Name: Peter Kersten
Occupation: DJ, Producer
Current Release: Illusion on Dial
Recommendations: Vladimir Nabokov – Pnin, Robin Bruch – Major works on paper
Website / Contact: If you enjoyed this interview with Lawrence, visit his facebook page for more information, tour dates and music.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences?
I started producing music in the early 2000s which was a very playful experiment, sharing ideas and gear with some friends. My influences back then were wide-ranging, from early Detroit Deep House to Clicks & Cuts. When we played a night at the Golden Pudel Club we would always combine Herbert, Theo Parrish, SND, whatever inspired us.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
When you start producing you probably have the weirdest combination of inspirations and ideas in mind. My first ever released track on Dial Records 000 made absolutely no sense. It was a kind of schizophrenic collage, a little bit of everything.
But over time it's quite a wonderful thing to transfer diverse ideas into your own musical language.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
The truth is that I never had a close relationship to technologies or gained much production knowledge in a technical sense. The club itself was the starting point and also the main reference. If you wanted to reach a certain level you would have to try and play your productions out on different soundsystems, and feel the music rather than constructing it in any sense.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
My first studio was the tiniest corner of an apartment I shared with my girlfriend in Hamburg - I remember she used to build some beautiful shelves for it as a birthday present. I only had a little gear - an Emu sampler, a K2000 and stuff. Nowadays my favorite studio tools are some acoustic instruments, like a vibraphone, steel drum, some Chinese flute et cetera.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
While playing around with sounds, being mesmerized by some funny software for instance, it's always a very unpredictable process, depending much rather on listening than on playing. In the end the sound guides you and not vice versa, and hopefully leads you to something surprising.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
Yeah it's exactly as I said before - most of the times I guess the machine or instrument is probably quite a lot responsible for the final result, at least when you don't produce under any dictate, when you regard it as a more free experiment. But again, the club is an important factor.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
In the last couple of years I appreciated collaborations a lot after my friends Christian Naujoks, Richard Schulenburg and I started our band Sky Walking, while also running an experimental night at the Golden Pudel Club. Of course exchange is a wonderful thing, and sometimes leads to something magical.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
Like many other colleagues I don't have a daily routine at all. Sometimes I wake up at 9 A.M and play around with my gear, sometimes I get up at the same time to go to a club or drive to the airport. I can't really separate anything in my life, which is great. Sometimes I work on tracks at the gates or at the hotel. Sometimes I feel so empty at the studio that I just fall asleep.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
To be honest: I can't. I really think that producing music is quite an unstructured way of playing around with sounds and beats and instruments and machines, and it really doesn't matter wether you start with a kickdrum or sample your own band's recordings haha. I mean there's probably one thing that all of my tracks have in common - production never starts with anything serious and it takes a while until it really gets you. But sometimes, after a while, you create some loop or just a cluster of sounds that somehow kick you, and you just entered some magical gate and here the journey begins.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Oh to be honest - I don't really want to find out. I'm also not a big fan of creating any sorts of rules for myself for reaching a better state of mind or technological understanding. Somehow the whole production thing is a complete miracle for me and I'd like to keep it like that. I even appreciate distractions, if they're for something nice. When I'm really into producing a track and some friends want to take me out for dinner or go to the movies, I love it. There are more important things in life than music production.
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
Playing live with my band Sky Walking is quite similar to our studio sessions. I would even say that when we're on stage we invite people straight to a studio experience - with all it's wonderful, silly, awkward and magical moments. A Lawrence live act concentrates more on a reinterpretation and remixing of pre-produced material, slightly improvised.
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
Regarding club related music I wouldn't talk about composition, or “writing music”. You certainly put a bunch of sounds into some structure, but if you would ask me about how I composed a certain club or ambient track back in time - I have no idea. Music production is such a beast, and the most fun part of it is to lose control now and then.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
I know that this is not an answer at all but maybe a good point to say: there's probably nothing else that bothers me more than sound. I mean musical sound, or music in general. Music is everywhere - on streets, in restaurants, in the park, in the background of every documentary or film - it triggers a lot of senses, but not always in a pleasant way.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
It's not an easy thing to directly connect politics to whatever art. One reason is probably because art and music are never segregated from yourself - you open yourself to a public and you probably appreciate being admired or booked or payed for what you are showing. So it follows certain economical rules, and the question is always why would you want to transport politics within this system. Which doesn't mean you can't be a political person besides being an artist or musician - there are millions of reasons to be engaged or involved in political action. But to combine both of these things in a not cynical or hypocritical way, is rather difficult.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
There's a lot of music that doesn't follow any kind of rules of structure, instruments, rooms. That's probably the most visionary field of music and I guess there's so much to be discovered in the future. I'm happy that I don't have a clue in which directions it will go.