Name: Pink Turns Blue
Members: Mic Jogwer, Ruebi Walter, Paul Richter
Interviewee: Mic Jogwer
Occupation: Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist
Current release: The new Pink Turns Blue album Tainted is out visa Orden.
If you enjoyed this interview with Pink Turns Blue and would like to stay up to date on their output and activities, visit their official website. The band is also on Facebook, Instagram, Soundcloud, and twitter.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
To me writing songs is a way to cope with life. So many questions, impressions and things that seem to make no sense at all need to be balanced emotionally to get me through the day.
I do seem to have difficulties to accept life as it is. Big things like wars, famine, inequality, pollution and daily encounters like people getting drunk, taking drugs, being cruel to others. I am left with a strong emotional sense of deficiency. That is being expressed in songs like THERE MUST BE SO MUCH MORE.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
I just let it grow.
Most of the time I’m sitting in room with my guitar and strum along until I hit on something that touches me. I add a melody that makes that feeling even stronger or even seems to tell a story without words. Only when it all feels already like a song (without any real words) I start searching for words that match the “story” I feel within the music.
The music might ask for something bigger like SO WHY NOT SAVE THE WORLD or something very personal and romantic like SUMMERTIME.
Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do 'research' or create 'early versions'?
No. All I need is a very basic recording setup so that I can hit the record button as soon as I think it feels like something worth keeping. I own a real studio where I can record with the band and a small setup at home where I can record songs by myself.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
I have for writing lyrics. In general I have the ambition to come up with something that has some impact or timelessness. So I do have many ways and iterations to end up with a result I really enjoy singing and recording.
I don’t need much though. I need a pair of headphones and I listen to the music and try to find words, small sentences that touch me in the way the music does. Once I have found the chorus, the sentence that conveys the message of what I think the music conveys in a nonverbal way, I often go for a walk and hum the melody and the chorus until I have found a good combination of music, melody and words. Once I have found the chorus like YOU STILL MEAN TOO MUCH TO ME I know what the verses will be about.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
I don’t seem to have problems with music. Much more difficult is the first line and the first verse. It seems the first verse is as important as the chorus. It needs to pull you into the story, with strong images or words that touch you immediately. So for me chorus and the first line need more time and effort than the rest which often develops more easily.
If you take a song like NOT EVEN TRYING, a song about our indifference towards consequences, it is important to pull you into the topic with a first verse like ‘So happy to kill ourselves, so happy to rob ourselves, so happy to use excuses, that is us …).
The first verse needs to be straight to the point. The second verse and the third verse or bridge can elaborate.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
I am happy with the lyrics when they give comfort because we can relate to the mood and also give us strength. Lyrics should not claim any knowledge, wisdom or offer recipes. Lyrics should convey spiritual kinship. So I try not to be too smart.
I prefer to share my questions, doubts, explanations and my emotional rollercoaster through life. I try to give comfort to myself and hope it might give comfort to others as well. That is how songs like I’LL NEVER GIVE UP (a song about soul searching) or NEVER GIVE UP (a song about being in a relationship) came into existence.
Once you've started, how does the work gradually emerge?
When I have written an album’s worth of songs – most of the time a basic guitar, a melody and some ‘meaningful’ lyrics. I usually share them with the bass player and drummer and shortlist the ones that might be worthwhile to be recorded properly. When recorded in the studio I often change the lyrics, sometimes the melody and parts until all just feels right. I completely rely on my gut feeling there.
Sometimes a song just evolves and it ends up on a record. And only afterwards you realize what it is about and why it survived the process of getting dumped. Like IT FADES AWAY or BRAVE NEW WORLD.
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
Ideally I can let it happen. So it is more a negative process. It is more easy to feel that something is not yet right. But good things need to happen. I can’t produce them. I need to try things out until it feels right.
Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?
I follow those routes, sometimes even try finish a version. Often I come to a point where I think I have had enough and then I dump the song for good.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
No spirituality. It is rather a talent and an urgency to do something with it. If I were able to bake bread and make people happy doing that I would do that. I seem to be able to write decent songs now and then and I am meeting more people being grateful for me doing that. So I guess it is OK that I can earn a living doing that.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
Luckily my feelings are not yet digital. It either feels like a finished song or it doesn’t.
Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practise?
For the songwriting it doesn’t matter too much. A song is a song.
What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
Production and mixing seems to have more options and opinions. Often we do a new mix and go back to the rough mix version because it seems to have more liveliness and charm to it.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
After releasing an album I am pretty busy learning the songs with the band. Studio and live nowadays are so different. In the studio you can record many tracks and effects to make it sound good.
On stage it is just three people and you have to perform the song right away. There is no ‘OK, someone played a wrong note. Let’s do it again. You need to learn how to perform a song even in a small club with broken amps and difficult acoustics.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing 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?
A good song can do a lot more than a good cup of coffee. And I like coffee a lot.
Sometimes a good song can have the impact of a piece of art. It connects your soul to the universe. You suddenly don’t feel lost and unimportant anymore. A good song can make you feel like being part of something big, unexplainable but very good, truthful and beautiful.