Part 1

Name: Windisch Quartet
Members: Sölvi Kolbeinsson (alto sax), Julius Windisch (piano, compositions), Felix Henkelhausen (bass), Max Santner (drums)
Interviewee: Julius Windisch
Occupation: Pianist, composer, improviser
Nationality: German
Recent release: The new album by the Windisch Quartet, Meander, is out via Fun in the Church.
Recommendations: Book: On Connection – Kae Tempest
Movie: Drive my Car (Ryūsuke Hamaguchi), Hidden (Michael Haneke), I was at home but (Angela Schanelec)
Music (random order off the top of my head): Adrienne Lenker – Songs, Junk Magic – Compass Confusion, Wendy Eisenberg – Dehiscence, Mat Manieri Quartet – Dust, Lucy Railton - Paradise 94, Gerald Cleaver - Signs, Steve Lehman Sélébéyone – The Unseen, Anders Vestergaard – Eel, Jacob Anderskov – Mysteries (live), Bram de Looze – Colour Talk, Mary Halverson - Belladonna

[Read our Gerald Cleaver interview]
[Read our Gerald Cleaver interview about Griots, Ghost Orbits and Modular Synthesis]
[Read our Wendy Eisenberg interview]

If you enjoyed this interview with Julius Windisch of the Windisch Quartet and would like to find out more about his work, visit his official homepage.

When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

I started composing music on the piano as a teenager or maybe even at a younger age. I didn't call it composing in the beginning. I simply liked pressing random keys and listening to the result. I sang in a band back then too. We did cover versions of Tower of Power but also Green Day or Jamiroquai. I just sang the songs I liked and almost never practiced.

I cannot remember this particular situation but my parents always tell the story of little 3year old Julius being captivated by a brass band in a small village on our vacation. The music had a Schlager vibe so they were really afraid this was the music I was going to love.

But it only happened to be the first time I saw people play music on actual instruments and apparently that blew my mind.

When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?

Unfortunately I've never seen shapes, objects or colours when listening to music so far. Music often calms me down, lets me think clearly, lifts my mood, outrages me, activates my body or lets me feel intense emotions. I think if music wouldn't exist or wouldn't give me the things it gives me, I would be a completely different person.

Through art I'm able to channel lots of different energies and feelings and process experiences and thoughts. If I weren't playing music regularly, I probably would need some other kind of excessive and intense activity that could possibly be quite unhealthy ...

How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?

I think from the beginning of my studies I've had quite a personal voice already, which made me the type of person some people disliked for his unconventional style and not fitting in. It has always been hard for me to try to play things that I didn't fully enjoy. Even if I wanted to, it usually wouldn't be possible for me to pretend enjoying something when I didn't enjoy it. From todays perspective I have to say though, that the amount of music I enjoy playing and listening is constantly growing.

Sometimes I've felt embarrassed about the songs I wrote because they were different from the kind of music so many other people wrote. But after some time I began to realize that it is actually good to write music that is different from that of other people.

One breakthrough for me was coming to Berlin: Being able to listen to a lot of unique and special music that often feels very authentic, honest and on a high artistic level really touches me. I've met so many musicians that only play what they think they should, instead of following their instinct, freeing themselves from all the pressure and just playing what they really want to express. I also still fall into that trap from time to time. It's hard.

But I think there's so much music out there already, that it feels like a waste of time to play music that doesn't touch you deeply. It feels amazing to witness musicians fearlessly expressing themselves.

Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.

I enjoy listening to music that represents some part of myself. I think the more parts of us we discover that resonate with different pieces of art, the richer our personality, our perception and ultimately our own output can become.

Sometimes I particularly enjoy art that represents a contradiction in itself, just like many conflicts or situations in our life do. When consuming art that I don't enjoy right away I usually still try to dive into it for a little more searching for parts of it that I enjoy. Or I try to research who of my friends/colleagues is into it, how they portray themselves and how that might be related to it.

When I started studying my goal was to create music that everyone can enjoy, no matter where they come from and who they are. In the last 6 years I've distanced myself from that thought. Now my goal is to create works that I personally enjoy a lot. It might sound selfish but I think ultimately that's the only thing we can aim for and if we really succeed I think automatically other people can enjoy it too.

I guess a lot of art that is successful and outstanding in its own way, wasn't created to please other people but only to fulfil the needs/wishes of their creator, process thoughts/emotions or convey their own image of truth.

What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?

One goal of mine is that my music should always make people feel something. I don't want people to think that my music is too abstract, brainy or complex or that you need some kind of formal education to be able to enjoy it.

I'm also trying to always create something new and not fall into patterns and repeat myself. I want to continually grow and evolve as a person and as an artist which is probably tied together closely.

I don't think that it is necessary to try to consciously create one's own “style”. I think by simply staying curious, living our life and continuously creating something we automatically, develop our own voice, no matter if we plan to do so or not.

How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?

I think both are equally important for learning purposes.

If everyone in history had always been interested exclusively in continuing a tradition lots of great music and new traditions wouldn't exist now or to exaggerate: no music would exist at all because in order to continue a tradition someone has to create it first. And the people honoring and continuing that tradition cannot possibly think that creating something new is bad because what they're honoring was something new once.

So of course creating something new is something I'm interested in and I think in one way or another everyone is.

Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?

Curiosity, persistence, detachment, openness, spontaneity, not taking yourself too seriously, self-criticism, enthusiasm, reflection, fun. Still figuring out strategies.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.

If my whole day is free: Getting up, taking a shower, having breakfast, going to my rehearsal space to either practice or compose. I often try to become inspired by listening to something on the way there.

Getting something for lunch and continue working. Later in the afternoon I return home, work on some digital artworks, try to write music without the piano, listen to recordings of mine, do office-things or reflect about my work. Of course all of these activities can be switched around too. Sometimes I answer e-mails while being on the train or in a break of working.

I like to not get stuck in routines and always structure my days differently to not get bored. I can usually only work on something when I'm excited about it. When I'm not, but I feel I should, I try to become inspired by searching for new music, going to gigs, talking to people or other things. Also doing things that are not music-related make me excited about music again when coming back to it.

I also like to spend time with my girlfriend, watch movies and sometimes go to museums, or consume the music and atmosphere in night clubs.

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