Photos: Jan Lamprecht
Thomas Bücker has never cared much about approval. When he started Bersarin Quartett in 2008, he wanted to completely vanish behind the tender melancholy of his Ambient Electronica. Even the project’s name was meant to be misguiding. In recent times, he has been performing more and more in total darkness. Bücker is simpley not interested in pushing through his own concept, but rather wants to examine his audience’s reactions to what they hear. However, with his third album III he has become more concrete than ever, he tells us in our interview.
Bücker has never been prone to egocentricity. Some time ago, when he was still releasing records under the Jean-Michel pseudonym, he sent his latest album to a Metal magazine, tired of all the niceness with which his music had been greeted until then. It came like he had hoped for and his music was slammed. “That’s what I wanted, I wanted my music to be hated for once”, he says. Unfortunately, it was already too late to quote that review on a sticker on the cover of Jean-Michel’s The Audience Is Missing. It would have been a statement against post-modern arbitrariness according to which absolutely anything goes.
Do you find it important to draw clear boundaries in music?
There is this great book called Musik = Müll by Hans Platzgumer and Didi Neidhardt, who describe it very well. In it, the father is in despair about his son listening to Nirvana right beside Britney Spears. You need not over-dramatize that, but I can understand this frustration. In the past, the ideas of what you can be excited about and what simply is not okay were much clearer. That seems to dissolve, which of course also has its advantages. At school, I was still pelted with bottles because I had a drum machine with me on stage. This has also changed, fortunately. (laughs) It has its positive and negative sides.
The majority of your fanbase has an Ambient background. What you however do not know is what would happen if you sent your new album to a metal magazine.
Funnily enough, when it was reissued by Denovali 2010, my debut album was reviewed in many metal magazines, because the label still has connections to this scene. There was a surprising number of good reviews! That makes sense, however, with respect to the kind of atmospheric Metal which is nowadays called Post-Rock. I suppose Bersarin Quartett fits in there if only for the pathos. (laughs)
However, you seem to want to personally draw a line and nowadays mostly refrain from giving interviews.
I know how diva-like that seems. However, I made a big mistake with the second album. Bersarin Quartett is a construct. I’ve answered too many questions too honestly and the magic was gone. This did not do the project very well, because it is the opposite of what I want to achieve.
The alternative would be to vanish behind the work. In the case of Aphex Twin, Boards Of Canada or Burial however, that keeps no-one from weaving wild myths around those people.
That would be super cool! But you won’t achieve this, if you answer all questions to the last detail. (laughs) I find exactly these artists very exciting and love exactly that about electronic music, that it is, at best, identity-less. I remember how I met Stachy of (German Hip Hop outfit) Fischmob at a party. He thought my first 12″ as Jean-Michel was totally crazy, but was disappointed by me. “Oy, you’re just like my roommate,” he said. Since then I have wondered how he received the record afterwards, as there was no crazed Frenchman behind it like he might have thought there was.
Are you also trying to stay out of your music?
Well, I have made it and cannot deny that. Nevertheless, I find it less interesting to talk about my relationship to it than rather finding out how others perceive it. On the third album, the track titles are much more concrete. Whenever someone asked me a few months ago how the album was progressing, I usually said: “I just finished a track called, ‘Jeder Gedanke umsonst gedacht’ (‘Every thought was thought in vain’)” and then paid attention to the reactions. It’s funny because it is so over the top. My concept had always been to exaggerate the pathos, the film score qualities, the emotionality so violently that it hurts. Hopefully, not as much that the pain threshold is exceeded and we arrive at kitsch!
Long before the release of the album, you started a countdown…
…two and a half years earlier! I liked the megalomania of that. Even the new Star Wars was only announced one and a half years in advance. The reactions were very exciting. Time has passed really fast. I had even thought name the album after the release date. Then it would have been literally up-to-date for only one day and the next day it would have already belonged to the past and then it would have approached faster and faster towards oldie status. The title would have efficiently made transparent all the phases an album undergoes. Especially in electronic music, where just a month or two are already a lot.
The subject of transience is also reflected in track titles like “Verflossen ist das Gold der Tage” (“Gone Is The Gold of Days”), “Hinter uns die Wirklichkeit” (“Behind Us, Reality”) or “Sanft verblassen die Geschichten” (“Softly, the Stories Fade Away”).
Precisely. But if you think about it, it is not clear whether the implications of that are good or bad. “Jeder Gedanke umsonst gedacht” will have everyone thinking “Oh, boy!”, but it is not necessarily meant in a negative way. That can simply mean that something does not go about as anticipated. Politically speaking, too. We are constantly faced with headlines that make everything seem as written in stone, and it can be great if things do not play out that way!
The track title “Verflossen ist das Gold der Tage” refers to the Austrian poet Georg Trakl, from whom you had already borrowed some lines to be used as titles on your last album.
Exactly. “Einsame wandeln still im Sternensaal” for example, from the last album, is a great title. Trakl has an impressive imagery. This is great sample material for imaginary film music as I make it. I work similarly on a musical level.
Sampling means to acquire something external and make it your own. As I said earlier, you are an inherent part of your music.
I hope so! If anyone could determine the source of a piano swab, that would mean that I have not made enough of an effort to put in a new context. Although it actually is not about translating things into a different context, but taking available, existing sounds to create something new. If something is still recognizable, I get nervous. (laughs) And not only because of the copyrights, but from an artistic perspective.
One thing new about III is the inclusion of a human voice for the first time.
I wonder if that is such a novelty, as it was inserted very subtly into the background. I almost had a guilty conscience towards Clara Hill, who can be heard on “Welche Welt”. I had produced an Ambient track for her last album and think even her mother is a fan of Bersarin Quartett! Naturally thus, Clara wanted to help. It of course is not a vocal track in the classic sense, the voice is just one instrument among many. But she was very pleased with the result.
There are no lyrics, your music relies on allusions. Is it that what you mean when you speak of imaginary film music?
I like things which are not concrete, when there is enough room for interpretation. Especially in the film industry, it becomes diverting when it is too concrete and you get a half hours popcorn entertainment. One of the best endings in film history is for me is that of Lost In Translation…
…in which Scarlett Johansson whispers something in Bill Murray’s ear, but no-one knows what.
Exactly. The whole film relies on this ending. Everyone who makes atmospheric instrumental music of course switches on what is often – terribly – called an internal projector. Terrible terms like “cinema for the mind” are used so frequently, as if that was something special. But I think that is a very, very obvious result.
Stream: Bersarin Quartett – III
Bersarin Quartett – III (Denovali)
2. Staub und Sterne
3. Hinter uns die Wirklichkeit
5. Die Nächte sind erfüllt von Maskenfesten
6. Umschlungen von Milliarden
7. Sanft verblassen die Geschichten
8. Es ist alles schon gesagt
9. Schwarzer Regen fällt
10. Jeder Gedanke umsonst gedacht
11. Welche Welt
12. Ist es das, was Du willst
Format: 2LP, CD, Download
VÖ: 06. November 2015