A Study of Heroes: The Mutual Torture dissect their new album
The group reflect on the rationale and sphere of influence behind their recent album “Don’t” which pays homage to some of their heroes.
The Mutual Torture is a three part group made up of Tobias Freund, André Schöne and Javiera González. Together they share a passion for ‘post punk paranoia, alien soundtracks, improvisation, and simulation’.
Earlier this year saw the group release a new album in the form of ‘Don’t’ – a record inspired by their heroes, a collective array of musicians, artists, creatives and free thinkers prominent in the 80’s. Now all that is left is a hazy memory of those figures who paved so much of what has come since and it is this nostalgia and ethos that The Mutual Torture have aspired to channel on the course of their latest release.
The German come Chilean band deliver up a palpable, energetic, boisterous release full of energy and aggro, the type which might have accompanied a blurry black and white polaroid gallery of Berlin in the 80’s or a red lit New York side street. The album is invigorating and full of wild, sporadic life reminiscent of the blurred lines and fluidity of culture at the time. Perhaps it’s just as valid now.
We invited the group to talk about the roots of the album…
Hi André, Hi Javiera… Ransom Note offered us to chat about our journey on the production of “The Mutual Torture”.
So how are you guys? How do you feel about our album release?
Hi Tobias, I am feeling super great about the album release. In fact, it is my first time being on vinyl, my first time on your label Non Standard Productions which I have been following for years. Not a bad start I would say! I am feeling very proud about the release and super thankful that I can be a part of this great project. I learned a lot while working with you guys! Let me ask you a question: coming more from the ‘techno‘ side of business, when and how did you get the idea to do a more ‘rockish‘ album?
Let’s start from the beginning, my friends are still electric and my passion for the new born electric era in 1979 is unbroken, but I grew up with David Bowie, Brian Eno and Punk music like, Wire, Devo, The Stranglers… I always had the idea to interpret some of my favourite tracks from that time. In 2018 I started working on a cover album with songs that had a great impact on my musical development. Javiera, the best friend of my wife, sang 4 of the 10 songs on that album but unfortunately that album never made it into the light of day – covid and other business problems stoped it. In 2020 I found out that “Initiative Musik” offered financial support for productions and I applied for a new album together with Javiera.
Due to the fact that I could not play in clubs during the lockdown I lost the appetite to produce another techno track and started working on sketches for a post-punk record. I got the confirmation from “Initiative Musik”, the next step was forming a plan for an actual band who would be able to play the tracks off the record live. I noticed that André always liked stuff that I posted on social platforms and found out that he is a bass player, so I contacted him and told him about my idea. We didn’t know each other but somehow we had a great connection the first time we met in my studio, right?
Yes, I still remember clearly. When I came to the studio for the first time I was pretty nervous, I didn’t bring my bass because we said to just get to know each other first. We talked for four hours straight and there immediately was a personal connection. I directly had the feeling that I can trust you and we talked not only about music but also about personal topics as if we’d known each other for years. I think this was the most important aspect of our meeting! Of course you also showed me the demo versions of the songs you composed and I was very amazed by them and the sound quality of the pre-productions.
Apart from that I really fell in love with your studio too. For me as a musician and producer it is really great to be in the presence of amazing machines and a creative space which is totally alive! I could feel all the great music which was in the room already and that which was going to be. You have such positive vibes in your studio. Great sounds and instruments and people opened up my heart. I knew your studio before from the YouTube-videos, but being there personally was totally different than I’d imagined!
When I left I felt so good, so inspired and so motivated to make even more music myself. A lot of times I am desperate concerning my own music, asking myself where to begin for example and doubting lots of my own musical decisions, trying to figure out where my musical journey will lead me to. But after our conversation I felt so light in the music, so motivated and happy that there is music and people who just do their thing and be self confident about it and believe in it. I really needed that.
For me it is always important to keep in mind that if you just go on with what you love, eventually it will lead you to something or someone great and inspiring. Our meeting was a validation for me concerning that! If you consider that our engagement came through Instagram it is even more amazing. So there are actually positive aspects of social media!
Another great thing which I learned again that day – which I really need to experience again and again – is, that good music does not have to be complicated. The atmosphere you create is the most important thing! For me as a studied musician it is very important to make this clear regularly because I tend to forget that…
I wanted to ask you something Javiera…
I learned that the music – the basic song structure – already existed – and then you came to Berlin to record the vocals. It seems that your singing, the melody, the phrasing, your whole vocal style (and even the lyrics) came so natural and authentically to you in the studio in the moment. How do you do that? How do you develop the vocal parts so quickly and spontaneously…?
