Whether it’s for his extensive work in engineering for big name pop acts, his live improvisations with long time friend Uwe Schmidt or his startlingly accomplished releases under his own name, Tobias Freund’s twenty plus years in music have rightfully earned him the tag of veteran. As part of early German electronic outfit, Hypnobeat, Freund got a taste for live performances and improvisations, using a wealth of synthesizers and drum machines to present a stripped back rhythmical minimalism. He furthered his own explorations into techno and trance in the early 90’s with his Pink Elln moniker, settling into a more contemporary sound in recent years and mostly releasing with Schmidt as Atom™ & Pink Elln. As Tobias., he has introduced us to his take on house music via EPs like Street Knowledge and I Can’t Fight The Feeling and last year gave us the brilliant long player, Leaning Over Backwards. LWE got in touch with Freund to quiz him about his new album with Atom™, the secret to a good collaboration, and whether we’ll be hearing more from NSI in the near future. He also put together our 125th exclusive podcast, a far reaching collection of influences and favorites that beams you directly into the mind of one of dance music’s most enduring players.
LWE Podcast 125: Tobias Freund (65:37)
01. Die Zwei, “Fair Headed Squaws” [Zensor]
02. Metropakt, “Neuen Strassen” [Hawai]
03. Toyah, “Victims Of The Riddle (Vivisection)” [Safari Records]
04. Carlos Peron, “Her Heäd Is Bräkin Intu Foör” [Konkurrenz]
05. Renaldo & The Loaf, “Bali Whine” [Ralph Records]
06. Severed Heads, “We Have Come To Bless The House” [Nettwerk]
07. Chris And Cosey, “Just Like You” [Conspiracy International]
08. Bruce Gilbert, “Eline Cout II” [Mute]
09. Tuxedomoon, “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” [Ralph Records]
10. Cabaret Voltaire, “Kneel To The Boss” [Rough Trade]
11. The Flying Lizards, “Gyrostatics” (excerpt) [Statik Records]
12. This Heat, “Water” [Piano]
13. Ryuichi Sakamoto, “Thatness And Thereness” [Alfa Records, Inc]
14. Die Partei, “Wo Sind Sie” [Tausend Augen]
15. The Gadgets, “Narpoth (Eraserhead Singing)” [Final Solution]
16. Duet Emmo, “Or So It Seems” [Mute]
17. Serge Blenner, “Phrase VIII” [Sky Records]
18. Chrome, “Room 101″ [Dossier]
19. Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft, “Osten Währt Am Längsten” [Mute]
20. Wire, “Small Electric Piece” [EMI Records]
21. The Residents, “You Yesyesyes Again” [Ralph Records]
You most recently collaborated with Uwe Schmidt, who is a long-time friend and collaborator. There is speculation on the official line of the recording of the album. How did the album come about and what was the recording process like?
Tobias Freund: Last year we played one of our acid techno sets together at the Labyrinth Festival in Japan. After the party all the artists and promoters went to the hotel to rest or have a last drink. Uwe and me discovered two pianos in the lobby — one acoustic and one electronic. We started improvising and soon we came to the idea to bring the flash recorder to capture the session.
It’s pretty safe to say that the only thing people expected from a joint album from the two of you was perhaps the unexpected. How much planning was there in terms of the direction of the album and did you yourselves go in with any preconceived ideas about what such an album should or could sound like?
Well, as I mentioned before, we never intended to record an album at this evening. We just played to relax and digest the nice festival. After listening back to the recordings, we both agreed the material is worth to give it a bit more attention. At this time I just had a release with nsi. on Mule Musiq so I thought this could be a nice contact for a release.
What do you think the key is to collaborating with someone successfully?
I guess it’s important that you can have a laugh together. With Uwe and Max Loderbauer I have this certain kind of understanding. During our live sets we usually never communicate with words; we only talk through music.
Do you tend to work in different ways with different people you’ve collaborated with?
The work process depends on the idea and the circumstances we have. With Uwe, for example, I never really worked together in the studio. We only had one evening session for the Odd Machine release on Non Standard Productions and sometimes we prepare for an afternoon our live shows. But with Max Loderbauer it is different — we share the studio together. He has all his gear hooked up in his room and is connected with sync and audio to my room, so everything is possible in this constellation. It happened that Max was working on something that fit a song I was working on.
It’s been about a year and a half since we heard anything from your Non Standard Productions label. Is there anything forthcoming on the label, or any nsi. releases we can look forward to?
Yes, actually we plan to have two new releases on Non Standard Productions this year. As well, there are two exclusive tracks from nsi. One on a La Casa Encendida compilation and one on Enjoy The Silence Vol. 2 on Mule Electronic.
When did you and Max first start working together and how quickly did you establish what nsi. would sound like?
In the early 90s I was a big Sun Electric fan. In 1997 I played together with Sun Electric at a festival in Santiago, Chile. Since then we are friends. We started doing music together when I moved to Berlin in 2004. Max helped me hooking up my new studio; we decided to start working together. The music that we wanted to do had to be more analytical and concentrated on simple elements. We were not interested in doing techno or any commercial art of music. We rather wanted to go deeper into the modules and phenomena of music. That’s why we also chose the Institute name.
You recently worked on the new Moritz Von Oswald Trio album. What was your involvement on the project?
Actually, I worked on all of the MVOT albums as a sound engineer. I recorded and mixed most of them. The music of MVOT is very much based on improvisation; of course there are certain loops and sequences pre-programmed, but the composition of the final song is actually happening during the mixdown. So effects and treatments are part of the song, and I was in charge for that.
What can you tell us about the mix that you’ve put together for us?
As you might know, I am not a DJ. I have very few records that would fit into a club set in our times. But I do have a big record collection out of the times when electronic music learned to walk. Some years ago I did a similar non-dance podcast on Resident Advisor; this one is kind of the follow-up. I am always surprised how innocently people approached electronic music and how fresh the music sounds even after 30 years.
What can we expect from your various projects over the next year?
I just finished two new tobias. tracks for a 12″ on Ostgut Ton that will come out in the beginning of August, and as I mentioned before, we are working on a new release for Non Standard Productions that should be released by end of this year.