Artist To Artist: Efdemin & Tobias Freund
Across the years there are few whom have been as consistent as Phillip Sollmann who is perhaps better known under his alias Efdemin. Earlier this year he broke a period of silence and announced a new mixtape built up entirely of unreleased music from friends, associates and people met along the way. Titled "Naïf" the release is available both as a digital package but will also be available through a series of vinyl releases on Curle Recordings, the longstanding record label.
The release is a sprawling legacy of electronic explorations which features appearances from the likes of Gunnar Haslam, Marco Shuttle, Steve Bicknell and many more. However, it is Tobias Freund with whom we have paired Efdemin to discuss the release with, a hugely revered producer in his own right he has contributed new material to the release following recent outings on Ostgut Ton.
The pair discuss below…
Efdemin: We are both from Hessen in The middle of Germany and live in Berlin. I don‘t miss it too much. Do you?
Tobias Freund: Not really, but I have to say that I had a great time growing up over there.
E: Me too. Before everyone moved to Berlin at the end of the nineties there were very diverse and intense scenes in other parts of Germany. Frankfurt was one very important centre for music. How did you experience growing up there?
T: I was kind of a “spätstarter”. For a long time I was in my bubble doing my own music and sharing it with very few friends. In the beginning of the nineties I started to discover clubs like the Omen and Dorian Gray and went there sometimes, not too often but enough. I was becoming friends with the Delirium crew, Ata, Heiko, M.S.O Frankfurt and was working on projects with atom who was still living in FrankfurtSpätstarter at that time. As well as with my long time partner Dandy Jack. That time was electric. You my friend?
E: I was a „Spätstarter“ myself but in a different way. Being a teenager I was mostly listening to indie and post punk and only rarely would you see me in the famous techno club Aufschwung Ost, where I once saw Roman Flügel perform with alter Ego who is now my label mate at DIAL records.
Playing guitar and singing in bands was my reality both in school and afterwards when I moved to Hamburg. I was quite interested in abstract electronic stuff such as Mike ink or Kit Klayton and got hooked to Drum ́n ́Bass for a while. I met Alexander Polzin in University and he introduced me to samplers and sequencing. We started making music for years every afternoon and released our first and only 12“ as TOBIN in 1999. That was the starting point for DIAL records which started after we had released our record. We were all meeting constantly at the old Pudel Club where I also started DJing from time to time. Great times, but at one point I felt like I had to move somewhere and went to study in Vienna for three years. Since then I've lived in Berlin (2005). How did you get to Berlin and when?
T: Well, maybe you know that I was working in this famous recording studio near Frankfurt. I started working there after I finished school and civil service for 18 years. I had a good time but knew that this was not the kind of life or career I wanted for my future. I got infected with creating music or better musical noises much before I chose to become a sound engineer, so always after work I fooled around with my own investigations.
The job was very exhausting but I never got tired of trying to go a different way than the way of the people I was working with. I was very anti commercialism, I actually never wanted to become the crack sound engineer and work together with famous stars and produce crap music. I always felt unconnected to this world of A&R’s and record label bosses. I liked to be in the studio surrounded by equipment that I just could dream of, in my spare time I always used it for my own creations, this was way before house or techno music was invented. I started working at this studio in 1985.
Some eighteen years later in 2003 I thought my god this can’t go on, I got the offer from my boss to change places, because he had a studio in Miami where I was working as well, he asked me to come with him and work over there. Maybe for a lot of people this would have been the dream come true, but not for me. I took this opportunity to gather the strength to break out and start my own thing. Some kind of midlife crisis
had an influence, I needed to stop all of that so the best way to do it was to come to Berlin, my friend and partner Martin Schopf lived there and we needed to finish our 4th album as “Sieg Über Die Sonne”. I was sadly breaking up with lots of friends I had in Frankfurt but the need to do something new was stronger and I have to say it was worth it. Since then i've produced my own music, playing it live and working in my studio for people I like. Do you remember when we got in contact the first time?
E: I do! It was around 2007. You had just released this insanely good record called „Street knowledge“ which I was playing to death and I asked you for a remix of my track „Lohn&Brot“. I was exploring all sides of the Berlin techno life and we both had our cheap studios in Berlin Mitte – an area where you find mainly SUV ́s and Condo ́s these days. I ran an illegal restaurant with a friend that summer and Berlin was simply overwhelming after coming from sleepy Vienna.