Well, my background is performance and theatre.. improvising, inventing, movements and rhythms, composing in space, drama, words, sounds. The first album I worked on together with Tobias was recorded, played and created during the first time we met in a studio, we recorded what we did that afternoon without knowing one other, not even what it was going to sound like, not talking about what we were going to do…
I have to say that i never felt the pressure so strong to create when i was in Berlin for a month, writing the album, everyday I thought I couldn’t do it… But it’s the frequency of chaos that gives me some order. Writing the lyrics this time was an amazing challenge that opened a different door for me to express myself.
A question for Tobias – how do you feel my Latin American influence affects the music?
I think you are a one of a kind performer, I’ve never met anyone who feels music right on the spot when it happens. I am not sure if this is a Latin American quality but I believe your roots, living in Santiago de Chile affected your personality a lot. The way you express yourself, the way you sing is honest and full of passion. I buy every word you write even if they are cryptic and full of dadaism.
Where do you feel that culture and music has changed most in recent times?
A lot has been said about the Berlin club culture over the last decade and it is true to a certain extent. For example what a special place in the electronic music scene Berlin had when the wall fell…
But honestly I must say that my living room and studio are great places for me to experience culture. Of course I love to listen to music, and this is what I can do very well at home. Also reading lots of books, really studying them and watching movies are really important for me to experience culture. And all of that I can do very well at home and in my studio. I don’t listen to a lot of music but when I do I want to do it as consciously as possible, being there in the music 100%. Sure, my living room is not a public place and interacting with real human beings in a real conversation is very important and keeps inspiring me a lot. This is why I love to go to clubs of course and meet with friends.
As an introvert, the corona lockdowns weren’t so bad for me, like I said, I like to be at home and experience art and science there. But on the other hand I really missed the club experience and concerts.
Actually I was about to complain, but i decided this interview should not go that way. I grew up with the belief that you could actually make some money selling records. Our reality right now is that you produce music, invest money and this is just a stepping stone to promote your band and get some gigs. For me it is still important to release my music as a physical product, but I understand that times are changing and the next generation is consuming music on another level. I guess this is something we have to accept, there is not much we can change here. I don’t want to become that old grumpy dude that only complains about the new generation, like our parents did when they saw how we grew up. I still don’t have a Spotify account and probably will never have one, but my daughter is already interested, so what the heck.
For me it’s a paradox, in one hand I am really sad that musicians are so unprotected by social media and music platforms but on the other hand I feel it is important that people can have free access to music. Spotify is full of advertisements and maybe these companies should pay some percentage to the artists. I think this is a very important topic to talk about. Artists Rights Now!!!!
My mutual friends I think we have to come to an end, I’d like to talk to you forever but time is running out and we have to deliver our thing here in a couple of days, would you like to have a last outburst of your deepest metaphysical ideas that you like to share with our dear readers?
Yes, I feel the same way as you said before. I also don’t want to sound like the people who say that the past used to be “better”. But there is a “but”.
The internet made everything accessible super quickly, you can order everything online nowadays, even groceries. Knowledge and (putative) wisdom can be googled. That means that people become more impatient and spoiled, everything is in their hands, only a few clicks away, in an amazingly high pace. I think this leads to a lack of gratefulness. To acknowledge a piece of art, like a music album, you need certain experiences, also on a physical level. For example going to the record shop, listening to the record there, deciding to buy it (with hard earned money), taking it home, putting it on the record player, cranking up the stereo, sitting down and really listening!
Lots of that is missing these days.
In the “free” version of Spotify there used to be an algorithm which didn’t even let you listen to the tracks of the albums in the right order. Can you imagine that??? With all these missing steps mentioned above I think there are things missing in the complete musical experience. People listen to the music on cell phones or laptop speakers, not the full album and for free. I think this does a lot to the artist and to the scene (and to the listener of course too).
For decades the battle call was always “support the artist!” and I think it is still true and more important than ever. Buy the music on platforms where they pay a fair amount of money to the artists, do the research, deeply listen to the music and be thankful and acknowledge the art.
I guess my comment got a bit out of hand but I really wanted to say that! In the end I wanted to ask you what future you want to see for The Mutual Torture?
Thanks André for your criticism, I couldn’t have said it better. Our future will be performing this album live, this was actually the initial idea why I started working on these kind of band oriented tracks. Vocals, bass and drums. The connection of the three of us seems to me like a dream team, Javiera with her spontaneity and stage performance, André with the backbone machine bass and me on drum machine and the rest. What else could you ask for to have an experience of the third kind.
Yes exactly, the future for The Mutual Torture is playing live a lot, at a lot of festivals and dirty nightclubs. We will create a complete live show, our album has its last word in the live act of performing for the public. Muchas gracias !!
Buy the album HERE.