Interview Hauschka

Hauschka is a pianist/composer whose work is based upon an exploration of the possibilities of the ‘prepared’ piano – a playfully disruptive intervention into the preconceived idea of the piano as a pure-toned, perfected instrument waiting for a gifted virtuoso to play on it. Instead, Volker explores and influences the outcome of his playing by getting right down inside the instrument – clamping wedges of leather, felt or rubber between the strings; preparing the hammers with aluminium paper or rough films; placing crown corks on the strings, weaving guitar strings around the piano’s guts, or pasting them down with gaffa tape. These little modifications throw up an array of rustling, drumming, shivering, scraping, resonating sounds which either provide the focus / drive for a piece or hook the ear into an intriguing, slightly unusual frame…


Can you introduce yourself?

My name is Volker Bertelmann and I am performing under the artist name Hauschka. It is a long story to discribe how I got here, but I was allready playing the piano at the age of 9 and always thought that I would become a musician. I even tried to get away from this wish, but always went back to the original idea. My first time I recorded a Hauschka record was in the year 2004, when I visited my friend Adam Fuest in the welsh mountains and was a little bit insecure, as I didn’t know if I wanted to be a solo pianist. But slowly I found my own little corner…

What is your background ? How did you get involved in music and playing the piano?

My background was first classical music as I learned classical piano and flute. Later, at the age of fourteen, I founded my first band and we played Rock Music. I did my first Film Music with eighteen and then started a HipHop band. So, over the years I went through a lot of genres and styles and the electronic music helped me to get away from the conventionel composing.

What ideas or desires drive you in making work?

I mostly like the way to built things or write new music. I think the process of starting something new is wonderfull. Content-wise I like to find the line between abstraction, which allows more imagination of the listener, and a concrete melodie or chord structure. I think to change between the two is a challenge.

Can you explain about your work-proces when creating/composing a song?

The creative process is not a regular one. I sometimes write on the piano, sometimes I find a sound that I like and sometimes I write an orchestra arrangement. So many different ways to create new material.

Do you work with digital tools for creating sounds?

I mostly work with recording analog sounds from the piano or other instruments…..and sometimes I am generating sounds with effects …….but right now my soundsource is real instruments.

How do your concerts compare to your albums/recordings?

My concerts are all improvised, with a few songs from my record. I always have to deal with different circumstances. I mean different pianos, different rooms , different reverb, different audience. So no concert can be really the same and every condition requires a unique treatment. So I try to incorporate all these aspects and I start the concert.

How do you find a balance between experimentation and the unexpected and an idea-fixe?

When I improvise I try to find images or stories to find a focuse line. I think it is important to repeat themes and find a proper ending.

What /who inspires you?

Mainly live inspires me and the wish of learning more about people and new cities. I like traveling, which is a huge inspiration and other musicians.

What is the best live performance you have ever seen?

That is difficult to say…….I would say , that I saw a wonderfull live performance of Tortoise in Chicago in a very small club called the empty bottle. I saw a great stunning concert of Charlemagne Palastine in Duesseldorf and I also remember an incredible concert of Jamie Lidell, solo at the Paradiso in Amsterdam……doing his loop thing and the mouth percussion…….I think that was outstanding!

What’s is your ambition for the future?

I dont think to much about the future. It is important to have visions but I am not planning my live after those. I would love to do more film music and compose on pictures.

Can you recommend a must-see film or book to read?

I really like the book “Warten” von Ha Jin. It is a wonderfull love story and I saw a lot of films in the last years, but there was not much that was very suprising to me……, I am not sure………..

The idea you and Jeff constructed for Plazaplus sounds very fascinating. What prompted this new [unusual] collaboration?

I think Jeff and me allready did a couple of very good things together. Jeff is a great inspiring but also -in a way- genius person. He finds things that are on the edge of not doable, but he is doing them. So when we thought about a collaboration , we thought of doing something visual, but not in the sense of visuals with a computer and not with film only. So, Jeff developed this idea of the ‘pepper ghost illusion’ and I think it is a great idea of working in a different way.

Any current projects you would like to speak about?

I am recording my new album in january in San Francisco with the Magik magik orchestra and I am very excited to make music with a bigger ensemble.


Interview by Olga mink for Plazaplus 2010.

visit his website

Watch Hauschka live in Japan :


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