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Interview von: Matthias Rauch mit Davey von Bohlen, am: 17.01.2006 ]

Manche Bands geben sich damit zufrieden, simple Popsongs zu schreiben. Forderungen nach musikalischer Erneuerung hin oder her, wenn sie so kompakt, mitreißend und fast unschuldig daherkommen wie bei Maritime, ist dagegen auch überhaupt nichts einzuwenden. Im Gegenteil. War der Erstling noch etwas unbeholfen, zeigt sich das neue Album „We, The Vehicles“ wesentlich runder, ausgereifter und schlicht zwingender. Mastermind Davey von Bohlen hatte schon mit seiner Band The Promise Ring bewiesen, dass er es trotz oder auch gerade aufgrund seiner stimmlichen Eingeschränktheit versteht, was einen guten Popsong ausmacht. Anlässlich der neuen Platte auf GHVC sprachen wir mit Davey über Familienfreuden, das Erwachsenwerden, kommerzielle Verwertung und die Zukunft des Popsongs.


Musicscan: The new album sounds a little more focussed and to the point than “Glass Floor”. Did you approach it any differently?

Maritime: That is exactly the difference. The first album was Dan and I just trying to figure out if we still have a place in music. There are nine million bands out there, so just because we have been doing it since we were teenagers, we certainly did not want to be in a band just because or for no good reason. Most of that album is us writing songs, finding ourselves, figuring out where we fit in, if it is worthwhile, if we are still having fun. We did a lot of it on the computer and then added a bass player, Eric, at the very end. I played all the leads on the first album or most of them anyway. So it became a really one-dimensional record. The ideas on the record are very simple. This second album “We, The Vehicles” is a band making a record, which is a whole different experience. With the first album there was just a small seed of a song and we were just layering and layering on top of it, whereas with this album it was the song in its entirety. There wasn’t one little idea built, we just wanted to make the songs more like songs if you know what I mean. So they are really different in that way.

Musicscan: So was everyone part of the songwriting process for this album?

Maritime: It is still me bringing ideas, verses, choruses and vocal melodies, which surely are not good enough to be songs. The reason that we credit everyone as songwriters is because every little bit that everyone does is as important as the first thing. A lot of the times the last little idea to make a little turn at the end of a song makes the song.

Musicscan: You mentioned earlier that you had to figure out if you still had a place in music. What made you continue after The Promise Ring and Eric’s band Dismemberment Plant were history?

Maritime: I mean there are so many bands and so many songs and so many albums and we are all basically stepping on each other’s necks. I don’t want to spend my entire life playing only music, because being in a band is a huge commitment. It was the definite end of my band and I had to ask myself if I wanted to do this again. The last band lasted eight years. Am I in for another eight years? Am I in for another 15 years? There is just a lot to consider. There are a lot of bands that should probably stop. I won’t say names and maybe my band was at that time one of them, but we made a good decision.

Musicscan: I believe you are married now and have a family. How does that work out with being in a touring band? Isn’t it straining for a relationship when one partner is away half of the year? How do you reconcile these two dimensions?

Maritime: It is very difficult. It is very hard. It is a constant struggle and a lot of things are compromised and on some days it is not really fun, but to me there is still something there that I can’t leave behind. I can’t stop playing yet. I can’t really explain it but I just know that I have to be doing this. It is really strange.

Musicscan: Could you picture yourself doing something else?

Maritime: Yes, more and more. It changes all the time. When I was 20, this was all I wanted. I mean family, kids, wives, houses: no way! Forget it. Those were just ropes. By the time I was 25 I thought that I could see myself in that position, maybe not right now, but soon I could see myself finding total happiness in a situation like that. Now I am 30 and I can’t imagine my life without it. We are at the end of the tour but the 45 minutes that we are on stage are still as great as the first day, but the other 23 hours are a little tough sometimes and you think about your family.

Musicscan: Do you remember the feeling when your finished your first song and what it feels like now when you write a song?

