Krischan Wesenberg from Rotersand, Future Lied To Us, Wesenberg
Krischan Wesenberg, a producer, DJ, master engineer known for live-mixing and cooperation with such giants as NITZER EBB, FRONT 242, COVENANT, L'ÂME IMMORTELLE, or ROTERSAND to name just a few agreed to answer a few questions about his work, tour life, approach to life and music, a distinction between success and quality, and what, in his view, good music is all about. Quite a fascinating and enlightening journey, indeed.
Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: Hi Krischan, first of all, thank you for finding a bit of time for our chat. I appreciate that you are very busy these days with live concerts back full on. My first question is about the most recent NEP and FRONT 242 tour with LIEBKNECHT on support. They had never played together before - it was a totally smashing hit. What is it like for you to work with such - well for the lack of s better word - legends?
Krischan: To cut a long story short: it is great to work with such talented people and awesome human beings. The whole touring party including the band’s crew worked really well together, collaborative and supportive. No glimpse of competition or something like that. It was a remarkable experience to be around such experienced and self-aware people that do respect each other’s achievements and the band’s individual concepts and characteristics.
RoD: Does a man with your experience ever feel stressed these days when working at big events? Or is it all a matter of the right approach and professionalism?
Krischan: It is indeed a matter of approach to not feel stressed sometimes. At some moments I got and get hit by a feeling of surprise and humility. Like the first time I went on a US-Tour when we stepped out of JFK-airport in New York and thought “wow, little Krischan from Gelsenkirchen somehow made it to America to present music” or when I mixed Douglas McCarthy with Cyrus Rex as support for DEPECHE MODE at Stade du France and realized that my fingertip on the master volume fader of the mixing desk would change the volume for 70,000 people - that really scared me for a moment before I’ve got back “in the zone”. I try to memorize those moments.
RoD: What makes you decide you want to work with a particular artist? Is it the music only or the general attitude, the spark, common ground you share with a musician?
Krischan: It actually depends on which part I’m playing: as a master engineer I can work for nearly everyone but prefer people who are willing to tell me bit about what they want to achieve. As a producer it’s a blend of the music but more importantly the social part in it as I get closer to the core attitude and mindset and soul of the band and its members. For live-mixing it’s a lot about this social part and how much people like to have me around and how much I like being around them as you get really close personally during tours. For the bands I am directly involved in its more about this spark you mention and the creativity and ambition that blooms between us, the music is then “just” a consequence.
RoD: Can you, at the stage of working on a particular’s artist material - predict whether it will or not be successful?
Krischan: Actually not. Success in its economical dimension is nearly unrelated to its aesthetic quality (as far as I can judge “aesthetically quality”). I would say though that I can predict something like “respect”.
RoD: How would you define “good music”?
Krischan: Tricky question. “good” is a kinda undefinable and highly subjective term. I would split it up in two dimensions: “good” as in “quality” regarding songwriting, production, mix… and “good” as in “I like” like style, attitude, or how much it gets me into it emotionally. Some of my all-time favourite songs aren’t particularly excellent in the first dimension but are still moving me. I guess nostalgia and memory are aspects of this. Even that “quality”-part does have some dimensions to it in my books. Sorry for getting a bit abstract here. “Quality” definitely depends on something like genre and context and the reference framework, or simply style and purpose. and it seems to me that are many ways to achieve it between the poles of luck/magic/attitude on one side and work / knowledge / experience on the other. For songwriting, production and arrangement (I skip the whole part about lyrical quality as I don’t feel qualified enough to judge it and as I got a penchant for instrumental music) it is about things like contrast, balance, dynamic/dramaturgy, pace. All those dimensions are serving the specific “intention” or “topic” of a musical piece, accompanying or contrasting it. And they are indeed measurable. Cliches are cliches for a reason as music neurologically rather directly transmit into neurologic reactions. For e.g., a good meditative piece of music will have close to no contrasts in it, not too much dynamical stuff going on, not too much pace. It’s mainly intended to shield you from the sonic signals of the outside world. A song about being angry or being furious doesn’t need contrast and dynamic too, but pace is factor. A song about getting angry or getting furious needs contrast, dynamic / dramaturgy… even specific scales do have a kinda culturally learned and established mood to it: most well-known seems to be d-minor as scale of sorrow, sadness and grief. I hope you get the point I’m trying to make.
