Mouse On Mars are quite literally a German music institution. Crafting obtuse electronics since 1993, the duo – Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma – have released a stream of albums across the last 20 years and are showing no sign of stopping. We caught up with them ahead of for a chat about fundraising, their own Berlin festival and their own app! They don't hang around!
Can we begin by talking about the film you’re fundraising for – 21 Again – how’s the project coming along?
It's a drag to bother your fans for money but there's no other way right now to make that documentary happen. It's not that much money we ask for but in the world of mini-download cents and free sharing it takes time to collect 21.000$. People should spread the word, they will get a solid refund for their investment, we have a quite good perks for our supporters.
You’ve got your own festival (!) happening this year in Berlin. How’s that shaping up and who have you got on the bill?
We will do the festival at HAU 1 & 2 in berlin oct 31st & nov 1st. We'll perform our orchestral work paeanumnion and a lot of our musical friends will come to play. There will be an a-musik pop-up store and installations and interventions by visual artists. We want our artist friends to take over the restaurant too and cook special dishes during the two days. But the full line-up isn't confirmed yet so I can't be too specific at this point.
When I lived in Berlin, I worked briefly for Chert gallery/Motto – I was told you had a studio up above the gallery, was that correct and are you still based there if so?
Andi lives around there, our studio is further out east in the former funkhaus of the GDR.
You’ve been making music together as Mouse on Mars now for 21 years, a long time during which the music industry has seen so much change. What’s the secret of longevity in a constantly shifting climate?
We give each other enough space and don't take ourselves and the band too seriously. we look for the excitement of the moment and we're simply patient and happy with making music, and actually we both don't have a proper sense for time.
Can you tell us about the wretchup app you invented?
We like the idea of small devices which you can carry everywhere and which can be used for all kinds of daily needs. it's basically the phone these day which does that and which can be used as an instrument, too. We wanted a simple addition to our live and studio setup which we could use to mess up our routines. actually exactly the opposite of what smart phones are made for. With the help of Florian Grote, Peter Kirn and Rupert Smyth we came up with a great tool that fucks up sound to the extreme. Crowdfunding worked well for us here, we could could pay peter's work and we'll be able to sell the app at a low price via itunes.
Your 2012 LP Wow is quite a shift in sound from your previous output – more focussed on the dancefloor (to these ears at least). What brought about this shift in sound – have you been spending more time in clubs yourselves?
It was an area we just hadn't really explored yet. As we changed and the club scene changed and clubs in general changed we felt more at ease with more straight forward rhythmical textures. Also the change from analogue to digital made us approach sound much more directly and explicitly. All that created a more club friendly sound which we perpetuated even further with our recent SPEZMODIA e.p.
Do you often go back and listen to your previous singles and albums? If so, which are the tracks that you're the most proud of and listen to most regularly? Are there any that with hindsight you'd like to have done differently?
What does the current Mouse on Mars live set up consist of?
Two computers, a few hardware interfaces, drummachine, two baselines, sampler, looper, effects & modulators, wrtechup and a black box.
When and how did you first get into music and who were your greatest inspirations?
I was always into listening. Since I was a kid music has only been a part of that. To me it was the magic of sound and listening. First it was sound and noises, then drumming, then computers, then songs.
What have been the pieces of musical equipment that have been ever present throughout the Mouse on Mars life cycle?
Lexicon Primetime reverb, Siel Opera 6 synth, Pro One synth, MXR pitch transposer, Soundcraft DC 2020 console, Logic audio.
If money were no object, which piece of musical gear would you most like to get into your studio?
A new computer would already be helpful 😉
What have been the greatest highs and lows of your career to date, and would you change anything if you could relive it all?
No idea to be honest. We enjoyed every moment and the ones we didn't enjoy we forgot.
What are your thought on the current state of the music industry? Where do you think it's headed and do you think it has got stronger or weaker in the last few years?
Music production has become pretty easy. Everyone can do Garage Band. There is more idiosyncratic music than ever but's also quite tense out there. Also the sounds have become more in the face, subtlety has been lost a bit. Not sure what to answer, the world keeps changing on multiple levels. We're glad to be have been born in the age of computing and we take it as it comes.
Where should we be looking for new music? Are there any artists in particular that are standing out for you?
We keep discovering old music as well as new stuff. We like spectral usic as much as juke or classical music. Mostly we listen to sounds.
Finally, are you looking forward to you Tauron Nowa Muzyka and what else have you got planned for 2014?
Tauron has always been a good experience for us. We're definitely happy to play here again. The audience is enthusiastic and the crew is very friendly.
2014 is bringing the Mouse on Mars 21 AGAIN boxset, the two day 21 AGAIN festival and the WretchUp the app. Jan is finally releasing his Miscontinuum album and is preparing a sound installation for Cornerhouse in Manchester in November. Mouse On Mars are also working on a theatre score for Schauspielhaus Wien.
See Mouse on Mars at Tauron Nowa Muzyka, Katowice, Poland this August.
For more information and tickets, see the festival's official website.
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