Christoph Schauer (music and production) from Morphose
MORPHOSE is for me one of the most interesting music projects at the moment. I had the opportunity to exchange a few words with the creative mind behind MORPHOSE and spoke with Christoph Schauer about what makes this extraordinary project unique and what music means to him. We naturally talked about the current album and the associated shows, but also delved into the reasons behind it all and talked a bit about the future.
Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: Hello Christoph, first of all, thank you for taking the time between the release shows for the current MORPHOSE album to answer a few questions. ‘The Open Shutter’ has been on the market for about four weeks, and you’ve just played two release shows - a headliner-show in Oberhausen and a support show in Rüsselsheim. How have the reactions been so far, and are you satisfied with them? How do you feel about it?
Christoph: So, after completing the album, the strain for me was quite high because I couldn’t assess whether this album would resonate with people out there. During the mixing process, I sometimes felt like I was stringing songs together one by one. For me, it wasn’t a real album for quite some time. It was only with the development of the title track, the last track, and the interlude that a cohesive arc formed, turning it into a homogeneous album for me. Nevertheless, there was still uncertainty about whether others would understand it, if it would work. The initial reactions were very positive because I noticed that people could really connect with the album, understand it as a whole thing, and enjoy all the different tracks.
And it was the same before the first show in Oberhausen. There was also a strain because Oberhausen was only the third show ever in this constellation, and this project is still in the early stages of development. That means there are still many aspects to work on, especially regarding the stage dramaturgy and the technical process. These issues are gradually addressed, and it always takes a few concerts for everything to really come together. In a constellation, that essentially never rehearses together, it’s even more challenging. Then, of course, there was a great sense of relief that the first show in a club-sized venue went well, and I believe it was well-received by the audience. That was my impression, and I think it was the same in Rüsselsheim. There, we were the supporting act. And this is more challenging because most people attend the concert for the headlining act, and you have to convince them and showcase what you’re about. In Rüsselsheim, too, I found the audience reactions to be very positive. We received good feedback after the shows in both clubs.
But I’m also relieved that the shows are now behind us because afterward, you know what worked, what went well, and what still needs improvement. And in that sense, such concerts are really crucial.
RoD: With MORPHOSE, you’re on stage with quite a crew. Juggling all those artists together must be a challenge. How tricky was it to get them all on stage together for the same gig? It was probably no easy task, considering the tight schedules that some may have.
Christoph: Absolutely. And it’s always going to be different from show to show because not everyone who was in the game can make it to every show. It’s just the nature of the beast because the folks coming into the project from the outside naturally have their main projects, and those always take priority. So, it’s definitely a challenge to put together a program for each concert that works and is also a unique show. It’s a bit like juggling six plates at the same time. One plate might drop, but you’ve got to keep the other five spinning while picking up the fallen plate or grabbing a new one. That’s kind of the vibe with MORPHOSE. Always figuring out how to make it work.
But what’s always awesome is that everyone who’s part of it, tries to make it work according to their possibilities. And after these two concerts, a core team has emerged, that is expected to carry the load for the upcoming shows. Because, of course, there’s a risk of not being able to perform, if certain people can’t make it. We definitely want to avoid that. We always aim to put on a great show. That’s why having a core team, that can cover a significant portion of the songs, is important. We’re also working on being able to take over parts with our own abilities, if an artist isn’t available to sing their track. In no way do we want to be an all-star band dependent on featured vocalists, but rather a music project where the music takes centre stage and can be played live independently of individual performers. That’s crucial for us.
RoD: I think, on that regard you did a fantastic job in Oberhausen. Morten sang Viktorija’s track ‘Patronize’. Was it clear from the beginning that Viktorija wouldn’t be there, or did you have to improvise more or less?