RoD: Many people - artists included - share a rather pessimistic view that the era of live concerts, especially in small venues is coming to an end. Do you agree? In what direction do you think the “scene” is transforming?
Krischan: I don’t agree. Indeed, touring - as in going on the road for a bunch of weeks and playing five to six shows a week - is a risky thing at the moment. Club shows on weekends are doing comparatively well. It’s hard to predict whether this will change again towards an economically sustainable state in which smaller bands can do tours on an acceptable level of financial risk. Daniel from AESTHETIC PERFECTION is talking a lot about it and I agree with him on most parts regarding live-shows.
Regarding “scene” or “scene-relating-music” I am also kinda optimistic. There are a lot of young / younger bands emerging which are evolving and developing new crossovers between nostalgia and contemporary styles and closing and bridging gaps between the different subniches and sub subcultures which have been drifting away from each other for a decade or more. Bands like e.g., DIE SELEKTION now being somewhere between Dark Techno stuff, EBM-ish structures, minimal Electro cliches but still very accessible and lyric-related and somehow Pop-ish. Or NNHMN (to name another German project) additionally bringing in some Synth or Future Pop glimpses in their Electro-nostalgia-lofi sound design while keeping a very Wave vocal style… there are tons of bands and projects out there worth listening to which are -intentionally or not - open aesthetic spaces and form by crossing and blending styles, STREET FEVER, KALTE LIEBE, KONSTANTIN UNWOHL, EDWIN ROSEN, MORIS BLAK just to name a few randomly.
RoD: What was the most challenging yet rewarding project you have ever worked on?
Krischan: Good question. Hard to answer. Most projects I’ve worked on had some specific challenges on different levels. I am character who is mainly interested in the process of doing music, not so interested in the result, which might sound weird. And I really enjoy challenging tasks which are outside of my aesthetically or technical comfort zone (easy to say when they are in the past).
RoD: What kind of music do you like personally? Is it possible for you - at this point - to listen to it and purely enjoy it, without going into the technical details of each melody?
Krischan: Sometimes it is possible for me to hear music just as music. So, I like to listen to music I don’t really understand and that I can’t deconstruct, which has something - I would say - magic to it. So, it’s a bit of more abstract jazz and some neo-classical stuff. And as I grew up at a time when sampling emerged as a cultural technique in club music, I still like a lot of sample-based Hip-Hop. And as I am socialized in clubs, I still like club music from Soul and Funk to its successors in House and Techno. And of course, Dub.
RoD: Do you still work as a DJ? What is the best about this line of business?
Krischan: I still DJ from time to time. Not regular anymore as it conflicts too much with my live activities as band-member or sound-engineer. I started my music-thing as DJ in the early nineties so it still feels like “home” to me. DJing actually never felt like business to me. I usually describe it as “meditation”, but that’s a very personal view of it. I can go on for hours talking about the role and function of DJs in subcultural contexts. Let’s not go down this path and bore readers to death.
RoD: When did you decide to work in your field? Was it your first choice when it comes to your professional career?
Krischan: As said I started as DJ in the early nineties, released my first record in 1994, and had been playing drums since I was 10 or 11. So a mix of DJing and producing financed my university studies. At the age of 30 I decided to try to make music a full-time job, worked so far.
RoD: Do you like traveling with bands? What is the most beautiful or inspiring place you ever visited?
Krischan: Indeed, I do love traveling with bands. The list of inspiring places I’ve been to is very long and hard to pick out a single place as “the one”. DJing in Tijuana and several times at “Das Bunker” were remarkable. Working at shows in south Africa spontaneously pops into my mind… I can go on really long about this and what aspects were special.
RoD: What, in your view, is the most rewarding about your job?
RoD: Do you still have any dreams or plans?
Krischan: Yes, that it will go on like this. I love the process of creating music. It’s always refreshing and always different. I want it to stay like this and hope my passion for it will never dry out.
RoD: When is the next stop we may meet you at?
Krischan: Festival season is coming up: Dark Malta Festival, Plage Noire, WGT, Amphi Festival, M’era Luna…
RoD: Thank you very much for your time.
Picture by Krischan Wesenberg