Name: Thomas Fehlmann
Occupation: Producer, composer, sound artist
Current release: Thomas Fehlmann is one of the artists contributing to ON IN OUT, a 22 track compilation spread out across 4 vinyl LPs or 2 CDs respectively. Compiled by Miho Mepo and released as the debut publication of her new label Advanced Public Listening, the mission statement for the contributions was “no rules, no ego, no pride but pure essence of real music”. Other contributors include Ricardo Villalobos, Julie Marghilano, Move D, Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Daedelus, Atom™, and Matthew Herbert.
Buy the LP set via Rush Hour. For Japanese territory and CD version click here.
As an early and on-and-off member of The Orb, Fehlmann has also contributed to the seminal project's best and most enduring releases, including the modern classics COW and Moonbuilding 2703 AD.
[Read our The Orb / Alex Patterson interview]
Further recent tunes include:
MATRIX 4 the resurections - flowing - rmx by thomas fehlmann - soundtrack - warner brothers LP, CD, DL
thomas fehlmann - rosen fliegen - POPAMBIENT 22 - kompakt LP, CD, DL
thomas fehlmann - phoenix - ON IN OUT - advanced public listening LP, CD
Freund der Familie - the OMEGA interpretations - OHM 1-4 - thomas fehlmann’s flowing crimson mix - freund der familie 12”
domenique xander + thomas fehlmann - lower case - minimal detroit 001 12”
MOSS - thomas fehlmann swamp remix – 12”
[Read our Julie Marghilano interview]
[Read our Move D interview] (as part of The Mulholland Free Clinic)
[Read our Hans-Joachim Roedelius interview]
[Read our Hans-Joachim Roedelius interview specifically about ON IN OUT]
[Read our Daedelus interview]
[Read our Matthew Herbert interview]
If you enjoyed this interview with Thomas Fehlmann, visit his official website for everything you ever wanted to know about him. He also has a facebook profile.
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?
Sometimes it 's even simpler. For example I just got this job to remix a tune from the Matrix 4 soundtrack.
So there it was, the impulse.
But there are many sources of inspiration. It happened that I dreamt about some pretty developped song ideas that are translatable into the machines the next morning. But this is an exception.
A sharp tune or an exibition might get me to think about different methods I’d like to apply to music. For example trying to translate the textural clash of fotos with fingerpainting into musical methods. The reward will hopefully be a better balance between all the competing selves contained within.
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?
The basic task is clear: I’m looking for surprises. I’m not giving the planning too much headspace, but chance is playing a big part. Chances are like a kickstarter.
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'?
The research is kind of permanent.
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 like to take the focus off the preplanning and tend to hoover the studio or clear up the kitchen before I begin.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
The first moments are the most joyful ones. Getting a set of records, looking for some samples and setting up atmospheric grizzles with the synths.
Once you've started, how does the work gradually emerge?
I'm looking for the music to take on a life of its own and I know I', on the right track if a piece starts to lead me, starts to explain itself and demands things to be done.
From the beginning I’ll number the versions to stay flexible. That helps for example to let go of ideas that are in the way.
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?
After the initial, unconcious, connecting click in the first few minutes a track finds its own direction. The intention is to follow those hints and visit places I wouldn't think of. The more dominant this direction gets, the more succesful a track gets. It’s a matter of listening carefully and attention to detail.
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?
Most likely I’ll save those ideas for the future.
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?
Yes, and that's the reason I don’t analize too much to keep the magic in this semi conscious state. It’s one of the nicer places to be at. (laughs)
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?
When I’m past 8 minutes it’s usually a good time to stop.
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?
I try to stay away from too much refinement with varying success. Usually I like it raw and fresh and more than often than not it’s a battle to keep it that way.
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 goes pretty much hand in hand in my working process. The mastering I leave in the trusted hands of my regular mastering engineers.
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?
I experience this moment as a relief. Getting a clear head to knock on with other stuff.
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?
The creative process is my way of confronting myself with the curiosities of life. There are lots and lots of questionmarks that pop up whilst creating, whilst looking at art whilst etc. Things you can’t explain that open up new spaces. I’m keen on those questionmarks and prefer to leave them rather unanswered. That way the search is infinite and the questionmarks are a continuous challenge to find possible solutions.