Maritime: Yes, it is still exactly the same feeling. One of the reasons that I am still doing this is that I believe that I am still getting better. I feel that I am still getting better anyways. Every time I write a song I feel like a greater accomplishment than the last song. That is part of the drive for me to still do it, because I feel like I have pushed myself forward. I am not the best songwriter and I don’t claim to be but music is a communicable force. It is something to share. It is just important for musicians to push forward.

Musicscan: What makes the perfect song for you? What does it take to create a perfect song?

Maritime: I have no idea. I can only speak for myself, but it is probably some Holy Grail thing that you have no idea about how it feels like. I can’t necessarily picture it. Every song has flaws over time. Every song feels perfect right when you write it and it goes down from there. I don’t know if there is a perfect song.

Musicscan: How do you know when a song is finished? Do you also rely on other people who say “Davey, that’s good, we’ll keep that”?

Maritime: Yes, absolutely. We all rely on each other. There are some things we disagree about. Fist fights in the studio and chairs through the window, it is all true, too (laughs). Sometimes you relent and say “we’ll leave it your way”, but you never get over wishing to it should be another way. In some respects this is part of being a band, it is about compromising. At the same time, there are little ideas that someone else took and made something much better out of it. Of course, that is always much more satisfying to me. That makes it all worth it.

Musicscan: Do you still live about 14 hours apart from each other? Do you actually enjoy not having the entire band around when you are home?

Maritime: It is not that difficult. Instead of meeting once or twice a week for practice, I will record a lot and I get these little ideas sent off. We send little chord changes back and forth via e-mail with propositions of how we all picture it. We are all familiar with the ideas when we get together and instead of 3 hours once a week for four months we get together for four or five straight days and just pound it out. It is nice to have casual writing sessions where you are always revisiting it and you are waiting for the magic to happen, but it is also nice to have your life and not have to be like “oh we can’t do this, because Tuesday is practice day.” When you have one you want the other, but they both work. Life is all about figuring out which tools work and using them.

Musicscan: You mentioned that being in a band is a strong commitment. Do you plan bands far in advance and would you say you are a strategic or a rather intuitive person?

Maritime: It changes. Ten years ago, everything was definitely planned. With The Promise Ring it was probably even verbalized: If you don’t have five years of your life to give, then you are not right for this band. We had all been in bands where somebody had destroyed it by being the weak link or just not thinking. So the idea of the original four members of that band was that there was not going to be a weak link. We were all coming from places where we led people around, so we are all strong and we are all smart and we are all committed to this and there shouldn’t be a problem. And it worked. But at 30 it is just a whole different ballgame. It is still a huge commitment and we take it seriously, but little detours that our lives take are now far more important.

Musicscan: After all these years of being involved with music does Maritime feel like a regular job sometimes?

Maritime: Sure. Everything that you do more than casually eventually feels like a job. It is a really fun job. Three hours of the day it is the greatest job, but the rest of the day it can be worse than a normal job. These numbers fluctuate, though. It all depends on the amount of time you have been on the road. In the beginning it is fun to hang around with everybody, but that decreases every day. I mean Eric loves soccer, but I think if he was forced to go to a soccer game once a day all year, he would tire. Being on tour is just an accelerated form of life.

Musicscan: How do the music and the lyrics have to come together in order to form something worthwhile? Do you consider them both separate entities or do they only work together?

Maritime: They are definitely separate. You can’t say that they are not. They come together from two different angles, though. One wouldn’t have any place without the other. I don’t write music that I could picture ever being instrumental. I only write lyrics in order to color the music. Lyrics are very important. I almost can’t listen to music where the lyrics bother me or where I think they are silly or inane. The music and the singing are usually created together and then by that time the first words come into the picture.

Musicscan: Your lyrics tend to be quite open and allow a lot of free associations. I believe with the early Promise Ring material you confessed that lyrics are basically free associations that you put on paper and that don’t necessarily have to make any sense. Do you still work like that?

