Part 1

Names: Hans Joachim Roedelius, Tim Story
Occupations: Pianist, composer, sound artist (Roedelius), composer, sound artist, musician (Tim Story)
Nationality: German (Roedelius), American (Story)
Current release: Roedelius & Tim Story's latest collaborative effort, 4 Hands is out via Erased Tapes.

If you enjoyed this interview with Hans Joachim Roedelius & Tim Story and would like to find out more, visit their respective homepages: Roedelius; Tim Story. We also recommend our previous 15 Questions interview with Rodelius and our feature with him "about Ego as an Energy and doing IT".

Over the course of their careers, Tim Story and Roedelius have collaborated with a wide range of colleagues. These include Christopher Chaplin for both of them and the new incarnation of Tangerine Dream, Jean-Benoît Dunckel of Air, Richard Barbieri of Japan and Porcupine Tree, and Michael Rother (in Harmonia) for Roedelius.

[Read our Christopher Chaplin interview]
[Read our Tangerine Dream interview]
[Read our Jean-Benoît Dunckel of Air interview]
[Read our Michael Rother interview]

For many artists, a solitary phase of creative development preceeds collaborative work. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your first collaborations?

TS: I was somewhat hermetically sealed in the first half-dozen years of my early experimentations – my first 5 albums were all solo. I was young, self-taught, and more than a little insecure.

I guess I wasn’t quite ready for collaborations, because I didn’t yet know exactly what my own music was about.

HJR: The funny fact is, for me, EVERYTHING started with collaborations, first with Conrad Schnitzler in the at-the-time unknown duo “Geräusche” (“Plus/Minus”), later on with Schnitzler and Moebius in Kluster, then ( when Schnitzler had left Kluster ) as Cluster. Then with Harmonia with Moebius and Michael Rother, collaborations with Brian Eno, and so many dozens more, landing here of course with Tim Story and our new album 4 Hands.

I’m not really aware anymore at which point I started to begin as solo-artist, but I think it was when I still worked with Moebius, in our days in Forst, in rural Germany. So all these collaborations became somehow my university to learn how to become aware of all of my musical abilities.

Tell me a bit, about your current instruments and tools, please. In which way do they support creative exchange and collaborations with others? Are there obstacles and what are potential solutions towards making collaborations easier?

HJR: Because of the COVID situation, I’m not collaborating live with others at this very moment. There’s just one solo piano set planned at a festival in Vienna “Shut up and Listen” in December.

But in general, if there are concerts with others and I know with whom I’m collaborating, there’s a trust that it’ll work out well. Obstacles are welcome, to be used as relevant cells of the whole.

TS: The biggest obstacle is probably me. (laughs) Or at least the way I work – I develop my best ideas over time, working for many hours and days in finding the right phrasing or an inspired sound that continually triggers new directions in a piece. This is obviously a recipe for boredom in an in-person collaboration, but I have found a way to encourage and harness these inspired moments with a collaborator, and not get bogged down thinking about the work that will follow.

4 Hands was the best of situations, with some of the work together with Achim here at my studio in the US, in the free-flowing way that works so well for Achim, and then carefully working on my parts here in the following months, a situation which works to my strengths.

What were some of your earliest collaborations? How do you look back on them with hindsight?

TS: My earliest collaborations were about necessity, I suppose. I wanted to begin integrating orchestral instruments like cello and oboe into my electronic work, and these were skills I certainly didn’t have.

The work with Martha Reikow and Kim Bryden were not true collaborations, as they were strictly playing my music, but their lovely playing and empathy gave me a great push forward into a brave new world of working with people!

HJR: Kluster / Cluster, because what we did at the time was revolutionary, unique, most interesting. We were on our way to set a new genre of music to life, we learned what we were able to do successfully, coram publico – a way to create relevant contemporary music, learning by doing it, unrehearsed in front of an audience.

Besides the aforementioned early collaborations, can you talk about one particular collaboration that was important for you? Why did it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?

HJR: After the work with Schnitzler, it was the later Moebius collabs, as Cluster. It just happened as part of the new paradigms - It opened the doors to a new sonic universe and we managed to enter and find our places in it.

TS: Well, for me that would have to be Hans-Joachim Roedelius, the other 2 hands of our new 4 Hands project.

We’ve collaborated for several decades now, but I’m always surprised how each new project has morphed and evolved from the last. Our work together was preceded by 10 years of friendship. So there is a personal connection, and trust, that becomes the basis of the music.

What are some of the things you learned from your collaborations over the years?

HJR: Most of all how friendship and devotion make everything easier.

TS: The best thing about collaborations is that you get out of your own habits, you can see a creative path that removes you from the ‘regular’ ways you might approach a composition. It’s liberating to start a piece with elements or processes from someone else, elements that you feel but don’t really recognize. With respective strengths that are different, it’s nice to know someone else ‘has your back’ if you venture into places that aren’t exactly in your comfort zone.

How do you feel your sense of identity influences your collaborations? Do you feel as though you are able to express yourself more fully in solo mode or, conversely, through the interaction with other musicians? Are you “gaining” or “sacrificing” something in a collaboration?

HJR: I’m gaining - always allowing modification but still the same person (hopefully).

TS: I suppose I still feel the solo work brings out the most essential ‘me’. The great thing about collaborations though is you both gain and sacrifice.

For me, the only real reason to collaborate is also the most ‘dangerous’ – to work with someone who is not ‘like’ you. With 4 Hands I was working with an instrument I love, the piano, but working with Achim the compositions were often removed from my own habits of playing.

Beginning a piece which is not predicated on the way your own hands naturally fall upon the keyboard, but someone else’s, feels as if you’re discovering a language that you didn’t realize you knew.

There are many potential models for collaboration, from live performances and jamming via producing in the same room together up to file sharing. Which of these do you prefer – and why?

HJR: All of these types of collaboration are interesting - I don’t prefer any of them especially. Tim and I for example, have collaborated at one time or another in all the situations you mentioned. Everything is welcome if the right people want do something together.

TS: I agree with Achim, being in the same room together is always great, but there are many interesting ways to collaborate.

Is there typically a planning phase for your collaborations? If so, what happens in this phase and how does it contribute to the results?

HJR: For me nothing typically.

TS, Me neither. The freedom to explore and interact is usually the goal, so aside from assembling the sounds and instruments that you might want to start with, there’s not much in the line of rules or plans.

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