During our interview with Regis last year, the Downwards boss mentioned, among other releases, that German producer Grebenstein would release his first EP for the label in November.
His production, just like his contribution to the InchMix series is sonically cinematic, blending instruments with the unorthodox chemistry of dark, broken techno. With every execution your senses are pounded with percussion then psychologically challenged by the raw vocal inclusions. We were very excited to have had the chance to chat with him just as 2014 drew to a close and if you’re in Berlin next week, make sure you see Grebenstein perform at CTM Festival.
Your production appears to be driven heavily by instruments, tell us a bit about your background in music.
From the age of ten, I taught myself how to play drums. That was really groundbreaking for me because by teaching myself, I avoided being boxed in & restricted to rules & standard rhythms, it all came from feel & intuition; without this there wouldn’t have been tracks like “That’s where the answer was in your body”. By the time i started playing guitar, I had already been playing the drums for six years, so i put the same methodology into learning guitar as I did with playing the drums. All the basic chords I learned, then modified; i just wanted to play something that surprised me. Of course there were outside influences, the first album that seriously touched me, and it still does to this day, was Nirvana’s ‘Bleach’. There was never really a specific genre I felt that I belonged to, it was never “i’m a punk musician, rock musician” or “i produce techno” & i think that’s a good foundation to create genuine art. Just as it’s all relative to the other fields of art; Design, Visual Arts & literature, to only circulate in one genre or field will result in the repetition & self-resolution.
How did your release on Downwards happen?
At the start of 2014 I did a remix for OAKE’s ‘Nihnin Ned Bergund’ which was really well received by Eric & Seba (OAKE). What I really enjoyed more than anything was the great contact with the two of them. When I was in Berlin we met up for a beer & we got along really well right from the start. We then heard a few of my demos, which Eric then sent to Karl (aka Regis). Karl liked what he heard and sent me an email suggesting I put out 12” on Downwards. The most valuable thing for me when making music is that I feel comfortable & i feel comfortable & at home working with Downwards.
What was the idea behind this EP?
There was no real core concept to this EP. Before 2013 I had been producing music that was pretty straight forward, i would describe it as ‘transparent’ but it was music that was catering to the public. At the time I was trying to creating a sound specifically for the club environment & in doing so i wasn’t particularly happy with my performances. then after one of my shows i just had one of those “click” moments. I re-incorporated my guitar, started to compose my “own“ songs & blocked out the weight of having to produce “club tracks”. So all of this change in perspective and attitude towards making music has been put into the “GREBENSTEIN” EP. It’s a completely honest expression of what i expect from my music & even though it sounds simple on paper, it was an extremely hard process for me & i think the results are reflective of that.
Tell us about your live show?
Lately I feel much more comfortable having my guitar alongside me and I also don’t mind having breaks between tracks anymore, just like a band would do. I find that these breaks help relieve any pressure I may feel during the set. People coming to see me absorb everything I do during my performances. All the energy and emotion I have & put into the show is then transferred onto the audience. honesty is the most important thing for me and of course, it just sometime can be exhausting.
Is there any specific concept behind this mix?
Similar to my EP, there wasn’t a specific concept behind the mix aside from that I put in tracks in it that spark true emotion & reflect my taste in music. For my next mix I think I should put Haftbefehl’s “Generation Azzlack”… seriously.
What records haven’t left your bag recently?
Lately it hasn’t been a case of any specific records that i bring with me to shows, but rather music from an overall perspective; tracks that I admire & have respected for some time now.
Something like Raime or their Moin project – if you don’t feel something inside you exposing during “Murphy” then you probably won’t, ever.
and of course OAKE’s Auferstehung LP… amazing work!
Aside from that i’ve re-discovered Herbert Grönemeyer! That is just incredible music that manages to move a lot of people, which unfortunately doesn’t happen a lot these days.