Volker Bertelmann, aka Hauschka, is quite a remarkable character. His talent for composition and enthusiasm for music is a rarity these days and to honour that we decided to send some questions his way. Hey, how are you? I am fine thank you .....how are you? Firstly could you introduce yourself to our readers? My name is Volker Bertelmann, I release my solo records under the name Hauschka and i live in Gusseldorf /Germany. I was born in a small village in the center of Germany called Ferndorf, after that I lived in Cologne and moved to Dusseldorf in 1990. I started my first band in the age of 14 and then I released my first full length album in 1994 with my band 'God's favorite Dog'. I was singing and writing the songs. After quitting the band in 1996 I started all sorts of different electronic projects. To name a few: Nonex Music AM Tonetraeger and here I am, playing mainly as Hauschka at the moment. The main reason why so many people like your music, apart from the songs themselves, is the 'prepared' piano style you've adopted. For people not familiar with this style could you explain what it is and how you got into it? I recorded my first Hauschka record subsrtantial in the Brecon Beacons in Wales. My friend Adam Fuest has a wonderful studio in the mountains and he and his wife Adele encouraged me to record a piano record. While I was recording I had the idea that I have to change the sound of the piano to be able to achieve different soundscapes and rhythms. So I pasted first of all bottle caps and plastic folios on the strings and I found through this that I can use all sorts of material and manipulate the sound so much that I can get rid of the computer and I produce electronic sound between the hammer and the strings or on top of the strings. It is a very simple but effective system. I read that John Cage, who is actually the pioneer of 'prepared piano',used 'prepared piano' because he wrote a piece for drums and piano and he had not enough space on the stage for both instruments.....so he played the drums with the piano as well. So it is a quite natural thought as the piano is a percussion instruments, cause you bang a hammer against a string and that is amplified with a resonance body.......like a drum! To people unfamiliar with your music I usually explain it as being unpretentious 'experiment-classical' music. How would you explain it and what influences your music? I actually would explain my music as contemporary music and compositions because they explain my existence in my surrounding on the day I record the music. In connection with classical music I would like to see myself not following a tradition and especially not full filling the expectations of interpretative classical music.....I would see me more as someone using the actual streams of music and influences and putting them in a composition which is played by classical instruments but always can change to a composition of 12 electronic guitars with intense Marshall stacks or with any sound source. I like the idea that the music I create is expressing a small time frame of my live. I'm influenced by a lot of rock, pop , hip hop music as well as classical music and jazz. I love some world music and I like music from all sorts of different countries....I like sometimes the accordion player in the Berlin subway station and I like the soundscape when i am sitting in Utrecht at the train station, Where I totally agree with John Cage that every sound is music. Is it a pain to set up your piano at every show? No it is more like a craftwerk. I like working with my hands and I like painting and building, I actually like to see that i am able to create things with my own hands.......a good picture is for me the person that is painting a huge oil tanker, sitting on this lift and you see just how much he has to do ......which can be depressing if you see it at first but you see on the evening what you have done and preparing the piano is for me something like that. Realisticaly it is much smaller work, but there is a poetry in it. I recently saw your 'Bandstand Busking' performance and it blew me away. How did you get involved with that and was it fun? Oh that was much fun but very cold, especially the stringplayers had to fight with the coldness......but as perfection kills a lot of things I think it is always worth trying things out. I was actually asked by Shain from One Little Indian if i could imagine to do the Bandstand Busking. I was worried as I needed a piano. There are pianos for kids with strings but it was hard to get them and so I decided to use the toy piano. It is quite fragile but I liked it especially as there are mainly singer songwriters. Your music is pretty complex at times. How do you put it all together? I experience my composing like traveling with the bicycle through your city passing your favorite spots and cafes and you stop here and there to speak with someone, then you meet a person you like and you go in the other direction, then you find a spot that is warm because the sun is shining on it, it starts getting cold so you move onwards....so it is like a surfing along places that have a meaning for me. Sometimes I start a composition with the piano, sometimes with a sound. Sometimes I overdub, sometimes I just use one recording. At the moment I am using my train rides to compose string compositions. You're playing a few shows over the next few months but how do you feel about touring? What are the positives and negatives of being a touring musician? I don't like to be constantly away but I love to travel an di love to perform. So at the moment trying a few things out to keep me in balance as the most complicated part of touring is the "coming home" and going back to a normal life. I would say the positive thing about touring is the possibility to bring your music to people, to travel on never experienced ground, the adventure and the fun. The negative part is the permanent tiredness, the permanent leaving of nice people and beginning friendships, the coming home and the normal day life that is necessary to stay on the earth. It is a quite fragile matter so I try to come home as much as possible and keep my life in a good shape. Lastly, what does 2009 have in store for you? I will do a Japanese tour in September and I will do a small US tour in may and a bigger one in October. I am working on a couple of collaborations with singers and classical orchestras and other musicians. I have offers for some film soundtracks and I was asked for to do the music for theater pieces. So this year is piling up and i am working on my new records over the year and doing concerts. Besides that I will take care of my kids and we will travel together, which keeps you as well grounded and i love to feel the earth under my feet. Links Hauschka Myspace Fat Cat Records Bandstand Busking