Hauschka: “With music you are in danger of becoming your own cliche.” Interview by David Sullivan


Volker Bertelmann, known widely as Hauschka, is a German composer and experimental musician. He has a sprawling knowledge of music with influences ranging from classical, to hip hop and
drum ‘n bass. His 2014 album Abandoned City flaunts a compelling blend of these styles and his live show, coming to Australia in November, is a playful yet erudite display of prepared piano.

David Sullivan: So you’re in Moscow right now, how is it?

Hauschka: It’s quite amazing. I’m in St Petersburg, it is very foreign and unknown to me so I have just been taking walks outside and discovering new things.

David Sullivan: Are you playing music there?

Hauschka: Yes I played yesterday at a kind of gallery, club venue and I am doing a public talk tomorrow. There are already 150 people coming to it, it is a very large city so that is not so many people comparatively but I think it is quite good for me.

David Sullivan: I think that’s quite a nice turn out for your niche. You’re coming to Australia in November too, have you been before?

Hauschka: No this will be my first time, it really feels like Christmas for me, I am very excited to be there. I really want to make the most of it and reach as many people as I can. I don’t want it to be an in-and-out in one day type thing. I’m looking forward to meeting lots of people, making connections and getting feedback on what I’m doing.

David Sullivan: What is the set up for your shows? I assume you’re not shipping a piano around with you?

Hauschka: Haha no no actually everything I have is all in one suitcase. I have some electronic pedals, like reverb and delay that I will use and there will be a different piano I will play at each venue.
My sound guy will be with me the whole time and he is just as important as me for the performances as he monitors and controls the sounds as I am playing.

David Sullivan: You have talked about piano cliches before, I imagine even with prepared piano there are cliches, do you try and avoid them?

Hauschka: Yes I hope so! With music you are in danger of becoming your own cliche. That’s one absurdity of creation, your reputation can become a cliche. I am always trying to experiment and try new things to avoid this.

David Sullivan: You were in a hip hop group earlier in your career, are you still into in that kind of music?

Hauschka: Yes definitely. I recently did a Boiler Room set in Germany and the guy who set me up with that introduced me to some new American acts, and some English ones, I find the English scene very interesting right now. I would love to work with a producer one day because I am a huge fan of that kind of music.

I feel the pace of it attracts me, I like techno but… The BPM of hip hop, and even reggae, like 80, 90 BPM, that is what makes me want to dance, it really touches my legs!

David Sullivan: Any other kinds of music you’re listening to lately?

Hauschka: Yes all kinds of music. I have been listening to a lot of classical and renaissance music. Even
pre-renaissance when it was all mostly improvised. It’s really quite breathtaking and wild.

David Sullivan: I’m going to go out on a limb and assume you’re an Aphex Twin fan, what do you think of his new music, especially Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments?

Hauschka: It’s very intriguing! To me it makes sense for the mixture of the two technologies, there is wonderful sound shaping. I think it is great when the techniques meld and are not separated.

David Sullivan: I found that on your album, Abandoned City, there were moments when it sounded almost electronic and I was unsure of where the piano was.

Hauschka: Yes, it may sound strange but I think some of my favourite moments are when the sound of the piano disappear and it seems to becomes something else.

David Sullivan: You have worked with acclaimed skateboarding filmmaker Greg Hunt on a short film, Room 205, what was this experience like?

Hauschka: It was really wonderful! It was a great experience being on a complete set that they built. They were so prepared, we did three pieces and shot the whole thing in one day. It was a little like speed dating. I’m always surprised when these things come up that they choose me for it, it’s very nice for me.

David Sullivan: As a skateboarder I can see your music fitting well in a skate video montage…

Hauschka: Well I don’t skateboard but I like skiing, I did it a lot when I was younger and it’s that same feeling, like surfing or skating, of being free. You seem to get in a trance, you stop thinking.

David Sullivan: Do you feel it’s the same with music? I find I’m at my best when I’m not thinking about it.

Hauschka: Yes, absolutely. I feel when I’m not thinking it’s at it’s purest. It’s really mine.

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