Hippies, Paddies And Sad Techno – Kölsch Talks
Rune Reilly Kölsch has spent over a decade carving out every form of electronic music you can think of, releasing under a wealth of alias's so extensive that even Grant Shapps would be impressed. Most famously, he scored a global smash with the horn parping funk of Calabria, which was repurposed at least 3 times over the space of 5 years, finding itself getting plays in as many bashment parties as it did house raves. But it's under the Kölsch name that Rune is talking to us today. He's finally finished off his second Kölsch album for Kompakt – and anticipation is high for the latest offering from an artist an a mission to restore the emotion to techno. We caught up with Rune over Skype to chat Irish roots, European car journies and his love of Steely Dan…
It’s been a long time coming, now the new album’s done, how do you feel about it?
I feel really good about it- it’s been, I’m not gonna say a struggle, but it was always going to be difficult to follow up on the success the first album was. I experimented a lot with it, but it came down to the fact that what I really like to do, and what I do best, is make good techno records
Has there been much of a change in your sound between the two albums?
I’ve invested in a lot of new studio equipment, so sound quality wise there’s been a big jump. But also I spent a lot of time getting the instruments replayed by real musicians –primarily the string sections and piano sections, and I feel it adds a bit of a live feel. It was something I could never afford to do before. Sound-wise I guess it sounds bigger or louder than something that’s just made in a laptop, but I think that’s where we’re going with electronic music, if we have the opportunity to do these things we should embrace it – if you can get someone to play your ideas better than the computer can, then that’s great.
You called the album 1983, what’s the relevance of that year to you?
Basically the album is a travel album, it’s about when I was a kid and we started driving to the South of France from Copenhagen with my parents. And we had a small, really crappy French automobile called Talbot that we would drive from Copenhagen, I had a lot of experiences and a lot of maturing in those couple of days in the car, and a lot of listening to new music on the cassette deck, getting introduced to stuff my dad would like, then graduating into getting a walkman and listening to my own stuff, finding my own early musical inspirations. And there was something beautiful about the way we drove from the cold North to warm South, driving from winter to summer, there was something very metaphoric about.
What sort of stuff did your dad listen to?
He would love classic rock, he’d love Dire Straits, George Harrison, he was a big Steely Dan fan- I say was, because he passed away 10 years ago. He was an avid musician, he loved to play guitar in his band, and he loved to listen to whole albums, he was an album kind of guy. As a kid there’s a generation gap, and as I grew up I distanced myself from what he liked, but at the same time I’ve always got a love for that classic 80s rock sound
So could you pinpoint, say, a Steely Dan influence on the new album?
I’ve actually been influenced by Steely Dan forever, they’re probably my favourite band. I’m a huge fanboy for Donald Fagen, I think he’s one of the coolest people in the world..! I don’t know if there’s a definitive Steely Dan influence, but I always thought it was cool that they’d get there music played by different people to find the right musicians to fit– there’s a classic story where they’d get one guy to play the kick drum and snare, and another guy to play the cymbals because they figured that that drummer was better at cymbals..! which is absolutely ridiculous when you think of it, and probably why they took three or four years to make an album… But maybe I took that idea of someone else replaying instruments from them.
You had a fairly unusual childhood – I read that you grew up in Christiania?
Exactly, yeah. Im born in Christiania in Copenhagen and I grew up there ‘til I was 6 or 7, then we moved to a collective that was a bit further out of Copenhagen. It’s been a rocky ride. Hippy parents, if you will.
Is it the kind of upbringing you’d replicate with your own family?
When you really think about it, for me it was a good thing. My mum and my dad divorced when I was 7, and there was a lot of contrast in my life, between my mum who lived this hippy lifestyle and my dad who was a bit more stringent and a bit harder on me, and I think its been healthy, it matures you quite early and makes you a stronger person. But I would never do it to kids! Hahaha I don’t think it’s a good thing in that sense, but I can see the benefits to me at least
So when you were travelling on the road from North to South, Im assuming that was your dad picking you up to take you for a while?
Exactly, with his new wife, and yeah there was a lot of contrast, especially since my mums parents lived in Germany and we’d often drive past and visit and say hello, and it was all a very weird period. But I guess it’s exciting to think back on.
There’s a certain sense of bittersweetness on the album, there’s a sadness there – is that something you were trying to go for?
Definitely. There’s no question about it, when I was a kid I had a difficult time. I tried to figure out where to go, and the whole language thing- my dad was Irish, my mum was German and we lived in Denmark, and my step mum was French, and I didn’t understand what anyone was saying from that side of the family, at times I felt quite lonely, and I think that translates into the album.
My dad’s Irish as well, and sometimes I’ve found it a bit strange negotiating an Irish identity, whilst not actually being from Ireland, did you ever consider yourself Irish?
Absoultely. My Irish family moved to London in the 60s to work, but we were always very, very strongly Irish, they’re from the West of Ireland, my grandad was probably became more Irish since he moved to England hahaha. But definitely there’s a very strong Irish influence in my life, that humour in how you look at things, and that bittersweet irony the Irish are so known for is very much part of how I see life. I haven’t been to Ireland that much, but now when I play there it’s a party like nowhere else in the world, the Irish really know how to go for it. Scotland as well, I’ve played Sub Club a few times in Glasgow and they just know fucking good techno when they hear it, it’s just the energy. Wherever you are in the world the culture shines through – when I play in Spain or Italy it’s more of a loop driven thing, Scotland, Ireland and to a certain extent England as well, it’s more of a melody driven thing, which I think is wonderful.
The album is a very melodic work, did you not want to make any real stripped down bangers?
I dunno. I didn’t really think about it, the music just happens. Melody is such a big part of what I am, I think it’s a problem in techno that we’ve discarded the melody all together, and the melody was something I always loved, the emotional side of things, especially since the emotional part of a producer can be so pure – you’re a person and the only filter between your ideas and emotions and the final point is a computer. Melodies are the most important tool of the whole thing, seeing as we’re not doing vocals as such, or the same sort of energy we were doing in the early 90s. A lot of techno music becomes a bit too minimal for my tastes. I can’t help myself, I just love melodies.
There are vocals on this record though-
There are two vocals on this record, Papageno was out last year in the summer- it was originally made as a reference to a very specific experience I had in my childhood. I was in Germany and I went to see the Magic Flute, the opera, with my grandparents. And during Papageno’s song, which is this very famous part, it dawned on me that I didn’t belong there, because the whole of upper society was looking down on me because I was this little hippy kid with long hair and a leather jacket and I felt really frustrated because I wanted to be part of society. And it dawned on me that that was not where I belonged, and I wasn’t wanted. But I felt that the track I’d made was too energetic for the album, so I remade it and now this is the 30 years later, looking back on that situation, I was like how do I feel about it now, looking back on it?
And the second vocal is from Tomas Høffding from WhoMadeWho, who wrote this fantastic song called Bloodline about driving through the world on the back seat of a car, and what your relationship to your mum and your dad is – he has a very similar story to me so he completely understood what I was going for with the album. He has hippy parents as well, so he can completely relate – maybe it’s a Danish thing, maybe all Danish artists have hippy parents hahaha.
So what are your plans now, are you touring the album?
Im working on a couple of ideas now – I’m starting a little experimental label which is going to be very dogmatic, it’s going to be conceptual stuff, just for fun, with me collaborating with other artists, but there’ll be more on that in a bit.
And Im guessing you’re playing a lot of festivals?
Loads. The whole summer is packed with shows, there’s gonna be a lot of touring which I’m really looking forward to.
Thanks for talking man!