Christoph: No, we knew Viktorija wouldn’t be joining for the upcoming shows. But we really love her songs, and we think they’re very strong. We want to play those tunes no matter what. Initially, we wondered if it would work, but then we realized that a different vocal gives the song a new interpretation. It’s intriguing to play and sing the track with a different vocal colour. A new door opens, and we’re excited to show people that these songs don’t always have to be sung by just one person. We can and want to explore different arrangements. It will be particularly evident in the SubKultur Hanover. There, we’ll perform with only Morten and Christian Schottstädt, but we still aim to bring most of the songs to life. It’s going to be a challenge but also exciting. I think it’s interesting for people attending the concerts because they won’t see the exact same show every time. I like that too. When I watch bands, I appreciate it when a repeat concert feels like it’s not always exactly the same as the last one.
RoD: Yes, I feel the same way. And I found Morten’s interpretation in Oberhausen incredibly impressive. I really enjoyed that.
Christoph: Yeah, I heard it for the first time there. We didn’t rehearse it. It was a dive into the deep end. But that’s also part of the MORPHOSE concept. This project is designed not to follow a uniform stream but to undergo developments and changes - not only in terms of the people involved but also within the music. I find that incredibly exciting and enticing, but it’s also incredibly challenging to pull off. It’s an open process. I don’t know if it will always work in the long run. But it’s definitely worth trying, that’s for sure.
RoD: You’ve already touched on my next question a bit, concerning the upcoming shows. You’ve mentioned that you’ll be at the SubKultur in Hanover in November. It’s kind of a home game for you as a former Hanover resident. How much are you looking forward to this concert, and what else is planned for this year?
Christoph: The SubKultur is an awesome club in Germany with an incredibly friendly and laid-back atmosphere. I’m really grateful to SubKultur, especially Jens Klostermann, for giving me the opportunity to release MORPHOSE as a solo club show there for the first time, with the uncertainty of whether people would even show up. Not many people do that because, for a club owner, it’s always a big risk, especially in the current times, to pull off something like that. The first concert at the SubKultur was very special because it was a beautiful starting point for all of us and it encouraged us to keep going. We received such positive feedback and were celebrated so much that we said, "let’s keep this going". I’m really looking forward to returning over a year later and celebrating exactly that with the local crowd. It’s going to be pretty cool. (Editor’s note: On 15th October 2022, MORPHOSE played their very first concert in this form at SubKultur Hannover, a release show for ‘The Inexplicable Darkness Of Light.’)
RoD: You’re hitting the road again in December with NEUROTICFISH in Hamburg. Who will be in the line-up for that?
Christoph: We’re playing another support show, and Morten and Lennart will be singing.
RoD: Before we get to the album, perhaps for those who are unfamiliar with MORPHOSE, how would you describe the project? What is behind it? What can we imagine about MORPHOSE?
Christoph: MORPHOSE is like a hybrid, electronic, band-like project where dark electronic vibes, soundtrack-like arcs, catchy vocal lines, and dynamic drums and loops come together to create this thing that, ideally, evolves, expands, and constantly changes through its form and the people involved.
RoD: You’ve been making music for a long time. How did you get into music? Is it something “in the genes” or do you have a family background in it? Or what actually led you to music?
Christoph: Well, in my younger years, I started playing the piano. After school, I began playing in bands in Hanover, and initially, I even started singing. I spent a lot of time in rehearsal rooms, did many sessions. Then, I started diving into music production, did internships in recording studios, and worked as a freelance assistant on band productions in recording studios. Around 1998, I discovered the world of electronic music for myself. I jumped in headfirst and tried to teach myself about this world. In 2006, I decided to turn it into a profession.With the addition of film music (an interest in music in movies) and the fact that my earlier music was once labelled as soundtrack music at a concert, I got the idea to explore film music and soundtrack music.
I started doing my first film music productions around 2008. At that point, my own music took a bit of a back seat, and it resurfaced with the first formation of MORPHOSE in 2013. After the initial attempt with two trial concerts, MORPHOSE went into the drawer for a while. Out of that came the CYTO project with Morten, and at the same time, I continued building my film music career. But through film music, I circled back to my own music. During the pandemic, I got the will and the desire to seriously tackle and rebuild MORPHOSE. For me, my own music and film music go hand in hand. I wouldn’t have become a film music composer without my own music, and without film music, I probably wouldn’t be making electronic music today. It’s all intertwined for me. I can’t separate them.
