Members: Laurenz Karsten, Phillip Oertel, Tim Sarhan
Occupation: Instrumentalists, performers, composers
Recent release: Komfortrauschen's K is out via Springstoff. Get the limited yellow vinyl here.
Recommendations: We love Detroit techno. Listen to Robert Hood’s Minimal Nation Also we love Jazz. Check out Kind of Blue by Miles Davis.
If you enjoyed this interview with Komfortrauschen and would like to find out more about the band, visit their official website. They're also on Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud.
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?
We started writing and producing music in 2014.
Back then our influences were minimal techno producers and DJs of that Period such as Efdemin, Robag Wruhme and Trentemøller.
We liked techno parties a lot, and as trained musicians we wanted to recreate this vibe in our own way.
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?
When it’s good music we get goose bumps! The emotional aspect comes first for us.
When it comes to electronic music and the nerdy aspect of it we also like to analyze. Questions like “how can we emulate this sound with an electric guitar?” or “can we play that on a drum set?” pop up in our heads.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
We all were jazz musicians at some point in our lives. When we discovered the possibility of playing techno on our instruments that was a real breakthrough. Then we started to dig deeper and learned a lot about this music.
Things like synthesizers were completely new for us and we first had to learn how they work before we were able to recreate their sound on our equipment.
Discovering techno legends such as Robert Hood and Jeff Mills and the way they are making music also had a big impact on our work.
[Read our Jeff Mills interview]
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.
First of all we feel privileged to be able to do what we do. Today it’s really cool to have such an enormous amount of information available online we can draw inspiration from. Listening to music from e.g. Theo Parrish but also being able to watch interviews in which he shares his insights is really great and we are thankful for this kind of stuff.
We identify as instrumentalists but also techno artists. Since all of us are trained musicians we have spent a lot of time listening, analyzing and recreating all sorts of different musicals styles. We still do listen to many different musical genres today and always try to keep our ears open. We can draw a lot from all this when we’re writing new music as well.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
Improvisation is always important for us. Lots of tracks start with a live jam in the studio, and it’s important for us to keep this vibe in our finished tracks.
Another important point for us is to not think or talk too much about common music theory or harmony devices but rather let our gut feelings decide e.g. whether to keep a track / layer / recording or not.
Also we try not to push each musician/instrument in the foreground unless it helps the music or live show.
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”?
We think the way we create techno is innovative in the first place. Our goal is to be unique in style instead of trying to sound like producer XY.
Perfection is a huge word. You can always add more to a track but if you can’t take anything away it might be pretty close to perfection. When it comes to recording tracks and performing techno live it’s obviously vital to play very precisely though.
We are looking forward to whatever is going to happen in the future musically, but right now we are very much interested in the music of the present. Nowadays there is probably no new music that isn’t influenced by some kind of tradition in some way. We think it’s important to know and highly respect the roots and the pioneers of a musical genre, especially when it comes to a genre like techno which started as an underground movement with only a few producers.
That’s why we still listen to the early Detroit techno legends over and over again.
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?
We use Ableton Live a lot for recording and pre-producing. On stage we replaced Ableton with the Elektron Octatrack because we didn’t want a laptop on stage. The Octatrack is also a great device to be creative when you don’t have a drum set or computer around.
Another important tool except for our guitars and basses of course is the Empress Effects ZOIA which is a modular synth in a guitar stomp box format. We also heavily use the Source Audio C4 synth to make a guitar sound like a 303 and to create synth bass sounds.
[Read our feature on the Roland TB-303]
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
We’re taking you with us on a regular day on a club tour.
Morning alarm around 9:00 because: never miss breakfast! Still a little dizzy from last night, but the show must go on.
Bus call at 11:00. The ones who missed breakfast managed to get themselves a coffee at least. We don’t have a bus driver so Tim will be behind the steering wheel the first 2 hours, then Phillip or Cookie take over.
16:00-20:00 get-in at the venue (depending on how long we had to drive and of course depending on the showtime): snacks, a little chat, lots of carrying gear and then starting to set up the stage. Set-up and soundcheck is super important because if we don’t feel comfortable on stage during the show this will have a negative impact on our performance. Soundcheck is usually finished around 19:00-22:00.
Then dinner and a maybe little nap afterwards. Coffee before dressing!
Before we enter the stage we gather and Tim does a little pep talk. After that we hug each other and: Showtime! The 60-100 minutes we love the most! After an encore (hopefully but usually yes) we meet at the merch stand and start mingling with the audience. Sometimes signing our records, taking photos and getting to know people.
Raving a little afterwards to relieve the stress.
Around 02:00-04:00 packing up and clearing the stage. (Sometimes we have to do that right after the show, depending on the venue and line-up.) Loading the van. Leaving the venue and going to bed in the hotel. Preparing for a few hours of sleep to start again tomorrow!
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
Let’s pick our upcoming album “K”!
Over the last two years we had lots of time without playing live shows thanks to the pandemic :-( So we met a lot in the studio jamming while recording everything. After each session we listened to the jams, picked the riffs and ideas we liked most, worked them out and played or practiced them again. When we were happy we recorded a basic track together live. Then we added, changed or removed individual layers.
As soon as we were happy with all the elements, we would do some edits and then send the individual tracks over to our producer Leonard de Leonard who would do a first mix. We then met at his studio several times to add effects like distortion, delay and reverb to refine the production. Then Leonard would do a final mix and mastering afterwards.
This is how we created tracks like “Reload” and “Zero” for example. Other tracks, like “Bock” and “KR#01”, we had already played live before, so we could skip the jamming part and record a base track right away.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
As mentioned before most of our tracks are a result of a collaborative jam, so this is probably our preferred way. However many tracks also started with an individual idea from one of the band members which could be just a one-bar riff or two chords. Sometimes one of us comes up with more than that.
A good example is “KR#1”: Tim came up with the chords, synth riff and bass part, and Laurenz added the guitar riff and melody later. This way of composing a track can work as well, but can also lead to problems if the original writer had something entirely different in mind of what the final track should sound like.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
Music brings people together. When words fail and when there is no common language music is still a possible form of communication.
Music changed our lives and we think music is a motor for many many people. We think music and art in general are important for all of us.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
Since all of us have been extensively making and listening to music for such a long time it has been omnipresent in almost every phase of our lives. There probably is a soundtrack for almost everything in life: First love, first breakup, loss of a dear person in life, best holidays with your friends and so on.
When it comes to creating music, art always is an expression of the experiences and feelings of the individual or group in our understanding. So any event in life, be it positive or negative, has an impact on the artist’s work.
Without getting further into detail we can assure you that our music is definitely shaped by our personal big topics as well!
How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
Acoustics is a field in physics. Rhythm and pitch are related to time. Sound can be seen as waves. So in a way music is science of course.
However physics cannot explain the important aspects of emotion in music. On the other hand music can reveal one of the most beautiful aspects of physics!
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
Wow that’s a deep question! We believe that art can be found everywhere. But that doesn’t necessarily mean there actually is art everywhere (unfortunately).
We make music and we express ourselves creatively because we feel the need to do so. We also love making a good cup of coffee though. We sometimes even try to do latte art.
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
It’s a combination of physics and the human brain. One single song can mean different things for different people. So there has to be a creative aspect in listening to music.