Richard Dorfmeister (of Kruder & Dorfmeister fame) and Rupert Huber are Tosca and have a legendary career creating downtempo classics. South African-born, New York-based Brendon Moeller also has a decades long list of sonic masterpieces under this belt. Moeller and Tosca discuss the human aspect of making music. Home is where the music is.
Tosca’s forthcoming Odeon is a deluxe, dark ambient joy that will hit streets Feb 5th via !K7. Watch Tosca take you through Odeon track by track here. Moeller (under his various aliases) also has loads in the pipeline to dig into as well: The Watchers EP (with Speedy J) on Steadfast, Echologist EPs on Prologue Records and M-rec, Beat Pharmacy EPs on soulpeoplemusic and Throne of Blood.
Brendon Moeller Interviews Tosca:
This question sort’ve applies to you Richard, but Rupert, would love to hear your thoughts on the subject too. I saw in an interview you did recently that you feel home is where one’s roots are. For me, this is interesting since I have not lived at home in Johannesburg, South Africa since 1993. My roots tug at me on an almost daily basis. This ancestral voice is strong, but I feel that since I have been away from my original home for so many years I am planting new roots for my children and their children. Is this how Zurich feels for you now?
This is a good question – in fact it felt a bit strange to move away from the environment that I was used to, but after all these years I have to say that it helped to expand my view on things and made me feel at home nearly everywhere I go.
But my hometown of Vienna is still part of the plan: the studio is here and I am travelling between Zürich and Vienna a lot. Vienna has always been the heart of our music production, but sometimes Rupert comes to Zürich and we work then in my little studio I set up 2 years ago.
Many of the ambient sessions for the Tosca Odeon CD2 were done there, so it`s good to change the working environment from time to time to get yourself onto a new level.
By the way, I didn`t know that you are from of South Africa. I played in J-burg and Capetown some time ago and it`s definitely a good place to go to – lots of energy there.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the music business in regards to the sharing of music? Sharing music with friends and family always to me felt fine, but we now have networks of strangers sharing? Is it fair to call this sharing?
Not really. The original idea of file sharing in music, like with remixes, sound networks etc, was to let the artist himself decide if the music is free or not, and that it`s the artist`s choice with whom it is shared. If I bake a cake it seems natural that I can offer you a piece but I do not have to.
Still, even with music that is “stolen,” somebody makes some money. Internet connection, costs for transmission, electricity, and the fancy new smart phone that can play all aren’t for free. Who would blame the phone company for charging for your phone calls and downloads?
How has the fact that you now stay so far apart from each other geographically impacted how you work on music together? Is there much jamming going down when you do meet up, or is it mostly focusing on getting music produced for the purposes of a release schedule?
As mentioned before, we still are working mainly together in the studio in Vienna – we’re just used to working together in a room rather than sending files; it just makes the whole music making process more fun and human. That`s the original idea; enjoying the time you have and at the same time this leads to producing music that you love. So it is and always has been a mutual thing.
What are your favorite bits of kit these days, aside from the software-based DAW which we use for recording, arranging and mixing? Are either of you collectors of musical gear? If yes, what? What do you think of the increasing fascination going on with modular synthesizers? Are you familiar with Makenoise, Intellijel, Pittsburgh Modular, etc?
Well, I started to collect synths and stuff from the early nineties and I really got hooked on that for a while—you could pick up some pieces for a reasonable price at that time. Now with the net, it got more difficult because it`s much easier to compare the prices and in a way these synths + machines are just a little part of the puzzle anyway.
But it`s still great to fiddle around on the old machines. They just have a certain charm and the key is to combine the soft-plugs with the old equipment. Speaking of modular synths, I once bought the Roland System 100, but honestly you can do much more today with the Moog Modular plug-in, and it`s a lot cheaper!
I think our favourite bits of old gear are still the Korg MS-20 (Rupert used to own two Korgs already in 1982), the trusty Rhodes, the Memorymoog. But I also like to record real basses and guitars; that just generates a more human feel — and that`s impossible to produce with any plug-in!
What are your thoughts on the state of DJ culture pertaining to approach? People have become quite outspoken and puritanical about digital versus vinyl / analogue etc. Do you think it’s more likely to hear a great DJ set because of what tool / approach is being adopted?