RoD: You hinted at it earlier in relation to the concerts. MORPHOSE seems to be developing a certain stable line-up, which was (partially) present on the last EP ‘The Inexplicable Darkness Of Light’. Sascha, Lennart, and Viktorija were already on board there and are also part of ‘The Open Shutter’ line-up. Now, you’ve brought in two more artists, Christian Schottstädt and Sven Friedrich. Tell us a bit about how you know these people and how the collaboration with these various artists came about. How did the connections come into place?
Christoph: Except for Morten and Viktorija, I didn’t really know any of them. I just naively approached most of them. I don’t know why, but then it just happened really quickly that people said, “yeah, I’m up for it”. With Sven, I had him in mind, but it was at a point where I knew it would take a while before I might get a chance to talk to him because the project was still relatively unknown at that time. My booking agent, Peddy (Editor’s note: Peddy Sadighi from neuWerk Music), at some point said, “you should do something with Sven”. I said, "sure, but I don’t even know him, I have no idea how to do that". Peddy then connected me with Sven, and Sven was immediately on board. He thought it was cool right away. Coming together with Christian Schottstädt was also very quick and uncomplicated. And that’s what I find incredible, that it works like that. I never thought it could work at all. Seriously, I didn’t believe it. And the collaboration with Lennart has turned into a very friendly connection. That’s also crucial for me with MORPHOSE, that it involves meeting and connecting with all these people. To meet, encounter, exchange - that’s exactly what MORPHOSE is about.
RoD: There are very different personalities working together. In terms of collaboration and how the songs come together, are there significant differences, or is it essentially quite similar?
Christoph: No, it’s indeed different. There are collaborations where the artists receive a finished track and develop their own lyrics and vocals. With Christian, he also contributed to the arrangement of the track. And with Lennart, we discussed song lengths and the lengths of the parts and exchanged ideas. So, it’s not always the same. And I think that’s a great thing to be.
RoD: ‘The Open Shutter’ has a certain leitmotif. This “image” of an open aperture, an open shutter, which is also the titular theme, runs through the entire album. Did you somehow give this motif to the artists as a guiding theme? Did you have a specific concept in mind, or did it happen more organically?
Christoph: For me, the title ‘The Open Shutter’ is like an overarching visual framework. Because, for me, ‘Open Shutter’ is the image that symbolizes the time when social life started again after the closures, after the pandemic. And this image, for me, was: you go out again, and you look into the sun. Everything is a bit (in terms of feeling) overexposed, bright, a bit nervous, and still somewhat unclear. But it also radiates, and you go out now and do something. And this image, this ‘Open Shutter’, this principle of photographing with the aperture wide open into the brightness, symbolizes that a bit for me personally. And that forms a bit of the framework for this album because the album actually mostly originated during the time from 2021 onwards.
And ‘The Inexplicable Darkness Of Light’ is exactly the counterpart to that. In essence, the two albums together form a cohesive concept. ‘The Inexplicable Darkness Of Light’ describes the feeling of the time from around 2020 to 2021. And ‘The Open Shutter’ is the time after that. And these two albums, for me, also go together conceptually and naturally have a personal connection for me, but also a general one. And with this image, I would set an overarching framework. I didn’t explicitly tell the artists who were involved in it like, "hey, write lyrics about this". Instead, this image evolved organically over the course of the album. It was lovely thatat the end of the album production, the title track, in terms of its lyrics, was picked up on the theme in the final track. And these two tracks could then form the framework of the album.
RoD: Do you have a favourite song on the new album? If so, which one and why?
Christoph: Yes, there is a track. That’s ‘Sounio’. Well, I like all the tracks on the album a lot, but ‘Sounio’ is the most personal one for me. It’s my own, most personal track because a lot of my situation at that time is woven into this track. There’s a part in the song, after the second chorus, where the solo line comes in. You can see it in the video at that point, where the doves start flying into the air. And for me personally, that’s a really great moment on the record because a lot is opened up there. It’s like the album and life itself are unveiled in that moment. That part is the most intense moment on the album for me. I’m very grateful to Lennart for how he interpreted it and shot the video with me in Athens. It was really great, a very intense and wonderful experience.
