that project?
That collaboration was an idea of my friend Ingo of Polygon. When I read the novel I really liked it and could relate to many aspects of the book. So I was interested to see how this collaboration will work out. I still love the tracks that we recorded then. The novel may have a science fiction setting but that story digs deep in the human psyche and behaviour. I never felt that Apoptose should be limited to certain topics or moods. That would be too boring for me after a while. There are very different things that interest me and inspire my work.
Are you interested in sci-fi literature? Do you have any favourite authors?
I am not a particular fan of sci-fi literature although I read it from time to time. Last thing that I really liked in that genre was “Otherland” by Tad Williams.
You contributed the track for Estonian movie called “The Temptation of St Tony” – I had the pleasure to watch it and I liked it very much. It has very unique, dreamlike and surreal atmosphere – but I also think it’s extremely underappreciated. Could you tell me about that experience? How did you got in touch with these Estonian filmmakers?
They got in touch with me actually. The production company of that movie sent me an email asking if they could use “Calanda” for their film. I watched a trailer of that movie and found it very promising so I said yes. In the end they used nearly the complete track for an especially powerful scene. I am really satisfied with the result. But until today I don’t have a clue who recommended my music to the director. It is a pity that the movie was just shown in Estonia and on some filmfestivals. There is a DVD version but I guess it is very hard to find.
I guess you prefer rather non-mainstream cinema, don’t you? Do you have any directors you especially admire?
I watch a lot of movies. Mainstream and independent. It depends on my mood. Sometimes I enjoy a completely senseless Hollywood popcorn production. But these are rare moments. I don’t have a favourite director but there are some who always manage to impress me with their work for example David Lynch, David Fincher, Darren Aronofsky or Tim Burton to name just a few.
Tell me about the process of composing your music – are there any special circumstances that have to be fulfilled to bring you into certain mood for creating new sounds?
You definitely have to be in the right mood to become creative but it often simply depends on having enough time to follow an idea. Sometimes I like to sit down at the piano and improvise for a while. Sometimes I find an interesting sound that I arrange with others and compose a melody around it. It is completely different but I am improvising a lot to find new ways of expression.
If you’d have the possibility to travel in time, is there any particular person from the past you’d like to meet, drink wine and talk all night?
That is hard to answer. But I guess it would be fascinating to meet Johann Sebastian Bach around 1726/27 in Leipzig and witness him composing the Matthäuspassion.
If I’m not mistaken you’ve been in Poland twice. Do you have any particular memories from these visits in my country?
These were both just very brief visits for playing at festivals. First time in Wroclaw we came with 16 people or so and just saw a bit of the city centre after our soundcheck. That was all. Last year in Legnica I travelled on my own and had a few hours for myself to explore the city and the theatre where we played. That theatre is a very impressing building with lots of stairs and rooms and hidden spaces. It was really special to play live at an historic venue like this.
Any ideas for the concept of another album? Perhaps now you’ll take as on the journey somewhere East, to Slavic parts of Europe? We haven’t been there with APOPTOSE yet
That’s true, although Baba Yaga, a very eastern character, made a short visit to Bannwald … But at the very moment of writing this I haven’t got any precise plans for a new album concept. Just some vague ideas.
Is there any album or artist which made a particular impression on you lately?
The record that I listened to the most during the last six months was “Arabian Horse” by GusGus. Actually I listen to a lot of Icelandic artists like Múm, Soley, Ólafur Arnalds, Jónsi & Alex. I also get more and more into Burial, Nils Frahm and Max Richter. Not to forget the wonderful “Grey Oceans” by CocoRosie – already a classic.
Thank you Rüdiger. Last words are yours.
You are welcome! To close this interview I’d like to encourage everyone to check out the “No Red Seas” benefit compilation at http://noredseas.bandcamp.com/. An immense amount of well known bands and artists donated tracks to this release. All proceedings go to Sea Shepherd to support their struggle to save whales and dolphins. Apoptose & Joy of Life take part with an unreleased extended version of “Warrior Creed”. Don’t miss it!