I played my first gigs in Panoramabar and at after hours parties like Beatstreet. Bar 25 had just opened and Berlin was simply a lot of fun. Anyway, I don ́t remember where we first met in person for the first time. Was it at our distribution Diamonds and Pearls? Johannes, who runs it is from Frankfurt as well. I always liked your approach to music a lot and it made total sense when we both recently played a kind of ambient / experimental Dj-set followed by techno-sets from us later that night at new York ́s Output. Great night. We should play together more often!
T: Yes I remember exactly. You wrote to me on Myspace that you'd like to have a remix of your track. I was checking a list you had on that site of your favourite music and most of the stuff I liked as well…However I mainly got convinced to do the remix because you liked This Heat, a band that had a big influence on me, they were produced by David Cunningham a guy that I admire still today. I remember that we had a talk before we met in person about both of us leaving our booking agent, but I can’t recall how we came to ostgut, was there a need of new artists? Anyway i liked the stuff you did a lot and I felt we were on the same wavelength, techno yeah but there is more. I remember visiting Johannes from Diamonds and Pearls with you having an Äppler and Handkäss evening. Omg this is 10 years ago, I think so too – we should play more often together…
E: Oh yeah: Myspace. Haha. that ́s when the so called „social media“ madness began. How naïf that was compared to algorithmic monsters like Facebook and such. I think the last ten years have changed everything so drastically, it ́s unbelievable. Especially with the new media, it ́s hard for us to stay focussed. There is always something going on in our devices and I am totally addicted as well. That takes so much concentration away from us. That ́s one reason I like to switch off phone and internet when in the studio and focus on sound and textures. One of my favorite machines in the studio is the Pearl Syncussion which I got to know through you and Hanno Leichtmann. What is your favorite machine in your nice studio?
T: I don’t have internet in my studio, that's also a reason why my computer over there is working perfectly, he never asks me for updates or anything.
He is just my slave that has to do what I want him to do and not the other way around. It is such a relief going there and escaping the bubble, well I still have my phone and I have to say I am a bit addicted to checking… but the thought of cancelling social media is getting stronger every day. I got my pearl syncussions in 83 from Kurt Hauenstein aka Supermax, he was the first person I was working with as an apprentice in my first studio. He just gave them to me as a present, fantastic!! The syncussions are great but I think my favourite machine in my studio is the studio itself. I can’t really tell if I like one thing more than the other, all machines have a history and I need all of them, well maybe I do have a strong connection to the korg ms 20 and the tr 808, my son and my first daughter… There is still stuff on my list for example the 16sec delay from electro harmonix, I know you own it. Anything on your list?
E: Honestly: Besides my Cello, that I would never sell as it ́s the first instrument I got from my parents when I was six, my favourite is my electric hurdy gurdy. It ́s the perfect drone instrument for never ending notes. I recently got it and played it live on stage twice since: in a performance in an art space in Vienna and at a Tony Conrad tribute concert in Hamburg with my band PNIN. the hurdy gurdy helps me doing what I always tried to do with a cello: play long duration tones without the bow changing sound. I am sure that this one will be in many records of mine in the future.
My favorite electronic instrument is the Akai S 612 Sampler. An amazing sounding sampler with very limited features, exactly how I like it: Filter, Decay, start and end point, LFO. You can hear it in many of my recent productions and I used it on every track on the mix project „naïf“. Your studio is very nice – I know from visiting you, but you need to swing by at my place as it is really nice too. I am very thankful every morning when I enter the room. It has a great energy and I spend so much time there, it feels very much like home. If I could, I would spend even more time in there. Hoping to have you as a guest soon – you could bring the trigger drum kit for the pearl syncussion that I borrowed from you years ago?
T: What, trigger drum kit…? I have no idea what you are talking about… hmm… I need to dig deep in my studio jungle, spass beiseite, of course I have those pads and will bring them when I swing by next time. I have the same feeling as you when I come to the studio, I always wanted to have such a place. So shall we make a plan to work on something together, something without straight kick drums, I have this ongoing project on my label called Odd Machine, I could imagine you to be the next collaborator. Call me…
Buy the release HERE.