RoD: Is there someone you would absolutely love to collaborate with in the future, or do you already have concrete plans for further collaborations?
Christoph: Yes, I have a few names in mind that I would love to approach. But, of course, I can’t communicate that yet because I don’t know if they’re interested in participating. I’ll have to see in the coming time. And it also depends on my next album production whether it fits in detail.
RoD: Speaking of the next album production... There’s a relatively recent post on your Facebook page. You probably know what I’m getting at. It’s ‘Fusion’. Is that a new album that’s in the works?
Christoph: Yes, ‘Fusion’ is the working title of the next album. I want, if possible, to create a modular album where I expand collaborations, not only with vocalists but also with musicians, co-producers, and especially music production studios. I want to go out more and meet people who produce music themselves, in studios, and gather ideas, sounds, samples, gradually creating an album in a modular production manner. The album might even lean towards a concept album. Additionally - this is a bit of a dream, but maybe I can make it happen, we’ll see - I would like to simultaneously produce a film from the beginning and show it at the release. The film would accompany the album-making process, including footage of the process. If possible, I’d like to share snippets with people interested in the production of the new album. It will be an open modular production process that I’m incredibly excited about.
RoD: That sounds incredibly interesting, and I’m very curious.
Christoph: Me too (laughs). And Max Filges will be co-producing this album.
RoD: With Max, you have also ventured successfully into the realm of soundtracks and film music. You were nominated for the German Television Award for the ‘Sløborn’ soundtrack, and this year, you were awarded the prize for Best Music in the category Fiction for ‘Höllgrund’. Congratulations once again on that achievement. As you mentioned earlier, you see film music and your personal music as inseparable. What are the significant differences in creating your own music compared to film music production, and are there any points of intersection where the approaches are similar?
Christoph: The biggest difference is that in film music production, there’s an overarching vision for the film itself laid out by the script and the director. The film music becomes a building block to translate that vision into a finished product. The music naturally aligns with the circumstances, production constraints, and the final movie or film, serving its purpose - that’s crucial. In a music production for MORPHOSE, I can really shape things openly throughout the process and make changes as needed. This means that when I start an album, it’s not clear what the end of the album will sound like. With a movie or film, the script usually dictates how it should roughly turn out in the end. However, in album production, it’s not necessarily clear from the start how exactly the album will sound, not for myself and not for MORPHOSE. The instrumentation is different too, naturally, because soundtrack music has a few other elements and isn’t as specifically arranged right from the start. I’d say that’s the main difference.
As for what we have in common, it’s all about an open process. For a movie production, I go through a longer pre-production phase before shooting, working closely with Max. We then produce tracks freely based on the script and director’s discussions, ideally creating tracks that can be integrated into the movie during the editing process. It’s a similar vibe to crafting a new track for a music project like MORPHOSE.
RoD: You mentioned CYTO earlier. There are undoubtedly some who are interested in the future of the project, myself included. Has the project been put on hold in favour of MORPHOSE’s development? Has it, in a sense, merged back into MORPHOSE, or is there still a separate trajectory with potential plans for you and Morten? Could we expect fresh music or performances from CYTO in the future?
Christoph: We’ve been asked about this several times. Until about three-quarters of a year ago, we couldn’t really say anything because MORPHOSE took on a life of its own, and it was totally unpredictable. Simply put, we have a timing issue trying to run both simultaneously. Currently, there are thoughts about incorporating some aspects of what CYTO was into MORPHOSE. We really dig the music of CYTO and don’t want it to fade away. However, we also realize that it’ll probably be challenging in the long run to juggle two such intense projects with the necessary energy and time. We’re considering merging what CYTO essentially was into MORPHOSE. It’s not final yet, but that’s what we’re contemplating. Yeah.