Maritime: It is never all free associations. I tell a lot of stories (laughs). I am not a 100% comfortable talking about lyrics, mostly because once they are on the record, they are not mine. So for me to speak for them is ridiculous. All I can really do is validate 1% of the people and discount 99% of the people who maybe thought it was something different. I am very selfish like anybody else. I get what I want out of writing lyrics, but I also know that the line stops at the release of the CD. We don’t share the music so that I can still control it. Art is interpretable, that is why I keep it a free association. I pick metaphors purposely in order to lead a person a little bit towards what I want to discuss. It is just what the song needs. If the song needs one line and me singing it 66 times, then that is what I will do as much as that seems pointless. But in the end it is equally pointless to discuss songs topically, because there are so many little ideas.

Musicscan: Is pop music always already global from its inception or the very moment a song is written because pop is so medialized and therefore also globally disseminated all over the world? Do you think that music still retains local specificities that mark and distinguish certain regional and cultural aspects?

Maritime: There are still regional aspects. There are types of English that are only understandable to Americans, like slang and words of associations that are too literal. There is a lot of world music that is very hard for me to understand because I don’t speak the language. As an English speaker it is kind of a loaded question because there is so much English speaking media everywhere. There are American bands that are huge in some parts of the world but couldn’t get arrested in America. But that is a really tough question.

Musicscan: So, let’s put it differently. Just hypothetically, if you came from a different city, do you think you would sound differently, too?

Maritime: Sure. Your perception is totally tainted by who you are and how you respond to the world. That is probably why we handle celebrities in such a weird way. We might say “oh I love this guy”, but another person might hate that guy. I mean none of us know the person. Our perception is so easily divertible by media. I don’t know. Sound is a hard thing to talk about. I think a lot of it is universal, but to put a fine point to it: I have no idea (laughs).

Musicscan: Well, could you specify something particularly Midwestern in your sound and your music?

Maritime: Yes, I think so. A lot of traditional music was really regional, before the world was on the internet and travelling quickly across the globe. Information is so easily transferable now that regional things are slowly dying out. Folk music, for instance, is really Midwestern or Americana with the whole Westward movement. However, I certainly couldn’t pick out Middle European regional aspects that someone else can maybe pick out. I am not really sure what the answer is.

Musicscan: Have you seen the movie from Doris Dörrie “Der Fischer und seine Frau”? What is your stance on your music in different commercial contexts? Do you have moral, ethical or simply aesthetic inhibitions about selling your music for these purposes?

Maritime: Of course, I know of it, but I haven’t seen it. There is actually one commercial that we are struggling with if we are going to do it or not, because the company is maybe not the best company that we could be involved with. It is totally important, though, your music bears your soul. It is your high school senior class photo every time you release music. People have called me on things I have done 15 years ago and they still expect me to respond to it. So it is totally important.

Musicscan: But where do you draw the line?

Maritime: It is hard to say where the line is drawn. I am not really sure. I mean the Doris Dörrie film was a no-brainer. I am not 100% familiar with everything she has done, but the little bits that I have seen are incredible and I feel like we have often been considered as not too deep pop music or that is the kind of musician that I think people see me as. So to be put into a film that is obviously very deep, we would do that anytime.

Musicscan: How would you describe your relationship with GHVC?

Maritime: Apart from the fact that I don’t speak their language, it is the most comfortable I have felt on a label for the last five or six years. I think it is very obvious that we are all complementary human beings with similar ideas of what should be done. I almost feel like they are working harder than we are on our band. That is something you can’t just get anywhere. I almost feel like this is our label. I mean it was the only label that we sent the record to and I don’t know what we would have done if they had said no. So we are lucky and we absolutely know it.

Musicscan: What can we expect from you guys in the near future?

Maritime: I have no idea. Our lives are getting more and more complicated. 2006 will be a huge year for our personal lives. Two more children are going to join the band. Dan is having a baby in April and it is going to be interesting how that will affect everything. We are still a small band, so it is a lot of burden to put on our families. Touring has become a little more exhausting that it was before and if something goes wrong with the young child back home, where is your head? I mean you can’t possibly be on the road. But on the other hand, I feel like 24 musically. I feel like I have more gas in the tank than I have had for years, which is, I guess, why we are still here. I am surer of the band than I was a year ago and we are riding in a direction which I am happy to be a part of.

  Grand Hotel van Cleef