Members: Ameen Khayer, Thorben Diekmann
Occupations: Vocalist, percussionist (Ameen Khayer), keyboardist, producer (Thorben Diekmann)
Nationality: Syrian (Ameen), German (Thorben)
Current Release: Shkoon's remix of Raghab Alama's 1986 Arabic pop classic "Ra Rayt" is out via WTR / MDLBEAST.
Recommendations: You should check on Eman Nawaya (a great Syrian painter based in Beirut) and Mehrak (a Syrian Hip-Hop producer and rapper based in Paris).
If you enjoyed this interview with Shkoon, visit official homepage of the project. 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?
Both of us have a very different history with music. Thorben started doing music in his early childhood and was always fascinated and influenced by classical music and composers like Bach. Ameen didn’t do music till he met Thorben, but was always very interested and knows a lot about all kinds of Arabic traditional music, songs and poems.
What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
It’s hard to say what exactly drew us to music, but isn’t music a magical thing. Something that developed independently in each culture on this planet. I guess it would be more precise to ask why couldn’t you resist?
Some people experience intense emotion when listening to music, others see colours or shapes. What is your own listening experience like and how does it influence your approach to music?
Music is such a powerful thing, it can pull us in so fast. And most of the music triggers memories and dreams. That’s probably why we can’t stop making music and listening to it.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
It was always important for us to keep the idea of why we wanted to do music together. We wanted to make music for ourselves less than for someone. That’s the most important thing for us. Afterwards we can think about our voice to the world.
And of course we are very aware of the responsibility that comes with it. And we love to use it. In the end we are political human beings with opinions and dreams to share.
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. What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
Music is our emotional language, so that’s probably also the key of what’s driving us when we are doing music.
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”?
That’s a tricky question. I think we shouldn’t mix tradition and heritage. As a society we should always aim for progress and change without denying history or heritage.
Music is of course a different topic, but anything new can’t exist without its own heritage. So why not music of the future AND traditional music.
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 love to exchange things in our toolbox every now and then to not get too comfortable while producing. But of course there are certain instruments that are essential in our work. The most used instruments might be: Piano, Rhodes, Juno 106, Korg DW 8000 and all our fx pedals.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
We always try not to limit ourselves with a certain framework of how to work. We like to go with the flow. Quite often it starts with a musical mood, sometimes with a groove. We keep playing, jamming, recording, editing. Most of the time, before we properly produce these sketches we prepare them to take them on stage with us.
We love to play them live, jam with them, remix them live to see where the musical idea could lead to. After a sketch survived this stage of being tested with an audience we take it to the studio again and record everything.
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 we work together most of our music is created together and is influenced by both of us and also by the dynamics we have together. We love that process of negotiation, tension and compromise in the studio.
Music is not always harmonic, neither is the process of getting there. And if one is bringing a musical idea that he developed alone it is important to be sensitive and well connected with each other, as we are sharing very intimate things. It’s a beautiful process of emotional understanding of each other.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
Even though we never sit and think about how our music or lyrics should be related to what’s going on out there, all our music is related to the world and all our music is political in a way. As we are not isolated from the outside, music is a valve for us to cope with certain experiences. A way to express things that we can’t say or even someone we can address something to we couldn’t address in reality.
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?
As we said earlier, music is our emotional language and it’s universal. You don’t even (let’s exclude lyrics from this equation for now) need to share any other language with someone else to understand each other on this level. It gives the opportunity to show that you are not alone with the suffrage. That others feel the same.
And on the other hand, while doing music, it personally helps to share these moments of suffrage without feeling the pressure to explain yourself. It is luckily most of the time a safe space to be vulnerable in public.
There seems to be increasing interest in a functional, “rational” and scientific approach to music. How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
I think there are two aspects to differentiate between here, composing and producing music.
When it comes to composing you might refer to AI driven music composition. And to be honest we never really delved into that topic. But even if we look at music theory there is of course a big rational, functional and even scientific part in it. The whole idea of music theory is to functionalize music and understand its forces, the tension between frequencies. I think it is very human that we try to understand the mystery of music, even though I guess and I hope it’s gonna stay that magical thing to some extent forever.
Taking a look at the part of music production, there have been huge steps taken in the last few years. And that’s great. It makes our lives easier. But even here, we have to take into account that we don’t really understand what’s going on in these AI driven tools. But when it comes to talk about taste and emotions, something we cannot really explain sometimes, science and rationality can’t help us in these decisions in the end.
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?
Well, I sometimes feel it’s harder to do a proper coffee than writing a piece of music. But I guess that’s different day by day. There are aspects in music that are crafts and these are not different from any other task in the end.
Of course there might be more complex ones that need more hours of practice. But it’s something you can learn from a book in the end. Talking about expressing yourself, it is a different story of course.
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?
We would love to redirect this question to the department of neuroscience. Thank you.