RoD: Earlier, when we discussed ‘Fusion’, you mentioned your intention to create a film for it. I’ve read that you’re also involved in photography and video art, although there’s not much information about it, and it’s not widely known. What significance does photography or video art have for you, and what kind of work do you do in those realms? How does this creative expression intersect with your music?
Christoph: Well, about 12 years ago, I got my hands on my first video camera with photo capabilities (a digital one). Back then, a buddy and I roamed around filming anything and everything we laid eyes on, no holds barred. Fire, rocks, cars, city lights, shop windows, you name it. We crafted videos out of that stuff and even did a few small gigs under the project name ‘Kriegstanz’. Gradually, from that little project, I developed a growing interest in delving more into film production (video film production, that is) and photography. I started making more film shots, you know, just capturing whatever caught my eye. Clicked a lot of photos too. I think that’s when the idea sparked to create my own video visuals and take my own photos to go along with my music.
So, I’m really into macro photography, black and white photography (both analogue and digital), and I’ve dabbled in a bit of everything there. I’m especially keen on night photography, and I’ve always dreamt of shooting my own videos someday. With the current film tech allowing you to pull off high-res, cinematic-looking shots on a shoestring budget, it’s become ridiculously easy (at least technically) to make that happen. It’s kind of a dream come true for me, and I want to expand on it because I’ve got film ideas bouncing around in my head, whether it’s related to MORPHOSE or something else. I’d also love to exhibit my own photos at some point when I’ve got enough of them together. The visual aspect is a crucial part of my work. I’m really into lights, city lights, sun, backlight - basically, anything with a lot of contrast. That’s where I’m drawn to, trying to capture it in photos and film. That’s my vibe.
RoD: Your life revolves around music. When you’re not actively making, producing, or composing music, do you still listen to music in your private life at home? What kind of music do you enjoy outside of your professional pursuits? Do you have a favourite artist or band that you really like?
Christoph: I originally come from the golden era of the 90s and early 2000s, with all those exciting new music developments in Electro, New Metal, and Hip Hop. I’m heavily influenced by bands like NINE INCH NAILS, MASSIVE ATTACK, and the 90s DEPECHE MODE. Then, for a while, I delved into classical music - symphonies, to understand classical music and how an orchestra works and sounds. After that, I went through a phase of not listening so much music because I was heavily into composing film music. Lately, though, I’ve been feeling the urge to listen to music more selectively and dive into entire albums from start to finish.
RoD: Do you currently have a favourite album?
Christoph: No, but the next album I want to listen to on my turntable is ‘The Downward Spiral’ by NINE INCH NAILS on vinyl. I’m looking forward to it, andI mean cranking up the volume!
RoD: With that, I’m almost done with my questions, just one more. Why do you make music? What motivates you?
Christoph: I think I make music because, for me, it’s a way to understand myself and the people I live with; trying to comprehend and navigate through it all. The beautiful thing about music is that you’re not just doing it for yourself. Along the musical journey, you keep encountering new, exciting, and extraordinary people. It leads to brief encounters, friendships, or even partnerships. Music connects me with the outside world and essentially forms a significant part of my identity as a person. Finding that has been a great gift because it allows me to navigate this world through music, and I believe I’d struggle to do it without music.
RoD: That’s actually a beautiful note to end on. Then I want to thank you once again for your time and the open, very interesting conversation.
Christoph: My pleasure, that was a nice interview. I actually read a lot of interviews myself, used to do it even more in the past. Lately, I’ve been into podcasts a lot because it’s like the evolution of the interview format. I always find it great to learn a bit about why people do what they do, among many other interesting things. If you can sneak a bit of that into an interview, it’s always gratifying. And I feel like I did that here, which I find really nice.
RoD: Great, thank you. I would be happy to do this again, perhaps not too far in the future and maybe with a focus of ‘Fusion’.
Christoph: Sure, very gladly.
25.11.23 - Hanover / SubKultur
09.12.23 - Hamburg / Markthalle, supporting NEUROTICFISH
Website: www.facebook.com/Morphoseproject / www.morphose-music.com
Pictures by Helge Roewer (HR-Pictures)