No. I tell you Brendon, I have tried all kinds of formats (coming originally from vinyl) like playing from a USB stick or triggering tracks from Ableton Live and I have to say, the trusty Pioneer CD-players (especially the new 2000 range) are just the best. And I think it`s better to select from a CD-book rather than scanning files from a computer if you are on stage: it`s better to look at the crowd than the monitor screen.
Many touring and popular DJ’s now have to have day jobs. Do you think it’s a good thing that many folks now releasing music only do it as a hobby?
Rupert was just joking about this (“sorry we can`t answer that question because we have to leave to our shift at the bar…”), but in fact it becomes more and more tight for the music people to make ends meet. Especially if you have a family
life! But in our case, the music plays such an important part that we will continue to produce music whatever the money situation will be. We just have to!
Who said “Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there?” Miles Davis? Discuss?
Those are definitely wise words, implying that you should not be so focused on fulfilling expectations, whether it’s to sound like somebody else or to make as much money as possible, or wanting to have a million hits on YouTube. Music is a world of its own, and the more time you spend there, the better you know it, and the more it becomes a mystery.
To play what’s not there is to transform into soundwaves what is hidden in mystery. Composing music is like making sound out of the silence, the unheard….like a bird flying around.
David Byrne once said, “To some extent, I happily don’t know what I’m doing. I feel that it’s an artist’s responsibility to trust that.” Thoughts?
A big YES on that one. Making music is also creating a zone of freedom, freedom from language and its determinations — being guided by what you do but you do not know what you do. You really need trust to expose yourself to this procedure!
Tosca Interviews Brendon Moeller:
We’re really happy about the mixes you did for the Tosca “Bonjour” track. You did it around the time when the hurricane was happening in NYC, right? Tell us a bit about that special moment of madness.
Really happy you’re digging my remixes of “Bonjour.” I had a blast doing them. A lot of times I get remix parts that are uninspiring, but the textures and elements you sent got my mojo workin’.
Hurricane Sandy was an outstanding experience, despite the fact that we were without power for 4 days and had our fence blown down. It was majestic to behold. It was dark when the hurricane hit, so unfortunately we could not see it, but hear it and feel it we did. For three hours it sounded like an avalanche outside our house. We heard branches snapping, tiles on the roof cracking, garbage cans being flung through the streets like balloons. It’s quite exhilarating and awe inspiring to witness. Of course cleaning up and having to spend money to repair the damage was not inspiring! ;-(
What kind of equipment are you using when you play out? And where are you mainly performing? Do you have a residency somewhere?
My live set-up now consists of a Dave Smith Tempest drum machine, an Elektron A4, an Akai MPC500 and a Boss space echo pedal. I am also building a modular synthesizer in a 6U Monorocket case which I intend to incorporate for my more experimental and ambient sets. For DJ’ing, I’m using Ableton Live 8.
I’m performing mostly in Europe and the USA at the moment. I’m debuting my new live set on Feb. 23rd in NYC. A residency is the dream!
Do you see yourself more as a live performer or as a studio musician? You mentioned Miles Davis in your questions – how important do you think Miles Davis is for music history, or your own personal music history?
In the beginning I always saw myself as a studio musician. It wasn’t until I was given an option to perform live that I really began pondering how best to pull it off. It’s taken me years to finally get to this point. I now finally have the tools necessary to get up and jam and improvise. No show will ever be the same.
I rate Miles Davis up there with the other icons (Hendrix, Fela, Lee Perry etc.) who really inspired me. His uncompromising vision and willingness to experiment resonate with my own intentions.
Do you like to wear hats? Do you like oysters?
I enjoy hats for the sake of warmth in the winter. I do not however wear hats in general because I have a large head I LOVE oysters!
Why did you choose to live in NYC?
Actually, I now live in upstate New York, about 60 miles from NYC. I don’t know if I ever consciously decided that I wanted to live here, but as fate would have it, I’m still here. My roots in South Africa tug at me on a daily basis. Perhaps I have a problem with the concept of settling down, or planning to settle somewhere? That said, I do love New York. I love having access to all the greatness this city has to offer.